ROBERT MacNEIL: Good evening. Nobody made very big claims today about who won or who lost last night's first televised presidential debate between Reagan and Anderson, with Jimmy Carter absent. In TV ratings, the combined debate audience on CBS and NBC slightly outnumbered those watching a movie on ABC. About 50 million Americans watched the debate. A panel of experts assembled by the Associated Press decided that on classical debating points Mr. Anderson slightly outperformed Governor Reagan. But Anderson himself claimed no victory, saying only that he felt in his bones that his independent campaign would now move ahead. Reagan said he was happy that nobody stumbled last night. President Carter said, 'I don't know who won; I'm not going to judge.' The Democratic House Speaker, Tip O'Neill, said that everybody won, Reagan ought to be happy he didn't put his foot in his mouth, Anderson ought to be happy he got a forum, and Carter ought to be happy he was not participating. But will the voters see it as lightheartedly as that, and will the Baltimore debate have any decisive impact on the fortunes of the candidates? Jim?
JIM LEHRER: Robin, we're going to leave the cosmic overviews to others tonight and listen to what four non-Washington reporters have to say. The four were not chosen at random; each covers politics, including the presidential race, in a crucial state, one of the so-called battleground states. They're Michigan, Texas, Florida and New York. The reporters are Carolyn Barta or the Dallas Morning News, Frank Lynn of the New York Times, Remer Tyson of the Detroit Free Press, and Fay Joyce of the St. Petersburg Times.
Before we get down to the business of the debate, I want to ask each of you to put the presidential race in your state - Carter versus Reagan, and the 'Anderson factor' - into perspective. Carolyn Barta in Dallas, how does it look right now in Texas?
CAROLYN BARTA: Jim, the debate came one day after the release of a new poll in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine which showed Carter quite surprisingly now has an eight-point lead in Texas. The Reagan pollster, on the other hand, last week was showing that Reagan had a nine-point lead in Texas, and even President Carter's own campaign pollster shows that he is slightly behind in the state of Texas. My own assessment would be that it's very close, extremely close in Texas, and it's going to go down right to the wire November 4th here.
JIM LEHRER: Does Anderson have any bearing at all on the result down there, does he have any following of any kind?
CAROLYN BARTA: Yes, in the Texas Monthly poll, when Anderson was factored in, he had- drew 11 percentage points. But in either case, the figures without Anderson were 44 to 36; 44 for Carter, 36 for Reagan. With Anderson factored in at 11 points, it was 42 to 34, and the difference- most of the difference came from voters who chose neither Carter nor Reagan or were undecided.
JIM LEHRER: I see. Thank you, Carolyn.
CAROLYN BARTA: So he would draw equally from both the Reagan and the Carter camps, it appears.
JIM LEHRER: I see. Thank you, Carolyn. Frank Lynn in New York, how about New York State?
FRANK LYNN: We've been fortunate in New York, we've had two recent newspaper polls - in fact, in the last two or three days - which roughly agree, showing President Carter leading slightly Ronald Reagan, with John Anderson getting between 15 and 20 percent of the vote. That agrees, frankly, after conversations with a lot of politicians, with my nonscientific, seat-of-the-pants poll.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think it's going to get closer as it progresses from this point on?
FRANK LYNN: Well, you have to start off in New York with the presumption that this is a Democratic state, and unless Anderson goes appreciably above 20 percent, I suspect President Carter should win this state.
JIM LEHRER: I see. All right, thank you, Frank. Remer Tyson, who's here in Washington tonight, what's the outlook for Michigan?
REMER TYSON: It's a tossup state. The last poll we had there was by Market Opinion Research, which is directed by Bob Teeter, who's a Republican pollster, showed Reagan with a four-point lead. Anderson is- was getting 16 percent. Anderson is going to be the major factor there. If he continues to pull 15 percent of the vote, Reagan stands a good chance of winning it.
JIM LEHRER: Because most of the Anderson votes are going away from Carter, right?
REMER TYSON: Yes, you're finding more liberal Democrats who are dissatisfied with the presi-dent who are favoring Mr. Anderson at this time than you find moderate Republicans favoring Mr. Reagan.
