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Woodward Addresses Voter Apathy

Aired November 5, 2002 - 19:50   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Hello everyone. Thank you very much. Thanks for joining us. Why did I go English there?
Anyway, as we come on the air, the polls are closed now in nine states 16 more states and the District of Columbia will close in 10 minutes. And we'll spend those minutes with our friend Bob Woodward, the assistant managing editor of the "The Washington Post," the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, best selling author. He's got a new book coming: "Bush at War: Inside the Bush White House." It'll be out later this month. He'll guest for the hour on this program, LARRY KING LIVE, regular show on the night of November 18. That's on the eve of the book being in all stores.

Bob, let's go first, do you have any surprise in store tonight? Any race you're looking at for an indication to you which way this is going to go?

BOB WOODWARD, WASHINGTON POST: No. I don't think anybody has a lock on this. The unpredictable factors are -- we are awash in them.

But one of the things that interests me is there's all this discussion about control of the Senate. As we know and anyone who's watched the Senate, no one really controls the Senate. As we know, anyone who has watched the Senate, no one really controls the Senate. If you're a Republican leader you have somebody like John McCain, who no one steers down any path. He's very independent and because of Senate rules you have to have 60 votes to really control things.

If you look in the last two years, the most important things that have become -- that have come before the Senate during the Bush presidency have been the tax cut of last year, the famous $1.35 trillion tax cut. A dozen Democrats voted for that, including Democrats like Carnahan, Cleland, Tim Johnson in South Dakota. So in a sense, Bush has those people on some of these big issues on the Iraq war resolution. Again, there are more than two dozen Democrats voting with the president.

KING: So then what is the big deal they're all making in it?

WOODWARD: Well, it has to do with control at the margins. It has to do with committee chairmanships. You can certainly set the agenda if you -- but you don't have the kind of old '50s style control where the majority leader can say, if he's of the White House party, this is exactly how we're going to do things. Everything is contentious.

Except something major and at least in the last two years, Bush has had a controlling hand.

KING: Do you see any strain running through the country that tells us why these races appear to be so close?

WOODWARD: Maybe people intentionally or unintentionally want divided government. They don't want somebody to have the full handle on this, including the popular president. And this is a way to dampen it.

KING: What do you make now of what we learned that Voter News Service will not provide exit poll data? We apparently will not have a repeat of two years ago when you and I together until 2 in the morning and we left with one guy elected and woke up in the morning with no one elected?

WOODWARD: And it was back and for in between in a very embarrassing way for everyone in our business. I think it's a breath of fresh air. I think that this election and all elections are too poll driven.

Suppose you're a candidate, Republican or Democrat, out there and you really have some new ideas. You don't want to play the money chase all the way so you only have 47, 48 percent of the vote and people in our business say, Well that's not competitive so we're not going to cover it.

What a shame and again, that's money and polls. And they need to be diminished.

KING: If the forecast hold true that the Democrats do well in the governors' races tonight, how important is that on the national scheme as we look to 2004?

WOODWARD: Probably is. If they win in places like Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, that central region that is so important in presidential politics to have Democratic governors there would obviously help the party in two years.

KING: What about Bush on the campaign trail? Do you think that will prove effective?

WOODWARD: Well, that's -- I think that's the thing everyone's watching. And can a popular president -- if you look at his message, he went out and said, I need allies. I need people who -- he didn't say are going to march in perfect line with me, but I need allies. That may be appealing or may not.

That's probably going be the main headline in all of this, much more so than unless there is some shift in the House or the Senate.

KING: Campaign finance reform, that new bill takes effect, I think midnight tonight. So it starts tomorrow for all intents and purposes. What effect will it have?

WOODWARD: I have too many decades of reporting on money and politics, and no matter what law is passed people figure out how to get around it. And again, they're already developing schemes to do this.

We keep waiting and hoping and I think the public probably does for a candidate who's going to get up there and say, I'm really serious. I'm not going to look for all the money, and I'm going to run on ideas and positions and hopefully some day that will take hold.

But the money in politics is sickening.

KING: Now, the Democrats are expected to do well in the governorships but one of the disappointing areas for them, at least poll-wise, has been where you are, Maryland. You live in Washington, D.C., you live right near Maryland. What happened to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend?

WOODWARD: Well, the polls and lots of focus groups indicate there wasn't the confidence level in her that would be expected given the extraordinary Democratic registration in the state. A Democrat should almost be a shoe-in.

The last Republican elected governor in Maryland is the famous Spiro T. Agnew. So it's been a long time. It may again. I'm not sure -- there was a very interesting story, I hate to say, in the "New York Times" today about the polls. And that all of these young people have cell phones and the cell phones aren't listed and people have answering services and so forth. And there's great deal of concern of whether you really polling the general population and that there may be a segment that is not being polled. In tight races that could change things. So there may be an immense number of surprises.

KING: We have a minute left, bob. Do you have any thoughts as to why a majority of people don't vote in off-year elections? They don't vote in on-year elections, but especially off-year?

WOODWARD: Well, there's a sense that it's divided and that there's no compelling issue. Look, the big issue, which is hanging in this country is the war on terrorism. Perhaps a future war with Iraq. And the Congress voted on that before the election. So that is not on the ballot directly or indirectly.

So the major issues are not before the voters. It has to do with personalities and the negative campaigning. I don't know how much of the negative advertising you watch. It's -- some of it clearly works but it's disconcerting to see it get all the attention.

KING: Bob, as always, thanks. We'll see you on the 18th.

WOODWARD: Thank you.

KING: Bob Woodward, assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post." The Pulitzer Prize-winner. We're with you 15 minutes after the hour through election night coverage.

Our next guest in the next hour will be the former governor of Texas Ann Richards. Later in the night, Mayor Giuliani.


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