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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

In-Depth Look at Election 2002

Aired November 3, 2002 - 12:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad, and 8:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION.
Also joining us this hour, the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, but we begin with Election 2002.

Only two days before the crucial vote, president Bush is on a marathon campaign swing for Republican candidates across the country. Joining us now to discuss the White House final push before Election Day is Mary Matalin. She's the assistant to the president and counselor to the vice president, Dick Cheney.

Mary Matalin, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.

MARY MATALIN, ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is this election, as far as you can tell, a referendum as far as President Bush is concerned?

MATALIN: Well, Wolf, the average House loss in the midterm for the president's party is 30 seats, and the president's party on average has lost Senate seats in the last two-thirds of 22 elections. So that we're not getting creamed right now might be a referendum on how the country feels about George Bush.

But each of these races -- and many of them are coming down to the wire -- are about how best those representatives can represent the values of their home states or home districts in Congress.

BLITZER: It sounds like you're trying to lowball it a little bit to set the stage, if, in fact, Republicans do lose some seats in the Senate and the House, it's not necessarily going to be seen as a slap, political slap in the president's face.

MATALIN: I'm just telling you what the history is. The reason that -- I think the reason that we are as close as we are in defying history already owes to the great campaigns, the great candidates and probably owing partly to the president's record-high popularity.

He has the highest approval rating in modern history. The people trust him, and that's because he's working so hard on national security, economic security. And he's doing right now, the best thing he can do is working on democracy. Everybody needs to get out and vote.

BLITZER: He's been all over the country, going from place to place.

You're talking about the president's job-approval ratings, and I want to show our viewers precisely what you're referring to. Take a look at these numbers. Right now it's at 61 percent, the job-approval rating.

But, Mary Matalin, if you take a look back at August, it was at 65 percent, in May it was at 72 percent, in January it was at 77 percent. It looks like that trend is not necessarily all that good.

MATALIN: The president is working hard on issues that the American people care about. It's the American agenda: national security, the war on terrorism, economic security, homeland security. He does have -- he's very trusted and loved out there in the land. And we're not -- these -- we always said, because this is a pretty evenly divided country, that those record-high -- record-high approval ratings would slide. But 61, 67 percent, mid-60s is pretty good, very good.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. 61 percent job-approval rating is, relatively speaking, exceptionally good for an incumbent president two years into office.

But I want to show you some other numbers that probably are more concerning to you, would generate some greater concern to you right now. If you take a look at this question in the CNN-Time Magazine poll, are things going well in the country today? Look at this, in January it was at 66 percent. In May it went down to 64; in August, 57.

Forty-nine percent of the country, less than half, according to this CNN- Time Magazine poll, think things are going well right now. That is obviously of some concern to you.

MATALIN: Well, that's why the president is working so hard. Of course, the nation does have economic insecurity and they are worried about the war on terrorism. Those numbers are no surprise. But that's why the president is working so hard on these issues.

He has put forth a plan, in particular on economic security, and is thwarted at every turn by the Democrats because they control the Senate. He is working hard to flip the Senate so he can get more of his economic programs passed.

The Democrats do not have an economic plan. Speaker Gephardt has put something forward like $25 billion in new spending. Senator Daschle, the Democratic majority leader, wants to have a summit after the elections to talk about tax increases.

So George Bush has a plan, and the tax cuts, the historic tax cuts that he put through, by all accounts by all economists, have made this recession that we inherited shallower and shorter. There's not one Democrat out there that's running against George Bush, and there's not one Democrat out there that's running with their own party on economic policy.

BLITZER: On this point, though, Mary Matalin, the latest CNN- Time Magazine poll has this number, and I'll put it up on the screen for you, as well. Who does the public trust more when it comes with dealing with the economy? 45 percent had the Republicans, 50 percent had the Democrats, as far as the doubts that they have as far as the president's dealing with the economy. 45 percent -- let me rephrase that -- trust the president on the economy. 50 percent have doubts as far as the president's position on the economy is concerned.

I assume that's why Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, had this to say earlier today on Meet the Press. Listen to what McAuliffe said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CHAIRMAN, DNC: The president has failed to lead on the economy. That's the issue. The president has not shown leadership on this. As I say, I wish he'd put a tenth of the time that he has spent campaigning for his candidates around the country focused on the economy, and our country would be better off today for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, he's trying to use the economy as an issue to bolster Democrats. What do you say to McAuliffe?

MATALIN: Well, having watched that this morning, Terry was hard- pressed and, in fact, could not cite any Democratic plan. I will say again that George Bush put through historic tax cuts. What tax cuts do is not only let people keep more of what they earn, they spur the economy. They create jobs. They're great for small business. Small businesses are two-thirds of the growth of this economy. And that -- and every economist says the recession that we inherited would have been longer, would have been deeper without those tax cuts.

He's also -- but he's not satisfied with this growth. It's not high enough. He wants to increase the number of jobs, grow the economy. And he's put forth plans, again, which are stymied in the Democratic Senate: energy plan; terrorist insurance, which would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars for the economy. Pension reform is sitting over there. A number of things sitting over in this Democratically controlled Senate that would help the economy. And there is no Democratic plan.

BLITZER: And what do you say to those Democrats who say that -- like McAuliffe and others -- that the president these last few weeks, as he's been busy criss-crossing the country campaigning, has been missing in action as far as dealing with these bread-and-butter economic issues?

MATALIN: Well, that's absurd. I mean, is Daschle and Gephardt not criss-crossing the country? Look, what the terrorists most loathe about us is our incredible democracy. It's a beacon for the world. And the president is doing what this country does best in all of history, and that's practice democracy. He wants everybody to get out and vote.

It's just absurd to say that the president shouldn't go out there and support people that think like he does, that can help him get through his economic agenda in Congress.

And I'll say again, there's been over two dozen ads made by Democrats featuring George W. Bush. So I think the Democrats like campaigning with the president as much as we do.

BLITZER: What about your prediction? What do you thinks going to happen, first of all, as far as the Senate is concerned when all the dust settles on Tuesday?

MATALIN: There really are too many races to call. He who looks in the crystal ball ends up eating glass. They're way, way close. We have fine candidates. They need to work all the way, and we're helping them work all the way to Tuesday to get as many voters out at possible. But too close to call.

BLITZER: Well, Mary Matalin...

MATALIN: But let me say this, Wolf.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I was just going to say, before you went back into the government, you were among the best in the business when it came to making these kinds of predictions. You almost always were pretty much on target.

MATALIN: OK, let me make a prediction for you, and I'll bet you dinner on this. Norm Coleman is going to win in Minnesota. How about that one?

BLITZER: That's a pretty strong prediction. What about New Jersey?

MATALIN: I will say the rest of the races are competitive, but let's go back to New Jersey a minute. This is a race where we have an underdog situation here, but Norm Coleman has a great record in Minnesota. A former Democrat, revitalized when he was mayor St. Paul economy, brought national hockey back to that city. People know his record. He has a vision for the future.

And we don't know where Walter Mondale stands. The last time he was in office, he raised taxes, cut defense spending. So that's why I'm calling that seat.

I'm calling Elizabeth Dole, I'm calling Thune, I'm calling Allard, I'm calling Georgia. I think we're going to have a good election. Although I don't get paid anymore to prognosticate.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: You were pretty good. You're going out on a limb on some of these.

As far as Mondale is concerned, do you think he is too old to come back into the Senate?

MATALIN: No, I think, well, you're only as old as you feel. And for those of us who are feeling better the older we get, no.

I think his ideas are old. I'll say again, the last time he was making decisions there was a double-digit inflation, 18-percent interest rates. You couldn't buy a car, you couldn't buy a home. He was for raising taxes and cutting defense spending. We don't know what he thinks. We've only heard his views from a quarter of a century ago.

He doesn't have a plan for Minnesota, as Norm Coleman has who's been campaigning for two years. So it doesn't have anything to do with his age, it has to do with his anachronistic ideas.

BLITZER: And in South Dakota, you mentioned that race, the president has spent a lot of time trying to get John Thune elected to beat the incumbent Tim Johnson. You say that it's a done deal. Thune will win?

MATALIN: I didn't say -- nothing is a done deal. Every voter has to turn out. That's a very good example of a turnout situation. It is down to the wire. It is neck and neck.

But Carson Thune has a stellar record representing the values of South Dakota. And, you know, you have the majority leader situation in there, and that's what Johnson is running on. But Carson Thune is running on his record and the way he would represent in Washington, as he has already, South Dakota values.

BLITZER: What about the House of Representatives? Do the Republicans manage to hold on to the House?

MATALIN: Well, I'll say again, the historic average loss is 30 seats. That we probably will not lose the House is already an historic achievement.

BLITZER: So you'd be happy just one- or two-vote majority, just to be able to retain...

MATALIN: We have to hang on to the House. We will hang on to the House.

The House has passed over 50 pieces of significant legislation, again, sitting and stymied over there in the Democratically controlled Senate, probably because so many of the members are posturing and positioning themselves for the '04 presidential race. They ought to work with their president today to help Americans, not look to their own personal fortunes in 2004.

BLITZER: How much of an issue, and you're traveling around the country, has a potential war with Iraq been on the campaign trail?

MATALIN: Well, people are -- everywhere I go, I talk about it and so does the vice president, so does the president. People rightly want to know. They understand there's a gathering threat.

Look, Saddam is -- he is sitting on vast stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons. He has anthrax, he has smallpox, he has the plague, he has mustard gas, he has nerve gas. He has used it on his own people. He has direct connections with international terrorists. He's funding terrorists today. This is a real threat to our safety and our security.

The president has gone to Congress, he's gone to the U.N. War is the last resort. He does not want to go to war. It's neither imminent or unavoidable, he says, rightly. He doesn't like hugging widows and mothers. But he also has a constitutional and a moral obligation to protect and defend America, and people want to know how that can be done and all the rest of it.

So, yes, there's an interest. And I think the -- that the Democrats -- that there was a vote on a resolution before the election was a good thing, so people know where everybody stands in supporting the president on protecting and defending America.

BLITZER: How comfortable, Mary Matalin, do you feel about letting the U.N. Security Council have a significant say in determining whether or not the United States should go to war against Iraq?

MATALIN: Well, the president has reached out to the international community. We do have a lot of allies and supporters.

And the upshot of going to the U.N. will be twofold. They'll either prove that they're not the League of Nations, that they are a body for peace around the world, which would require enforcing their own resolutions that Saddam Hussein has violated, flagrantly violated in their own words, for 11 years.

And the second upshot of it is, no matter what they come up with, George Bush -- there will be serious consequences if Saddam Hussein does not disarm. We're not talking about inspectors. We're talking about destroying those weapons of mass destruction. We're talking about disarming Saddam Hussein.

And whatever the U.N. comes up with if the end result is not disarming Hussein, which is the only way to protect America, then George Bush will lead a coalition to make that happen.

BLITZER: And he's determined to do so. Our Christiane Amanpour interviewed the Saudi foreign minister yesterday. The interview just aired on CNN.

Among other things, the Saudi foreign minister suggests that Saudi Arabia is not necessarily going to be there with the U.S. in the event of a war, allowing U.S. military facilities, for example, to be used on Saudi soil. I'd like you to listen to this exchange that Christiane had with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINCE SAUD AL-FAISAL, FOREIGN MINISTER OF SAUDI ARABIA: We will abide by the decision of the United Nations Security Council that we will cooperate with the Security Council. But as for entering the conflict or using the facilities as part of the conflict, that's something else.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's a no on that?

AL-FAISAL: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: If the U.S. can't rely on Saudi Arabia, Mary Matalin, in the event of another war, that would be a serious setback, militarily speaking.

MATALIN: We have many friends and allies in the region, and we have many friends and allies around the world. There is no doubt that George Bush will not enter into any kind of conflict unless he's sure of victory. He has looked all of his generals in the eyes and asked them if we would be victorious, and we will be.

We have an incredible military. We have the best fighting men and women in the history of the world, and we have the equipment to do this right -- if we have to do it. And we won't do it -- we would never do it -- he would never engage unless it was sure that he could get the job done well.

BLITZER: Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the foreign minister, also had an interesting comment, when he noted that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis. He said Osama bin Laden basically did this deliberately in order to undermine U.S.-Saudi relations. Listen to this exchange that Christiane had.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL-FAISAL: He knew full well that he had other foot soldiers to use in this, but he chose Saudis. And he chose Saudis for an intent. And the intent, a self-professed intent, is to get the United States out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That suggests that he was trying, Osama bin Laden, to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. If, in fact, that was his intent, did he succeed?

MATALIN: No one knows what the intent of this madman was or is. All we know is that he has hijacked one of the world's greatest religions. This is not what Islam is about. What it appears what his intent was, was to take control of the whole region and take control of all those oil fields. I don't -- there's no evidence that he was that sophisticated in geopolitical strategy.

But the reality for that entire region is there will not be peace there, there will not be stability there until it is rid of those terrorist scourges -- dictators and tyrants and particularly those who have weapons of mass destruction, starting with Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: Do you have any strong feelings, Mary Matalin, about the sniper case that all of us who live here in the greater Washington area -- that would include you and your family -- who should prosecute these two suspects first?

MATALIN: I don't have strong feelings about that. I do have strong feelings about what it did to the community. And, you know, you live here. It was a heartbreaking and hysterically frightening thing to go through.

There was one campaign running a sniper ad right now in New Jersey. It's just despicable to use the sniper for political purposes. And I'm sure in that race Scott Garritt (ph) is going to prevail.

But that's the only thing I have strong feelings about, except for there is never a greater Halloween at the Matalin-Carville house than this one.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I'm sure it was a lot of fun.

Before I let you go, quick political question on Harvey Pitt, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Senator Shelby, who's the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee, had some strong words, suggesting that the decision to ask the former FBI/CIA director, William Webster, to oversee this new accounting commission was not necessarily handled the right way.

Shelby telling the "New York Times" yesterday, "It's troubling. He's been under fire, and now he does this and fails to divulge something. All of the facts should have been on the table to help the commissioners make an informed decision." Some strong criticism of Harvey Pitt.

Do you believe the president and the vice president still have confidence in Harvey Pitt?

MATALIN: Well, there is an independent investigation under way, and no judgment is going to made about what the vetting process was until that investigation is cleared.

What your viewers need to know is, when this corporate chaos was first revealed, that George W. Bush, President Bush, moved very fast to put in place provisions to protect the American worker: pension reform -- still sitting over there in that Democratically controlled Senate -- and to punish the corporate criminals. There's been a record number of prosecutions. There are a record number of fines collected from the SEC, a record number of disgorgement or the return of ill-gotten funds.

So Harvey Pitt has had a great record over there at the SEC. And we just don't know the facts of the vetting process for Webster.

BLITZER: One final question, Mary Matalin: Dick Cheney, the vice president, how's he feeling? How is his health?

