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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Aired November 2, 2004 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Tonight, the waiting is all but over. Americans are voting in what appears to be one of the closest presidential elections in years.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This election is in the hands of the people.
JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This campaign has been an amazing journey.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's special election day coverage as AMERICA VOTES 2004. Here now, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening and welcome. For the next two hours here we'll be bringing you up to date on what's happening after one of the longest and most contentious presidential campaigns ever. Voters have turned out today in huge numbers all around the country. Some election officials are predicting a record turnout. The first state polls close in just two hours. There have been some problems in some polling places in the country, but overall, this election appears to be very very orderly.
We'll have complete coverage of the voting problems where they do exist, the election issues that have dominated this campaign, and the battle to control Congress, particularly the Senate. And we'll be talking with leading political analysts and journalists throughout the next two hours but we begin with live reports from three of the most closely contested battleground states. Adaora Udoji is in Canton, Ohio, Jason Carroll is in Lower Macungie, Pennsylvania, and John Zarrella is in West Palm Beach, Florida. We go first to Adaora Udoji in Ohio where Republicans won an important legal battle today -- Adaora.
ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Lou. Indeed, there has been non-stop heavy voting we're told by officials at this polling station here in Canton, Ohio, right across the street. In fact poll workers tell us they have never seen anything like it, that more than double of the usual number of voters have made their way to these polls and it's not even rush hour yet. And as you mentioned this is happening in the backdrop of what this morning high legal dram and that is the issue about challengers. We were waiting this morning for the United States Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue and they did. They let stand a lower court ruling which upheld a law in Ohio allowing each party, both Democrats and Republicans to place volunteers inside polling stations to question the legitimacy of any voters.
Now, the Democrats argued that the Republicans were simply trying to intimidate voters and they had taken their case to a federal court which agreed. Republicans appealed. They denied they were trying to suppress the vote. They said their concern was voter intimidation. Whatever the case, appeals court said the challengers could go in. From what we understand, there were some of them throughout Ohio, unclear how many and whether they were in all 88 counties. However, we never really heard any reports, or we haven't, I should say, up until this point, of those challengers disrupting any elections or any of the voting in any of the precincts in the state. Of course there are still two and a half hours left.
What we have heard and what we can see right here with some pictures is heavy turnout. Officials both here in Stark County as well as in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland talking about unprecedented number of folks waiting in lines patiently for hours. In fact we talked to some "Get Out The Vote" advocates who said it was just incredible. In fact, Governor Taft this morning predicting a record turnout somewhere north of 70 percent and of course, Lou, as you know, Ohio is a critical state. To underscore that point President Bush's last minute stop, unusual last minute stop on election day through Ohio here today, clearly, clearly, his campaign, as Kerry's campaign desperately want to get the 20 electoral votes here in Ohio -- Lou.
DOBBS: Adaora, thank you very much. Adaora Udoji from Canton, Ohio.
In Pennsylvania tonight, Republicans say some polling machines in Philadelphia already had votes on them before voting began. City officials said the charges were unsubstantiated. Jason Carroll is following all the latest developments in Pennsylvania, reporting from Lower Macungie -- Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the story here, Lou, is the story you heard before here in Macungie. It's all about voter turnout and they have seen it here in record numbers. I want you to take a look right now inside as we show you people who are casting their vote right now for the first time. There have been long lines here all day long. Election workers anticipated a huge turnout given the high interest in this presidential race. We saw long lines this morning, expecting even more this evening. We've also seen a lot of partisan bickering going on, Republicans vowing to challenge people suspected of being ineligible voters. Democrats accusing Republicans of voter intimidation tactics. The voters we talked to today say that they basically tuned out all the bickering and instead they've just focused on the candidates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(on camera): Are you making any predictions at this point?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, sure. I feel very strongly that John Kerry will win.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went for President Bush, because I think in the middle of everything that's going on right now, it would be really kind of bad for us to change commanders in chiefs (sic).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband and I are voting for two different people.
CARROLL: How do you think things are going to go this time? It was very tight last time. Think it's going to be tight again this time? Any predictions?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's going to be tight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably tight.
CARROLL: Probably tight?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Uh-huh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: Very tight. It will go down to the last hour we are sure of that. One election worker told me that the story that the media will probably be focusing on tomorrow in the state of Pennsylvania won't necessarily be about all this political bickering going on, it will be about the huge voter turnout -- Lou.
DOBBS: Jason, indeed, the voter turnout looks huge across the country tonight. Jason, thank you very much. Jason Carroll reporting from Lower Macungie, Pennsylvania.
