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America Votes 2006; Panama Wins Seat on U.N. Security Council; Voting Irregularities Around the Country
Aired November 7, 2006 - 10:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: You're with CNN. You're informed.
Good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Heidi Collins.
Developments keep coming in to the NEWSROOM on this Tuesday, November 7th, Election Day. Here's what's on the rundown.
It is up to you. Voters make choices this Election Day. A bitter campaign season ends, with control of Congress at stake.
HARRIS: Our Larry King goes 90210 on us. The election from the vantage point of Beverly Hills.
COLLINS: And critical information for parents. Your baby needs iron. The nutrients may be the key to a steely brain.
The new findings here in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Your vote, you may cast in the humble setting of a firehouse or a school gym, but its impact could shake the halls of Congress and tip the balance of power on Capitol Hill.
All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs today. At least three dozen Republicans are considered at risk. Democrats are hoping to wrestle away at least 15 of those GOP seats to regain control of the House for the first time since 1994. Many pundits predict Democrats will take over the House.
The Senate may be a safer haven for Republicans. Seven GOP seats are considered vulnerable and possibly two Democratic seats as well. The Dems would have to not only hold on to those two seats, but take six GOP seats. Many analysts believe, well, that's a long shot.
CNN has deployed its correspondents and vast resources across the country to cover the key races. We will travel from New York to Texas to Montana. So buckle up for this election edition of CNN's NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: A neck-and-neck, too-close-to-call Senate race in Missouri, where voters are also considering stem cell research.
CNN's Jonathan Freed is in St. Louis this morning.
This has really been an issue to talk about here, Jonathan.
JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi.
That's right. I was chatting with a voter who said that she was on her way to work and had voted on the north side of the city. And she said -- first of all, we asked her, "So, how's the turnout this morning where you were?" And she said it was typical of other years.
I said, "Did you have to wait very long in order to vote?" She said no. She said that she did wait a little bit to be able to use one of the newer electronic touch-screen voting machines which she wanted to experiment with. She said she had no problem with that.
And then I asked her, "So, did you get into the stem cell issue?" And she said, "Oh, yes, I did." And I said, "Well, how did you find the wording of the ballot?" And she said, "Well, you know, it was a little bit confusing, as these things tend to be," but she said that she empowered herself by reading into the issue before this day arrived.
And so she knew whether she was going to push yes or no before she walked into the booth -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Are you finding that with a lot of people that you talk to there? Are they able to go ahead and educate themselves? Because I took a look at the way that this initiative is written, and boy, it is really complicated. Something like 2,100 words long. As far as constitutional amendments go, it's a toughie.
FREED: Well, this kind of legal language is usually written by people who are paid by the word, which is part of the reason why these things tend to -- tend to look the way that they do. You know, they have to really get into the language.
So, sure. And the sense that we have is that people have been doing that. And it has been such a big issue here in Missouri that you can't help but absorb the information that's coming at you from both sides of the debate.
So, people at the very least, if they haven't been able to understand from the ads themselves what's going on, many people have been motivated to look for themselves, try to educate themselves.
COLLINS: Yes, because a lot of times the way that it's written on the ballot is sometimes different than you expect it to be. A little confusing, for sure.
Jonathan Freed, thanks so much for that, coming to us from Missouri today.
HARRIS: Maryland is one of the key battleground states in today's election.
CNN's Brian Todd is in Bowie, Maryland.
Just odd to call Maryland a battleground state. It's such a small, little state. But Brian, give us the view from Bowie. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, as you mentioned, a couple of weeks ago people didn't think of this as a battleground state. It has turned into that because it is a very close race on a number of fronts.
We're going to show you the voters right now. We're going to pan to them. Lines have really picked up here. A lot of traffic coming in here now. Voter turnout in this state was said to be light earlier in the day. The governor himself told me that.
He is one of those people in a very tight race. Governor Bob Ehrlich, the first Republican governor in this state in decades, running neck and neck with Baltimore mayor Martin O'Malley.
This is a primarily Democratic state, but Governor Ehrlich, a Republican, holding on. It is neck and neck. The tenor of this campaign has gotten negative, and we asked the governor earlier why that was so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ROBERT EHRLICH (R), MARYLAND: When people fight over power, it's not going to be pretty. And democracy is all about this.
Read the attacks George Washington had to take. I mean, it goes back to -- you name the race, wherever it happens to be -- Churchill took terrible attacks.
Democracy is not pretty, but as long as it doesn't cross into the personal. If someone attacks your record, what you've done, whatever it happens to be, that's fair. And to the extent you're attacked, you better respond, because people tend to believe the worst.
