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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Election Night Coverage: America Votes 2004

Aired November 2, 2004 - 19:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's live coverage of America Votes 2004.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Times Square, New York City, 43rd and Broadway, in the heart of Manhattan. You're looking live at the Nasdaq Market Site. Inside, a wealth of information.

We're here at CNN election headquarters. We're going to be able to show you results as you've never seen them before. Take a look at this. In only three minutes plus, we'll be able to start projecting some winners in states across the country. Six states will be closing their balloting in only three minutes from now. Another three states will be closing at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, and half an hour later.

This is a night that so many have been looking forward to. The campaign, a long, arduous campaign, coming to a close. We're going to take a look at all of the races tonight, the governors' races, the Senate races, House races. We'll have projections. We'll have data. We'll have all the information you need to know. As quickly as we get it, you will get it yourself.

Jeff Greenfield is joining us here as well, as he always does on these occasions. Jeff, thanks very much.

But first let's go over to the White House. Our senior White House correspondent John King has been covering the president.

John, give us a little flavor of the mood. What's in store over there?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Nervous anticipation, Wolf. The question for George W. Bush tonight, will he be president for 78 more days or four more years plus that 78 days? Mr. Bush is in the White House, he is awaiting the results. He is being joined by his family, including the former president and his mother, Barbara Bush. His brothers coming to the White House as well, Neil and Marvin already here, waiting for the results, receiving constant updates from his top political team, including his top adviser, Karl Rove.

Now, they have been listening throughout the day to Kerry advisers saying they believe things are going their way because of high turnout. They say, Let's wait for the votes to be counted. They say, Let's remember four years ago. And what the Republicans are saying, Wolf, and we'll see if the results hold it up, veer it up, is that their turnout operation says things are going gangbusters out there in the states and in the precincts where it matters. So now they wait, and they say the big challenge now is to count the votes, don't worry about the exit polls.

BLITZER: John, we'll be getting back to you.

Candy Crowley is in Boston, Copley Plaza, the Kerry campaign. What's the mood there, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's two words, actually. The campaign remains encouraged, that coming from Joe Lockhart speaking for the campaign, but mostly, Wolf, they've been busy. The candidate came home from Wisconsin, he went to vote, he said a few words to the press.

And then they sat him in what they call the Chair, and for most of the afternoon, he did interviews. If they saw a precinct that wasn't turning out Democrats in the numbers they felt they should, they would offer the senator up to a local television station, and he would do a satellite interview. So he did that most of the afternoon before going over to his house on Beacon Hill to have dinner.

So they are still working this. They are still shifting resources, looking now at Nevada and Colorado. They have moved Wesley Clark, who has been out there as a surrogate, from New Mexico, sent him to Nevada, trying to get people out. So they're still working it at this point, but they're feeling pretty good, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Jeff, only, what, 28 seconds to go before the first polls close.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And so what we're going to do is let you project those first state closings, and when that's done, we're going to show you where things ended up in 2000, and what both Bush and Kerry hope to do to either keep that map red or make it blue, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, we'll be checking back with you, obviously, throughout the night.

Right now, six states are about to close since six seconds from now. Once all those states, the precincts are closed, we'll be able to start bringing you results of this election.

And right now, we can project that George W. Bush, the president of the United States, will carry several states in among these first states that are up for grabs. The president will win, we can project, Indiana and its 11 electoral votes, Kentucky and its eight electoral votes, and Georgia and its 15 electoral votes. We can project that John Kerry will carry the New England state of Vermont and its three electoral votes.

So far, so far, we do not have enough information yet so be able to project a winner in either Virginia or South Carolina.

But Jeff Greenfield, the race for the White House is moving forward. Right now, at this extremely early, extremely early moment in this night, Bush already, according to our projection, has 34 electoral votes, Kerry has three. The blue state, Vermont, is for Kerry. The red states are for Bush.

GREENFIELD: That's right. This is the calm before the storm. None of these results are anything but expected.

But I think the best way to tell these voters where we expect to be is where we wound up four years ago in 2000. If we can switch to that map, and I'll start talking before that map is on, back in 2000, George W. Bush won the -- he won the South, he won the mountain West, he won, of course, Florida. He won Ohio and Missouri. And Al Gore won New England, the middle Atlantic states, the upper Midwest, the industrial Midwest with the significant exception of Ohio. He won, of course, Florida.

Now, if the map looks like this when tonight is over, George W. Bush will be reelected with 278 electoral votes, because population shifted into the red states. So the Kerry strategy, obviously, take something away from the president.

For instance, if he were to win Ohio, a state beset by almost a quarter-million job losses, that alone would put Kerry over the top. He also has designs, not surprisingly, on Florida, with 27 electoral votes, by far the biggest battleground state up for grabs. He's looking at well at New Hampshire, up here in New England, which Al Gore lost by only 7,000 votes. That's a state that Nader affected.

So what about the Bush strategy? They say they have a shot at Pennsylvania, a state that George Bush has visited more than any other state except his home in Texas. They're looking at Michigan, where they think social conservatism may play among the so-called Reagan Democrats, and Wisconsin, another state that Al Gore only carried by 0.2 percent of the vote.

So you can see, throughout the night, Wolf, we'll be showing viewers how these states affect the outcome. We need one more thing to show you, if we can go back to the 2000 map and give John Kerry New Hampshire, with four electoral votes, and Nevada, with five electoral votes, guess what we have? A tie at 269 votes each, and welcome to 2004 where a House of Representatives will choose the president.

It is unlikely, Wolf, just as unlikely as an election that came down to 537 votes and hanging chads in Florida.

BLITZER: And the new House of Representatives as well, would be...

GREENFIELD: You got it.

BLITZER: ... making that decision if there were a tie.

Let's talk about some turning points, some moments that you are looking at right now, what we should be looking at throughout these hours to come. GREENFIELD: Right. Well, as we look at back at this campaign, I think we can see a couple of critical turning points that affected this campaign. The first one was Iowa. John Kerry was virtually counted out before 2000 began. He said, I'm going make Iowa a do-or- die state. He won those caucuses and was never headed.

The second turning point, and this one is -- may turn out to be the most significant one of all, money. The Republicans assume that the nominee of the Democratic Party would be bankrupt by the spring, but thanks to the Internet, thanks to John Kerry following Howard Dean and opting out of public financing, and thanks to a loophole in campaign finance that let very rich people pour millions into advertising and vote mobilizations, the Democrats played this game on equal grounds.

