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Panel Discusses Upcoming Presidential Election

Aired October 31, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, two days until America votes and we've got a new poll just out that says this is the tightest race in the history of the Gallup Poll.
We'll get into that and more with Bush-Cheney campaign chairman Marc Racicot; Bob Kerrey, former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination; "Newsweek" editor Mark Whitaker; David Gergen, White House adviser to four presidents, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton; Gideon Yago, of MTV News who interviewed John Kerry today; and Bill Schneider, CNN's Senior Political Analyst. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening and welcome to a special Sunday night live edition of LARRY KING LIVE. One quick reminder in our pre-election eve -- on our election eve program tomorrow night, among the guests will be Governor Jeb Bush of Florida and Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of the vice presidential nominee of the Democrats.

Let's start with Bill Schneider, CNN's Senior Political Analyst to get us up to date on these polls. Where are we?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we are up in the air. I'll tell you why. The Gallup Poll did its final poll of likely voters and asked them how they were going to vote for president and the answer is Bush 49 percent, Kerry just behind him 47 percent, less than one percent for Nader, one percent for other candidates, three percent undecided. That is the final poll result.

Now, Gallup also did an estimate based on the historical experience and came up with Gallup's final project of the likely election result and that shows Bush 49, Kerry 49, Nader 1, Others 1. You can't get much closer than that can you?

KING: And if you break it down by states there are surprises and we'll be getting into that, right, like Bush leading in Pennsylvania.


KING: But Kerry leading in Ohio but all of this too close to call, right?

SCHNEIDER: All of them are too close to call.

KING: All right, Marc Racicot, you're the chairman of Bush- Cheney '04, why is this so close?

MARC RACICOT, CHAIRMAN, BUSH-CHENEY '04 CAMPAIGN: Well, I think we've anticipated it was going to be very close from the very beginning and I think it's pretty much where we thought it would be even though there were some who questioned that along the way.

You know my thought is that these are very perilous and difficult times, first of all. And, secondly, the issues out there are not the traditional mix or the traditional matrix of issues. You now find people with a variety of different interests that I think takes as a result some time for them to ultimately distill their vote and their sentiment.

For instance, let me give you a for instance. When I'm in West Virginia, and I've been there multiple times, I can sit around the table with people who have been traditionally Democrats. There may be Catholics there. There may be hunters, outdoors people who are strong believers in the Second Amendment, they're veterans, they're coal miners.

Each one of those interests, of course, brings a different intuition to the campaign and, as a consequence of that, they have a different approach to the election, so I think these are perilous times. They are difficult times. There are very small margins for error. People have a lot of different interests and as a consequence you see this race very, very closely contested.

KING: Bob Kerrey, who's on the other side of those people that Marc runs into?

BOB KERREY, FORMER CANDIDATE FOR DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION: Well, West Virginia is an interesting example because in May they were saying that John Kerry was going to take away the Bible. I mean, you know, that had a big impact. It's a very conservative state, very religious state and it had a big impact.

I mean part of the problem that the president's got is it's a difficult and perilous time in no small measure because they've mismanaged the war in Iraq and, you know, you had eight Marines killed day before yesterday. You got a very serious problem.

I supported the war in Iraq but the problem is the president has made it very difficult even for supporters to sustain that support. It's a very real and present issue.

KING: Mark Whitaker who is editor of "Newsweek," by the way congratulations. "Newsweek" earned the 2004 National Magazine Award for general excellence. What do you make of this?

MARK WHITAKER, EDITOR, "NEWSWEEK": Well, you know, obviously anybody who tells you that they can predict how this race is going to end up at this point, you know, doesn't know what they're talking about. It's very close.

KING: No one knows?

WHITAKER: No one knows but I think it means that now turnout will be decisive and, again, in general higher turnout and there are some estimates that we may have as many as 120 million people voting, 60 percent of the eligible electorate favors a challenger.

On the other hand, we're living in an age of terror where I think at the end of the day a lot of voters may get cold feet, so I think even on the ground war where I think both sides have unprecedented operations we can't be entirely sure how it's going to turn out.

KING: David Gergen, you've been through a lot of rounds of this. What's your read?

DAVID GERGEN, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER TO PRESIDENT'S NIXON, FORD, CLINTON AND REAGAN: Well, this is a nail-biter right down to the nub, isn't it Larry? We've never -- I don't think we've seen one this close for a long time. Of course, four years ago we didn't expect it to be this close.

The president did carry a lead into that election. In fact, if you look from John Kerry's point of view, the good news is in the final week leading up to the 2000 election there were 43 polls taken.

Thirty-nine showed Bush ahead of Gore with an average over the 43 polls of three and a half point lead for Bush and when the final vote was tallied, of course, Gore had about a half percent over Bush, so it was about a four percent jump for Gore.

So that's the good news for John Kerry as he's this close coming into this race. On the other hand, George Bush has maintained a steady lead since the debates. It's been small to be sure but it has been steady and he does appear to have some momentum in a state like Florida, which is so critical. That's why I think that each side has bragging rights coming into this.