So, you better respond to negative ads run against you. When it crosses over to the personal, which this race has not, by the way, it becomes obviously inappropriate at that time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And again, this race between -- this race between Governor Ehrlich and Martin O'Malley very, very tight heading into tonight. And, you know, we'll see what happens.
But one issue is also the balloting, because the governor encouraged people to vote absentee because of the problems of electronic balloting in this state. If the races are very tight, some of those ballots, absentee and provisional ballots, may not be counted until next week -- Tony.
HARRIS: And then there's that hot Senate race. That is a seat the Democrats are trying to hang on to.
TODD: Absolutely right. And again, up until a couple of weeks ago, not seen as a battleground state for the Senate. It is now because Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, Bob Ehrlich's running mate in 2002, a Republican, African-American, has become very, very popular in this state.
He's run an aggressive campaign. He's got a great personal style that has really connected with voters. He has been seen by many experts to pull almost neck and neck with Democratic Congressman Ben Cardin.
Again, this state very, very heavily Democratic. It has now become a battleground state because of the campaign of Michael Steele. And the Democrats up until a couple of weeks ago were only worried about losing New Jersey. Now they're worried about losing Maryland. It's that close.
HARRIS: It is that close.
All right. Brian Todd for us in Bowie, Maryland.
Brian, thank you.
COLLINS: A big turnout expected in Connecticut today. A three- way Senate race, and close congressional battles are the big draw.
So is our Dan Lothian. He's in Hartford, he's bringing the story to us now this morning.
How are things looking at this hour there, Dan?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this particular precinct we're seeing sort of a light but steady traffic flow. We're told by the secretary of state's office that they are seeing in some areas heavy voter turnout. That, in part, is because of the Senate race.
Those candidates who have been spending millions of dollars, they've been putting out those TV ads, they've been doing much of the talking. But now is a chance for the people to respond with their votes.
LOTHIAN (voice over): Joe Lieberman may be the odds-on favorite running as an Independent, but he's still sprinting to the finish line.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I don't want my supporters to think that this is over and going to stay home or decide they want to throw a vote to somebody else for some symbolic reason.
LOTHIAN: Meeting with workers at a utility company, Lieberman painted his Democratic opponent, Ned Lamont, as a one-issue candidate and a partisan polarizer.
LIEBERMAN: That does get in the way of us getting something done for you, the people.
NED LAMONT (D), SENATE CANDIDATE: I'll remember each and every one of you guys. LOTHIAN: Lamont, a wealthy businessman who beat Lieberman in the August Democratic primary, put in the final miles of his campaign bus tour, trying to convince voters he's the right candidate for real change.
LAMONT: Look at the crowds that are coming out. People fundamentally want a real change in how we're doing business in Washington.
LOTHIAN: Speaking to union workers, Lamont returned to the central theme of his campaign, the war in Iraq.
LAMONT: This war is wrong, it's hurting our country at home. It's hurting our country abroad. It's time to bring our troops home.
LOTHIAN: The Republican in the Senate race, Alan Schlesinger, has not been a big factor. That, say political analysts, has helped Lieberman, who's attracting support from Republicans.
PROF. KEN DAUTRICH, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT: He's identified as a Democrat, but an Independent Democrat. And so his voice rises above partisan politics.
LOTHIAN: People in this state will not have an excuse for not getting out to vote. The weather is relatively mild and it's dry. It was expected to be wet, but now forecasters saying we won't get any rain here until later this evening -- Heidi.
COLLINS: It might help out for the turnout. That's for sure.
All right. Dan Lothian, thank you.
HARRIS: Three congressmen fighting for their political lives in Indiana. Their fate could foretell a national trend.
CNN's Dana Bash has the story.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Indiana, known for its cornfields and Hoosiers, this crossroads of America is not normally known as a political battleground. But this is not a normal election year.
Just ask veteran Indiana Democrat Birch Bayh.
BIRCH BAYH (D), FMR. INDIANA SENATOR: The number one matter of concern is the war in Iraq. People are tired because we haven't been able to come up with a concrete plan.
BASH: Three Republican Indiana congressmen are among the most endangered in the country, Chris Chocola, John Hostettler and Mike Sodrel. And polls close here before most, 6:00 p.m. local, 7:00 Eastern, making Indiana a key early indicator of whether anti-war, anti-Washington sentiment will lead to a Democratic Congress.
(on camera): Being such an important barometer is an unusual role for a state normally forgotten in the national political debate because it's just assumed this is solid Republican territory. Indiana hasn't voted for a Democratic president since 1964.