In Florida tonight poll workers in Volusia County have been recounting 13,000 votes, that after a voting machine's memory card failed, but officials say voting elsewhere in Florida has been taking place without any problems. John Zarrella has our report from Florida tonight. He's in West Palm Beach -- John.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, certainly the story here, record voter turnout possible. Two million people in Florida already voted in the early voting process, another 6 million could be voting today, bringing it to 8 of the 10 million voters potentially voting here in Florida today.
Again, the good news, problems in Florida virtually non-existent. Just small glitches here and there. In Broward County, just south of us here in Palm Beach County, 21 of the electronic voting machines, they're used by about 50 percent of Floridians in 15 counties, the biggest counties included, failed. 15 of those machines. They have been replaced or are going to be replaced as we move into the rush hour afternoon here and the heavy voting picks up again. But officials with the elections office down in Broward County say they have been able to harvest those votes from those machines, that the votes will not be lost from those machines.
Here in Palm Beach County which, of course, four years ago was the scene of the butterfly ballot and the hanging chad. None of that this time around. They used the Sequoia electronic machines here. Everything going well. Again, here, record voter turnout expected today. Huge numbers of people coming to the 770-some precincts they have here in Palm Beach County. They expect those numbers to swell as we move between 5:00 and 7:00 this evening before the polls close.
Now, the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board has already been at work here today, going over absentee ballots that have been coming in and, in fact, they have had to throw some absentee ballots out. What they're trying to do is match signatures that they have on record to signatures on the absentee ballots. In some cases, it's difficult, because the signatures are 30 and 40 years old on the ones that they have on file. So that has been a difficult task. And up till yesterday at noon, they had already thrown out more than 300 absentee ballots, simply because people hadn't signed their name to the ballot before they mailed it in. Now we've heard about the thousands of elections workers here from both parties. That, in fact, is the case. They're on hand at the polling places, monitors to watch and make sure everything goes OK -- Lou.
DOBBS: John, thank you very much. John Zarrella reporting from West Palm Beach, Florida. Well, as part of our election coverage, there is a clock in the lower left corner of your screen. It is counting down to the time polls will be closing in the first six states to close their voting. Some polls in those states may close earlier but CNN will not begin to report results until all of the polls in any given state have closed. As of 7:00 p.m. Eastern time, all of the voting polls in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia will be closed. At that time, CNN will begin to bring you the very first results from this presidential election.
President Bush tonight is in Washington waiting for the first results to come in. President Bush began today in Crawford, Texas. He then traveled to a campaign event in Columbus, Ohio. White House correspondent Dana Bash reports from the Bush-Cheney headquarters in Arlington, Virginia -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Lou. The president as you said is at the White House. He got back several hours ago and he is spending the afternoon and the evening in the residence with his family, his extended family is coming into town. And as you can imagine he is certainly in touch with his aides, his senior staff at the White House, his staff here at the campaign headquarters, getting information, getting updates about the latest that they're hearing from on the ground. And as you mentioned the president did start his day in Crawford, Texas, where he voted. Then he made the unusual move for him of having a campaign event on Election Day, went to Columbus, Ohio, made some of his own get out the vote phone calls, even had some surprised, perhaps incredulous, people on the other end of the line.
And as he talked to reporters today, the president described himself as calm. He said that it is really out of his hands now, but he felt that he gave the race his all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I am going to run this race out to its fullest. I will be able to have -- we -- both of us will be able to say that we campaigned as hard as we possibly could. I have made the differences as clear as possible about why I think I am the best leader for the country for the next four years. And you know, we'll find out tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, here at Bush/Cheney Headquarters, they have a war room set up much as they do certainly over at the Kerry campaign. And they have staff -- they are monitoring what is going on all around the country, particularly obviously in key states. They are making phone calls to field staff. And we're told that they have about triple the field staff, the paid staff in the key states like Ohio and Pennsylvania that they had three years ago.
And this war room component includes, as you can imagine, Lou, a legal component. Lawyers are on the phone, getting the latest in terms of any kind of issues that they're having in places like Ohio and Florida.
Now, while we're hearing -- talking to some people over at the Kerry campaign, some giddiness even. They feel like they're happy about what they're hearing from what's going on the ground.
Here at Bush/Cheney Headquarters, the best way to describe them as matter of fact. They've been through this before. They say that it's very early. They're still certainly working hard. Karl Rove, the president' top political aide, for example, is doing a series of radio interviews in Florida. And as one senior aide said to me just a short while ago, the watch word right now is patience -- Lou?