JIM LEHRER: How did Carter run there in '76 in Michigan?
TYSON: He lost that state. Of course, it's President Ford's home state, and if you allow for the home state factor, it's a tossup state all the way.
JIM LEHRER: I see. All right, thank you. Fay Joyce, who's also here in Washington, what's it look like in Florida right now?
FAY JOYCE: The last poll we had is about two and a half weeks old, and Carter and Reagan were dead even at 38 percent each. Anderson had eight percent. When you took him out and asked people, 'Who would you vote for between Carter and Reagan?' they were again dead even, 44 percent. So what we found was that Anderson drew from both about equally.
JIM LEHRER: Where's the movement then, if any? I mean, who's been gaining or losing over the last several weeks?
JOYCE: For a time, Carter was gaining. There are some politicians around the state who now think Reagan may have taken the upper hand and be a little bit ahead of Reagan- of Carter now.
JIM LEHRER: I see. All right, thank you, Fay. Robin?
MacNEIL: Yeah. Now let's talk about what last night's debate may have done or may not have done to these standings in these states. Back to you, Frank Lynn of the New York Times here in New York State, how would you describe the probable impact of the debate on the situation you told us about earlier?
LYNN: I think I'd agree, Robin, with two-thirds of Tip O'Neill's remark. Obviously, Anderson received exposure and Ronald Reagan didn't put his foot in it. I think of course President Carter lost somewhat because people like the idea of somebody mixing it up, getting into a debate. The long-range impact of that I wonder about.
MacNEIL: What were the politicians around the state saying today, that Carter was smart tactically to have done that, or not so smart?
LYNN: Well, I think that yes, their feeling was that it was smart tactically, even to take a short-term loss in favor of a longer-term gain and not build up Anderson. I think one thing that might be notable in this question, I think Anderson certainly got the exposure and certainly held his own - more than held his own. But there's some question whether he really- that he may have had to score big. I felt he had to score big over Reagan, particularly in this state, where he can be a crucial factor. And I'm not so sure that he did that. In talking to people today, it seemed to me that most of the people who thought he did very well were already converts, so that I wonder how many people are actually switched.
MacNEIL: What would he have had to do to score big?
LYNN: Well, I think it would have to probably be a combination of somehow Reagan putting his foot in it, and Anderson showing that he was clearly superior in knowledge and in forcefulness. I did detect, I think, a little bit of- more than a little bit of David Garth's style in Anderson-
MacNEIL: David Garth, the media advisor.
LYNN: His media advisor and campaign manager. As you know, Dave comes on with the tough, strident delivery, and I think John Anderson, my feeling was, stepped a little bit out of character last night with his delivery, and I suspect that was due to some coaching. Some people thought that there's a fine line there between tough and strident; some people said tough, a positive; some people strident, a negative.
MacNEIL: Mr. Reagan - you've said New York is obviously a Democratic state -. did Mr. Reagan do himself any good here last night, do you think? I mean, a lot of people presumably watch him who haven't seen him that close up.
LYNN: Yeah; I don't think so. I would say he has a solid base of support here, which would be a, you know, basically middle-of-the-road conservative Republican, and ob-viously he didn't lose them. I question whether he did- picked up any converts last night.
MacNEIL: As a campaign event, was last night important enough that by itself it could affect the next poll standings?
LYNN: I don't think so. That remains to be seen, of course, but I guess the only place where it might really show is President Carter. Again, I don't think Anderson would in New York go much above 20 percent, and it might affect President Carter but again it might be a temporary thing and I think two or three weeks down the road it's not going to make that much difference.
MacNEIL: What kind of things did you hear people saying today in New York about the kinds of men they perceive the two men to be? Was there anything that surprised you in the reactions to the two men?
LYNN: Well, I think probably that Anderson came across a little tougher than he had been before perceived. I think he had been perceived as sort of a- well, gentle - gentle maybe is too weak a word - but midwestern, low-key; whereas last night he did come across very tough and hard; and I think Reagan; avuncular, and that he maintained the - what somebody was saying in the office today - the mother's favorite boyfriend, not the girl's favorite boyfriend, something that everybody likes but I think probably has some questions about his capabilities among Democrats and Independents.
