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Analysis of Sen. John Kerry's Decision to Concede

Aired November 3, 2004 - 12:32   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush re-elected. But you know, there were many hours last night where well into the morning...
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: It was unclear.

LIN: Unclear, did not know if it was going to be a repeat of 2000. It was definitely an exciting time. And at the center of it, our very own Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf, what I night.

HARRIS: Good to see you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much.

It was very exciting. There was no doubt that all of the advance billing that we said it could be a long night turned out to be true. It was a long night. It was an uncertain night. And in the end, not many states actually changed from where they were four years ago. The Gore states, by in large, went to Kerry, all of them. With the exception of a couple that we are still waiting results from. The Kerry states -- the Bush states all went to Bush, with the exception of New Hampshire. So it was a predictable close. We were saying it was going to be close, it was going to be tight, and it was.

HARRIS: And, Wolf, give us a sense, for those of us who couldn't stay awake with you through most of the night, when Ohio started to break.

BLITZER: Once we saw about 100,000 vote difference, the Kerry people had been suggesting if they could wind up with 99 or even 100 percent of the precincts reporting at 50,000 votes, they thought they had a chance to take a look at those provisional ballots. They were throwing out the number that maybe there were as many as 250,000 provisional ballots. Not all of them would be approved, and we don't know how they would split, but they thought that would be in range of trying to find some sort of a way to win in Ohio.

And remember, no Republican has ever won the White House without capturing Ohio, and that still remains a fundamental fact now. The -- once it got to about 100,000, 140,000, whatever the final number is now, they looked at potentially the number of provisional ballots, and it became pretty clear that it was a mathematical longshot, and the Kerry people crunched the numbers. When John Edwards came out last night in Copley Plaza to make that statement, saying they wanted to make sure every vote would be counted and every vote counts, they seemed determined to keep it going. But he used the word, let's wait another day, and the words let's wait another day. Once he said that, this was clear they would take a close look at crunching the numbers, and they obviously did, and they determined they really don't have a chance.

LIN: And it was, Wolf, it really was shaping up to potentially be a really ugly post-election battle, with the Republican Party in Ohio already poised and ready to file lawsuits challenging how those provisional ballots would be examined and counted.

BLITZER: The Republican party would have done that. It would have been ugly. It would have been protracted. And we interviewed late into the night the secretary of state of Ohio, Ken Blackwell, who was, I would say, pretty magnanimous in saying, we want every vote to be counted. The law in Ohio says that they can't count those provisional ballots for 11 days. They can't even start counting them for 11 days, and he said that's what they were going to do, because that was the law of Ohio, and they wanted to make sure there would be no problem whatsoever. There was no doubt in Ohio that -- there was no doubt that Ken Blackwell, the secretary of state, a Republican, he wanted to show that he wasn't going to be necessarily all that partisan, in contrast to critics that have suggested that Katherine Harris, was the Republican secretary of state, now member of Congress, from the state of Florida from four years ago.

HARRIS: And, Wolf, I've got to ask you, as these numbers are unfolding and the map is getting red, and then in some cases redder and redder, is it amazing to see where we were in 2000 and where we ended up in 2004?

BLITZER: Pretty much we were where in 2000 where we are now, except this president has managed to get a majority, 51 percent of the popular vote. That's something that has not been done since 1988 when his father beat Michael Dukakis. Bill Clinton, as much as he wanted to do it in '96, could not get above 50 percent, and that was a source of quite an amount of disappointment.

My sense is that the president will see this as a mandate on his policies, because the Republicans also did very well in the House of Representatives, did very well in the U.S. Senate, picking up seats in both. He gets over 50 percent, 51 percent. And he's going to see this as a mandate in the next four years to try and move the country in the direction he wants it to move. He will try to bring the country together in the short term, but he's going to say, he's got a mandate from the American people, and by all accounts he does.

LIN: And that's interesting, Wolf, because, obviously, John Kerry trying to make a point that perhaps no fewer than four seats on the U.S. Supreme Court would be determined by this next presidency. You already have the chief justice trying to recover from thyroid cancer. No idea how long Justice Rehnquist is going to last on that court. You've the stem cell debate, gay marriage debates going on in states across the way. How does the president then create an agenda that both satisfies his base, as well as bring the country together?

BLITZER: Well, he's got his priorities. He has a lot of problems out there he's going to have to deal with -- Iraq, the war on terror, the economy. Those will be the biggest issues he's going to be worried about. He says he wants to continue to cut taxes. We'll see how far he can get along those lines, but given the fact that the Republicans have picked up seats in both the House and the Senate, that should make it easier. That 60 vote filibuster rule in the Senate, they're not going to get 60, but if they just get a few moderate or conservative Democrats to vote with the Republicans, they're going to get close to 60 votes on some of those key issues.

And you're absolutely right about the Supreme Court. At least one or two, maybe even three, or maybe even four seats could come up in the next four years, and he's going to nominate Supreme Court justices. That could be a controversial matter, depending on who he nominates. It's going to be exciting for all of us who cover these stories over the next four years.

