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CNN CAPITAL GANG

The Presidential Race Is Down To The Wire. How will the Senate, House Seats Shake Out?

Aired October 30, 2004 - 19:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG pre-election special. I'm Mark Shields, with the full CAPITAL GANG, Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

Just days before the presidential election, Osama bin Laden addressed American voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your hands. Each state that will not play with our security by default will secure themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: That followed four days of focus of the campaign on missing explosives in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Our forces were not ordered to secure a weapons dump in Iraq where 380 tons of explosives were stored. The president was warned that those explosives were there, warned by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The senator is making wild charges about missing explosives when his top foreign policy adviser admits, quote, "We do not know the facts." The senator's denigrating the action of our troops and commanders in the field without knowing the facts!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: President Bush also courted Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The party of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and John Kennedy is rightly remembered for competence and resolve in times of war and hours of crisis. Senator Kerry has turned his back on "pay any price and bear any burden." SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Just because he stands with Zell Miller and campaigns in a Democratic county, it doesn't make him a friend of Democrats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, did Senator Kerry find and expose a soft spot, a Bush soft spot on missing explosives?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Mark, I think -- I think this was a mistake on his part. I think he exposed some of his own soft spots. He gets his intelligence from liberal reporters in "The New York Times." He trusts an international bureaucrat hostile to America. And he doesn't let the facts get in the way of a political attack.

It also underscored, I think, his incoherence on Iraq. He claims Saddam Hussein wasn't a threat, and then he's carrying on about these fearsome explosives that he had. Well, they're a tiny fraction of the 600,000 tons Saddam Hussein has -- had, 99 percent of which are in American hands. Under John Kerry, 100 percent of them would have been in Saddam Hussein's hands.

That's why -- and it always sounds like a criticism of the military because it is. General Franks this week accused this latest attack from John Kerry of denigrating the military. This is why, according to the Annenberg survey, military active duty families -- members and their families support George Bush 3 to 1. And those people have skin in the game, and they trust George Bush.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, two things. One, the Bush campaign seemed late responding to this, a couple of days late. And in addition to that, Rudy Giuliani rather inartfully ended up saying it wasn't the president's fault, it was the troops' fault -- principal surrogate for the president. How's it play out...

(CROSSTALK)

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: ... those are both true facts that you mention. And in fact, the reason that President Bush was late, because he didn't think it was a significant story. Let's look at -- this is the most remarkable last week of a presidential campaign of all that I have covered...

SHIELDS: Really?

NOVAK: ... for the last 40 years because it comes out in "The New York Times" -- they cooked up this story with the CBS "60 Minutes," both very hostile to Bush, comes from Baradei, the Egyptian arms inspector, very hostile to Bush. They come out with this story, and a first day -- Senator Kerry comes out with it, and I -- I wasn't that surprised. And that's why I think he didn't react. But for four days, Mark -- four days! -- he pounds on that.

I -- I have been trying always to -- he must be getting some resonance with voters or polls or something. Nothing -- nobody shows any -- any particular interest in this. So it was a -- I think it was a strategic mistake, and it indicated that Senator Kerry very much wants to be the strong leader on terrorism, when he probably should have been talking about health care and jobs.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, any day, though, that Iraq is on the front page of the paper and the top of the news isn't a good political event for the president, is it?

AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: Well, I'm not sure, Mark. I think 95 percent of this electorate is locked in stone, and my guess is both the Osama and this story won't have very much effect.

However, Bob and Kate, in an absolutely charming way, have just weaved one of the great stories of fiction I've ever heard. The source for this story was the Iraqi -- the Iraqi science and technology minister, who wrote a letter saying these are missing. Then we heard every excuse under the sun -- Kate managed to repeat some of them tonight -- about how we don't know what happened. Maybe it happened beforehand. And then what happened? Lo and behold, a Minneapolis TV station embedded said, Hey, April 18, here it is, guys. This is the proof. David Kay, George Bush's weapons inspector, Kate, doesn't have a dog in this fight. David Kay said, "Game, set, match." It's proven.

This was the greatest heist of explosives the terrorists have had ever. So therefore, it does show -- I don't think it's going to affect the election much, but it does show how tragically unprepared this administration was...

O'BEIRNE: Wrong!

HUNT: ... for post-Iraq. It does.

SHIELDS: Spend too much time looking for weapons of mass destruction and not...

(CROSSTALK)

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: ... and missing the weapons of some destruction, yes. And it adds, as Al says, to the sense that Bush has not managed the aftermath of the war in Iraq.