MacNEIL: Well, thank you. Jim?
JIM LEHRER: All right, now to Fay Joyce, political editor of the St. Petersburg, Flodda, Times. Fay, you wrote an analysis story today for your newspaper about the debate. What did you say? How did you analyze it?
JOYCE: I said it was a good debate, 'cause I thought that was worth saying. I thought-
JIM LEHRER: Good in what way?
JOYCE: Good because it showed that there were two very different candidates running and that, in all probability, there's a three-way choice this year, and that makes a lot of people pretty happy. I thought Anderson and Reagan showed very clear differences be-tween each other.
JIM LEHRER: You mean on the issues.
JOYCE: On the issues, yes. And in general, I thought both men helped themselves. Reagan, because he didn't make any horrible gaffes and showed a competence of informa-tion and facts, a command of that, projected a competent image, also a kind of friendly one; Anderson, because he did the same in terms of showing you that he was at least the intellectual equal of one of the major parties' nominees, Ronald Reagan, and, you know, probably had as much business being in that arena as the others.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think that either one of them scored in a big way over the other one, to use Frank Lynn's term?
JOYCE: I'm not sure. I didn't last night. The more I've been thinking about it today and hearing people's reactions, my views are muddling because I've heard a lot of people say, 'For the first time I took Anderson seriously and started considering voting for him.' I thought there was really nothing that Reagan lost last night when I watched it last night; today I wonder if people seeing two candidates over probably the most- the longest period of time they've given serious thought to the presidential race, looked at those two alternatives without Carter in there, and if some people thought Anderson would be a good alternative to Reagan.
JIM LEHRER: Are you as intrigued with the phenomenon as I am of how people, 24 hours, 48 hours later, may actually change their opinions about who won, who lost, what came out of the debate?
JIM LEHRER: Based on reading your story and everybody else's story and who they talked to? How important do you think that is?
JOYCE: I think that's real important. Everybody wants to count- I mean, because they were so close, because it was practically a draw last night when you just saw it, I don't think people came down very hard on one side or the other. So they listen to their friends and they listen to other people, and then they think, 'Well, maybe that is true, maybe this is it, not that.'
JIM LEHRER: I see.
JOYCE: Lot of room for movement.
JIM LEHRER: Is Anderson considered a serious candidate in Florida? Did he help himself that way, do you think?
JOYCE: He helped himself, but he has so far to go in Florida that I don't think he can really get there. He's 30 points behind.
JIM LEHRER: Where do you think Reagan helped himself the most in Florida last night?
JOYCE: He might have helped himself in Miami, because the kind of solution he was talking about for the cities is one that's been talked about in Miami pretty strongly. I think Reagan was a little more laissez-faire about it. He said let's have some tax incentives for private enterprise to locate in those distressed areas. In Liberty City, where there were riots not long ago, blacks are saying, 'Don't give us federal programs, just federal programs that can come and go, but let's have some business in here, let's have a partnership. And let's have permanent jobs.' But they want the federal government to be much more closely involved than Reagan was talking about. For instance, last May they had Carter down for a meeting in Liberty City with white business leaders, government, and black leaders.
JIM LEHRER: How badly, if at all, do you think President Carter was hurt in Florida for not having been there last night?
JOYCE: I think he was hurt. I don't know how badly. But I think he was hurt. The governor of Florida, who is a strong Carter supporter and made the nominating speech-
JIM LEHRER: That's Governor Graham.
JOYCE: That's right, at the convention - said that he thought- in advance he said he thought Carter was hurting himself politically not debating because people in Florida like to see their candidates, they want somebody to come out and ask for their vote. Reagan has come to the state twice now; Bush has campaigned in Florida; Ford has campaigned in Florida for Reagan, and we haven't seen Jimmy Carter at all;
JIM LEHRER: Have you seen John Anderson?
JOYCE: Not in some time.
JIM LEHRER: I see. All right, thank you.
JOYCE: But he has a trip later on.
JIM LEHRER: I see. And Carter has no trips planned?
JOYCE: He has trips planned, but we don't know when - a trip planned.