KING: Yes. So we could keep doing on the other hands all night, right?

GERGEN: We could do that all night, indeed we could. That's like, you know, like Harry Truman used to say don't ever show me a two-handed economist. It's always on the one hand this and the other hand that. Give me a one-armed economist.

KING: Gideon Yago is the key correspondent for MTV's Choose or Lose coverage of campaign 2004. He conducted an interview with Senator Kerry, John Kerry.


KING: Which will air tomorrow at 3:30 Eastern. It's embargoed for tonight but you can tell us is he -- he can't be confident right in something this close? He doesn't know either, right?

YAGO: Well, I think nobody knows but the message I think that he was trying to get across to us was just get out and vote and especially if you're young. I think the conventional wisdom over at the Kerry campaign is that if young voters vote en masse that's going to only benefit him and there's, you know, there's some anecdotal evidence that supports that at this stage of the game. But, all he basically told us was, you know, he needs young people's support to win.

KING: Bill, now what about lawsuits? There will be lawsuits filed before this is over. I mean during the day tomorrow -- on Tuesday.

SCHNEIDER: Oh, God yes. This time unlike 2000, you have armies of lawyers, brigades out there with briefcases filled with lawsuits ready to file not just about the vote count but about registration procedures and about the most explosive issue which is the provisional ballots that people can cast for the first time.

KING: So, if races are close, we're going to have to wait?

SCHNEIDER: We will have to wait possibly a long time. I wanted to mention too this is a 50/50 election. So was 2000 but it's a very different kind of 50/50. 2000 was 50/50 and was closest so far because people were saying whatever, Bush, Gore, Gore, Bush. They didn't care that much and they moved back and forth between them. People weren't deeply divided. This election is 50/50 but it has a different meaning. It is an intense division unlike 2000.

KING: Marc Racicot, is Bush-Cheney, is the campaign prepared that this could go into next year?

RACICOT: Well, we don't anticipate that. You know, we have a belief in the regularity of the process, so most of the litigation that you refer to around the United States has been brought by the opposition and we're certainly answering that litigation.

But the bottom line is we believe that people have worked very hard, secretaries of state across the country. Congress on a bipartisan basis has worked very hard. The president, of course, signed the bill to put into place the opportunity to secure everything from new technology to new provisions.

There are some things like the provisional ballot that are new and not every question has been answered yet but our belief is that we should, although prepared and vigilant about virtually everything that will take place, that this will unfold as it should and meet with the confidence of the American people.

KING: What do you think Bob Kerrey?

KERREY: Well, it's a national election run by state secretaries of state and election commissioners.

KING: Who are political right?

KERREY: Yes. Look, if it's a close election and it's litigated beyond the inauguration, I mean I hope the American people say let's -- you got to -- you can run state elections for governor, state elections for Senator, state elections for everything but when it comes to president it's got to be run at least standards by the federal government. You can't have an election for president that's more sloppy than the election for president of Afghanistan and that's kind of where we are. RACICOT: That's not where we are.

KERREY: Well why isn't that where we are, Marc? Maybe if you're talking...

RACICOT: That isn't where we are. It's not, Bob.

KERREY: Where are we then?

RACICOT: For Heaven's sake.

KERREY: I wish you were here, Marc, so I could (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

RACICOT: I do too because I'd like to argue with you face-to- face. The bottom line is...

KERREY: Let's do that too.

KING: You go folks, go.

RACICOT: The bottom line is that why do you see everything so negatively in such a terrible light? The fact is people have worked very hard to make this election possible for the American people in a way that has their confidence. Why is it you tear it down before it ever starts?

KERREY: I'm not tearing it down before it starts. What I said was if this is a close election and if it's litigated beyond the inauguration, those are two things that...


KERREY: If it is. I'm not -- well, I don't know if it's going to be, Marc. I'm saying to you that if it is, if we have a similar situation we had in Florida only it's times four or five, if this thing goes beyond the inauguration then I think the American people are going to demand change beyond the change that we had after 2000. That's all I'm saying.

KING: All right. Let me get a break and come back. We'll pick right up. We'll get the rest of the panel's thoughts on that on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be taking your calls at the bottom of the hour. Don't go away.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've been waiting four years. Here you are two and a half days. This is our moment to hold George W. Bush accountable. This is the moment.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be relentless. We will be strong. We will be consistent in our security and securing this country and we've got a great United States military to help.


KING: Mark Whitaker, I understand you have a poll about suits.

WHITAKER: The latest poll shows that 59 percent of the people we talked to expect there to be major problems at the polls and 53 percent expect this election eventually to be settled in the courts, so it shows...

KING: Fifty-nine percent expect problems?

WHITAKER: Absolutely, so it shows you going into this there's a very high distrust of our process even before we start. So, one big issue it seems to me is going to be if there are challenges at the polls, if there are fights, if there are disputes and so forth, which side, voters on which side are going to have the fortitude to stand there in long lines as these things are being played out?

