November 7, 2000
JIM LEHRER: And we begin most appropriately with the two men who have been with us from the beginning of this election year, Shields and Gigot. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields, "Wall Street Journal" columnist Paul Gigot. Okay, Mark. What -- if anything -- does Bush winning Kentucky and Indiana tell us about the big picture?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, it doesn't tell us who the winner is, Jim. It does tell us that Al Gore, like Bill Clinton, his own President, a border state Democrat from Tennessee, is not running as well as Kentucky as Bill Clinton and he did twice in '92 and '96. And the concern the Democrats have expressed is that the Gore campaign, the Gore ticket, has shown a weakness that Democrats hadn't shown in the past in rural areas. And if it's any... Indiana, Charles Manson on the top of the Republican ticket could carry Indiana. Whereas Kentucky is... there's a couple House seats in Kentucky the Democrats had a real shot at, in Northrop and Louisville and Dr. Ernie Fletcher, a freshman Republican. So if George Bush is running well there, it probably helps him.
JIM LEHRER: Do you need to add or subtract, Paul?
PAUL GIGOT: The Kentucky race is the most important one there, and this rural points that Mark makes is I think going to be one of the defining elements of this election.
MARK SHIELDS: May, I think will be one of the defining elements of this election. The rural, urban divide. We really do seem to have something of a polarized electorate along those grounds. And Kentucky is a sign of that. Of course, it's important for... Clinton carried it twice. If Al Gore can't carry it, he also abuts Ohio and Tennessee, two other very important states. So it's a Harbin jury that George Bush will be a lot more competitive than Bob Dole was.
JIM LEHRER: Speaking of Harbin jury, what you've all looked at so far in exit polls and reporting, will it be as close as a lot of the polls projected going?
PAUL GIGOT: It looks like it's going to be pretty close, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: A long night, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I think so, Jim. What strikes you as you look at the results in this election is how change is the one constant in America. The last time a Bush won the White House, that's only 12 years ago. He carried New Jersey, carried California, carried Illinois, carried Pennsylvania, carried Florida, lost states like West Virginia and Iowa and Wisconsin and Minnesota. If anything, the latter states are up for grabs. George Bush is more than competitive; he has had a lead in those states. And in the earlier states that his father carried in 1988, that's where the Democrats are banking on, especially that golden triangle of Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, which are crucial and central to Al Gore's hopes.
JIM LEHRER: Things just aren't as predictable as they once were.
PAUL GIGOT: We're a changing country. People move. It's amazing. I mean, you've got -- Florida is a very different state now than it was in 1988. A lot of people who used to live in Michigan and Wisconsin now moving down to Florida. It's much less like Alabama and it's much more like Michigan or even Pennsylvania -- a suburban state.
JIM LEHRER: Speaking of those three states, those are the early ones to watch, are they not? They're all Eastern Time zone. We could know them fairly soon.
PAUL GIGOT: Three very important ones.
JIM LEHRER: Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
PAUL GIGOT: And they're large states. I think they're very significant. Florida and Pennsylvania in particular because they have heavy senior populations. People know that about Florida. Less well known is that Pennsylvania is the second most senior state in the country. And it will be a test, I think, of whether Al Gore's finish on Social Security really struck home.
JIM LEHRER: Mark, one thing to remember as we go into this tonight, after all these months, and we just heard George W. Bush say, "17 months ago." I mean, Al Gore began at the same time, probably even earlier. And one of them was going to lose tonight. Losers don't do well in American politics afterward, do they?
MARK SHIELDS: No, losing is the only sin in American politics, Jim. I was thinking, it's the first line in everyone's obituary, ran for President and lost in whatever year. And you think particularly - I remember when Fritz Mondale, Walter Mondale, vice president, senator from Minnesota, distinguished public career, ran against Ronald Reagan in 1984 and got buried. Two weeks before that election he called on one of oldest and most trusted political friends and said, "don't let me lose Minnesota, whatever you do." And they devoted time, effort, energy and resources to save him from that indignity and that humiliation of losing his home state. But the thing about it, after that defeat, like two years after the defeat, Fritz Mondale ran - George McGovern had lost in 1972, and Mondale had lost 49 states. The story goes, from both of them, Mondale said to McGovern, "tell me, George, when does it stop hurting? " And George McGovern answered, "I'll let you know." That's how painful it is.
JIM LEHRER: Looking at this race specifically, Paul, do you believe that if... one of them is going to lose. Do they both face the same kind of fate, who is George Bush, who is Al Gore, if they in fact lose?
PAUL GIGOT: It used to be you could lose and run again. Tom Dewey did it. Adlai Stevenson did it.
JIM LEHRER: Richard Nixon.
PAUL GIGOT: In the media age, the television age and with our elongated process, now 17 months, it's a lot harder, because we really do pick through the entrails, no question about it, of your life and everything. If Al Gore loses, this is his chance, and I think that he does... he will not have another chance. If George W. Bush loses, you could see somehow that he might be able to be competitive again because by and large I think Republicans feel he's run a good campaign - that it's been a tough case to make for change with this good economy. But even at that, I don't know. It would be difficult.
JIM LEHRER: In a word?
MARK SHIELDS: I don't think so, Jim, because the people who survive a defeat like that are Reagan, a leader of a movement. I mean, Ronald Reagan ran three times, don't forget that. He ran in '68 for the nomination, didn't get it, ran in '76 for the nomination and didn't get it -- finally won in 1980. But he stayed alive because he was the leader of the movement in that party. There were true believers. There are very few true believers zealots tonight, for either George Bush and Al Gore. There's fans and supporters, but very few people say, "he's got to keep goin'.
JIM LEHRER: All right, gentlemen. I've said it to you many times before, but I really mean it tonight: Don't go away.