(voice over): Hostettler calls his Democratic challenger's comfortable lead in this red state proof that even conservatives are fed up with the war and more.
REP. JOHN HOSTETTLER (R), INDIANA: It is the result of three and a half years of military conflict. It is the result of several years of neglect on our borders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm running for Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have our vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. I'll work hard for you.
BASH: Hostettler's Democratic opponent is the local sheriff, anti-abortion, pro-gun Democrat. In fact, all three Democrats in range of unseating Indiana Republicans are socially conservative. , perfect for these parts.
So Republicans are pleading with voters to look at the big picture. Sending Democrats to Congress no matter how conservative would make liberal Nancy Pelosi speaker of the House. They say she'd take your guns away and...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would bring amnesty to tens of millions of illegal aliens in our country.
BASH: Sodrel frames it as a threat to heartland values.
REP. MIKE SODREL (R), INDIANA: There's a cultural difference. It has less to do with Republicans and Democrats as it does between people that live in Norman Rockwell's America and people that live in Nancy Pelosi's America.
BASH: In a place where church and a good harvest come first, warning that even a conservative Democrat threatens that way of life usually works. But maybe not in a year where worries about Iraq run deep.
Dana Bash, CNN, Evansville, Indiana.
HARRIS: You ready to go until 1:00, maybe 2:00, 3:00 in the afternoon?
COLLINS: Oh yes, baby. No, 1:00.
HARRIS: OK. Be sure to join us at noon today for an hour of special election day coverage. We will be joined by Kyra Phillips and Don Lemon right here in the NEWSROOM.
And stay with CNN for unmatched coverage of the elections. Primetime begins at 7:00 Eastern. Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Paula Zahn and Lou Dobbs lead the best political team on television as your votes are counted.
Then a special two-hour late edition of "LARRY KING LIVE". That begins at midnight, in the East, 9:00 p.m. in the West.
Trust CNN for the races, the results and the ramifications.
COLLINS: Far from Mark Foley's old congressional district in Florida, the page scandal casts a long shadow over a New York race. That's coming up in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Problems at the polls. Our Ali Velshi is keeping tabs on precincts around the nation. We will check in with him.
COLLINS: And Amtrak passenger screened for explosives. New security measures affecting some travelers. Find out where in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: And some breaking news to tell you about at the United Nations. Panama has just won a seat on the U.N. Security Council. Interesting, because both Guatemala and Venezuela have dropped out. They wanted to avoid a deadlock there. This is the 48th ballot, been going on for a while.
What they've won is a two-year term. It starts in January, January 1, 2007. They needed 120 votes but ended up with 164.
So, once again, Panama has just won a seat on the U.N. Security Council.
HARRIS: Democrats and Republicans fighting it out in New Jersey. A Senate battle there is one of today's races to watch.
To Hoboken now and CNN's Allan Chernoff.
Allan, good morning.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Tony.
And talk about a dirty race. I just have this information.
The Tom Kean Jr. headquarters this morning was actually padlocked and the campaign is saying this was a trick by the Democrats. I just got off the phone with the Menendez people, and they're saying, "We had nothing to do with this at all. This is actually a dirty trick by the other side."
This is just another illustration of what's been going on here in New Jersey. I mean, this campaign has really been just over the cliff almost.
The campaign ads that we've been seeing on the air, they've been relentless in attacking Senator Menendez, the Democrat. Tom Kean has been saying that he's corrupt, that he's under federal investigation. Senator Menendez has been denying that, and he's been striking back saying that Tom Kean's fund-raising has been suspect, and also saying that Kean basically is just a proxy here for the president.
In the end, though, the senator is saying that he believes the New Jersey voters will reject all the negative campaigning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: You never want to have a campaign that is focused just on the politics of personal destruction. That's what my opponent chose to spend all of his time, all of his resources, over $7 million, in personal attack ads. The bottom line is, I think he'll see a rejection of that tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHERNOFF: Menendez is certainly ahead in the polls, although the lead has been fairly narrow. But the Democrats very much are hoping that Senator Menendez can hold on to his seat as they try to regain control of the Senate -- Tony.
HARRIS: OK, Allan, I don't mean to laugh, but this is good stuff. Give us -- before we -- I've got a couple of other questions. But before we go to those, let's get to the breaking news again.
Another indication of how hard fought this race is. What is it again that is the charge and the countercharge this morning?
CHERNOFF: Well, they're saying, the campaign for Tom Kean Jr., who's the Republican challenger, they are saying this morning their headquarters office in New Jersey was actually padlocked with a chain. And they're saying that this was a dirty trick by the Democrats. The Menendez camp has just told me, well, they think this is -- this is just a trick by the other side.