Third, the conventions. This has been looked at by a lot of Democrats as a missed opportunity for John Kerry, stressing his Vietnam experience, not stressing his Senate record or what he would do. The Republicans came out of their convention with a big lead, which survived until this other turning point, that first debate. That put John Kerry right back into the mix of things.

And finally, the question that lingered throughout this campaign, Iraq and terror. If Iraq is seen as part of the war on terror, George Bush should do well tonight. If voters see Iraq as a diversion and a quagmire, a slog, as Donald Rumsfeld called it, that's probably good political news for John Kerry.

How this turns out, Wolf, I think we ought to ask the viewers to stick around.

BLITZER: They will be sticking around. We'll be sticking around all these turning points throughout the night.

Judy Woodruff is anchoring our coverage from our CNN election analysis center over at the Time Warner Center.

Judy, tell our viewers, first of all, what you're looking at, and that team of experts with you, what they're doing.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, this is what we are calling the election analysis center. It's a team of people, a combination of veteran election political analysts and statisticians. And they have been looking at numbers coming in all day long, Wolf. The so-called exit polls, these are interviews with voters as they left the polling places, about 1,500 precincts around the United States in every one of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

So they're looking at that, and it is on the basis of those exit polls, Wolf and Jeff, that CNN is felt comfortable enough to make the calls that you just did, Wolf, and that is, in the state of Georgia, in the state of Kentucky, and in the state of -- let me get the other -- Indiana, those three states for George Bush based on exit polls that show a comfortable enough margin that tends to match other information CNN had about the direction those states were going in politically. But on top of that, we are going to be looking at sample precincts and calls coming in from those sample precincts. We are all obviously also going to be looking at the raw vote. The Associated Press tonight is calling in from 3,500 counties across the United States. We're going to be taking in that information, and our team right here in Manhattan, in New York City, is going to be watching those numbers.

We've got layers of information, the exit polls, the sample precincts, and finally, the raw vote numbers, on top of the expertise of these people, which you cannot underestimate.

BLITZER: All right, Judy. And just to be precise, the fact that we cannot project the winner in Virginia and South Carolina, that simply means that we don't know enough about those two states. Is that right?

WOODRUFF: That's correct, Wolf. At this point, we do not have enough information to be able to call the result, either in the state of Virginia or in the state of South Carolina. That should not be read to mean that either one of these states is too close to call.

I will add, however, that the Democratic governor of the state of Virginia said a couple of days ago, Maybe we're going to see a surprise in that state. The public opinion polls in Virginia have been showing a race of somewhere between 3 and 6 points, closer, of course, than some of these other Southern states.

But in no way do we have information at this point that would lead us to believe that this is a state that's not going to go to George Bush.

GREENFIELD: And just to be clear, Judy, because after 2000, I think we want to bring the viewers in as close as we can. If you do get enough data to say the state is too close to call, CNN will call the state that way, correct?

WOODRUFF: That is correct. And that will be a specific call we make at a point in the evening when we have enough information in from a combination of these exit polls, sample precincts, and the raw vote, when we get enough information in that makes the men and women on this team comfortable to make that call, we will say it is too close to call.

But that is not what we're saying at this point about either Virginia or about South Carolina.

BLITZER: Judy Woodruff at the CNN election analysis center, thanks very much. We'll be getting back to you.

Let's walk over, bring in some other members of our team, no strangers to our viewers in the United States and around the world, Larry King and Carlos Watson.

Larry, what are you looking at at this early stage? LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Well, I'm looking at, first, this amazing setup we have here tonight. And I think we're going to be here a long time. I know we can't project certain winners in certain areas based on what happened four years ago. The question I'd ask you and you, how are we preventing four years ago?

BLITZER: Well, we have learned a lot of lessons, Larry, from what happened four years ago. The data, the new research that is coming in, this is a much more sophisticated operation. But I think it all boils down to, when all is said and done, is this, we're much more cautious this time than we were four years ago. And if we don't know something, we'll tell our viewers, we simply don't know.

Carlos, tell our viewers what you're looking at right now.

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we're testing history, frankly, today. History says, if you're an incumbent president, certainly if you're a president during war, you have raised a lot of money, and you have a lead going into Labor Day, you should win. John Kerry wins, we haven't had a senator get elected in 44 years, would be the second Catholic to get elected, wasn't ahead in the polls, even the Democratic primaries, coming into this year, January 1.

So a lot of convention will get turned on its head tonight. So lots of big historical importance, not just importance in terms of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: What, Jeff, surprised you the most? What in this whole campaign?

GREENFIELD: That after four years, when everything changed, every assumption we had going into 2000 had changed, from invulnerability to an attack that we could never have dreamt of, from peace to war, from economic security to anxiety, the country remains apparently evenly divided, with the red and the blue states, by and large, as we showed, lining up pretty much the way they did four years ago.

You would have thought that those events, those hammer blows to the United States, would have resulted in a political upheaval. Looks pretty much the same.

KING: What is the turnout story?

BLITZER: We don't know specifically what the turnout story is, because the polling -- the results won't be coming in till all the states are closed. And then we'll get the hard, raw numbers that are coming in. Anecdotally, as we have seen on CNN all day, there are long lines in many of these key battleground states. And you know what? There are long lines in some of the nonkey battleground states as well, Carlos. What you to make of that?

WATSON: Well, I, again, I think people are as energized as we've seen in a long time. We might get the highest turnouts since 1968, which would be significant. And one of the things I note in my home state of Florida, which Larry knows well as well, close to 2 million people voted early. And I've had a number of people say, if that early voting hadn't taken place, the system wouldn't have been able to handle all the people who ultimately did show up today.

KING: And there were reports earlier today about some snafu in Philadelphia, then they said that didn't happen. Any reports of any major occurrences occurring anywhere that are causing lawsuits and people upset?

GREENFIELD: It has been going more smoothly than one would have thought, especially when you throw 10,000 lawyers into the mix. They're capable of making mountains out of any molehill. But I think people are surprised so far that it's gone relatively smoothly, especially because people on both sides were so keyed up to spot any instance of voter fraud or voter suppression.

And unlike 1968, at the end of that tumultuous year, the electorate was so exhausted that the turnout went down from four years ago. I think the one thing everybody expects this year is the turnout way up. That's something we're not going to know till the end of the night or maybe even tomorrow.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is taking a look at the exit polling data. What's the, what's on the minds of Americans, based on what we can tell, Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there are three big issues that define this election, three big ones that may seem to be working in different ways.