Clearly, I think on the Democratic side you have a lot of passion and I think those people, assuming they can afford the time off from work, will stick around. I don't know about the Bush supporters. It will be interesting to see.

KING: David Gergen, is this going to be a very surprising day?

GERGEN: There are always surprises, Larry, and I think that there are two or three states that are likely to surprise us both at the national level and the Senatorial level.

But I want, if I might, take just one moment, Larry, to ask the two national leaders we have here with us, Bob Kerrey and Marc Racicot, about their respective parties in the event that there is major, you know, challenges here.

Are you prepared if your side is on the losing side of what appears to be the vote but there are many legal challenges that you wish to file, would you be prepared to tell your candidate go ahead and file the charges but let's make sure we get this over before January 20 so the next president can be sworn in? Could you tell your candidate to stop and drop the lawsuits if you're on the losing side but you think you had the election stolen from you?

KING: Marc, you first.

RACICOT: Well, David, I'd like to say that that's a clear question because I have such great affection for you but quite frankly it seems to me to be so full of hypothesis and speculation and conditions I don't know how someone can answer a question like that with any degree of clarity.

The bottom line is I think as we approach this our principle, our main principle is this. We want everyone in American who's eligible to vote to vote regardless of their party and we want to see all of them treated fairly. We believe overwhelmingly that will happen across the United States of America. There will be inevitably, because this is part of our human condition, some challenges. There always have been from the very beginning of time but we do not expect that there's some wholesale process here that is going to disenfranchise or cause difficulty for the American people.

So, it's hard for me to know what it is you contemplate in terms of catastrophe or calamity. I would never speculate about what advice or counsel I would provide to anybody, Senator Kerry or the president as this unfolds but my expectation is the calamity that you're envisioning here is not going to happen.

KING: Bob Kerrey.

KERREY: Well, I hope Marc's right. I hope it doesn't happen but my guess is and I don't have any influence over John Kerry and the DNC. My advice to him would be not to litigate.

KING: Not to litigate?

KERREY: Not to litigate. I mean, look, you've got an exceptionally difficult period in the history of mankind. I disagree with Marc on why it's troubled times. I think it's part troubled because of the way the Iraq War has been conducted but it is a troubled time, a difficult time and not to have a president of the United States inaugurated and a peaceful transition one way or the other (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Marc, would you say to your candidate if asked don't litigate?

RACICOT: Well, it will depend on what we're talking about here.

KING: That's a simple answer.

RACICOT: I mean the fact of the matter is if we're in a situation where there are a huge number of people who are not entitled to vote are in fact voting or a precinct is held open or a voting booth is held open long after it should be or some of those kinds of rules, I mean frankly that's always a part of the process. Both parties end up going to court to try and make certain that those kinds of infirmities are addressed.

I can't imagine what it is you're talking about and Bob keeps slipping in here this notion, opportunistically I might add, that somehow that these challenges or the close electorate is the result of how things are being handled in Iraq.

GERGEN: Larry.

RACICOT: I can't imagine that.

KERREY: No, actually...

KING: David, you started this mess. Get us out of it. GERGEN: OK. Here's the reason I raised the question because we have had, there is precedent for this. The 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was extraordinarily close, 69 million votes cast. Kennedy won the popular vote by less than 120,000 votes.

The Republicans felt at that time there had been massive fraud in Texas and in Illinois, especially in Illinois and they urged, the top Republicans urged Richard Nixon to challenge it in the courts because they felt they'd had the election stolen from him.

Brice (UNINTELLIGIBLE) went to the president, among others, and said "Mr. President, you've just go to do this to assure the country of an honest election." And Richard Nixon, now this is a man who's seen for his dark side. I think it was one of his finest moments.

He said, "Brice, we can't do that. It would tear the country apart. It's too important for the country that we move on with a smooth transition." He had a very strong case for litigation but Richard Nixon decided not to push the case.

KING: Good point.

GERGEN: And he supported President Kennedy. He saw him two days later. He rallied behind the president-elect and we had a transition that went forward in a smooth way and I think we may be on the lip of such a situation here, not for certain. Obviously, you know, all of us hope that one candidate or the other will win with a clear enough decisive lead.

KING: In that case, Marc, would you do what Nixon did if asked? Bob Kerrey said that he would say to John Kerry don't litigate.

RACICOT: I guess what I would tell you is this. As counsel, and I'm not counsel but if I had a client in this particular incident and I was acting as counsel, there's no way that I would speculate about the infinite number of possibilities that can come to pass.

Our vision of this is very simple. We expect that there may be difficulties sporadically in different places across the country. We're going to address those as they're presented. Beyond that, we've had absolutely no discussions or hypothesized about any scenario.

KING: Gideon, you're with MTV, what about the young people are they going to vote?

YAGO: I think they're going to vote. I think they're going to vote en masse. I mean 2004 might turn out to be the highest youth voter turnout in history. I think that's just because of a whole constellation of issues that everybody's been discussing for the last couple of minutes.

