November 8, 2000
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot discuss the undecided presidential race and the Florida recount.
LEHRER: Now, some final words from Shields and Gigot: Syndicated columnist
Mark Shields; Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot. Mark, let
me ask you one last time: Who is going to win the year 2000 race for president
of the United States?
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, I have the envelope. But I can't reveal it. Right now, you have to bet on George W. Bush. He has got a lead. The likelihood of it being overturned is not strong. But Jim, if anybody had bet that there was going to be a result in this election where one candidate would win the popular vote and the other candidate would win the electoral, 99 out of 100 people on the press bus would have said, oh, okay, that is Bush winning the popular and Gore winning the electoral vote. And we've got a reverse, so we are beyond surprises. We are in the land of Oz. I still think Bush but I wouldn't bet Paul's bicycle on it.
JIM LEHRER: Paul's bicycle. What would Paul bet on it? Have you picked up anything around the edges about where things stand down there?
PAUL GIGOT: No, I agree with Mark's assessment, although I think the popular vote isn't over yet. At noon today the margin was 225,000 votes. By the end of the day, when I came over here it was 97,000 votes. There are a lot of votes that will have to be cast yet. So I don't think that's done. And I expect that to be quite close at the end, it's astonishing when you think about it. 100 million votes cast --
JIM LEHRER: One hundred million --
PAUL GIGOT: -- and it's 100,000 votes. Anybody who tells you a vote doesn't matter, you know, just tell them, you know, where have you been?
JIM LEHRER: How do you read this recount that is under way in Florida? Any questions or any concerns?
|Sending grownups to Florida|
PAUL GIGOT: Well, I think it's good that both campaigns are sending grownups to go down there and check it out -- Jim Baker for the Republicans, Warren Christopher for the Democrats. And I think there's a potential here -- there is a danger here of a real crisis of legitimacy if there is a fight, protracted fight. I mean, if this goes like most recounts do, which is they tend to validate what has happened, then I think it will go fine. And Al Gore had a grace note today where he stood up and said the electoral college will prevail -- just because if I win the popular vote, it's not going to count; the electoral college counts. I though that was good to hear. But it depends on what happens. I mean, if a box of votes shows up somewhere, or you get a real controversy, or it's contested, some votes are contested, we could -- it could be a long time.
JIM LEHRER: Do you have the feel of that, do you have the smell of long time here?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, it's a great time for high-mindedness. The Bush folks were all prepared according to my conservative sources to challenge legally if George Bush did win the popular vote and Al Gore won the electoral vote. They had done the research; they had the attorneys; and I assume they'll now turn that over to the Gore people just to expedite the matter. The state law is pretty clear, Jim: One half of one percent and that is -- that triggers a recount -- a real vote recount. Six million votes cast -- one percent is 60,000 -- one half of one percent is 30,000. We are talking about one tenth of one half of one percent. I mean, that is how close this is. I mean, it's really remarkably close. But I agree with Paul that Warren Christopher and Jim Baker are good signs.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. You know, Mark, you talked about this last night at sometime during the night -- that it's almost impossible to imagine the personal trauma that a situation like this creates for both of these men: Vice President Gore and George W. Bush -- and today just heightened it watching the two of them in our news accounts a while ago, you could just feel it.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, Governor Bush last night... I think it probably was tougher to some degree because he was serenely if not supremely confident going into last night. Not only the predictions of victory among those in his entourage, but it was a sense of I am the next president of the United States he said in the last rally and all of a sudden he is having dinner with his brother, Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida and in comes word that Florida has been given by the networks to Al Gore, and he is sitting there at dinner with his wife, his daughters, his folks, and his brother and gets up and leaves. And says, I'm going back to the mansion -- with his wife and his parents -- leaving his daughters and his brothers there to I guess kind of pay the bill and fill out the tip. It had to be an emotional roller coaster for him to say nothing of Al Gore, who had the one advantage in that he had gone 40 consecutive hours of campaigning without sleep before last night.
JIM LEHRER: And he had a phone call -- I'm sorry--
|Gore outworked Bush at the end|
PAUL GIGOT: I was going to say give Al Gore credit. He outworked George W. Bush here at the end. There is no question about it. He really did work hard. You can't blame him for not putting everything he had into it.
JIM LEHRER: What about those phone calls -- to get the call? Al Gore makes the call and says I concede, governor, and then he calls back an hour later and says never mind.