Osama, I think it's -- it helps Bush that Osama is out there because he's -- he's still scary and Bush is emphasizing terrorism, but it hurts because Osama is still out there. And he's certainly not -- he has not been -- he's very much alive and not dead.

And on these weapons, I go with Al. David Kay and the film are conclusive proof that these weapons were looted because Bush did not -- part of the not securing Iraq...

O'BEIRNE: All Iraq -- all Iraq stories are not -- you asked a question about whether or not when Iraq's in the news -- if Iraq is in the news to remind us that there were 10,000 ammunition dumps all over Iraq, that the international inspections were demonstrably ineffective -- witness he had tons of weapons he wasn't supposed to have, some components for nuclear weapons -- if that's the kind of Iraq story we have, then that doesn't help John Kerry. And politically exploiting the Osama bin Laden -- he couldn't help himself in going back to Tora Bora...

NOVAK: Could I ask...

O'BEIRNE: ... and I think that's another problem for John Kerry.

NOVAK: Could I ask Al a -- Al used to be a -- one of the best political reporters in town, maybe still is.

HUNT: You know what? I learned...

CARLSON: Watch out, Al!

HUNT: I learned from you. You were my model.

NOVAK: Let me -- let me...

HUNT: I used to read your clips, yes.

NOVAK: Let me tell you -- let me tell you -- let's -- let's not argue about -- about the -- David Kay and all that.

HUNT: Why not?

NOVAK: No, no. No, no. I mean, I'm -- we could argue all night about it. I didn't agree with what you said, but that's not the point...

HUNT: Oh.

NOVAK: The point I'm trying to make is this. Was it smart for John Kerry to throw away everything he had planned for that week and really -- I mean, the media loved it, but how -- how would this penetrate to the voters? Just -- whether he's right or wrong, to go on this issue solidly Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday -- does that make any sense to you?

HUNT: It was dominating the news, Bob. He was back on other -- other stories on Friday and Saturday. And Kate, to suggest that Kerry demagogued Osama bin Laden without looking at what the president did is really beyond -- you know well -- I mean, Bush played this for everything it's worth. And I would just point out it is 1,145 days since this guy, this terrorist...

NOVAK: You didn't answer my question.

HUNT: ... committed this -- yes, I did.

SHIELDS: He did.

HUNT: And -- and...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: "Wanted, dead or alive!" That's what we do in Texas. Kate, we haven't gotten him, have we.

O'BEIRNE: In response to it, George Bush sounded a note of unity, gave John Kerry credit for feeling the same way...

SHIELDS: Let me just say...

O'BEIRNE: ... and Kerry had to make a cheap political point!

SHIELDS: George Bush -- George Bush sounded more presidential on that tarmac statement yesterday than he's sounded in the last year. And then he spoils it by going back and doing the typical screed, the negative speech, 11 times denigrating Kerry in the speech. Why the hell he didn't come back to the White House, meet with Colin Powell, meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, be presidential, something that John Kerry...

O'BEIRNE: Oh, yes. You want him off the campaign...

SHIELDS: ... can't do.

O'BEIRNE: ... trail, Mark!

HUNT: No, no. That's what Democrats feared. That's...

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: ... bum steer!

SHIELDS: Not at all, Kate. Kate, I mean, it would have been better for George Bush...

CARLSON: Yes.

SHIELDS: ... to remind people he's president.

CARLSON: The Oval Office...

SHIELDS: THE GANG of five will be back to go on record with our presidential prophecies.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. With three days until the election, the latest polls show the following. "Newsweek" gives President Bush a 6- point lead among likely voters over Senator Kerry, while ABC News/"Washington Post" shows a 1-point lead for President Bush and the American Research Group has the two candidates, Bush and Kerry, dead even.

Bob Novak, what's your presidential prediction for this coming Tuesday, November 2?

NOVAK: I have President Bush with 301 electoral votes, Kerry with 237. And I get there by giving Bush both Florida and Ohio. Up until recently, I thought Kerry was going to win Ohio, which would be a much closer race, only 281 electoral votes for Bush. You need 270 to win. Those are the two big states that Kerry must win both, in my opinion, to be elected, Florida and Ohio. And I don't think he's going to be able to do it.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, your prediction?

CARLSON: I have Kerry 274, Bush 264.

SHIELDS: Oh!

CARLSON: And my switch from red to blue is Ohio. I think, with 237,000 jobs lost there, with John Snow going and saying those job losses are a myth, and with all the bad news on Iraq last week -- you know, the Iraqi forces shot execution-style, Allawi complaining about Bush, eight Marines killed today, those explosives. All the news is bad for Bush on Iraq. I think Ohio comes over.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne?

