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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Almost President: The Agony of Defeat. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired September 14, 2016 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The following is a CNN Special Report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My fellow citizens, I present to you the next president of the United States.
BOB DOLE, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a lot more fun winning. It hurts to lose an election.
JOHN MCCAIN, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have come to the end of a long journey.
WALTER MONDALE, (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And although I would have rather won ...
MITT ROMNEY, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tomorrow will be the first time in my life I don't have anything to do.
MICHAEL DUKAKIS, (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To be blunt about it, losing sucks.
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Everybody wants you and the day that you lose, you're nothing. I mean, when they hit that light switch, oh, my God.
M. ROMNEY: I'm Mitt Romney. Nice to meet you.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Who are these people?
MARK MCKINNON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's not a normal thing to want to run for president.
BORGER: To risk failing in front of the whole world.
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: This is the Super Bowl.
BORGER: Who believe they have the grit ...
J. MCCAIN: I'm ready to go right now.
BORGER: ... the ideas ...
DUKAKIS: That's the kind of America I want to build.
BORGER: ... to lead this country. MCKINNON: They are people who are willing to go into public and get stripped naked, covered in mud, crawl over broken glass and stand up and say here I am.
BORGER: Putting themselves out there, over and over again for years, shaking hands, kissing babies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quarter Pounder without cheese.
BORGER: Wolfing down junk food, sleeping on planes. There are days when the voters hate you.
J. MCCAIN: They get up and say, "Senator McCain, I think you're a jerk." You hear from people.
BORGER: And then one night they love you.
DUKAKIS: You are so struck by how special this country is. Thousands and thousands of people. They believe in you.
J. MCCAIN: Let there be no doubt, my friends. We're going to win this election.
BORGER: So now you think, it just might happen.
CARVILLE: If you think you're going to win, you believe and you have to. I mean that's the nature of it.
M. ROMNEY: Ladies and gentlemen ...
J. MCCAIN: I have a privilege given to few Americans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I accept ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I accept ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... your nomination ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... for president of the ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On this historic date for democracy as one of the toughest election ...
BORGER: Until one day in November ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Counting down the first results for one of the crucial battleground states.
BORGER: And just like that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the end of a hard 22-month campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The victory of historic proportions is there.
BORFER: It's over.
SHRUM: You can't go into presidential politics unless you know you're going to run the risk of having your heart broke.
BORGER: When you fall from the top ...
J. MCCAIN: I don't have any comment today and I thank you very much for asking.
BORGER: ... it's a long way down.
MONDALE: Remember, I've asked George McGovern, "How long does it take to get over this?" And he said, "When I get over it, I'll call you."
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What a loser. What a loser.
BORGER: Right now, Donald Trump can't even think about losing.
HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love this country and I know you do, too.
BORGER: Neither can Hillary Clinton. But in a few short months, one of them will experience the most spectacular public failure in American life.
This is the story of the people who've lived that moment. It's a story you have not heard before about what happens when the dream disappears.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, thank you. Take care.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A sense of normalcy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, yeah. It's true.
[21:05:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We enjoyed every minute of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, guys.
BORGER: This is what losing looks like. You go home alone. The Secret Service, the reporters, the crowds, all gone.
CARVILLE: All of a sudden, you're a junk. You're going to Costco.
BORGER: Costco is exactly where the Romneys went.
M. ROMNEY: The refrigerator was bare.
ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: Life goes on. M. ROMNEY: You go to the market and get some food.
A. ROMNEY: There are a lot of tears.
M. ROMNEY: It's very hard. That's -- it's a real heart-wrenching experience to say, you know, we just didn't get the job done.
Tens of thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people and you think, they cared. I feel -- I wish we would have succeeded for them and for the country.
BORGER: In August of 2012, success looked so close ...
M. ROMNEY: Let us begin that future for America tonight.
BORGER: ... when Mitt Romney took the stage of the 2012 Republican convention. He'd worked years to get here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suspending his presidential campaign.
BORGER: Suffered a crushing defeat in 2008.
M. ROMNEY: I hate to lose.
BORGER: But he was finally just one step away.
M. ROMNEY: May God bless you, may God bless the American people and may God bless the United States of America.
BORGER: As he campaigned against Barack Obama, Republicans were giddy about Romney.