Let's take a look at our exit poll results. George Bush wanted this election to be a referendum on the war on terror. So we asked people, Do you feel safer from terrorism than four years ago or less safe? And the answer is 52 to 44 say they feel safer from terrorism. That is good news for President Bush.

But another issue, the economy. How do people feel about the nation's economy right now? Only 44 percent say the economy is in good shape. A majority say it is not good or poor. Four years ago, 85 percent said the economy was in good shape. So the economy is working on behalf of Senator Kerry.

Two issues, different directions. What is the tie breaker? How about the war in Iraq? What about do voters think about the decision for the United States to go to war in Iraq? And the answer is, they're split. Forty-nine percent say they approve of the decision to go to war in Iraq. Forty-seven percent say they disapprove. This, the Iraq issue, is an issue that divides the country. But it could be the issue that defines this election.

BLITZER: And we're going to be sharing these exit poll numbers with our viewers around the world all throughout the night. So Bill Schneider, we'll be talking with you again.

Do you want to ask Bill a question?

KING: Yes. These are national exit poll numbers, right? You're not breaking it down by state? And this election is electorally.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. These...

KING: That's not a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) electorate.

SCHNEIDER: This is the national electorate, and we see three issues pulling the voters in three different directions.

KING: Senator Ted Kennedy is joining us now from Kerry headquarters in Boston. I'll start, senator. What surprised you, if anything, today?

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, I think the extraordinary turnout. I know what John Kerry was hoping for a big turnout, and there was a big turnout. I think the number of young people that turned out has been very positive and very constructive. Many people thought that the young people really weren't involved, turned off the system. But clearly, they want to be involved, they want to be a part of the future.

I think that's going to be a real challenge for John Kerry, about how you're going to make sure that the number of people that turned out in this election are going to be part of the political process over the period of the next four years.

BLITZER: Senator Kennedy, you've been with the junior senator from your home state all these many, many months. How do you feel that he's done over the past, let's say, year or so?

KENNEDY: Well, we're very proud of John Kerry. You know, sort of the ripple around here tonight is that we have the Super Bowl champions with the New England Patriots. We have the World Series champions with the Red Sox. And now, above all, we've got John Kerry home, hometown boy, that's won the presidency. We are very hopeful about it.

He has demonstrated, I think, over the period of the last year the kind of inner toughness, the kind of strength of character, the kind of determination that is going to be so important in a president, in any president, and I think particularly now.

BLITZER: Let me point out, Senator Kennedy, he hasn't won the presidency yet. It is still relatively early in this night.

KENNEDY: Well, I think it is important that those that haven't voted go out and participate and vote. It is amazingly important that they do. I know John Kerry has certainly urged that, all of us would certainly do that. But I say that we are encouraged with the kind of response that John Kerry has received.

KING: Senator, are there key states that you, as a political pro, and you're a pro among pros, are looking at? Are there certain things that will indicate to you early on where this is going?

KENNEDY: Well, I think your analysts have gone through the major states, with the major electoral college numbers. And they are clearly the Ohios and Floridas and Pennsylvania and Michigan and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and the cluster of other states that appear, Wisconsin and Minnesota and Iowa.

And, but what I think is enormously important and impressive is that there is a whole movement and a whole tide. The turnout has been uniform, really almost uniform, across the country. And the numbers have turned out. Americans wanted to participate in this election. Americans want to have a voice in their future.

And I think what you're seeing, at least my impression is, that they want a new leadership. They want to have a restoration of American prestige and influence and leadership abroad, and they want a president that's going to focus on the middle-class working families here at home, and education and health care and these other issues.

BLITZER: Senator Kennedy, what...

KENNEDY: And I think they're going to receive that.

BLITZER: Senator Kennedy, a lot of people think that the country is about as divided today as it was perhaps during the Vietnam War in '68 or '72. Have you to seen the country this divided in a long time?

KENNEDY: Well, it is clearly divided. These races are going to be close. I think it's going to be close in the United States Senate as well. I'm hopeful that we'll do well in the Senate races, because in order for a president really to get his program on through, you need the support in the Senate, and obviously the House of Representatives.

So I'm hopeful that in some of these tight races for the United States Senate, it will go John Kerry's way.

But, you know, I find, in my colleagues and friends in the Senate on both sides, they really want to get about the business of addressing the challenges that we're facing at home. There is a general sense among, I find, Republicans and Democrats alike that we're just not dealing with the real problems and challenges that we're facing here at home.

And I think that the John Kerry, his great challenge, will be to try and bring people together. But I think with those efforts and being sincere about it, he'll work hard at it, and I think it can be done. It has to be done.

KING: If he is elected, can he work well with the Republican majority, Senate and House?

KENNEDY: Well, that's going to be certainly a challenge. I think there are members in the leadership on -- in the Republican Party, and among the Republicans, that really want to see progress made on our domestic issues, and also in foreign policy. And I know John Kerry. It will be a challenge in trying to work out the, you know, these differences, and because there are a lot of raw endings, you know, from the result of this campaign.

But I think he's up to the task. I think he is ready to take that challenge on as well. It's going to be necessary. It is going to need the kind of skills that John Kerry has. But I know he's capable and will do it.

BLITZER: Well, there is still a possibility, Senator Kennedy, as you well know, that John Kerry might not be elected, that George W. Bush might be reelected. If he is reelected, how disappointed will you be?

KENNEDY: Oh, I'll be very disappointed. But I don't think I'm going to be very disappointed. Every indication is moving in John Kerry's favor.

This has been a hard, tough-fought campaign. I respect the candidates that obviously have been out there, the presidential candidates, president -- President Bush. But I think tonight is John Kerry's night, and I think we're going to see some good outcomes in the -- for our Senate races as well. This has been -- people have gone to the polls and said they want a new direction, new leadership. And I think that is going to be the outcome.

KING: What do you hear from your Senate majority leader? How is he doing?

BLITZER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) minority.

KING: Minority leader. Thinking ahead again the wrong way.

KENNEDY: Hopefully he'll be the majority leader by our next meeting. He's in a tough race. He's always known it. That's a very close election out there. But I think that people in that state know that, in South Dakota know that Tom Daschle delivers for them.

Why would anyone in South Dakota, when you have the chance, what I believe, and you're going to have a Democratic president, want to give up having someone who is the Democratic leader in the United States Senate, has a good chance of becoming the majority leader.

If you're concerned about all of the challenges that they're facing, particularly the Native Americans, who need to turn out, and no one has been a stronger supporter for Native Americans than Tom Daschle.

But why in the world would they want to turn out someone who is highly regarded, highly respected, and is able to get things done for South Dakota, when you -- particularly when he has a good friend, and John Kerry is a good friend, of Tom Daschle? They have the opportunity to have such an influence.

