February 1, 2000
| (Note: This piece
was recorded at 6:45pm EST -- before any projections or returns from New
Hampshire had come in)
JIM LEHRER: Margaret, the polls have not closed. Nothing is official but there are a few things out about turnout, et cetera.
MARGARET WARNER: Absolutely. From both the Secretary of State's office and other state officials. There's several factors at work that both the McCain and Bradley camps had hoped for. One is turnout is very heavy. They think it will now exceed any other record set previously. Two, a lot of independent voters. In '96 there were 21% independents. Every indication is much, much higher. Three, an unusual number of first-time registrations. In New Hampshire you can go in and register on the day you want to vote -- a lot of those. Finally, very good weather throughout the state. When they asked voters-- then there's an exit-polling mechanism. And there you want to be careful about taking any numbers in terms of predictive but in terms of what people cared about, you saw a big difference between the Republican and Democratic side on the issues they cared about. Republicans, moral values, taxes, Social Security and Medicare, world affairs. On the democrats, education and health care -- but the interesting thing is that the top quality voters said they were seeking was someone who, quote, stands up for what he believes in. Not an issue but a quality.
JIM LEHRER: And Paul? That is good news, is it not, for the two contenders, each in their own way, John McCain on the Republican side, Bill Bradley....
PAUL GIGOT: That is excellent news for the two character candidates and that is Bill Bradley and John McCain. No question about it. Character, leadership, integrity, trust have been the main themes of both of them, even though they talk about issues, they often couch those issues in terms of trust. Bradley, for example, says, character is about leading, taking on big things. It's about we want to restore some integrity, for example, to how consistent you are as a President -- as a President. And he scored against Al Gore just last week on the abortion issue because of some of the changes in the position that Al Gore has had on that over the years. So that's very good news for both of the insurgents.
JIM LEHRER: Do you read it the same way, Tom?
TOM OLIPHANT: Well not necessarily because I think so much depends on the returns. I think there's more on the line than just that from what I can tell. For example, the viability of an insurgency requires victory. Doing well, showing a flag....
JIM LEHRER: So McCain and Bradley essentially have to win tonight.
TOM OLIPHANT: Essentially. I was talking with a senior Bradley advisor this afternoon about both candidacies because in some ways they've been competing for the people Margaret was just talking about. It's like for Bradley, everything is at stake tonight. For McCain, it's everything and more.
JIM LEHRER: Define what you mean.
TOM OLIPHANT: McCain cannot lose tonight and keep going for reasons that involve money as well as national viability. It would not be feasible to run around the country if he were not able to plant a flag and show he had beaten George W. Bush somewhere.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with that?
PAUL GIGOT: I do agree with that about McCain, yes, I do. I disagree with that a little bit on Bradley. I think he can afford to lose given the fact that he was 10 or 14 points behind a week ago if he makes it close.
TOM OLIPHANT: But I think here's the problem. I think the aura around Bradley would change if he did not win. The reason is ha the Democratic Party nationally in terms of its, you know, 20% of the people at that national convention who make the decision will not be selected at primaries. They go automatically. If Bradley is not successful tonight, many of those so-called super delegates are going to begin to make their preferences known for Vice President Gore. At the rate they're going right now, Bradley would almost have to win 60 percent of the delegates at stake from tonight on which is a very tall order. Victory is still essential. I think what it makes it easier for him to continue is the fact that he has so much money.
JIM LEHRER: Bradley?
MARGARET WARNER: I mean, that was in the numbers that came out yesterday. McCain has just a fraction of what George w. Bush has.
JIM LEHRER: You're talking about the Federal Election Commission filings that they had to do.
MARGARET WARNER: Through the 31st, McCain has plans to do major fund-raisings. In the coming weekend he is going to do an on-line fund-raiser on February 10 where you pay $100 and you can watch him on line. Bradley has not only raised as much as Gore but actually has cash on hand.
JIM LEHRER: Let's reverse the question, Paul. Let's say that McCain wins. What does this do to George W. Bush? There's no way he's going to go away.
PAUL GIGOT: He's not. He has immediate-- well not immediate but earlier contests than the Democrats. He has Delaware.
JIM LEHRER: And South Carolina.
PAUL GIGOT: McCain isn't playing in Delaware. That will be Steve Forbes. And then South Carolina on the 19th where I think George Bush would say, look, that's always been a firewall for-- it was for his father in '88. It was for Bob Dole.
JIM LEHRER: New Hampshire you mean.
PAUL GIGOT: No, South Carolina.
JIM LEHRER: South Carolina. I'm sorry.
PAUL GIGOT: In '88 and it was for Bob Dole in 1996. So, he's going into friendlier territory not with all those quirky New England independents and obstreperous New Englanders -- Episcopalians and others who don't necessarily, you know, they think for themselves. I think so he's going to fight on and the establishment is going -- to the Republican establishment which is from right and center has backed George Bush is not going to give up after one defeat.
JIM LEHRER: The same with Gore though.
TOM OLIPHANT: But on Bush for a second, you know, last weekend, Paul, there is a Republican establishment in New Hampshire, I'm told. Until a few years ago it's been running the place for two decades. They mobilized as if they were turning a battleship to point all the big guns at voter... Republican voters this weekend. It's a huge operation with tentacles that reach into every part of the state. It is a metaphor for the national support Governor Bush has among institutional Republican organizations, and if it cannot deliver in a place with open voting, please remember that South Carolina and Michigan have no party registration, the elections will be a function of mobilization not normal partisan politics.
JIM LEHRER: One of the things we always have to keep reminding people in New Hampshire is that you can register as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent, and an independent can decide just when he or she goes to the polling place whether they want to vote as a Republican or a Democrat because there's obviously no independent primary.
TOM OLIPHANT: And they do.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Reverse the thing on Gore. There's nothing that could happen tonight that could affect Gore's going on.
TOM OLIPHANT: No, well, no, not going on. Defeat by more than a little would be more than eyebrow-raising. It would be extremely serious because his aura is at stake. It's not unlike Governor Bush's. "I'm going to win. I'm ahead of you in the polls all over the country. You're not showing anything in California or New York or Ohio. You know, you may or may not come out ahead in New Hampshire, but I'm going to crunch you. If you don't do well in New Hampshire in the sense that you lose by more than a little, some of that aura of invincibility goes away and above all that has an impact on the Democratic Party officials who, as I said a second ago, are going to make up 20% of that convention.
PAUL GIGOT: One other factor about this. There was a change in strategy, a fundamental change in strategy by Bradley. From the high-minded "let's not be negative, no politics as usual" he practiced politics as usual. He went after Al Gore's voting record and his history. He put the issues of trust and integrity right on the line. He did it in the debate on Wednesday and he did it on television implicitly on abortion. If that has turned things around, that gives reason for the Bradley supporters elsewhere to say, you know what? If we pursue this strategy from here on out, we can do better than we did in Iowa.
JIM LEHRER: A win for politics as usual. We'll have to leave it there and we will see what happens. Okay.