JIM LEHRER: I'm willing to bet you he'll be there.
JOYCE: I think he will.
JIM LEHRER: Before it's over. All right, thank you. Robin?
MacNEIL: Let's go to Carolyn Barta in Dallas of the Dallas Morning News. Carolyn, what impact do you think last night is going to have in Texas?
CAROLYN BARTA: Robin, I don't think it'll have too much impact in Texas. One of the reasons that Reagan had lost ground in Texas, I believe, was because of his controversial statements. And last night I think that if he did anything to gain ground it was simply to reassure his supporters, to reassure those who had doubted him. On the other hand, John Anderson, who was much more forceful, more dynamic, more aggressive, more specific, more all of those things, may have made himself appear to be a more credible candidate.
MacNEIL: How credible has he been up till now? I heard you tell Jim a minute ago that he was taking equally from both people and therefore perhaps canceling the appeal out. But-
CAROLYN BARTA: I think most of his appeal in Texas has been among students, young intellectuals, older intellectuals, professors, that sort. But his positions, frankly, do not sit well in Texas, and the positions that he made on the debate last night, I think that the more exposure John Anderson gets in Texas the more he will decline.
MacNEIL: Have you heard anybody today say - as we've just heard from St. Petersburg - anybody say, 'I'm taking Anderson more seriously for the first time,' things like that?
CAROLYN BARTA: Yes, I did hear that today. I heard several people say that, 'Yes, I'm going to take a look at Anderson now.' But I think people are looking for an alternative, and Anderson is not going to be- is not going to fill the bill as an alternative. As I said, his positions just don't sit well. People here don't want to change their lifestyle, they don't want to give up their automobile, they don't want to pay a 50-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax. We don't have the problems of the decaying cities that some of the other areas do. The people here want a strong national defense, they support the MX missile, that sort of thing. So I think the more his positions are examined, the less appeal he will have, even as an alternative candidate.
MacNEIL: How do you think Mr. Carter fared by not being there last night?
CAROLYN BARTA: I don't really think that he was hurt that much, Robin. From what I said, Reagan, I don't believe, made any real gains; Anderson may see a little bit of a blip, just from the exposure, upward. Now, Carter may see a little blip downward just from the criticism that he's going to take from not being there. But other than that, I don't think that he was seriously hurt by not being there. The fact that he wasn't there, I think, diminished the impact of the whole thing. And I heard several people say they started watching it, they turned it off, or they didn't watch it, Carter wasn't there. So it was like- it was an incomplete thing without Carter there.
MacNEIL: Do you think-
CAROLYN BARTA: And people did not take it as seriously as they would had he been there.
MacNEIL: Do you think it was a kind of a watershed moment in the campaign? Is the campaign in Texas going to be different after this debate?
CAROLYN BARTA: No, I really don't think it's going to be a factor in the debate, and I think that what happens later on in the campaign - if there are other debates in which Carter and Reagan appear together - whatever else happens in the campaign is going to determine the outcome here, and I really think that the debate is not going to be a factor.
MacNEIL: So last night was no big deal in Texas, is that-
CAROLYN BARTA: No big deal.
MacNEIL: Thank you. Jim?
JIM LEHRER: Remer Tyson, political writer for the Detroit Free Press, who is in Washington tonight on a stopover on the way back from Detroit to Baltimore. Is this debate last night going to be a big deal in Michigan?
TYSON: It's not a big deal today. Anderson and Reagan; I think, helped each other temporarily. Maybe it is just a blip. But I can see one potential long-range effect that might be very helpful to Governor Reagan, might be very harmful to President Carter, and that might be that Governor Reagan showed up last night and he wasn't blabbering- slobber-ing at the mouth, and he didn't have a shotgun under one arm and grenades in his belt. He wasn't this bogeyman that organized labor and the Carter forces have been trying to paint him in the Midwest to the blue-collar voter. A lot of the normally Democratic blue-collar voters like what Ronald Reagan has been saying about defense, about the economy; a lot of them are out of work. But the Carter strategy had almost been a national or even inter-national strategy directed toward Michigan and the Midwest. It was to- in a capsule it says, 'Well, you may be out of a job, but if you vote and elect Ronald Reagan, he may take your son off to war and get you killed, or he might blow up the world and you'll be a lot worse off than if you don't have a job.' And I think that had begun to work some. I think the fact that Mr. Reagan showed up, he was cool; he certainly reaffirmed himself with the faithful conservatives. I think that's potentially a long-range effect that we're going to have to watch in Michigan and the Midwest.