So I don't think that's going to happen. I think Tom Daschle is coming back. BLITZER: All right, which we will soon find out. Senator Kennedy, from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he's been with Senator Kerry from the beginning, thanks very much for joining us from Boston.

KENNEDY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), thanks very much, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Anderson Cooper is standing by to give us some word on the United States Senate. What do we know so far, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we were following a number of Senate races very closely. Some of the most fascinating stories of this election are happening in the Senate.

We can project three states now. First, Georgia, a win for Johnny Isakson, a pickup for the Republicans. This, of course, is Zell Miller, a Democrat's old seat. Johnny Isakson, not a great surprise, though, picking it up in Georgia. CNN projecting Johnny Isakson is the winner there.

Also Indiana, Democrat Bayh is the winner in Indiana. And in Vermont, of course, Patrick Leahy is the winner there. Really no two great surprises in the state of Indiana and Vermont, nor in the state of Georgia, Johnny Isakson up against Denise Majette, a representative, but who did not have the name recognition that he had, really not have the money. He entered, she entered into the race rather late, she from Atlanta.

These are the nine key races we're watching. Want to bring in Amy Walter with the "Cook Political Report," who's also been following this all with us.

Amy, thanks for joining us.

These races are fascinating. If you have not been following these nine races, you've really been missing out on one of the great stories of this campaign. Let's just briefly go around the board, take a look. Let's look at the where we have numbers first.

Right down here, South Carolina. It is at this point Jim DeMint, Inez Tenenbaum, Jim DeMint seems to have a firm lead, but at this point it is still very early days. This is really virtually meaningless, only a couple hundred votes here. The race is surprisingly close.

AMY WALTER, "COOK POLITICAL REPORT": Well, it's amazing that this race is even on the board. It is a Democratic-held seat, this is Fritz Hollings's seat down in South Carolina. But the fact is, this is a state that's so Republican, it's quite remarkable that Inez Tenenbaum was able to keep the race as tight as she has.

COOPER: A very conservative district. Jim DeMint has raised some eyebrows. He at one point said that gay people should not be, gay men should not be teachers. Also he said unwed (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- pregnant women should not be teachers as well, which I think he apologized for that. But again, we're still getting results in. It looks like Jim DeMint in the lead. But again, these numbers are very early.

Kentucky, another fascinating race. Jim Bunning, former major league ball player, pitcher, pitched a perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies, against Dan Mongiardo.

WALTER: Right, again, another race that wasn't supposed to be on this board. In fact, this is race that from very, very late, in part due to Senator Bunning. Dan Mongiardo made a big deal of the fact that Bunning, his question is his fitness, the 73-year-old has made some comments. This has been a real issue in this campaign. Remember, Bunning very narrowly won his race in 1998. So it was supposed to be a close race. Now it is.

COOPER: Polls have closed in South Carolina and Kentucky. But at this point, we do not have enough information to call any of them.

Want to talk about some of these races a little bit later on. Most importantly, though, South Dakota, you heard Larry King, just heard Senator Kennedy talking about it, this is a remarkably close race, a big money race, some more than $30 million put into this race by both candidates. And there are only about 350,000 voters in the state.

WALTER: That's right. This is a state that has been inundated with money for the last four years. Remember, two years ago, there was a very, very close race...

COOPER: John Thune.

WALTER: ... that John Thune, yes, exactly.

COOPER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) lost by some 500 votes.

WALTER: Five hundred -- 524 votes. So this is a state that will be very, very close. It's obviously very important watching it...

COOPER: Right.

WALTER: ... very closely.

COOPER: There are some 700,000 people in the state, but only about 300,000 or 350,000 registered voters.

WALTER: Right.

COOPER: A lot to watch tonight. These are the nine races we're going to be keeping a very close eye on for you all night long. It is going to be a fascinating night, Wolf.

BLITZER: Those races very, very important for the American public. Anderson and Amy, thank you very much.

We're going to take a quick break. What, in only about six minutes, three more states will be closing. Six minutes and 13, 12, 11 seconds to go. Ohio, North Carolina, West Virginia, coming up. We may have some projections. We may not. Stick around. We're at Times Square in New York. BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN election headquarters here in New York City. We're picking up our coverage right now.

I think we have, what, how much time do we have? Two minutes and 45 seconds before the half hour, and we'll be able to presumably maybe make another projection or so.

But let's show our viewers, Jeff, what we can do on these walls. Let's put up all 50 states and the District of Columbia and give our viewers a sense, obviously Alaska, that's going to be way, way, way on the West Coast, 1:00 a.m. But these early states, in fact, let's walk over to the early states on the East Coast and give our viewers a sense of some of the numbers that may or may not be coming up right now.

Maine is a state, it's an interesting state, because it can split its electoral votes.

GREENFIELD: That's right, it blasted it in 1828. They think there might be one electoral vote up there for George W. Bush this time. But that's one of the states that we're all watching, it's a state that Bush won by 7,000 votes, Nader widely credited or blamed with making the difference, and John Kerry's campaign really wants that one (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Vermont, we've already projected, will go for John Kerry. Not a surprise there. Massachusetts, closing at the top of the hour, 8:00, Rhode Island and Connecticut still to come as well. Pennsylvania closing in, what, about 32 minutes from now.

GREENFIELD: Bush campaign wants that more than any other. Twenty-one electoral votes, they think they have a shot because it is a state with a lot of pro-life, gun-owning Democrats. Everybody's poured in tens of millions of dollars to that one.

BLITZER: Let's continue walking down this wall and take a look at some other states we're going to be looking at at the top of the hour. How about that one right there called Florida?

GREENFIELD: I think we all remember Florida, Wolf. I think it is fair to say that 27 electoral votes were decided by 537 votes or, if you ask the Democrats, five members of the U.S. Supreme Court. Big Kahuna would be in Hawaii, but there is no state more in play than that one.

BLITZER: Florida. Georgia we've already projected will go for the president of the United States, Kentucky as well. These Southern states pretty much expected to go for the president as well.

GREENFIELD: The Democrats cast a covetous eye on Arkansas. Bill Clinton was down there the Sunday before the election. There is no data we have yet, but that's one the Democrats would love to pluck out of the Republican column. BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens in Arkansas. We'll be watching. No doubt about Texas, I think it's fair to say, the home state of George W. Bush.

