Guest: Ken Walsh, Craig Crawford, John Harwood, Elisabeth Bumiller, Patrick Healy
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of those stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, calling double W.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America has spoken.
OLBERMANN: No recountdown for us, Senator Kerry does the math and knows the Ohio provisional ballots don‘t provide a second chance.
And for President Bush, what now?
In Iraq, in this country, in the jockeying for position to succeed him.
And at least it‘s over. You can take off our old crap (ph) suit, stop thinking about a new line of work.
BUSH: What would you like? The baby need a rib?
OLBERMANN: Just go back to doing what you do best and do the ground work for the next campaign.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening, from Democracy Plaza in New York, this is Wednesday, November 3, 1,462 days until the 2008 presidential election.
Attention skater, this space will be available shortly. After a very transcendent overnight in which the incumbent president was ready to accept a concession phone call but the challenger refused to phone. And overnight in which the interplathy of the 2000 recount quagmire was spread out before us ready for repeating, only this time, not with Florida‘s humidity, but with Ohio‘s wind chill factor. An overnight in which it looked like this recount wouldn‘t even begin until the 13th or 14th. After all that, John Forbes Kerry notified George Walker Bush this morning that he would concede and the amorphous specter of indecision 2004 was put to rest.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, a Republican president is reelected for the first time since 1984, call it W2. In the college of electoral knowledge, Mr. Bush was anything but a C student. Bush 274, Kerry 238, four states still too close to call according to NBC projections. Those are worth a total of 26, the margin is 36. the red state-blue state divide in this country so far dividing along the same lines as it did four years ago. No projection though yet in Republican red New Hampshire. New Mexico, Iowa and Wisconsin, blue in 2000, also still too close to call.
Democracy on ice, skating on as the red and blue states are removed. The most significant change in the equation of then vs. now, Mr. Bush this time winning the popular vote as well as the White House. More than 59 million Americans voting the Republican ticket, that‘s 51 percent of the electorate compared to 55 and half million, 48 percent who voted for Kerry/Edwards. Thus both Bush and Kerry broke the record for most votes received by any presidential candidate, which had been Mr. Reagan at 54.5 million, 99 percent of precincts now reporting.
The president entering a second term with a clear if not overwhelming mandate in large part because of, say it with me now, one last time, no Republican has ever won without Ohio. The president winning there by nearly 140,000 votes. The number of provisional ballots still to be counted, about 150,000, almost all of them it would seem, needing to break for the challenger. Senator Kerry, himself, concluding this morning, that‘s not going to happen. Finally conceding this afternoon in Boston when it became clear that Ohio would not be the new Florida after all.
For a time earlier this morning, though, the hopes of Democrats were hanging on that possibility. To say nothing of the billable hours of hordes of ravenous roaming attorneys. Senator John Edwards insisting at 2:30 Eastern, the ticket was not giving up on Ohio until all the votes come in. In the harsh light of day, those votes came in for Mr. Bush. By 2:00 p.m. Senator Kerry stood before an emotional home crowd in Faneuil Hall, telling supporters it‘s time to let the healing begin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA): It was here that we began our campaign for the presidency. And all we had was hope and a vision for a better America. It was a privilege and a gift to spend two years traveling this country, coming to know so many of you. I wish that I could just wrap you up in my arms and embrace each and every one of you individually all across this nation. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. And I wish—you don‘t know how much that I could have brought this race home for you, for them. And I say to them now, don‘t lose faith. What you did made a difference, and building on itself. Building on itself, we go on to make a difference another day. I promise you that time will come, the time will come, the election will come when your work and your ballots will change the world, and it‘s worth fighting for.
America is in need of unity. And longing for a larger measure of compassion. I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years. I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide. I know this is a difficult time for my supporters. But I ask them, all of you, to join me in doing that. Now more than ever, with our soldiers in harm‘s way, we must stand together and succeed in Iraq and win the war on terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The wartime president in contrast celebrating his victory a little later after that, as the first two term Republican since Ronald Reagan, fittingly enough at a rally inside the Ronald Reagan building in Washington.