So, attack, counterattack. On and on we go.
HARRIS: If you're just joining us, I just had to have you hear that one more time.
OK. New Jersey traditionally is thought of as a Democratic state, but, boy, show us this map that you have that indicates that it's not as blue as you might think.
CHERNOFF: That's exactly right, Tony. Of course, we always think of New Jersey as a blue state because the last time they elected a Republican to the Senate was 1972. But New Jersey has 13 congressional districts, six of them are Republican.
And actually, if you look at the map of New Jersey, it appears that more of the state is red. But that's only because the red areas are less populated.
When you get close to New York City, you get close to Philadelphia, those are the Democratic areas. They're heavily populated.
So Democrats have seven congressmen from New Jersey, and they certainly have had a strong hold on the state in terms of this senatorial vote. But for Congress, because of all the gerrymandering around, these are very safe districts.
So it's pretty much been sticking with the Democrats, with the Republicans for the House. But on the Senate side, certainly, it has been going to the Democrats. But this year, who knows.
It has been a very close race. So this is an interesting race to be watching today.
HARRIS: Allan Chernoff for us in Hoboken, New Jersey. Love that late-breaking item. You can't make this stuff up.
Allan, thank you.
COLLINS: The Capitol Hill page scandal, hard to know how much of a shadow it could cast over one race in upstate New York.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick is in Buffalo for us this morning.
Deb, what are people saying there about all of this?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, what we can tell you is that nobody apparently has been locked out here, at least not in upstate New York. The Board of Elections has told us that everything has been running smoothly.
They had a couple of kinks. They were able to work those out pretty early in the day. And they had paper ballots standing by. So they say no votes were affected.
Now, anecdotally, they are telling us that in this town and the town next door, voter turnout has been especially high. Again, this is anecdotally. They say this is the district where both of the candidates live. They'll have harder numbers later on in the day.
Want to show you -- this is where a lot of people are coming in, a steady stream of voters all morning. The first ones coming at 6:00 this morning. When they get here, they take a look at this, they can see the -- who's running, what they're running for.
You've got another polling booth set up just across the way. This is the way it is throughout the church basement.
A number of people told us that they are really highly motivated. Some came because they always vote and they want to vote early. But others said that the issues on the table were significant to them.
They are affected personally by the Iraq war, or they say that the Foley scandal did impact the way they decided to vote today. Some fear the Democrats will take control, others are voting for just that reason.
Now, a spokesperson for the incumbent, Tom Reynolds, tells us that he is in a district, he's just making his way from place to place. No formal sort of logistically set out plan. He's just kind of seeing where he goes and where he ends up, trying to get his constituents to make sure they're on board.
Members of the local press are staking out one polling place where they think he's going to show up later to vote. Jack Daniels, the Democrat challenger, he's a 73-year-old businessman. He already voted this morning, and we are told that he decided to go to the office, do a little work and make a couple of calls -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Hey, Deb, don't want to put you on the spot, but if you had to choose, of the people you've been able to talk to there, do they seem to be at the polls or motivated to vote this time around because of Iraq or because of the Foley fallout, if you will?
FEYERICK: You know, a little bit of both. We asked probably about a dozen voters just where they stood on a couple of issues, what really mattered to them. A number said that they were coming out because they feel strongly.
This part of western New York has been hard hit with jobs. They want to make sure that there are more jobs, a better situation economically in the state.
But another -- others said that they were affected, that they didn't like the way the war was going. Then, of course, there are those who said that they're just angry, angry at the way things have been going in Washington, and that's why they wanted to come to vote early, to make that change.
COLLINS: All right.
Deb Feyerick watching things for us in Buffalo, New York.
Thank you, Deb.
HARRIS: And how about this? After a hectic week on the campaign trail, President Bush up early this morning to cast his ballot. He and first lady Laura Bush voted at a fire station near their ranch in Crawford, Texas. After making his choices, the president urged all Americans to go to the polls and let their voices be heard.
He returns to the White House later today.
COLLINS: Problems at the polls? Our Ali Velshi keeping tabs on precincts around the nation. We're going to be checking in with him in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Already sentenced to death, Saddam Hussein is still on trial today in court. A witness shows his wounds. He says the former dictator is responsible. We will go live to Baghdad in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Stay with CNN for unmatched coverage of the elections. Primetime begins at 7:00 Eastern. Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Paula Zahn and Lou Dobbs lead the best political team on television as your votes are counted.
Then a special two-hour late-night edition of "LARRY KING LIVE". That begins at midnight in the East, 9:00 p.m. in the West.
Trust CNN for the races, the results and the ramifications.
