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Election 2000: NPR Editor Ken Rudin Discusses Campaign PR Strategies at Play in Florida, Advises Democrats to Consider Lessons of 1888

Aired November 14, 2000 - 11:49 a.m. ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Showing a live picture right now from DeLand, Florida, Volusia county. This is the original county that asked for the extension of today's 5:00 p.m. deadline to get all their manual recounts done. County officials have come out and said they will do everything they can to get as much done as they can, but they still need that deadline. Which will bring at the top of this hour when we are expecting an announcement, a decision, from Judge Terry Lewis out of Tallahassee as to whether or not the counties will be granted that deadline to move it past 5:00 p.m. today. A lot happening in Florida.

Let's bring back in -- bring back in, seems like he's a regular -- NPR's Ken Rudin, who's been joining us on a regular basis here on MORNING NEWS.

Ken, good to see you.

KEN RUDIN, POLITICAL EDITOR, NPR: Hi, Daryn.

KAGAN: I'm sure out of Florida you also heard today former secretary of state James Baker, his offer to the Gore camp. Let's take this out of the court, let's just agree to what we have by 5:00 p.m. today, also the overseas ballots by Friday -- and then we also receive word from the Gore camp, they flatly deny -- they flatly reject that offer. Are you surprised by the Gore reaction?

RUDIN: No, not at all. I'm probably more surprised by the Baker reiteration of what secretary of state Katherine Harris proposed originally. I mean, this really doesn't change. It still seems to solidify the apparent Bush lead in this state. Obviously, for them to be talking about "they're playing politics" -- Well, of course, they're playing politics, this is the presidency of the United States we're talking about. And according to Baker, we have to do this quickly because the 2004 election starts in 10 minutes. But more...

KAGAN: Or yesterday.

RUDIN: Or yesterday, that's right, you know. But the thing is is that for Baker to make this, this offer, it's really no surprise at all for the Gore people to say no. But as for the absentee ballots in Palm Beach county, you know, the conventional wisdom is that it may be -- these may be Bush votes that are out there, the military, overseas military votes, but there are also people in Israel who might vote for Gore-Lieberman in Palm Beach county. They may be African-Americans in the military who may be predisposed to vote for Gore-Lieberman. So as Baker says, there is no way of knowing what those absentee ballots will tell us, but, again it's not the kind of decision that Gore would go along with.

KAGAN: Not his kind of deal but if nothing else, you have to give it to the Bush camp for the PR move. I mean, they are able to come out now and say: Hey look, America, we tried to settle this, we know you're tired of it, and we're trying to settle it with the Gore people -- they're the ones that who haven't come up with an alternative.

RUDIN: Well, clearly it's PR on both sides. They're trying to fight to get he upper hand. But we don't know yet how agitated the American public is about this. I mean, we are, and we're fascinated, but half of the people didn't even vote this election, so I don't know how angry they are.

You know I think, you know, if the argument is that the American people are tired of this and should they want to wrap it up, they should know -- the Democrats might want to remember what happened to Grover Cleveland in 1888: He lost a very close, disputed election even though he had the popular vote, and if my memory serves, Grover Cleveland never sent his people out on CNN or any of the television shows at that time, and basically he did well enough, he came back 1892 to win re-election.

KAGAN: Don't think we were quite available right then -- back in 1888.

RUDIN: Fox? Was it Fox? It may have been Fox was there.

KAGAN: Oh yeah, maybe. In any case, it is history that you are looking back on, history lesson. The next little part of history that we're looking for here is what the judge will decide, Judge Lewis out of Tallahassee at the top of the hour. Ken Rudin, a quick visit today, but as always, we enjoy it, and we appreciate your insight.

RUDIN: Thank you, Daryn.

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