LAWRENCE KUDLOW, CNBC ANCHOR: I believe he will sweep the Midwest and win this election going away.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: The minimum result will be 53-47 Romney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A Romney land slide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you feeling?
M. ROMNEY: Great, thank you.
CARVILLE: He thought that he was going to win. He put everything into it.
BORGER: But then it happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, there was a political earthquake in the presidential race ...
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: ... when Mitt Romney said to big money donors when he didn't think cameras were rolling.
BORGER: The kind of snafu that can sink a candidate. A hidden camera at a fund-raiser caught Romney criticizing almost half the voting public
M. ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. Who believe that they're entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, you name it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you worried you've offended this 47 percent?
BORGER: All hell broke loose.
M. ROMNEY: Well, what I'm saying is that what the words that came out were not what I meant.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: What should you have said about that 47 percent?
BORGER: The media was relentless.
SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: You are slipping in the polls at this moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After he said it, and he said it was inelegant.
PEGGY NOONAN, WALL STREET JOURNAL COLUMNIST: I don't feel that Mr. Romney has been doing himself any favors.
CARVILLE: The worst thing can happen to you in politics is when you confirm an existing idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People thought he was a kind of rich guy who didn't understand their life. That's what made it really hurt.
COOPER: President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney preparing to face off in their first presidential debate.
BORGER: But then, a chance to turn it around.
MCKINNON: It's terrifying. Wow. One-on-one. It's, you know, where people get to see you in the arena with your opponent, on your own, on the high wire without a net.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Governor Romney.
M. ROMNEY: Economic gross this year slower than last year, and last year slower than the year before. Going forward with the status quo is not going to cut it for the American people who are struggling today.
BORGER: The debate was a home run for Romney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is clear that the Republicans are very, very happy at this moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plenty of people were saying this was over. We've got a horse race.
BORGER: But no one believed more than Ann Romney. A. ROMNEY: No one will work harder. No one will care more and no one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live.
BORGER: After two more debates, Election Day. As the hours passed ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Polls continue to show a tight race between the two men.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The race for the White House is a dead heat.
BORGER: Mitt Romney began to look worried.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney now has broken the 200 barrier. He's at 201. The president of the United States significantly ahead at 200 ...
BORGER: And then a phone call.
[21:09:58] M. ROMNEY: Well, that's too bad. Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada. Well, so the -- our only hope is Ohio?
BLITZER: CNN projects that Barack Obama will carry the State of Ohio. By carrying Ohio, he wins re-election. The president of the United States defeats Mitt Romney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does someone have a number for the president?
BORGER: Are you over it?
M. ROMNEY: Losing an election is not fun. I've tried losing. I've tried winning. I like winning better. It was very disappointing on election night and in the weeks that followed.
And we thought of all the people that have helped so much, and it's very hard even to see them again and to say, "Oh, gosh, we wish we would have gotten the job done, but we didn't."
BORGER: Seven months later, the Romneys were still dealing with defeat.
A. ROMNEY: We do. We feel like we let people down.
BORGER: Was it harder for you because you thought you were going to win?
A. ROMNEY: I think so. I felt that. I really truly felt that we were going to win. And so, I'm glad as I look back that I felt that way because it's the way I had to feel.
BORGER: The Romneys are unabashed about their devotion to each other and their children.
A. ROMNEY: It's a very difficult thing for families. It's a very difficult thing emotionally to invest yourself at that level, at that depth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, can you give us a word?
BORGER: When you lose the presidency, you spend years analyzing.
M. ROMNEY: What's difficult is going into a campaign and becoming extraordinarily focused day after day, speaking to large groups of people, getting to know individuals one-on-one, learning their experiences, dealing with the media, that's what difficult.
BORGER: Dealing with your mistakes.
M. ROMNEY: Dealing with your mistakes. That's what's difficult.
One of the interesting things about campaigns today, unlike probably 25 or 30 years ago, is that everything you say is being recorded.
BORGER: You try become the perfect candidate.
M. ROMNEY: Don't make any mistakes. Be perfect. Be perfect. And the funny thing is everyone says, you know, be spontaneous. You know, don't act like you're being crafty. You've just got to be very, very careful.
BORGER: Careful. Establishment. Insurgent? Mitt Romney? The Republican Party has watched amazed as Mitt has gone off script, way off script to take on Donald Trump.
M. ROMNEY: Whatever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University?
TRUMP: For a guy that really let us down. This poor Mitt Romney had said, he's going to ...