HARRIS: CNN's Ali Velshi is checking on reports of voting irregularities around the country. He joins us from New York.
And Ali, when we checked in with you last you were talking about some issues in Indiana.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indiana continues to lead the race today in weird things going on in voting.
They have three counties that have really been affected. The main one near Muncie, Delaware County, at the top of the list there.
Delaware County had about 70 or 75 precincts that didn't open because of some voting machine problems. They say that it's the voting machine company and the software. Anyway, as a result of that, they now have a court order allowing them to remain open until 8:45, two hours and 45 minutes later than normal.
Jefferson and Marion County had other problems as well. But Indiana, apparently everybody is going to get to vote, but Indiana has a lot of issues going on.
I was just looking at something in Colorado. It doesn't seem to be a particularly big deal, but 41 laptops at 55 voting sites were affected. And it has something to do with a squirrel.
HARRIS: A what?
VELSHI: A squirrel. A rogue squirrel that was eating through something.
HARRIS: A rogue squirrel.
VELSHI: No big deal. You'll be able to vote in Colorado.
There are all sorts of things going on.
You were just talking to Allan Chernoff in New Jersey. We've actually just sent a team out because we've had remarkable -- we've had a lot of feedback into I-Report.
HARRIS: Oh, yes,. VELSHI: Remember I was saying last time, if you go to CNN.com, and you go to I-Report, we're encouraging people to let us know what's going on and send pictures and video if you have of what's going on, because we've got some interesting stuff. But we had a lot of reports from I-Report about some voting problems in Montclair, New Jersey, around voting machines. We sent a team out there and we should have a response within a few minutes to find out exactly how serious that problem is.
Tony, the way I would characterize it is there are a number of voting machine problems across the country. A lot of election officials are saying they don't seem to be serious. Some of them are expected, some of them are, you know, cords not there or things not opening up at the right time.
We don't seem to have massive slowdowns. The only big delay we've got is in Indiana, where as you know will now vote for two hours and 40 minutes longer that than scheduled. It just seems to be glitches all over the place.
I shouldn't discount the fact, Tony, that we are following reports, individual reports of intimidation at polling stations. But, you know, we don't have anything that we can actually say is happening on that front.
Right now, it's just glitches and slowdowns in most places.
HARRIS: Yes. OK, Ali. Appreciate it. Thank you.
COLLINS: To Iraq now and the aftermath of a verdict. Cars are rolling again in Baghdad after the government lifted a vehicle ban this morning. The curfew established before Saddam Hussein was sentenced Sunday just in case of violence. Daytime pedestrian curfews also lifted yesterday.
The U.S. military says an American soldier was killed in Baghdad last night. He died when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb.
A Baghdad courtroom, site of another Saddam Hussein trial. Today, a witness who said he survived a brutal attack on his village showed his scarred back. Hussein and six co-defendants are accused in the deadly crackdown on the Kurds in the 1980s. The charges include genocide.
Hussein has already been sentenced to death in another case.
HARRIS: They're on the ballot, their sons on the front lines in Iraq. Two congressmen have a personal stake in the war.
CNN's Alex Quaid reports.
ALEX QUAID, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two fathers serving in Congress, while their two sons served in Iraq. We met Charles Taylor's son Bryan, an Army Lieutenant, in Ramadi. And in Fallujah, we met Republican Todd Aikn's son Perry, a Marine Lieutenant.
PERRY AKIN, U.S. ARMY: Well, They've had mortars land in this area in here.
QUAID: His father is on the House Armed Services Committee.
REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: Many of us is this body and in the Senate have children that are serving and we're just like other Americans, we care about them and we care about what happens to the other kids in there as well.
QUAID: Just because dad is in Congress doesn't mean son gets safer missions.
P. AKIN: The Marine Corps philosophy, is there's no one who's special.
QUAID: His convoy hit an improvised explosive device.
P. AKIN: Their were rifle round going right over our heads and everything. So, we dove behind cover and waited and then we ended up pushing the insurgents out of the area where they were shooting at us from.
QUAID: And Taylor's has had close calls, too.
BRYAN TAYLOR, U.S. ARMY: Incoming rocket or mortar attacks probably three or four times we see.
QUAID: His soldiers showed me 15 bullet holes in their armored personnel carrier.
TAYLOR: I tried to get the bullet out of that but I couldn't. And, we had another one behind this wheel.
REP. CHARLES TAYLOR (D), NORTH CAROLINA: I am very nervous about my son being there, but he's doing his duty and he's doing it very well, along with hundreds of thousands of other men and women that are doing duty and I'm very proud of them.