But I think going to what you guys were talking about, about if there's challenges and how that's going to affect the youth vote and I think that 50 percent of America that doesn't routinely vote it's just going to further I think the lack of confidence in government and I think that's a really dangerous thing. If you look at this generation, it's echoed to the baby boom in how they've kind of come of age, the first election where they're really sort of pricking up their ears and taking notice of politics is one that has to be decided by the Supreme Court.

Now the second, which they're participating in en masse gets entangled in a long legal (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I don't think that sends a good message about this democracy that both candidates are stumping as, you know, the greatest form of government that it's working well or that it's healthy.

KING: But, Bill Schneider, Marc Racicot is saying if you got a good case you should make it.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it might...

RACICOT: No, what I'm saying is, Larry, I'm not going to hypothesize about scenarios that I can't even envision. I mean you're envisioning some catastrophe here and we don't expect that at all. We're presuming that this election is going to unfold with the confidence of the American people.

KING: Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Let me point out in 1960 and 2004 are different eras. They're different countries. In 1960 people called Nixon and Kennedy Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. They said there's not a dime's worth of difference between them.

Arthur Schlessinger (ph), Jr. wrote a book called "Kennedy or Nixon: Does it Make a Difference" arguing to liberals yes it makes a difference whether Kennedy or Nixon win because a lot of liberals said they're about the same. This is a different era.

KING: People who heard the debate on the radio called it even.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. This is a different era. This is an era in which the value differences are intense. The differences over international affairs are intense. There is a lot of distrust.

There is something out there that I've seen that we've all seen called rage, certainly among Democrats, real anger at President Bush's policies. There's real enthusiasm for President Bush but he, like Clinton, has proved to be a very divisive president.

KING: We will take a break and come back with more. We'll include your calls at the bottom. Don't go away.


BUSH: Next Tuesday the citizens of this country will vote. They will vote for conviction. They will vote for principle. They will vote for somebody who knows how to lead this country and with your help they'll be voting for George W. Bush.

KERRY: You got to set those clocks back one hour and if you don't, you could really screw up Tuesday, which means George Bush could set the country back 30 years, so get the job done.



KING: Marc Racicot, what's your read on the women vote?

RACICOT: Well, we think we're doing exceptionally well. Of course, there was a gap in 2000 that was not by historical standards perhaps precisely what it was in the past and frankly the polling that we've seen over the course of this campaign reflects that it's a much, much smaller gap, still a large gap with men, men strongly supporting the president and the gap with women, some of it attributed to the notion of security moms.

But however you ultimately decipher exactly what it is that's happened, the polling information to us indicates that there's a significantly reduced gap, almost to the point of being even on many occasions.

KING: Agree, Bob?

KERREY: Yes, there is a much reduced gap between President Bush and John Kerry with women, in part because the president uses code. He doesn't say I want to repeal Roe v. Wade. He says I support Dred Scott and in the pro-life, anti-abortion movement they say Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade are the same in part because the issues get obscured. We aren't talking about the minimum wage or equal pay for women.

KING: But if he polls even with women and Bush is ahead in men, why is this close?

KERREY: That's a good question overall why is this election close in my view. You know, you would expect when the economy is relatively strong the president as an incumbent would be doing better. And although Marc thinks it's opportunistic I think it's Iraq. I think the way the president has operated that war is an abomination. It is gross mismanagement and I think that's a big issue.

KING: What do your polls at "Newsweek" show you about Iraq's effect on this election?

WHITAKER: Well, clearly, I think it hurts Bush. I want to say something though about women and men before we get to that, which is it's true that Bush has picked up support compared to last election among less educated women, low income women but Kerry has picked up support among better educated men.

And one of the interesting kind of sidelines to this election is you're going to have more people voting against what would seem like their immediate economic interest in this election.

KING: You mean which man they're going to vote for.

WHITAKER: Kerry -- people who earn -- in households that earn over $100,000 support by a significant majority Kerry even though Kerry has said he's going to raise their taxes.

KING: Isn't that the Republican base?

WHITAKER: Meanwhile, Bush enjoys a lead among lower educated and lower income families despite the fact that it's Kerry who said that he's going to raise the minimum wage and provide healthcare for everybody.

KING: Let's get an opinion from everybody on that. David Gergen, what do you make of that?

GERGEN: I think Mark is right on that but I do think that the gap among men has closed down some, a little less than last time and the president has done better among women. It's partly, what I think we're seeing is an education gap starting to open up, Larry.

The president is doing very well among people with high school educations or below. John Kerry surprisingly has, seems to have gained the support of the college educated, not by a big margin to be sure but the last time around President Bush had those college educated people and this time John Kerry's doing a little better.

I think that the -- I think the president is doing well among the less educated than among the -- because...

KING: Gideon.

GERGEN: part because of cultural values but also in part because of terrorism. I don't think it's Iraq. It's terrorism.

KING: Gideon, is there a difference among the young men and women?

YAGO: Right now they're leaning towards Kerry. If you look at several polls... "Newsweek's" (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Both genders?

