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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Missing Answers Over Missing Explosives; Political Battle of the Sexes

Aired October 27, 2004 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome to PRIME TIME POLITICS. Good to have you with us tonight.
In the presidential campaign, missing answers about missing explosives in Iraq. Charges fly. Stories change. Questions remain. Was the White House warned? And who has those explosives now?

And if you think the country is divided, wait until you meet this couple. He's red. She's blue. It is the political battle of the sexes.

And a high-flying view of the campaign, my conversation with one astronaut who's not about to let a tour of duty in orbit stop him from voting.

Well, it is now six days and counting and world events keep intruding on the Bush-Kerry race.

Today, we learned that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's health has seriously deteriorated. It is a reminder of the fragile status quo in the Middle East and the endless possibilities for trouble.

In Afghanistan, some hopeful news. More than two weeks after that nation's first free election, the vote-counting has finally ended. Interim President Hamid Karzai appears to be the clear winner.

And then there's Iraq, where 380 tons of high explosives seem to have vanished.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Off-message and trying to recapture on the offensive on a subject he clearly wanted to avoid, President Bush is finally talking about the reports of missing explosives in Iraq.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our military's now investigating a number of possible scenarios, including that the explosives may have been moved before our troops even arrived at the site.

ZAHN: The explanation quickly turns into an attack on Senator John Kerry.

BUSH: This investigation is important and it's ongoing. And a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief. ZAHN: Senator Kerry has been hammering the president about the missing explosives since Monday and isn't letting up.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we're seeing is a White House that is dodging and bobbing and weaving in their usual efforts to avoid responsibility, just as they've done every step of the way in our involvement in Iraq.

ZAHN: And then comes the counterattack.

KERRY: Mr. President, for the sake of our brave men and women in uniform, for the sake of those troops who are in danger, because of your wrong decisions, you owe America real answers about what happened, not just political attacks.

ZAHN: The pattern is set at stop after stop. In battleground state after battleground state, the jabs are thrown.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John Kerry is playing armchair general, and he's not doing a very good job of it.

KERRY: Vice President Cheney, who is becoming the chief minister of disinformation, he echoed that it's not the administration's fault, and he even criticized those who raise the subject.

CHENEY: John Kerry will say and do anything to get elected.

BUSH: Unfortunately, that's part of the pattern of saying anything it takes to get elected.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you want four more years of this?

CROWD: No!

ZAHN: In the short run, we've got six more days of this back- and-forth. And then finally the voters get to speak.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Now the latest from the campaign trail. Senior White House correspondent John King is with the president in Pontiac, Michigan, tonight. Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is with Senator Kerry in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Good to see both of you.

So, John, does the White House think John Kerry is getting traction on this explosive story?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, on the one hand, Paula, senior Bush aides insist that any debate about Iraq and about terrorism, national security is a debate on the president's turf.

But we were told first thing this morning that the vice president would respond again to the explosives issue and the president would not. Then, the president of course obviously did and quite forcefully. Their concern is that the race is so close so late that you cannot let any major charge go unanswered. And what Senator Kerry is hammering at right here is, of course, the signature issue of the campaign, the threshold issue of the president's wartime leadership.

So they would say he's not getting traction, but they would also by evidence of the president's actions they're proving to us that they're concerned.

ZAHN: But, John, in spite of the president speaking, he did not clear up much confusion over the mystery of how these 380 tons of explosives vanished, did he?

KING: Well, no, he did not, and they say they cannot. They say there is an investigation under way. They have been pointing us to military commanders who were on the ground at the time, senior officers who say the troops that went to that depot, there mission was to keep moving on, that it was not their job to search for the weapons.

They say the rest of the questions will be answered in due course. And they're say, since they cannot be answered now, Senator Kerry should not seize on this. But, of course, Senator Kerry has a very different perspective.

ZAHN: And it appears, Candy, from what we've seen on the campaign trail today, he will continue to seize on this. It's an effective line of attack for him, isn't it?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.

And they don't even look at it as a singular incident. They look at it as really a legal case against the president in some ways. And they say they've been building it for months. What they're trying to show is, you know, this man, who is commander in chief, who has gotten such high points for being commander in chief, has really bungled the job, he's incompetent, and they see this as one more straw on the camel's back.

Now, they believe it's the one that may break the camel's back, but obviously they think they could some get traction with it, and that's why they carry on with it.

ZAHN: Do you think it's given Kerry more confidence on the campaign trail, Candy?

CROWLEY: Israeli tell you, it's hard. This is a very confident group at this point, you know, and they have been sort of increasingly so over the past couple of weeks.

But, on the other hand, you kind of expect that, because they can't be now saying, oh, gosh, we're afraid we're going to lose. But if you look at the itinerary -- And I know John can tell you the same thing about the president -- today, we spent our time in Minnesota and in Iowa. Those are two Al Gore states, so that's a defensive itinerary that he's got.