MATALIN: Well, he's been on the hustings for many days. He's doing three and four stops a day. His health is just remarkable. He's a very vigorous guy who's enjoying campaigning out there while still keeping in touch with national security and the economic security at home. And he's traveling with his wife, so you know his eating schedule stays as it should.

BLITZER: We know that she's watching over him like a hawk, as well she should.

Mary Matalin, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION. Always good to have you on the program.

MATALIN: Thank you, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: We'll see you back here in Washington. Thank you, Mary Matalin, very much.

And up later, I'll be speaking with the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani. But up next, the balance of power is up for grabs in the U.S. Senate. From Minnesota to New Hampshire, every place in between. Every race is critical. We'll ask Senators Don Nickles and Chris Dodd whose party will come out on top after Tuesday's elections.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you live in America, you have a responsibility. And one of the main responsibilities is to participate in the political process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush in Pennsylvania this week encouraging all Americans citizens to vote on Tuesday. Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now to discuss the mid-term elections, a possible showdown with Iraq and more, are two key senators. In Hartford, Democratic Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. He's chairman of the Rules Committee. And here in Washington, Republican Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma. He is the Senate minority whip.

Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Senator Dodd, let me begin with you. We heard Mary Matalin of the White House offer her predictions. Do you basically think the Democrats are going to be the majority in the U.S. Senate when the dust settles on Tuesday?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, obviously, Wolf, there are a lot of close races here, and anyone who is going to make absolute predictions ought to be careful today. But it looks at least, based on the latest polls we've seen, I believe Democrats narrowly will hold the majority, maybe even pick up a seat or so. And that's based on some analysis obviously over the last couple of days.

But again, voter turnout, last-minute issues based on what happens in specific states or districts could have an impact on the race.

But as of today, I think you'd give a slight advantage to the Democrats for retaining control or maybe even building on the majority.

BLITZER: That's the conventional wisdom out there.

Senator Nickles, do you agree?

SEN. DON NICKLES (R), OKLAHOMA: No, I don't. I've been in most of the states. We've got, I think, the best candidates. We've got a lot of close races, as Senator Dodd mentioned. This is one of those really interesting political nights that's going to come up on Tuesday.

But I'm pretty confident, I feel pretty good about a bunch of these races, that we're going to pick up a couple of seats and be back control.

BLITZER: So if you become the majority, you want to be chairman of the committee? Is that what you want to do?

NICKLES: Well, I'm looking forward to being back in the majority. Chris and I have kind of exchanged -- we were both elected at the same time, and so we've traded positions back and forth. And I think we'll be back in majority, but who knows? It's going to be a very interesting election.

BLITZER: But if you are in the majority, I take it you're not going to challenge Trent Lott for the majority leadership position?

NICKLES: I expect I'll be chairman of one of the committees. But right now our focus is really trying to regain control of the Senate.

And you mentioned, you know, Congressman Thune's race in South Dakota. That's really exciting. It's heavy. It's got a lot of attention. The Minnesota race, both Chris and I were in Minnesota for the memorial service that turned into a rally. But, you know, that's a close race.

BLITZER: We're going to get to that one. I want to get through all of those states.

But I just heard a little wiggle room there when you say you expect to be a chairman of the committee. Are you saying you're not going to challenge Trent Lott to be the majority leader if, in fact, the Republicans do become the majority?

NICKLES: You know, I think we're going to be majority, and I think I'll be chairman of one of the committees. And we're not even sure what committee. I mean, there's a lot of things that are up in the air, a lot of questions will have to be answered on Tuesday night.

BLITZER: All right. I hear a little, tiny wiggle room...

(LAUGHTER)

... but we'll discuss that -- we'll continue to move along.

What about, Senator Dodd, your sense right now whether or not these elections, these close Senate races, a lot of them, in effect, also are a referendum on President Bush two years into his presidency?

DODD: Well, to some extent, it is. I mean, not on him personally, because I think there still is numbers in terms of popularity, personal popularity, are still very high. So I think people are separating how they feel about the person and how they feel about the economy in the country.

And clearly on those issues -- the economic issues, education, health care, prescription drugs, the environment -- every poll you see, people are very worried about the direction the country is taking. Here we have consumer confidence at some of the lowest levels in years. People are worried about their future of their children. They're suggesting that their lives are going to be a lot better than their children's. This morning's New York Times poll indicates that. That's very troubling.

So if people really vote on their pocketbooks, and I believe they will -- now, if you like the way things are going and if you believe we're headed in the right direction here, then I suspect you'll vote for the Republicans. If you think we could do a better job in terms of jobs, health care, prescription drugs, education, the environment, then clearly the Democrats have the advantage.

BLITZER: The Democrats right now, as you well know, Senator Nickles, keep saying if -- are you better off today than you were two years ago, when there was a Democrat, obviously, in the White House. They're trying to use that as a campaign slogan. It was a very famous campaign slogan.

Is this a referendum on the Bush presidency?

NICKLES: Well, I wish it was. If it was, I think we'd be in control of both the House and the Senate. I think President Bush has done an outstanding job. He's got a great team. He's met the challenge of international terrorism. I think people appreciate that.

The economy, if you want to talk the economy, let's see what the Democrats have to offer. They haven't even passed a budget in the United States Senate. First time since 1974. They have all these hidden signals they want to raise taxes. You think -- talking about former Vice President Walter Mondale. I remember him saying, "Hey, I'm going to raise your taxes."

I think, you know, there's going to be a lot decided on Tuesday night, but I see the Democrats wanting to throw rocks and say, "Oh, everything that's going wrong might be President Bush's fault." And they kind of forget that, wait a minute, we were going into a recession certainly during the last part of the Clinton administration.

BLITZER: Now, let me let Senator Dodd respond to that.

You're not blaming the White House for all the bad economic times, are you?

DODD: Well, it's a question of leadership and priorities. I mean, here we came out -- this president received the greatest gift economically than any president in memory has received. He received a $5.6 trillion surplus. Now, that wasn't all about the leadership of Bill Clinton, but certainly he had lot to do with it. Other factors played a role.

We're now looking at $165 billion, or thereabouts, in a deficit this year, and mounting. In fact, this administration predicts we'll be in the red for as many years almost as you can see down the road.

Now, that's not good management of the economy, when you have a rejection of unemployment insurance benefits for people, as we did. My good friend from Oklahoma knows we tried to get unanimous consent to bring that up just before we adjourned. Medicare reimbursement issues. These are the questions being rejected by the Republican minority.

Now, the appropriators passed all the bills in the Senate and did so under budget and on time. And yet we know the delaying tactics won't let these things be brought up.

They have got to -- someone's got to be held accountable here. And if, in fact, you have the budget and the administration...

BLITZER: Let me ask Senator...

DODD: ... calling for a $2 billion cut (ph) education, well that's an indication of what their priorities are.

BLITZER: All right. Let's let Senator Nickles respond.

Go ahead, Senator.

DODD: Sure. NICKLES: Well, really, I hate to say it, but the Senate failed this year and it failed under Democrat leadership. We never passed a budget. We didn't pass appropriation bills. We didn't pass homeland security. We didn't pass prescription drug bills.

I mean, time and time again, you look at the House, under Republican control, passed these measures. The Senate, under Democrat control, did not.

BLITZER: But do you think the Democrats in the Senate deliberately didn't want to so they could have issues for this election?

NICKLES: I think they were incapable of doing it or they didn't want to pass a budget (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the president's budget. We didn't pass a budget for the first time since 1974. And because we didn't get that done, we didn't appropriation bill signed.

BLITZER: Why didn't you pass a budget, Senator Dodd?

DODD: Well, because the Republicans didn't want it done. They didn't want to sit there because they had a great fight going on in their own ranks. You had some that wanted to break through the caps and others who did not want to do it, so they ended up killing it altogether.

And by the way, we did pass a prescription drug benefit. We had a bipartisan vote on it, a majority vote. But you had a filibuster conducted by the Republicans, so we never get to conference with the House.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

DODD: Those are the practicalities. You can't brush over them very quickly.

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Senator.

NICKLES: Well, that's not case. You can pass a budget with a majority vote. The Democrats didn't do it. We've done it every year that we've been in control. Basically, both parties have done it every year except for this year.

And because we didn't get that done, we didn't get appropriations bills done. The Senate didn't work. We didn't pass a homeland security bill, what the president wanted more than anything, which we desperately need, which we're still vulnerable to attack. We need to reorganize government. We didn't do it basically because the Democrats were playing politics.

BLITZER: I want to get to all of those issues in a moment. But let me go through some specific races, and Senator Dodd, I'll begin with you. You heard Mary Matalin make a flat prediction that -- and I guess she made a flat prediction that in South Dakota which is a key race, John Thune, the Republican challenger, would beat the Democratic incumbent, Tim Johnson. The president has been spending a lot of time out there. He hand-picked John Thune to challenge Johnson. Of course, this is the state that Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader, the majority leader, of course, also represents.

Who's going to win that race?

DODD: Well, it's very, very close, and I think the polls show that it's one or two points either way, so flat predictions here are rather ridiculous to make.

But I think when you come down to it, there was a big issue in South Dakota -- obviously the economy is still a strong issue in that state. When Tim Johnson was talking about the need for drought relief in South Dakota, the president turned his back on that issue. Now they're trying to brush over it.

But the farm issue is extremely important. We passed a very strong farm bill in this Congress under Democratic leadership, Tom Harkin leading the way, Tim Johnson playing a critical role. That's extremely important to the voters of that state.

So with that, combined with the fact that I think they believe Tim Johnson's done a good job for the state of South Dakota, they want to see Tom Daschle, their senator, remain as majority leader, that's not insignificant to the voters of South Dakota.

BLITZER: That's a key issue.

DODD: So I think when it comes down to it, you'd have to give the edge to Tim Johnson. I believe he'll win.

BLITZER: In the latest poll, Senator Nickles, that came out just the other day, Johnson was ahead by 2 points, 47 to 45 percent, which is within the margin of error, obviously. Very, very close race.

But a lot of people in South Dakota do want their senator, Daschle, to remain the majority leader. That's become a big issue in that state: If you don't vote for Johnson, there's a good chance that Daschle will no longer be the majority leader and have the clout for South Dakota that he apparently currently does have.

NICKLES: Well, I think people are seeing that John Thune has a lot of clout. The very fact that the president, that Mrs. Bush have been campaigning, the vice president's been there, a lot of us have been there. I've also seen polls that show Thune leading by a couple. There's probably two or three people that are undecided in South Dakota.

(LAUGHTER)

It's going to be determined by turnout.

There's also some scandal going on. You know, there's been people trying to register people who are deceased and a lot of fraudulent activity that's going on that looks like it's been generated by the Democrats. That's troubling. We want to win races fair and square, not to have -- having them be stolen.

BLITZER: I want to pick up that point, on some of the hanky- panky that possibly could be going on Tuesday, Tuesday night. We're going to continue this conversation, Senators. We'll be right back.

More of this debate between Senators Dodd and Nickles. They'll also be taking your phone calls. And later, we'll have a special interview with the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our discussion with Senators Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Don Nickles of Oklahoma.

We have a caller from Georgia. Go ahead, Georgia.

CALLER: Yes. Thank you very much, Wolf.

Senator Nickles, would a big voter turnout help the Republicans or the Democrats more in this election?

NICKLES: It depends who turns out.

I was in Georgia last week with Saxby Chambliss, and I feel pretty good about his race. I think that could be one of the surprises. He has a lot of support throughout Georgia. Obviously, this is very important to the president. He wants to pass a Department of Homeland Security bill. That vote could make the difference.

Georgia's a good state, I think, for Republicans. And, you know, it's hard to beat an incumbent, but I think Saxby Chambliss could be the real surprise Tuesday night.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, normally, if there's a big turnout, that's usually good for the Democrats. There are more registered Democrats out there than Republicans.

But there's a lot of apathy, as you well know, right now. You probably saw that poll on the front page of the New York Times today. What are you going to do to get people to get out there and vote?

DODD: Well, obviously, programs like this and talking about it.

And, in response to your caller, obviously we think a large turnout's good for the country. Thomas Payne said more than 200 years ago that the right to vote is the right upon which all other rights depend.

And when you think of the people who lost their lives in this country -- think about someone like Max Cleland, who lost both his legs and an arm in Vietnam, a true, true patriot, a remarkable individual, a remarkable senator. And I'm just confident the people of Georgia, when they've got a chance to send Max Cleland back to the Senate, are going to do so.

We hope it's a large turnout. Max does. He believes the people in Georgia are going to come out.

So, I know a lot of people want to respond, as well, to what happened a couple of years ago, where a lot of people didn't get their votes counted or were thrown out of line. And we don't want that to happen again. So people, I think, are going to turn out.

I hope the New York Times poll is wrong and the people across the country will not sit out any election. That's about as unpatriotic an act as you could do.

BLITZER: I know a lot of our viewers who are watching this program around the world, and they hear that only maybe a third of the eligible voters actually go out and vote during these elections, are shocked, because overseas the turnouts are usually much, much higher. But that's just a tradition here in the United States.

Senator Nickles, let's talk about Minnesota, a very high-profile race, the former Vice President Walter Mondale, of course, going up against Norm Coleman, the mayor of St. Paul.

The latest poll that we have from the Minneapolis Star Tribune shows Mondale at 46 percent, Coleman at 41 percent, the independent candidate with 2 percent, plus or minus a margin of error of 3 percent. So, by all accounts, this is a tough, very close race.

But Coleman himself acknowledges that going up against Mondale is like going up against Mt. Rushmore. It's like an icon in that state.

NICKLES: Well, there's another newspaper poll that shows Coleman up by a few. So it is one of these races that's too close to call. It is one of the weirdest things that any of us have seen. Seeing a new candidate thrown in, you know, a few days before the race is unheard of.

BLITZER: But that was an accident, obviously.

NICKLES: Well, sure, and the memorial service was a little unpleasant, I would say. It really was a bit troubling. But...

BLITZER: You were there.

NICKLES: I was there, and I was there -- I was a friend of Paul Wellstone's. I was a political adversary, but I wanted to pay respects to him. You respect your opponents. Chris Dodd's a friend of mine. We don't agree all the time, but we're still friends.

BLITZER: Well, let me bring in Chris Dodd.

You were there, I'm sure, as well, Senator Dodd, when -- I want to play a little clip, because the Senate minority leader, the Republican leader, Trent Lott, was out there. There were a lot of Republicans out there paying their respects, and he was booed. Listen to this, when he was at that so-called memorial service. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD NOISES)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And they were cheering, obviously, the former president, Bill Clinton.

There seems to have been somewhat of a backlash among voters in Minnesota, given the way that memorial service turned out. Was it embarrassing to the Democrats, Senator Dodd?

