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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Waiting for Ohio: Presidential Election Hinges on Buckeye State
Aired November 3, 2004 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: I want to broaden the focus a little and realize what an extraordinary event this is, that a president who never hit much over 50 percent of the job approval rating, who lost the debates, by every calculation, and who was who it was widely assumed would go down in defeat if there was a massive increase in turnout, is now in the position of winning the cusp of a second term with a significant popular vote of plurality, one that exceeds a majority.
And it tells you, if you listen to James Carville, one of the best Democratic strategists, it tells you there is perhaps an endemic weakness in the Democratic Party as it tries to win the presidency in this country. And that when the dust settles in this one, whatever happens, the Democrats are going to have to take a serious look inward at what it is about that party that prevents, except under extraordinary circumstances, the party from reaching out and getting a plurality of Americans to vote for them for president.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Maybe it needs a Clinton type.
CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That will be one of several. People will say message, people will say messenger, people will say campaign, any of those three. People will also say context. They may say frankly that in the midst of a war, a war-time commander is not turned out. There will be a lot of conversation. One other thing I wanted to add is you just heard John King say the president is waiting to hear about those two key states. There might be a very great, very powerful headline for the president tomorrow, which is the president goes to bed ahead by 4 million popular votes and ahead in the Electoral College, and is simply wait to go hear on Iowa and Ohio. And then, I think, the Democrat position becomes even harder. You talked about the popular vote being one thing that kind of weighs against them. I think, if both the popular vote and, tonight, the electoral vote, even if it's a tentative tally, I think that would be a tough position to be in.
KING: I think the president also is smart enough to take the high road here and say, let's count Ohio. Let's count Iowa. I want a fair count. If there are provisional ballots people who voted, they're Americans. They have every right to vote. Let's see who wins.
GREENFIELD: You heard that from Kent Blackwell, who's a Republican secretary of state who wants to run for governor of Ohio in 2006. Boyden Gray, who is one of the legal foot soldiers in the Bush campaign, and clearly the tone they're taking is okay, let's see what happens. But generally, when you make that argument, you have a lot of confidence that your side's going to pull ahead.
KING: Well you should have, if you're 140,000 votes ahead. But don't you think that's wiser than saying, we won it, and we should declare it now.
GREENFIELD: I think back in 2000 it was much more of a street fight. The Bush campaign went to Florida, more determined to win than the Gore campaign, and just say, we're going to take this one. I think you're right. They're striking a tone of magnanimity, they are striking a tone of presidentiality.
KING: Above the fray.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Here's another point. The 2002 law requiring provisional ballots in every state -- all 50 states plus the District of Columbia -- there could be provisional ballots that have to be counted in some of these other states beyond Ohio if the race is very, very close there. They may want to count the ballots as well. There could be challenges, perhaps, even from the Republican side.
KING: Is the secretary of state of these states required to come? A provisional voter is a voter who was challenged, right?
BLITZER: Someone who shows up and says I want to vote. And they say, well, there's a question about your residency. There's a question whether you live in this district. There's a question of who you are. Go ahead and vote right now. Here's your provisional ballot. We'll count it later, 11 days in Ohio after November 2nd.
KING: Then what they do is take each ballot by ballot and investigate that person and then determine whether John Jones has the right to vote or not. Then they discard it and then count it.
KING: That's why it takes 11 days.
BLITZER: Well, they don't even start counting them for 11 days. It could take 11 days to count them after 11 days of waiting to count them.
WATSON: You know what's interesting, I wouldn't be surprised that things move quickly. In other words, depending on how we end the night and what the headline in the news is, where Democrats are today may be very different from where they are 24 hours from now if all the precincts are counted except for provisional ballots and now that's 200,000. They may be in a very different place. I also wouldn't be surprised if Ken Blackwell under quote unquote "bipartisan pressure" says, let's find a way to finalize this. Let's not wait 11 days before we...
BLITZER: The law says they have to. And he said that specifically. They have to wait 11 days before they can start counting those ballots.
GREENFIELD: That margin in Ohio has gone from 100,000, roughly to 140,000 just in the last several percent. And that, I think, goes to the point that Judy Woodruff was reminding us of that there's a feeling out there that these provisional ballots are not a silver bullet that are 90 percent Kerry votes.
KING: But they deserve to be counted.
BLITZER: And remember what one Kerry official told our Jeff Toobin, about an hour or so ago, before 98 percent of the precincts had been reporting, that when 100 percent of the precincts were reporting, he thought, this Kerry officially, thought it would be down to 50,000, which might be in the margin of victory for them. Now, if it's gone up to 140,000, that's a lot different than 50,000.
KING: Now explain something to me. I'm new at this questioning thing in this circumstance because I've been here eight hours.
BLITZER: You're not the only one.
KING: And the question is what's holding up Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin? We have Hawaii already. We have Alaska already.
BLITZER: I'm going to walk over. And Jeff, come on over with me and we'll talk about these specific numbers.
KING: What's holding it up? Those are the only three states now that matter, those three.
BLITZER: Larry, as usual, makes a good point. These are the states that we're still waiting for. Here's the big ones. Come over here.
KING: Iowa don't matter.
BLITZER: Let's start over here with New Mexico, Jeff. And then we'll walk down wall to wall and check out these states. These are the states that we don't have enough information yet to project. We'll begin, Jeff, with New Mexico.
GREENFIELD: This is the state with the widest margin. You've got a five percentage point margin. I want to remind people again. This is a Democratic state from 2000. It's a 30,000 vote lead for President Bush with 96 percent of the vote in. You raise a very good question. This looks like a state, unless there are a lot of provisional ballots in New Mexico, this is a state that ought to fall for a pickup. But Nevada is much closer. That could legitimately be too close to call. There's plenty of votes out. This is understandable why nobody's called this one.