GREENFIELD: Safe call. Missouri, the Democrats pulled out of Missouri three weeks ago, and some Democrats think that may have been a mistake. That's a state that's voted with the winner all but one time in 100 years. We'll see whether that was a mistake at the end of the day.

BLITZER: Michigan is also a state that the Republicans seriously covet.

GREENFIELD: That state, along with Pennsylvania, are the two Gore states from 2000 the Bush campaign most wanted. This, again, is -- these are where the Reagan Democrats were born in reaction to patriotism, where the Nixon Democrats deserted the party on busing, social issues in rural Michigan play a big role. But it's also a state that's been hard-hit economically. That affects the Democrats.

BLITZER: It is 7:30 exactly now on the East Coast and CNN is ready to project that George W. Bush will carry -- George W. Bush will carry the state of West Virginia.

Jeff Greenfield, West Virginia is the state the Democrats hoped to be able to carry, but this state and its five electoral states we project will go for the president.

GREENFIELD: Michael Dukakis won this state. It was about as reliably Democratic as possible. But social issues, gun ownership abortion plays very badly here for the Democrats. And it is a state that is now in George Bush's pocket once again.

BLITZER: And I want to alert our viewers, we do not have enough information yet to make projections in the other two states that are closing right now, North Carolina and Ohio. Ohio is about as important as it gets.

GREENFIELD: You know how they say that blue is the new black in fashion? Ohio, a lot of people, think is the new Florida. Not just because it is in play but because huge pre-election controversies grew up about whether or not provisional ballots would be counted and how. Everybody's eye will be on Ohio.

BLITZER: The fact that we can't project a winner in Ohio or North Carolina, what if anything does that mean?

GREENFIELD: We don't know. Could mean nothing. Could mean we don't have enough information, which it probably means, and eventually down the road it may mean it is too close to call. But we really want to emphasize, Wolf that the fact that we're not calling a state doesn't mean it is close. We are being cautious. All of us have -- we don't have Georgia on our minds, like the great Ray Charles said, we have got Florida on our minds, 2000.

BLITZER: All right. Let's go to Judy Woodruff. She's over at the CNN Election Analysis Center. Judy, Ohio, North Carolina, why can't we make a projection there?

WOODRUFF: Well simply because we do not have enough information to call either state. We are only calling the states at exactly at poll closing time when base purely on the exit polls, those interviews with voters as they leave their polling places, when based purely on that, we feel comfortable that there is a comfortable wide enough margin that we feel it is safe to make that projection. Otherwise we are holding off.

And at this point, both in Ohio, Wolf, and in North Carolina, which as we know is the state that John Edwards has represented in the Senate, neither one of these states do we have enough information. Now, Ohio, both of these candidates have focused on it about as hard as you can. Ohio was in George Bush's pocket four years go. He won it by four or five percentage points--actually just under four percent. But John Kerry has made a run at it because they've lost over 200,000 jobs in that state. That's what has made Ohio the competitive state that it is. But North Carolina, we're keeping an eye on, too.

BLITZER: Judy, those two states that closed at 7:00 at the top of the hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern that we have not been able to make a projection on, Virginia and South Carolina, we're beginning to get real numbers, raw numbers in that will help us when combined with the exit poll numbers and the earlier surveys that we have done.

WOODRUFF: That's right, Wolf. And our team of election analysts and statisticians here at the Election Analysis Center, they're looking constantly not only at the exit poll information that has been coming in throughout the day, but now they are looking at the sample precinct numbers that have been called in and at the raw numbers. And when they feel comfortable that they've got enough information, and they are all in agreement on it, then we will make a call.

But as of now, we're not there yet on South Carolina. We're not there yet on Virginia. And as you just said, we're not there yet on either Ohio or North Carolina, comfortable enough to make any presidential call, presidential projection and, of course, Ohio, we knew it was going to be that way. These other three states, you know, we know those states have been, you know, the polls have been a little closer in those states.

BLITZER: Judy, I think this might be a good time to spend a minute or so and tell our viewers some of the lessons that our experts, our statisticians, our pollsters, our analysts learned from four years ago that they've incorporated into the new system not only CNN, but all the major news organizations are using to make these projections.

WOODRUFF: Well for one thing, Wolf, we have built up from the ground a whole new system, if you will, using the latest computer technology and we're able to feed in now more -- even more political analysis and information so that when these calls are made, everybody feels more comfortable about them. We all remember that what happened in Florida four years ago among other things is that frankly there were just some mistakes made. Some numbers were called in wrong from various counties around the state. There was an error in projecting how many absentee ballots were still out. And when you put all that together, coupled with an old computer statistical model, if you will, mathematical model, it was a recipe for a problem. And everything seemed to come together the wrong way. This time, everybody is trying to do everything we can here at CNN to make sure that doesn't happen again. That means layers of information double-checking with a lot of smart people who have been doing this for years and years and years.

BLITZER: Judy, you remember back in 2000, one of the big milestones on the way to that disaster was a computer took thousands of votes away from Al Gore up in Volusia County in Florida. I'm told that our system and the other networks' systems have a built-in red flag so if that kind of number shows up again, you're going to have more bells and whistles than we do here in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

WOODRUFF: Exactly right. Because -- and don't ask me, Jeff, to explain how the computer works, the inside of it. But the fact is that these newer -- we all know that computers get better and better every few months, practically. We now have a computer system that is able to factor in -- string in a particular county, right down to the smallest geographic political area that you possibly can get. And they're constantly -- the computer is constantly comparing the new information that is coming in with how that county voted in the past or that precinct. So this is constantly going on. And all of this is informing our decision-making here at CNN and the Election Analysis Center.

BLITZER: Judy, I want to point out to our viewers if they see that man behind your left, that's Tom Hanan (ph), our political director, who is in charge...

WOODRUFF: Take a good look. There he is.

BLITZER: ... of all of this. He's working feverishly...

WOODRUFF: He is.

BLITZER: ... now getting information. We don't want to bother him. He's shaking his head. He's getting information together with our other team, making sure that all of the information we have is precise. Jeff, right now, by our count, by our projections, George W. Bush has 39 electoral votes and John Kerry has three electoral votes. Some people will be saying, you know what, that looks like George W. Bush is really doing well.

GREENFIELD: Well, it is not exactly like a sports event where, you know, the runs come randomly. These are all Bush states. There are no surprises that we have seen so far. When the New England states come in and the Middle Atlantic States come in, it may look like John Kerry has a big lead. Everybody knows there are six to 10 states that are going to decide this election. We have no idea when we'll be able to tell the viewers what's going to happen. BLITZER: And as we take a look at the popular votes, these are raw numbers that are coming in right now. Bush at 58 percent with nearly a million votes. Kerry at 42 percent with 662,000 votes. And that will be changing, Nader already has more than 6,000 votes in the raw numbers that are coming in. We shouldn't read much into that either.