DODD: Well, first of all, look, I was there -- and I appreciate Don coming, and I think it was great of Trent Lott to be there, and other Republicans, Mike Dewine, there were a number who came out to be a part of the Senate delegation. And I think it was unfortunate that some people there booed these people. Never should have done it. In fact, they should have received a round of applause for being there to pay their respects, as Don Nickles has said.

But remember what we're talking about here. This was an event organized by the family of Paul Wellstone and his core supporters, 20,000 of them there filling that facility. This was not a controlled event, just the -- sort of the established community of Minnesota. And so things like that can happen.

The important thing to remember here is, Paul Wellstone was winning that race. I think he would have won the seat in Minnesota despite the tremendous opposition that he was facing in Minnesota, negative campaigning.

The tragedy occurred. Minnesota law says that within four days here you've got to put another person's name on the ballot. The Wellstone family, the Democratic leadership of the state asked Fritz Mondale, who I think in many ways might have preferred to stay in retirement. But he responded...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, you know, on that -- let me interrupt for a second, Senator, because I want to play a little clip of what Mondale said on Friday acknowledging, of course, that he had no plans of coming back into politics. Listen to this little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALTER MONDALE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: It isn't anything that I planned on doing. It's nothing that I would have done under normal circumstances, which is why I stopped running for office, because I thought we had to get new people...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He says that he thought that he left, he retired because he wanted new Democrats, new people to come out. Now he's coming back. The argument is that this is an act of desperation, they're just recycling the past in order to try to save that one seat.

DODD: No, no, no. Listen, he's a great public servant, did a wonderful job as ambassador in Japan, can bring some wonderful advice and counsel to the United States Senate. And he's a teenager by comparison. Now, Strom Thurmond's leaving the Senate, our wonderful friend, but he's 101, I think.

(LAUGHTER)

So, Fritz Mondale is just a youngster by Senate standards here.

BLITZER: He is a youth compared to Strom Thurmond.

NICKLES: Well, Wolf, Fritz did serve in the Senate. He was last elected to the United States Senate in 1972. His last act when he was vice president, he swore in Chris Dodd and Don Nickles in 1980. That's 22 years ago.

My remembrance of him was when he was running for president he said, "Well, I'm going to raise your taxes." So I know that Norm Coleman has asked for some debates, I know the networks offered him time this morning. Fritz didn't show up for a debate that was scheduled with Paul Wellstone on Friday, so he skipped that one. I guess they're going to have a little debate tomorrow morning.

BLITZER: They're going to have a debate at 10:00 a.m. Central time, 11:00 a.m. on the East Coast, a debate tomorrow morning.

What are you saying, that he's trying to dodge this kind of debate?

NICKLES: I think he's not wanting too many side-by-side comparisons. Because Norm Coleman, you have a youthful, energetic person who has a real vision for the future, who has plans to make Minnesota and make our country better. And I think the contrast will be pretty significant.

BLITZER: We'll be carrying that debate here on CNN, Senator Nickles. Unfortunately...

DODD: Let me just say...

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, unfortunately we are totally, totally out of time.

DODD: I'm sorry, OK.

BLITZER: But I want to thank both of you for joining us, Senator Dodd, of course, in Connecticut, Senator Nickles here in Washington. Thanks. We'll continue this debate, and we'll see what happens when the dust settles on Tuesday. Appreciate it very much.

Up next, the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani. Why is he spending so much time on the campaign trail? We'll find out when we come back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Rudy Giuliani has been hitting the campaign trail on behalf of some top GOP candidates, including Governor Jeb Bush of Florida. Just a short while ago, I spoke with the former mayor about his most recent efforts on behalf of the Republican Party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, thanks for joining us here on our set of LATE EDITION. Always good to have you on the program, either remote or around this table. I know you're very busy, you're busy campaigning.

Let's take a look at some of the races, and take a look at some predictions, first of all. In the Senate, I know you're working for a lot of Republicans in the Senate. Right now, as you know, 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, one independent, one vacancy -- Paul Wellstone died.

What's your prediction, come Tuesday, who's going to be in the majority?

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: I think the Republicans will be in the majority. I think it will be very, very close. I mean, these elections are very close. I've been to several, and so I know how close they are. So I think it will be a one- or two-seat majority for the Republicans.

BLITZER: And do you want...

GIULIANI: I hope.

BLITZER: ... to give a specific number, what a make a flat prediction?

GIULIANI: No, I don't think I can. I mean, these are extraordinarily close races. A number of them could go either way, I think. Everyone knows that.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at the House of Representatives. Right now, 223 Republicans, 208 Democrats, one independent, three vacancies in the House. Will the Republicans manage to hold on to the majority in the House?

GIULIANI: Republicans will hold on, and I think there's a good chance we'll pick up a seat or two. And that would be the first time that a president has ever done that -- or a president's party has ever done that, since I've been alive. I think it goes back to Roosevelt's first term.

BLITZER: Where there's actually been an improvement. GIULIANI: That's right. That just doesn't happen. I mean, it would be extraordinary. But I think that there's a good chance it could happen.

BLITZER: In '98, when Clinton was in the midterm of his second term, they did have somewhat of an improvement, although they didn't recapture the majority, of course, in the House of Representatives. So you think the Republicans will still manage to hold on to the House.

Now, the governor races, right now there's 27 Republicans, 21 Democrats, two independents. By all accounts, the Democrats are going to gain seats among the governors races.

GIULIANI: I don't know. I've done some of those races, but I haven't been as involved in them. So I don't know, you know, what's going to happen with those.

I think the most important thing is, this is going to be a very, very close election. And I think ultimately it's going to leave things roughly the way they are now, with maybe a few gains for us in one place, a few gains for Democrats in the other.

BLITZER: How worried are you that there could be another fiasco like in Florida, with hanging chads and almost what they call the perfect storm: a close election, bad poll watchers, bad machinery, and absentee ballots that are still coming in. Are you worried about that in a lot of the races this time?

GIULIANI: You know, in some ways, it will be different because it will be isolated to a place or two. You know, I can't imagine that happening in numerous races all over the country. But it could be that in a race or two, you could have, in a close election, difficulties. I mean, there's -- when you're counting that many votes in that many places, and you have elections as close as this where you have, you know, one poll picking one person as a winner, another poll picking another, you could have some really close elections. And it really tests the efficiency of our system, rather than the fairness of it.

BLITZER: Why is the country still, two years after what happened in Florida, in a lot of these races, new machinery, still unprepared? And there is a potential there for a nightmare.

GIULIANI: Well, it's only two years...

(LAUGHTER)

... is the other way to look at it.

BLITZER: Two years is a long time, though.

GIULIANI: Not really. You've got a whole country to change. You have whole voting systems to change all over the country. You've got very close elections. You've got very different laws, eligibility requirements. It's a complex task. I'm an optimist, so my hope is, I hope Republicans gain because I'm a Republican and I want that to happen. But my hope is that we'll get through this election smoothly.

I remember last year we had a mayor election in New York City after the election of 2000 and after the horrible attacks of September 11 that postponed the primary. And there were a lot of predictions of real difficulties and problems, and there weren't. We got through it very smoothly, from the point of view of at least kind of issue.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens Tuesday night. It could be a long night for all of us.

You said earlier today that you want to spend the next couple years doing what you're doing right now. But you're clearly leaving open the option of going back into politics.

GIULIANI: Yes. I feel like I've really not completely ever left politics, though. I have spent time campaigning for people that I agree with, people that I think can help the president, which is a primary focus of a lot of what I'm doing. And I remain involved that way.

And I get to pay back debts that I owe to people. I mean, you acquire debts in politics. I didn't get elected mayor of New York City on my own. I got a lot of help from the Republican Party, from President Bush...

BLITZER: Is that why you're doing what you're doing now?

GIULIANI: ... Dole, Jeb Bush, I mean, lots of people -- Norm Coleman, who I'm going to campaign for on Monday. We served together as mayors. I helped him when he ran for governor; he helped me when I ran for reelection.

BLITZER: So is that what you're doing now, repaying debts, or as some suggest, laying the groundwork for a return of Rudy...

GIULIANI: Well, I'm doing the first, and I'm also trying to help as best I can to give the president the kind of support that I think he deserves and needs and that the country needs.

I worked very hard for President Bush two years ago, and now after all the things that have happened since September 11th, both the way in which he's led the country and the things I think he's going to need to do to assist us, it's very important to me that we have the kind of support in Congress that he needs.

BLITZER: But if you jump back into politics formally in a couple years, what would that theoretically be? For the Senate, for the presidency?

(LAUGHTER)

What kind of politics would you like to do after you served as mayor? GIULIANI: The problem with the question creates the problem with the answer. Hypothetically, I don't know what I'm going to do.

I've also learned something, though, about life, I think, from going through prostate cancer, going through September 11th and a lot of other things...

BLITZER: What did you learn?

GIULIANI: You can't plan it this way. I mean, this is an unrealistic way to plan your life. What am I going to do two years from now, three -- in politics. Maybe if you were in a different profession you could, so you leave your options open, which is what I do.

BLITZER: You're busy campaigning for Republicans. We have a new poll, CNN-Time Magazine poll, which asks voters right now what were the most important issues for them as they go into the ballot.

Take a look at these numbers. Most important issue that you're going to vote on for Congress this year: the economy, 41 percent; terrorism, 23 percent; Social Security, 13 percent; prescription drugs, 9; Iraq, 9.

You take a look at those numbers, it's still the economy, which is for a lot of voters the most important issue. When the Pew Research Center came out with their new poll and asked "Who's better in dealing with the economy, Democrats or Republicans?" the Democrats won, narrowly, 40 percent to 37 percent.

Why do the Democrats generally on the economic issues seem to score better than the Republicans?

GIULIANI: That may be actually just a question of who's in power and who isn't. I mean, generally Republicans used to score better on question like that.

Republicans are seen as more fiscally conservative, more capable of returning more money to the private sector, much more focused on a budget, how to balance it, how to deal with it. And Democrats were thought of as people who added to the expenditures of government.

And I think that pretty much is still the case, but this may be a function of who's in power. And 40-37 is a dead heat.

BLITZER: Yes, but when you take a look at the other question that the Pew Research Center poll asked on Social Security, who's better in dealing with an issue that is critical to a lot of Americans, obviously, Democrats got 42 percent, Republicans got 31 percent. That's a pretty significant margin.

GIULIANI: Well, Democrats have invested a lot of time in frightening people about the views of Republicans on Social Security. Most Republicans who run for office now have to spend an enormous amount of money making a very simple statement, that Republicans are not going to change Social Security, that the protections that people have are going to remain there.

BLITZER: But they do want to privatize a small percentage of Social Security.

GIULIANI: That's something like, really, honestly, a non-issue.

BLITZER: But it scares people when they hear the word "privatize," given the fact that Wall Street has collapsed, to a large degree over the past year.

GIULIANI: It's such a small percentage. Whether you agree with that or you don't agree with it, it's such a small percentage, and it leaves it to individual options...

BLITZER: Do you feel comfortable with that small percentage, personally?

GIULIANI: Personally it will have no impact on whether you protect or not protect Social Security. The reality is as a political issue it's been spun in the other direction.

The reality is the Republicans and Democrats, with regard to the protection of Social Security, virtually have no differences. And the power of spinning has...

BLITZER: But if you had your way, you'd just forget about that privatization, let Social Security be secure the way it's...

GIULIANI: You mean as a political issue? What Republicans should do is just say "We agree on Social Security," and move on, and then maybe a year or two from now when you can re-educate people reintroduce it.

BLITZER: Take a look at it again.

GIULIANI: Because this is a question of -- there's no impact...

BLITZER: They hear the word "privatization," they get nervous.

GIULIANI: Yes, and they're frightened. It's really very unfair a thing to do, and it sort of reduces our electoral process to a less intelligent process. But then that's the reality, you have to deal with it and get beyond it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Just ahead, more of my interview with former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll get back to my interview with the former New York City mayor, Rudy Guiliani, in just a moment, but first, here's CNN's Fredricka Whitfield here in Washington with a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: And more now of my interview with the former New York City mayor, Rudy Guiliani.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's take a look at two races in particular that have sparked national attention, New Jersey, one of those races, Minnesota, another race.

In New Jersey, as you know, Bob Torricelli dropped out, Frank Lautenberg coming out of retirement to challenge Doug Forrester.

Is Frank Lautenberg, in your opinion, too old now to be trying to make a comeback?

GIULIANI: I don't think it's a question of age. I mean, I know Frank. It's not a question age, it's a question of viewpoint. I think that Doug Forrester reflects the viewpoint I agree with a lot more.

Frank Lautenberg would not support the president the way Doug Forrester would support him. I think on the economy Doug Forrester is going to be a lot closer to what the president is going to have to accomplish.

And I think, you know, he has run this race for a long time, and the voters have a much better sense of who he is and what he stands for. And I think that's the way in which you have to wage...

BLITZER: But Lautenberg is ahead in the polls, he's likely to win.

GIULIANI: You know, who knows? I mean, that, we'll see what happens. But I think the issue has to be the two viewpoints of the men. I don't think it's an age issue.

BLITZER: What about in Minnesota, where you have the former vice president, Walter Mondale, who's well into his 70s already, and Norm Coleman who's, what, 53 years old. Is that age an issue, as far as you're concerned, when it comes to Minnesota?

GIULIANI: Nope. I think the issue is who's better up on the issues of Minnesota, and I think in that one it's really clear that Norm Coleman is. Norm...

BLITZER: But take a look at the experience. Look at who's -- the experience that Walter Mondale brings.

GIULIANI: Well, take a look at recent experience, meaning within the last four or five, six years. Norm Coleman was the mayor of St. Paul, he turned around St. Paul.

I worked with Norm as a mayor, and he's like one of the greatest mayors in the country. And he's run a very substantive campaign. He debated with the other candidates, including Paul Wellstone before his tragic death, numerous, numerous times, and is really prepared currently to be the senator from Minnesota, rather than kind of taking the clock back.

I think the issue there has to be framed as, you have a senator who's a current public servant, who knows the issues, been up on them, working, running for the last year and a half. Or do we want to take the clock back to the '80s?

BLITZER: So basically what you're saying is that Mondale is of the past and Coleman is the future. Is that what you're saying?

GIULIANI: I think that's the way the election has to be framed. I mean, I think that's the reality of it. It's not really a question of age. It's who's most current. And I think even the unwillingness for the debate which Norm wanted and now is going to take place on Monday morning.

BLITZER: 11:00 a.m. Eastern time.

GIULIANI: I don't know. People work the day before an election. And that's a strange time for a debate. I think Norm would have preferred -- he did want to debate on Friday night, which Senator Mondale didn't show up for; on Saturday night so the voters could actually get to listen.

I think that gives you a sense of who feels more confident on the issues and who doesn't.

BLITZER: So what you're suggesting, Mondale is a chicken?

GIULIANI: No, no. I'm saying that the question of who is more current on the issues. I think Norm Coleman is more current on the issues we face Minnesota. And I think it's understandable that somebody that's been out of politics for 20 years, in that sense, would not be as up on the issues.