YAGO: Yes, both genders. It's a very slight lead, you know, some polls saying ten percent, some polls saying 15 percent. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that John Kerry really has done a better job of sort of placing himself in the real estate where young people are following this election, things like "The Daily Show," things like the late night, places like MTV. He's just I think fostered a better job of striking up a dialog with young people on the Internet as well and I think that kind of reflects his bounce, his slight lead.

KING: So many variables, Bill, like no cell phones were polled.

SCHNEIDER: Well, yes, that's a very small proportion and pollsters are monitoring those.

KING: A lot of people have them. SCHNEIDER: Well, people have cell phones but people who are missed are people who have no land line. They have only cell phones. That's only about three or four percent of the voters and they're mostly students.

KING: That could win the election.

SCHNEIDER: Well, it could win the election and that's why pollsters are and should be worried about that. But, you know, if you had to ask people one question to identify how they vote it wouldn't be man or woman, it wouldn't be their income or their education. You know what one question best predicts their vote? How often do you go to church?

If you go to church regularly, you vote Republican and that's become more and more true since 1980. If you don't go to church regularly, you're very likely to vote Democratic.

KING: So, don't more Americans go to church regularly and shouldn't Bush be further ahead?

SCHNEIDER: No, about 40 percent of Americans say they go to church every week and that they're very religious.

KING: But they're a minority.

SCHNEIDER: Those are more irregular. They're a minority and, you know, they are very solidly for Bush.

KING: Let's take a break and come back. We'll start to include your calls. I'll reintroduce the panel as well. Don't go away.


BUSH: If you are a voter who believes that the president of the United States should say what he means and do what he says and keep his word, I ask you come stand with me.

KERRY: Mr. President, I am ready, I am willing, I am impatient to relieve you of that hard work and get to work for America.



KING: Before I reintroduce -- before I reintroduce -- are we on? Before I reintroduce the panel, I was over at Election Central today at the NASDAQ headquarters and you're going to be amazed at CNN's coverage on Tuesday night.

We'll be one of the co-anchors at NASDAQ but we'll be placed all over the country and there's an extraordinary set up. That's a good example of what it looks like at our rehearsal today.

The board can put every state up at once. We're right in the heart of Broadway. The technical aspects are incredible. It should be quite a night so stay with us from 7:00 Eastern Time throughout the evening and every CNN correspondent will be involved.

Our panel, in Washington, Marc Racicot, chairman, former governor and chairman of Bush-Cheney '04; in New York, Bob Kerrey, the former United States Senator and former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination and a member of the 9/11 Commission, decorated Vietnam Veteran. Mark Whitaker is here in New York, editor of "Newsweek." Under his leadership, that magazine earned the 2004 National Magazine Award for general excellence.

In Boston is David Gergen, White House adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, professor of public service at Harvard's JFK School of Government and editor-at-large "US News and World Report." Also in Boston is Gideon Yago, key correspondent for MTV's Choose or Lose coverage of campaign 2004. He's going to co-host an MTV News Choose or Lose special tomorrow and Senator Kerry will be interviewed at 3:30 p.m. And, Bill Schneider is CNN's Senior Political Analyst.

We will be including your phone calls in this half hour. Marc, what are you going to be -- is there a specific state or group of states you're going to look at, Marc Racicot, Tuesday night?

RACICOT: Well, I think we've all known the states from the very beginning. They've shrunk somewhat I believe and we're in more Gore states working, believing from the numbers we have and the numbers the public has that we've got a very, very good shot at being very, very competitive there.

I think it's going to be interesting. New Jersey, Hawaii are going to be interesting states but we're going to be watching the same states everyone else is, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, all of those states we think will be a part of the mix. They've been a part of the mix from the very beginning.

KING: Florida.

RACICOT: New Mexico is another one.

KING: Bob Kerrey.

KERREY: I agree with him. I think Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, those four states in essence are going to pick the next president of the United States.

KING: And what if they go in both ways?

KERREY: Well, that's more difficult. I mean I don't know. I mean the answer to a lot of these questions is...

KING: If Florida goes to Kerry and Ohio goes Bush.

KERREY: There are so many variables, the weather. I mean its difficult to predict. I just don't know.

KING: Let's take a call, Seattle, Washington, hello.



CALLER: If we get into an extended election process, a possible litigation process as we did in 2000, realizing the concern of the electorate how long are we going to have to wait for the results?

KING: Mark, might it go past January, Mark Whitaker?

WHITAKER: Well, it's...

KING: And then you Marc Racicot.

WHITAKER: It's set up constitutionally to go through December and then you have House of Representatives gets involved and so forth, so I mean I think that, you know, there's going to be a legal process and then there will be a constitutional process.

KING: But the House can get involved? What if the House selects candidate A and the courts turn it over to B in February?

WHITAKER: Well, look, there are a whole range of scenarios. There were scenarios written about in "The New York Times" a couple of days ago whereby Edwards ends up as acting president of the United States as they resolve all of this in the courts.

