November 6, 2000
Veteran journalists David Broder, David Brooks and Tom Oliphant crunch some pre-election figures.
WARNER: Now, a blueprint for how election night will unfold from East
to West. We hear from three veteran political reporters who have been
with us periodically during the fall campaign: David Brooks of the Weekly
Standard, David Broder of The Washington Post and Tom Oliphant
of The Boston Globe.
All right, David Broder, walk us through the early hours of tomorrow night. What will be our earliest indications of how the night is shaping up?
DAVID BRODER: Well, in the presidential race, I'd watch a couple of states: West Virginia, which has been traditionally Democratic, but where Bush has been leading in the most recent polls, and the state of Maine, which, again has gone Democratic the last two elections, but again very close election. I think if those two small states both break in the same direction, it may give us an early clue.
MARGARET WARNER: Tom, what would you add to that?
TOM OLIPHANT: I'd try to push the hour back a little bit to focus on the period of when the returns are just a trickle to see if one can find a clue. Kentucky, 6 p.m., pre-election polls: Bush by about 10 points. Does he deliver or not as the state is called? And secondly, at 7 o'clock we get two battlegrounds: a little one, New Hampshire, famous for independent voters, but much more importantly, enormously importantly, the state of Florida closes. And the question you want to ask at the beginning, right after 7 o'clock, is: is this close? Does it stay on the board for a couple of hours without a trend -- in which case the country is probably close.
MARGARET WARNER: Tom, you mentioned Florida. Let me ask you this. In Florida we're told -- there are a few that aren't going to be announced, closed until 8 o'clock. When a network projects a winner what's that based on, when do they do it?
TOM OLIPHANT: For a state like Kentucky where there's a polling advantage for one side going in, it won't take a smattering of precincts, maybe a bellwether county for a network desk to call the state for one candidate or the other. I've been told, however, for the real battleground states, the exit polls may not be much help, because they may be so close they're inside the margin of error, in which case they will use some precincts, some counties, oh, blue-collar counties like Macomb or suburban counties like Oakland in Michigan, that have traditionally been an indication one way or another. That's the primary basis for the projection.
MARGARET WARNER: All right David Brooks, let me mention the seven states that by 8 p.m. definitely will have closed: Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri, these are the battlegrounds, Maine, and Delaware, West Virginia and Tennessee. By that time will we have a pretty good idea?
DAVID BROOKS: We'll have a pretty good idea from Florida. I've got my own little state which I've got to tout. They got to tout their little states; mine is New Hampshire -- for two reasons: One, it's got two overlapping groups of people who I think are important. First the McCainiacs, who supported him in the primary, who didn't show up in the polls before primary day, at least in the number; and the second are the office park people. There's been an explosion of office parks around the country with a new sort of lifestyle, people living in home little town home communities in the little ex-urbs. And those people, we don't have any idea how they vote because 10 years ago when the census was done there really weren't this number of people. They're all over New Hampshire, and this little state which the Democrats carried by 12 percent four years ago I think is a good bellwether.
MARGARET WARNER: David Broder, how soon will we know how much impact Ralph Nader is having?
DAVID BRODER: Well, the states where Nader is expected to have his biggest impact tend to be mostly in the Midwest and the far West: Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, and those of course are late-reporting states. So we may not be able to measure Nader very accurately for well into the evening.
MARGARET WARNER: Tom?
|The Nader factor|
TOM OLIPHANT: Yes, the one thing I'd add to what Dave Broder just said is we've mentioned now Maine, tradition of independent voting, and Wisconsin. And I think as the votes pile up between eight and 10 o'clock, if people watch Nader's vote total, if he's around five, you know he's trouble for Gore. From seven up he becomes poison. So the trick is to perhaps not watch who's winning a state, a battleground state, see if Nader gets to five or seven or if he's below five.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. So, David Brooks, what will tell us if it's going to be a long night?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I suppose you got still got to look at the big three: Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and they report relatively early. It could be forever before we know those three. Then you go into California, my dream fantasy is that the Democrats, that Gore wins those big three, he thinks he's got the White House and then suddenly California comes in and surprises us all. It really would be a shocking surprise and goes for Bush and then we've got the topsy-turvy election.
MARGARET WARNER: So what is the scenario for the election, David Broder, going all the way to Oregon and Washington, for example, and California?
DAVID BRODER: Well, if the same candidates do not -- if the same candidate fails to win Florida and Michigan, I think we're in for a long night. Missouri could be, Pennsylvania, those two would give us a little further clue, but I think basically if we don't see the same person winning Florida and Michigan, which come in pretty early, we're going to be around for a long time.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree with that, Tom?
TOM OLIPHANT: The only thing that I'd add is you might get an early indication if Gore were to take Pennsylvania fairly early in the evening, along with Iowa, that would probably be a sign early that this is going to take a long time.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Finally, let's look at these electoral college scenarios that everyone is spinning. I'll start with you, David Brooks. First of all, explain to people who haven't studied this how would it be possible and what's a plausible scenario for one candidate winning the popular vote, but the other candidate winning the presidency, winning the electoral college?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, the plausible scenario is that -- it is most likely that George Bush racks up big numbers in the South. So he wins a few states by huge numbers, which translate nationally into a big win, say it's 49, 47. But he doesn't win a lot of states, at least the states with the key electoral votes - these three we keep talking about ---- Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania being central among them. So he wins some states by a lot but doesn't win a diversity of states, and so the diversity of states kicks in and they give the electoral vote to Gore. And that's the most likely scenario where we start talking about that extremely painful institution.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you consider that plausible, David Broder?
|Electoral college favors small states|
DAVID BRODER: It's unlikely because, as you know, the electoral college system favors small population states. And you just put down a list of the smallest population states, most of those are going to be in the Bush column.
MARGARET WARNER: And Tom, first of all comment on that scenario, but also the other scenario people are sketching is somehow it comes up to be a tie, 269 electoral votes to 269. Is that at all plausible given where the candidates are strong right now?
TOM OLIPHANT: First of all, on the more plausible of the implausible scenarios, I think Florida makes it very unlikely that we will have a minority president. But as to 269-269, you know, there's a game you can play on the computer now, where you move states around, and I would rather play chess with a grandmaster than try to make this thing come out 269.
MARGARET WARNER: Would you agree with that, David?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, it's sort of electoral weenie heaven, people spend their life thinking about this stuff, but it's hard to imagine.
MARGARET WARNER: David, you, too?
DAVID BRODER: No, of all the things that might happen, that's the least possible.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you all three. Stay right there, thank you.