So the confidence, while obviously, you know, they believe they're going to win, is not total.

ZAHN: So, John, what can we learn about the president's strategy by charting where he's traveling over the next couple of days?

KING: Well, he certainly is trying to put Senator Kerry on the defensive in Al Gore states, in traditionally Democratic states, and pick them up, but some would say he's also looking for backup in case he loses a big Republican state like Ohio.

They say the polls are close here in Michigan. They say they're slightly behind in Pennsylvania. They are saying in all these states -- and both campaigns are saying this -- that they have a much better turnout operation than they had four years ago. The Bush campaign is saying that it has the Democrats on defense and that it is contesting far more states that Al Gore won four years ago than Senator Kerry is contesting Bush states from four years ago.

But, again, the president also is in a difficult position in both Florida and Ohio. So even some Republicans concede he's looking for backup.

ZAHN: John King, Candy Crowley, thanks for the update. Appreciate it.

So, can the Bush campaign overcome all of this week's bad news from Iraq, especially the fallout from the missing explosives story?

Joining me now from Washington is White House communications director Dan Bartlett.

It's always good to see you, Dan. Welcome.

DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Hi, Paula.

ZAHN: How can 380 tons of dangerous explosives just vanish?

BARTLETT: Well, Paula, let's think about this.

As we all remember before the war, that we knew that Saddam Hussein was a threat. In fact, his whole country was a weapons bazaar. There was thousands upon thousands of ammunition dumps and caches throughout that country. And, in fact, the coalition has already seized 10,000 caches that resulted in about 400,000 tons -- tons -- of weapons.

We know that he was a threat. We know that these sites were a threat. In this particular case, what we don't know is whether Saddam Hussein moved those weapons before the fall of Saddam Hussein or if they were moved after. But we do know that troops were there seven days before the fall. The 3rd I.D. was there. They engaged enemy fire from within the facility. The gates were opened.

They took those Iraqi soldiers out. They were there. They didn't see IAEA-stamped munitions. They did find conventional weapons. So it does follow a pattern that Saddam Hussein followed in the past. So we do know specifically on that case. We do know that the munitions haven't been used in Baghdad or in the type of concerted activity we've seen today.

So I think what you're finding is that to remove that much weaponry in a time period when military forces were all around that area securing roads -- and we're talking dump truck after dump truck load to carry that much.

ZAHN: Sure.

BARTLETT: I think it raises some serious questions as to whether...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: It raises some serious questions, but do you have any evidence to support the president's assertion that these explosives may have disappeared before the start of the war?

BARTLETT: Well, we want to find out, Paula. There's no question about that. Again, we've made this a priority -- 400,000 tons have already been destroyed or are in the queue to be destroyed by coalition forces.

But it's very important that, when you have a situation like this -- this is in the middle of a battle that these things are taking place. Senator Kerry seems to not worry about that. Senator Kerry is just grasping on a headline and saying, attack the president, attack the president, when he doesn't have the facts.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: But, Dan, if this is the priority you have said it is, why hasn't Charles Duelfer, the man who heads up the Iraqi Survey Group that is supposed to search for conventional weapons, why hasn't he been put on this investigation?

BARTLETT: Well, Charles Duelfer is doing a country-wide investigation of all the weaponry of Saddam Hussein.

This is -- unfortunately, because this man was such a threat, this is just one slice of an arsenal that Saddam Hussein had. But this is a priority of the coalition forces on the ground. We are going to find out what happened 18 months ago in this particular case. And we're going to continue to focus on destroying these munitions.

But I think, in a political campaign, in the final week of a campaign, for a story to be only half-told and then leaped on and used for political benefit by a candidate who has no credibility on the issue of Iraq, I think strikes at the type of political opportunism that turns voters off, not on.

ZAHN: But there are people out there who are equally cynical about the administration right now, saying you don't have evidence to point to one conclusion or the other either.

BARTLETT: Well, that's the point, Paula, is that we don't know all of the facts.

What we're saying is, John Kerry should not shoot from the hip and jump to conclusions for political opportunism without knowing the facts. And what we heard from reports earlier in the week was just one thin slice of what potentially happened. And I think the American people deserve a complete picture. And that's what we're trying to determine.

ZAHN: On to the issue of Prime Minister Allawi, who basically accused coalition forces of allowing for the deaths of some 50 Iraqis over the weekend, saying it was major neglect by some parts of the coalition forces. Is that a slap in the face to this administration?

BARTLETT: Well, I think what Prime Minister Allawi is discussing is the say thing that we're concerned about. And that is terrorists like Abu Musab Zarqawi, who's inflicting this harm mainly on innocent Iraqis.

And we share their frustration. We have a coordinated strategy to go after these terrorists. And we're going to make sure it doesn't happen against as best to our possibility -- as best as we can.