Mr. Bush, thanking his base and reaching out to the 55 million Americans who voted for the other guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: America has spoken. And I am humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens. With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans. And I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as your president. Today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one constitution and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So the most contentious presidential election since 1876 ends not with a month of whimpers but with something closer to a bang.
To analyze that bang, I‘m joined by two men who have helped us try to chronicle and illuminate events since all this began, Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly” who already left behind democracy on ice and headed back to Washington.
Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: They never did let me go date skating.
OLBERMANN: Well, they‘re just picking it up clean now so you can come on back.
Now, also in the capital tonight, John Harwood, national political editor of the “Wall Street Journal.”
John, good evening.
JOHN HARWOOD, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Hey, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let me start with you, John. The headline supposedly last night, any ways, the massive youth vote didn‘t materialize. Is that numerically correct, and it also just a superficial analysis. Wasn‘t this really just 2000 played again only louder?
HARWOOD: Well, the youth vote turned out in the same proportion that it did in 2000, so that didn‘t do all that much.
I‘ll tell you who turned out though, conservatives turned out, Republicans. Karl Rove and his political operation swelled the proportion of conservatives in the electorate to 34 percent, that was a big increase. And really what happened was, you had a big increase that was disproportionate in favor of the Republicans. They said they were going produce an equal turnout of Republicans and Democrats on election day, something that hasn‘t happened in recent political history and they did it, and that‘s what produced George Bush‘s victory.
OLBERMANN: Craig, Monday night, Secretary of Commerce Evans was on the show doing the last-minute pitch for Mr. Bush. He said just that, the Republicans had conducted the best get out the vote campaign in political history. And John said they better have, and they did.
CRAWFORD: They did. And they surprised me. They surprised me. I did not expect it at this level. You know, we‘ve always had a follow the Republicans, in terms of voting and in terms of turnout is kind of a mature market because so many Republicans already turned out, we didn‘t think they would really find that many new voters to turn out. And it turned out they actually did.
I want to come back to the youth real quick, because I owe an apology to all the under 30 crowd a bit earlier. I was a bit harsh. I think others were, too, on their turnout because it does look as though another 5 million or so did turn out. It‘s just that, as John mentioned, the whole pie was larger. So the slice looked the same in terms of percentage of the whole. But all turnout grew, and so the young people did turn out a little bit more than we thought they had.
OLBERMANN: So Craig, what would have happened, or what would have happened, other than the obvious thing where, say, more people had voted for the Democrat than the Republican, what Demographically could have happened that would make John Kerry president-elect right now?
CRAWFORD: He needed to get more of the rural vote. I think that was a piece of this election that this campaign just never could get a handle on. They thought appointing or nominating John Edwards as a running mate might take care of it. That didn‘t happen. They thought, you know, risking losing the geese vote and then going out and hunting geese that would somehow connect to rural culture. But when you look at that sea of red on that map, Keith, that is the rural vote. They lost Ohio because of this rural vote in southern Ohio.
HARWOOD: Keith, John Kerry also needed to do a lot better with women than he did. One of the big successes for George Bush was he cut in half the deficit that he had in 2000 among women while preserving the same edge that he had over John Kerry with men. A lot of that was the security issue, the so-called security mom thing. That was a real phenomenon. Especially married women with children. Went very strongly for George W. Bush and that gave him the critical margin in some of these states that he held on to from 2000. And picking up a couple of John Kerry states as well.
OLBERMANN: John, this afternoon Dick Cheney called this vote a mandate. Should we scoff at that term or in these times, in the times to come, will 51 percent of the vote actually define the term mandate?
HARWOOD: I‘m not sure how much of a mandate it is. The president put at the center the war on terrorism. So you could say that he has a mandate for his proactive, offensive approach in leading the war on terrorism. But he‘s got a big mess on his hands on Iraq, and it‘s not very clear either what the public mandate is on Iraq or what he‘s going to do about it. As for domestic policy, he did say that he was for some pretty bold things. Tax reform, didn‘t sketch out the specifics. Social Security reform, also didn‘t sketch out the specifics. But I‘m not sure the public fully embraced those ideas. He‘s going to have a fight on his hands with Democrats in Congress even though they‘re in the minority, they‘ve got a lot of power. It‘s going to be difficult to get anything done on the domestic front.