BLITZER: We're still waiting for provisional ballots potentially in Nevada as well. Look how close it is in Wisconsin.
KING: Obviously close.
GREENFIELD: Here we go again. 5,000 vote plurality for Al Gore in 2000. I think it was 5,066 votes. 0.2 percent. Here we are again, the spread is 1 percent, if that.
BLITZER: It's 21.
GREENFIELD: 21,000 votes with Nader not really a factor. Too close to call.
KING: And Iowa don't matter now because they've got to wait.
BLITZER: It matters, but we'll have to wait till tomorrow. They're tired. They had to take a break.
KING: So Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico count, but none of those three can put anyone over the top.
BLITZER: Not yet. Ohio is still going to be critical for this election.
KING: So if all three went for Bush, he still wouldn't win.
BLITZER: But he'd have a little bit, as Carlos keeps pointing out, a little more moral authority to say, you know what, it's almost all over.
WATSON: We still may talk more about Ralph Nader before the whole thing is done. Depending on how this works out. Now, it's unlikely, but if you look over there at Iowa, right now there's an 11,000 vote lead, but Nader is about half of that, about 5,000. Remember what happened to the absentee ballots last time. Bush was ahead. Once you put in the absentee ballots, Gore ended up winning that state. And over there, Wisconsin -- the reality is right now, in order for John Kerry to win -- let me make sure I get this right. He needs -- he probably is going to need to come through with Wisconsin and Iowa.
GREENFIELD: Wisconsin and Ohio.
WATSON: And Ohio. And look how close Wisconsin is. And if Wisconsin -- if for some crazy reason he ends up winning Ohio -- and right now it seems unlikely given the margin -- we may focus on Wisconsin, we may focus on those 15,000 votes that Ralph Nader has.
BLITZER: We're talking provisional ballots in Wisconsin as well. The Republicans may want to look at those provisional ballots.
KING: The only state that changed from four years ago is New Hampshire?
BLITZER: So far.
KING: One state.
WATSON: Although New Mexico is looking like it.
BLITZER: Stuart Rothenberg is at the CNN election analysis center. You're looking at Nevada specifically. Tell our viewers what you're seeing. STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I think what we're seeing is a state that's not yet decided. We cannot project it, obviously, but I think the trends are pretty clear. And I want to walk you through it. We've been looking at the numbers. Let's look at the telestrator here. There are three counties that have been out. One is just coming in. But the big one that's out is Clark County. That's Las Vegas and the suburbs. Humboldt was clear. It just came in colored deep red as a strong Bush county. It's just a few thousand votes. George Bush won by 2,500 four years ago. And Washau County is not in completely. It's a narrow Bush lead. He it won four years ago.
And what we're seeing is, when I sat down, the president leads by about 16,000 votes. 84 percent of Clark County was in, I believe. So since it's a Democratic battleground, they're going to have to get 16,000 votes, maybe more, out of Clark County. The City of Las Vegas is very Democratic. The suburbs are much more mixed. Is it possible? Sure. Mathematically, it is possible. But it's going to be very difficult, given the margin that John Kerry has been carrying the county by, to try to get another 16,000 on top of the 25,000 vote majority he had with over 80 percent in. The remaining 15 percent to 20 percent, he's got to carry -- he's got to get a 16,000 vote majority. It's awfully difficult. So when you look at the state, what's in, what's not in yet, you have to say it's much, much tougher for John Kerry to get a majority in Nevada than it is for George W. Bush.
KING: The whole key, Stuart, is Ohio, right? Nevada, technically, it won't don't matter how it goes or how New Mexico goes...
ROTHENBERG: No, you're right, it's certainly the election is coming down to Ohio. Many of us thought it would come down to Ohio. If you look at the vote slow to come in, the final couple of final counties. Cuyahoga, the big Democratic county is in. The final area toe come in very slowly has basically been Hamilton County in the south western part of the state. Cincinnati and suburbs, a generally Republican area. As it's been coming in, the Bush percentage has been going up. The Bush margin has been increasing. I wouldn't say the writing is on the wall, but it's going to take a whole bunch of lawyers to erase the writing, I suspect.
KING: Is it lawyers or just the secretary of state counting the ballots?
ROTHENBERG: Look, until everything's in, provisionals in, until we get every single vote, obviously, CNN has decided not to project.
KING: We should want every counted, shouldn't we?
ROTHENBERG: Of course, absolutely. It's just from the point of view of the mathematics, it's harder to see Senator Kerry winning this race.
KING: I wouldn't bet on him.
BLITZER: All right. Stuart Rothenberg, thanks very much. Ohio, too close to call by our projection. 98 percent of the vote in, almost 141,000 difference. 51 percent for Bush, 49 percent for John Kerry. David Gergen, the pressures on John Kerry and George W. Bush right now are enormous on both sides. Although I suspect you'd rather be George W. Bush right now than John Kerry. But talk about the pressures on these two candidates.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Each man is very much in the spotlight and people now are making judgments about their leadership. I frankly was surprised to see John Kerry send John Edwards out tonight to make his statement. It seems to me that's the position you want to do as the leader of the ticket, not leave it to your number two. And I can't imagine George W. Bush sending Dick Cheney over to the Reagan building to make his statement for him. He's going to do it himself and take his vice president with him. But I think there's a larger point here, Wolf, when we got beyond the Electoral College. And the president clearly has the advantage in the Electoral College. We'll have to see how it comes out. But my sense is that these Republicans will look at the overall results. This massive win, almost 4 million votes on the popular side.