M. ROMNEY: And then there's Trump Magazine. But you say, wait, wait, wait. Isn't he a huge business success?
TRUMP: He's a sad case. He chocked. Do you know what a choke artist is?
M. ROMNEY: When my grand kids say, "What did you do to stop Donald Trump," I want to be able to say something. I wasn't going to stay on the sidelines till the very end.
BORGER: Back in 2013 even before there was a Donald Trump, Romney talked about running for president a third time.
CARVILLE: It never goes away. You always want to be president. If you wanted to be president one day, then you want to be president until the day you die.
M. ROMNEY: It's a real thrill and an experience that we will never forget. And frankly, I'd do it again.
BORGER: You would? Again?
M. ROMNEY: Look, I would do it again. But it's not my time.
BORGER: OK. I'll go with that.
M. ROMNEY: But I would love to do it again. I'd love to do it and win.
BORGER: Up next, can one decision ...
SARAH PALIN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.
BORGER: ... sink a campaign.
TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: I can see Russia from my house.
[21:17:07] BORGER: The 2008 Republican presidential nominee should have been on top of the world.
J. MCCAIN: I could do the job. I was prepared to be commander-in- chief.
BORGER: But John McCain was running against history. Barack Obama had a clear shot at becoming America's first black president.
MARK PHILLIPS, CBS CORRESPONDENT: The 200,000 plus crowd confirm his rock star status.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, (D) UNITED STATES: Change has come to America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was picked up by some North Vietnamese.
BORGER: So you're a bona fide war hero. A former prisoner of war.
MCKINNON: McCain has leadership stuff. Tell me a greater patriot than John McCain.
BORGER: But now you're facing a losing battle. What do you do?
CARVILLE: I've got an idea. We can do something different that will maybe give us a shot. So what do you want? He's a gambler. He's a pilot, right? They always going to take the shot.
BORGER: Take the shot, the perfect title for the story of John McCain's run for the White House. Chapter 1, pick a vice president. And he knew exactly who he wanted.
PALIN: You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.
BORGER: No, not her. Him.
JOE LIEBERMAN, FORMER CONNECTICUT SENATOR: John McCain, our next great president.
BORGER: McCain's first love was Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent.
J. MCCAIN: He's honest, he's decent, he lives his religion, and we were very close and dear friends.
BORGER: So you did want him?
J. MCCAIN: Of course. But it was going to cause a problem in the convention because Joe Lieberman is pro-choice.
BORGER: So it was no to Joe. Quick. Find someone fresh. Someone new.
MCKINNON: They didn't manage the process well. McCain didn't manage it well. The clock ran out and they suddenly were left with limited choices. And in sort of McCain fashion, he threw deep.
J. MCCAIN: She's exactly who I need.
BORGER: It was the very definition of a Hail Mary pass.
J. MCCAIN: Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.
BORGER: And so Sarah Palin met America.
PALIN: I was just your average hockey mom in Alaska.
MCKINNON: This is an outside the box bullet pick. Is it a bad pick? Is it a risky pick? You know, for a while it looked great, it looked brilliant. For a few weeks. And then it went south.
BORGER: Boy, did it ever.
[21:20:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The level of ignorance is astounding.
PALIN: I don't know ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Palin couldn't explain why North and South Korea were separate nations.
BORGER: Palin struggled with the national media.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read specifically? I'm curious ...
PALIN: All of them.
CHARLIE GIBSON, FORMER "GOOD MORNING AMERICA" HOST: Do you agree the Bush doctrine?
PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?
BORGER: Comedians like Tina Fey were relentless.
FEY: ... you've got Alaska here and this right here is water and then there's Russia. I can see Russia from my house.
BORGER: Even now, John McCain's answer to all of it? Give me a break.
J. MCCAIN: She did get our base energized.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love her.
J. MCCAIN: She did hold her own against a 35-year number of a Senate Joe Biden.
PALIN: Can I call you Joe?
CINDY MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S WIFE: What I didn't get was how the media just skewered her. She became fodder for everything and I thought that was terribly unfair.
J. MCCAIN: People in my view are not kind to Sarah Palin.
BORGER: Despite the media frenzy, the McCain/Palin ticket was holding its own until five weeks before the election.
