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CNN Presents: America Votes 2004

Aired October 31, 2004 - 20:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a special edition of CNN PRESENTS. America Votes 2004.
A frenzied campaign roars toward the finish line. Over the next hour, we'll hear the final arguments, check out the final polls and get the latest on both sides plan to find every last vote in the battlegrounds.

Also ahead, the Florida fiasco of four years ago. Could it happen again?


ION SANCHO, LEON COUNTY, FLORIDA, ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR: We could be up to our eyeballs in alligators in Florida again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And later, he's a homeowner, a churchgoer ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... an active member of his community. But he's not going to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had somebody tell me, well, it's your civic responsibility to vote. And I don't agree with that concept.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why does America rank so low when it comes to voter turnout?

And finally, the politics of pop music. Are they a good match?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The audience, I think, didn't even know Kerry's first name. They just wanted to vote for Springsteen. They're going to be very confused when they walk in the ballot on November 2nd, all excited to vote. Like, where is Mr. Springsteen?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All ahead on this special edition of CNN PRESENTS: America Votes 2004.

Now, here's Aaron Brown in New York.

AARON BROWN, HOST, CNN PRESENTS: Good evening, again.

What has become a virtual, perpetual campaign for the White House is now a day away from ending. We know no one will be sad to see it come to a close.

This final weekend is framed, as perhaps it should be, by the issues that most certainly will decide the first post-9/11 presidential election. The re-emergence of Osama bin Laden in a taunting tape on Friday, and an extremely bloody weekend in Iraq that has left at least nine U.S. Marines dead.

Those two issues - terror and Iraq - surely will be the issues that drive the results come Tuesday.

Tonight, there are late polls to report, a look at potentially serious voter problems that may be lurking, a piece on advertising in what has now become the most negative campaign in the modern era, and a few conversations about why it all looks the way it does.

Said one writer this week, it has been like a slow, civil war for the soul of the country - with the exception of the civil part. We would agree.

So, we'll start with the campaign trail. John King with the president in Cincinnati, Ohio. Candy Crowley with John Kerry in Tampa, Florida.

John, you begin.

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CINCINNATI, OHIO: Aaron, on this Sunday night four years ago, the Bush team was predicting a narrow win in the popular vote and a landslide in the electoral college.

Of course, it didn't turn out that way. They're a lot more cautious four years later, but still predicting victory.


KING: Fighting for Florida on the final Sunday. The stage familiar, the plot line dramatically different for the sequel.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do you believe America should fight the war on terror with all our might, and lead with unwavering confidence in our ideals? I ask you. Come stand with me.

KING: Four years later, again a dead heat. Cuban-Americans among those Mr. Bush hopes help him win Florida's 27 electoral votes and re-election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Viva Bush! Viva Bush!

KING: Mr. Bush is the incumbent this time around. And the rules of politics say, that means the race is about him, his tax cuts, and whether you think they just help the rich, as the Democrats say, or help the economy and everyone's bottom line.

BUSH: ... is real after-tax income. The money in your pocket, the money you have available for spending is up by about 10 percent since I took office.

KING: His response to September 11, and perhaps most of all, his decision to go to war in Iraq.

BUSH: Iraq is still dangerous. It's a dangerous place, because that country is headed toward free society.

KING: A referendum on him unless he can make it more about the other guy.

BUSH: I look at an issue and take a principled stand. My opponent looks at an issue and tries to take every side.

If you are a Democrat who believes your party has turned too far to the left this year, I ask you to come stand with me.

KING: The Protestant president began his day at Catholic mass, where the monsignor praised his positions on abortion and stem cell research.

Catholics are high on the list of target voting blocks. The Air Force One flight plan reveals the target states in the closing push.

Florida and Ohio Sunday. Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Mexico Monday. Capped by a homecoming rally in Texas.

The Bush team claims momentum, the bounce in top adviser Karl Rove's step meant to suggest confidence.


KING: Now, confidence, but still so many danger signs for the president. Consider just this one.

Even in many states where he's running ahead, he polled below 50 percent. And history says, those who decide late tend to break in large numbers against the incumbent.

In the first presidential election since 9/11, Aaron, the president is hoping things are different, and that those who decide late, decide it's safer to stay the course - Aaron.

BROWN: John, thank you. Stand by. We've got some questions for you.

But first, let's turn to Candy Crowley for the Kerry side of this Sunday. What sort of day has it been?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TAMPA, FLORIDA: Aaron, you know, not much new is being said out there on the stump. But this is that time in the election cycle where the pulse feels very different, because 48 hours from now, we will begin to know the unknowable.