O'BEIRNE: I give George Bush the election with 297 electoral votes...

SHIELDS: Oh!

O'BEIRNE: ... to John Kerry's 241. I think George Bush carries almost everything he carried in 2000, including Florida, maybe not New Hampshire, carries Ohio. But even without Ohio, without Ohio, I would have the president at 277. There are -- as long as he carries Florida, which he will do, I think, there are more scenarios for George Bush to win without Ohio than there are for John Kerry. John Kerry's going to need Ohio and much other states in the Midwest, and I think it's just much harder for John Kerry to get there.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt?

HUNT: I give John Kerry 279 electoral votes. He wins the popular vote by 2 points. And I'll tell you how I think he does it. He holds almost all of the blue states, and he sweeps the big state industrial belt, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. And I think Florida is a replay of 2000, with almost the same outcome.

And Mark, let me tell you what I think the key is here. It is the turnout, and I think if there is a healthy increase in turnout from last time, a 5 percent turnout, so you got about 111 million people voting, Bush might win. At least, he might win the popular vote. But if, instead, turnout jumps 10 to 12 percent and there's 118 million to 119 million people voting, the biggest turnout since 1968, huge advantage Kerry. I think there's going to be a surge on Tuesday.

SHIELDS: Al, you make a good point, but not the conclusive point. I mean, the conclusive point is it's 281 for Kerry, 257 for Bush. And I'll tell you the wild card in this is Florida. And I'll tell you why John Kerry's going to carry Florida, is that the intensity factor -- there are 250,000 people that the Kerry campaign -- the Kerry campaign -- has on the -- in the field, on the street this coming Tuesday. It's three times as many as they've ever had before. The level of intensity -- and I think especially the level of intensity in a state like Florida...

And I would just add to it George Bush can't crack that magic 50. He is stuck at that 48 percent mark, and I just think that's the problem for him. He's the incumbent. It ain't going to break his way.

NOVAK: Kerry -- Kerry is kind of stuck on the very high negatives for a successful challenger. I would say that these are very close states. I'm not sure of all these predictions I have made, but it seems to me -- I've been hearing for a long time from a lot of people, the Democrats, that this thing could end up as a very big Kerry win, a one-sided Kerry win. I think the only way it could go one-sided is for Bush because -- on the electoral vote because Bush conceivably could win Michigan. He could even win Pennsylvania. And then you really have an Electoral College landslide.

CARLSON: You know, if Kerry wins Florida, I think you also have to look at Bruce Springsteen bringing out -- I don't think he's going to win Wisconsin -- 80,000 in Wisconsin and...

SHIELDS: Why the hell did they do it in Madison?

CARLSON: I know.

SHIELDS: I mean, I love Madison, but you know, why not do it in some place he can help you, like the Fox River Valley?

O'BEIRNE: The Republicans like what the early voting looks like for them in Florida, Wisconsin and Iowa, they'll tell you. I -- in 2002, the Democrats predicted this kind of event in Florida, too, on behalf of Democrats, that there was such anger and whatnot. May I remind you Jeb Bush won by 13 points, and there wasn't a single poll that had Jeb Bush's margin that large. In fact, the Republican vote overall was really undercounted in 2002...

HUNT: Oh, it was -- it was absolutely nothing like this. I agree with you on Springsteen being in Madison. But I think -- Bob, I'm not confident on my prediction, either, although I'm pretty sure it's going to happen. And I think the real key state could end up being Wisconsin. I give it to Kerry, but I'm very -- I would be very nervous about that.

SHIELDS: I think the key -- the Florida of this election's not going to be Ohio or Florida. I think the Florida of this election's going to be those -- is going to be Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... those three states.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: Can the Democrats gain control of the Senate? We'll make our predictions right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Republicans currently lead the U.S. Senate 51 seats to 49. The six most vulnerable Democratic seats facing reelection are in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North and South Carolina and South Dakota. The four most vulnerable Republican seats are in Alaska, Colorado, Illinois and Oklahoma.

Starting with Bob Novak -- Bob, when the dust settles on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, or whenever it settles, what will the Senate line-up be?