J. MCCAIN: We were, according to our polls, basically running even or slightly ahead the day that the stock market went down 700 points.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crisis on Wall Street. One of the biggest failures in U.S. history.
BORGER: September 29, 2008.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The credit crisis worsened overnight.
BORGER: Economic panic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is absolutely stunning.
BORGER: Big banks were failing.
BLITZER: The House rejects the financial bailout plan.
J. MCCAIN: At the end of that day, we were seven points down. As Americans watched their 401(k)s disappear before their eyes.
BORGER: For the second time in his campaign, John McCain threw a Hail Mary.
J. MCCAIN: I'll suspend my campaign and return to Washington.
I'm an old Navy pilot and I know when a crisis calls for all hands on deck.
BORGER: Reporters and analysts were skeptical.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The market appears to be melting down. Threatening to bring John McCain's campaign with it.
J. MCCAIN: I would point out that Barack Obama came back to Washington, too.
BORGER: He didn't say he suspended ...
J. MCCAIN: Just didn't say it.
BORGER: After a series of intense meetings, nothing was resolved. But now McCain was losing ground.
J. MCCAIN: I knew that we were in serious trouble.
BORGER: He had one last chance. The presidential debates. And he struggled against Obama.
J. MCCAIN: Now, my old buddy Joe, Joe the plumber is out there. If you don't get -- adopt the health care plan that Senator Obama mandates, he's going to fine you.
OBAMA: I'm happy to talk to you, Joe, too, if you're out there. Here's your fine. Zero.
J. MCCAIN: Zero?
OBAMA: You won't pay a fine because -- zero. Because as I said in our last debate, and I'll repeat, John, I except small businesses.
J. MCCAIN: I was not on my game and I have to admit that. And I have no real excuse for it. It was doubly inexcusable because I'd been through so many debates before.
BORGER: And do you know when you mess up like ...
J. MCCAIN: Oh, yeah.
BORGER: ... you get in the car and your staff is like ...
J. MCCAIN: Yes.
BORGER: ... "Oh, my God." And do you sort of sit around blaming yourself?
J. MCCAIN: Unfortunately, that's my -- one of my character flaws. That do I sometime sit around and say, "Oh, my God, why did I do that?"
BORGER: McCain believes he understands what his biggest mistake was. There's a tug-of-war every candidate shares, between being yourself and sticking to a carefully calibrated message.
J. MCCAIN: You can't become almost totally scripted so that there's no mistake and as you know, my greatest strength is extemporaneous.
BORGER: But sometimes there's a moment.
J. MCCAIN: I will respect him and I want -- no, no.
BORGER: As there was during one town hall where we saw the real McCain.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't trust Obama. He's an Arab. He is not -- no?
J. MCCAIN: No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about. He's not.
BORGER: The inevitable happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An African-American has broken the barrier as old as the Republic.
BORGER: John McCain conceded graciously.
[21:24:59] J. MCCAIN: I call on all Americans to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe always in the promise and greatness of America.
C. MCCAIN: I've never heard a finer speech out of him, ever. That told me in so many different levels, it told the world what this country was about.
J. MCCAIN: I loved it. I look forward to it. I love the campaigning. My second favorite state is New Hampshire. The town hall meetings, in people's living rooms, the interaction that you get ...
BORGER: The bus.
J. MCCAIN: Yeah, and the bus. Riding around with jerks like you on the bus.
J. MCCAIN: I mean, to think really that you could be competitive for president of the United States. It's incredible that sometimes I would literally pinch myself.
BORGER: Up next, tanking the race.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was ridiculous. Has he looked like one of those bobble head dolls.
[21:30:06] BORGER: Michael Dukakis loves this neighborhood. He's lived here for 50 years. He's 82 now. Every morning he takes a two- mile walk.
DUKAKIS: Let me tell you. It's the best exercise there is. There's nothing better than this.
BORGER: And he picks up garbage along his route.
DUKAKIS: Because I can't stand living in a dirty city.
BORGER: The same civic minded man who now stoops to pick up trash ...
DUKAKIS: I don't know why people do this.
BORGER: ... once soared almost to the top of American politics. 1988 was the year Michael Dukakis took a run at the White House.
DUKAKIS: We're going to win this race. We're going to win this race.
BORGER: When he first began campaigning ...
DUKAKIS: Mike Dukakis, how are you?
Do you guys know this book? I can take a bath?
BORGER: The governor of Massachusetts had almost no national profile.