BLITZER: You have been spending a lot of time in Florida campaigning for Jeb Bush, who is of course being challenged by Bill McBride, the Democrat.

Huge issue this week, huge issue, the Haitian migrants who landed. They're treated one way. Cubans who land on U.S. shores are treated a different way. Is that fair?

GIULIANI: Well, first of all, Haitians are treated the same way everybody else is treated, which is if you have a well-founded fear of persecution, that becomes your reason that you can come in, which would essentially be illegally.

BLITZER: Should there be two standards for Cubans and for everybody else, including Haitians?

GIULIANI: That's an old-standing law. It's a law that reflects -- that comes out of the fact that there's been a communist dictatorship there for a long, long time and a long history of persecution that's well documented. And I think that's an appropriate distinction, given the history of what happened with Cuba.

So the way it really have to be framed is, should Haitians be treated like everyone else? And the reality is that Haitians are treated like everyone else.

BLITZER: But there should be special treatment for Cubans, that's what you're saying?

GIULIANI: I think that's a fair and appropriate law in light of our history with regard to Cubans. I don't think it should be extended.

I think at this time, what we have to be worried about the security of our border, who comes in, what do they bring in, what kind of information do we have, this would be the last time we would want to encourage mass undocumented immigration. I mean, we want to do the best we can to keep it under some kind of reasonable balance.

BLITZER: You once served in the Justice Department. You were a U.S. attorney. You were a mayor of a major city. In your opinion -- and I know you've looked at this -- who should get first crack at prosecuting the two sniper suspects?

GIULIANI: I think that the -- focusing in on the punishment and where you can have the most effective set of punishments is a very appropriate way to make this decision.

I've made decisions like this in less high-profile situations, I'm sure, as associate attorney general and U.S. attorney. And that would always be a very, very big consideration. After all, you are representing the government and the prosecutor. And you want the maximum number of benefits on the side of the government.

So that's where you would look. Where do you have the best chance to convict, and where do you have the best chance to expose the defendant to the maximum punishments in the first case? And it seems to me that's what the Justice Department is focusing on. And that's quite a focus.

BLITZER: So if they come out and say Virginia, where there is the death penalty for a 17-year-old suspect?

GIULIANI: That would not be unlike...

BLITZER: You don't have a problem with that?

GIULIANI: That would not be unlike many, many other decisions that are made that way, where the range of punishment becomes the factor in deciding between two or three or four competing jurisdictions.

BLITZER: In Virginia, there were three counties that had these kinds of sniper attacks. But in Maryland, in Montgomery County alone, there were six people who were killed. They suffered the most. Shouldn't they get the first... GIULIANI: This is a question of getting a conviction from the government's point of view. That's their objective, getting a conviction, exposing the person to the highest range of penalties, and where can you do that best?

Ultimately, they will get prosecuted every place they don't plead guilty. So everybody is going to get a chance to get vindication and justice. And the difficult choice rests on the Justice Department, as to where do you start that process.

BLITZER: But basically you don't think the federal government should be the first in line? They should decide if Virginia or Maryland...

GIULIANI: It's almost best to have local governments go first, because there's always the backdrop of the federal government being able to prosecute for civil rights violations. And it's hard to see in this case, but it could be. If something goes wrong -- people all remember the Rodney King case. That was originally an acquittal, and then it had to be taken by the federal courts.

So basically, generally you'd want local governments to go first. Because then the federal government can prosecute for civil rights violations. If you do it the other way around and the federal government prosecutes first, you have much more of a possibility that they'll create jeopardy so...

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying is, give it to Virginia?

GIULIANI: I don't know the inside of the case. If that were the decision, that would be a rational one, and it would be one that would be not unlike many of the decisions that have been made by the Justice Department where the range of penalty is the key to making the decision.

BLITZER: You know that New York City is now the finalist, as far as a U.S. city...

GIULIANI: I was there yesterday.

BLITZER: ... for the Olympic Games of, what, 2012.

GIULIANI: Yes, it's a great experience in the middle of I think a five-state campaign. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was in Colorado and I spent some time with the Olympic Committee and with Mayor Bloomberg and made a pitch for New York. It wasn't as funny as Billy Crystal's pitch, but it was -- came from the heart.

And I think it's wonderful that New York will be competing with the other cities. I started that process as mayor. I was the -- the whole process of the 2012 committee began under Dan Doktorov (ph) when I was the mayor, and I supported it. Mike Bloomberg was on the board as a private citizen.

So this was a -- this was something that we very much agreed on, as we do on many things. BLITZER: Do you think that New York City taxpayer money should be spent to try to promote New York in its battle in this international competition to host the 2012 Olympics?

GIULIANI: Sure, it -- I mean, you have to always make a calculation of how much and in what way, but it's cost-effective. I mean, the reality is that one of the great industries of New York City is tourism. The financial industry is a great industry, but tourism is a big, big industry.

BLITZER: It brings in a lot of revenue to New York.

GIULIANI: It brings in a tremendous -- puts a lot of people to work in start-up jobs, puts people to work at all levels of the socioeconomic spectrum, from people that are working in hotels to people that are working in restaurants, the transportation industry.

So you bring a big event in like this, it's going to do a lot for the economy, and not to mention what it does for the construction industry and for employment.

So, I started this process. Mike hired Dan Doktorov (ph) as a deputy mayor, who was the person really responsible for thinking of this a long, long time ago. He gets a lot of credit for it. And they did a great job, the Bloomberg administration yesterday in its presentation.

BLITZER: This is the new book, "Leadership," Rudolph Giuliani. Nice picture on the book.

(LAUGHTER)

It's number one on the best-seller lists. Why do you think it's resonated with the American public, and I guess it must be selling it around the world as well?

GIULIANI: Well, this book is very close to my heart. I wrote most of this before September 11th, then had to review it in light of -- and being away from it for four or five months because of all of the horrible consequences of those attacks on New York and America.

I hope people are learning from it. I hope they're getting things from it that are helpful to their own personal life. I do a description there of how prostate cancer and dealing with it helped me to prepare for being a better mayor, and then ultimately -- I didn't know it -- to have to deal with September 11.

And I try to take a lesson that people can apply to their own life, so they can get through a crisis, and I hope that's resonating. I hope it's assisting. That's why I wrote it, to help people, and... (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Those were agonizing decisions. You had to do the research on that treatment for prostate cancer.

(CROSSTALK) GIULIANI: If it is, then we fulfilled our purpose in doing the book.

BLITZER: Well, it's a good book.

GIULIANI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Congratulations.

(LAUGHTER)

GIULIANI: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks for joining us.

GIULIANI: We'll see what happens on Tuesday. It may be all different than we...

BLITZER: We'll see if your predictions are right. We're going to hold you to them.

GIULIANI: You never know, you never know!

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Just ahead, a House divided. Tuesday's election will decide if Republicans maintain control of the House of Representatives. But the Democrats are gearing up for a huge fight.

We'll debate that issue and much more with two of our favorite U.S. congressmen, the Democrat Charlie Rangel of New York and the Republican David Dreier of California.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Part of the American spirit is for our citizens to exercise their duty. And their duty is to cast a vote on November 5th. You have a duty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush urging Americans to vote in Tuesday's elections.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now to talk about the crucial balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives, two influential members. In West Babylon, New York, the Democrat, Charlie Rangel. He's the ranking member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. And in our Los Angeles bureau, Republican David Dreier. He's the chairman of the Rules Committee.

Congressmen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Always good to be with you both.

How are you, Charlie?

BLITZER: Thanks so much for joining us.

Congressman Rangel, I know that voter turnout is going to be critical for Democrats, getting that base out there, but there are so many out there who seem to be apathetic right now. If you take a look at some of the polls that we're seeing, voter turnout is not necessarily going to be significant. That could really hurt Democratic candidates.

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, it could hurt the Democrats, you're right about that. If people are more aware of the problems that we're facing economically and not just indifferent to the process, I think we would prevail.

But the truth of the matter is, I think President Bush is right. I don't think he should be out just campaigning. He should be dealing with our budget, but he is right. Voting is a very valuable asset that Americans have. People have fought and died for the right to vote. And quite frankly, as much as I would like to see people to vote the Democratic line, I just hope that all Americans take advantage of this sacred right that we have and get out and participate. I think it's shameful that so few Americans participate in the system.

BLITZER: Do you think that voter turnout necessarily will affect this outcome, Congressman Dreier?

DREIER: Well, let me say that, once again, Charlie Rangel and I are total agreement.

You know, I was struck with your interview, Wolf, with Rudy Giuliani, realizing that within 48 hours we'll be in the middle of the first national election since one of the most tragic days in our nation's history.

And Charlie and I have stood together at Ground Zero, and it seems to me that the single strongest shot we can take at Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and others who would like to do us in is to have a strong election.

And I think that the president is campaigning, because, unlike many presidents at this point, as has been pointed out, he is extraordinarily popular, with an approval rating in the mid 60s. And I think that the fact that he's campaigning 15 states in five days is a demonstration of the strength and resilience of the United States of America.

And I join in saying that I hope everyone, everyone gets out. And I'm going to be campaigning here in California in just a little while with one of our great candidates, Gary Mendoza, running for insurance commissioner, and Bill Simon, who's running for governor.

BLITZER: All right.

DREIER: We're going to be encouraging that get-out-the-vote effort. And I think we've got a lot of momentum going for that, and we've got some great House candidates out here too, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me bring back Congressman Rangel. Sorry for interrupting, Congressman Dreier.

But I assume you saw that poll on the front page of the New York Times today, Congressman Rangel, and there was some concern, I'm sure, for you and your fellow Democrats. Take a look at these two numbers. For example, do Republicans have a clear plan for the country? Yes, 42 percent; no, 39 percent. But take a look at Democrats. Do Democrats have a clear plan for the country? Yes, 31 percent; no, 39 percent.

It seems to be a lot of confusion whether or not the Democrats have a clear plan out there. What do you say about those numbers?

RANGEL: Doesn't bother me at all. First of all, the president of the United States is supposed to have some kind of plan. We would have hoped, as he campaigned to get the right to preemptively strike against Iraq without allies, without friends and without a plan, that, as soon as he got that, that he would bring to the Congress an economic plan, something that we can deal with the plight of unemployment. Instead of doing that, he's hit the campaign trail.

In addition to that, the White House had decided with the House Republican leaders that the war was going to be issue, no other plan, so they control the House of Representatives. We Democrats don't get an opportunity to offer a plan. So it doesn't surprise me at all that they have made the war the major issue.

DREIER: Charlie, you know that that's not the case. This election is not an issue about the war. This election happens to be about extraordinarily unprecedented strong presidential leadership and, frankly, the leadership of Dennis Hastert.

You know that we put into place a strong economic growth plan. We know that the downturn began in the waning months of the Clinton administration. And 28 of your Democratic colleagues in the House and 12 in the Senate joined in supporting the tax initiative.

And, you know, The Washington Post, on the 5th of October, said that, in light of the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, and the economic downturn, our economic growth package, the tax cut package, was fortuitously well timed. And the Post doesn't always endorse our policies, but it was the right one.

BLITZER: Well, let me see if, Congressman Rangel, if you're going to endorse that policy. I don't think you are, but go ahead, Congressman. RANGEL: I just want to briefly respond, because I don't think David has any shame at all. The truth of the matter is, the president's popularity is built all around 9/11. You know it, and I know it.

In terms of the economy, in terms of anything else, the president hasn't brought anything before the American people. But on the last day...

DREIER: Charlie, the president...

RANGEL: Let me finish, please, David. On the last day of the Congress, after the president had the power to unilaterally attack Iraq, you guys, led by you and Hastert, went over to the White House. And while we were waiting in the House of Representatives for you to come back, perhaps to deal with prescription drugs, perhaps to deal with the unemployment problem and extended benefits, we thought you were coming back to finish the work, and we thought you were at the White House because the president was dictating that we would stay in Congress until we took care of these domestic things.

You came back to the House, you stood up, you adjourned, and not one domestic bill was passed.

BLITZER: David Dreier, go ahead.

RANGEL: And you know it.

DREIER: Let me just tell you, if you look at the domestic initiatives that we've taken, everyone knows that the House has acted, whether it's passing a budget, whether it's the terrorism insurance issue, whether it's welfare reform, you know that the House has acted on these very important economic growth measures and we're waiting for the Senate to act. And that's what...

RANGEL: I ask one question, David.

DREIER: Sure.

RANGEL: One question and I'll leave it alone. Has the Republican leadership passed one appropriation bill this year...

DREIER: Yes.

RANGEL: ... to deal with domestic issues?

DREIER: Absolutely.

RANGEL: Not one appropriation bill.

DREIER: Let me just tell you something...

RANGEL: The only thing you passed was the defense bill.

DREIER: We have...

RANGEL: Not one -- not health, not education.

DREIER: Charlies, the answer is yes. Those issues dealing with national security are very important domestic items. And...

RANGEL: Oh, oh.

DREIER: We passed more of these issues out of the House of Representatives than the Senate has. Anyway, let's come together...

RANGEL: But health and education and housing, not one nickel did you supply.

DREIER: Charlie, we're not going to resolve these issues right now.

RANGEL: Of course we're not.

DREIER: The fact of the matter is, in 48 hours, the election takes place. It is a great celebration of self-determination, the rule of law, and democracy.

BLITZER: All right.

DREIER: Let's go through this process, and then...

RANGEL: I just want you to admit...

DREIER: ... we are going to deal with these issues.

RANGEL: ... that the Republican leadership appropriated no money for anything except defense.

DREIER: Well...

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a quick break. But we have much more to talk about, including this issue. Will there be a repeat of any Florida fiasco, as far as Election Day in the United States is concerned?

More of our conversation with Congressman Rangel and Dreier. They'll be taking your phone calls when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our discussion on the congressional balance of power with New York Democrat Charlie Rangel and California Republican David Dreier.

Congressmen Rangel, there are already some reports out there that African-American voters in some precincts are being intimidated, being asked for two forms of identification. There's been allegations in South Dakota already of some fraud on some ballots involving a Democratic political operative up there. There's long lines, people waiting in Broward County in Florida to get to the ballot box over these past few days.

Are we bracing for a repeat performance of Election 2000 in some of these close contests this year?

RANGEL: I really hope not. My God, I thought we learned enough from Florida. The only good thing about it is it made history, and we have the only appointed president of the United States. But I don't know why it's always the minority communities that get such setbacks.

Maybe that's the reason why we don't have one black member of the Republican House of Representatives anymore, because there's not an outreach of Republicans and Democrats working together to try to make it possible for all Americans to vote, whether they vote Democrat or Republican.

DREIER: Charlie, I think it's very important to note that Wolf just mentioned the issue of a Democrat operative who may be charged with fraud in one state as well.