CROWLEY: Time left is measured now in hours instead of days. And John Kerry marks the time with campaign lasts.

The last Sunday, and the fifth in a row at an African-American church.

JOHN F. KERRY, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. 'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will bring me home.

CROWLEY: The last trip to the first primary state of New Hampshire, and maybe the last photo op, a la Camelot, this one on the road between two church services in Ohio.

The campaign's biggest fears and fondest hopes are held within the itinerary.

In the past week, Kerry has touched down in the 2000 Bush states of Ohio, three times, Florida and New Hampshire, both twice, Nevada.

Fears are mapped out in the Gore states. Wisconsin and Iowa three times. Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Minnesota, Michigan.

Advisers say Kerry is concentrating on getting into the local news in specific areas with pockets of undecideds, not that they want to make news.

KERRY: On Tuesday, this election's in your hands. It's the most beautiful, it's the most powerful thing that's happens on the face of this planet.

CROWLEY: With polls so close and time too short to correct mistakes, Kerry sticks to the script. Surprises are unwelcome.

KERRY: I think it's unfortunate that anybody puts Osama bin Laden into political context in the United States' election.

CROWLEY: Kerry's campaign says their polls show the impact of the bin Laden video favors Kerry.

These last hours are the most cautious time of all in this cautious campaign. It is, after all, the last chance to seal the deal.

KERRY: I pledge to you - I know what we need to do in Iraq, and I know what we need to do to make the world safe.


CROWLEY: Tomorrow, look for more of those lines as the candidate starts out here in Florida and moves quickly north. Wisconsin, Michigan and, of course - not last and always first - Ohio - Aaron.

BROWN: Candy, John, have you both - one question each. Candy, I'll start with you.

The Kerry side in the poll of polls, averaging out all of the polls, really hasn't led this thing since August.

Do they sense at all that they are closing quickly?

CROWLEY: They do. On the other hand, they've sort of been saying that for a while. I mean, it's interesting how, on the campaign plane or when you talk to people on the phone, what they are telling you is the same as they've been telling you for the last couple of weeks.

But they say that their internals show, in particular, the bin Laden video tape as well as the ammunition missing in Iraq, that both of those issues have played to them. They believe that they are closing quickly.

Beyond that, they think their ace in the hole is turnout, Aaron.

BROWN: Candy, thank you.

And on the subject of turnout, John, it is one of the great unknowables, I suppose, of all of this. It's why we'll all watch on Tuesday night.

What is the Bush campaign's view of all these new registered voters? Do they make them nervous?

KING: They do make them nervous. They do not believe many of the lower income registered voters will turn out on election day.

Look, this is a test of competing philosophies. The Democrats went out, and Democratic affiliated groups went out and registered a whole bunch of brand-new voters.

The Republicans did some of that. But most of their activities were directed to turning out people who didn't show up last time, including evangelicals who simply, for whatever reason, did not vote four years ago.

Karl Rove, the president's top adviser, was most stung by that. He thought they were going to win big four years ago. He has spent four years working on it. Tuesday night, we find out whose philosophy about turnout is right - Aaron.

BROWN: John, Candy, two days to go.

We'll talk on - we'll talk tomorrow night. Thank you, both.

There's new polling out tonight, out just a few moments ago. This is the final CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll until the real thing - that would be Tuesday's.

It also contains a bonus, if you will. Gallup's projection - their best estimate - of how the real thing will turn out. They get there by distributing the undecided voters in the way they believe those voters will break in the end.

In this case, Gallup believes they will strongly break for Kerry, and the net result of that is a tie.

Not a statistical, within-the-margin sort of tie, but a plain, old-fashioned, easy-to-understand, 49-49 tie.

And as we mentioned a moment ago, in our poll of national polls, which averages out the larger number of surveys out there - and they all vary a bit - there has been some tightening, as well, the president now holding a two-point advantage.

As always, all of the usual footnotes apply, more so this time for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the pollsters do make a subjective, albeit studied, judgment about who is likely to vote.

But the election will not be decided by the national vote, no matter how intriguing that always is. It'll be decided by 50 individual state votes.

And within those 50 states, there are fewer than a dozen believed to be in play tonight, and perhaps half that many that will be critical to watch come Tuesday.

Bill Schneider joins us now with the latest on those states. Mr. Schneider, good evening.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know what that national poll says is. Pay no attention to the national poll. It's all going to be decided state by state.

And here at CNN, our research team is continually updating the electoral vote based on polls and local political informants. We have informants.

