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Interviews With Marc Racicot, Terry McAuliffe, Jeb Bush

Aired November 5, 2002 - 22:50   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: That it is. And we have appropriate guests to discuss that, Ms. Woodruff. They are Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Governor Marc Racicot, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. And Terry, what is the spin to this minute?
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CHAIRMAN, DNC: Well, I think what we're going to see tonight is that the Democrats will win a majority of the governorships in this country. They've already declared that we've won in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Maine and New Mexico are already pickups for the Democratic Party, so I think it's going to show that we can win north, south, east and west, and I still think we'll net a Senate seat. So I think it's going to be a very good night for the Democrats, a majority of governorships, will which will set us up very nicely for 2004.

KING: And netting a Senate seat means you think they can turn it around in Georgia where Senator Cleland is behind?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I think we can win in Colorado. I think Tom Strickland is running a great campaign out there. I think Jean Carnahan is going to win in Missouri. In South Dakota, we have got Tim Johnson, and I think we'll have a pickup with Mark Pryor in Arkansas. That's what we have to do in the remainder of the evening.

KING: And what is the view of the Republican chairman, Governor Racicot -- Governor?

MARC RACICOT, CHAIRMAN, RNC: Well, it's not over. I think Mr. McAuliffe is absolutely correct. I'm the son of a coach, and as a consequence of that, until the final bell is struck, I don't think that anyone ought to be counting their chickens before they hatch. And it's a long evening yet. The races in Arkansas, and in Colorado, in Missouri, South Dakota and Minnesota obviously are still very much from being completed.

I would disagree with Mr. McAuliffe in reference to one issue, potentially disagree with him, and that is in reference to the governors. Clearly, there have been some Democratic gains that we kind of anticipated, but I'm still not yet convinced that there won't be a majority of Republican governors at the end of the night.

We could do very well in Vermont and New Hampshire, Massachusetts Connecticut and in New York, obviously, I think we may do well in Georgia, South Carolina, potentially Alabama, potentially Iowa, and of course in Alaska and Hawaii. So at the end of the day, we could still have a majority of Republican governors, but again those are very close.

KING: Let's discuss disappointments. Terry, what's so far to this point your disappointment tonight?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I was very excited about Jeanne Shaheen's race in New Hampshire. I'm a good friend of Jeanne's. I thought she ran a very good campaign. I was hoping she'd win that Senate race. We put a lot of resources into Florida. We wanted to win the Florida gubernatorial election. It was important for the Democrats after the problem in 2000 that we went down there, we built up our base support, we got our Voting Rights Institute going down there, which will help us in 2004. But I had high hopes for us. I think 10 days ago in Florida, you know, we were dead even. We could have won that race.

KING: Anything disappointing you, Governor Racicot?

RACICOT: Well, not to this point, but I certainly wouldn't dismiss the possibility that I could certainly sense it before the night is over, there's a long ways to go. And I've just been holding my breath and hope that things continue to unfold in a positive way.

KING: How much of tonight, Terry, if the Republicans continue to do as well as they appear to be doing do you pin on 9/11?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I think I pin a lot of it on that this is a president who has had very high approval ratings. He's had the longest sustained approval ratings of any president in modern history. The president put a lot of time and effort into these elections. As you know, he did 90 campaign visits, 70 fund-raisers. He raised about $150 million for their candidates. So, you know, he put an enormous effort into winning these elections all across the country.

So I think 9/11, the war on Iraq, you put that all together with the president out there actively campaigning, and, you know, I would put that all -- but I will tell you one thing, though, I think, Larry, I think the American public won tonight that Harvey Pitt actually resigned tonight. So I think all Americans won tonight.

KING: Governor Racicot, did -- thus far to this point, do you think the president had strong coattails?

RACICOT: Well, I think the president when you mention 9/11 demonstrated the full capacity for his leadership in clear and very specific terms. I think the American people found that that instilled within them a great confidence. And I think that is one of the dynamics involved in this particular election, but it's certainly not all that motivated him to go out and work for the election of people that he could work with in Congress.

The fact of the matter is, he's demonstrated that he can work in a bipartisan way. Tax reform wouldn't have passed without Democrats that supported it. Education reform certainly wouldn't have. Trade promotion authority would not have. So he has a very long record of wanting to work to get things done.

He went out on the campaign trail because he's never been interested in longevity. He's been interested in getting something done for the American people. And he knows typically that the process doesn't allow you to just impose your own views exclusively, that you have to work with others. And that's what he was trying to do, was just find people he could work with to get things done for the American people in the short period of time that they've afforded him to work on their behalf.

KING: Early on, there are people saying, there are doom sayers saying that the Democratic Party is in trouble, it needs some kind of firm leadership, it needs a statement. Do you agree?

MCAULIFFE: Listen, Larry, I think we did very well tonight, as I say. I think we'll end up with a majority of the governors. I think that we proved we can win anywhere, any region of the country. If you look at these governor races that we have, Kathleen Sebelius is up in Kansas. We're up in Arizona tonight. As I say, we won in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, we've won in Maine. If you look at these gubernatorial elections, Don Siegelman, the last I looked, was up in Alabama.

So I think it proved tonight that we can win anywhere in the country. We need to be out there with a strong fiscal message, and I think one message out -- coming out of tonight's election is we as Democrats need to be out there with a firm message and get through where the Democratic Party stands on a lot of these issues.

KING: So you agree it does need a message? Because governor races are pretty much state issues, right?

MCAULIFFE: Well, in fairness...

KING: I mean, Iraq is not an issue in a governor's race.