Big, important victories in the Senate. And an increase of strength in the House. And they'll look at that as a whomping vote of confidence. A mandate, if you would, for the next four years. We've heard some reporting from Capitol Hill about how Republican leaders from Capitol Hill are going to take a more aggressive stance. My bet is the Republicans will read this, and I'll be interested to hear what Jeff Greenfield says about this. My bet is Republicans will look upon this as a serious mandate not only for a vigorous foreign policy, but to push ahead with a bold set of domestic initiatives even more aggressively than they did coming into the first term.
BLITZER: I'm going to bring Jeff in in a minute. David Gergen, stand by. John King is at the White House. He's got some more information. John, what do you know?
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a couple of quick points. Number one, they are waiting here, again, as I said earlier, for Nevada and New Mexico. This is how they're doing it. Karl Rove is literally sitting in his office talking to people in the states. He has the database, and he's clicking around. He just clicked for me for the counties outstanding in Nevada and New Mexico. Mentioned the president's margins in them. He says they see no way the president will lose Nevada and New Mexico. They're simply waiting for the calls to be made. At that point, other senior administration officials are telling us, once Nevada and New Mexico are called -- and they believe they'll win both of those states. If that holds up, and they think that could happen in very short order. Then the president will go to the Reagan Building, and here is the interesting point, I'm told by senior officials he will declare victory. He will not say we will wait for Ohio. He will say the math is heavily in his favor. That he is convinced the Democrats cannot make up the ground in Ohio and elsewhere, and that he will declare victory tonight. That is contingent on Nevada and New Mexico. But they believe that will happen, Wolf, and happen quite soon.
BLITZER: How unusual is that for a candidate to declare victory with the other candidate not conceding first? JOHN KING: Well, it's very unusual, of course. And we had the circus atmosphere almost four years ago when Al Gore almost came out and then stopped himself. What the president's aides will say, when this becomes an issue tomorrow s that they have two choices. They can look at the math, add it up, believe they have a compelling case and declare victory. Or they can wait 11 days, as the Democrats are saying to let the provisional ballot issue play out in Ohio. The Republicans are saying, and the Bush White House is saying, the math certainly does not add up. There are not enough provisional votes in Ohio to make up the lost ground. Their argument will be it's better for the country to know who the president is than to wait another 11 days, especially four years after the chaos of four years ago.
KING: The only risk in that, John, and it's not likely is that Ohio overturns.
JOHN KING: That certainly is the risk. They have checked with this. We just spoke, our producers down in the booth, here. Congressman Rob Portman called from Ohio. He says he's called around to all the key precincts. He says there are 134,000 at the maximum provisional ballots, and the president's lead is bigger than that. They are insisting that it is impossible for that to be made up. Of course, that is their case. The Democrats will argue something different. But they say they are convinced. They are double and triple checked, they're waiting on Nevada and New Mexico. But if the president declares victory -- and we're told he can do so within an hour or so - of course the Democrats will object, and this will play out. But they believe here it's the right thing to do.
BLITZER: The Democrats, as you know, John, are arguing there are 250,000 provisional ballots that have to be counted. They can't even start counting them for 11 days. One other point, John, if this general number for the overall popular vote in the United States stands by and the president gets 51 percent of the vote. That's a majority. It's been a while since a candidate has emerged with a clear majority, 51 percent, retaining both houses of the U.S. Congress. This would be, as the Republicans would almost certainly point out, a very decisive mandate.
JOHN KING: They would claim a mandate. You would still, of course, have a closely divided country, both in terms of the presidential vote and in the composition of Congress. Although it looks like the Republicans will pick up seats in the Senate, hold their majority in the House. So no doubt about it. The president will claim a mandate and claim the American public backed him in the war on terrorism, has backed his view that he should keep going, whether his issues be tax cuts and other domestic issues. They obviously will also try to offer a unifying tone to try to calm the Democratic anger. The last president to win more than 50 percent was this president's father. We have had presidents elected since then at under 50 percent. That is a significant number here because Democrats have always questioned the legitimacy of this president on the grounds he lost the popular vote. This president will have 51 percent plus, it looks like now. That's a very big deal here at the White House. They want to lock up the 270 electoral votes because that is the key to victory. But more significant to them, once they get there, we'll be able to make the case to the country that a majority stood by this president.
BLITZER: John King, thanks very much. We'll be checking back with you and I just want to bring Jeff in for a moment on this issue of a president getting more than 50 percent of the vote. Bill Clinton is '92 didn't get 50 percent of the vote. And he didn't get it in '96 and in 2000 George W. Bush didn't get a percentage of the vote. This is a specific number to get over the majority in terms of saying I have a mandate.
GREENFIELD: It is -- Clinton did have a 5 million vote plurality in '92, and roughly an 8 million vote plurality, but because of Perot he didn't crack 50. The reason why what David Gergen points to and what Ed Henry points to is so significant is the other story on the front page of the papers today. The grave medical condition of the Chief Justice of the United States, William Rehnquist so that if you ask what kind of a Supreme Court nominee will a new president appoint? If you assume it's George Bush and you know how important that is to both sides of this ideological divide, a president who comes in with a popular vote majority seems to me -- and an expanded Senate -- is in a position to pick a much more idea logically consistent or sympathetic to their side nominee than say -- let's say John Kerry wins Ohio and somehow makes the presidency.
WATSON: He'll they'd be more likely to choose a model -- the president already said his model justices are Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas.
KING: The rumor is he would ask Clarence Thomas to be chief justice. That would be a battle.
GREENFIELD: My point is that is a fight that the sides in Washington have been waiting for four years. We've gone 11 years without a vacancy, longest since the 1820s. Both sides are ready for a fight. If, in fact, this picture holds up and George Bush winds up a second term with the popular vote majority, I think it makes the congressional majority, the Republicans say, okay, we can get the kind of Supreme Court justice we want now.