GREENFIELD: No. The big -- we learned four years ago, I think a lot of people were surprised you can get more votes than the other guy and lose because of our system. One of the numbers I think all of us are going to be looking at the end of the night, there are about 105 million votes last time, 100 to 105 million. People are expecting as much as 120 million votes. And that's going to tell us whether there was a surge in turnout and whether that surge helped one side or another.

BLITZER: Let's walk over to Larry and Carlos and bring them into this discussion as well. Larry, you're watching all these numbers go by.

KING: I have a few questions. West Virginia was late night four years ago. Now it's touch and go. Surprised that it went so quickly to Bush tonight?

GREENFIELD: That's one of those states where a heavily rural population has been trending Republican for years. It is the biggest -- one of the biggest problems the Democrats have, in Ohio, in rural Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin is that rural and small town Americans, mostly on values, have just been moving away from the Democrats. That and a lot of coal miners who didn't -- who don't like the Democrats' environmental policy.

KING: And Wolf, do you think Senator Kennedy was real overly optimistic?

BLITZER: Well he's obviously feeling very, very upbeat right now based on anecdotal information and earlier information that he was getting. It certainly is possible that John Kerry will win. It is certainly possible that he won't.

KING: But he was acting like it is a done deal...

BLITZER: One of the things...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... and it didn't surprise me -- and I'll let Carlos weigh in on this as well -- because both of these sides learned a lesson from four years ago. They want to exude victory. In case there is a problem, they don't want to look like they were spoilers. They want to look like it is theirs and they're on top.

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Very much so and what is interesting is the hundreds, literally, of what they call satellite interviews on television, on radio, the thousands, millions if you will of phone calls and door knocking that is still happening today as we speak, particularly in some of those western states. So no one is giving up at this point.

The vice president just 24 hours ago or so was in Hawaii. So, there is a lot of effort being made in the western half of the country where lots of states are still open. I wanted to say one thing about Ohio, one of the big stories of this election is that in Ohio and in Pennsylvania, two of the big three states this time, no Ralph Nader on the ballot. Could be a big deal. We won't know until it is all said and done. But, remember, Ralph Nader scored about 2.5 percentage points in Ohio last time. Didn't do poorly in Pennsylvania either. Could make a difference.

BLITZER: He is on the ballot, though, in Florida.

WATSON: He is on the ballot in Florida one more time...

BLITZER: Democrats will never forget what happened four years ago.

GREENFIELD: You know what is on the ballot in Ohio and Michigan, gay marriage? And one of the reasons...

(CROSSTALK)

GREENFIELD: ... one of the reasons why the Republicans think they have a shot there is that they believe that's a kind of issue that mobilizes their social conservative base. Whether that's true or not, only time will tell...

KING: Do you think Pat Buchanan will get any write-in votes in Palm Beach? He's not on the ballot. He was four years ago.

BLITZER: If there is a butterfly ballot and some hanging chads, perhaps there will be some people who will make that mistake.

KING: I know you guys deal with computers, but how could Nader have no percent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or not quite one percent yet...

(CROSSTALK)

WATSON: Maybe not enough to justify one percent...

BLITZER: In order to get up to one percent, he has to have a specific number and it is just shy.

GREENFIELD: I don't do fractions...

(LAUGHTER)

GREENFIELD: Not yet at least.

WATSON: You know, another one of the really interesting story lines when we talk about Nader and we talk about Florida and Ohio and some of these other places, are the very different strategies the two sides took to getting out the vote. Republicans leaning on some success of 2002 in some Senate races, decided to get very centrally organized. So coming out of the Republican National Committee and the Bush campaign, they organized things down to the precinct, had volunteers, had paid staff members.

Democrats on the other side, though, decided to partner, not officially, because it is not legal, but effectively had help both from unions and from these independent political groups called 527s. If Democrats ultimately succeed, that may become the new model on both sides. If conversely Republicans succeed, this will be a transformational change in that Republicans who normally haven't been good on get out the vote effort will succeed in not just some Senate races but in presidential races...

BLITZER: Let's take a quick look ahead. And Larry, I want you to take a look ahead, the top of the hour -- what, the top of the hour is only less than 20 minutes or so from now. They're going to be a lot of states closing including Florida, Pennsylvania, states that potentially could play a decisive role, New Hampshire one of those battleground states as well.

KING: I have a feeling, just a gut feeling, that we're not going to predict Florida and Pennsylvania at the top of the hour.

(CROSSTALK)

WATSON: What makes you think that?

KING: Just, just, I don't know...

BLITZER: Sixteen states will be closing at the top of the hour.

GREENFIELD: You vividly talked to me about one of the turning points might have been money that the Republicans thought they were going to be able to face a bankrupt Democratic Party. You realize in Ohio if you add up Kerry's spending, the Democrats spending and the so-called 527s, these independent groups, they outspent on advertising the Republicans by a factor of almost two to one. I think if Kerry winds up carrying Ohio, and carried some of these battleground states, this is going to be a significant factor...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: How much did George Soros spend?

BLITZER: I believe he spent more than $10 million out of his own...

(CROSSTALK)

WATSON: ... 23, 24 million...

BLITZER: George Soros, the billionaire who's been passionate about his opposition to George W. Bush...

WATSON: You know what is interesting about the numbers that Jeff mentioned is that if you talked to Democrats, four years ago, they say one of the reasons they believe they lost Florida was that they ran out of money and they were outspent by some $700,000, almost $1 million in the last week alone. You look at the 11 most contested states, Democrats or Democrats and Democratic National Committee have outspent Republicans in 10 of the 11. Big deal in the final week.

BLITZER: Money talks in these kinds of races (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

GREENFIELD: I thought you were going to finish that sentence another way...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

GREENFIELD: This is the number that is going to jump out at everybody. And the 527s, these independent groups, that loophole in the McCain-Feingold Finance Law turned out to be literally $100 million or more loophole and the Democrats feel that so far, it looks like better than the Republicans.

WATSON: Although one thing that the Republicans did very well is you'll see that they coordinated with the Republican National Committee by putting a key phrase in their ads that allowed them to spend money. I'm sure Chairman Gillespie will talk about that a little bit later.

BLITZER: I think we want to talk to them right now...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: In fact, let's walk up there. The chairman of both parties, Ed Gillespie, of the Republican Party, Terry McAuliffe of the Democratic Party. Ed Gillespie, how are you feeling right now?