QUAID: Both sons played a role in Iraq's first Democratic elections. A role different from what they've grown up with.
P. AKIN: Normally, when I'm like with elections back at home, I'm playing a big role in the campaigns and everything. Here, it was obviously different because I was just a small player in making the election facilities work and working the safety of the people going through the facilities.
TAYLOR: It's actually an opportunity to make a statement, which they did, and I thought that was something that's commendable.
AKIN: We're going go ahead and roll. QUAID: Their sons service have given both Congressmen extra insight as they make decisions affecting every son and daughter serving in Iraq.
TAYLOR: We want them all to be safe. We want them all well- supplied. We want them all doing their duty and coming home as quickly as possible.
Alex Quaid, CNN, Fallujah.
HARRIS: Rail passengers in the Buffalo area may be checked for explosives today. It's part of an anti-terror program being tested by the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA will randomly screen Amtrak passengers and their carry-on bags with portable machines capable of detecting small traces of explosives. Passengers using the city's Metrorail system will undergo the same screening. The pilot program is scheduled to last all month.
COLLINS: Battle in the Buckeye State. A high-stakes race to watch for the Senate. We are live in Ohio with the latest. Coming up in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Big-Sky, big-battle. Montana could be key in the Senate showdown. We will check out a race to watch, ahead in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Ohio, one of today's big battleground states. CNN national correspondent Bob Franken is in Columbus and, Bob, I trust that the candidates, Mike DeWine in the Senate race there and Sherrod Brown have voted in their respective areas in Cuyahoga County and I believe in Dayton, respectively.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They have voted in, I'm going to have to correct you here, Lorraine County. Only somebody who lived here would know that.
HARRIS: And I have, so I know exactly where you're talking about.
FRANKEN:: That's right, Avon, Ohio is where Sherrod Brown is from and you're right about the Dayton area. That is where Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent is. Yes, both of them have voted. They're among the many apparently who have voted in Ohio. Here we have a live picture. It doesn't look like it right now because we're in one of the down times, but here inside the picture of the precinct where we are at, bad English, but that's OK. We're in the German Village section of Columbus, Ohio.
Now you see the senator, Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent voting this morning. He's in trouble according to the polls. If the polls are correct, he is going to be the loser. He is going to the loser to the Democrat Sherrod Brown, who also did his voting this morning. Now, you come to the end of the campaign where the clamor, the ads, the charges and all that start winding down. Each candidate is now going around and thanking his supporters and heading for headquarters, hoping that it will be a victory party this evening. Sherrod Brown expecting that it will. He'll be up in the Cleveland area. Mike DeWine is going to be here in the Columbus area.
The Republicans hoping against hope that they can pull off what would be a major upset, not only in that race, but in the governor's race where their candidate is way, way down. And in at least five of the 22 Congressional Districts in Ohio that are either competitive when they normally would not have been or are considered debacles for the Republican Party. There have been so many issues here, the Iraq war is one that's on everybody's mind here as it is everywhere, as well as local issues and the corruption issue which has particular resonance in Ohio with, for instance, Bob Ney, the just resigned congressman who's about to go to prison after pleading guilty for bribery-related charges. That's in a district right next to the Columbus area. So there's an awful lot on people's minds in Ohio. This is a bellwether state. The Republicans can only hope that they set an example for the country with an upset. The Democrats are hoping that their example is that they would lead the country into a takeover of Congress. It's going to be an interesting evening, Tony.
HARRIS: And Bob, the issue of the economy, how has it played there in Ohio? It is an issue, one of the two big issues that the president has focused on.
FRANKEN: Well, he has and the Republican and the administration are trying to say that they have really done good things for the economy. The Democrats, of course, say that the good things have only been done for the wealthier and, of course, the Democrats say that's a charge they always level at Republicans. Hard to say if that's going to play. One would think it would, particularly in a state like this that has so many reliances because of its industrial base on the economy. But we'll have to see. At the moment we hear more about Iraq and the other issues that I described.
HARRIS: Bob Franken for us in Columbus, Ohio. Bob, thank you.
COLLINS: Four U.S. presidents turn to him for valued advice and insights. Now it's our turn to tap his political expertise. David Gergen served Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. He is now a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. We've been working on that intro for awhile there David.