WATSON: Here's even -- to add to that and build on it, an even broader point. The president without 50 percent, with a Senate that he lost at one point. If you think about all the legislation that he got through, whether or not Democrats always agreed with it, he's been extraordinarily effective legislatively. When you think about Medicare, you think about education, you think about the Department of Homeland Security, you think about four tax cuts. He got a lot through. Now, with a majority - now with a stronger House and a stronger Senate, you can only stop on issue like social security reform, which he's talked about, education on the college level, further tax cuts, that he will do a lot. It will be a very robust first two years.
BLITZER: We have a guest standing by to bring in. Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican Party, is joining us now from Washington. You're over there at the Reagan Center. Are we expecting the president and the vice president, Ed Gillespie, to show up any time soon? ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN: Wolf, that's up to the white house and the campaign to decide and to announce. So I defer to them on that. But everybody is very excited here and spirits are very high here, as you can imagine.
BLITZER: So no one's leaving there. What do you anticipate, if the president shows up, knowing the numbers as you've seen, the Electoral College numbers. The popular vote numbers. What do you anticipate the president might say?
GILLESPIE: Well, Wolf, I'm not going to speculate on that. I think people are waiting to see what some other states come in where the president is leading right now. I think, obviously, in terms of Ohio, we've seen the president's margin increase actually. Recently to 137,606 with 98 percent of the precincts reporting. You know, there's about 125,000 provisional ballots out there. And provisional ballots aren't automatically counted. Actually, they're not counted until they're proven valid. What we've seen in past elections, for example, in Cook County, Illinois, during the recent Democratic primary, between 17 percent and 23 percent of the provisional ballots that were cast were actually counted in the election. Let's say it's 25 percent of the 121,000. That comes out to 31,000 votes. Let's say 100 percent of those go for Senator Kerry. You're still looking at a margin of over 100,000 votes. So we feel, obviously, very confident about Ohio in the Bush column.
BLITZER: The Democrats are insisting that they think there may be as many as 250,000 provisional ballots that have to be counted. Does that change your arithmetic if, in fact, it is 250,000? We spoke to Ken Blackwell, the secretary of state of Ohio, and he thought that was possible.
GILLESPIE: Well, again, we're waiting to see. But I've been told it's between 120,000 and 130,000 provisional ballots. Like I say, you can extrapolate from different numbers. But the numbers I have are what I understand to be the case.
BLITZER: Ed Gillespie joining us. We'll be checking back with you. And we're going to go over there when the president comes over there and the vice president comes over there. If, in fact, they come over there, we'll, of course, bring that to our viewers in the United States and around the world. And I want to just point out to our viewers, if you need more information, want more information on specific races, go to CNN.com and you can get all the information you need. This is the best place to get specific numbers, congressional seats, Senate seats, House seats gubernatorial races, and they'll show you how the actual numbers are coming in. CNN.com. That's the place to be if you want to get a little bit more information than we're able to provide you right here. It's a good idea to watch us and go there at the same time. Much more coverage coming up from CNN election headquarters in New York. We'll take a quick break now.
BLITZER: 3:25 a.m. on the East Coast. We're watching this election very, very closely. We don't know who's going to be the next president of the United States. But Judy Woodruff is joining us live from the CNN election analysis center with some additional information. Tell our viewers what you can and why we still can't project a winner in some of these states and why we think it's still too close to call in Ohio.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN HOST: Well, Wolf, I wish I'd majored in math at this point, at 3:30 in the morning on election night. Literally what's going on right now, Wolf, our election analysis team -- we've been telling you about these people all night. This is Tom Hanon (ph) there, our political director. This is Clyde Tucker, who is working at his side all night. They are literally on pieces of legal pad writing down the situation in Ohio. They're looking at numbers in terms of how many votes have yet to be counted. What the margin is right now between President Bush and Senator Kerry. And when you factor in the so-called provisional ballots, those people who, when they went to vote, their names weren't there for whatever reason, and they were given a provisional ballot. And they're putting all that together, and they're seeing, number one, if there's a mathematical possibility that John Kerry could overcome President Bush's current advantage in Ohio, and if there's a realistic possibility, given the political reality on the ground and what is known.
CNN has been talking to both the Kerry campaign and the Bush campaign, factoring the political realities into the mathematical possibilities. So that's what's going on. We are not yet ready to call Ohio. We have said it's too close to call. But we are taking a hard look at it. We're not just letting it sit there and percolate. I mean, we're taking a hard look as these numbers continue to climb, and you get a higher percentage of the vote in in Ohio, it is incumbent on us to make sure that we haven't overlooked something here. So that's what we're looking at.
BLITZER: Judy, we heard Ed Gillespie say there may be 120,000 provision ballots in Ohio. We heard Democrats earlier saying there could be 250,000. When I spoke to Ken Blackwell, the secretary of state of Ohio, a Republican, a short while ago, and we threw out the 250,000 number, the Democrats are suggesting, he didn't dismiss it. Is there any way we could find out how many provisional ballots there really are in Ohio?
WOODRUFF: We are clearly trying to do that. You've not saying, Wolf, Ken Blackwell said it was going to be 11 days before they even take a look at those. There may be a way for us to get a better handle on that. Right now, everybody is estimating. The Democrats are estimating. The Republicans are estimating. Mr. Blackwell himself, I believe, said it was an estimate. So we're all trying to get a handle on this. I doubt we're going to be able to get a clear fix on it in a very short period of time. But what we can get a clear fix on is just what the margin is going to be with the known outstanding ballots. Both the counted ballots and the outstanding ballots. And we may be able to put something together there and look at the most optimistic scenario for John Kerry and see whether it is mathematically feasible for him to come up with a win. But that's why you've got Tom Hannon and Clyde Tucker in our election team looking over this right now.