ED GILLESPIE, RNC CHAIRMAN: I feel great. I'm very excited about it. I'm looking at the numbers come coming in from the field and the fact is we have busted through our targets for key precincts that we know are strongly supportive of the president. In Florida, absentee ballots, you know they process in Florida by registration, it is a party registration state. We're running two to one ahead, probably a margin of between 150 to 200,000 votes for us in the absentee ballots. They are yet to be counted. But when you look at partisan break down, looks very, very good for us. And our ground game is better than we had even hoped for. So feeling very good, Wolf.

BLITZER: How are you feeling Terry McAuliffe?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Wolf, I've never felt better. You can feel the excitement. I'm in Boston today. The millions of people -- I said it in the morning show today on CNN -- that we have 120 million people vote. I think that's what we're going to have. But you know we had a million volunteers on the street today. I announced that the DNC today raised over $350 million in federal money. We had 80 million in 2000, extraordinary. We were able to do everything that we needed to do, with a great nominee in John Kerry. Everything is happening. People record numbers, I just talked to Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the congresswoman from Cleveland. She said there are lines for hours still out in Cleveland. People waiting to go vote. It's exciting. It's great for America. It's great for democracy.

KING: Ed, it's Larry King. You both can't be right. So let's try it this way. What, Ed, concerns you tonight? What are you worried about?

GILLESPIE: Larry, I feel good about the fact that West Virginia has already been called. It's one of the states that the Democrats targeted early to try to take back from the president when we surprised them in 2000. We're both on the ground strong there...

KING: You're not worried about anything?

GILLESPIE: I'm not worried about anything right now. I'm waiting -- I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I'm waiting for the votes to be counted and feeling good that we have executed against a very well done plan. The president ran a fantastic campaign. And I have faith in the American people and I know that from what I'm seeing in terms of the -- where our precinct goals were and what I'm seeing coming in from the fields that we have met and exceed our goals in our battleground states.

KING: Terry, do you have any worries?

MCAULIFFE: Yes, the only worry I have right now, Larry, is to make sure that we keep these polls open. As I say, I just talked to the folks in Cleveland. They have people waiting still hours in line. The polls are supposed to close in about 20 minutes. Let's make sure that everybody gets in, if you're in line, let's go in and vote.

There are so many people who have come out. And as you know, these record amounts of people are not coming out to support an incumbent president. They're coming out because they want a fresh start for this country. And we need to make sure that all these people who are out there in the pouring rain out in Ohio and other places, stay in line, call your friends, tell them to stay in line, get out there and vote. It is exciting what is going on. A fresh start for America starts tonight.

KING: Ed, did the huge turnout concern you at all?

GILLESPIE: No, not at all Larry. We were hoping for a big turnout. The fact is if you look at our governor's races and the Senate races in 2002, Republicans benefit from big turnout. We registered 3.4 million Republican voters in this election cycle. We were turning them all out. I anticipated between the growth of the population between 2000 and 2004 and the extra emphasis of both parties.

I think one of the most important things that both Terry and I do as party chairs is bring people into the political process. On the Democratic side, frankly, they contracted out to these outside groups. By the way, to answer your question about George Soros. He spent $24.5 million. He and two other gentlemen accounted for $50 million in soft money in this election cycle. But that's fine.

We were able to raise plenty of resources as a result of the president's strong appeal amongst Republicans and a lot of Democrats and Independents as well. So we'll match them dollar for dollar I think at the end of the day with our federal dollars against their soft dollars. And the fact is I think you're going to see the benefit of our strong turnout effort tonight as the votes start being counted.

BLITZER: We're going to wrap it up. And a quick question to you, Terry McAuliffe. Do you see any evidence out there that there was any hanky panky out there across the country by our anecdotal reporting? It looks like things are going relatively smoothly.

MCAULIFFE: Yes, I agree Wolf. I think things have gone very smoothly. We had all of our folks out there to monitor situations. I'm very happy that people went in, they cast their votes. But as I say, we had a record amount of people that came out and put their footwork out there to say I want to go vote for John Kerry. I want to change this country. So it was a great day for democracy, great day for America and President-elect John Kerry a couple of hours from now.

GILLESPIE: Wolf, if you give one more second, I'm happy to let Terry respond to this. But I do think that needs to be remarked upon. Because there has been, unfortunately, hanky panky as you put it out there. We had it in Wisconsin, 40 of our fans for "Get Out To Vote" had their tires slashed. We have seen in the precincts MoveOn.org, a group that supports Senator Kerry intimidating and harassing Republican voters in line.

We have seen constant reports on the ground of Republican voters being intimidated by MoveOn.org and union members supporting Senator Kerry. It is unfortunate. It ought to stop and I hope Terry McAuliffe and Senator Kerry supporters not to engage in those intimidation tactics as I have done for President Bush's supporters.

BLITZER: All right. Terry McAuliffe, you want to respond quickly...

MCAULIFFE: Sure. I could sit here. The letters that went out the other day telling people to vote on November 3, all the types of antics, I'm not going to do that tonight. You know why...

(CROSSTALK)

MCAULIFFE: This is about democracy. This is about people going to vote...

BLITZER: All right.

MCAULIFFE: ... and it's a great day for America. Let's move on. It's exciting. John Kerry will be elected president tonight and it will be a new America starting tomorrow. (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Terry McAuliffe and Ed Gillespie...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... thanks to both of you for joining us. We'll be checking back with you. What were you saying Larry?

KING: One of these guys is wrong.

BLITZER: Right. Yes...

KING: ... don't know which one...

BLITZER: You figured that out...

KING: I figured...

BLITZER: They're both very happy (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Dana Bash is joining us now, our White House correspondent at Bush Headquarters with information. What have you learned, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi Wolf. Well you just heard Ed Gillespie talking about the fact that the Republicans believe they have almost a 200,000-vote advantage when it comes to absentee ballots. Well folks here at the Bush/Cheney campaign are saying that they have now heard from the election supervisor in Miami- Dade County in Florida who says that they are likely not going to be able to count a majority of the absentee ballots. That is perhaps as many as 65,000 ballots until Thursday.

So they are telling us that, essentially bracing for perhaps not just a long election night, but perhaps a couple of days now. You heard the president today say that he wants election night to be over on election night, but they are looking at this and saying that because a big part of their strategy is absentee ballot because Miami- Dade County is a place that is very Republican, they say. They are certainly thinking that perhaps this might not be over tonight. Of course, that depends on the rest of the margin in the state of Florida, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana Bash. We'll be checking back with you as well. Sixteen states about to close their precincts, their balloting. Coming up at the top of the hour we'll take a look, see if we can project any winners. We'll let you know.

