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America Votes 2002: The Issues Ahead

Aired November 6, 2002 - 12:47   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Last night's elections set the stage for two years of Republican control in Washington. But what issues will the GOP face? Joining us now, Genevieve Wood of the Family Research Counsel and Democratic consultant Peter Fenn. Thanks to both of you.
Give us briefly, very briefly, your immediate reaction, huge news for the Republicans.

GENEVIEVE WOOD, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: It is big news for Republicans, but I think its big news for anybody who wants to see the Senate actually do something. We're going to see movement now on President Bush's judicial nominee. We're going to see something like in the tax package, the marriage tax penalty, actually made permanent, and these are all things the House had already passed, partial-birth abortion, a ban on cloning. I mean, there's a lot of domestic issues just sitting there that Tom Daschle wouldn't bring up, and now I think you're going to see that some of them come to the fore.

BLITZER: Huge movement or a stalemate.

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: I think it's big movement. This is a trifecta for the Republicans right now. On key issues, you have to get 60 votes, but I'll tell you, the ball's in the Republicans' court. They're going to have to make good on promises.

The main thing, though, I think will be on the social agenda, but will be on the economic agenda, and it also is up to the Democrats to really put fort their own programs.

BLITZER: This leads me to an e-mail from Jonathan. He says -- this is for you, Peter, "If the Democrats had taken a stand on the economy, Wall Street corruption, health care or other numerous issues, they could have whipped the Republicans. Instead they ran a soft campaign. This is one disappointed Democrat."

FENN: I don't totally disagree with that, but I will you, it's awfully difficult to break through when you've got Iraq, when you've got the sniper, and they had proposals, but you know, a lot of us said put 250, 300 Democrats on the steps of that capitol with Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle, and come out with the seven things you're going to do for our future and stay on that for the last six weeks. We should have done that. It might have helped in some of the key states, and this notion that Democrats deputy have a plan when in fact they had a lot of good ideas.

BLITZER: We've got an e-mail for Genevieve, "The stage for the next two years has been set. There can be no finger pointing at the Democrats. If the economy is not fixed and we are bogged down in a multi-front war, the Republicans will have no one to blame but themselves. They will pay with the White House."

GENEVIEVE WOOD, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, there's no doubt the Republicans have a big job ahead of them, Wolf, they're absolutely right. But the fact is I don't think the electorate here blame the president or the Republicans for where the economy is right now. They look like their beyond that.

The fact is, I'll agree with Peter, the Democrats should have listened to him. They didn't have a message. And I think this particular election shows the strength of the president, and it shows, look, when it comes to foreign policy, when it comes to dealing with foreign wars, I think they trust Republicans on this one, and I think that helped them.

BLITZER: Who does this election help as far as the next leader of the Democratic Party, specifically the next Democratic presidential candidate?

FENN: I tell you, I think it helps John Edwards. I think John Edwards is likely to emerge from this group. I think Dick Gephardt has serious problems running for president, to be honest with you. I mean, it's not good for him.

BLITZER: Because he's tried so many times.

FENN: And look, we've seen what's happening in the south. You've got to carry the states if you're a Democrat, and John Edwards is a good candidate. In the end, they thought Elizabeth Dole might lose that. If it was another week, I think that would have happened.

BLITZER: Does John Edwards, the Democratic senator from North Carolina, does he emerge you think as the leading Democratic candidate>

WOOD: Who do the Democrats have right now? Everybody who was the frontrunner is kind of now in the back seat. I think one thing that's interesting here that we don't yet, when we find out, who was it that turned out yesterday to vote. Did the evangelicals turn out? Did they make a difference to Republicans? Where were the voter bases that came out? And that's going to shape to a great extent policy over the next two years, because look, as we all know, this election is over, but now 2004 has begun, and they're going to be looking at that.

BLITZER: Very quickly, the fact that the Voter News Service, the VNS, didn't work last night, what's your reaction? Was that good for the viewers the voters, the American public out there, or bad?

FENN: It was like, when I didn't have gray hair and you had to stay up all night; I was a little younger then, I still stayed up all night. I think it's bad because we do want to know what -- why didn't you win for us (ph)? And we didn't get them. Right now, I think the situation is, it's like you're in an auto accident, you got hit by a truck, we're in shock, we got bruised, we got beat up -- the question now, is who do the voters blame on this economy? And I think she's right, if this economy doesn't turn around in two years, the Republicans are going to have to pay the price.

But Democrats still have to have...


WOOD: No, I didn't say that. We're going to get more tax relief now that we have Republicans back in charge. You're going to actually see some of that go through the Senate.

BLITZER: Permanent tax relief.

WOOD: Permanent tax relief, and the marriage tax penalty, the death tax. I think some of that's going to become permanent, unfortunately for Peter here, but I think that's going to help the Republicans.

BLITZER: Thanks to both of you. This conversation is only just beginning.


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