Our estimate right now is that George Bush has 227 likely electoral votes. Kerry has 190. Both short of the 270 needed to win.

We have nine toss-up states - those states in yellow - and new CNN/USA Today/Gallup polls in six of them.

In Florida, our new poll shows Kerry 49, Bush 46. That is within the margin of error. Other polls released this week also show Kerry ahead in Florida by single-digit margins.

In Pennsylvania, our new poll has Bush with 50, Kerry with 46, also within the margin of error. But among all registered voters in our poll, Kerry has - Kerry has - a two-point lead, as he does in many other Pennsylvania polls released this week.

In Ohio, our new poll shows Kerry ahead, 50 to 46 - the reverse of Pennsylvania - still within the margin of error.

Minnesota, we show Kerry at 52, Bush at 44. That - finally a poll that is outside the margin of error, and in line with other recent Minnesota polls.

Wisconsin, we show Bush at 52 - Bush at 52 - Kerry at 44, the reverse of Minnesota, also outside the margin of error.

And finally in Iowa, Bush 48, Kerry 46. Not a significant lead. That, too, is in line with other polls.

If you give Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa to Bush, and if you give Florida, Minnesota and Ohio to Kerry, Bush ends up with 265, Kerry with 247. Both just short of 270.

How about that?

BROWN: Well, then what'll we do? My goodness sakes. Thank you. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens Tuesday.


BROWN: And these polls are all over the place right now, actually. So it's - state by state - so it's all - we'll just see what happens Tuesday.


BROWN: Thanks. Turnout. We'll get to that.

Coming up later in the hour, the ground war in Ohio on the subject of turnout. The ground war in Florida, as well. Coming up next, the gremlins.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just have this terrible feeling that it's going to be worse this year.


BROWN: CNN's Susan Candiotti on what could go wrong, and what already has.



BROWN: For all the talk that Ohio will be the new Florida this time around, consider another possibility. That Florida will be the new Florida.

Nearly 2 million people have voted early in Florida, in part, they say, to avoid another fiasco. State officials and others, too, believe that many of the problems of the 2000 campaign Florida have been resolved.

The question is, has something better, or something more troublesome, taken their place?

Reporting from Florida, here's CNN's Susan Candiotti.


A razor-thin margin.


CANDIOTTI: The hanging chad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ho, ho! Hey, hey! How many votes did you steal today?

CANDIOTTI: A nation divided.

BUSH: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear ...

CANDIOTTI: The presidency decided by the Supreme Court.

It could never happen again, could it?

Welcome to Florida, one more time.

A state reeling from tropical and political storms. Hurricane damage. Computer meltdowns. Lawsuit after lawsuit.

ION SANCHO, LEON COUNTY, FLORIDA, ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR: Well, as an election official in Florida, I feel I live in Alice-in- wonderland's world, where up is down and down is up.

CANDIOTTI: This time, half of Florida will vote by touch-screen machines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. I'll vote for Abe Lincoln.

CANDIOTTI: This is the latest in technology, voting by electron. No more punch cards, no more chad. No more confusion?

Yet in Palm Beach County - where else? - when the machines were tested, a faulty computer would not count the votes. A hurricane knocked out power and caused overheating in storage, officials said.

GLENDA HOOD, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: It was just, you know, kind of a glitch that occurred, because there was only one server being used.

CANDIOTTI: Most of Florida's larger cities will use the touch- screen. Here in Fort Lauderdale, each black box holds a voting machine, 6,000 in all.

But in a pre-election checkup, 300 of these machines flunked the test.

This one says, "bad vote button." This one won't calibrate, and this one says, "won't load the ballot."

Officials said, problems would be weeded out. Not quite. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is hurry up and wait.

CANDIOTTI: When advance voting began two weeks ago in Fort Lauderdale, a computer link used to verify voter registration would not work. People were left waiting in line or turned away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's easier to get a flu shot than to vote.

CANDIOTTI: In one Palm Beach County precinct, early voters had to wait for hours when a worker flipped the wrong switch and disabled the machines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just have this terrible feeling that it's going to be worse this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be the joke of the century.

CANDIOTTI: All of this has fueled doubts about the electronic machines, which have no paper backup copies to double check the results.

CARA FINEMAN, LAWYER'S COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS: There's not going to be a recount with a voting machine that doesn't have a paper trail.

CANDIOTTI: Florida's secretary of state says the machines have been used in three statewide elections since 2002, without any problems.

HOOD: Every vote has counted. The equipment has worked.