DUKAKIS: You know, when I came out here 10 or 11 months ago, nobody knew what a Dukakis was.
BORGER: In just a year, Dukakis went from national nobody to the Democratic nominee. With a big post convention lead over Vice President George Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Dukakis leading George Bush by 50 to 32 percent, an 18-point margin.
BORGER: How do you blow a lead that big?
DUKAKIS: It was an election that could have been won, should have been won and I didn't win it.
BORGER: And how do you lose to a guy labeled a wimp?
DUKAKIS: I made a decision which turned out to be maybe the dumbest decision I'd ever made, that I was simply not respond to the Bush attack campaign. And I just simply said, "No, I'm not going to do that."
BORGER: In a move almost unthinkable today, Dukakis decided to go positive in one of the dirtiest and nastiest campaigns in modern history.
DUKAKIS: You'd better be ready for the attacks and you'd better have a carefully thought-out plan for dealing with them.
BORGER: The first attack, rumors completely unfounded that Dukakis suffered from depression.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any medication taken for anything like that?
DUKAKIS: Do you think that American people deserve to know whether he's fit to govern by having his medical records made public?
I'm not going to pick on an invalid.
My doctor will be happy to give you his full opinion on my condition and he will tell you that I'm a very healthy guy.
BORGER: He dropped eight points in one week. And then Dukakis handed the Bush campaign a gift. He took a ride in an M1 tank.
SHRUM: When they said, "Sir, would you like to ride in one of the tanks," the advanced person or someone should have said, "No, he doesn't want to do that."
BORGER: The mocking by the press began, even before the ride was over.
SHRUM: Horrific mistake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, come on. Put him up.
SHRUM: Because he looked like one of those bobble head dolls that you put on the front of a, you know, in front of you in a car.
DUKAKIS: I never wear a hat at all except ...
BORGER: Except the helmet, right?
DUKAKIS: It was ridiculous.
So, what do you think? Did I look like I belonged up there?
BORGER: The Bush campaign didn't think so. They made an ad out of the tank ride.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Dukakis has opposed virtually every defense system we developed.
BORGER: It ran before an audience of millions during the World Series.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now he wants to be our commander-in-chief. America can't afford that risk.
BORGER: Perhaps the toughest blow was the now infamous Willie Horton ad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... one was Willie Horton who murdered a boy in a robbery, stabbing him 19 times.
BORGER: Horton was a convicted murder who got a weekend furlough under a program sponsored by Governor Michael Dukakis. While out of jail, he committed a vicious rape. The sub text of the Horton ad was raise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, what about this racism thing?
DUKAKIS: The oldest racial symbol in the book. A black man raping a white woman.
Look, the most liberal furlough program in America in 1988 was the furlough program under the Reagan-Bush administration in the federal present systems. And I never said that.
[21:35:07] BORGER: Why?
DUKAKIS: Because I wasn't going to respond to the attack campaign. Which in retrospect sounds crazy, doesn't it?
BORGER: Despite all of it, Bush hadn't knocked Dukakis out. And as they entered the final presidential debate, Bush was only slightly ahead in the polls.
BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: The first question goes to Governor Dukakis.
BORGER: Right out of the gate, CNN's Bernie Shaw threw a grenade.
SHAW: Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?
DUKAKIS: No, I don't, Bernard, and I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don't see any evidence that it's a deterrent and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime.
BORGER: The candidate treated it like a policy question. Not a personal one.
SHRUM: He didn't seem to have a natural human impulse.
DUKAKIS: And I've been asked same question about a thousand times. And unfortunately, I answered it, this is why I've been asked about a thousand times.
SHRUM: The answer is I'd like to kill the guy.
DUKAKIS: I don't think there's any doubt about how I feel about my wife.
BORGER: Finally, at the end of the campaign, he started to punch back.
DUKAKIS: Friends, this is garbage. This is political garbage.
BORGER: But it was too late. The man who had once been up by 18 points lost 40 states.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: NBC News now projects that George Bush is president-elect of the United States.
BORGER: How do you get over it?
DUKAKIS: To be blunt about it, losing sucks, you know.
DUKAKIS: And I've had both experiences. Winning is a much, much better condition. There's nothing great about losing. And we're talking about evaluation ...
BORGER: Dukakis is now a college professor, happily out of the arena, teaching students what it's like to be in it.