You know I certainly hope we don't get to that point. You know, I think, you know, one of the things we have to keep in mind is a lot of what we're talking about in terms of the war on terror and the war in Iraq and so forth is trying to encourage the rest of the country to go in the direction of our kind of democracy. It doesn't look very good...

KING: The rest of the world you mean.

WHITAKER: The rest of the world, it doesn't look very good if we have this kind of mess on our hands here.

KING: David Gergen, are we still behind electorally in this country? I mean do other countries do a better job?

GERGEN: Absolutely. Bob Kerrey had a good point about whether we ought to federalize our national elections so that there are federal standards. We've always had at the margins, Larry, some, you know, some miscounts. And a million votes or so in any particular election can be miscounted or people can be denied a chance to vote and, of course, it's gone higher than that in days of extreme racial prejudice.

But even in recent elections we've had a lot of things on the margins and that was fine as long as you had a winner who won popular vote by say three or four or five percent. But when you're at a 49/49 nation, as Gallup is now predicting for this Tuesday, it does seem to me that four years after this once happened, if it happens again Bob Kerrey's point is very pertinent and the Congress ought to move far beyond what it did with the Help America Vote Act, which the president signed which may help some but it's not going to help us enough if we get into another mess. We've got to move toward federal standards I think for national elections.

KING: Marc Racicot, would you favor that?

RACICOT: I would not. I think you always begin these discussions with the presumption that you're going to respect state's rights and we have in excess of 215 years of history with the states pursuant to our United States Constitution being engaged in these elections in the fashion that they are.

I think there are some explanations from a technical perspective for some of the challenges that we confronted in the year 2000 and that is that for a period of 40 years there wasn't any significant investment in new technologies or in new equipment because frankly those people who run those elections sometimes are reticent to go to their commissioners or to their funding bodies and ask for money when they don't use this equipment but once every two years or once every four years.

Congress by acting aggressively with the states in passing the Help America Vote Act actually did lay down some new federal standards but also provided a tremendous amount of resources to allow for this technology to be brought up to date.

So, even though it's not perfect yet there certainly was not enough provided that would allow each state to secure everything they need. Nonetheless, I think there were some reasons for the challenges in 2000 that Congress and the secretaries of state and state legislatures across the country have addressed.

KING: Wouldn't it be best, Bill Schneider though, to get it right?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. You know, India voted about two months ago, 350 million people voted and you know what they used electronic voting, touch screens. A lot of their population, many of the voters are illiterate. You know what they didn't have very many problems.

KING: You can have instant replay in the NFL. They cannot have it.


KING: They do it to get it right.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. They didn't have many problems. Nobody had any disputes.

WHITAKER: We're still not investing in the best technology. In Florida, it was recommended, Jeb Bush had recommended to him by a bipartisan panel electronic voting machines that would offer a receipt where you get to see how you voted and you could keep the record and he turned it down in favor of machines that don't give you a receipt.

KING: Why not? Do you know what reason? I'll ask him tomorrow. WHITAKER: Well, of course, there are all kinds of conspiracy theories. I mean people, you know, but unfortunately, you know, it's just going to -- it just fed a lot of suspicion.

KING: Gideon -- Bob.

KERREY: Larry, there's a long -- in response to Marc, there's a long list of things where the federal government has created standards, mostly in the commercial sector to make certain that commerce flows smoothly. I mean this is a national -- we're electing a president. We're not electing governors here. We're not electing Senators here. I hope that it's not disputed. I hope that it's a clear winner.

But I would prefer that I mean if it's a close -- if it's close and there's an opportunity to litigate, I would say to John Kerry don't litigate. Let Bush be the president. But, if it's not, you've got to establish national standards as we have with lots of other things in this country.

KING: Gideon. Are young people, Gideon, skeptical of all this?

YAGO: I think young people are skeptical of it and I think they'll be even more skeptical if we have to go through a long system of litigation and recounts. I think the problem right now is that in 2000 we saw that the system didn't work and now in 2004 we're taking a look at it again.

Clearly, there's already problems in many states across the country, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and, if we can't get it right, the danger that I think is that you'll get an increase of no confidence in the system.

And I think you'd have a tough time trying to get anybody to participate who's young and get them convinced that their vote counts if you have ballots that are thrown out, registrations that are torn up, provisional ballots that are chucked and machines that just don't work and a system that kind of relies on that to succeed and doesn't regulate itself.

KING: We'll take a break and...

RACICOT: Larry, can I address the record there?

KING: Yes, I'll come back Marc and we'll pick up with Marc Racicot.


KING: We'll also get a few more phone calls in. Governor Jeb Bush will be one of our guests tomorrow night. So will Elizabeth Edwards. Don't go away.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: My four years as your president have confirmed some lessons and taught me some new ones. I've learned to expect the unexpected because war and emergency can arrive suddenly on a quite autumn morning. I've learned firsthand how hard it is to send young men and women into battle even when the cause is right.