In the meantime, we'll take a quick break from the NASDAQ market site here at Times Square in New York City. Much more coverage coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: There it is, the CNN election express bus. Look where it is -- in the heart of Times Square, right across the street from where we are, the NASDAQ market site for CNN Election Headquarters complete coverage of election night 2004. Welcome back.

Paula Zahn is joining us now from the CNN Time Warner Center. She's got the "CROSSFIRE" crew over there and they've got some opinions, I suspect, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, no. Not those guys. Let me introduce our audience now to men by now they're familiar to them, Tucker Carlson. Bob Novak, Paul Begala, James Carville. I think we have been talking here throughout the last hour about the only story we seem to be in agreement on and that we can arrive at some conclusions about is that we believe we're looking at record turnout here. And we know that through our exit polling, 15 percent of the folks we talked to coming out of the polls today did not vote in the year 2000. I don't have a comparative number for the year 2000. But we know that we have some 10 million new voters out there who probably -- a majority of them will vote.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": And that's nothing but good for the challenger. Some of them -- Karl Rove, the president's chief strategist, has long believed that there were four million Protestant Christian evangelicals, conservatives, who did not vote in 2000, who should be voting for the president this time around. So maybe some of them are Karl's phantom four million. But I think the better bet is that when you get 10 million new voters turning out, the likelihood is very strong that they want to vote for change. They want to vote for the challenger.

ZAHN: I guess the question I have for you -- what would bring the evangelicals out? These are folks who are against the war. These are folks who think this president has run up the deficit.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": I don't think the evangelicals are against the war. I don't think they worry about the deficit. I think they like George Bush. But...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Pat Robertson on the air told us that.

NOVAK: But we're at a point now where this was the debate that was going on during the campaign. We're now down to the short strokes on who's going to win the electoral votes. And I've been on the phone to some Republicans in Ohio and they're very pessimistic. The polls have closed in Ohio. They're talking to the -- looking at the returns, they think it's going to be very tough for Bush -- President Bush to carry Ohio.

Now, no Republican has ever been elected president without carrying Ohio. There's always a first time. But let's say he loses Ohio. Then he, of course he must under any conditions carry Florida. In addition to that, he's probably going to carry Iowa and Wisconsin, which are not gimmes. That makes it a very tight thing. So -- and I understand, too, that the NAACP is suing to keep the polls open in Toledo, maybe even until midnight, as well as neighboring states.

BEGALA: In fact, I just talked to a friend of mine with the Kerry campaign in Ohio who was a lot more optimistic than maybe your sources in the Bush campaign and he told me that in Cuyahoga County, which is Cleveland is the dominant city in that county, that 20 minutes now, 25 minutes after the polls closed, African Americans were still waiting in line at predominantly black precincts, and they're going to be able to still vote. And so Kerry people, you know, based on turnout patterns, they feel pretty good about Ohio, which as Bob points out, is a Bush state, and it would be the first takeaway that Kerry would get.

ZAHN: It is interesting, though, because we have seen those numbers continue to erode throughout this campaign. Sometimes in our own polling showing that the issue of the economy trump the issue of the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: The economy is a huge issue because of the number of jobs lost, manufacturing jobs lost.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": I don't buy that for a second. I never bought that. I think, in fact, the Kerry campaign, which for most of the last two years was I think even by agreement of most Democrats extremely badly run, was not a great campaign. Only pulled itself together when it narrowed the themes down to one, Iraq. That's why Kerry is competitive and indeed may win. They spent, you know again, two years trying to get his people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) second worldwide depression. People didn't guy that the economy is soft. But all the polling on people's attitudes about the economy show it has been pretty hard to win on that alone. I really think, and I'm not saying this for any partisan reason, I just think it's true, that the only issue that really matters is the war on terrorism and Iraq.

ZAHN: Do you agree with that, James?

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": No...

ZAHN: What do you think...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I think people...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... you know the president of the United States gets a huge house, he's got office buildings, a gazillion staff. He has 12 cabinet departments. He's got all of this and, you know what? He ought to be able to protect us and help make us prosperous and keep the budget in balance all at the same time. And it is not a choice between we can protect you from the economy, but we can't keep the deficit under control or the crime rate or something else.

And I think that people actually expect both. They pay taxes. They have -- these people actually expect to keep them safe and to do the best they can. I understand that there is a limit to what the president can do, but there are a lot of people in places that 22 -- what is it -- I forgot, high percent, 22 percent of people who voted for Kerry had a family member that lost a job. When you're fired, when you walk out of there, you're worried about your job.

CARLSON: But here's the problem. Kerry was never able to articulate how his economic program was substantially different from Bush's. He said well he's, you know, cutting taxes for the rich, I'm against it, which is fine...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: The Republican pollster, Ed Goets (ph), shows that for people who think that the economy is the most important issue, jobs, Social Security, are overwhelmingly voting for Kerry. The people who think that Iraq and terrorism is the most important issue are overwhelmingly voting for Bush. So I have to disagree with Tucker. I believe that the economy is the issue that has made the Republicans and Ohio so nervous. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they still think they might barely carry Ohio. But they're very nervous right now and that's going to be a very difficult thing for Bush to be elected. He has to really clean the board on other states if he loses Ohio.

ZAHN: Although, haven't we seen in the last couple of days, John Kerry closing that gap a little when it comes to the issue of leadership and the war on terror...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: ... and in prosecuting the war in Iraq?

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: The president's lead on terrorism was 22 points about a week or two ago. Half, it's down to 11. It's cut in half down to 11. I mean that is a huge break for John Kerry and it hurts the president.

ZAHN: And the one thing we'll be watching very closely from here, Wolf as the polls close at 8:00 in particular, what happens in Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Hampshire. James Carville thinks it's very important. He'll explain why the next time we come back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Paula. Thanks to the entire "CROSSFIRE" gang as well. Look at this -- 43 seconds to go and we're going to be able to make some projections right at the top of the hour once the polls in these 16 states that are closing at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Once all of those polls are closed, we'll be able to make some projections. These are important states for both of these candidates.

A lot of them widely anticipated. We're going to see shortly whether there are any surprises in store for our viewers in the United States and around the world. We got new projections. All of these projections that we're about to make are projections that have come to us as a result of our exit polls and other data that we've collected some sample precincts in all of these states.

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