JIM LEHRER: And you think Carter could get seriously hurt if that takes from this point on.
TYSON: Well, if Reagan can just hold on to what he's got, he gets a sliver of that blue-collar vote. As far as I can see, Reagan hasn't gained so much among the blue-collar vote, but he's got a sliver of it, more than he-
JIM LEHRER: In other words, he started out with a sliver and it hasn't grown very much?
TYSON: It hasn't grown very much, but that's his whole objective, is to get- usually the blue-collar vote in the Midwest is 60-40 in favor 6f the Democrat; that's what it was in 1976. Mr. Carter now gets about 40 percent, Mr. Reagan gets maybe 35 or 40, Mr. Anderson gets 20. If it stays that way, it's going to be very difficult for Mr. Carter. He's got to do something to turn it around. He's coming to Detroit next Wednesday, hold a town meeting in Flint. He's going to confront the dragon of unemployment in the place where it's the fiercest.
JIM LEHRER: What about Anderson in Michigan? Bush carried Michigan in the primary; you would expect that to be kind of more of a moderate Republican area, particularly with Governor Milliken, etc. But Anderson's support hasn't been growing that much, huh?
TYSON: Well, You see, I think that's one place where with Bush on the ticket-Governor Milliken was a strong Bush supporter, and helped him carry the state over Governor Reagan. And when Governor Reagan picked George Bush for vice president, Governor Milliken said, 'I'm going to help the ticket all I can.' As a matter of fact, Governor Milliken and Governor Reagan were not always that friendly. When Governor Reagan has been in the state and he spent the first two days, after he kicked off, in the Detroit area, Governor Milliken is talking about him being this remarkably great former governor of California; So he is trying to help him as much as possible. Therefore, I think he brings the liberal-moderate Republican to Reagan. You put that with his conservative base, plus dissatisfied blue-collar workers, and you have Reagan in the game there. Normally, Reagan shouldn't be in the game.
JIM LEHRER: Well, who are the people who are supporting Anderson, then? Liberal Democrats who are down on Carter?
TYSON: Mostly liberal Democrats who are down on Carter; some people who are out of work who couldn't possibly vote for Reagan. Surprisingly, I don't think it'll hold. I find off and on more blacks who might be prone to vote for Anderson just because they like him. They- Anderson's plain-spokenness helps him very much in Michigan. He is a mid-westerner. He's from a midwestern area in western Illinois over toward Iowa, the old agrarian section of the country. He has a certain appeal.
JIM LEHRER: I see. Well, thank you, Remer. Robin?
MacNEIL: Frank Lynn, the point that Remer Tyson has just made; in New York, do you think Reagan's performance last night belied the bogeyman image that the Carter people are trying to paint him with?
LYNN: Oh, I certainly do.
MacNEIL: And therefore would it have done him some good?
LYNN: I think it does, in the sense of among any doubty Republicans. But I still don't see Reagan climbing much above the basic Republican vote in this State unless- and the only way then he can win the state is by Anderson severely cutting into the Carter vote.
MacNEIL: So the effect would be to limit it to Republicans who may have had a few doubts.
LYNN: That's right.
MacNEIL: Did you mean to go beyond that, Remer Tyson in Michigan, that this re-assuring image might have won new converts?
TYSON: I think it may have helped Reagan hold on to some converts he made earlier. You talk about a state where there's 14 percent unemployed. In a city like Flint there's a quarter of the workers unemployed; in Detroit there's 18 percent unemployed. It's hard for the Democrat to go to an unemployed worker and ask him to vote for the status quo. You have to frighten him a little bit.
MacNEIL: Carolyn CAROLYN BARTA in Dallas, were some Republican Reagan supporters beginning to waver there, and would you say there might be a similar effect of reassurance as a result of his appearance last night?