KING: Marc Racicot, you wanted to comment. I want to get another call in.

RACICOT: Well, I'm fearful that there may be a misimpression left to all of the huge numbers of Americans that are viewing and the fact of the matter is I would never suggest, I don't think anyone would that you tolerate inaccuracy or just accept a certain level of impotency with the voting system.

What I'm saying is that states have been intimately involved in this process from the very beginning. There are national standards that are set by the Constitution. There are more national standards that are set in the Help America Vote Act and I think we just need to be very certain that we are engaging the states, depending on the states and recognizing the states for their contribution to this particular effort.

Secondly, when it was mentioned, I think Mark or Gideon mentioned something about there are problems every place. My memory of the year 2000 is that there was a litigation brought in Missouri for polling places remaining open too late and then there was the litigation that was brought in the state of Florida.

And, frankly, the challenges brought in Florida to the voting panels in Florida were brought by Democrats in Democrat-controlled counties and other than that I do not recall any litigation.

And when you talk about what's taking place now in Ohio and Nevada, I believe that those are focused upon registrations. They're not upon the voting process, so I guess I'm fearful that we erode people's confidence in the system for no reason.

KERREY: Mark, the race in Florida occurred in a state where the governor's -- the governor was the brother of the candidate and the secretary of state was the one that drew an awful lot of fire. That's the problem.

RACICOT: Senator.

KERREY: It could go the other way, Marc. It could absolutely...

RACICOT: You don't have the facts here.

KERREY: I don't have the facts?

RACICOT: The facts are -- I was there. I was on the ground.

KERREY: So was I. RACICOT: I was on the ground every day for 30 days. The actions were brought by the Democratic candidate for president in Democratically-controlled counties against Democratically constituated panels.

KERREY: Yes. I cede that back. I agree with that fact but who was the governor of Florida?

RACICOT: What difference does that make, Bob?

KERREY: Marc, are you kidding me?

RACICOT: What difference does that make in this particular case when it was not his responsibility to address these issues.

KERREY: Who was the secretary of state, Marc?

RACICOT: The panel addressed them.

KERREY: Who was the secretary of state in Florida?

RACICOT: Catherine Harris was the secretary of state.

KERREY: Exactly, a Republican secretary of state who took a number of actions that were questionable. I mean that's -- it could have been the other way around. I'm talking...

RACICOT: Whatever actions were taken by the secretary of state were taken after (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KERREY: It could have been the other way around, Marc.


KERREY: No, you love Florida because the governor happened to be the candidate, the Republican candidate's brother and the secretary of state was (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

RACICOT: You know that is so creepy. That's absolutely creepy to make those kinds of suggestions to the American people.

KERREY: Creepy.

KING: Mr. Schneider...

KERREY: It's a fact, Marc.

SCHNEIDER: Florida mattered. That's why there was litigation because Florida determined the outcome. There were irregularities all over the country but if there were irregularities in Kentucky or West Virginia or anywhere else they didn't determine the outcome. Florida, we all knew the election was going to be decided in Florida.

KING: Williamsburg, Virginia, hello.


CALLER: I'd like to ask your panelists this evening what steps the federal government should have taken to better prepare for this election?

KING: Could they have done something better, Mark? We'll ask Mark Whitaker.

WHITAKER: Well, I think that's what we've been talking about.

KING: We did pass one act.

WHITAKER: Yes and that's what I've been talking about. I mean, you know, I think it is true that we have a federal system and that's been our tradition but I do think that increasingly, and particularly I think if there's another disputed election, I agree with Senator Kerrey that I think there's going to be enormous public pressure to create federal standards and uniform technology.

I mean if people are used to this now with their ATM machines and so forth, they have a high suspicion of hacking when it comes to computers and so forth and I think that there will be enough public support and outcry for this that I think something will have to be done.

KING: David Gergen, the other night on this program Bill Sapphire said while he hopes President Bush wins, if it came down to a repeat of 2000 he'd rather have Kerry win by a sizable margin than face that again. What's your comment on that?

GERGEN: I think that's wise. I think all of us on this panel probably would prefer a decisive victory than to go through 2000 again. And to come back to -- Marc Racicot has a good point. The Congress did and the president signed a bill which has helped. The Congress provided a lot more money for voting machines and there are going to be a lot more electronic voting this time than last time.

But we're learning that the act has some real question marks over it too. For example, this thing called a provisional ballot. Now there are going to be a lot of people who are going to come to the polls whose registration may be questioned in one way or another and they're going to be able to get a provisional ballot and vote.

And that ballot then may be subject to all sorts of questions after the election is over and we're going to have these provisional ballots sitting there with all sorts of litigation and clouds over them if this is an extremely close election. It's that kind of -- those kind of loopholes that we need to close. Hopefully we will have a very clean, very good election.

Of course there will be some problems on the margins but we'll have one decisive winner but I think all of us are trying to say look if it's disputed again and we know that there -- NBC set up a call system here about a week ago to let voters call in if they had problems, they were running into problems or if they had questions or if they just were frustrated what was going on at their local community. They've had over 50,000 calls. Now that's a situation that really in a modern democracy we should not have.