BLITZER: Judy, one final question before I let you go back and check those numbers with our election team. Like me, you've covered politics for a long time. Let's assume, as John King was reporting, it's possible the president would show up at the Reagan Center and declare victory at some point tonight even though the side has not conceded, in fact, they want to continue this count in Ohio. Do you remember a precedent, anything like that happening in this country, any time in recent history?
WOODRUFF: No, I don't. And I would be -- you know, wolf given the situation tonight, given the situation in this election, and certainly given the situation in 2000, I'd be very surprised if the Bush people did that. I'm going out on a limb here. Nobody's told my one way or another. But I would think they would want to wait and let the votes be counted. What's the hesitation in waiting a few hours or even a few days? But, you know, you've been saying it, Wolf. The margin -- the popular vote margin is, what, 4 million now? I didn't see the number just a moment ago. But it is getting to the point where, for the electoral vote to go in another direction from the popular vote gets to be pretty problematic.
BLITZER: All right. Judy woodruff, thanks very much. Thanks for that analysis. Candy Crowley -- where is Candy Crowley. She's joining us now live from Boston. There she is. Candy Crowley at Kerry headquarters, looking pretty empty behind you over there, Candy. What's going on?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been told that the Kerry campaign will have nothing to say until at least 10:00 tomorrow morning. They don't have anything planned for 10:00, but that's their start time should they have anything to say. They are feeling their way through this thing. The staff has been huddling, trying to figure out the next step. I can tell you that they've been very careful about the language. When we heard John Edwards talk, it was about we promised you that we would make sure that every vote was counted. There's been no mention of lawyers, no mention of votes disappearing. It's been about allowing Ohio to go through its process. That's the tack that they're taking right now. I don't know if you saw -- and I'm sure the White House people did -- but the two Republican senators from Ohio put out a press release urging John Kerry to go ahead and concede, saying based on their history and knowledge of Ohio politics, they think George Bush has an insurmountable lead. I doubt that Senator Kerry will be taking any advice from Senator DeWine or Senator Voinovich. But in any case, the pressure will be on, certainly for the Republican side, for John Kerry to do something. You heard from John Edwards tonight -- and it is the current plan, and again, they're feeling their way through this, but it's the current plan of the Kerry campaign to say, we want these votes to be counted, and then we'll see.
BLITZER: Candy, We have some videotape of some of the Kerry supporters leaving Copley Plaza in Boston. This must be been such an emotional roller coaster for them because earlier in the evening they were bracing for a big victory. And then to see that victory slip away as the night continued must have made for a lot of depression there.
CROWLEY: Sure. And if you're sitting out in Illinois or St. Louis, you must be thinking, well, what made them think that this was going to be a great victory? And you know and I know that these exit polls begin to come out in the afternoon. And as often as we say, no, I can't tell you, you're asked everywhere along the line, what do you hear, what do you hear, what do you hear? And pretty soon, of course, the crowd says, the exit polls are very good for John Kerry. They expected a victory when they came here tonight. It was very clear. These are the party faithful; these are the workers, the campaign workers. So by word of mouth, they really believed that he was going to win Florida, that he was going to win Ohio, and that it was going to be very clear, that it would be an early night. So to all of a sudden have this be so opposite what they had expected really had almost double the deflating impact, it seemed.
They just went from, you know, cheering and everything to just almost that dead silence you heard on our air. It was -- every once in a while, Maine would go for Kerry or Delaware or Connecticut, something we expected. And you'd hear the applause, sort of steadily in the rain they'd go out. So it was a very -- I talked to Democrats back in Washington and said, how are you doing? What are you thinking? And I got a reply back on likeres (ph) of just "depressed and bewildered" which I think are two pretty good words for the people watching this unfold, feel pretty helpless.
BLITZER: We're going to show our viewers a contrast. Candy, I don't know if your photographer can hear me, but if he can maybe you could mention to him or her to take a wide shot. I want to see what that area behind you looks like right now. And it looks, obviously, very, very empty. No one has remained. Everybody has gone home. Up on the stage, it looks like they're dismantling some of the equipment up there. Pretty empty in Boston right now. Now, Candy Crowley, I want to contrast that to what's happening at the Reagan Center in Washington. Look at this. They're all there. All the supporters of Ronald Reagan. They've gathered in this huge building, the International Trade Center, the Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. They're standing by to hear from perhaps the president or the vice president or John King saying that they might be heading over there to make some sort of remarks. They're still up. The president is up. And the vice president is up in the White House watching what's going on. A contrast. Two images, Jeff Greenfield, that say what to you?
GREENFIELD: It says the Kerry people think they're going to lose and the Bush people think they're going to win. And I think the point that Candy made needs to be emphasized. These exit polls -- we talked for four years we're not going to make the mistakes again. We haven't on the air. But there is no question that this afternoon the political community, based on these early exit polls, believed that John Kerry was headed for a clear victory. I was at a lunch today. There was one of the more prominent Republicans in the United States. He was sulfuric about all the mistakes the Bush campaign had made, what had gone wrong, and what John Kerry had to do as president to make things better. I think there were people lining up their resumes on the Democratic side of the aisle based on the exit polls.
BLITZER: The Republican side of the aisle.
GREENFIELD: No, the Democrats.
BLITZER: Oh, looking for jobs.
WATSON: Both sides of the aisle.