LIN: You bet. Churches across America had been saying to their congregations that the next president is only four years, but the decisions will last 40 years, obviously had an impact at the polls.

BLITZER: Especially in the Supreme Court. These decisions that these justices are going to be making over the next four years could go way beyond what this president, the next president, even the president after that. These Supreme Court decisions have a tendency to last for a long time.

LIN: You bet.

HARRIS: Well, Wolf, let's just set the stage here. Now you're back with us at 1:00, and we know that at 1:00 we're the concession speech from John Kerry. And then at 3:00, we're expecting the victory speech from George W. Bush.

And, Wolf, you'll be with us for both of those speeches, correct?

BLITZER: Right. We'll be anchoring the coverage from here in New York, the Kerry concession speech, the Bush victory speech. Kerry will be in Boston, Bush in Washington. Throughout the afternoon, we'll have extensive live coverage of this historic day in American politics. A new president of the United States happens to the same president of the United States re-elected, re-elected after some controversy last night, but now John Kerry deciding it's all over, and he's going to make his concession speech.

LIN: Well, Wolf, what is an election these days without a little bit of controversy. It keeps our Democracy interesting. Thanks, Wolf, we'll see you in 21 minutes.

BLITZER: Thank you.

HARRIS: Well, the voters have spoken, but what's next for political parties? How will Democrats regroup, and what's ahead for Republicans? We'll talk about it next with two former White House counsels, C. Boyden Gray in New York and Jack Quinn in Washington.

Stay with us.


LIN: The votes, they're out -- they're in. They're counted. But the race for the White House is actually officially over. John Kerry has actually called George Bush to say it's all yours.

HARRIS: So, what's next for the Democrats and the country? Joining us are two former White House counsels C. Boyden Gray in New York and Jack Quinn in Washington. Gentlemen, good to see you.



HARRIS: Well, Jack, let me start with you. What do you think is next for -- let's go with the Bush administration. What's next for George W. Bush and this country over the next four years?

QUINN: The president's address this afternoon is going to set a critically important tone. He is quite right to claim a mandate from the American people yesterday. At the same time, that's not inconsistent at all with setting a tone of tolerance and humility and making clear that he appreciates that the divisions during this campaign were intensely felt. And that there really is a divide among the American people that he needs to exert leadership to bridge.

And I think he has a great opportunity to express himself as a president for all the American people and not as the leader of a political faction, reach across the aisle, make clear that he intends to heal the wounds that really were so apparent during this campaign.

If he does that, I think he'll be richly rewarded in his second term.

LIN: Well, Counselor Gray, how does he do that -- if, in fact, you agree with that point. How does he do that when he was actually elected by a mandate on the more controversial issues?

GRAY: Well, I think that he has to work with Congress right off the bat to try to establish an agenda -- some of which he's laid out, you know, in his campaign, for which he can now claim some support. And I think what he has to do is start working with the Democrats in the House and the Senate to make this a reality.

Work -- he's dealing from a position of strength. So, he doesn't have to be shy about it, but I think he can set a very good direction if he's willing to do this and work hard at it.

LIN: Do you think he really has to, though? I mean, the mandate is, in a divided country, that half the country says we're going to back you, less than half the country has said we are angry with you, but frankly we're on the losing team.

GRAY: Well, half the country. I mean, he's got a three-and-a- half million vote plurality, the first majority president since 1988. This is a big, big victory. And he's got coattails in the House and coattails in the Senate. He may get as many as 55 senators on his side.

And I think that that gives him an opportunity, the running room, to go and talk to some Democrats to say, "Look, I need your help to do these things." He's going to have to moderate, perhaps, some of his positions on some of the planks, but I think he has a huge opportunity here to really get some movement on some important issues.

HARRIS: Jack, how do you see this? What are the important issues that you think the president needs to move forward on? Does he have the operational -- this is what I keep hearing -- the operational advantage in the Senate to get whatever that agenda is moving forward?

QUINN: Well, sure he does. And again, he has a mandate. There's no doubt about that. But at the same time, there are areas of common ground where, as Boyden says, there's terrific opportunity to work with Democrats and to unite the country: making every effort to work together to get to the light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq; fighting aggressively this war on terror; doing what we can to restore fiscal restraint to the economy.

There are plenty of opportunities for the president to make clear that he intends to work with Democrats to find solutions to these problems.

LIN: All right. So, let's talk specifics then, Jack. I mean, how do you work for solutions when you're talking about the potential of maybe as many as four Supreme Court justices to be replaced by this administration, where Roe v. Wade, the woman's right to choice to have an abortion may be on the line, federal funding of stem-cell research, whether more troops for an indefinite period of time will be sent to Iraq. It's very easy to talk kumbaya the day after an election, but there are some really tough issues that he's going to face that there is a lot of opposition to.

QUINN: Yeah, of course there are. And again, I don't pretend for a moment that all of a sudden overnight we will find common ground on all of those thorny issues.

But take the Supreme Court, for example. This country has had an awful lot of Supreme Court justices who earned the respect of Democrats and Republicans alike. Surely President Bush is going to be able to find nominees out there who have the enthusiastic support of Democrats, because they are well-equipped to do the job and not because they serve the narrow, ideological interests of any one particular group of Americans.