PAUL GIGOT: It had to be amazing. I think, I know the Bush people were taken aback by it -- no question about it. But look, it was only -- the vote had narrowed to only a couple of thousand votes so you -- you can't blame Gore for asking for a recount when state law commands it.
JIM LEHRER: I mean, he could have waived it, could he not?
PAUL GIGOT: He could have. He could have. And that certainly would have been a gracious, gracious thing but I think it would have been automatic anyway. Wouldn't it have been automatic?
MARK SHIELDS: It is automatic unless you say no and say, I don't want it.
JIM LEHRER: Where do you come down on this issue about the networks? For instance everybody is rethinking things. I mean, we were, our hands were not clean last night either. We were using AP calls, and we made the same mistake that everybody else did. We just went off the air in the final number. We called -- we used AP and we called Florida at eight o'clock -- shortly after eight o'clock for Gore. When they said, no, no, no, later, we did the same thing. What do you think is going to come out of this, or should come out of this in terms of calling these elections?
MARK SHIELDS: We've been through this. It really began in 1980, Jim, with President Jimmy Carter who conceded just before 10 o'clock eastern time. And there were people waiting to vote in polling places in California and Oregon who left. He said he conceded. This was an hour before the polls closed out there. And Democrats never forgave him. People --
JIM LEHRER: That was accurate; we are talking here about getting it wrong.
MARK SHIELDS: About getting it wrong. The question, I see, getting it wrong. Well, I mean, I give Warren Mitofsky credit for coming on with Terry Smith tonight and being very blunt about it. It was a human error. I think there is pressure. You hope that they remove some of the pressure and some of the competitive urge when they pool it so everybody callings it at the same time. If CNN, ABC, --
JIM LEHRER: Which is essentially what happened last night.
|Called with the polls still open|
MARK SHIELDS: Last night when -- Karl Rove -- the Bush people had a good point. And so did Jeb Bush. Florida is in two time zones. So when it was called, the polls were still open in Florida.
JIM LEHRER: Do you have an opinion on this?
PAUL GIGOT: Contrast that with the fact that they didn't call states that Governor Bush then ultimately won pretty comfortably: West Virginia, Ohio, Georgia -- I mean, he won Georgia by 15 points -- and they were holding back on it and holding back on it. You wonder why. So I think there's a lot of suspicion.
MARK SHIELDS: You don't think there was a conspiracy, do you?
PAUL GIGOT: No, I don't think there was a conspiracy; I think their judgment was bad. And I think it really raises some questions about whether or not you want it hand it off, take it out of the networks' hands, and hand it off to some group where both campaigns, perhaps, play a role or something like that. I don't know. I mean, you'd like to think --
JIM LEHRER: You mean you would have all the folks come and get the exit polls and both campaigns would have to sign off on whether or not --
PAUL GIGOT: That is probably a lousy idea I just came up with.
MARK SHIELDS: I the Republicans objected in Massachusetts being declared for the Democrats.
PAUL GIGOT: This sort of thing just can't happen because it does have effects.
JIM LEHRER: One of the things that Kwame had in his piece is that very interesting race in Missouri. And John Ashcroft, who they're -- was speculation that he would challenge -- somebody would challenge the right of the governor to appoint Carnahan's widow, no matter what the results were, he said no, I'm not going to do that.
MARK SHIELDS: Two thoughts on that. I mean, first of all, absolutely an historic occasion. I mean, here we are in the closest presidential race and the First Lady getting elected to the Senate -- that story stands all by itself. I mean, when Mel Carnahan's plane went down, all of a sudden all the pundits, all the analysts said well, that's a solidly Republican Senate seat now. But first of all, John Ashcroft did the gracious thing today, but it was enlightened self-interest. It preserves his own political career. If he had been the plaintiff in a case to deprive a widow of the seat which her dead husband won in an open election, it would have been the kiss of death for him.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree?
PAUL GIGOT: I do agree with that but it was still a grace note and maybe and probably should be something that Al Gore looks at if in fact the vote count reaffirms what happened in Florida.
JIM LEHRER: When to pull the plug you mean?
PAUL GIGOT: Yeah, instead of contesting this in the courts or something as some other Democrats are saying they're bound and determined to do. They'll fight till Al Gore's last breath.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Well, We have just scratched the surface of all the implications of this election, and we'll be talking about it over the next several days and maybe even weeks. Who knows? Thank you.