CANDIOTTI: How would they know, this man asks, without any paper record?

MICHAEL WERTHEIMER, RABA TECHNOLOGIES, COLUMBIA, MARYLAND: It's almost as if it's the perfect crime.

CANDIOTTI: Maryland hired former national security spook, Michael Wertheimer, to break into its machines.

His team discovered they could rig an election just by dialing into the data line.

WERTHEIMER: All we needed was the phone number.

CANDIOTTI: Not only that, he found the same key could unlock each voting machine in the state.

WERTHEIMER: So, a guy picked that lock in 10 seconds, hooked up a keyboard and completely changed all the election results for that machine.

CANDIOTTI: Maryland taped over all its locks, he said.

WERTHEIMER: If a group like us can pick a lock in 10 seconds, heaven help us all. CANDIOTTI: Even before the election, Florida has been sued at least seven times, over the machines, registration cards, voting locations.

FINEMAN: We're expecting a lot of problems.

CANDIOTTI: Most of the counties which did not buy touch-screen machines use a lotto-style, paper ballot. But not Orlando, which favors something called the broken arrow ballot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the way you vote your ballot is connecting the tail to the head of the arrow.

CANDIOTTI: Confusing? Sometimes.

We asked a few first-time, Hispanic voters - a swing block in the Orlando area - to show us how they'd mark the ballot.

This man got it right, others did not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's not that easy.

CANDIOTTI: She put an X next to a candidate's name. Wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess, circle it?

CANDIOTTI: Another woman circled the political party. Also wrong.

At the polls, ballots like this are kicked back out by the scanning equipment. And you do get a second chance to get it right.

But not the absentee voters. Then, election officials have to try to figure out your intent.

Not easy on this sample ballot, where a first-time voter put an X beside both Cheney and Kerry.

Guess which county chose the broken arrow for its absentee paper ballot? That's right. Palm Beach, again.

No matter who does win this year, Florida's desperate hope, not to face a recount in 2004.

And if it is close?

SANCHO: Then Katy bar the door. We could be up to our eyeballs in alligators in Florida again.


BROWN: Well, Florida is one potential problem. But not to pick on Florida, it is not the only one.

When CNN PRESENTS continues, the state of Ohio.

We'll take a break first.


BROWN: Well, perhaps it's fitting that our correspondent from Florida is also covering a potential mess in the state of Ohio. And the two states have more in common than just places called Miami.

And in truth, calling either state a potential mess doesn't quite cut it. In some respects, a mess, they already are.

In the case of Ohio, over many things, including who can vote and where and according to which court.

So, again, reporting for us, Susan Candiotti.


CANDIOTTI: In Ohio in the fall, football is not the only game played nose-to-nose.

Oh, so close. Anything goes.

Here in Ohio, George Bush and John Kerry seem only inches apart in the polls. This is the state that could decide the presidency sometime in the wee hours of election night - or later.

SCOTT BRITTON, OHIO LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS: I think everybody knew that Ohio was going to be a battleground state. What we want to prevent is Ohio being the next Florida.

CANDIOTTI: Not easy. Remember the punch card? Gone from Florida, but not here.

Two-thirds of Ohio still votes this way.

JEROME FERGUSON, OHIO VOTER: I think Ohio has a little ways to go to get it right.

CANDIOTTI: Jerome Ferguson's paralyzed father-in-law was mailed a punch card so he could vote by absentee ballot. But Ferguson said they forgot to send along the separate list of candidate's names.

FERGUSON: We can do better than this. This country could do better than this punch card.

CANDIOTTI: Four years ago, the punch card made chad a household work, hanging or pregnant. It left Florida, and a nation, hanging in the suspense of a recount fight for more than a month.

Can Ohio avoid those hang-ups, when a punch card is not punched all the way through?

ED GIBSON, OHIO VOTER: I was concerned until I actually saw the card and saw that it does, in fact, work. Or at least mine did.

CANDIOTTI: The wildcard this year in every state? The provisional ballot.

What's that, you ask?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A provisional ballot? I have no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody voting in your stead if you're not there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. I have not a clue.


This is a stack of actual provisional ballots. They're meant to help cope with the many thousands of new voter registrations.

When you get to the polls, if they cannot find your name, then you can use a provisional ballot, to be sent back to election headquarters and counted later, if, indeed, you are registered correctly.

The lightning rod in Ohio's political storm, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell - a Republican and honorary chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign.

KENNETH BLACKWELL, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: Look. It's very clear to me, that if my critics were told, you know, that I walked on water, they would say, well, he can't swim.