ZAHN: On to the issue of some very important battleground states now. Our polling, looking at Pennsylvania, Ohio, even New Hampshire, shows that John Kerry is making some movement there and could hurt the president badly. What do you make of those numbers?

BARTLETT: Well, Paula, what we're seeing not only in our polls and what the public polls show is that President Bush consistently has a national lead in all the polls.

Also, we're seeing in key battleground states President Bush's support solidifying. If you look at the travel of the two candidates over the course of the next few days of this campaign, you'll see we'll be spending more time in states that Al Gore won, not in states that George W. Bush won. And that's because most of the states that President Bush won in 2000 are secure this time around.

Now, we're going to make sure we don't take any vote for granted in Florida, in Ohio, for example, but at the same time, as President Bush's travels today shows, in Pennsylvania, as you mentioned, as well as in Wisconsin, in Michigan, all places where President Bush lost in 2000, we're campaigning there now, and Senator Kerry's having to defend turf that Al Gore won in 2000.

I think that demonstrates that it's President Bush who is on the offense and President Bush who has the mathematical probability of winning this election, not Senator Kerry.

ZAHN: Why the president's late focus on Michigan?

BARTLETT: President Bush is putting a lot of effort into Michigan, because it is a clear state in which it's a dead heat. John Kerry hasn't traveled there until this week for about a month. I think he was taking it for granted.

But what we're seeing there is that this is a dead heat, and we're actually seeing movement in the last week towards President Bush in this critical battleground state. So it's something that he's not taking for granted. He's spending the night there tonight, campaigning there tonight, and having another event there in Saginaw, Michigan, tomorrow, demonstrating that the president is not taking this state for granted. He's not going to let John Kerry take this, like Al Gore did in 2000.

And we think it's one of the key states that President Bush is going to pick up on next Tuesday.

ZAHN: Dan Bartlett, always appreciate the predictions. Of course, we kind of know you're going to say that, but we appreciate you joining us anyway.

(CROSSTALK)

BARTLETT: You're welcome.

ZAHN: Thanks for your time tonight.

BARTLETT: No problem.

ZAHN: And now we turn to tonight's voting booth question: Are the missing explosives in Iraq a legitimate campaign issue? Vote yes or no at CNN.com/Paula. We will give you the results at the end of the hour.

But just ahead, the ghost of 2000 returns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): States too close to call, lawyers ready to pounce. Tonight, we crunch the numbers and count the many ways the winner could lose and the loser could win the White House.

And politics where you'd least expect, a conversation with the ultimate swing voter, astronaut Leroy Chiao, doing his civic duty from orbit.

PRIME TIME POLITICS continues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We continue with the story that's been dominating the presidential campaign this week, the reports of some 380 tons of high explosives missing in Iraq.

So far, there's no direct proof about what happened to the stockpile or when it disappeared, but the Pentagon is scrambling to assemble evidence to back up a theory that the explosives either were moved or looted before U.S. troops could have secured them. Here's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): In response to the political firestorm over the missing high explosives, the Pentagon launched a P.R. offensive, issuing two pages of talking points, noting among other things the lost stockpile amounted to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the 400,000 tons of total munitions the U.S. has found in Iraq and providing access to the former commander of soldiers from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, now identified by the Pentagon as the first to get to the al Qa Qaa facility on April 3, 2003.

(on camera): According to the commander, neither he nor the troops knew about the tons of high explosives the IAEA said were stored at the al Qa Qaa facility, much less have any orders to look for them.

But Colonel David Perkins told reporters at the Pentagon -- quote -- "It would be almost impossible that the material could have been stolen" after his troops arrived. "There was one main road," he said, "packed for weeks bumper to bumper with U.S. convoys pushing toward Baghdad." Perkins concluded, "It would very, highly improbable that a convoy of trucks could have sneaked in and out in the dead of night."

But some former arms inspectors find the argument unconvincing.

DAVID KAY, FORMER CHIEF U.S. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I also don't find it hard to believe that looters could carry it off in the dead of night or during the day and not use the road network.

MCINTYRE: Experts like David Kay also question the Pentagon's pet theory, that the stash of high explosives was dispersed by Saddam Hussein's army before the U.S. got there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that was Jamie McIntyre reporting for us today.

Now, here is the take on today's big campaign issue from talk radio's left and right.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RANDI RHODES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: People were stealing anything that wasn't nailed down, including the explosives dump and that they were carting this crap off, and that that's why no you one can find it, because it was happening in the middle of chaos. If it was happening when Saddam was in power, don't you think the president would know where the explosives went?

MICHAEL REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think everybody now knows that the story again is another bogus story. And I think that people get that. I can't believe people are buying into that anymore, because it's been discounted about those weapons, where they were, what time they were there, and they were discounted why? Not by me at talk radio or talk radio or Fox News. Discounted by embedded reporters from NBC.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ZAHN: The controversy over the explosives has heightened the tension on the campaign trail.