GREENFIELD: Democrats lining up resumes to join the new administration. And the anger of the Republicans feeling that the press coverage in the early afternoon had been shaped by the exit polls, not that anybody actually talked about them. But that everybody had it in their mind. I think there's going to be a lot of hell to pay, after all the alleged reform, that these numbers were wrong.
KING: We never broadcast the numbers.
GREENFIELD: I'm not saying we broadcast them. What I'm saying, when you start listening to the conversation on talk radio and some of the early cable programs, people don't say what the exit polls are, but there are implications. And more important, they were worried, the Republicans, that the disheartening effect of these exit polls would depress enthusiasm, might get workers not to come out and get voters out in the later states. Because even though we didn't broadcast them, they were all over the Internet in this new era.
KING: Gentlemen, if this were four years ago, would we have run with the exit poll story?
GREENFIELD: Nobody reported the exit poll story four years ago.
WATSON: It was all over the Internet.
KING: Didn't they used to report exit polls?
BLITZER: No, we never reported exit polls.
KING: Never? Forget CNN, the others.
BLITZER: Some of the Internet sites would go ahead and report...
WATSON: Also, you're referring to 1980 as well...
GREENFIELD: Those were projections of the state, it's a whole different issue. Calling states while the west was open. What did happen was four years ago, as we all remember, we use the exit polls to misproject what was going on in Florida. But what I'm saying is there's going to be (AUDIO GAP) on how the entire political community until about 6:00 or 7:00 tonight that was convinced, based on these numbers that, John Kerry was going to win.
BLITZER: And I want to point out to our viewers I think the conversation I anticipated from you is where do these polls come from? This is a pool that has been put together by ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and CNN together with the Associated Press. We've combined all of our resources, and we've gone to professional pollsters to put together exit poll numbers based on what voters are saying when they emerge from precincts, when they emerge from their balloting as well as in advance, the absentee balloters who went out there, and we've done telephone surveys to get that (AUDIO GAP). And we were showing earlier there was a slight advantage going to John Kerry. And Jeff is making the point a lot of insiders, quote, "insiders" were already basically assuming that John Kerry was going to be elected.
KING: Were the people lied to in the exit polls?
GREENFIELD: This is statistical error. You can be wrong about this stuff. If the exit poll suggests that John Kerry is going to carry a state by two points and he loses by three, that's not considered statistically significant. The mistake is often made by people like us who hear these numbers, particularly the first wave of exit polls, and call the friends and start knocking them back and forth. One of those polls, Kerry was ten points up in a certain state. And it becomes the coin in the realm of politics. And I do think - I've been hearing this all evening. There are some angry Republicans -- not at the liberal media. That's not the point here. At the dynamic that had them all worried, concerned, even depressed that they were going to lose an election.
WATSON: But I think one of the interesting questions is did that encourage them, in part redouble efforts? Did some of these negative exit polls lead to more final phone calls, more knocking on doors, more rides to the polls in some of these states?
GREENFIELD: I think, if you look at what happened in a place like Florida it doesn't work out that way. But what it does do is make people angry. And I think we're going to have another round of serious recriminations about...
KING: They also believed the polls because they were blaming the Bush - where did they go wrong...
WATSON: One of the things we might hear, in some of the exit polls, they had a disproportionate number of women.
GREENFIELD: They did. But look, statisticians know that and they. I'm just suggesting this is a topic you're going to be hearing about a lot in the next several weeks.
BLITZER: You know who knows a lot about the exit polls, in fact, all polls, our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. Bill, I still have the numbers. I have the numbers here right in front of me of some of these exit polls.
WILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I was standing here for eight hours.
BLITZER: Some of these exit poll numbers that we had earlier received, and they're pretty different on what actually is winding up. For example, in Florida, earlier based on a couple of waves of these exit polls, we had Kerry at 51 percent, Bush at 49 percent. Florida didn't turn out like that, Bill.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. And the lesson here is put not your faith in exit polls when it comes to calling a race, particularly if the exit polls are close. Exit polls have always been designed for analysis, for what we do over here, for telling us the difference between men and women. For telling us, what were the reasons on the voters' minds? For telling us that the Republicans did a good job of rallying certain groups, like white evangelical Christians. But they're not very good, nor, really, is any poll very good, for being an absolute, exact prediction. When you find an exit poll, as we did in state after state today, saying that one candidate is 51, the other candidate is 49 and you therefore conclude, it's over. Kerry carried the state. That is always a very misleading conclusion. Don't put your faith in an exit poll unless it's 10 or 12 points ahead.
KING: What goes wrong when it's wrong? If they've got it 52-48, favor one candidate, and it's 52-48 favor the other, what did they do wrong?
SCHNEIDER: An exit poll is a sample of voters. It's not 100 percent of the voters. When you take a sample of voters there's always going to be a margin of error in a sample. It's usually three or four percent. Because it's not 100 percent of the vote.
KING: So broadcast ratings could all be wrong?
WATSON: Inside of the campaigns -- and one of the interesting things, when I talked to people inside the Bush campaign earlier today -- they were quick to point out in 2000 some of the exit polls were wrong. Some of the first waves in the exit polls showed them down to Arizona, which they ended up winning. Down in Colorado, which they ended up winning significantly.
SCHNEIDER: This has been true for decades, as long as we've used exit polls since the 1960s. The problems with the exit polls is their misuse. The misuse of the exit polls is to look at them and leap to conclusions, which is what a lot of them did today. I tried to urge everyone to be very cautious. I said we're not certain about these. There were things in the exit polls that made me suspicious of them. You have to be very cautious. Of course, on Election Day, everyone is very eager to leap to a conclusion.
KING: But none of the leaping got on the air, did it?
SCHNEIDER: No. Not on our air.