CANDIOTTI: Blackwell wants to restrict where Ohio voters can cast provisional ballots, mainly in their home precincts.

BRITTON: I think that there is an elevated sense of anxiety among voters, that when they go to the polls, even if they can cast a ballot, that that ballot might not count.

CANDIOTTI: A federal court told Blackwell the restrictions were unfair. He appealed and won, for now.

BLACKWELL: Oh, I'm going to fight this till the last dog dies.

CANDIOTTI: Similar fights over provisional voting have been waged in other states. More lawsuits may be coming.

Unlike football, there's no time limit in an election free-for- all. Not when both sides are crying foul.

BLACKWELL: I have no idea what the result's going to be. If it's within the margin of litigation, there's nobody on the face of the earth that could stop the flurry of lawsuits that would take place.

CANDIOTTI: My, oh, my. Poor Ohio.


BROWN: That was CNN's Susan Candiotti. In a moment, Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst. We'll have a small political roundtable.

Also, the final campaign ads and one last fact check.

A break first. And perhaps, some ads of our own, as well.



BROWN: Well that's the last poll we'll take before election night and you saw what it shows. A dead heat. Before we start to cry negativity in politics, we ought to point out there is a long tradition of it in the country. John Quincy Adams was called a "pimp" by the 527s of his day, Grover Cleveland a philanderer. In 1972 the Democrats ran an ad that simply showed the words "Spiro Agnew" accompanied by the sound of a guy laughing his head off. And why? Because for the most part, despite our hand-wringing, it does work.

So is it any different this time? Perhaps, but only by degree. Here's CNN's Howard Kurtz.


HOWARD KURTZ, RELIABLE SOURCES (voice-over): In the world according to President Bush, there are lots of dangerous wolves out there who would meet John Kerry alive.

ANNOUNCER: Weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm.

KURTZ: In the world according to the Democrats, the president is a short-sighted ostrich and Kerry an eagle.

ANNOUNCER: An eagle soars high above the earth. The ostrich buries its head in the sand.

KURTZ: The two sides have been clawing at each other for months in the most expensive and negative airwaves battle in presidential campaign history. Both candidates have also stretched their facts.

ANNOUNCER: He voted for education reform and now opposes it.

KURTZ: And worse, trying to paint the other guy as unfit.

ANNOUNCER: Terrorism. A nuisance. How can Kerry protect us when he doesn't understand the threat?

KURTZ: But the Massachusetts senator never said that terrorism is a nuisance now, only that his goal is to reduce it to a nuisance level. Kerry fired back in a response ad.

KERRY: I will never cede America's security to any institution or to any other country. KURTZ: While Bush has been rolling out the "Who do you trust?" theme that every incumbent uses against a challenger, Kerry prefers to focus on the violence in Iraq. Such as this spot following a "New York Times" report.

KERRY: In Iraq, George Bush has overextended our troops and now failed to secure 380 tons of deadly explosives.

KURTZ: Kerry blames Bush for everything that's gone wrong in Iraq without mentioning that he voted to support the war.

ANNOUNCER: The mess in Iraq created by George Bush. Over 1,000 U.S. soldiers killed. Kidnappings. Americans held hostage. Bush sees nothing wrong.

KURTZ: That's an exaggeration. Bush has acknowledged the mounting casualties in Iraq even while offering an optimistic outlook. On the domestic front the president's artillery involves the "l" word.

ANNOUNCER: John Kerry and liberal allies, higher taxes, voting to tax social security benefits, government run healthcare.

KURTZ: That last point is wrong. Kerry's current costly healthcare plan builds on the current system of private insurance. Kerry has a different diagnosis.

ANNOUNCER: It's Bush that let insurance companies overrule your doctor. Costs have skyrocketed.

KURTZ: But Bush only lets insurance firms make coverage decisions the way every modern president has. It's how the medical system works.

(on camera) An advertising war is like an arms race. Each side keeps escalating and the other has no choice but to keep up. In a perfect world, candidates would spend more time telling us about their hopes and plans for the future. But negative ads work, which is why politicians can't resist them. Howard Kurtz, CNN, Washington.


BROWN: And we are joined now by our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield. Jeff, let's do a number of things quickly. Do you think the ads either specifically or cumulatively made a difference or the decisive difference.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN ANALYST: No, the only ad that I think really had an impact I think was the swift boat ad, and that's because of the secondary explosions all over cable news and the Web. Somebody once says half of all advertising dollars are wasted, you just don't know which half. But this is a case where I think the free media and the campaign itself are far - and the events - were far more significant than any ad.