So I think that one of the most important things we need to address here is the fact that there was a very bitter divide during that 36 days following the election two years ago.

We came together and passed a bipartisan election reform bill. Now, obviously, that's not going to have an impact on this election that will be taking place within 48 hours, but it is getting us involved in improving the equipment and all of the steps necessary to ensure that the challenges that we had two years ago will not take place in the next election.

Like Charlie, I hope and pray that everyone is able to get out there and vote. And we are reaching out to the African-American community, the Hispanic community, to do everything we can to bring them in and encourage them to vote.

RANGEL: Listen, you can say what you want. Listen, you and I agree that we should do it, there shouldn't be fraud. But at the end of the day, it's the minorities that lose and Republicans that win.

Let's hope that we can work together, get everyone out here to vote. That's what you want, that's what I want. If we can get the American people to look at the issues, I really think, Democrats get a better shake when the elections are fairer. That's true, you know it, I know it.

BLITZER: Let's hope the process is very smooth Tuesday night, although initial indications are it doesn't look like there's going to be complete 100 percent smoothness going on in all the balloting. We'll be watching that issue, obviously, very, very closely throughout the night.

One thing, Congressman Rangel, there was an interesting quote from Dick Gephardt, the minority leader, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, in the New York Times on Friday. He said this, he said, "You know, when I started this in '95, I thought I'll probably win the House back in one term. Give me one term to win it back. It's a lot harder than that, it is really hard."

Seems that you and I and David Dreier, we have this conversation every few years since the Republicans became the majority in the House of Representatives.

I know, Congressman Rangel, you want to be the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Will you be the chairman after this current election?

RANGEL: I'm very optimistic. It's going to be a very, very close race.

The truth of the matter is, you know it, I know it, America knows it, if it wasn't for that disaster on 9/11, the Republicans certainly would be the losers in this.

But now we have to move forward. If the economy is going to be thought about, we've won the election. We've won the majority.

DREIER: You know, Charlie, I will tell you, we're very proud of our record in dealing with the very difficult economic challenges that we faced.

You know, Wolf, you spend a lot of time talking about the details of these Senate races. I'm very proud of tremendous candidates that we have running for Congress, like Dick Monteith and Beth Rogers, and here in California we've got a wide range of them, around the country, Adam Taft running in Kansas, John Klein in Minnesota. We've got a number of great opportunities.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask you a question while we're talking about California -- Congressman Dreier, let me ask you about the governor race out in California. It's an important contest, people are paying a lot of attention to it. The incumbent Gray Davis, of course, being challenged by the Republican Bill Simon.

Are you willing to make a flat prediction right now who's going to win that contest?

DREIER: I will tell you this. Gray Davis is clearly one of the most unpopular governors in the history of the state of California. I'm going to be on Alvera (ph) Street, just a little ways from where I'm sitting, campaigning with our great candidate, Bill Simon, and, as I said, Gary Mendoza, who's running for insurance commissioner, and some of our other candidates.

And I believe that we have a great opportunity. I'm not going to predict the outcome of it, because clearly this state has many more Democrats than Republicans, too many...

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER: ... Democrats than Republicans. It's going to be tough.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Congressman Rangel to end this segment with a prediction of his own.

You may have heard my interview earlier with Rudy Giuliani. He's criss-crossing the country, campaigning for Republicans. And he says in a couple of years he may be ready formally to get back into politics.

What do you sense his political future is going to be like?

RANGEL: Well, I don't know. I really don't know. I don't know whether it's going to be in New York state or whether he's talking about nationwide.

But right now we're pushing for Jim Bishop in New York state, and he looks like he's going to win back that Democratic congressional first (ph) seat. And we've got Jack Conway in Kentucky, and Julia Carsons in Indiana is ahead.

So I don't know about Giuliani...

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER: We all need Rudy Giuliani back. We know that.

RANGEL: ... but I'm criss-crossing the country to make certain that we take back the House and improve the economy and have America to move forward...

DREIER: And I'm doing the same thing.

And I do congratulate you, Charlie, on the Olympics, beating out California on that one.

RANGEL: Thank you. Thank you. More jobs.

BLITZER: All right. He's a -- you've got to admit, Congressman Rangel, David Dreier's always a gentleman, always ends these debates on a positive note.

Thanks to both of you.

DREIER: Good luck to you, Charlie.

RANGEL: He's a good man. He's going to be a great minority leader.

BLITZER: He'll be a great ranking member on the Rules Committee, is that what you're saying?

(LAUGHTER)

RANGEL: That's right.

BLITZER: I don't think David Dreier is ready for that ranking...

DREIER: See you, Wolf. See you, Charlie.

Don't forget to vote.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Thanks to both of you for joining us. Up next, the suspects in the deadly sniper shootings face multiple murder charges in several states now. Which court will prosecute them first? We'll ask three legal experts about the turf battles and the latest evidence, when LATE EDITION continues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I want to be able to make sure that the system of justice operates effectively to make sure that the most serious penalties are available to address very serious crimes like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The attorney general, John Ashcroft, favoring the death penalty for any person convicted of the sniper killings.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. The two suspects in the sniper shootings, John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, face multiple murder charges that could result in death sentences upon conviction depending on where they're tried.

Joining us now to discuss the latest in the legal battles surrounding this case, are three special guests: Here in Washington, the former Deputy Attorney General, Eric Holder. In our Miami bureau, the criminal defense attorney, Roy Black. And also here in Washington, the former U.S. Attorney, Joe DiGenova.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION, all three of you.

Let me begin with you, Mr. Holder, and ask you the simple but critical question, who should prosecute these two suspects first.

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think Maryland should. I think you ought to focus on where the greatest harm was inflicted. And it seems to me that if you use that test, Maryland is the place where you would go.

I don't think you need to focus on the ultimate penalty. That's letting the tail wag the dog. Focus on where the harm was greatest, and put the trial there first.

BLITZER: And to our viewers who may not be following it, Joe DiGenova, you well know that in Maryland, the 17-year-old Malvo would not be eligible for the death sentence. The 41-year-old obviously would.

JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, I think it's perfectly -- Eric's position is a good one. I think the people in Virginia feel differently, and I think the people in the Justice Department feel differently. They believe that whether or not you can get a real death penalty is a very important factor in a case where you have not only terrorized a region but terrorized a country.

And I think, all in all, when you look at whether or not there is an effective death penalty, although Maryland has a statute, it doesn't use it and it has a very hostile court system to the death penalty. Virginia has a death penalty statute. It uses it, and it's effective.

That, however, is not the only reason. You have to look at the evidence, where the best facts and best law are, and that might end up being a federal case when all is said and done.

BLITZER: Roy Black, there have been three executions in Maryland since the '70s when the death sentence was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court; been a lot more in Virginia.

Where do you think the first case should go?

ROY BLACK, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Wolf, you know perhaps it's a little old-fashioned, but I always thought you ought to have a trial before you determined what the penalty is. So I agree with Eric that we ought to concentrate on trying this in Maryland where the most serious crimes and number of crimes have occurred and then worry about what the penalties are if you convict the person at a fair trial.

Having said that, I tend to think, in this case, it may be better to try this federally, only for the reason that they may be able to move the trial out of these states and Washington, D.C. Because I don't see how any of these suspects are going to get a fair trial anywhere near Washington, D.C.

BLITZER: Do you agree with him on that, that there's no way they can get a fair trial in this greater Washington area?

HOLDER: No, I think you'll be able to come up with a jury of 12 people who'll be able to put aside all the stuff they've read, all the stuff they've heard and decide the case based only on the evidence and the testimony that's presented in court.

I also think we ought to focus on this. All these jurisdictions will have an opportunity ultimately to try these guys. So the question really is, where is the first case going to be tried?

BLITZER: And that's the most important, though, practically speaking.

HOLDER: Symbolically that has a great importance. And I think if you're going to cue (ph) to that fact that this is symbolically important where that first case is, focus on where the greatest harm was actually inflicted.

BLITZER: Well, let's let Joe pick up one of the key points, a fair trial.

Can there be a fair trial in this area?

DIGENOVA: No question about it.

BLITZER: There can be? DIGENOVA: Yes, absolutely. Judges and juries all understand what their role is. Judges, since the Supreme Court decisions in the '70s, have specific instructions on how to weed out jurors who cannot be fair.

You don't have to be totally ignorant about a case to sit. You can know everything about it as long as you can be fair, you can separate yourself from what you've read. There can be fair trials in the District, in Maryland and Virginia, without any question.

Although Roy raises a good point. To change a venue in a federal case, you can move it in any federal district in the country.

BLITZER: As they did in the Oklahoma City case.

DIGENOVA: That's exactly right. You could move it anywhere. In Maryland, you can only move it to another county in Maryland. In Virginia, you can only move it to another county in Virginia. In the District, you can't move it at all.

BLITZER: So do I hear you leaning, Joe DiGenova, toward letting the federal prosecutors take the first crack at it?

DIGENOVA: Let me tell you why I think the feds will not do that but why I think they might want to. And that is, in the federal death penalty statute -- and the death penalty to me is one of the most important considerations in this case -- you don't have to prove who pulled the trigger under the death penalty, the federal death penalty statute and the Hobbs Act. If you have a conspiracy, they're all guilty (UNINTELLIGIBLE). In Virginia and Maryland, you have to prove who pulled the trigger.

BLITZER: That could be a key issue. At the same time, correct me if I'm wrong, the 17-year-old would not be eligible for a death sentence under the federal prosecution.

DIGENOVA: That's correct.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So it's the same situation as Maryland.

BLACK: Wolf, can I jump in for one minute?

BLITZER: Go ahead, Roy.

BLACK: I would like to give a dissenting opinion to what Eric and Joe are saying about this. What they are focusing on is the issue of publicity, and the courts have said, people can read things and put them aside.

But we're not just talking about publicity here, we're talking about fear. We're talking about parents who kept their kids home from school, we're talking about people who were afraid to pump gas in gas stations or go to Home Depot. When you have an emotional reaction like that, you do not intellectually put that aside, as they do with reading newspapers. So this is a far different kind of case.

BLITZER: Eric, go ahead.

HOLDER: It'd be difficult. There's no question you'd have to have a very large venire brought in to come up with those 12 people.

But I really do think that you're going to be able to come up with 12 people who will say, honestly say, that they're going to make their verdicts based only on the evidence, the testimony that's actually presented before them.

It won't be an easy thing, but I think it's something that can be accomplished in this area.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

DIGENOVA: I agree 100 percent with Eric.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break. This conversation, this discussion is only just beginning. More on the sniper investigation, all the legal ramifications, plus your phone calls. Call us now.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM BALLENGER, HUSBAND OF SNIPER VICTIM: I think they should live in prison for the rest of their life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A grieving husband's opinion on the punishment for his wife's alleged killers. Jim Ballenger's wife, Hong, was killed September 23rd by a single bullet in the back of her head.

Louisiana authorities have issued arrest warrants for John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo after ballistic tests matched the murder weapon identified in the Washington D.C.-area sniper shootings.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our discussion with the former United States deputy attorney general Eric Holder, the criminal defense attorney Roy Black, and the former U.S. attorney Joe DiGenova.

When you hear, Eric Holder, this husband whose wife was murdered allegedly by these two suspects say life in prison without the possibility of parole but don't go for the death sentence, does testimony like that, if in fact it were to come forward before the jury, would that effect effectively a jury? HOLDER: No, I don't think so. I mean, I think that it goes without saying that wherever these guys are ultimately tried, they're likely to be found guilty and likely to end up with death penalties.

I'm not a person who is a death penalty proponent. I don't -- I think it's used too often. I think there are demographic problems with it, I think we make mistakes in the death penalty system.

And yet, if you're going to have a death penalty, this is the case in which you'd want to apply it.

BLITZER: Including for the 17-year-old?

HOLDER: I have some problems with that. I have problems with putting juveniles to death.

BLITZER: Do you have a problem with putting a 17-year-old to death for alleged murder like this?

DIGENOVA: No, I do not. Let's put it this way. I'm not gleeful about imposing the death penalty on anybody, but if you have a death penalty, and you're serious about it, then you should use but use it fairly and use it with proper jury selection and, certainly, with good representation for the defendants.

But that's going to be up to the charging jurisdictions. They may all decide they're going to do plea bargains with these guys and have them plead to mandatory life without parole, and nobody will ever get the death penalty. That's also possible in all these cases.

BLITZER: That's possible, Roy, but is it likely that there will be a high-profile case where there's such anger in a situation like this that there will be plea bargains that will allow these guys, in effect, to get life without the possibility of parole?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, you've watched all the prosecutors and politicians for the last couple of weeks, you know, cheerleading this on to the death penalty.

The chances of there being any kind of a plea bargain in any of these cases is zero. No publicly elected prosecutor or any prosecutor who wants to become attorney general or governor or president, whatever they all want to do, is never going to give any plea bargain.

They want a trial, they want a high-profile trial, and they want to look like heroes to the public.

BLITZER: But let me ask you, following up on that point, Roy, how good, based on what you know, and we only have slivers, obviously, but based on what we all know from the public record, how good is the evidence right now against these two suspects?

BLACK: Well, the evidence, it's pretty overwhelming what we see in the public record, particularly the seizing of the rifle and the car and the travel and all the people they met. There are some very intriguing parts of the case, in terms of raising a possible defense. But let's face it, there's not a lot in the public record that one could go on.

BLITZER: What about on the issue of the 17-year-old, Eric Holder, having been brainwashed by the older 41-year-old? That, if you were the defense attorney for John Lee Malvo, that could be a pretty effective defense, I'm guessing?

HOLDER: I think it would be a pretty good defense in the penalty phase of the trial, not with regard to whether he's found guilty but as to whether or not he gets the ultimate sanction, whether or not he gets the death penalty. That could prove to be very effective.

I suspect that what you're going to see here, in an attempt to deal with the overwhelming evidence that they have, is some kind of insanity defense. I think that's what you're likely to see.

BLITZER: Is that likely to work, though?

DIGENOVA: Insanity defenses generally do not work, Wolf, even though we've seen it in the Hinckley case, a very notorious case.

BLITZER: It did work in that case.

DIGENOVA: Yes, it did work. Bizarrely enough, it worked.

But I think in this case I think an insanity defense will not fly with the public, but it's a, you know, it's a legitimate defense if somebody wants to try it.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Roy.

BLACK: Well, to answer that, you know, I originally thought there really wouldn't be much to an insanity defense, particularly when you have multiple crimes like this that look like they're fairly carefully planned and carried out.

However, you now begin to see all this about in the notes, you know, "I am God," or "Call me God," and we have the call to the minister or the priest in Virginia talking about God.

The only possibility I see here if you have either Malvo or Muhammad thinking they're God or taking directions from God and they're psychotic and they're under a delusion that they're doing this, there may be something to develop there, but certainly it would have to be looked into.