Hey, let me ask you this. What would you be telling the president on this very day if you were to talk to him? You would say, one of two things I might imagine. That is either it doesn't matter who wins the House, who wins the Senate, everything's going to be fine. Or, hey, look out, we are in trouble, the party is in trouble, brace yourself.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Brace yourself. Brace yourself not only for losing the House and possibly losing the Senate. But brace yourself for a very different landscape in Washington after this is over. This campaign has put a new focus on Congress. It's given new life to Congress. Suddenly we have names and faces we give to people in Congress. We didn't think about it much before. I think Congress is going to play a much more active role in the last two year's of the Bush presidency and frequently in conflict with the president. So, he's going to have a landscape he hasn't -- he had a few months there where he had the Senate in Democratic hands earlier on, but basically this is a president who has enjoyed a Congress that's been mostly deferential, that has gone along with almost everything he wanted and has had almost no investigations, no oversight. And now a new crowd is coming in. And Republicans have been scared by this experience themselves. They're going to be tougher on the war in Iraq themselves, especially in the Senate. So, this president is facing a much -- a rougher terrain and he's going to be wounded going into the last two years. So, he has to learn to govern in a different way. I think the big question for the president, is he prepared to change, to govern in a different way? The last couple of weeks we've had him saying, hey, I'm not changing my defense secretary despite what all you people out there think. I'm keeping Don Rumsfeld. And Dick Cheney has said with regard to the war, hey, we don't care what this election -- how it comes out, it's full-speed ahead in Iraq.
COLLINS: Just to remind everybody, 15 seats in the House, 6 seats in the Senate. That's what Democrats would need to take over both of those.
COLLINS: Interesting article "New York Times" in the today, talking a little bit about possibly overly optimistic picture here by the Democrats and that maybe if they only picked up small gains, whether it be 14 or 15, whatever it might be, that that would be sort of a failure. Do you agree with that?
GERGEN: Absolutely. If they fail to capture the House of Representatives it will be a failed election for the Democrats. Yes, they pick up some seats. But I will tell you, I can guarantee you that the White House would read it as a vindication, a strong message from the voters that even in the midst of this unpopular war, we're still with you, Mr. President. We want you to do it your way. I think we would see very little course change in Iraq. I think we'd basically tough it out in Iraq and see where that leads and I think the president would push forward with his original agenda, you'd see very little bipartisanship.
A lot rides at whether we're at 15 versus 14. For, the Democrats, I think they probably need to get above 20 to claim a moral victory. A lot of the prognosticators have been raising -- like the Charlie Cooks of the world who are so good at this -- they were saying maybe 25, even 30, some numbers got up to 35. So, if the Democrats get like 18, that will be a victory, but it'll be a bittersweet victory. I think 20 or above is about where they want to be for the expectations game.
COLLINS: OK, well obviously we'll be counting all of that. I want to get sound here that we have from Chuck Schumer. It's on Iraq and I want to get your reaction in just a second here. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Every vote cast for a Democrat on Tuesday is for a new, smarter Iraq policy. Every vote cast for a Republican is staying the course, whether the president wants to call it that or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Is there David really a unified Democratic plan for the war in Iraq? And if so, is that something that those who are going to the polls and voting on the Iraq war issue, is it something that will cause them to cast a very clear Democratic vote?
GERGEN: There is no clear Democratic plan. There are multiple Democratic plans that are floating around out there. So, the voters have no -- there's no mandate for the Democrats to do anything. This is going to be seen, if the Democrats win heavily, it will be seen mostly a protest vote, a protest vote against the war and a protest vote against the president. This is a campaign that Republicans have been losing. Democrats haven't been winning with a message. You know, so in that sense, I think Chuck Schumer is right to say if you want to stay on the same course, vote Republican. If you want to change course, vote with us. But where that course leads, nobody knows.
I think, the only thing we know for certain, beyond the fact when the voters, if the voters vote for Democrats, they're protesting. The only other thing we know for certain is that a lot of Democrats would mean heavy pressure on the Administration to begin a withdrawal process over a period of time. Not cut and run, but possibly cut and walk or certainly stop and think.
GERGEN: As Bill Clinton puts it.
COLLINS: All right. Very good. David Gergen, always a pleasure to have you here.
GERGEN; Thank you, it's good to be here.
COLLINS: The big thing as we know is just going to be getting to the polls.
HARRIS: Turnout, yes.
COLLINS: We'll check in with you after it's all over, might be in a week or so. Thank you, David Gergen.
HARRIS: You know, we've heard plenty of talk about today's vote from really smart people -- pundits, analysts alike. Now some other food for thought. Our Larry King is sharing breakfast and some Election Day insight from the West Coast. That's ahead in the NEWSROOM. COLLINS: And nutrition news. New findings that children who don't get enough iron early on will suffer the consequences for years to come. You won't want to miss this, coming up in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Well, as you know, Ali Velshi is in New York for us. He is following any voting irregularities that might spring up across the country. Ali, this next story might be the early front-runner for election story of the day.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I've got to tell you, there are interesting ones coming out, so this one, the fact that it is a front- runner is interesting. This took place in Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, where the governor of the state, Mark Sanford, was turned away from his home precinct this morning because he did not have his voter registration card. Look at this, he's looking, looking through his wallet, trying to find out. And I guess the "don't you know I'm the governor" thing didn't work for him.