BROWN: And just quickly, on the swift boat ads, it's the first swift boat ad that questioned his heroism, not the subsequent ads. GREENFIELD: No, not the ads that questioned what he did after he came back, although I think those probably had an impact as well, but yeah, it was the first one that had a huge ripple effect.

BROWN: OK. One of the storylines of the campaign has been these hundreds of thousands, perhaps more, of new registered voters. In the end, will they vote, will it make a difference?

GREENFIELD: I have a feeling they are going to vote because the campaigns and the interest groups are spending something on the order of $300 million on voter mobilization and the Democrats learned four years ago under the aegis of one Michael Hooley, one of the unknown or anonymous geniuses of getting out the vote. That's what happened to Karl Rove. He thought he was going to win by a few points and the ground game overwhelmed him. If these new registered voters turn out as John King said, they are more likely Democrats. Where the Republicans are hunting are registered voters who didn't vote last time.

BROWN: Last question. Has this race become, as second term races are supposed to be, a referendum on the president?

GREENFIELD: It clearly has that. Even more than most. People voting for Bush are voting for Bush. People voting against Bush are not voting for Kerry nearly as much. But what we don't know is whether the traditional rule - late deciders break against the president - in a post 9/11 world when the whole message of the Bush campaign is you can't afford to make the change that some of you might want in these circumstances? This is why we are going on Tuesday on a "darkling plain where ignorant armies clash by night." That would be us.

BROWN: Yes it would be. Often. Thank you.

GREENFIELD: Well the campaign has had no poetry. I thought I'd throw some in.

BROWN: Thank you. I will see you tomorrow. You'll be with us the whole program tomorrow. Thank you.

The weeks this campaign has been thought it seems like a handful of states. In many cases it is true. We've mentioned two already and do so again. Florida and Ohio. Mark Naymik is the lead political reporter for the "Cleveland Plain Dealer," a terrific newspaper.

Tom Fiedler, executive editor of the "Miami Herald" and we are glad to see you both. Mark, let me start with you. Any sense that the race has broken one way or another in Ohio?

MARK NAYMIK, "CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER": Absolutely not. Both campaigns are very confident that their ground game is in place and doing what it is supposed to do. I was out with both campaigns yesterday and it is very intense, and I do believe that the new voters that have been registered are being bothered and pestered throughout the days leading up to the election that there are going to be new voters out there. BROWN: I'll come back to that point. Tom, in Florida, any sense that the thing has started to tip one way or another or your state?

TOM FIEDLER, "MIAMI HERALD": Yeah, I think it would be awfully risky to predict either way and the fact that until a few hours ago President Bush was here and then Senator Kerry is back in the state just as he seems to be. They seem to be rounding the bases, Ohio, Florida, maybe one other place in the last few days. And that's clearly an indication that both candidates feel that these states are critical and both candidates feel that these states are certainly in play. I don't see anything that would indicate that there is anything that anyone could count on moving in either direction.

BROWN: Tom, quickly, on Tuesday night, what county or counties will you watch as a predictor for how the state's going to go.

FIEDLER: I think always the counties across the midsection of Florida from Tampa Bay across through Orlando into Daytona Beach. That's what we call the I-4 corridor where Interstate 4 runs. That's the tipping point of the state. If the counties in that corridor our tipping to Kerry, almost certainly it will be his - as they did for Gore in 2000. If President Bush can hold on to those counties, maybe win back Orange County where Orlando is - Gore carried that in 2000, then I think President Bush will have it. So I am going to watch that Central Florida area.

BROWN: Mark, do you have - Ohio for the last week has been a lot in the nose over the Republican challenges to more than 30,000 voters in the state. Do you have any sense that either A: it will dissuade people from voting or B: that there might be a backlash and will only encourage people who are little ticked off, frankly, by it all, to come out and vote?

NAYMIK: It's a good question and I have some specific examples of how it's already being used to rally Democrats. Yesterday Howard Dean came into town to talk to a liberal group, PAC and their organizers and in the speeches throughout that rally were about that people are trying to take your right to vote. It wasn't even about the candidates. We had a fairly quiet NAACP president in Cleveland until those challenges were filed. Both sides are trying to say they are only trying to protect the right, but it is being used to move Democrats, and quite frankly, some of the minority communities in Cleveland were not all that hot on Kerry, but when you talk about the issues of disenfranchisement, they are very strong for Kerry at the moment.