BLITZER: I want to play an excerpt from one of those calls that John Lee Malvo allegedly made to Rockville police and get your reaction to this. Listen to this exchange he had with an operator saying that he wanted to talk to authorities. Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOHN LEE MALVO, SNIPER SUSPECT: Good morning. Don't say anything, just listen. We're the people that are causing the killing in your area. Look on the Tarot card. It says, "Call me God. Do not release to the press."

We have called you three times before, trying to cut a negotiation. We've gotten no response. People have died.

OPERATOR: Sir...

(CROSSTALK)

OPERATOR: ... Montgomery County Police hotline. We're not investigating the crime. Would you like the number?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, all right.

You're listening to that exchange, Joe DiGenova...

DIGENOVA: You know, I could tell -- Eric and I are sitting here, and my wife and I were sitting in Palm Springs when we heard this call, and the 911 operator -- and I said, "Who in the hell trained this person?" Was she alive? Was she on the face of the earth? Didn't she realize what this call was about?

I mean, this is mind-boggling, that this person took this call and didn't keep this guy on the phone and talk to a supervisor, say, "Give me a hand." "You're calling the wrong number."

BLITZER: Well, you know, Eric, they say that she did what she was supposed to do, refer these kinds of callers to the task...

BLACK: Please.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLDER: I mean, I understand that, and that's, I think, something that you could say in defense of this individual operator. But I think maybe the systems should have been better, so that if you had a 911 operator who got a call like this, that you could deal with it in a more effective way than they did.

BLITZER: When we come back, Roy Black, I want to get your assessment, what we -- if in fact this is an authentic call, what this means for the defense of this suspect or these suspects.

But we're going to take a quick break. More of our conversation, including your phone calls, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Roy Black, when you heard that audiotape of that suspect allegedly calling police and being referred to the task force, what went through your mind? BLACK: Well, Wolf, you know, you add to that what he had written on the Tarot card, the call to the priest, you know, I begin to think, what's going on in this person's mind? I mean, what is the motive for this crime? I know you don't have to prove motive in order to convict them, but in thinking about their intent as to whether or not they could possibly be psychotic or insane, you'd want to look into their motivation.

Do they really think they're God? Are they invoking God? Is God telling them to do this? It is certainly something a lawyer needs to look into and investigate.

And then you also look at the fact that, what's the real motive for killing all these people?

BLITZER: I don't think any of us have a clear understanding of the motive at this point. Roy Black, do you have a clear understanding of what the motive was?

BLACK: No, that's why I say that. The idea, perhaps, there's some delusion that they're acting on behalf of God, there's something they have to fulfill, some prophecy. Who knows what it may be? But I think that's one of the real interesting questions in this whole thing, what motivated these two to get together and commit these crimes.

BLITZER: Eric, do you have a sense of what the real -- was it just the $10 million that they say they wanted?

HOLDER: No. And that's why I think that this is not a federal case. Extortion wasn't what motivated these guys. I think every now and again, we pull up a rock and what you see is evil. And I think that's what happened here. You're looking at a couple people, certainly with regard to the adult, who was simply an evil person, egocentric, bent on, you know, terrorizing a region.

BLITZER: Joe, when you read the report in the New York Times first and other papers later, saying that they were interrogating John Muhammed for five hours and then the feds came in and said, "End it," and they took him away and he shut up, and that ended, in effect, any opportunity to get a confession or evidence, what went through your mind?

DIGENOVA: "Hokum" went through my mind, because if that had been the case, if there had been a confession about to occur, they never would have moved that suspect. No one would have moved that suspect. In fact, there was no confession that was about to occur.

Let's say, for example, that that actually happened. Does anybody think that the minute that that person was taken out of custody, that somebody wouldn't have gone to the press and said that day -- why did they wait four or five days before they published the story that there was this confession about to occur?

BLITZER: You know how these interrogations go. Sometimes it takes a long time to build up some sort of rapport with suspects. HOLDER: Yes, I mean that charge is serious enough that it seems to me that it really needs to be seriously examined.

If, in fact, the U.S. attorney did what he is alleged to have done, he needs to be out of office. If, on the other hand, those charges that were made were false, the people who made those charges need to be drummed out of the federal service, as well.

BLITZER: Roy Black, you get the last word. Go ahead.

BLACK: Well, number one, federal law requires people to be promptly brought before a magistrate, so the United States attorney was fulfilling his obligation in doing that.

I also don't believe anybody would interrupt in a confession going on.

And third, I think that there's a lot of jealous people out there that are trying to get hold of this case, and they're willing to float any stories to try to get the case in their jurisdiction first.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it right there. Roy Black, Eric Holder, Joe DiGenova, thanks to three great lawyers for joining us on our show. Always good to have you on the program.

It's time to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.

Coming up for our North American audience, the next hour of LATE EDITION. The midterm elections are two days away. We'll take a close look at the tightest races across the country with our political panel. Plus, more of your phone calls and our Final Round.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are only two campaign days left until the midterm elections. Our political panel will guide you through most of the critical races around the country, but first, here's CNN's Fredricka Whitfield with a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: President Bush has been campaigning almost nonstop for weeks. The balance of power in the Senate, as well as the House, is up for grabs, not to mention 36 governors seats.

Joining us now to discuss Tuesday's crucial election is a panel of top political thinkers. From the CNN headquarters in Atlanta, the Republican strategist Ralph Reed, he's chairman of the Georgia Republican Party; CNN's senior analyst Jeff Greenfield and CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider, and joining me here in Washington, the Democratic strategist Mark Mellman.

Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thanks very much for joining us.

Ralph Reed, let me begin with you on an issue that's uppermost in the minds of most Americans, the economy. Usually when the economy is in trouble, that translates into bad news for the party incumbent in the White House. Will that happen this time?

RALPH REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, I don't think it will, Wolf. As a matter of fact, if you look at the most recent Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, it gives the Republicans a five-point advantage on tax and fiscal issues, about dead even on economic issues, on the economy and jobs.

And if you look at the CBS-New York Times poll that came out this morning, it gives the Republicans a 42-point advantage on national security and dead even, down one, within the margin of error, on the economy.

And I think there are a couple of reasons why. Number one, the president has an economic agenda of lower taxes, fiscal discipline and free trade. The Democrats, because they haven't been able to get their act together, haven't really been able to present a unified economic agenda.

BLITZER: All right.

REED: So it was a missed opportunity for them.

BLITZER: Mark Mellman -- let's let Mark Mellman respond.

What do you say?

MARK MELLMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Democrats do have a very clear economic agenda. The reality is, the way people touch and see and feel this abstraction we call the macroeconomy is through things like the cost of health care and cost of prescription drugs, issues on which Democrats have huge advantages.

MELLMAN: They feel if the value in protecting their pensions and 401(k)s...

BLITZER: But will the economy, the bad economy, relatively speaking, translate into votes for Democrats this time around?

MELLMAN: You're going to see it translate in the governors races for sure all across the country. I think you're going to see it translate in Senate races, as well.

In the House, you'll see it as well, but it's going to be masked by the support that does exist for the president on foreign policy and by the fact that there are very few competitive House races in the country. There can't be a whole lot of change because there just aren't that many competitive races.

BLITZER: There's always the line, Jeff Greenfield, that Karen Hughes had earlier today when she was on ABC. I want you to listen to what she said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN HUGHES, PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: The president wants to elect a Congress, a House and a Senate, that will work with him to strengthen our economy and get the economy moving and create jobs. And there are a lot of things, again, unfortunately, that have languished at Tom Daschle's doorstep.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is that line -- has that line proven to be effective? Blaming Tom Daschle and the Democrats, in effect, for the poor economy. Has it worked and will it work?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: No, it's not like Harry Truman blaming the do- nothing 80th Congress and getting elected on that, in part because the Republicans control one house.

But I do think there is a reason why an economy that has turned sour, coupled with corporate malfeasance -- it's the kind of stuff that Democratic erotic political dreams are made.

Why that hasn't cut (ph), and my own belief is because people, I think, do not see the Democratic Party anymore as the engine of social economic justice, when you've got a situation where the six most ethically challenged big companies gave $7.5 million to Republicans over the last 10 years and $5.5 million to Democrats.

So I think that, plus the general disconnection of people who just don't believe that politics makes much difference, is going to drive into the polls in a fit of anger against what would otherwise be a potent Democratic issue.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, nobody studies the polls, all of the polls, more closely than you do. How has the poor economy translated into public attitudes? How will it impact in these close elections on Tuesday?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, it's driving Democrats crazy. Look, they had Bill Clinton in for eight years. The economy was booming.

Since George Bush became president, the Democrats love to point out almost 2 million jobs have been lost, the surplus has turned into a deficit, trillions of dollars have been lost in the stock market. And yet, and yet it isn't paying off big time for Democrats.

I agree with Jeff, I mean, that's one of the reasons that people don't think the Democrats have a program. Look, Democrats are frustrated and they're angry because they say, "Why won't the party say what we really want to say?" What Democrats, rank-and-file Democrats want to say is it's because of that tax cut, and they say it should be modified, it should be rescinded.

But Democrats know it would be suicidal politically to call for changing or modifying the tax cut, or they believe that, because the Republicans would just turn around and say, "Go ahead, make my day."

BLITZER: All right, let's move on to another key issue in the elections, national security, the war on terror, a potential war with Iraq.

Mark Mellman, normally these issues translate into positives for the Republicans.

MELLMAN: Well, that's right. But for an issue to be politically relevant two conditions have to be met. The issue has to be important, and the war on terrorism certainly is, but there also has to be a fundamental difference between candidates and between parties.

And in most of the races, in most parts of the country, there really is no daylight at all between Democrats and Republicans on the war on terrorism in general, and even with respect to the war on Iraq. There's unity in the country on fighting terror.

BLITZER: Ralph Reed, do you accept that?

REED: No, I wouldn't. I would disagree with that in this respect. There have been clear differences in some of the Senate races -- Missouri, Georgia and elsewhere -- where Democrats -- for example, Max Cleland here in Georgia took $117,000 from government employee unions and voted 11 times against the president's ability to have flexibility in moving human resources and dollars around within the new department.

So whereas Zell Miller, our other senator, has co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to support the president, Max Cleland has voted 11 times against the president on homeland security and with government employee unions.

BLITZER: But on that issue, Ralph Reed...

REED: And that's been an issue in this campaign, and it should be.

BLITZER: But, to be fair to Zell Miller, he has endorsed Max Cleland, as opposed to Saxby Chambliss, the Republican.

REED: Well, sure he has. But voters are smart enough to know...

(CROSSTALK)

REED: If I could just respond. Voters are smart enough to know -- he is a colleague and a fellow Democrat, sure he is. But the issue is, when the president needed Max Cleland's vote on homeland security, he didn't get it. And that has also been an issue in the Missouri Senate race.

BLITZER: When you look at all these issues and all these close races, Jeff Greenfield, have these national security issues -- the war on terrorism, the potential war with Iraq, the creation of a Department of Homeland Security -- been critical issues in any of these really close contests? GREENFIELD: I think here in Georgia -- and, you know, Ralph Reed is not the chairman of the Republican Party of Georgia for nothing -- it has made a difference.

I mean, here you have a Vietnam combat veteran, a hero who lost three limbs in Vietnam, running against a guy who was not in military service, and the defense issue is cutting for the Republican.

And I think, I think South Dakota they've tried to link Tim Johnson to votes against missile defense.

And those are a couple of races where we've actually seen pictures of Osama and Saddam, until there was a little kind of reaction saying maybe you don't want to put it on quite that term.

Otherwise, no. And I think the reason is first that the overwhelming majority of Democrats did stay with the president on the basic issue of use-of-force resolution. And second, I think the country is very conflicted about this. They would like to go to war with Saddam and beat him, provided almost nobody dies. And that's a tricky one.

BLITZER: Normally, Bill Schneider, as you well know, the old axiom of politics in the United States is people vote their pocketbooks except when there's a major national security crisis. You would think after 9/11, people would sense there is a crisis out there, that there are a lot of terrorists who hate the United States.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, they do. And the one thing -- the one impact it's had politically is it has definitely enhanced President Bush's stature as a national leader. Before September 11th, 2001, he was sinking in the polls. He was dipping below 50 percent.

And then came the war on terrorism, his very strong leadership in that effort. He is now -- he has been, for the last year and a half, above politics.

And the Republicans are now using President Bush. They want this race to be a referendum on him. Look at all the places he's going. And that is frustrating Democrats immensely.

Democrats are frustrated by this as much as the economy, because there are a lot of Democrats out there who are angry about this war, who want to take the president on, and they saw their congressional leadership unwilling to have that debate because, again, it could have been politically suicidal for Democrats.

BLITZER: What's at stake, Ralph Reed, for President Bush personally in this contest -- not only personally, but politically looking two years down the road?

REED: Well, look, it's a very important election. I mean, the president is wanting to get this economy strong again. It's bumping along, and he wants people to get back to work.

He also wants to make sure that he has a Senate and a House he can work with in prosecuting the war against terrorism, and he wants to get this Department of Homeland Security created.

So it's a very important election. We want to see the Senate with leadership that we can work with that'll pass a Department of Homeland Security, pass pension reform, a prescription drug benefit bill and pass a budget, which they're required by law to do.

Having said that, Wolf, I would just make the point. I am not trying to play a lowered-expectations game, just try to put this in historical context. It's been since 1934 that an incumbent president's party carried and won House seats in the first off-year. I think that's going to happen for this president on Tuesday.

And if he gets the Senate back, and I think there's a better- than-even chance of that, that would be an historic achievement that very few presidents, not only in modern times but even going back to the 19th century, have achieved.

BLITZER: Is this election a referendum on President Bush, Mark Mellman?

MELLMAN: I really don't think it is, quite honestly. If you look at the polls, most people are going into the voting booth looking at the candidates who are before them on the ballot, making a judgment about those two candidates.

And the reality is, most Americans want balance. They want the system of checks and balances to work. They believe in it. People remember the last time we had a whole Congress where the Republicans controlled all three branches of government, both Houses of Congress, 1932, Herbert Hoover. People don't want to repeat that kind of history. They want checks and balances. And that's where you get it, in the Congress.

BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, having said that, the stakes for President Bush are pretty significant on Tuesday, aren't they?

GREENFIELD: Could I dissent? I mean, apart from the fact that I think the Republicans controlled all three branches in 1953 and '54 and they did it for seven months in 2001, let's remember the history. I mean, we have had an awful lot of presidents who've won reelection when both Houses of Congress were in opposition hands.

And there are some cynics, even among Republicans, who say, in their unguarded moments, "Gee, you know, it might not be such a bad thing if one House was Democratic. Then we'd have somebody to blame." I mean, it's the ultimate extension of cynicism, where the only thing that matters is the next election.

But I think, because this thing is so evenly divided -- and, you know, look, there are 74,000 people over at the Georgia Dome, and one- section-of-them worth of voters could tip the Senate in South Dakota and New Hampshire.