I'm joined by two members of the U.S. Senate tonight, Republican Saxby Chambliss from his town in Moultrie, Georgia, and Democrat Jon Corzine of New Jersey, who joins me not in his hometown, but across the river in New York City tonight, wearing his donkey tie.

I was a expecting a blue tie tonight. Wearing the donkey tie, straight from a campaign appearance.

SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: Got to do that.

ZAHN: Welcome to both of you.

Senator Chambliss, the administration pretty much telling us it's a mystery when these explosives disappeared. They don't have evidence one way or another to confirm one of their theories that it might have happened before the war got under way. Is there any defense for that?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Well, Paula, this whole thing is just appalling to me, that John Kerry would raise this issue. I mean, he's the guy -- nobody questions the fact that he's battle- tested.

We know that the 3rd I.D. arrived at the al Qa Qaa facility on the 3rd and 4th of April 2003. It was heavily defended by the Saddam Fedayeen and the Republican Guard and that there was a huge firefight for several days. The gates were open. There were no locks on any of the facilities. And these folks were told to look for weapons of mass destruction. They did. They didn't find any.

They did find a number of other weapons and they moved on. Then the 101st comes in on the 10th of April with the embedded reporters. Again, the same thing is found, a lot of stockpile of artillery shells and other weapons and whatnot, but none of the HMX or RDX or PETN that's now claimed to be missing.

Well, it was obviously there at some point in time. The IAEA said it was there, but there's absolutely no indication that it was there when these troops arrived. The fact of the matter is, this was a war.

(CROSSTALK)

CHAMBLISS: These folks were shooting at each other.

And, you know, for John Kerry to question these folks about their actions during the heat of a battle is just appalling to me.

ZAHN: But it's not like, Senator, that even Colonel Anderson, who was with the 101st, is confirming what one of the administration's theories is, because he was saying he was never directly ordered to look for this stuff, nor did he conduct a thorough search.

CHAMBLISS: Yes, well, and why should he? The gates were wide open. The buildings were wide open. There were guys inside those buildings shooting at our men and women. They were defending themselves and they were shooting back.

I mean, it's just unbelievable to me that this story has reached the height that it is, because this was a true battle that was ongoing for a couple or three days there. And once they secured the facility, they did go through it, and they simply didn't see these particular items that now John Kerry says for whatever reason -- he has no basis for it -- were there. The chances of them being there are very minimal.

ZAHN: Senator Corzine, is Senator Kerry guilty as charged, fear- mongering with this issue when neither side has evidence as to when this stuff disappeared or where it went to?

CORZINE: Two things, one major point.

What John Kerry is saying is, the civilian leadership in the Pentagon and President Bush rushed to war, didn't have the priorities set about what we were going to do in that conflict in a way that was going to protect our troops on the ground, and we didn't have a game plan to secure some of the most dangerous explosives. This ammunition dump was already identified as one of the most major ammunition dumps in the country. And we didn't have a plan. We sent troops through there on the way to Baghdad, where looting had begun.

We do know -- we do know that on March 15, the IAEA inspectors knew these munitions were in place, sealed. On March 19 is when the conflict began, when the invasion began. We marched through there. And we do know, on April 10, Colonel Anderson says they were on their way to Baghdad. They spent a night there. They weren't actually doing what Senator Chambliss is saying. There wasn't a battle going on.

ZAHN: They didn't even expect to spend the night there.

CORZINE: They didn't even expect to spend the night there. They did end up spending the night there. They didn't inspect these dumps, and they went on to Baghdad.

And the first time that anybody ever knew that this stuff was missing was on May 27. So there's a whole bunch of time and it's pretty logical to think that you would have seen the trucks and a lot of things moving in and out of the there between March 15, March 19, and April 10, if there was going to be this taking of the explosives prior to us actually securing the territory.

I think John Kerry is absolutely right, but I want to get back to the big point. The big point is, we rushed to war without serious plans, in contradiction of what military intelligence would have told us were the proper number of troops. We didn't have the troops to be able to secure the facilities.

ZAHN: Senator Chambliss, I know you think the story has been blown out of proportion, but why shouldn't the American public be concerned about 380 tons of these dangerous explosives missing in Iraq? And why shouldn't they question the administration about how this could happen?

CHAMBLISS: Well, certainly there's nothing wrong with raising the question, Paula.

The fact of the matter is that Jon is just dead wrong. There was a battle going on. This facility was defended by Iraqi troops, the most -- best-trained troops that Saddam Hussein had, and our folks, our brave men and women, took the battle to them and they secured the facility, ultimately. There was a firefight and there's just simply no question about that.