DOBBS: And I imagine there has to be a considerable amount of just plain fatigue after this campaign is drawing to a close.
BASH: All around.
DOBBS: Dana Bash, thank you very much.
Senator Kerry tonight is in Boston after he attended a last campaign event in Wisconsin. Senator Kerry declared America will be strong and united, whatever the outcome of this election.
Frank Buckley has the report from the Kerry/Edwards Headquarters in Boston -- Frank?
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, this evening, Senator Kerry is splitting his time here in Boston between his campaign hotel here in Copley Square and his home on Beacon Hill. He expects to end his evening here in Copley Square at a big rally with supporters.
Earlier today, he voted here in Boston at the State House. He was accompanied by his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and his daughters, Alex and Vanessa. Mrs. Heinz Kerry had voted earlier in Pennsylvania. Kerry said it was exciting to see his name on the ballot for president, and he said the campaign for him has been an amazing journey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: I'm very confident that we've made the case for change, the case for trust in new leadership, a new direction, a fresh start. But what's really important is that both the president and I love this country. It's really important that people go out and vote and express their love for our country, no matter who they vote for. We want people to participate.
And finally, let me just say that whatever the outcome tonight, I know one thing that is already an outcome: Our country will be stronger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCKLEY: Now, after the casting of his vote, Senator Kerry participated in a tradition -- Election Day tradition. He went to the Ye Olde Union Oyster House here in Boston, Lou, for a bunch of clams and chowder, something he does on Election Day.
And then Kerry, who said he was leaving no stone unturned, participated in a series of satellite television interviews with TV stations in battleground states. Joe Lockhart joking that he would probably stay in front of that camera and keep doing interviews until no local market would have him.
And again, later tonight, Senator Kerry hoping it all ends right here with a victory speech in Copley Square -- Lou?
DOBBS: Frank, thank you very much. Frank Buckley from Boston.
Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader today held a news conference in one of Washington's poorest neighborhoods. Nader rejected charges that his campaign could help President Bush by taking some votes away from Senator Kerry. Nader says a vote of conscience is never a wasted vote.
Coming up next, we'll have much more live coverage of this important election. We'll have a live report from Wolf Blitzer in Times Square, where CNN will be reporting the very latest election results as they come in.
I'll be joined by former presidential advisor David Gergen as we analyze this campaign, the issues, this election, and its results.
The battle for Congress -- control of the Senate tonight could come down to a handful of key races, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's battle in South Dakota.
We'll have all of that and a great deal more, all coming up next.
DOBBS: Throughout this evening, we're going to be focusing on a host of issues that are critically important to voters and which have been debated throughout by the candidates themselves. We're also going to look at some issues that were all but ignored -- immigration, for one.
A controversial ballot measure in Arizona is drawing attention certainly to the issue of illegal immigration. Arizona's Proposition 200 -- the ballot initiative would limit state benefits for illegal aliens and prevent them altogether from voting.
Casey Wian joins me now with more on the issue and the story -- Casey?
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Arizona's Proposition 200 is an effort by citizens to do something the federal government has been unable to accomplish: reduce illegal immigration.
(voice-over): Proposition 200, or Protect Arizona Now, would require that voters show proof of citizenship before registering. It would also deny state and local welfare benefits to illegal aliens. And it would order government welfare workers to check the IDs of those applying for benefits and impose criminal penalties for failure to report illegal aliens to federal immigration authorities.
Supporters say they are battling Arizona's illegal alien invasion.
KATHY MCKEE, CHMN., PROTECT ARIZONA NOW: We can't sanction employers, because that's only the federal government, and we can't deport people, that's also only in the federal government. What we can do and we are doing is we are getting our state constitution enforced...
WIAN: 200 had a huge, early lead in the polls, but that's narrowed as a coalition of lawmakers, business, and immigrants' rights groups launched a media campaign against the measure.
(on camera): And it has so far survived three legal challenges. And even if it's approved by voters, more lawsuits are expected. Opponents compare it to California's Proposition 187 10 years ago, which died in the courts. Supporters say they've crafted this measure to withstand court challenges -- Lou?
DOBBS: And as one reads the language in that proposition, they have been extraordinarily careful. I don't think that will in any way slow down the challenges in court, however.
WIAN: Absolutely. Both sides say the challenges are coming and are almost going to be automatic because of some of the provisions of the measure that are within federal jurisdiction. DOBBS: How confident are the opponents? How confident are the sponsors?