WATSON: It didn't but something almost as powerful, which is the Internet blogs. We keep referring to these blogs, these Internet sites like Talkingpoints.com and Instapundit. Where now, literally millions of people go to and political junkies especially. And so when Jeff says it got sent around, it wasn't simply an e-mail chain or wasn't just one site, it was a site that people are used to going to multiple times today.
BLITZER: In fairness to Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst, when he was briefing us early, or late this afternoon on some of these exit polls, he except saying over and over again, there are margins of error. Let's not get carried away. These are just exit polls. They're not final numbers. And let's have anything with a serious grain of salt.
KING: Every pundit said this, that if there was a huge turnout, that would help Kerry. We had a super turnout tonight. Where were we all wrong?
SCHNEIDER: Because we had a super turnout of everybody. We had young voters who were 17 percent. That's from an exit poll. They were 17 percent. You know what young voters were in 2000, 17 percent. They were exactly the same. We saw -- I remember speaking to groups who were mobilizing young voters, and they said, they're excited. They're energized. They're rallied, they're mobilized. And I said, that's great. And they're probably going to turn out in big numbers. But you know what, other groups are excited and rallied and energized and mobilized, including my born-again Christians, including minority groups, including just about every group in the electorate. For every reaction in politics there's a counter reaction. So every time one group got energized, there was a counter-reaction. Every turned out in record numbers.
KING: When do we get the breakdown of the Jewish vote, the Catholic vote? How long does that pack?
SCHNEIDER: Oh, I can tell you what they are right now. The Jewish vote is up a little bit for George W. Bush...
KING: Kerry got what percentage of it?
SCHNEIDER: He got 22 percent this time, he got 19 percent this time, so a very small gain. The biggest gain, the most noticeable thing I saw that is interesting is Bush appears to have made a break through with Latino or Hispanic voters, where he got over 40 percent. I don't recall a time when a Republican candidate for president has broken 40 percent of the Latino vote. He got 35 percent last time. That's bound to be noticed.
BLITZER: Bill, stand by over there. I'm going to walk up here and tell our viewers what's happening in New Mexico. We're getting new information right now with 98 percent of the vote in in New Mexico, at least the precincts reporting. President with 51 percent, 306,000 votes. Kerry is 48 percent, 286,000 votes. Nader with 1 percent. But the secretary of state, the secretary of state of New Mexico has just said there are still thousands of ballots that are out there, absentee ballots. They're not going to be able to make a final certification of the winner in New Mexico, at least until tomorrow. So this is another state like Iowa, in which the secretary of state is saying hold off. We'll continue counting the ballots. We'll know more tomorrow. It's one of the features, I guess, of this very close election.
SCHNEIDER: Let me tell you, as has been said, New Mexico was actually the closest state in 2000. Is was won by 366 votes, I think, even closer than Florida. But look, Bush, while it's not a huge victory, he is ahead by about 20,000 votes. Well, what's happened around the country appears to be this. And this we do see if in the exit polling. Karl Rove did a great job of mobilizing, rallying the Republican base. That's essentially how Bush did so well, we won't say he won, in this election. But we are seeing one of the issues that people keep citing -- and this is a good use of exit polls. When they are given a list of issues, they are asked what is the most important factor in your vote and an awful lot of people, state after state are saying moral values. Not just terrorism, Iraq, the economy, but moral values. And they're voting overwhelmingly for Bush. And in most states, that's one of the top issues. It appears that religious, voters people traditional in their values, are coming out in extraordinary numbers. That's Karl Rove, that's the Republican operation.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, stand by. Excellent explanation for our viewers. CNN's Dana Bash is back in Washington. And she's joining us live . You made your way over to the Reagan Center, where there's still a lot of supporters for the President, Dana. Set the scene for us.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Wolf. It's packed here. It's really striking how different this scene is from what we saw from Candy Crowley in Boston, where the Kerry party essentially was supposed to happen. This place is still absolutely packed. I'm sure you can hear the music blasting. People watching and people are paying attention. They are expecting the president toe come at some point, and Bush aides are saying that they feel, as we've heard earlier, that the president is still likely to come here. They are still waiting and still looking at Ohio. They still feel that, as one aide said to me, that Democrats are delusional, that they actually think these provisional ballots could end up swaying the state for John Kerry.
And they say they are looking at these other states, and that they do think it is still possible for the president to get to 270 very soon. Unclear if that's really going to happen when we look at the map, but they are definitely saying that they still feel very confident. And just to sort of set the scene. (AUDIO GAPE) Bush/Cheney headquarters and it looked very clear at that point, about two hours ago, that Ohio was going to go for the president. And they all told us that they had, as you were talking about earlier in press speak, a full lid there. They sent everybody over here. The senior staff, they were supposed to be right behind us, and they never made it, they're still over at Bush/Cheney headquarters. But they are still saying that they're going to head here. As you can hear, this place is absolutely packed.
BLITZER: All right. We'll continue to watch what's happening at the Reagan Center. Dana Bash, our White House correspondent. Let me make my way over here as well as we continue to mull over what's going on. Quiet in Boston. Excitement at the Reagan headquarters in Washington D.C. This is way past (AUDIO GAP) But the president's bedtime as well. He goes to bed at 10:00 p.m.
KING: You're a veteran of this. Why is it taking so long for the last 4 percent of Wisconsin to come in?
BLITZER: Well, we'd have to go and take a look at those precincts.
KING: What would your guess be?
WATSON: Big strategy move, just quietly got announced. Remember, we heard John King say that Karl Rove himself was waiting to hear New Mexico and Nevada come in. New Mexico with a Democratic governor and Democratic secretary of state. Just heard that too and just said, we're not going to announce tonight. Meanwhile, Wisconsin also has a Democratic governor, and I wouldn't be surprised if those numbers keep moving, if they also say, slow the train, let's be deliberate. Let's be careful. We saw in 2000 that it matters who is the secretary of state and who the governor. And we can't be surprised if both sides aren't paying attention here.