NOVAK: I think it'll be a net gain of three Republicans, and that's a 54 to 46 majority, working out this way. I think the Democrats obviously take the Illinois seat. I think they probably take the Colorado and Alaska seats, although those are very close, and -- but I think the chickens have come home to roost for the Democrats in the South. I think they're going to lose all five of those Southern states, including Louisiana, which may not be settled until the run-off after the election. So that's -- you say, well, wait a minute. That's three and five. How do I get a net three? I say Tom Daschle goes down in South Dakota, so that's a net gain of three seats for the Republicans.

SHIELDS: Boy, oh, boy! Margaret.

CARLSON: I'm plus-one the GOP, and I think you might be right about South Dakota, but I gave it to Tom Daschle for...

NOVAK: Sentimental...

CARLSON: ... sentimental reasons, yes. And my other one that's not so...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I know. Real soft-hearted here -- is Kentucky. I think that Jim Bunning's erratic behavior may catch up with him, even though Republicans have done a good job of tamping him down.

SHIELDS: "Erratic" is a euphemism...

CARLSON: ... but I have that going...

SHIELDS: ... where Jim Bunning's concerned.

CARLSON: Yes, it is.

SHIELDS: Kate, what's going to happen?

O'BEIRNE: I think Republicans will be up four in the Senate...

SHIELDS: Oh!

O'BEIRNE: ... making the split 55-44. I think Republicans will lose Illinois. They'll lose Colorado or Alaska. I don't think they'll lose both. I agree with Bob. I think they'll sweep those open Democratic seats in the South, including Mel Martinez in Florida. And I think Tom Daschle finally loses in South Dakota. You know, there's a terrific John Thune ad up with Tom Daschle declaring himself on camera, I'm a D.C. resident, praising trial lawyers, celebrating abortion, celebrating Hillary Clinton. He's listed, as you know -- D.C. is his principal place of residence. And I think he's going to wind up back in his principal place of residence with no more pesky trips out to South Dakota.

SHIELDS: Hey, pesky? Goes to every county every year.

O'BEIRNE: Well, he won't have to anymore.

HUNT: It'll be a good day in Dixie for the Republicans, not quite as good as Bob and Kate -- Kate predict, however. I think they'll win three of those five seats down there. Tom Daschle will hang on. He has been the -- he is a South Dakotan, and he goes to every county every year in that state. They know he's a South Dakotan. It may take a day or two before we really have that finalized, though. And I think the Democrats are going to pick up four of the Republican-held seats elsewhere, including -- Margaret's right -- Kentucky. That'll be the big surprise. And as a result, 50- 50, repeat of 2001.

O'BEIRNE: There'll be Dick Cheney to break the tie.

HUNT: No, John Edwards breaks the tie.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... John Edwards in the race of course. I think it's 50-50, and I think -- I think Daschle does hang on, as close as Tim Johnson did in 2002. But I -- and I think that Barack Obama, obviously, wins. I think Kim Salazar wins in Colorado. And I think Governor Tony Knowles wins in Alaska. And I think what you then have Betty Castor, and I'm predicting that Erskine Bowles wins in North Carolina because the North Carolina Bush race with Kerry is closer than it should be, just as the race in Virginia is close. Remarkable development of this -- this election is I think the margin is going to be so much closer in so many states than it has been in the past.

HUNT: On both sides.

SHIELDS: On both sides.

CARLSON: Yes.

SHIELDS: I really do.

O'BEIRNE: You know what I...

NOVAK: What are the Southern states you think the Democrats are going to win? You say they're going to win two states.

HUNT: I agree with Mark, Florida and North Carolina.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: I do. I do. I do. Polls are...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Polls are tied with...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: He's surging.

HUNT: Polls are tied with a -- oh, no. The polls I've seen have them tied with a 13 percent undecided black vote. I know where that African-American vote's going. I think.

CARLSON: You know, what I want to see is the 10 percent in Illinois voting for Alan Keyes. Now, that's a base!

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: You know, it really is, and it says something about Alan Base...

HUNT: Alan Base!

SHIELDS: I mean Alan Keyes.

HUNT: Alan Base!

(LAUGHTER)

SHIELDS: You know, I just want to know -- I mean, I think party loyalty is a wonderful thing, Bob. Do you think they're pushing it beyond its limits in Illinois?

NOVAK: Well, I would vote for Alan Keyes. I think he's a fine man. I think he'd be an excellent senator and...

CARLSON: So we're looking at the base.

SHIELDS: `That's right!

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: You are the base!

HUNT: You're one of the most honest people I know. You don't think Alan Keyes is a fine man. He's a flake.

NOVAK: Yes, he is. I've known him since he was a college student, and he's a...

SHIELDS: What is he?