So while I think people will make much of it -- Ralph will make much of it if the Republicans prevail, and Mark will make much if they don't -- I don't think it tells us all that much about the president's reelection prospects at all, actually.

BLITZER: All right. Bill Schneider, we're going to take a break, but button this segment up for us.

SCHNEIDER: One word, clout. If the president does poorly in the election on Tuesday, a lot of Republicans are going to say, "Wait a minute, his popularity didn't do a thing for me," and he's going to find his clout mightily diminished.

BLITZER: All right, gentlemen. We're going to take that break.

And when we return, we have phone calls for our political panel. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: How about putting it this way? Let's win one for George W.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush in Pennsylvania on Friday, putting the weight of the White House behind his campaign message.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our discussion about the tightest political races around the country with Republican strategist Ralph Reed, CNN's senior analyst Jeff Greenfield, CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider and Democratic strategist Mark Mellman.

Let's go through some of the races.

Minnesota, Mark Mellman. Walter Mondale, the former vice president, facing the St. Paul mayor, Norm Coleman; Jim Moore the independent. They're going to have a debate, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, 10:00 a.m. Monday morning in Minnesota. The Republicans say they'll do it, but they wanted a primetime debate. They insist Walter Mondale was reluctant to do that.

MELLMAN: Well, the reality is, Vice President Mondale is debating.

Walter Mondale's an icon in Minnesota. Everybody knows who he is. Everybody likes him. Coleman ran a very negative campaign against Paul Wellstone. I think people are going to remember that.

BLITZER: What about that, Ralph Reed?

REED: Well, there's a St. Paul Pioneer Press poll out this morning, shows Norm Coleman up five. The Coleman campaign tracking polls have him up. It's going to be a close race.

Norm Coleman's going to win. It's going to be a big upset. BLITZER: You've been looking closely at that race, Jeff Greenfield. I know you spent some time in Minnesota. The stakes out there are pretty significant.

GREENFIELD: Yes. First up, it's a highly Democratic state that's become less Democratic. It is going to be very close, I think. And if Coleman does win, it is going to really upset the Democratic scorecard on how they keep control of the Senate.

BLITZER: If the Democrats lose in Minnesota, Bill Schneider, they might lose the majority in the Senate. I think Jeff Greenfield's 100 percent right.

SCHNEIDER: Well, any of those seats. The stakes are very high. That's why Walter Mondale was on the ticket. That's why Frank Lautenberg's running in New Jersey. The stakes are high.

And that debate tomorrow morning could be critical, because everyone is going to be watching that debate, we hope, here on CNN, and they're going to be looking to see if Walter Mondale's still got it, is he past his prime, can he carry his own. That's what that debate is all about.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a look at the race in Texas, another important Senate race. The attorney general, John Cornyn, who's the Republican, facing the Dallas mayor, Ron Kirk. Dallas mayor, is he the Dallas mayor?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Ralph Reed, if you -- the former mayor, of course.

Ralph Reed, if you take a look at that race right now, it looks like the Republican's got a slight edge, but it could still go either way.

REED: Well, I think Texas is going to be the last tarmac where the president's going to land. He's enormously popular, as he is everywhere, of course, but particularly there.

John Cornyn is a good man. He's been a good candidate. It's going to be close, but he's going to win. And he's going to be helped, by the way, by Rick Perry, who I think is going to win big for governor at the top of the ticket.

BLITZER: There could be some coattails there.

What do you say, Mark?

MELLMAN: Cornyn's the candidate most closely tied to the Enron scandal in the country. I think it's going to be a very close race, but I think he's going to end up losing narrowly.

BLITZER: They haven't paid a lot of attention, those of us in the news media, to the Texas contest.

Jeff, how do you see it?

GREENFIELD: This is the one that could be the surprise, because, if Hispanics and blacks turn out in huge numbers -- and the gubernatorial Democratic candidate, a multimillionaire named Sanchez, is doing his utmost to get them out -- it could throw the poll numbers a little off.

I mean, I still think, if you were betting, which of course we don't do here, I'd probably bet Cornyn. But this is my candidate for the likeliest most unlikely result, if you get my point.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, do you get the point?

SCHNEIDER: I do get the point. Democrats call this the dream team, because they have a Hispanic -- wealthy Hispanic, running for governor, Tony Sanchez, they have an African-American, popular former mayor of Dallas, Ron Kirk, who was a good friend of Governor Bush, running for the Senate. And the idea was, they could drive minority turnout up and win that state.

But in the end, you know what, if George Bush is popular and has clout anywhere, he has clout in Texas. So I think...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: South Dakota may be the best example of a proxy race up there, John Thune, the Republican candidate handpicked by the president, facing Tim Johnson, the incumbent, of course, a close ally of Tom Daschle.

What's going to happen there?

REED: Well, this one's just too close to call. I mean, our polling basically shows it tied. I think we've got a very good ground game out there, over 200 activists and workers have been on the ground fulltime for a long period. It's going to be a turnout game, Wolf, and whoever wins that will win this race.

BLITZER: Turnout in South Dakota?

MELLMAN: Turnout's going to be important, but, in all the public polls, Tim Johnson's running ahead right now by several points. Democrats have thousands of people on the streets, not just hundreds.

BLITZER: Normally it's hard to beat an incumbent. In this particular case, the president has visited South Dakota several times, Jeff.

GREENFIELD: Yes, and you know what? I mean, South Dakota is a fine state with good South Dakota values. But nobody's there. I mean, 755,000 people in the whole state. So when you talk about a poll with a two-point lead, you're probably talking about five people in a coffee shop.

I do think, more seriously, you know, Ralph Reed's folks got out the vote in '94, out-turned-out the Democrats, and Clinton and the Democrats got bashed. The last two elections, the Democrats have outmaneuvered the Republicans on turnout generally, with labor playing, I think, a key role. But, I mean, South Dakota's a race where I do think, if you call that race one way or another, you've got to be smoking something. It's just ridiculous.

BLITZER: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHNEIDER: And you know what?

BLITZER: I don't think -- Bill Schneider's not smoking anything, but go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHNEIDER: I have been to South Dakota, and I've been to that coffee shop and talked to those five people...

(LAUGHTER)

... and they haven't made up their minds. I'll tell you something. What they're upset about is, there's so much money pouring into South Dakota, poor little South Dakota, they are seeing so many television ads for their candidates for governor, senator, their one House district, they long to see used-car advertising on television for a change.

BLITZER: All right, Mark Mellman, Florida. Are you ready to say that Bill McBride will upset Jeb Bush and become the next governor of Florida?

MELLMAN: I think it's still a realistic possibility. A lot of voters still undecided. Tremendous turnout in South Florida could be very helpful to McBride.

BLITZER: But polls, Ralph Reed, show the incumbent governor, the brother of the president, doing rather well right now.

REED: Yes, Jeb Bush is going to win this race. He's an incumbent governor. It's been a tough race.

Bill McBride got a big bounce out of that primary, but then, Wolf, he was confronted with a position on an initiative to lower class size in the state of Florida that would have resulted in about $20 billion to $25 billion in tax increases to fund the initiative. He didn't really have an answer for it.

He performed poorly in the Orlando debate last week, and Jeb Bush is going to be reelected.

BLITZER: Ten seconds for Jeff Greenfield and 10 seconds for Bill Schneider on Florida.

Go ahead, Jeff.

GREENFIELD: Are we sure they're going to know how to count the votes this time?

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: The answer is, no, we're not.

Bill Schneider, what do you say about Florida?

SCHNEIDER: I agree with that. I think the new Florida could be Florida. They could be counting the votes for a long time. But remember, Gore is going down there, Clinton is going down there, Bush is going down there. It's 2000 all over again in lots of senses.

BLITZER: I hope they learned how to count ballots in Florida, otherwise it could be a long night for all of us.

I want to thank all of our panel, Ralph Reed, Mark Mellman, Jeff Greenfield, Bill Schneider. Thanks. We'll watching, of course, on Tuesday.

Up next, a special edition of our Final Round.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Time now for our "Final Round." Joining me, Julianne Malveaux, the syndicated columnist, Peter Beinart of the "New Republic," Jonah Goldberg of the "National Review" Online, and Robert George of the "New York Post."

With only two days to go before Tuesday's midterm elections, the candidates and the campaign handlers are rushing to take their final shots. The party chairmen are no exception, battling this morning over President Bush's record.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CHAIRMAN, DNC: I wish he'd put a tenth of the time that he has spent campaigning for his candidates around the country focused on the economy, and our country would be better off today for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC RACICOT, CHAIRMAN, RNC: The Democrats are as paralyzed in their campaigns as they are in serving the people of this country. They can't even pass a budget in the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is required by law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Peter, is this a referendum on President Bush, this election? PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: Actually, it isn't, and that's what's interesting about it. Usually in midterm elections, the party out of power runs against the president. The Democrats haven't, because they haven't wanted to take on Bush on either Iraq or the tax cuts.

And what that's allowed them to do is to hold safe Senate seats in areas that Bush won, but it also hasn't allowed them to develop a national message that might have given them the House. So it's been a trade-off.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: Yes, largely. The Democrats are not acting like the opposition party. I mean, if you contrast this with, say, 1994 where the Republicans have drafted a "Contract with America," people could disagree with it if they wanted to, but there was a clear distinction.

However, Bush, because he's been sailing in the stratosphere in terms of the polls because of the handling of the war on terrorism, has not enabled them to do that, and they have really lost their voice on a whole host of issues.

BLITZER: So when people vote on Tuesday, they're not going to be thinking about George Bush? Is that your sense?

JULIANNE MALVEAUX, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, they may be thinking about him a little bit, but he's behaving as if it's a referendum, whether it is or not. I mean, he is campaigning hard. He's, you know, as Terry McAuliffe said in the clip, he has been just running around the country like mad. I mean, granted everybody does it, but it seems to be much more intense.

I think some of the state issues that we see when we go state by state. I don't think it is Bush, but Bush will be on people's minds. While the war on terrorism has suppressed some Democratic opposition, I think that Bill Schneider used the term war anxiety, and I think that may be driving some people to the polls.

BLITZER: But you can't blame President Bush for trying to get Republicans elected. He needs those Republicans if the last two years of this first term of his are going to be successful.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Yes. He has this historic amount of political capital, and he's trying to spend it on something because otherwise it just evaporates.

I basically agree with everybody here. I mean, the American politics today, both parties are in a clinch, and it's one of these classic examples where, you know, where the knives are so big because the steaks are so small.

The Democrats have blurred their distinctions from the Republicans in terms of taxes and the war. The Republicans have blurred their distinctions in terms of Social Security and all sorts of social issues by just not bringing them up.

And the reality is, it's very difficult to see where the clear distinctions are, and this really boils down to personalities in distinct races.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about this. Some political watchers predict the balance of power will remain the same in Washington, with Democrats leading the Senate and Republicans leading the House of Representatives. But the House minority leader, Richard Gephardt, is hoping for an upset.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: ... this election is about the economy. People are asking themselves, "Am I better off than I was two years ago?" The answer uniformly that I've seen around the country is that people are not.

I'm very optimistic that we're going to pick up seats in the Senate and we're going to win back the House next Tuesday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is he right, Julianne?

MALVEAUX: Frankly, I hate to say it, but I don't think he is. I think it's going to be very difficult for Democrats to take back the House.

But, Wolf, it all depends on turnout. What we usually see in a midterm election is voting going down. I think the Democrats are doing some great GOTV -- get out the vote -- in various parts of the country, and if they're successful, there is a possibility.

But it really does hinge on turnout, and many Americans are just apathetic about this election.

BLITZER: That's what all the polls show. There isn't going to be a huge turnout, is there?

GOLDBERG: Well, we don't know. I mean, some races, like in Texas, it's entirely possible that blacks and Hispanics will come out in much larger numbers than the polling might suggest, which could cause a Democrat to take the Senate race.

But, in general, I think one of the interesting things is that, you know, in 2000 George Bush underperformed his polling, because the Republicans, in hindsight, very stupidly invested all their money in very high-end consultants and technology and that kind of thing. And the Republicans now are stealing pages from the Democratic playbook, and they're going to try very, very hard to get out the vote this week.

So, if they're successful using Democratic tactics to get out the vote, you could see some Republican upswing.

BLITZER: Peter?

BEINART: Yes, I think that's right. I think the Democrats, in a sense, lost their chance to win the House earlier on.

First of all, they didn't do a good enough job in redistricting in a place like California, where they could have probably picked up a couple of seats had they been better in redistricting.

And they don't have good enough candidates in some of those key seats. The Republicans have done a better job of recruiting.

GEORGE: I think that's true. Jonah's correct, that the Republicans are now really investing in more get-out-the-vote. In fact, they even talked to our friend Donna Brazile about, how were you guys so successful in 2000?

I do think, though, the Democrats will hold on to the Senate. In fact, I think they're going to pick up one or two seats there.

BLITZER: Really?

Do you agree with that?

MALVEAUX: I think so, yes. I think it's really possible.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at one of the most -- the closest and one of the most unusual races for the United States Senate, this one in Minnesota. The Republican, Norm Coleman, is running against the former Democratic vice president, Walter Mondale, who replaced the late Senator Paul Wellstone on the ballot. A debate is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Central time Monday morning, 11:00 a.m. on the East Coast.

Jonah, who has the most to lose in that debate?

GOLDBERG: I think, since Mondale looks like the likely winner right now, although it's close and it's not a sure thing or anything, he has the most to lose. If somehow he manages to play into Coleman's hands and portray himself as too old or too out of touch or too much of a relic of the past, which in my opinion he mostly is, then that's to Coleman's advantage.

They've played Wellstone's death, which was tragic, they've played it badly, the Democrats. And I think that if they play this debate badly, Coleman could have an upset.

BLITZER: Mondale could have held out, not debated at all. He's willing to do this debate. It's not a primetime, it's Monday morning, a lot of people are at work. But politically, was it feasible he could have just said no debate?

MALVEAUX: I don't think that would have played well. I think he had to debate. You know, had to in a moral sense, not necessarily in a legal sense.

He, I agree with Jonah, has a lot to lose here, but I think he's up to the challenge. He has not run for political office in nearly 20 years. So he has to be feisty and focused here.

And he has to be very careful in the way that he invokes the name of Paul Wellstone. I mean, I think that right now -- I disagree with Jonah about the rally. When Wellstone's sons -- they are the survivors -- call for keeping the seat, nobody else has a right to say anything. If they were upset, then we should all be upset.

BLITZER: Mondale, can he win this election?

BEINART: Yes, Mondale is the favorite. The real question we don't totally know is, how much has that political rally energized the Republican base, and how much has this turned off independents who may have followed Jesse Ventura's lead? That's the wild card.

BLITZER: What do you say?

GEORGE: I think that's largely correct. I think Mondale is going to pledge not to raise the issue of his opponent's youth and inexperience against...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

GEORGE: A reference to the Reagan debate, of course.