But this question boils down to the fact that who's John Kerry criticizing here? Now, Jon says he's criticizing the plan. That's not what John Kerry says. John Kerry's own words indicate that what he's doing is criticizing our commanders in the field and our troops in the field.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: And Senator Corzine is shaking his head no.

(CROSSTALK)

CHAMBLISS: ... failed to vote for the $87 billion to even provide the body armor, the guns that these folks needed to secure that facility and the bullets to shoot back.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Senator Corzine, you get the last word tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

CORZINE: Senator, you know full well that there were all kinds of recommendations that we're going to need several hundred thousand troops. The civilian leadership of the Pentagon pushed back, actually took away people's leadership of the Army command because they said something different than what the civilian leadership wanted.

This is not a condemnation of our troops or our military leadership. It is a condemnation of what has gone forward in the plans preceding the war, which left our troops exposed. And I think that's what John Kerry is talking about, and I think that's why this is such an important issue.

ZAHN: Gentlemen, we have got to leave it there this even.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Saxby Chambliss, Jon Corzine... (CROSSTALK)

CHAMBLISS: ... criticism of the troops, Jon. And that's unfortunate.

CORZINE: It certainly isn't.

ZAHN: Thank you for your time. I think we'll have to let your debate continue in Washington.

When we come back, how the weapons controversy is affecting the candidates and the campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We have heard from the White House and from senators on both sides of the isle. Now let's hear from CNN contributor and "TIME" magazine political columnist Joe Klein, starting off by talking about the explosives story.

So Joe, we've all seen the numbers about the lead the president enjoys even on the issue of leadership in Iraq. Does this story really help John Kerry?

JOE KLEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, obviously the Bush people are tremendously worried about it, because it has gone on for three days now, and it's the sort of -- it's not the sort of story that the president wants the week before the election.

And it also, from Kerry's point of view, in a substantive sense, it harkens back -- whether or not anybody can pin down when that material left, it harkens back to the basic charge that Bush and the Bush administration didn't prepare for the aftermath of the war. They didn't secure not only these facilities but the streets of Baghdad.

Donald Rumsfeld said it at the time that the looters were expressing their sense of freedom, and that stuff happens. This was a real embarrassment for the Bush administration, and now it takes center stage the week before the election.

I have to say, having watched the first half of this program, we've seen nights where the Kerry people were flailing about and very defensive. It seemed to me that the Bush people tonight seemed very, very defensive about this and very worried.

ZAHN: But they finally put the president out today to directly answer the question. He didn't really say anything, did he? Did he silence his critics?

KLEIN: Well, he did -- he did what he has done every single time that his leadership in Iraq has been questioned. He attacked John Kerry.

He attacked John Kerry's patriotism. He attacked John Kerry's command of the facts, when it seems perfectly clear that if this stuff had been removed before the war, it would have been picked up by our signals intelligence, by satellites who were monitoring every last movement in that area. Clearly, this stuff was, you know, secreted out of there at some point during the -- during the months that followed.

And the other thing is that facility is huge, from what I understand. It's the size of Manhattan. So I don't know that we had -- you know, we had the thing pinned down.

ZAHN: A lot of noise out there coming from Republicans about the timing of this story, that this potentially being one of those October surprise dumps. Is there any truth to it?

KLEIN: Well, usually the October surprise comes from the incumbent. And you know, there's a lot of paranoia out there. You have like the perfect storm here for conservative paranoids in that you have "The New York Times." You have CBS. You have the United Nations involved.

But this is the kind of thing that you were hearing from liberals when the CBS thing came up before, when the Dan Rather/National Guard memos came up. They were saying, "Do you think Karl Rove had something to do with this?" All of that kind of talk is nonsense.

What we have here is a very serious story, and it doesn't look very good for the Bush administration. And the fact that the president came out at all to talk about it today was, you know -- might well have been a political mistake, because it gave the story another day of life.

ZAHN: Somehow I have a feeling we'll be talking about this again tomorrow as more and more information drips out. Joe Klein, thanks so much.

KLEIN: My pleasure, Paula.

ZAHN: And that takes us to tonight's "Voting Booth" question: "Are the missing explosives in Iraq a legitimate campaign issue?" Vote now at CNN.com/Paula. We'll have the results at the end of the hour.

And if you thought what happened in the last presidential election could never happen again, well, think again. We're going to show you why it's even more likely this year, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Red states turning blue, blue states turning red. With six days to go, polls show a dead heat in a number of battleground states. It's enough to drive you nuts. And here's something else: a Bush/Kerry tie in the Electoral College is a real possibility.

Here's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Run for the hills, hide the children and lock up the dogs. The normally tame Electoral College is turning ferocious with the specter of a tied election looming again.

So John Fortier, who wrote a book on the electoral system, is spending his nights in a cold sweat.

JOHN FORTIER, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I would lie awake sweating in any election that's likely to be this close, no matter what our system is.