BROWN: Guys, you've got about a minute left. Tom, there has been - a couple weeks now of early voting down in Florida. Does the early voting tell us anything other than there has been a lot of it?

FIEDLER: Well, I think we're looking at about 1.8 million people who have already cast their ballots. That could well be a 20-25 percent of the total, and from every indication it seems to indicate that this is something like the groups America is Coming Together which is a pro-Democratic group, that they can claim some success in. A significant percentage of these early voters tend to be lower income, tend to be African Americans, newly registered Hispanics, and to the extent that the conventional wisdom holds that the bigger the turnout the more likelihood of a Democratic victory, I think we may be seeing some of that.

On the other hand, Republicans are very good at getting out the vote on Election Day and getting absentee ballots in. So it ain't over 'til it's over, as Yogi would say.

BROWN: And my only question is, when is it over? Gentlemen thank you both.

NAYMIK: Thank you.

BROWN: I suspect we will be talking in the days ahead. Thank you. Good to see you both.

Still to come on the program tonight, tuning out the vote or turning out the vote. We'll see which one it is. Why millions of eligible voters will not stand in line on Tuesday, will not cast absentee ballots, will not vote in American election. A break first. This is CNN PRESENTS.


BROWN: The best guess is that about 60 percent of those Americans eligible to vote on Tuesday will actually take the time to do it. Just as people vote for a variety of reasons, so too do people make the choice not to vote. That is simple and easy to understand. What is less comprehensible is this: The United States has one of the lowest voting rates of any industrialized democracy in the world. Here is CNN's Bruce Burkhardt.


BRUCE BURKHARDT (voice-over): Life is good for Kevin O'Hara. His kids go to private school. His wife is an executive vice president of a telecommunications company. He is an active member of his church and on Election Day, Kevin O'Hara is not going to vote.

KEVIN O'HARA, NON-VOTER: I had someone tell me it is your civic responsibility to vote. And I don't agree with that concept. Because politicians are more interested in keeping their power than doing what's fair and good for America.

BURKHARDT: Ro Dumicich-Sanchez works for a non-profit organization. Mother of one son, she is the foster parent of two other children and a vocal advocate for foster care. Ro Sanchez has not voted since Nixon was in office.

RO DUMICICH-SANCHEZ, NON-VOTER: I never thought that my vote would count. That it mattered.

BURKHARDT (on camera): Conventional wisdom holds that non-voters are younger, less-educated, less affluent and less aware of current events than people who do vote. And that's true, but surprise, the single biggest block of non-voters goes against that stereotype. So, who isn't voting and why?

(voice-over) Northwestern University Professor Ellen Shearer co- authored a book on non-voters which analyzed detailed surveys of 1,000 who do not vote.

ELLEN SHEARER, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: I was particular surprised when I found out there was such a sizable numbers of non- voters who are following what's going on, who do believe their vote would matter if they voted. And yet they aren't taking that final step.

BURKHARDT: 30 percent of non-voters, the biggest single group identified by Shearer and her colleagues, are educated, have above average income and are active in their communities.

SHEARER: These are people who are engaged, but on Election Day they just feel their time can be spent better.

BURKHARDT: There is not a single reason why people choose not to vote. Some are apathetic. And some, like Kevin O'Hara are alienated and distrust the system. Larry Sabato, head of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics believe people are too busy.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: People just don't get around to it. They intend to do it. That is why ahead of time, 80 percent plus of the population says, "Yes, I will vote."

BURKHARDT: Does that make non-voters bad citizens?

DUMICICH-SANCHEZ: On the contrary, it might mean they are doing so many things in their community, in their churches, in their neighborhoods, in their volunteer work that they are too busy doing other stuff.

BURKHARDT: Too busy and often confronted with unappealing choices.

DUMICICH-SANCHEZ: Right now they are too busy attacking each other and I am not getting much information.

SHEARER: Non-voters really feel that they are being spun a lot. They are not being talked to honestly.

BURKHARDT: Even more damning, the idea that it could be in the interest of politicians to keep turnout low, usually by negative advertising to suppress turnout of the opposition.

ANNOUNCER: The real Bush agenda. Cutting social security.

ANNOUNCER: John Kerry, playing politics with national security.

SABATO: I think consultants and candidates and sometimes parties are guilty of reducing turnout in order to preserve the status quo. Almost everybody in politics fears change. And change includes expansion of the electorate.

BURKHARDT: As you might expect, there are different outlook on what it means that about half of Americans that could, don't vote.