WIAN: The opponents say they're hopeful. The sponsors' reactions range from very confident to very nervous. The lead that it had in the polls has been narrowing over the last few days, so it's going to be tight it look like.
DOBBS: OK. And of course, we'll be following it throughout here on CNN. Casey Wian, thank you.
CNN's extensive coverage of Election Night results begin when the first statewide polls close, and that will be in just a little over an hour-and-a-half.
Wolf Blitzer leads our coverage tonight from the Nasdaq MarketSite in Times Square here in New York City. He joins me now with a preview of what we can expect -- Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We've got a wealth of information we're going to be able to share, Lou, with our viewers because of these video screens from the Nasdaq MarketSite here in Times Square in New York.
Let me take you on a little tour, some of the things we're going to be able to do tonight. All of these video screens we can change whenever we want change whenever we want to get information up there.
For example, governors' races -- there are 28 Republicans right now, 22 Democrats. We'll be able to show you what's happening with these governor races at any one time.
As far as the race for the White House is concerned, we'll be able to project that once we know a lot more information from some of the exit polls we're getting and the real numbers that will start coming in once all the polls in a particular state close. The race for the White House, 270 electoral votes needed to become elected president of the United States.
The popular vote will show our viewers across the country, including Ralph Nader, the balance of power in the Senate, the balance of power in the House of Representatives -- all of which we'll be able to change at any one time. And in fact, we can put up on the screen behind us all 50 states plus the District of Columbia in an instant to show our viewers what's happening in each state, especially those key battleground states.
Let's say, for example, we want to take a look at what's happening in Florida. When all the polls in Florida close at 8:00 p.m., we'll be able to show our voters what the numbers are for Bush, for Kerry, for Nader and the precincts reporting the percentage.
So, we're going to be able to share simultaneously, Lou, with our viewers the information, the numbers we're getting. At the same time, the viewers are going to be able to see those numbers. There's going to be no lag between what we know and what all of our viewers know. DOBBS: An extraordinary visual display that you're going to have for all of us, Wolf, there. And of course, we're looking forward to your insight, your perspective, and your reporting throughout the evening as you lead our colleagues through our coverage on this very important evening.
Wolf Blitzer, thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
DOBBS: Joining me now for his insight into this election is former presidential advisor David Gergen, who served under four presidents -- I'll even name them, David -- Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. David Gergen here with me in New York. David, good to have you here.
DAVID GERGEN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR: Thank you, Lou. It's good to be back.
DOBBS: Let's start with the turnout. This looks like it is going to be a barn burner in every respect from turnout.
GERGEN: It's terrific news. The long lines -- I know it must be painful for people. They have to be patient to wait two or three hours to vote, but I think it's terrific for democracy. You know, we've decried for so long the declining turnout since the 1960 election, goes down steadily, young people were disengaged.
This election, for all of its flaws and for all of the polarization, has actually engaged people. And now the decision is in the lap of the gods, you know? You and I have talked about all the commentators that are so-called chattering (INAUDIBLE) have been talking, talking, talking. And finally, the voters have a chance to make their voices heard. And they're doing it in enormous volume.
DOBBS: You know, as you've said, we've all bemoaned the lack of participation in this democracy. It looks like we're getting that participation today. And what is remarkable, I think this may be perhaps the first election, certainly since 1968, which I can remember, that no one has said to me, David, "You know, I'm not voting this in this one. I'm sitting this one out."
GERGEN: Not at all. And what's also been remarkable would be the number of people one hears about who are leaving their home states where it's safe -- they vote absentee -- and they're going to Ohio, they're going to Iowa, they're going to Florida, driving to Florida to help work on the turnout. I mean, kids are doing it, but a lot of adults are doing that, too.
You know, I live in Massachusetts right now, and I can just tell you tons of people went up to New Hampshire today.
DOBBS: Well, that kind of participation is great.
Now, let's talk about a couple of the things that are driving that kind of participation, at least ostensibly: one, Iraq, certainly; this economy; and the war on terror.
What is your sense of what is the most important element in that, those three, and others that are driving participation?
GERGEN: Well, it's an interesting question, but I think we're going to be waiting to see what the exit polls say tonight. The polls so far, you know, leading up to the election have suggested terrorism was the number one issue, Iraq was number two, and the economy was number three.
But there's some indications anecdotally today that, in fact, what's driving a lot of people actually to vote is the reverse of that. The economy is very much on their minds. CNN interviewed some people in a line this morning that I saw out in Ohio, and they were all talking about the economy. So, it may be -- while some people say terrorism number one, what actually gets a lot of people out of their homes and goes to vote may be the pocketbook and maybe Iraq.