FOREMAN: A tie is unlikely, but if George Bush wins every state he expects to win and John Kerry does too, a dozen closely contested states will make the difference. And computer models calculate about three dozen ways their electoral votes can add up to a tie.

FORTIER: One scenario that might be possible is that Kerry wins in Ohio and in New Hampshire, and Bush wins in Wisconsin and New Mexico, and all the other states stay the same as 2000. Those are possible pickups.

FOREMAN: If any combination produces a tie in the Electoral College, then the decision is decided by the nation's legislators. The House of Representatives would pick the president for the Republican majority, George Bush.

But the Senate would decide on the vice president, and if the Democrats gained a few seats, they could give John Edwards that job. Another tie. It's all enough to make some voters squeamish.

BETSY JOHNSON, VOTER: I think the Electoral College should be abolished. I think it's outlived its usefulness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One person/one vote would do it.

FOREMAN (on camera): Whoever gets the most is the winner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's it.

ANNOUNCER: Thrills there are, and spills.

FOREMAN: The Electoral College was designed and refined over many years to address rural concerns, uneven nationwide voter distribution and much more. And historically, because it magnifies the popular vote, the college has made instantly clear who has won.

ANNOUNCER: A look at the future. Looks good, eh?

FOREMAN: But this time, with talk of states splitting their electoral votes, electors defecting from their voters, and lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits, even chad can hardly hang on to see how the college comes through.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: That was our Tom Foreman reporting for us tonight. Tomorrow, the candidates focus on -- now here's a shock -- battleground states. President Bush travels to Saginaw, Michigan, Dayton, and Westlake, Ohio, and then on to Yardley, Pennsylvania.

Senator Kerry goes to Toledo, Ohio, Madison, Wisconsin, then back to Ohio, Columbus this time, and then on to Orlando, Florida.

Joining me now from Kerry campaign headquarters in Washington, Kerry's senior adviser, Chad Clanton. And from our bureau in Washington, Bush campaign deputy communications director, Jennifer Millerwise.

Welcome both of you.

JENNIFER MILLERWISE, BUSH CAMPAIGN DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Thanks, Paula.

CHAD CLANTON, KERRY'S SENIOR ADVISOR: Good to be with you.

ZAHN: Thank you. So Jennifer, what are the chances we'll have a president next Tuesday night without a big legal fight?

MILLERWISE: I'm going to make a prediction. I'm going to make a prediction. We're going to wake up on the 3rd and we're going to have a president, and it's going to be the reelection of President Bush. And I'll tell you why.

If you want to talk about the electoral map, the fact is there are a number of scenarios in which President Bush is going to win reelection. There is only one, only one scenario in which it's possible for John Kerry to win the presidency. And that's if he carries every single state that Al Gore won in 2000, and he wins either Florida or Ohio.

And he's having a tough time when you look at the fact that we are not campaigning any longer in states that the president won in 2000...

ZAHN: You should see Chad. He is rolling his eyes.

MILLERWISE: We're playing on the Democrat's turf, so it's not looking good for John Kerry.

ZAHN: Chad, as you talk about your reaction to what Jennifer just said, we're going to put up a new electoral map which shows some surprises that are in store from your campaign. We'll look at this together.

Your candidate may be gaining in West Virginia, Arkansas and Missouri, but the president may be closing in on you in Hawaii, Michigan and New Jersey. What's going on?

CLANTON: Well, I think first of all, it sounds like Jennifer is, like her campaign, panicking. They've been in the panic room today, it sounds like. But second of all, I think that the polls are going to be very close. I saw the "Washington Post" today had 300 different possible outcomes for the Electoral College.

But what we have to do is keep telling people about the big choice. Only John Kerry is offering a fresh start in America, and only George Bush is offering four more years of the same failed policy that have caused a record deficit, record job losses, a mess in Iraq. We've lost our focus in the war on terror.

ZAHN: But Chad, come back to the first question I asked Jennifer, though.

CLANTON: Sure.

ZAHN: Will we have an undisputed winner of this presidential election on Tuesday night?

CLANTON: I'm going to make a prediction on the air. I'm just going to -- Jennifer, it's going to shock you. On November 2, John Kerry will be the undisputed next president in the United States, because people want a fresh start in America. I think it's going to happen; I know it's going to happen.

MILLERWISE: Oh, no, Paula.

ZAHN: Let's come back to the electoral reality, Chad just making reference to the "Washington Post" coming up with several hundred scenarios of different results you could get in the Electoral College. What are the chances of a tie Tuesday?

MILLERWISE: I just don't think it will happen. I mean, again we are competing right now in states that Al Gore won in 2000. I can promise you that the Kerry campaign did not want to be advertising in Hawaii.

CLANTON: Al Gore isn't on the ballot.

