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Former Senators Predict Key Senate Races

Aired November 5, 2002 - 18:50   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Aaron. Nice getting a toss in you.
Joining us now from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the former United States senator, former candidate of his party for the presidency of the United States, Senator George McGovern.

We expect to be joined shortly by former senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming as well.

Senator McGovern, have you voted yet in South Dakota?

GEORGE MCGOVERN (D), FORMER SOUTH DAKOTA SENATOR: I have voted. I got that done early.

KING: OK, so this means that at this minute Tim Johnson is at least one vote ahead, and since there's no exit polling he's in the lead, and we can safely report this.

How close is that? How's it going to come out?

MCGOVERN: This race is so close that you have to be here to feel the closeness of it. The last time we had a Senate race like this in South Dakota was exactly 40 years ago tonight when I was first elected to the United States Senate.

When you people went off the media air that night at midnight I was 118 votes ahead. We had a recount, and it was a full month before I was declared the winner. I hope that doesn't happen here tonight.

KING: Why is it so close with an incumbent like Senator Johnson?

MCGOVERN: Well, you had two incumbents in a sense in that we have a Congressman at large office here in South Dakota, and that means he runs in the same statewide constituency that a United States senator does.

These are two very able, attractive guys. I like and admire both of them. Obviously, as a Democrat, I'm for Tim Johnson. But I'm going to have just a tinge of sadness for whoever loses this race. They're two good men. And they've fought this race so hard that having been in politics all these years as I have, I can't think of a major miscue that either candidate has made in this race. They've done everything you can think of.

KING: Senator Alan Simpson now joins us from Cody, Wyoming.

When you were -- the days when you were running, what was this night like for you?

ALAN SIMPSON (R), FORMER WYOMING SENATOR: Well, Ann and I were talking about that today. You wake up in the morning and you think, this eternal marathon is over, and here it is, and they're going to the polls, and what you really think about, and no one knows this unless they've been in elected office: this is a very intimate thing. They are approving or rejecting you by your name. Your name. It's a very powerful thing.

Other people are looking at polls and they're doing this and dancing around, but to the candidate, George McGovern or myself could indicate it is a powerful, powerful thing of rejection or acceptance, which is pretty tough in life.

KING: Senator Simpson, what's the story in Wyoming tonight? You've got the incumbent Republican, Mike Enzi (ph), seeking re- election against the Democrat Joyce Cochran, GOP, the governor, the term limits there. Who's going to win that governorship?

SIMPSON: Well, Mike doesn't have anything to worry about, I think or Barbara Cuban. And -- so that's, I think, going to be all right. But this governor's race is like -- is a barn burner just like the Senate race in South Dakota. It's going to be very close. Tremendous turnouts. A beautiful day. Fifty-degrees in Wyoming. High blue sky.

And boy, those old troops were floating to the polls, and they started early, and they'll be finished at 7:00. And it's going to be a flypaper apart.

KING: Senator McGovern, what's the turnout in South Dakota -- I'm sorry, you wanted to say something to Alan Simpson? Go ahead.

MCGOVERN: I was just going to say to my friend Al with Walter Mondale jumping back into the fray and Frank Lautenberg in New Jersey maybe you and I ought to get back in a couple of years from now.

SIMPSON: What's wrong with us? We're tanned and tested and ready.

KING: Senator McGovern, what's the turnout like in South Dakota?

MCGOVERN: Well, from what you can see, and it's a superficial observation, it must be rather high. There was great interest in these races, not only in the Senate race but with Stephanie Hertzseth (ph) running for Congressman at large against our governor, that race is drawing a lot of attention.

I think the voter turnout will be substantial in South Dakota.

KING: How important, Senator Simpson -- you've been out of the game for a little while -- is this election? Because most people say they think it's important, but they don't vote.

SIMPSON: Yeah, well, it's big-time. This is an off year. And the pundits have covered it pretty thoroughly. But what I love to do, and I get the opportunity to teach young people, and I say, so you don't like politics. No, we don't like it. It's too stupid, too banal. I say, Well, you want to move to a country where they don't have any politics or partisanship and tell me what a great time you're having, and then remember that you can't hate politicians and love democracy, that's not the way it works.

And I know George McGovern for years, he was in the Senate when I was, we had a good feeling about each other in a bipartisan way, and now it's -- you know, it's a contact sport. We knew that. But man oh man, now it's a blood sport in some ways.

KING: Senator McGovern, can you understand why former Senator Lautenberg, former Vice President Mondale appear so excited about the prospect of going back?

MCGOVERN: Well, I think they heard the fire bell ring again. They're both men that have given a good many years of their lives to public service. And in some respects politics is an incurable affliction. You never get away from it once you've been involved entirely. And so I think they're thoroughly enjoying themselves. I think they'll both put up good races, have put up good races. And it doesn't surprise me at all that those two men are back in the fray.

SIMPSON: George, don't you remember what Mo Udall said, he said the only way you get it out of your blood is with embalming fluid.

MCGOVERN: Well, I think that's probably right. John Culver once said, Politics is the only game in town for consenting adults.

I think that's probably true.

KING: Give me a crystal ball guys. Senator Simpson, want to make a forecast for tonight in the Senate?

SIMPSON: Yeah, I think that the Republicans will do well. We don't get exit polls anymore. There was too much egg on the face of anybody in that one. But I -- from what I'm getting from internal sources as we call in per hour, I would say that I think it's going to be -- that the Senate will either -- I think it will go Republican by one vote.

KING: And Senator McGovern, what's your read on the Senate? We have less than a minute.

MCGOVERN: Well, I hate to disagree with my friend Al Simpson. And he is my friend and colleague I greatly enjoyed. But I think the Democrats will squeeze this out. I think Tom Daschle will still be the majority leader of the Senate at this time next year.

KING: Thank you both very much. It's always good seeing you two distinguished members of the United States Senate who I think every member of the Senate who served with them both would say they miss them both. Senator Alan Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming, and ten of those years he was a party whip.

And Senator George McGovern, who was his party's candidate for the presidency back in 1972, with a distinguished war record second to none.

When we come back in the next hour, in about 10 minutes before the hour, Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer prizewinning reporter of "The Washington Post" will be our special guest to give us his read.

Right now as we go to break we invite to you stay tuned for more of CNN's special coverage of campaign 2002.

Don't go away.


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