MCAULIFFE: No, but what is important to me, what I worry about, obviously, is we prepare for the presidential election to have a governor in the state. That's very important, because they deal with the grassroots every day; a governor is important for raising money for the campaigns, for the grassroots mobilization, for the message. So I think it's important that we show that we can win in traditionally Democratic states, independent states and we win in red states tonight. We had some victories in some red states tonight that George Bush won in 2000. We need to make sure that Democrats are out there with their message, what they stand for. We need to make sure that we are out there emphatically getting our message out.

KING: Governor Racicot, are you surprised at the margin of victory that Elizabeth Dole is showing in North Carolina and that Jeb Bush has shown in Florida?

RACICOT: Well, I'm somewhat surprised that the final results appear to be providing more distance than what the latest tracking provided to us. And of course, you can't always match those up in identical fashion, because not everyone who is called and surveyed ends up going to the polls.

But then again, there obviously are more people who are inclined to move in a certain direction tonight than what we anticipated. And, you know, when we talk about what it is that's taking place politically in this country and what it is that are messages or not messages, I think it's very easy to overdiagnose the political process. The fact of the matter is, even though I find it hard to agree with Paul Begala and James Carville on every occasion, I do believe that there's a tremendous amount of local circumstance that influences these races, the personality of the candidates, the priority of issues in that individual state, and all of those things go into, I think, a determining results. And that I think is plain and evident here, too.

KING: How far are you going to be, Terry, how many down in the House?

MCAULIFFE: Oh, I think there's a lot of House races in play right now. I don't think anyone can give you an answer to that. I just left the national headquarters. They have all their computers out, they have all their tracking analysis done. We have no idea right now where we're going to end up in the House. I don't think anybody can tell you at this particular minute, Larry, where we are in the House races. In Maryland, I heard we're going to pick up two seats in Maryland.

KING: What are you hearing on your side, governor, the House?

RACICOT: Well, again, I think that it's just not yet concluded to the point to where we can make an accurate prediction. I hear theories of everything from two-to-four-seat gain on behalf of Republicans, but I'm loath to believe in those kind of projections and speculations until the process is included.

KING: Terry, what do you start doing tomorrow?

MCAULIFFE: What we start doing tomorrow is for the national party we start preparing for the presidential election, the 2004 presidential election. First, we want to thank all the people around the country, people the Democrats worked their hearts out. We had unprecedented efforts around the country, get-out-the-vote operations that our party hadn't seen in a long time, outreach to the African- American community, the Hispanic community, our message across America. So first of all, I am going to thank all of our great state party chairs and all the workers in these campaigns, call all the candidates, because people put their heart and soul into these elections. Thank them, but then prepare ourselves for 2004 and getting the White House back.

KING: Thank you both very much. Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Marc Racicot, the former governor of Montana, chairman of the Republican National Committee. And before we turn that back over to our crew in Atlanta, let's get down to Miami, Florida, where we get the opportunity to congratulate and ask some questions from the governor-reelect, Jeb Bush. ** KING: Let's go down to Miami, Florida, where we get the opportunity to congratulate and ask some questions from the governor- reelect, Jeb Bush. Are you surprised, Governor Bush, at the length of this victory?

J. BUSH: Well, I'm a little surprised, but so pleased that our turnout operation, the enthusiasm of thousands of volunteers and the voters made a big, huge difference. And I've worked really hard over the last four years and I'm honored and humbled to have a chance to serve for four more.

KING: Were you concerned when all the projections were that this was going to be a close race? As a matter of fact, the last time we spoke was last year when Miami won the national championship, and even then you were saying you were looking, this was going to be tough?

BUSH: Well, there are more Democrats than Republicans in the state of Florida. It's a state of transition, so I ran the campaign as though I was 10 points down from the beginning, and then the person that you had on prior, you know, was saying that I was their number one target, Mr. McAuliffe. That got me a little worried. They raised a lot of money at the end, but the good news is that we also had a lot of support here and the president of the United States, my brother, George W. Bush, came down and campaigned, and I think that made a big difference. He is very popular here, and people are inspired by him.

KING: Now, a lot of people are saying -- I didn't get a chance to see it -- that the debate turned this thing around. How important was that debate?

BUSH: Well, the debate, I think, sharpened the focus of the differences between our campaigns, and I think it had -- it had a big difference. It was three weeks out, or two weeks out, I guess, and it did crystallize the campaign in a way that allowed us to finish strong.

KING: What's your view of how the state -- how are you doing statewide in other elections, in the House?

BUSH: We are -- we are -- we gained seats in the House. It looks as though we gained seats in the Senate. We elected the first Republican attorney general. There was a clean sweep at the state level, and I believe we picked up all the new congressional seats. I don't know that for sure, but I believe we did, so it was one of the greatest victories in the Republican Party's history.

KING: Well, any comments on Katherine Harris going to the House of Representatives tonight?

BUSH: Well, she won. She had a commanding lead, and it narrowed, and then she won convincingly, so it was good news for Republicans across the board.

KING: I know the Bushes for a long time, so I'm not going to, you know, delve into anything personal, but this had to be rough for you, dealing with your personal things and the recovery of your daughter, at the same time running a state and running for office. How do you balance that?

BUSH: Well, it's hard to -- it's hard to -- I can't compartmentalize, but I have -- a lot of prayer, Larry, helps, and -- and, you know, I wish my daughter was with me tonight so I could hug her and she could tell me she loves me and I could love her, but we'll have that chance real soon.

KING: It's a great night for you, and we congratulate you, Jeb.

BUSH: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Always good seeing you.

The governor of the state of Florida and reelected tonight convincingly, Governor Jeb Bush.


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