MILLERWISE: I can promise you you didn't want to be campaigning in Hawaii. I can promise you you didn't want to be worrying about New Jersey right now. And I can also promise you they didn't want to see that they're lagging behind in states like Iowa, in Wisconsin, that we're competing in places like Michigan, my home state.

And I can tell you why John Kerry isn't playing well in these states. It's because he's not their kind of Democrat.

CLANTON: I wish we had a light, Paula, "panic."

MILLERWISE: And Dukakis did not do well in states like Michigan. He wants higher taxes. He wants ...

CLANTON: He's going to lose in Michigan. You ought to know, Jennifer. You're from Michigan.

MILLERWISE: He's from -- he's for partial-birth abortion. And if you look at when it comes to a whole host of other issues, he doesn't...

CLANTON: Paula, can I get in here?

ZAHN: yes, I'm going to let you in, Chad, right now.

CLANTON: She's having a panic attack. OK, look, we're much more optimistic, both about the Electoral College system, voting on November 2.

Sometimes you hear the Bush campaign talk. It sounds like they're more optimistic about elections in Afghanistan and Iraq than in the United States of America.

We do have a simple message for all your viewers tonight: make sure you know where to vote. Go vote. There will be someone there to make sure your vote is protected. It is the most important elections in our lifetime. The contrasts couldn't be more different: a fresh start versus more of the same.

Look, it's an exciting time for us. It's going to be a beautiful day in America.

ZAHN: OK.

CLANTON: We're going to have a fresh start.

ZAHN: Jennifer...

CLANTON: Bruce Springsteen is going to be campaigning with us. You can't get more American than that.

ZAHN: Well, yes, well, we all love Bruce's voice. Some people aren't too crazy he's campaigning, the guy he's campaigning for.

Jennifer, final question about what you think the ultimate fallout will be to the president over this explosives story. You've just got about ten seconds to wrap it up.

MILLERWISE: Well, I think the story says a lot about John Kerry. It talks about a candidate who's grasping at the headlines and attacking, attacking, attacking and not worrying about the facts. The facts are falling apart around him. You know, we look at these...

ZAHN: So it doesn't say anything about the president?

MILLERWISE: I think it says a lot more about John Kerry. The fact is even his own advisers are saying we really don't know if there's any truth to this...

ZAHN: OK.

MILLERWISE: ... but that doesn't bother him.

CLANTON: Hey, the headlines say that he lost 380 tons of explosives, Paula. That's scary.

ZAHN: All right.

MILLERWISE: And remember, these are the things...

ZAHN: We've got to leave it there tonight. And I'm sure we'll see you before the election.

CLANTON: He had a chance to speak to it today, and he refused to talk about it.

ZAHN: All right.

CLANTON: Three hundred and 80 tons.

ZAHN: Well, the president did talk, if he didn't say exactly what some people want to hear.

OK, I've got to cut you both off. Jennifer Millerwise, Chad Clanton, thank you for both of your perspectives.

CLANTON: Pleased to be here.

MILLERWISE: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Appreciate your time.

A small percentage of voters are still up in the air. And you're about to meet one who has a really good excuse, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: On election day, some Americans will be away from their home states. Some will be out of the country altogether, but one will literally be out of this world.

He is NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao, just a few days into a six- month tour on the International Space Station, but he won't let that stop him from voting. He will cast his ballot by a special secure e- mail hookup.

Joining me now from 230 miles from above the planet, astronaut Leroy Chiao. Thanks so much for joining us. Explain to me how you're going to vote.

LEROY CHIAO, NASA ASTRONAUT: Paula, it's a pleasure to be with you today on the International Space Station. And actually, the voting process is quite simple.

There's a law that was passed in the Texas legislature in 1997 that allows astronauts to vote from space. And I'll actually be the third astronaut to vote from space, although the first one to vote in a presidential election.

The way it works, the registrar of Galveston County sent me a secure e-mail, and what I'll do is open that e-mail up, fill out the ballot and send it back to her. It will be through a secure, encrypted link. And she'll open it up and tally my vote for me, almost like an absentee ballot.

ZAHN: Last week you said you were undecided who to vote for. Have you made up your mind?

CHIAO: Well, I'll tell you, I'm getting closer. And you know, I've been actually getting some news from home, and I'm been thinking about it a lot. And so yes, I am getting closer to a choice.

ZAHN: Can you give us a hint to how that might -- vote might go?

CHIAO: Oh, well, you know, one of the great American traditions is the right to vote, and the other one is your right to secrecy. So in the interests of that, I think I'll just kind of keep it to myself.

ZAHN: I know you are a very busy man, but how much campaign news have you gotten up there?

CHIAO: Well, I've gotten some news. I'm able to get some electronic copies of news stories about a day late or half a day late. So I've been actually been able to keep fairly current on things. And including we also get some summaries of some of the news stories off of CNN's web site, as well.