DOBBS: In one critical state -- Ohio, of course, with its critically important electoral votes -- over 200,000 jobs -- I know certainly the Bush administration expressed its concern about that, and the Kerry campaign focused rigorously on those job losses.
GERGEN: They did, indeed. And I think it's -- that's the toughest -- going to be the toughest obstacle the president faces in Ohio. Symbolically, very important, the president today flew from Texas to Ohio before going back to Washington. It's rare that he would do that. You typically don't want to go in as a presidential candidate on the day of, because all your workers are supposed to be out getting people to the polls.
So, they must have felt a special urgency about Ohio.
DOBBS: And the president obviously wanting to make certain he left no effort expended...
GERGEN: No, none.
DOBBS: ... in his battle to retain the White House.
David Gergen, thank you. David will be with us throughout the broadcast here on CNN with his insight and analysis as we look at a number of issues and events shaping the results of this 2004 presidential election.
Still ahead here tonight, the balance of power in the House and Senate depends upon the election today. We'll have the latest for you on a number of extremely close races in both the Senate and the House.
And then, long lines not the only problems reported at polling places around the country. We'll have a report on the potential for lawsuits and possibly even worse.
That and a great deal more still ahead here.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: In the House of Representatives, all 435 seats, of course, are being contested today. Thirty-four Senate seats are being contested, but the outcome in both houses will likely depend upon the outcome of a few key races.
Congressional correspondent Ed Henry has the report -- Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: ... Lou, that's right.
The House of Representatives, the Democrats would need 12 seats to take it back. Very unlikely they're going to be able to do it. They'll probably pick up a few seats here and there, as you mentioned. But redistricting in Texas is really going to hurt Democrats. They could lose five seats or more.
In the Senate, that's what's really up for grabs, only a two-seat majority for the Republicans in the Senate. There are nine states that are too close to call right now. Democrats think they have a shot at taking it back. And there's a lot at stake there, Lou. If President Bush wins reelection and he has a Republican Senate, I can tell you, they're already saying they're going to put the pedal to the metal.
They're going to pass more tax cuts. They're push through conservative judges. They're going to have energy reform, finally, and they're also finally going to have tort reform, which they have only missed by a couple of votes in the last couple of years in Congress.
Now, if President Bush has a Democratic Senate, I can tell you, I've talked to Democratic senators who say they'll put the brakes on the president's second-term agenda, on those tax cuts, on any Social Security reform he wants. And also, they'll finally launch investigations of Halliburton and other issues that a Republican Congress has not wanted to look into.
Now, if John Kerry wins the White House, obviously, he would much prefer a Democratic Senate. He is going to be watching those returns very closely. He wants to get his health plan passed. He wants to get his tax reform changes through as well, trying to roll back some of the Bush tax cuts that Kerry has talked about on the stump.
Now, if John Kerry, though, if he does win the White House and if he gets a Republican Senate, obviously, the Republicans will be looking for gridlock, looking to slow down his agenda, even pick some fights over maybe some members of his Cabinet. So there's a lot at stake here tonight.
Some of the hottest races. Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader in South Dakota, locked in a dead heat with Republican John Thune. We have always known this will be close race. John Thune only lost in 2002 in another Senate race by about 500 votes. This one is going to be something that we'll be up late watching very closely. A Senate leader has not lost reelection back home since 1952, when the Democratic leader, McFarland, lost, that obviously history in the making if -- and I stress if -- Tom Daschle were to lose tonight.
Another big race is in Kentucky, Republican incumbent there, Jim Bunning, the former baseball player, the Hall of Famer. He's had a series of miscues in recent weeks. All of sudden, this race that was supposed to be a slam dunk for Republicans, all of a sudden, it's a very close race. Democrats think they have a shot there.
But the bottom line is, most outside experts are thinking this will be status quo in the Senate, that, in the end, it will be very tight, but that the Republicans are likely to hold on to a slim majority, in part because most of these nine tossup Senate races are in Bush states, red states that even if President Bush were to lose reelection, he's likely to win these particular states, like South Carolina, like Oklahoma, by double digits -- Lou.
DOBBS: We're truly shaping a government here today, as that participation, those long lines are suggesting.
HENRY: That's right.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Ed Henry from Capitol Hill, who will be following those critically important races throughout the evening here on CNN.
Still ahead, investigations already under way as to the whereabouts of tens of thousands of ballots in one closely contested state. We'll have that report for you.
And Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala, they take a look at some of the critical issues that could swing this election -- all ahead as we look live now at voters casting their ballots in Denver, Colorado, tonight. We'll check in with polling places all around the country here tonight.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Well, it is much, much too early to say this categorically. It appears at this hour that this election is going along rather orderly in all quarters of the country. However, voters and election officials have encountered a few problems also in the country today.
Lisa Sylvester is here and has the very latest for us as we watch these problems around the country -- Lisa.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we have seen a little bit of everything today, charges of intimidation, allegations of fraud and technical glitches.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): In Florida, 13,000 votes had to be refed into a computer after a memory card failed. In Pennsylvania, lines wrapped around the polling places, most notably in six precincts in Mercer County, where voting machines went down.
In Philadelphia, GOP attorneys say some of the machines were improperly calibrated. They maintain there were votes already on the machines. Democrats dispute that. A New Jersey polling station was closed for two hours after a white substance was on the floor. It turns out it was salt. And across the country, hand-wringing and confusion over provisional ballots.
DOUG CHAPIN, DIRECTOR, ELECTIONLINE.ORG: Our guy in Pittsburgh actually reports that a poll judge this morning asked him what a provisional ballot was and how it worked, so there is some confusion out there as to how these ballots will work. And if those become decisive in Pennsylvania or elsewhere, those kinds of problems could end up being not only noteworthy, but newsworthy.
SYLVESTER: And some areas are having to deal with a shortage of poll workers.
At least in one precinct in swing state Missouri, it opened 45 minutes late because the poll judges did not arrive on time -- Lou.
DOBBS: And with all the lines that are strung out at polling places around the country, that's just got to be annoying.
But people seem to be willing, this year, because they're so impassioned, to put up with those long lines and the frustrations.
SYLVESTER: Right. I think the word here is patience.
Everyone saw in 2000 how every votes counts, so that people knew that even though it might take a little longer, even though it might mean a three-hour wait in line, bring a book, do whatever you have to do, but that it was very important to vote. So we saw that in this country.
DOBBS: Two thousand four, no excuses, no tears.
SYLVESTER: Right. Exactly.
DOBBS: Everybody is doing their part.
Thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester, who will continue to watch out for problems here on CNN, as she watches these polls around the country.
Joining me now with their take on today's voting problems and voting successes, the hosts of CNN's "CROSSFIRE," on the right, Tucker Carlson, and on the left, Paul Begala.
Gentlemen, good to have you with us.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Hi, Lou. Good to see you. TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Thanks, Lou.
DOBBS: You have just heard Lisa report, at least again, as I say, with the caveat that it is still early, it seems that this election has been far more orderly than it was feared might be.
BEGALA: It is.
Think of if the early projections look like they're true, turnout will be way up this year. I certainly hope it is. I hope everybody who hasn't voted yet goes out and votes. But with that increase in turnout and the long lines, the frustration, I have heard very few reports -- and I heard Lisa's report just now -- but very few reports about problems.
I do think -- I am, of course, a Kerry partisan, but I do think it's probably good news for John Kerry. The higher the turnout goes, probably the better it is for the challenger. As one Kerry aide said to me this afternoon, he said, you know, you don't stand in line for 45 minutes to vote for more of the same.
DOBBS: Do you agree with that, Tucker?
CARLSON: Sadly, I do agree with that. I can tell you, Democrats agree with that.
CARLSON: I listened to two well-known Democrats -- I won't tell you their names -- literally involved in a conversation of who was going to be Kerry's White House chief of staff. They are picking the curtains in the White House, which is reason enough in my view to hope they don't win.
The gloating has begun already. But, yes, they definitely think it's good for them. And I think, sadly, they're probably right.
DOBBS: You really believe that, then?
I mean, look, I agree. All this week, we heard reports of voters standing in line for three hours or more to vote in Florida and other places. And you've got to ask yourself, the obvious question. Are people going to do that to support the incumbent? And people do support the incumbent. But people who do that are intense. And the intensity in this election is all on the Democratic side. There are a lot of people who really hate President Bush. And I think that makes a difference, again, sadly.
BEGALA: But, Lou, let me give you the alternative theory.
And that is, Karl Rove, the president's chief political strategist, an old acquaintance of mine from years back in the day in Texas, has believed for years, really, since the 2000 election, that there were four million conservative, white, Protestant, evangelical Christians -- that's about six levels of redundancy, but you get the point.
DOBBS: I got it.