BLITZER: We're going to take a break, but I want to go round the table once. Everybody give me the name: Mondale or Coleman, who will win?

GOLDBERG: Coleman.

MALVEAUX: Mondale.

GEORGE: Mondale.

BEINART: Mondale.

BLITZER: All right.

We have to take a quick break. Up next, the legal battle over which state will prosecute the sniper suspects first. Much more coming up also, more politics. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our "Final Round." Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt is being investigated after it was revealed that his choice to head a new accounting board had some connections to a company facing fraud allegations. Publicly, the White House continues to express confidence in Harvey Pitt.

Peter, do you think the SEC chairman's tenure is in any jeopardy?

BEINART: Yes, it's in a lot of jeopardy. I think he's a real albatross now for Republicans on an issue which is dangerous for them. The real interesting question, I think, is going to be after Harvey Pitt, because the truth is, the Bush administration is not sincere at all about this issue. They're going to try to push another guy like Webster, who's respected but doesn't know enough to not be rolled by the accounting industry. The Democrat have to keep up the fight.

BLITZER: And the irony is that William Webster, the man who is in question of this is highly respected, a former FBI director and CIA director.

GEORGE: Pitt should really go. Webster actually was forthcoming in explaining to Pitt that there were these problems with the company that he had sat on the audit panel and said, do we need to disclose this? And Pitt said, oh, no, I'll take care of it. He didn't notify the other SEC commissioners. Worst of all, he didn't notify the White House.

I think the one thing you can't do with this White House is, in a sense, keep secrets from it that eventually puts it in an embarrassing situation. So I think right after the elections, he's history.

BLITZER: You think so?

MALVEAUX: He should be. This man would not know a conflict of interest if it hit him upside the head. I mean, it's ridiculous. And the thing about this is that the Bush administration already has a perception that they take corporate chicanery lightly, and so keeping Pitt on the team really does look back. As we said earlier, I mean, if this were a popular issue, it would really play for the Democrats. It's not a popular issue.

BLITZER: Nobody is paying attention, except for a few wonks like us in Washington, and maybe Lou Dobbs on CNN's Moneyline.

How many people are paying attention to this issue?

GOLDBERG: Seventeen people, I can report now, care about this issue passionately.

(LAUGHTER)

Now, look, I think the blood is in the water. Already The Economist and The Wall Street Journal have come out calling for his resignation or removal. And why would the Bush administration want to hang on to him when all he does is remind people of an issue that they want to go away?

BLITZER: All right, let's move on, talk about the next issue on our agenda. The sniper suspects. Federal officials are considering a plan to let Virginia take the lead in prosecuting John Allen Muhammad, 41 years old, and John Lee Malvo. He is 17 years old. They're influenced, of course, by the Attorney General John Ashcroft's strong support for the death penalty. Maryland has also filed charges, but the state currently has a moratorium on executions, and juveniles are not eligible for the death penalty.

Robert, what factors should decide who gets to prosecute first? GEORGE: There is this sort of this onrush; everyone wants to kill these guys at the same time. I mean, I think, I think, frankly, Ashcroft is sort of fumbling the ball earlier on, because the feds also wanted to get in the middle of it as well.

I think it's better just to let Virginia handle it. I mean, I think the judicial system there is a lot more efficient, I think, frankly, than in Maryland, and interestingly enough, Glendening even suggested that they were going to lift the moratorium just so they could execute these guys. But I think Virginia has everything in place and it should just go ahead with it.

BLITZER: Virginia's track record is, obviously, for those who support the death penalty, a lot better than Maryland's.

MALVEAUX: But Maryland lost more people. I think the priority should be around who -- which state suffered the most damage. And also, if anything else in sequencing, where did these people begin this murderous rampage? So I think that Ashcroft...

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Well, then maybe it should be.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: But I think that Ashcroft really diminishes the importance of what happened here by running around, death penalty shopping. I think it's very unseemly.

GOLDBERG: I'm not at all convinced that this is purely about the death penalty. It is also, as Robert suggested, about the efficiency of the Virginia court system, which is faster to get convictions and is more clear cut in the surety of conviction, and that kind of thing.

But if you believe in capital punishment, as I do, it is very hard to find a better poster child than this sniper. And you know, I think the attorney general has every reason to weigh all of those factors. I don't really see what the big controversy is.

BLITZER: What about that, Peter?

BEINART: Well, I think the larger interesting issue is that actually the public's sentiment is actually moving away from the death penalties, or at least toward more -- less efficient death penalty, which is to say more real regulation about how this works.

And no, I think the push to do this in Virginia, because it will get to kill him faster, is actually I think going against the grain of a country which is saying we still support the death penalty but we'd like to do it, actually, the way that a state like Maryland does it, where you look very carefully and make sure it's being done right.

GOLDBERG: But the reason -- the reason it's going slower in other places is because American people have begun to believe, for good reasons and for bad, that a lot of innocent people are being sent to death row. There is no doubt...

BEINART: No, it's not only that. Also, they have bad representation, and that's also a very important issue.

GOLDBERG: None of those factors, none of them, will apply to these guys.

MALVEAUX: That's not clear, Jonah. I mean, there still is a possibility of an insanity defense here, and if these people are insane, I think that they have to be accorded every legal protection.

You know, what they did, what they have alleged to be done -- we still haven't proven it -- what's alleged they have been done is horrible and heinous, but I really think that there is such a rush that it really is unseemly. If they did it, let's make sure that the trial is right. Let's make sure it is correct so that no questions later.

BLITZER: What about that, Robert?

GEORGE: Well, no, I mean, I have no problem in making sure that these guys get a fair trial, and I mean, even though there is some defense attorneys that realize they are going to have to have a difficult -- they have a difficult problem here, but if they have got a fair trial, you know, go ahead and do what has to be done.

BLITZER: Peter, there is a political aspect some of alleges now entering in. There is a Republican Justice Department, Virginia, a lot of Republican prosecutors, Maryland, a lot of Democrat prosecutors. Whoever gets the first crack at these guys politically is going to score some points, presumably. Is that a factor at all?

BEINART: Sure, it is, and you know, it's unseemly. It's understandable that people want to do this, but it's unseemly. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) incredibly important thing, and you really shouldn't have jockeying for it.

I really wish people could have met behind closed doors and really had some kind of an impartial way of saying, this is the best decision. I think then it would have been respected more.

BLITZER: And at this point, there were a lot of people who were predicting precisely this. Why didn't they just sit around and take the high road and work this out quietly, and then come out publicly?

GOLDBERG: Because even prosecutors are lawyers, and these guys, they're all -- and they're politicians too, and they're all hungry (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

GEORGE: You know, it's a ticket to potential higher office.

BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break, but we have a lot more to talk about. Our Lightning Round, just ahead, election predictions. Our panel will make the tough calls, and we'll hold them to it. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our "Lightning Round."

Election predictions. Let's begin in Florida. The Republican incumbent and presidential brother Governor Jeb Bush versus Democrat Bill McBride.

Peter, who wins?

BEINART: Bush. First-time candidates almost always stumble. McBride stumbled in the debates. Bush will win.

GEORGE: Bush will win. And it's one of those rare cases where the debates really do matter. And as Peter said, McBride couldn't explain how he would pay for his education plan.

BLITZER: Julianne?

MALVEAUX: Bush is likely to win, but again, this is a race I think that hinges on turnout. Clinton has been down there. The African-American vote is very important. I think that if the turnout is high, that McBride will win.

GOLDBERG: Bush.

BLITZER: And you're not worried about hanging chads in Broward County?

GOLDBERG: No, Bush will win it.

BLITZER: OK. Let's move on to the next one. South Dakota. We might as well call this George Bush versus Tom Daschle. The candidates are Republican Congressman John Thune versus Democratic Senator Tim Johnson.

Robert, who wins?

GEORGE: I actually think -- I think Johnson is actually going to pull this out at the -- at the wire. It has gone back and forth, but I think South Dakotans will, in a sense, make this a proxy of keeping Tom Daschle a majority leader.

MALVEAUX: I think that Robert's right. I think that it's going to be very, very tight, though. There was a voting scandal on an Indian reservation that's played against the Democrats, and so I think there is some antipathy for the Democratic candidate because of that.

GOLDBERG: I think it's probably Johnson, although if GOP works on its turnout like they say they will, it may even be an upset.

But I do think this argument about keeping Daschle the majority leader doesn't quite work if some other -- if there is some other upset, then you've got two Democrats in the minority, and I don't understand why (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

GEORGE: Yes, but there is a lot more focus in South Dakota because Daschle is going to be running...

GOLDBERG: I understand.

BEINART: Yeah, this is the number-one test of whether the Republicans have learned on how to get out the vote. They are really focused on trying to get out the vote in South Dakota. I think they will probably do a good job but not quite enough. I think Johnson will hold on.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at Missouri, another important race. The former Republican Congressman Jim Talent versus the Democratic incumbent, Jean Carnahan.

Let's ask you, Julianne, who is going to win there?

MALVEAUX: Well, I think Talent is favored very slightly, but Carnahan has a chance.

Again, I think this is a race that hinges on turnout. There have been some changes in the laws in Missouri, making it somewhat easier for people to do some voting. So if you get big turnout, especially in African-American community -- here again a case where the African- American community makes a difference -- she can pull it off.

BLITZER: That's a huge, big if, but go ahead.

GOLDBERG: Talent is the clear winner. He's been running a much better campaign. There is a reason why Jean Carnahan hasn't been a life-time candidate. I think it's the most comfortable Republican win.

BEINART: Yes, everyone calls Missouri a swing state, but I think that's not quite right. It actually really leans toward Republicans, I think, and when you have a candidate who's run a good campaign like Talent has, I think you can win.

GEORGE: Talent is probably going to win, but that's the one state where Carnahan could upset. There might be a ripple effect because of the Wellstone death there as well.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens.

GEORGE: Memories of...

BLITZER: We'll see what happens there. Let's move on to Arkansas, which is not very far away. The Republican senator, Tim Hutchinson, versus the Democrat Mark Pryor. Who wins?

GOLDBERG: I think Pryor wins. This is another example of how these races are so unique and local. Hutchinson really messed up with his own Christian conservative base by leaving his wife, and it's not a national trend, it's just that race. And I think Pryor is going to...

GEORGE: It's an Arkansas trend.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: It is an Arkansas trend...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on.

BEINART: Yes, Republicans have a weak candidate; Democrats have a weak candidate. Arkansas is the best Democratic state in the South, I think Pryor wins.

GEORGE: Pryor wins.

BLITZER: He's got a name that people know in Arkansas, too.

GEORGE: From prior experience.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I knew you were going to say that.

MALVEAUX: I agree with everyone else. Pryor, I mean, you know, sanctimonious adulterers certainly don't get elected, and that's where Hutchinson has been.

BLITZER: The interesting thing about all of these races, any one of them could tip the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

Let's take a look at another race. New Hampshire, the Republican congressman, John Sununu -- Jr., let's say -- versus the Democratic governor, Jeanne Shaheen. Who wins there?

BEINART: One of the axioms of politics is that people in really tough primary battles tend to have more difficulty in general elections. We've seen that with McBride, suffering, not getting as much support in South Florida amongst people who supported Reno. That's what's going to hurt Sununu. I think Shaheen wins.

BLITZER: Shaheen wins. OK.

GEORGE: I think Shaheen wins.

BLITZER: Definitely?

GEORGE: Jeanne Shaheen -- Jeanne Shaheen beats John Sununu, yes.

BLITZER: OK.

MALVEAUX: I think she wins. There is a large number of independent voters in New Hampshire. I think that they will lean toward her.

GOLDBERG: I actually -- I am pulling a little bit for Sununu, because the lower races on the ticket are all moving Republican, and there may be some grassroots swing that way, but, you know. GEORGE: You've also got Bob Smith there who refused to endorse Sununu, and in fact, there is a write-in campaign for him, too, which may siphon off some votes.

BLITZER: Yes, he's still bitter about his loss to Sununu.

Who is going to be the majority in the Senate?

BEINART: The Democrats will pick up one seat, I think.

GEORGE: Democrats pick up one to two seats.

MALVEAUX: Two. Democrats pick up two.

GOLDBERG: I am pulling for a draw in Louisiana, and we won't know until December.

BLITZER: That's realistic, you know.

GEORGE: There is also -- there is also a wildcard, too, that regardless of what happens, if Talent beats Carnahan when they come back for their lame-duck session, Talent could be installed as the senator because it's a filling out the seat.

BLITZER: If there's a stalemate in Louisiana, we all have to go to New Orleans, which could...

MALVEAUX: Well, gee, that's not a bad thing to do. Yeah.

GOLDBERG: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) South Dakota.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right. Thanks to our "Final Round."

Bruce Morton shares some thoughts on election apathy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Americans vote Tuesday. Well, some Americans -- not so many, really. We brag a lot about democracy and how other countries ought to try it, but we ourselves don't work at it all that hard.

Bahrain tried some democracy, and reports from there say folks were excited about it, as well they should have been since they're the only Arab country that's ventured down that road.

But here in America, we yawn about choosing our leaders. This is an off-year election, meaning we choose senators and congressmen, not a president. Interest in off-term elections peaked back in the 1960s. The Federal Election Commission says 48.4 percent of eligible voters voted in the off-year election in 1966. It's been going down ever since. Just 36.4 percent of those eligible voted in the House election in 1998, tying the record low. So if we don't like our government, our politicians, it's our fault. Adlai Stevenson, the Democrat who twice ran for and loss the presidency in the 1950s, asked whose fault it was that the honor and nobility of politics at most levels are empty phrases. "It is the fault," he answered, "of you, the people. Your public servants serve you right. Indeed, often they serve you better than your apathy and indifference deserve."

"Government," he went on, "Is like a pump, and what it pumps up is just what we are, a fair sample of the intellect, the ethics and the morals of the people. No better, no worse." Hard to argue with that.

Money corrupts the process, of course, but voters have let that happen, let rich people and organizations have an influence on the process that ordinary folks can't match. We pass laws from time to time aimed at fixing that. We'll have a chance in the next election cycle to see how the newest one works.

(on camera): What will this election change? Most experts think Republicans will keep control of the House. Only a handful of seats are contested, and the Democrats would have to win just about all of them to capture control.

The Senate, with a one-vote Democratic margin that could go either way, either party could gain a seat or two. If the Republicans did, of course, then they'd really be in charge, holding both houses of Congress and the White House.

It will be interesting to see what this quite conservative, quite pro-business did with that kind of control, and it would also be a reminder that voting really can change our lives.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce.

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, November 3. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

Don't miss CNN special election coverage, "America Votes 2002." That is beginning Tuesday, 3:00 p.m. Eastern, noon Pacific, and of course, I will be here all week long, twice a day, for "Showdown: Iraq" noon Eastern, and "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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