RAY SUAREZ: Well, one senior Bush staffer told me it's not necessarily bad news for the president, that some of the new high numbers are coming from places that Bush won in 2000 and for instance, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania was a place that Bush carried handily and they're seeing tremendous turnout there, almost 75 percent.
So they think that's good news and that helps cancel out some of the high turnout that's coming from metropolitan counties closer to big cities.
JIM LEHRER: They don't go for the conventional wisdom that we just heard, in fact, if you get above 115 million turnout up to 120 million that that really does help Kerry? The Bush folks don't see it that way?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, a shorter time ago I spoke to Bush-Cheney '04 senior advisor Terry Holt and all he would say is "I've seen competing exit polls." He wouldn't quantify it, he wouldn't discuss it and wouldn't go out on a limb.
JIM LEHRER: I got you. This is a difficult question but I'm going to ask it anyhow. You're there. So is it possible to describe the beat within the campaign at this moment as being upbeat, down beat? Is there any beat at all? Is there anything even begun yet along those lines about how folks are feeling about this?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, what you normally see in headquarters like this, this early in the evening is consistent upbeat approach even if some of the news they've started to see isn't that good.
But what Bush-Cheney staffers have been saying this evening are things like "the president gave it everything he had." "The president did what he had to do." And now it's up to the voters. None of that overarching happy talk until the hard numbers come in -- sort of spin for the reporters who are here early.
JIM LEHRER: Ray, was there a strategy for this Election Day that the Bush campaign followed for the president and for the vice president? Did they have a last day thing they wanted to do?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, they wanted to keep both the president and the vice president on television on Election Day, which is why even once the president voted and was seen by the public, seen by the cameras, he didn't go into seclusion, he got back on a plane and started to appear before voters again to keep himself on TV through the news cycle.
Terry Holt mentioned that they kept their ads up on TV in a lot of places in the country when normally they would have sunseted them the night before. And the phone banks which a couple of election cycles ago would have ended last night continued on through the middle of today.
JIM LEHRER: And the thinking there was that the race was still so close and there was still some people out there that they could still persuade?
RAY SUAREZ: There's still a strong belief they could drive turnout well into the day. Terry Holt mentioned they kept their ads up on Web sites because people look at the Web when they're at work and vote in a lot of places after work. So there's still a chance to reach them with the campaign's message when in earlier cycles it would have been all over.
JIM LEHRER: Ray, is there a program... we see behind you there there's a stage, this was a very... people who haven't been there, this is a huge building, right, in the center of the federal establishment here in Washington and downtown Washington.
Is there a program that's going to go on all evening and then hopefully capped by President Bush coming at a certain time? Has that been scheduled? Is there a schedule to follow?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, staffers are drifting in. People are starting to fill the place up. The band has been doing its sound checks and rehearsals and a program will start later this evening.
JIM LEHRER: Is it a sure thing that President Bush will come out no matter what happens later this evening?
RAY SUAREZ: Nobody will speculate on that. Nobody will confirm any schedule the president is watching the returns just a few blocks are from here at the White House, the Ronald Reagan Building is just across Pennsylvania Avenue, a little ways from the White House. It's certainly close enough but nobody will confirm the president's schedule.
JIM LEHRER: Ray, thanks, we'll talk to you later in the evening off and on all evening. Now, the election night place of choice for the Kerry campaign is Copley Square in Boston and Margaret Warner is there. Margaret, hello.
MARGARET WARNER: Hi, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: You're outside. Ray gets to stay inside. You're outside.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, you know, it's supposed to be rain but it's gorgeous so far so keep your fingers crossed.
JIM LEHRER: Let's start with the last question I asked Ray about the plans for the evening. Is Sen. Kerry going to be seen tonight no matter what?
MARGARET WARNER: Yes, he is. We've been told he'll definitely be seen. That even if it looks unresolved he and Edwards will come out because they don't want to disappoint the 10,000 plus people they expect here tonight.
JIM LEHRER: So Sen. Edwards is there with Sen. Kerry right, in Boston?
MARGARET WARNER: They are all in Boston. Mr. Kerry, Mr. Edwards and their wives and they've been doing a lot of calls and so on to supporters and to television stations throughout the country. But they're all going to be together later.
JIM LEHRER: What was their strategy for the day? What did they want to accomplish on this last day, if anything?
MARGARET WARNER: What they really wanted to establish Jim-- and it's a cliché-- but turnout, turnout, turnout. For them the magic number was 115 million, which is nine million more than last time. They knew that Karl Rove wanted to turn out more of the Christian conservative base so they felt they had to turn out up to 115 just to match him.
After that, they felt it would show they were succeeding and bringing out the new voters and the young voters and a bigger out pouring of traditional Democratic voters. So they're very encouraged by the turnout anecdotes at least from today. The strategy today was once they saw the early exit poll numbers and turnout was to target Kerry's time this afternoon very specifically to speak to local TV stations in certain market which is they did.
JIM LEHRER: And did a... what states did they choose? What states did they see that they had to do something, or do you know?
MARGARET WARNER: I do know and it's very interesting. At first they said last night "boy, some states are totally gone or really good we won't use them there at all." But if you look at the states he spoke to, it was still Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Florida, big cities in those states. Pennsylvania, however, they had Edwards speak to Pennsylvania.
You know, make of that what you will. I mean, they're all mindful that in 2000... a lot of these people are veterans of the Gore campaign and they knew that the polls looked good then, too, and it didn't pan out later that night.
JIM LEHRER: On the turnout... I mean, I guess they're upbeat about the turnout?
MARGARET WARNER: Very.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. The real turnout up until now.
MARGARET WARNER: That was the key for them; that was the absolute key to them. One thing they're doing... another thing they're doing tonight is say in Ohio which is absolutely key to them, they're very worried that the lines will be long and people will either get discouraged and go home, so they've not only got the money to, you know, make sure they're sit shuttling people to the polls but they're going to have coffee and doughnuts and rent port a potties at certain precincts so people once they're in line, they're telling them you cannot be turned away and however long it takes, it may be after 7:30, they can still vote.
JIM LEHRER: This is serious business, Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: Very serious. You know, Jim, the interesting thing is because a lot of these are Gore veterans, what they say is they've got the money to do what Gore could never do in 2000 which is throw resources at states based on even their indications they're getting today.
JIM LEHRER: Is there... would you... I take it, then, that you would describe the feeling there in that... there at Copley Square tonight as being upbeat?
MARGARET WARNER: Well, among the Kerry supporters... I mean the insiders, yes -- but cautiously so -- cautiously so. I mean, you know, there is nothing... I mean, there's no assurance of anything. And they know how... you know, turnout, maybe they turned out their people this morning and they got there at 6:00 A.M. and it will be light tonight. They don't know.
JIM LEHRER: Margaret, don't go away. We'll be talking to you off and on later this evening as we will Ray from Washington. Thank you very much.
MARGARET WARNER: Thanks, Jim.