GREENFIELD: Forgive me, but that's speculation, right?
WATSON: What else at this hour?
GREENFIELD: But what else could be -- to go back to the point that Bill Schneider made. It's a point we were signaling hours ago when we were asking what to watch for. The fact that the vote on values was so overwhelming and so - and turned out, just resonates with what James Carville was saying earlier, what a lot of Democrats have been worried about, really for years, when I was trying to make the point, about why these traditional Democratic places are no longer Democratic. These are values, not class voters. And it's a key problem for the party.
BLITZER: We're going to take another quick break. But we're going to continue. We're staying here. We're not going anywhere. We're here at the NASDAQ market site, CNN election headquarters in Times Square. We're going to wait and see. We're standing by. The President of the United States may be driving from the White House over to the Reagan Center to speak to supporters. CNN, of course, will have live coverage of that. Stay with us, we'll be right back.
BLITZER: Many of us thought this was going to be a long night, and it has been a very long night. We're approaching 4:00 a.m. here on the East Coast of the United States. We still don't have a winner in this race. There are a lot of trends out there, a lot of numbers out there. Most of the states we've been able to project winners in. We still have not been able to project a winner in Ohio, for example. Let's go to Ohio. CNN's Dan Lothian standing by from Columbus, the state capital. Dan, what are you hearing?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's interesting, the last time we spoke a few hours ago, we talked how there was still voting going on hours after the polls closed here in Ohio. Well, what we understand now, in Knox County, at Kenyon College, which is about an hour north of here, there are still about ten students who have yet to vote. Now, you might recall that they brought in some additional equipment, brought in some punch card ballots that would speed up the process, but apparently these students did not want to use these punch card ballots, that they wanted to go inside and use the machines. And it's been described to us that it's almost like a party atmosphere there. So still, ten votes yet to be cast in Knox County.
BLITZER: Dan, stand by one second. I'm going to get right back to you. CNN is ready to make a projection right now. CNN is projecting that Nevada will go for President Bush. And its five electoral votes. Nevada, we can finally project, will be a Bush state, as it was four years ago. Dan Lothian, I'm sorry I interrupted you. But you understand. You're in the news business. Why we do that. Pick up your thought and finish it.
LOTHIAN: Right. I was just saying, though, that here we are about eight hours, a little more than eight hours since the polls closed. So we know that some of these students have within been waiting at least eight hours, perhaps longer because they could have been at the back of the line before the polls closing, and still ten students yet to cast their votes in Knox County. Once again, that's about an hour north of Columbus, where I am right now.
BLITZER: In Columbus, where you are, the state capital of Ohio, is there any way of knowing how many provisional ballots there really are right now? Has anybody done a count?
LOTHIAN: It really continues to be just a guesstimate. You heard all the different numbers. The secretary of state making those projections. He has told us he's guessing it could be as high as 175,000. But we really don't have any hard numbers. What they're looking at now are the numbers that they've gotten in, which is roughly around 76,000. But we don't know at this point what the complete total will be, Wolf.
BLITZER: And presumably, we will be finding that out pretty soon. Dan Lothian, thanks very much. Let's update our viewers now on the race for the White House, with Nevada now projected to go for president Bush. We have President Bush with 254 electoral votes. John Kerry with 242 electoral votes. 270 needed. Still waiting for those white states. Ohio, our green state, we're projecting that, at least for now, still too close to call.
KING: Wolf, take a look at New Mexico.
BLITZER: New Mexico, I'll walk over and show everybody what's happening in New Mexico. New Mexico is a state where the secretary of state announced a little while ago they're going to wait to finish counting till tomorrow. With 99 percent of the precincts in, Bush was 318,782 votes, 50 percent. Kerry has 317,005 votes with 49 percent. 1 percent for Ralph Nader. 3,400 approximate votes. So go ahead, Larry. Make your point.
KING: Nader hurts Kerry in New Mexico.
WATSON: Maybe. Right now he's doubled the margin.
KING: He's costing him New Mexico. Right now.
BLITZER: New Mexico is 99 percent of the vote. There may be provisional ballots out there. The governor are, as you pointed out, carols, Bill Richardson, may be looking to see what else is going on. The secretary of state may be examining. We're not going to know an official result in New Mexico, at least until tomorrow.
KING: Therefore, gentlemen, is Wisconsin the only thing we're waiting for? Wisconsin and the president going to the Reagan Center.
GREENFIELD: In terms of tonight, that's right. And Wisconsin is a one-point lead. KING: Wisconsin.
GREENFIELD: All these states are doing exactly...
KING: So we're not going to know.
GREENFIELD: Most states are doing precisely what they did a year ago. New Mexico was 366 for Gore. It is now 1,700 for Bush. That was New Mexico. Wisconsin was 0.2 percent, 5,000 votes. The margin for Kerry is now 15,000 votes. So I guess it's a landslide in Wisconsin compared to four years ago. But none of that matters.
KING: Nothing changed.
WATSON: Although one thing that's interesting about the Nevada announcement is given Nevada's announcement and given that Ohio and New Mexico and Iowa aren't announcing tonight, we know that President Bush is going to wake up tomorrow morning ahead in the electoral vote. So even if Wisconsin, which is the last one outstanding, goes to John Kerry, we'll end the night 254-252 if Wisconsin goes to John Kerry, which is still the question.
BLITZER: People are going to be second guessing the results of this election for a long time to come to see what they did right, what they did wrong.
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