KING: I'm going to cut you because we got to take a break and come back with our remaining moments with this panel. It went all too fast. Don't go away.


KERRY: For two years now when Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, it was wrong to outsource the job of capturing him to Afghan warlords who a week earlier were fighting against us instead of using the best trained troops in the world who wanted to avenge America for what happened in New York and Pennsylvania and in Washington.



KING: Get in one more call, Dallas, Texas, hello.

CALLER FROM TEXAS: Hey, Larry, how you doing?


CALLER: Hey, just wanted to ask your panel don't you think a lot of this election is simply going to be a referendum on the war in Iraq and the mess over there that's going on?

KING: Mark Whitaker, is that what it's coming down to? It's really about Bush?

WHITAKER: Well, it's definitely about Bush. There's no question there's a referendum on Bush and if Kerry is elected, I mean the fact is, you know, there are very few Kerry supporters who love John Kerry. They're voting for him because they want to see George Bush out of office.

KING: Because of Iraq?

WHITAKER: Right, right. Well, you know, the interesting thing is that Bush had an opportunity after September 11th to capitalize on the sense of national unity that people had and I think it was the decision to go into Iraq that lost him that support, so there's no question that Iraq, I think, is the decisive issue. If he hadn't gone into Iraq, I think he would be waltzing to victory right now.

KING: Or gaining some support. Marc Racicot, today the "New York Daily News" endorsed George Bush while stating it disagreed with him on most every domestic issue but favored him because of terror and Iraq, so it can work both ways, can't it?

RACICOT: Well, he knows what he's doing and the fact of the matter is George Bush didn't go into Iraq all by himself. The United States Congress approved him going into Iraq. The Security Council was consulted. Overwhelmingly, including Senator John Kerry until he changed his mind at a later moment in time, have supported the president to confront terrorism on all of its fronts including in Iraq.

So, this isn't something that happened on his own and you know frankly I think that the election when Mark is describing a referendum, I think it's a referendum that will be a referendum on John Kerry as well, his impotency to be able to articulate a comprehensible position on Iraq.

Or take for instance his argument about Tora Bora. How deceptive that is. He was for that strategy involving Afghan soldiers or allies to help guide us through an area. Our Delta Force that has 18 -- it's as large as the size of the state of Texas. It has peaks that are 18,000 feet above sea level, so they involved some of the local allies to help us find him.

John Kerry was in favor of that. Tommy Franks has told us all along there's no way this was outsourced. He knows it's not true. He continues to say it day after day after day. That is neither honorable nor does it display the characteristics of a commander-in- chief.

KING: Want to respond Bob Kerrey?

KERREY: I just disagree with him. I think the war in Iraq is going to be a big issue. As I said earlier, Marc, I supported that war and the president's made it very hard. John hasn't repudiated his vote. It is politically popular for him to do so because of the way the president has conducted the war. In May...

RACICOT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what is John Kerry's position?

KERREY: Marc, Marc he said he would vote the same way that he voted.

RACICOT: Is that his position today?

KING: Which was to allow...

KERREY: That's not his position today. That's his position today, yesterday...

RACICOT: What is his position today?

KERREY: That -- I just told you Marc. Listen again. He has not repudiated his vote. Now let me finish.

RACICOT: So, he supported Iraq.

KING: Let him finish.

KERREY: Let me finish. In May of 2003, every military officer told Bremer and the president of the United States don't shut down a 300,000 person Iraqi army guarding the borders, providing domestic security and they did it. They shut down that force and guess what today Marc?

RACICOT: That's not the point, no, no.

KERREY: No, guess what's going on now, Marc?

RACICOT: What's John Kerry's position today, Bob?

KERREY: What Americans are mad about -- no, Marc, what Americans are mad about today is that our forces, our Army, our Marine Corps are providing a surrogate police force. They're protecting the cities. They're protecting the borders. We hope to get...

RACICOT: What's John Kerry's position today?

KERREY: John Kerry's position is he supports the war in Iraq but he does not support the way the president has managed it. He has mismanaged it. He hasn't reached out to people, Marc. He didn't reach out to Joe Biden.

RACICOT: He supports the war. He supports the troops and he supports the efforts there.

KERREY: He does support the troops. He said...

RACICOT: He wants to bring it to a conclusion and chase down terrorism every place.

KERREY: Marc, you're not listening. You're not listening.

KING: Guys, we're out of time.

KERREY: He has not repudiated his vote and politically it would have been smart to do so.

KING: This past minute could be a classic example of what Tuesday will be all about. Thank Marc Racicot, Bob Kerrey, Mark Whitaker, David Gergen, Gideon Yago and Bill Schneider, who will be with us Tuesday night. You been over on that set?


KING: Gorgeous. Stay tuned now for more news with Carol Lin. See you tomorrow night with the governor of Florida and with Elizabeth Edwards. Goodnight.


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