NOVAK: He shows a lot of bravery, and he's a conservative. I don't agree with him on everything. O'BEIRNE: Do you know what...

HUNT: That Florida vote...

O'BEIRNE: Do you know what's interesting...

HUNT: Go ahead, Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Tom Daschle never ran for reelection as the leading Democrat in the country. Last time he ran with Bill Clinton as president. So he didn't have the kind of high profile he does. But now South Dakotans have watched him block judges. He claims back home he's pro-life. Of course, he's totally...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Voted for the partial-birth abortion.

O'BEIRNE: ... with the -- with the -- with the -- no, he had a phony ban. I mean, he supports that phony ban...

CARLSON: No, he had a ban...

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: But in any event, he portrays himself back home...

CARLSON: A wider ban than that.

O'BEIRNE: ... as pro-life. He portrays himself, of course, as a native son, although he declares -- has declared he's a D.C. resident. I think it's all finally catching up with him.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... all third term abortions!

HUNT: John Thune is an empty suit. I mean, John Thune is...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: ... against Tim Johnson. He proved he's really an empty suit.

SHIELDS: Margaret, go ahead.

NOVAK: Because the Indians stole the election...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Senator Daschle...

HUNT: The Indians stole the election, Bob? Did you say that?

SHIELDS: Al...

HUNT: Did you say that?

SHIELDS: Point of clarification.

CARLSON: Senator Daschle introduced a bill that would have banned all third-term abortions, not a smaller ban on partial-birth abortion.

SHIELDS: Last word...

O'BEIRNE: Phony ban!

SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson.

Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, we'll look into our crystal ball to predict the balance of power in the next United States House of Representatives. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to Ohio, a battleground state that could well determine who will be president. And our "Outrages" of this campaign. That's all after these urgently important messages and the latest news headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. I'm Carol Lin. More of THE CAPITAL GANG in just a moment, but first a look at what's happening right now in the news. Uncertainty about the health of Yassar Arafat. A PLO representative says Arafat's condition is better, but sources close to the Palestinian leadership say he is unable to make important decisions or clearly communicate. Arafat is undergoing medical tests at a Paris hospital.

And authorities do no know if a decapitated body found in Baghdad today is that of a Japanese man killed this week or kidnapped rather this week. Iraqi police say the body appears to be a young Asian male, possibly of Japanese origin.

And about 6500 U.S. soldiers will be spending more time in Iraq. The Army extended their tours by two months, citing the need for experienced troops to be there for the Iraqi elections in January.

That's what happening right now in the news. I'm Carol Lin. Back to THE CAPITAL GANG.

SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG's pre-election special. On Tuesday night, the Democrats need to pick up 12 seats out of about 30 truly competitive races to gain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Bob Novak, what can we expect from the House side?

NOVAK: Well, outside of Texas, I think the Democrats will pick up a net gain of two seats, not nearly enough to get control. But I think they're going to lose six seats in Texas. I think it's going to be a wipe out.

SHIELDS: Six seats.

NOVAK: Six seats, thanks to Tom Delay's brilliant coup d'etat in Texas, so the Republicans owe him a lot. There will be a net gain of four seats by the Republicans. One thing that saddens me, it looks like Phil Crane, the senior Republican in the House of Representatives probably going to lose in Illinois in the carnage of the Republican party in Illinois. Phil Crane was a presidential candidate. He was one of the leaders of the conservative movement, with his (INAUDIBLE) when he was a college professor, the Democrats (INAUDIBLE) I hope I'm wrong, but it looks like he's going to go down.

SHIELDS: Do you really? Margaret.

CARLSON: I have the Dems plus one. I give all those Texas seats thanks to the evil genius Tom Delay, but one. I think Ted Edwards holds on. Some of the - Chris Shays, who's having his first challenge in a long time, makes it.

SHIELDS: In Connecticut.

CARLSON: In Connecticut, Rob Simmons does not. Stephanie Herseth going for her reelection, I think she hangs on. That's another close one. But the shame is that there are so few House races that are even contested, that incumbents have such an advantage and the districts have been drawn the way they are. It means that really democracy is not expressed through our elections of Congress.

SHIELDS: It is interesting that people for term limits favor drawing the districts that way, but that's surprising, go ahead, Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: I think the Republicans will pick up two seats in the House and I couldn't agree with Margaret more. It's such a shame that well over 90 percent of House seats aren't even competitive, because they've been so explicitly drawn to protect (INAUDIBLE) members. I think they wouldn't be picking up the two I have them picking up, the net two, if it weren't for the fact that Tom Delay reversed 140 years of gerrymandering in Texas where the situation had been Texas voters consistently vote 60 percent Republican for congressional representatives and the districts were exactly opposite that because the Democrats had so gerrymandered, so that injustice has finally been fixed. And it will mean Republicans will pick up those seats that belong to them.