BEGALA: Who did not vote in 2000, presumably because of the drunk driving story that came out in the final days of that election, that they got disenchanted with Bush in 2000.
And Karl wants them to come out. And so it may be that some of those people in those long lines are voting for more of the same. But I strongly doubt it. My own experience in campaign consulting is that the challenger does better when the turnout is high.
DOBBS: And in your minds -- and I'm still trying to get over Tucker's view here that basically those folks are all supporting Senator Kerry -- but, in your minds, you believe the principle issues, Tucker, that are driving them are what, Iraq?
CARLSON: Yes, I would say Iraq and then Iraq and then Iraq, the war and the occupation. And that's fair. I mean, it is fair; 50 years from now, of course, that will be the issue that defines the Bush administration, Bush's legacy, this whole era, this time, this generation.
And so it's fair, I think, to have an election on it. And the bad news for the president is, the majority of people, when asked about by Gallup anyway, say it was not worth waging in the first place, this war in Iraq. So that can't help but hurt Bush.
And I must say, it buries the allegation that Bush somehow waged this war for political reasons. Of course he didn't. That would have been politically stupid. And Bush is not politically stupid. He did it I think for honorable reasons. It just hasn't turned out as well as a lot of people had hoped.
BEGALA: Well, I agree with Tucker strategically, that it's Iraq that is driving the election.
But, tactically, you know what's turning these people out? Negative campaigning, my favorite thing. I love negative campaigning.
BEGALA: All of the smart guys, all of the hand-wringers and the Ivy League elitists always said, oh, negative campaigning depresses turnout.
Well, guess what? We are on line to the highest turnout in 40 years. If people go and vote in the evening in the numbers that they did in proportion that they did in the morning, we could break records, Lou.
BEGALA: So more negative campaigning means more voters. God bless them.
CARLSON: That's disgusting.
DOBBS: Well, Paul, Tucker, thank you both for that interesting analysis, as always.
And shortly, in a little more -- a little less, actually -- than an hour and a half, we'll begin to get some early returns to see what the reason was for those long lines, as their votes are counted, begin to be counted, at least.
Thank you very much, gentlemen.
When we continue, one controversial issue in voters' hands today, gay marriage and banning gay marriage. We'll have a special report on this issue, important in 11 states.
And then, calling a winner, how the television networks, including this one, CNN, are exercising great caution, I assure you, in something they've always rushed to do in the past. Judy Woodruff will be here. She'll join us from CNN's election analysis center.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: The issue of gay marriage is on the ballot in eleven states today. American voters will decide whether to change their state constitutions in order to ban gay marriage and civil unions.
Christine Romans has the report -- Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, one in five American voters will face an issue that was barely on the radar in the last election, gay marriage.
ROMANS (voice-over): It's called the defense of marriage. In Oregon, Mississippi and Montana, the constitutional amendment initiatives would ban gay marriage. Initiatives in eight other states ban civil unions. But gay rights groups say wording in several of the proposals would actually roll back gay partners' health benefits, hospital visitation rights and other hard-fought civil rights.
In Michigan, the Catholic Church spent more $1 million to preserve what it calls the sanctity of marriage. Conservative family groups say they just want to uphold what the majority of Americans believe, that marriage is between a man and a woman.
ROMANS: Lou, obviously we're having some audio problems there.
I want to tell you, these ballot initiatives are about more than just defining marriage. Some political strategists believe that the initiatives were placed on the ballot to energize the conservative base and in some cases appeal to African-American voters. At this point, it looks like, at least in 10 of these states, these bans on same-sex marriage will likely pass.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Christine.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
DOBBS: Christine Romans. And we apologize, again, for those technical problems.
Coming up next here, avoiding another 2000. The news media, the news networks have a new plan for calling a winner in this election, the news networks, the news divisions. Judy Woodruff will be here with me next. And we'll have live reports for you from the critical swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, three states that in fact could determine the outcome of this election. And I'll be joined by three of the nation's very best political journalists assessing this Election Day.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: The election debacle of 2000 has certainly changed the way in which the news media will report today's election. News organizations across the country have taken extensive precautions to avoid any projection errors.
For more now on the guidelines of this network, I'm joined by Judy Woodruff at our news analysis desk -- Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Lou. How are you?
DOBBS: Doing great.
Tell us about what it's going to -- what will be really different this year that will assure our viewers of absolute accuracy as we report these numbers and results and projections?
WOODRUFF: Well, Lou, first of all, the watchword is caution. We are going to be cautious. We would much rather get it right than get it first, by a long shot.