DUKAKIS: Legislators can't handle 30 different messages. When you run for the presidency, with all of its ups and downs, you are so struck by how special this country is. And about the thousands and thousands of people who are willing to just pour themselves into this effort because they believe in you and your values and so forth. I mean it's pretty overwhelming. And I've never forgotten that.
[21:41:16] BORGER: Al Gore lost to George W. Bush in 2000. A simple statement of fact, right? Gore lost.
CARVILLE: Let me say this very clearly. He won the election. OK. He won the national vote. He won.
AL GORE, FORMER UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: I will never give up. I will always fight.
BORGER: When it comes to the 2000 presidential election, nothing is simple.
SHRUM: It's very hard to believe that you have been elected president but you're not going to be inaugurated.
BORGER: The fact is Al Gore did get more votes, over 500,000 more votes. But Bush won Florida and therefore, he won the Electoral College. It's how Bush won Florida that drives Democrats crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Waiting for the Florida result ...
BORGER: It began with one very long and messy election night. First, there was this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... local ads and all together, according to ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike, excuse me one second. I'm so sorry to interrupt you. Mike, you know, I wouldn't do this if it weren't big. Florida goes for Al Gore.
BORGER: Then, two hours later, this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand by. Stand by. CNN right now is moving our earlier declaration of Florida back to the too close to call column.
BORGER: Again, all the networks followed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, we're putting it back into the undecided column.
BORGER: For hours, television journalists waited.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the answer. Get it right.
BORGER: Finally, around 2:00 in the morning, everyone called the race.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush, Governor of Texas, will become the 43rd president of the United States.
BORGER: Al Gore who'd been waiting in a hotel room in Nashville, Tennessee, called George Bush to concede. At 3:00 a.m., he went to the War Memorial in Nashville to publicly concede.
BILL DALEY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It was total chaos as we were trying to get into the War Memorial, pouring rain, the Vice President and Lieberman's family and that whole group had gone in. The secret service and police, everybody was out there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I got on the phone with Bill Daley and he said, "What's up, Mike?" And I said, "Billy, we haven't lost." This things going to be an automatic re-campus." He says, these things too close to call.
DALEY: Grab the Vice President, get him into a holding room with Joe Lieberman. Do not let anyone go out. Just everybody freeze.
BORGER: The numbers were so screwed up that no one was sure who had won. And so the battle began. For 36 days, a furious legal struggle. The Democrats fought for a recount while Republicans fought to stop it.
Finally, Bush appealed to the Supreme Court. The ruling stopped the counting. It was over.
GORE: This is America and we put country before party. We will stand together behind our new president.
BORGER: So what happens when you lose an election but you don't really? Al Gore has rarely spoken about it.
In 2002, he talked to Larry King about the way he ran the race.
GORE: Oh, I made a lot of mistakes. And I take full responsibility.
I think one of the things I've learned from the campaign is that it's always a mistake to hold back in any way and just let it rip and let the chips fall where they may.
[21:45:10] BORGER: But like so many others who lost the presidency, Gore had trouble being himself.
SHRUM: Teddy Kennedy was a natural politician. Bill Clinton is a natural politician. I think for Al Gore, it was a learned art.
CARVILLE: Bill Clinton looked better missing the shot than Al Gore looked making the shot. BORGER: He was sometimes criticized as a technocrat. Translation, a smarty pants. Like when he debated George W. Bush and sighed in exasperation at Bush's answers. And when he used the word lock box ...
GORE: I will put Medicare and social security in a lock box and protect. Lock box. Lock box.
BORGER: ... over and over again.
SHRUM: That was partly my fault.
BORGER: It was?
SHRUM: I said we've got to make sure that you get the lock box thing in there. Now, I didn't think we would do it five or six times and I don't think that Saturday night live would satirize it.
GORE: I would put in it what I call a lock box. The lock box. The lock box. Lock box.
BORGER: After it was all over, Gore began a whole new career.
GORE: I used to be the next president of the United States.
BORGER: He pursued his passion for the environment and made the film, "An Inconvenient Truth".
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are causing global warming.
BORGER: In 2007, he won the Nobel Prize.
CARVILLE: Maybe Gore of all of these guys who might be less defined by politics than most, I'm not sure. I don't know. He's a very -- I think he's a complicated man.