SHIELDS: So gerrymandering by the Republicans is fine.

O'BEIRNE: Districts ought to represent how the voters are voting.

SHIELDS: Oh, go ahead.

HUNT: Well, I agree with Margaret and Kate about this bipartisan scam. It really is awful that they're so few competitive seats, but I think what Tom Delay did was a nefarious redistricting down there. Republicans think they'll pick up five seats down there. There will be five incumbents. I think they're going to be a little disappointed. I think at least two of those Democrats are going to hold on. I think elsewhere, that there will be four or five GOP incumbents, including Phil Crane, who are going to lose. Democrats will pick a couple, maybe three open seats that are now held by Republicans. Bottom line, Democrats will pick up five seats and that's still seven shy of control.

SHIELDS: I hate to say this, but I agree they're going to pick up five seats and that they missed their chance to actually - the Kerry campaign never did get the wind or the breeze or however you want to call it behind it to give the kind of lift that they need to overcome that redistricting. The reason behind that I think if one looks back on it is the president locked in about 48 percent, 47 percent and I think they're unshakeable. I think both sides are unshakable at this point. I think if this election is George Bush versus not George Bush and I think the country is that divided and that polarized.

HUNT: Mark, we agree on that. The one thing that might give wind and the one thing that might give them seven more seats, there is as I said earlier, I think there may be a huge turnout.

SHIELDS: A huge turnout and I would say, I think Texas is going to be a lot better (INAUDIBLE) doesn't upset him too much when the Democrats do overcome this illegal, unjust, unfair and despicable action.

NOVAK: I think it is really terrible that you're going to have a congressional delegation from Texas that reflects the state, instead of the back room Democrats

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Are you ready? Would you be willing to take the Iowa system to Texas, I mean to make the Iowa system where it's drawn absolutely fairly and whatever you say about

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Your people have been down there as scumbags, wait a minute.

SHIELDS: Hey, hey, hey, back off.

NOVAK: All right. All right.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Bob, it's the first time you have ever gone along with anything that was Iowan. I am so pleased that you...

NOVAK: They have been terrible down there in having a Democratic gerrymander and now that there's a payback, you're whining.

SHIELDS: Your people. Your people. Next on CAPITAL GANG, beyond the beltway looks at the all important battleground state of Ohio. Joe Hallett of the "Columbus Dispatch" joins us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Four years ago, THE CAPITAL GANG made our electoral college predictions, just three days before the 2000 election. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BEIRNE: I give 315 votes to Governor Bush and 223 to Al Gore.

SHIELDS: A big win.

O'BEIRNE: (INAUDIBLE) let's put it that way Mark. The country's broadly conservative.

HUNT: I think Nader's going to go down to 3 or 4 percent by next Tuesday. I'm also assuming that Al Gore's going to pull off the Trifecta. He's going to win Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan. That's tough, but it's doable.

SHIELDS: Al is low balling as usual. He's playing it very cautious, very conservative. It's Bush 241, close but no cigar 297 for Al Gore in a major upset.

NOVAK: I think it's Bush 308, Gore 230, but Al, you know, he only - Al, you were right about that Trifecta, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida, but Gore would have to win all three.

CARLSON: My numbers are Gore 274 and Bush 264 and I give Gore the Trifecta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, with the exception of the prescient visionary Margaret Carlson, how could the gang, usually so splendidly right, get it so profoundly wrong?

HUNT: Mark, modesty aside, I was right. I said Gore would win the Trifecta. He got more votes in Pennsylvania. He got more votes in Michigan and he got more votes in Florida. He just didn't get more votes in the Supreme Court. This year Mark, substitute Ohio for Florida and look for another...

NOVAK: It really pains me to hear you putting out that Democratic propaganda that I've been hearing for four years. You know it's not true. You know all the newspaper accounts indicate that Bush won Florida. But to be serious, we're all professionals and we work very hard. I think we try to give honest projections, but we're so biased in our own ideological outcomes that it affects our predictions even you.

SHIELDS: I guess that makes Margaret the least biased.

CARLSON: Unbiased, yes.

SHIELDS: OK, Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Excuse me, I don't want to gloat, but I picked George Bush to win the election and I picked George Bush to win Florida and that makes more right than anybody else.