ZAHN: Glad to hear you're accessing our web site from space. Leroy, you are very passionate about Americans voting. Why?

CHIAO: Well, it's something that I'm afraid a lot of times people take for granted, the right to vote. And there's so many places in the world where people do not have a right to a free choice.

And you know, I'm from an immigrant family. Of course, I was born in the United States, but my parents went through some hardships and some of my relatives. And there were times when people in my history, in my past haven't had the right to vote.

So I feel pretty strongly about it, that we ought to be exercising this precious right that unfortunately sometimes gets taken for granted.

ZAHN: Well, I wish you tremendous luck on this mission. Best of luck to you, astronaut Leroy Chiao.

CHIAO: Thank you very much, Paula. And my wife wanted me to say a special hello to you, because she -- turns out she's an '87 graduate from Stevens, as well.

ZAHN: Oh, no, now everybody's going to know how old we are, but I'm happy to know that I have a sister from Stevens. Thanks, Leroy.

CHIAO: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: And the country may be divided over the selection, but what happens to a couple when they clash over it, too?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ANDERSON, VOTER: I'm against abortion.

MAGGIE MCCOY, VOTER: I am pro-choice.

ANDERSON: I'm for traditional marriage between a man and woman.

MCCOY: I really don't understand the argument about gay marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: It's voting time, and the living ain't easy, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Love and marriage, it's hard enough, but even more so when you throw politics in the mix. Just ask Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. As you might remember, he married into the Kennedy family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See you give this fiery speech at the Republican convention. How long did it take you before you talked to each other?

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, there was no sex for 14 days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Good answer, Arnold.

Now, a couple of the Kansas City area couldn't agree more. They've been dating for a year and a half. He's a Republican, she's a Democrat, and our Keith Oppenheim found out how they overcome that great divide.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maggie McCoy is a high school guidance counselor. John Anderson runs a realty company. For a while, mutual friends have been trying to fix them up.

ANDERSON: The quote I got back, and I'm not sure was exact, but was that life's too short to date a Republican. And I...

OPPENHEIM (on camera): Did you say that?

ANDERSON: Something close to that.

MCCOY: No, that was kinder than what I said.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Somehow love conquered. These days John spends most of his time at Maggie's. They agreed each would get to put out a lawn sign, one Bush sign for John, one Kerry sign for Maggie.

Then Maggie added a single American flag to the Kerry sign.

ANDERSON: She was escalating.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): You could have decorated your own sign.

MCCOY: Right.

ANDERSON: She was escalating.

MCCOY: That's what I thought you were going to do.

ANDERSON: The rules supposedly were that we had two signs, and that was it.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): The rules changed. John put a communist Chinese flag by the Kerry sign. Maggie retaliated with a keeled-over cowboy on the Bush sign.

ANDERSON: The flip-flops were next.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): A very modest investment on your part.

ANDERSON: Yes, as opposed to later investments. OK.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Indeed, Maggie mocked him on machismo. John goaded her on goose hunting. This was real estate politics.

MCCOY: It allowed us to express our own feelings but have fun with it.

OPPENHEIM: But make no mistake; those feelings are intense. On key social issues, John and Maggie are polarized.

ANDERSON: I'm against abortion.

MCCOY: I am pro-choice.

ANDERSON: I'm for traditional marriage between a man and woman.

MCCOY: I really don't understand the argument about gay marriage.

OPPENHEIM: When it comes to fighting terrorism, where John sees leadership...

ANDERSON: The president was unique in the sense that he was prepared to defend our country.

OPPENHEIM: ... Maggie sees just the opposite.

MCCOY: I don't like the way he presents the country with all this bravado.

OPPENHEIM: In other words, despite the funny front yard, this isn't easy.

(on camera) How can you be in love and have a whole part of someone where the belief system is different from you?

MCCOY: Wow.

ANDERSON: Well, it's very difficult, and I think that you have to reach down, and hopefully it comes out with some degree of maturity.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): And sometimes immaturity. Maggie's managed to sneak a banner in the back of John's car.

ANDERSON: We've gone outside the yard obviously. We're all over town.

OPPENHEIM: He seemed to realize her mischief was just part of the sign language of this relationship.

MCCOY: I mean, I don't have to pretend to like Bush and Cheney, or anything they do, to get along with John. I just make fun of them. It works.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: They've got at least 50 years ahead of them. That was Keith Oppenheim reporting.

We'll be back with the results in tonight's "Voting Booth" question right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And here are the results of tonight's "Voting Booth" question: "Are the missing explosives in Iraq a legitimate campaign issue?" Eighty-eight percent say yes; 12 percent say no. Not a scientific poll. Just a sample from our web site. Thanks for logging on.

Tomorrow, the man the GOP loves to hate, Michael Moore joins me for a look at the final days of the campaign.

Thanks for joining us tonight. Hope you'll be back with us tomorrow night. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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