CAROLYN BARTA: I wouldn't say the Republican voters were beginning to waver, but you have to remember there are large numbers of independents in Texas, and some of them who perhaps voted for Carter in 1976 and then decided to switch this year to Reagan were thinking twice after some of Reagan's controversial statements. So I think that- as he said, the newer converts were perhaps reassured. But for the most part, I think that the Republicans here seem to feel like that- or most of the people I talked with today seemed to think that Reagan was simply preaching to the choir today, he was saying the same things that he has said for so long, and really was speaking to his own constituency.
MacNEIL: Fay Joyce; do you have an opinion on this idea of Reagan discounting the bogeyman image that he's been painted with?
JOYCE: I think he did do that to a large degree. And I think that helps him. He was losing some people in Florida because they suddenly decided that he didn't know very much about China, for example, when he started making his statements about Taiwan.
MacNEIL: Let me pursue another point. Obviously, another purpose of Mr. Carter's, by staying out of the debate, was to keep Mr. Anderson a minority figure. Did he succeed in doing that by the maneuver of not appearing last night, do you think?
LYNN: Well, yes, I think over the long haul, yes, he did succeed. He had a temporary setback because I think people did resent him not being there; but his long-term strategy had to be to try to downgrade Anderson because Anderson hurts him mostly.
MacNEIL: And you think he succeeded, to a degree, in doing that?
LYNN: Well, we'll see three or four weeks down the road, but I think, yes, he did.
MacNEIL: Remer Tyson, do you have a view on that? Has the Carter tactic succeeded in keeping Anderson a diminished figure by not appearing with him?
TYSON: Well, I don't think Mr. Anderson catapulted into a major candidate in the sense that he's now challenging either Reagan or Carter for the presidency or for the lead in this race, but I think he helped himself a little bit. And T think that that might be success for Mr. Anderson and also for President Carter, since if Anderson goes up a point or two in the polls Mr. Carter might have kept him from going up several points in the polls. But it's- I think Mr. Anderson still picked up some, and he is hurting Mr. Carter badly in the Midwest. Even with those few percentage points.
MacNEIL: I see. Well, we've already heard from Dallas, haven't we, Carolyn? You don't think that that happened there. What about Fay Joyce? Do you think that Mr. Carter succeeded in keeping Anderson marginal by not appearing last night, or that Anderson broke the bounds of that?
JOYCE: I thought Anderson broke the bounds; I thought he looked pretty presidential up there in terms of being, as I said before, being able to hold his own and debate the issues on an equal footing with the Republican nominee.
MacNEIL: Let's go to a question of image. A lot of political scientists talking about these debates and media analysts say it's not what you say that's important but how you say it. Remer Tyson, do you think in terms of the image battle last night that either Anderson or Reagan did himself some good? Just in image questions.
TYSON: Well, I try to perceive the image question, and I don't know often, but I thought that Governor Reagan did extremely well. I thought he was cool, laid back, and I think that he may have evoked a visceral feeling among the audience. I keep looking back to the Manchester debate in New Hampshire. That was the first debate between all Republicans, and everybody said it was kind of ho-hum, that Governor Reagan seemed to be uneasy, didn't do very well. We know it was after that poll that he started gaining dramatically; it was on the later national debate that gave him the 26-point victory in New Hampshire. So it's hard to tell, but I think he did well.
MacNEIL: I see. Fay Joyce, do you think, on the image question, how did you think the candidates did?
JOYCE: I was one who rated Reagan as being comfortable, relaxed, reassuring, and John Anderson as being too technical or too strident. Then in talking to people today I found that they really liked Anderson's use of specifics. They thought that showed a better grasp of the situation and of the issues, and they thought Reagan was too emotional.
MacNEIL: Sorry to interrupt. We have to leave it there. Thank you, Carolyn
Barta, Dallas Morning News, for joining us in Dallas; Fay Joyce, the St.
Petersburg Times, in Washington, and Remer Tyson, the Detroit Free Press,
and Frank Lynn of the New York Times. Good night, Jim. That's all for
tonight. We will be back tomorrow night. I'm Robert MacNeil. Good night.
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