HUNT: One out of two. SHIELDS: 315 electoral votes.

O'BEIRNE: That was margin in Florida.

SHIELDS: Oh, I see.

NOVAK: I think I picked Florida and Bush too.

O'BEIRNE: There you go.

SHIELDS: And did Bush carry Florida?

NOVAK: Yes, he did.

SHIELDS: (INAUDIBLE) next on CAPITAL GANG, beyond the beltway looks at the all-important battleground state of Ohio Joe Hallett of the "Columbus Dispatch." He joins us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. Both presidential candidates have repeatedly made their case for Ohio's all-important 20 electoral votes. It is truly a state that could swing this election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no doubt in my mind, with your help, we will carry Ohio again and win a great victory on Tuesday. I fully understand there are still people hurting in the great state of Ohio, but we're heading in the right direction.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the first day that I arrive in Ohio from Wisconsin, right after I won the primary there, I was handed a buckeye for good luck and that buckeye has been with me every single day since.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: The new Ohio poll taken by Mason Dixon for the "Cleveland Plain Dealer," gives President Bush a 3-point lead over Senator Kerry. Joining us now from Columbus, Ohio is Joe Hallett. Joe Hallett's the senior editor of the "Columbus Dispatch." Thank you for coming in Joe.

JOE HALLETT, "COLUMBUS DISPATCH": I'm happy to be here.

SHIELDS: Joe, irrespective of the polls or whatever else, give us your sense, heading into this last 72 hours, which candidate, John Kerry, George Bush, has the momentum in Ohio?

HALLETT: It's really so hard to tell. The race here is dead even and so is the momentum. There's tremendous energy behind both of these candidates. I think we saw that this week here in Columbus. On Thursday night, Kerry with an assist from Bruce Springsteen, got more than 30,000 Ohioans. The next night, Arnold Schwarzenegger helped Bush bring 20,000 to nationwide arena. So I was talking to Doug Chrysler Republican chairman here in Frankfurt Count the other day and as we were talking by phone, 20 women from Texas just showed up in his office and said, we're here to help. We're seeing thousands of people volunteers for both sides, come into this state and this electorate is electrified.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Joe, is the jobs issue something that has taken a state where the Republicans have been very successful in recent years and made a toss up or is it the war? What has taken what was a very red state and made it kind of purple?

HALLETT: Well, I think it is the economy that's made it purple. George Bush won this state by 3.6 percent in 2000 when the economy was good, but as you've heard, we've lost 230,000 jobs, 167,000 manufacturing jobs. There's great angst in this state about economic stability and so I think people are really nervous about their future. On the other hand, the Bush campaign has very adroitly turned this election on security and when you go on and talk to folks and ask them about the issue that are mainly concerned to them, they still talk about terrorism and the war in Iraq first and the economy second.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Joe, Bush's plan for Iraq is to get everyone to the polls, but Bush's plan for Ohio is to challenge many of the newly registered voters in Ohio. How are the courts and the challenges working out so far?

HALLETT: Well, the Republicans I think were surprised by the extent of the Democratic (INAUDIBLE) There are upwards of a million new registered voters here. Secretary Blackwell, Secretary of State Blackwell has predicted that 5.8 million Ohioans will turn out on Election Day. That's a million more than in 2000. Most of these voters were registered in the Democratic areas, a third of them in Cuyahoga and Franklin Counties alone, so the Republicans I think got surprised and are thinking, gee, maybe we better preempt as many of these voters as possible and so they've gone to court to do so. I think that most of those challenges have been resolved so far. There will be more at the polls on Election Day and I see a race that could be so tight that it will go into overtime rather than Election Day, we might have the answer in two weeks.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Joe, it seems that Washington has emptied out with candidates and their surrogates in Cleveland and Columbus. You have our traffic jams now instead of here, but how important is rural Ohio and what's been going on in the back roads of Ohio?

HALLETT: Well, that's a good question because when you look at the 2000 results, you would look at where Al Gore performed well and he did everything necessary that a Democrat has to do in big six urban counties of Ohio which accounted for about 46 percent of the vote. He won those counties by 10 points, but Bush more than made up that difference in the rural counties. He won 72 of 88 Ohio counties and he over performed in the rural counties. His father won 57 of those counties, so Bush did very well in those rural, conservative counties and I think he'll do well again in those counties again because on the ballot in Ohio is a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and that will bring out a lot of Bush's base. On the other hand, as I just mentioned, most of the new voters are registered in the urban areas and a big turnout will help Kerry here.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Joe, do you think that Ken Blackwell is right, they'll be a phenomenal surge in turnout, the 5.8 million and if so, which side has the better ground game?