STEVE CHAPMAN, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": I think there are some people who shouldn't vote. People who don't pay enough attention to make an informed choice. I don't really want those people voting.

SABATO: Our system depends upon people being involved and active. It depends on people caring. And if they cease to be involved and cease to care, eventually the system rots from within.

O'HARA: In terms of really changing the system, there is nothing I can do. The system is not set up to be changed. The system is set up by the politicians who are basically the fox in charge of the henhouse.

BURKHARDT: Kevin O'Hara is a confirmed non-voter. But something big blipped on the radar of Ro Dumicich-Sanchez's busy life. The close, controversial election of 2000. She plans to vote for the first time since she was 18 years old.

SANCHEZ-DUMICICH: I always though presidential candidates can promise you anything they want when they are first campaigning and then in the end they are going to do what their advisers say or whatever their party says or whatever their influences at the time, but now I am seeing that you can voice your opinion and hopefully the outcome will be the one you want.


BROWN: Election Day on Tuesday. Deciding the outcome of the election - can rock stars really rock the vote? Coming up on CNN PRESENTS. From punk to country, we asked a few critics to take a look at this new electoral battle of the bands.


BROWN: Finally from us tonight, Tom Lehrer, who happens to be America's foremost political observer in the key of C once wrote a song about songs about politics. He called it the "Folk Song Army." "They won all the battles," it went, "we had all the good songs." That was then. What about now? We sent producer Kate Albright-Hanna to find out.



DAVE MATTHEWS, MUSICIAN: I think Kerry is a better choice for president.


LARRY GATLIN, COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST: When the president calls, or the Republican National Committee calls, we will fly, walk, swim, crawl, whatever needs to be done.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: A man loses his job, it ain't rocket science. JOEL STEIN, "TIME MAGAZINE": Oh yeah. The audience, I think, didn't even know Kerry's first name. They just wanted to vote for Springsteen. They are going to be very confused when they walk in to ballot on November 2nd all excited to vote. Where's Mr. Springsteen?

KERRY: Just want to say Bruce Springsteen had it right. No retreat, no surrender.


JUSTIN SANE, LEAD SINGER, ANTI-FLAG: We would like to send this out to the worst president this country has ever seen.

We wanted to do the Rock Against Bush tour because we wanted to raise awareness with young people about the policies of George Bush which we feel are harmful.


STEIN: They're adorable. Don't you just want to help them? Like they're just trying to be little citizens? You can't be against that.


GATLIN: Yeah, I'd just open a shoe store on their ass right away. Put them on, don't put me on. I'm a country singer from Austin, Texas. Put on these booger-eating morons and let them say F the flag to American and let's see if the heartland will buy that.


GATLIN: I wish we could have done a rock the vote country-style. I think a lot of country singers who were born in the heartland, growing up with Judeo-Christian ethics that unfortunately it seems to be Senator Kerry has come to his quite recently. John Boy, oh John Boy, tell us which way are you going today, do you believe anything strongly enough to stick to your guns when the going gets rough or do you just want to win?

STEIN: It's got a good rhythm I can dance to it (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

GATLIN: After all you're the one with your finger in the wind. Oh. I think we'll talk about God this week.


BOB TITLEY, MUSIC ROW DEMOCRATS: Well a group of us started Music Row Democrats because there was a sense that everyone perceived country music as largely Republican, which is far from the truth.

STEIN: This is Honky Tonkers for truth but they are not for truth like the swift boat people are for truth.

Like crackers for Kerry. When you are for truth you are for Bush. When you're for change you are for Kerry. These honky tonkers have confused everybody.


TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Of course I think musicians ought to be able to say whatever they want. I just think they devalue their art by doing it, they just become throne-sniffers. Suck-ups just like every other professional spokesman.

MATTHEWS: In a way I've had to step down to get in the muddy waters of this partisan politics. I don't like it. I don't like it one bit. I'm doing it because I think I have to.

RICKY SKAGGS, COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST: Well some people have said, man, why don't you just sing and play and just shut up about your politics. And in country music there has been quite a few people who I really would have thought would have come out a whole lot stronger and supported the president. But you know there is a lot of fear out there. And I'm voting for Bush. But one of the things I appreciate about the Vote for Change is that they're standing up for what they believe.

KACEY JONES, SINGER, HONKY TONKERS FOR TRUTH: It's like, speak up now or forever say goodbye to your peace.


BROWN: And on that note we will say goodnight. A live edition of LARRY KING LIVE is next. We'll see you 10 o'clock Eastern time tomorrow from NEWSNIGHT. Good night from all of us.


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