LIN: Well, the irony is that, in some of those choices, like Sandra Day O'Connor, that was -- it really came as a surprise that she turned out to be relatively as moderate as she was. The intention, though, in some of these nominations was really to have a more competitive court.

QUINN: Well, yeah. Some of our best Supreme Court justices, frankly, have been surprises. And again, going back to the foreign policy area and the war against terrorism, there is ample opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to work together. But I -- I repeat that the president's tone this afternoon is critically important. We have just been through a rough and tumble election, and he needs to make clear that he appreciates that and that he intends to serve as the president of all the American people. He can do that.

And if he sets that tone, I believe Democrats will reach out a hand to him to help him govern responsibly over these next four years.

HARRIS: And Boyden, let me ask you a question about the Democratic party, where it stands, where it goes from here when it appears to be on at least the losing side in this cycle on a number of the value issues. Where does the Democratic party go, how does it regroup?

GRAY: Well, I think it has to reevaluate its tie to certain interest groups like the trial lawyers and like the teacher unions, which keep pushing it to the left. And I think that is a fundamental problem they have to come to grips with.

But I think they have a way out. I think if you took -- take energy policy, which both candidates agreed should be -- should have more independence in terms of our energy demands, I think that's one place, for example, that the president could reach across party lines and actually do -- strike a tremendous blow for energy independence to reduce our needs on the Middle East and to create new jobs in our own infrastructure here in America.

There are many, many opportunities to do this, and I think the president has a great opportunity, and I wish him luck.

HARRIS: And Jack, very quickly, any thoughts about the Democratic party?

QUINN: Yeah, I mean, no doubt the challenge for the Democratic party will be to resolve the question whether you firm up the base and, as Boyden says, appeal to the interest groups, or whether you try to broaden the base. I think the latter is the right and responsible course. And I hope the party will move in that direction, do what it can to make clear that it can be and will be a party that represents a majority of the American people moving forward.

LIN: Jack Quinn, C. Boyden Gray, thank you very much.

We're going to be hearing from the president (sic) in about 11 minutes, and we're going to be carrying that live -- John Kerry, as well.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

Well, Ohio was certainly a player in this election. Up next, a look at how it all played out.


HARRIS: Well, as you all know by now, the attention this election focused on the final outcome in Ohio.

LIN: The Buckeye State. And the intensity could be felt across the nation and in the election coverage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been Ohio proud today. In spite of inclement weather, folks have just turned out in record numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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's exciting what's going on. A fresh start for America starts tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sanguine. I'm waiting for the votes to be counted. Feeling good that we have executed against a very well- done plan. The president ran a fantastic campaign.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": One of these guys is wrong.


KING: We don't know which one, though.

BLITZER: You figured that out?

KING: I figured it out.

BLITZER: They're both very happy supposedly.

We projected a win for the president in Florida. How did we do that, Judy?

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": Well, you can't say we weren't cautious, Wolf, because we waited until now 98 percent of the vote is in and counted in Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Bush knew he needed at this time. His campaign always said, oh, we can win without Florida. They knew they needed it. They know they need Ohio. That is now the central focus for the rest of this night or at least the next few hours.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley's in Boston over at the Kerry Campaign Headquarters. How nervous are they, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, they say, you know, after Florida fell, it's a lot tougher right now looking than it did before Florida fell.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": We have been mulling over the fact that 85 percent of the precincts are reporting in Ohio, showing Bush with 51 percent of the vote, John Kerry with 49 percent of the vote. Can Kerry crawl back from these numbers? James Carville? JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": I spoke with Kerry's people on the ground in Ohio, and they're probably be drawing a double inside straight here right now. One never wants to give up, but one has to be realistic. Tonight does not seem to be a very good night.

CROWLEY: Heard this from Mary Beth Cahill, who of course is the campaign manager of the Kerry campaign. She says, quote, "The vote count in Ohio has not been completed. There are more than 250,000 remaining votes to be counted. We believe when they are, John Kerry will win Ohio."

No concession speech here. They are still waiting for the votes to be counted.

BLITZER: Ohio. We have never done this before, but this is the first time we're going to do it. Look at this. Ohio, CNN is now projecting, is a green state. Too close to call.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's been a long night, but we waited four years for this victory. We can wait one more night.

ANDY CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: President Bush decided to give Senator Kerry the respect of more time to reflect on the results of this election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it takes two hours, two days, two weeks, the result that we give you will be a good result that the voters of the State of Ohio can have confidence in.


LIN: Yeah.

HARRIS: Wow. What a night.

LIN: Yeah, amazing. And right down, literally, to about an hour ago.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

All right. We need to set the table for you and then move on. Coming up later this afternoon, John Kerry will address the media after conceding the presidential race. Earlier today -- now, CNN will have live coverage of those remarks, as well as President Bush's first public statement on his second term in the White House, scheduled for 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Tony Harris.

LIN: And I'm Carol Lin. Our continuing election coverage of 2004 continues right after the break.



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