HALLETT: Well, the Democrats are very confident in their ground game. Organizations like ACT have a large number of people in this state to help them out. Even the Republicans say they need to go into Ohio 3 points up in the polls to counter the Democratic ground game. I talked to Jim (INAUDIBLE) who is chairman of Kerry's campaign here. He's predicting a 4 point victory in Ohio for Kerry based on the superior ground game by the Democrats. However, the Republicans are employing almost as we speak, Karl Rove, 72 hour plan, they have more volunteers than I've ever seen in this state. Both campaigns are going to have people at the polls to help maximize the vote. If people go to the wrong polling places, they'll actually drive them to their correct places, so I think the ground game advantage favors the Democrats at this time and Bush needs to go up ahead in the polls I think to make up for that effort.

SHIELDS: OK, Joe, during the past four years of the Bush/Cheney leadership, the country's produced more gay weddings than it has manufacturing jobs. So we have this amendment on the Ohio ballot to outlaw gay marriage, yet, you've got Mike DeWine, Republicans (INAUDIBLE) George Voinovich, Republican Senator Bob Taft, Republican Governor Jim Petro, all coming out against it in addition to a number of leading Republican business people. What affect I mean - is this going to in any way cause consternation in the Republican ranks?

HALLETT: No, I don't think it will. I think that the amendment will probably pass pretty handily. It's the most restrictive amendment, such amendment in the United States about, prohibits gay marriage, but also partnership benefits and the organizations, corporations like the Limited here and the Ohio State University, say that will help, that will hurt them in trying to recruit good employees, so I think that the people who have taken a hard look at this amendment realize that it will not be good for Ohio, but again, in those rural conservative areas, where there are lots of Christian conservatives, I think that they will push the amendment to passage pretty handily.

SHIELDS: Joe Hallett, thank you so very much for being with us. The CAPITAL GANG will be back with our outrages of the campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: And now for the outrages of the campaign. Kentucky Republican U.S. Senator Jim Bunning boasts that he does not read newspapers and gets his news exclusively from Fox. Now that might be funny, except after 18 years in Congress, Jim Bunning, locked in a tight race with underdog Democratic challenger, Dr. Daniel Mongiardo has resorted to character assassination of his opponent. Looking on approvingly, while GOP henchmen accused the Democrat of being limp wristed and a switch hitter, which of course is nothing but shorthand for male homosexual. With courage and dignity, Daniel Mongiardo confronted the charges. Kentucky Republicans apparently have no shame, no pride. Bob Novak.

NOVAK: John Kerry keeps attacking George W. Bush for outsourcing to Afghan warlords the hunt for Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora. Never mind that the whole successful Afghan campaign was outsourced. Never mind that a frontal American assault at - would have been bloody. Just listen to Senator Kerry on LARRY KING LIVE two weeks after, after Tora Bora.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think our guys are doing a superb job. I think we've been smart. I think the administration leadership has done it well and we're on the right track.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Right the first time Senator.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: The media should be ashamed for airing scurrilous charges claiming Lt. John Kerry did not earn his silver and bronze stars. John O'Neill and his Vietnam vets never came close to showing the Navy was wrong in its awards, nor did they have eyewitnesses to contradict the account of Jim Rasmussen, a Republican, saved from drowning when Kerry turned his boat around and headed directly into enemy fire. O'Neill's been stalking Kerry since the Nixon White House. He's entitled to his envy and to his anger, but not to his facts and not to unlimited air time.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: This election season, a foul should be called on the (INAUDIBLE) to an unprecedented degree, the establishment media has taken sides in the presidential race. Campaign coverage has been transparently hostile to President Bush. Bogus news is hyped and facts nitpicked in the hope of damaging the president, while John Kerry's record, distortions and wild charges are largely ignored. This year, the media voted early and its claims of impartiality are an obvious fraud.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: The Republicans are horrified, horrified, at what they call Democrats fear peddling. OK, let's take a look at Vice President Cheney on September 7.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today on November 2 we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: The message, vote for Kerry and the terrorists are going to attack you. If three years after 9/11, Osama is still on the lamb and al Qaeda recruiting soaring, the only strategy you have is fear itself.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Coming up next, CNN presents fight over faith. At 9:00 p.m. Eastern, a LARRY KING LIVE encore, the candidates and their wives and at 10:00 p.m., an interview with Peter Bergen on the latest Osama tape. Thank you for joining us.

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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