So, we're going to be focused on having the right results tonight. But, No. 1, one thing we're doing differently is, we're waiting for all the polls to close in particular states before we project a winner in that state. Second of all, we are relying on the Associated Press, a news organization, wire service, which will be collecting actual vote counts from thousands of counties all over the United States.
And we have our own team of analysts and statisticians here at CNN, at Time Warner Center, and they are going to be looking at these numbers coming in, both the exit polls that are done as voters leave the polling places and the sample precinct numbers. So we have got our own layer of analysis.
DOBBS: A layer of analysis and some terrific analysts and terrific journalists, most especially Judy Woodruff, who will be with you throughout the evening here.
Judy, thank you very much.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Lou. See you later.
DOBBS: You betcha, Judy Woodruff.
Coming up next here, we'll have the very latest from the reporters on the ground in key battleground states around the country, also, a live report from early exit polls and voter turnout in this very close election.
DOBBS: I'm joined now by the A-team in political journalism, Ron Brownstein of "The L.A. Times," from Washington tonight, Karen Tumulty of "TIME" magazine, from Boston, Roger Simon of "U.S. News & World Report."
It looks like we have got a close one, Ron. Have you seen one closer than this, Ron?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, which one of us is Mr. T., Lou?
Well, you know, 2000 was pretty darn close, too, the second narrowest Electoral College victory ever, only the fourth time in history a president has lost the popular vote and won the White House.
DOBBS: Well, Ron, actually, I was talking about at this point in the election.
BROWNSTEIN: No. I'm saying, I'm saying that, you know, I think in many ways what we're seeing here is that many of the lines that we saw in 2000 are engraved even deeper. The polls coming into this have shown the country divided in many similar ways. We'll see how it breaks finally tonight, but I think the basic divisions that we saw are still in place.
DOBBS: And, Karen, the long lines that we're seeing, conventional wisdom has been that a heavy turnout would favor Senator Kerry. Anything that you want to add to that conventional wisdom?
KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": You know, I haven't seen anything that would shake that conventional wisdom today. What is more surprising even than the turnout is the complete lack of problems that seem to be happening. Those tens of thousands of lawyers who are standing around the polling places probably have a lot of time on their hands. So, while people are standing in line to vote, if they want to draw up a will, this may be the time to do it.
DOBBS: Well, those lawyers, I suspect, are on retainer or somehow figuring out a way to make due, given all of the lack of activity.
DOBBS: Roger, as you're analyzing what's happening here, is this turnout, do you judge it to be approaching a record?
ROGER SIMON, POLITICAL EDITOR, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Oh, yes.
I think -- I don't know if it will set a U.S. record. I doubt it. But it is going to set a record for several decades. And I agree with Karen. The motivation is that, if you want change, you get out and vote. If you're satisfied with the status quo, you're more likely to stay home, and that probably favors John Kerry.
DOBBS: And do you believe that the principal issue here -- because Senator Kerry has focused like a laser on Iraq for the past week. Is that what you think is driving most of these voters, the primary issue in their minds, Roger?
SIMON: I think we're going to find that it is going to differ from state to state and voters to voters.
But I think the same mind-set is going to be the same no matter whether the issue is homeland security, terrorism, the economy, or Iraq. It's going to be, stay the course and vote for George Bush or vote for change and vote for John Kerry. It almost doesn't matter what the issue is. It's your attitude to whether you want the country to continue the same way for the next four years or you want change for the next four years.
BROWNSTEIN: Lou, can I jump in?
BROWNSTEIN: I think George W. Bush is the fuel for the turnout on both sides in this election.
We have had, as we've talked about before on the show, the widest gap in the history of modern polling in way Democrats and Republicans view this presidency, the widest gap in the approval ratings. We've seen that intensity in the campaign finance contributions we saw all year. And I think we're going to see it again in this turnout. This president has deeply attached himself to his base, but he has also generated enormous opposition among those who didn't vote for him last time. And I think both of those forces are propelling this turnout that we're seeing.
DOBBS: And this turnout, is it, Karen, in your best judgment -- and is it affecting the race in the House and the Senate as well or is that fairly irrelevant to the outcome there?
TUMULTY: Well, interestingly enough, the states that have the hottest Senate races and a lot of the hottest House races are not the states that are in general, at least, with some exceptions, like maybe Colorado, that are in the greatest contention in the presidential race.
So, certainly, the high turnout in the -- in the noncontested states could affect it, but -- but it's -- it's been an interesting electoral map this year.
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