HARRIS: Didn't work.
VELSHI: He actually went away. He's at Sullivan's Island Elementary School. Nobody in his campaign is commenting on the whole thing. But they did say he'd go back and vote again about 11:30 this morning. So he should have done that by now by now. This was a little earlier in the day. He was going to get a new voter- registration card. And I'm just looking at South Carolina right now.
HARRIS: Can you use your driver's license? Is that good enough?
VELSHI: Well, it says that identification is required of all voters. They don't need photo I.D. in South Carolina. And he's got a wallet there, but I guess he had nothing that is deemed identification.
HARRIS: He's on the phone.
VELSHI: I'm sure he didn't drive himself there.
HARRIS: Got you.
VELSHI: We'll have more through the day, Tony.
HARRIS: All right. Thanks Ali, appreciate it.
VELSHI: All right. See you in a bit.
COLLINS: It's getting fun, isn't it?
OK, we know that it's Election Day, but you've got to eat. So how about a something from the deli.
Our Larry King is having breakfast and serving up some insights on today's vote. He's on West Coast time at Nate 'n Al's Delicatessen in Beverly Hills. He's joining us now by phone. Good morning to you, Larry.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Good morning, Heidi. What happened to the camera crew? I know what happened. It's such a beautiful day. They got waylaid. They went to the beach.
COLLINS: Something like that. You know these guys. Listen, it's a very busy place there at Nate 'n Al's. I think we might have had trouble parking the truck in fact.
COLLINS: So tell us what you're hearing from folks around you.
KING: California is not a -- everyone's talking, of course, about the elections everywhere but in California, where really the only contested races are the amendments -- an amendment dealing with oil and an amendment dealing with tobacco. The governor's race, Schwarzenegger appears to be well ahead. The congress, the incumbent congressman here are in good shape. Certainly Waxman in the Beverly Hills area appears to have no problem. Miss Feinstein is a shoo-in. So what they're doing in California today, they're sitting around looking eastward. They're looking at Montana. They're looking at Arizona, where there's a possible upset.
COLLINS: Very interesting.
So would you say then that people are motivated to go to the polls, or not so much?
KING: I would guess, Heidi, not great turnout in California. I would guess we'd be on the low side in the national picture. They're expecting -- I just heard your report there's a pretty good turnout in Ohio. There's no really major race driving someone to the polls in California. The amendments, while they're interesting and important, don't pack them in. I would say -- off-year elections are generally off; this one will be pretty off.
COLLINS: What exactly, though, are people talking about, where you are now, at Nate n' Al's? I mean, when they look to Iraq, when they look to the economy, when they look to minimum wage, immigration, issues like that, I mean, it seems...
COLLINS: You're talking about a state, Heidi, where those issues, they are pretty much -- generally Californians are opposed to Iraq. They are certainly one of the Democratic stronghold. They are a blue, blue state. California is a safe state as far as Democrats.
What people are interested is what's going to happen elsewhere, what's going to happen in Virginia. Since I came back from being east, most people are asking me, what do you think? What do you think? What do you hear? What's going in Ohio? What's going to happen in Missouri? Is that the key race? Hey, did Rhode Island turnaround with that Clinton visit late last night? So Their interest is elsewhere. There's no great interest in a California race. But it's a beautiful day, a great day to vote, if you're going to vote. It's 78 degrees. There ain't a cloud in the sky. California days.
COLLINS: All right, Larry, we certainly appreciate your insight there as we here some of the dishes clanging in the background.
KING: Can I go back to my bagel?
COLLINS: You can go back to your bagel.
We'll see you at midnight tonight, Larry, with the special election coverage.
KING: I'll be there.
COLLINS: Excellent, "LARRY KING," thank you.
HARRIS: And still to come, Connecticut's ballot, a familiar name in a different spot.
Plus, a new face. Who will voters choose? That story ahead in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: What if we just continue to go all afternoon long?
COLLINS: I say no.
HARRIS: What better place to be?
COLLINS: "CNN NEWSROOM" does continue in just a while.
HARRIS: And we'll be joined by Kyra Phillips and Don Lemon. That is coming up in just moments. Stay with us as America Votes 2006. Watch it all unfold right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
We'll be right back.
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