[21:50:06] BORGER: Former Vice President Walter Mondale is just plain fed up with the mess in Washington.
MONDALE: We can't get anything done. It's hurting our country. It's the heart of whether we could regain our strength. Surely politicians should talk about how they want to solve that. How are you going to get it done? What are the numbers?
BORGER: It's just been 32 years since he lost the presidency to Ronald Reagan.
MONDALE: I am ready to be president.
BORGER: At 88, Mondale may be the last truly honest man in politics. He refused to lie or even fudge a little.
MONDALE: Mr. Reagan will raise taxes and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did. He was calling for "Morning in America" and I was calling for a root canal.
BORGER: Problem was, Reagan's optimism plagued better than Mondale's root canal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's morning again in America.
MONDALE: The Hollywood idea that everything is fine.
RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Why would we ever want to return to where we were?
BORGER: In 1976, Mondale went to the White House as Jimmy Carter's vice president. Admired as one of the most substantive vice presidents in history, he knew how the White House worked so we hoped he could wow the voters in his crucial first debate against Reagan.
MONDALE: When I left the dressing room where I was, walked 50 feet to the platform, that's the longest walk I ever took in my life.
BORGER: And he came out swinging.
MONDALE: We've got to deal with this problem.
BORGER: Reagan stumbled badly.
REAGAN: The system is still where it was with regard to -- the -- with regard ...
MONDALE: He seemed confused and tired. He was grabbing on to that lectern and I was very worried about him.
BORGER: Even then there were whispers about Alzheimer's, but Mondale refused hit Reagan on his memory.
MONDALE: I never did it. I wouldn't do it. That's not my kind of politics.
BORGER: But then in the next debate, Reagan rebounded and was funny, the oldest man ever to run for president hit the age issue out of the park.
REAGAN: I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.
BORGER: And what are you thinking?
MONDALE: I was laughing while I was crying. You know, I knew he hits home on that.
BORGER: Mondale had hoped he could grab voters within historic presidential choice.
GERALDINE FERRARO, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: my name is Geraldine Ferraro.
BORGER: The late congresswoman from Queens was the first woman ever on a major presidential ticket. Ferraro helped briefly, but then the polls just kept sinking.
MONDALE: It hurts. You're tired, you're emotionally exhausted. Your poor family's been put through the ringer.
BORGER: Could you see it in the crowds?
MONDALE: Crowds were very friendly. They cheered but if you looked in their eyes, they know it's not going well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, so the numbers as we have them at this hour, the electoral vote -- look what Ronald Reagan has, 522 electoral votes, just three for Walter Mondale.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He announced that he would never again run for president.
BORGER: It was the biggest margin of defeat in American history. Like most runners up, he's still haunted by what might have been.
MONDALE: Remember, I'd asked George McGovern, "George, how long does it take to get over this?" And he said, "When I get over it, I'll call you." You never get over.
BORGER: You never get over it. Still for Walter Mondale, no regrets.
You would do it all again?
BORGER: So you don't regret that you ran?
MONDALE: No, no, no. I'm glad I ran. I'm proud of it.
[21:58:15] CARVILLE: Running for president is not the deal. It's having a chance to be president. That's the deal.
BORGER: And it changes who you are?
CARVILLE: It changes who you are and changes everything.
BORGER: Richard Ben Kramer, the late poet of American politics wrote that presidential candidates start out more or less the same with huge ambition, strong will, and faith in themselves. They're winners used to winning.
M. ROMNEY: I hate to lose.
J. MCCAIN: Then you want to win again.
BORGER: They're willing to suspend everything. DUKAKIS: It's a whole different ball game when you run for presidency, and the scrutiny.
BORGER: And they're willing to taking any.
J. MCCAIN: The exposure, the attacks.
MONDALE: It hurts. You're tired, you're emotionally exhausted.
CARVILLE: And they savage you.
BORGER: Finally, they're willing to lose in what Kramer called a "great national fire ball of failure."
M. ROMNEY: We just didn't get the job done.
J. MCCAIN: I don't have any comment.
BORGER: Pure agony. It's an elite club, these runners up, but even with all of their regrets, they're wishing that mistakes could be undone. The men who were almost president would do it all again.
DUKAKIS: You are so struck by how special this country is.
M. ROMNEY: It's a real thrill and an experience that we will never forget.
J. MCCAIN: And to think that you could come in second for president of the United States, it's incredible.