CRAWFORD: I, too, Craig, I scoff at that claim.
OLBERMANN: Well, give me then what the lesson here is, Craig, as the final word. What‘s the lesson for the Democrats, other than the message, you lost. What is it that they have to do to get back into the playing field here?
CRAWFORD: Become a national party. They have become a minority party of region. You look at the map, you know, it looks like India with Pakistan on either end. I mean, this party is in danger of not just being a minority in Washington in terms of the powers, the halls of government, but regionally. They abandon a whole region of the country in the south and in so doing, they abandon rural voters everywhere who take cultural cues from the south. In Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, all these states where they have better Democratic states, not Ohio, but the others that they had so much trouble in.
HARWOOD: Keith, if you know somebody with Bill Clinton talent out there, you might want to drop an email to the DNC. They could use somebody who‘s really, really good.
OLBERMANN: Amen to that. And marriage does not qualify necessarily as that talent. Although we‘ll see that issue in four years. All right, John Harwood of the “Wall Street Journal,” Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly,” a boring old two-day election. Thank you for your analysis, all of it that you provided over the course of the campaign. John, your gift certificate to the ESPN Zone is in the mail. And Craig, you‘re getting the box of black and white cookies that will arrive at your home between four and six weeks from now.
CRAWFORD: I like that idea, yes.
OLBERMANN: As the votes were counted last night, the mood shifted at least twice. We‘ll take you inside both camps for a sense of what was going on behind the scenes and a bad night for the Democrats on Capitol Hill. For the first time ever, the minority party loses its leader in an election defeat. That was only the tip of the aptly named iceberg for the Dems.
OLBERMANN: White House correspondent Norah O‘Donnell recounted the anecdote several times last night but it was worth it. Sometime after 10:00 p.m. she ran into the first President Bush in the West Wing and asked him how he was feeling. I‘m feeling fine now.
If John Kerry had to drool the drool of regret into the pillow of remorse, the presidents Bush and their families not only enjoyed the thrill the victory but also had to survive what one of their media strategists called a near-death experience.
Our number four story in the COUNTDOWN, we go inside just another night at the office for the candidates. At 9:37 p.m. Eastern Time the president‘s advisers took the unusual step of inviting reporters and cameramen into the residence where he was shown with an enigmatic smile on his face the product perhaps of a diet of high hopes and horrible early exit polling. I believe I will win, thank you very much, he told the media and then he like the rest of us waited. At least Mr. Bush had a couch. Supporters attending the Bush-Cheney election night party at the Ronald Reagan Building in D.C., expected a speech or a wave or at least a vice president. Instead they got a hard floor to nap on. And the line of the night from MSNBC‘s Ron Reagan at just about 5:00 a.m., looking at one of the supine partiers, that guy with the Bush-Cheney sign over his face, Ron said, “I don‘t see his chest moving.”
The president‘s supporters finally got a brief speech from White House chief of staff Andy Card shortly before 6:00 a.m. Sorry no refunds. A quick nap probably looks pretty good to my next guest. Elisabeth Bumiller is the White House correspondent for the “New York Times.” She was there until early this morning and has been kind enough to join us anyway here tonight. Good evening.
ELISABETH BUMILLER, “NEW YORK TIMES”: Hello. Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Do we know when and what turned the mood around in the White House last night? Was there a particular event or bit of intelligence that snapped them out of it?
BUMILLER: I think it was the early returns. They had known from the very beginning that there was something strange about the exit polls. The president had been given the first wave of exit polls when he landed at Andrews Air Force Base mid afternoon. And they were very grim. And they were taken aback. And they couldn‘t understand what had gone wrong. But by later in the day, Karl Rove and Matthew Dowd, some of the president‘s senior political advisers had decided that the polls were wrong and were sending out frantic email messages saying pay no attention to them. So they were feeling pretty good by early in the evening when the returns started coming in, they looked good for the president.
OLBERMANN: Moving to later in the evening after this network and Fox called Ohio for Mr. Bush, which would have guaranteed him the tie in the electoral college and thus put at worst his presidency to a vote of a Republican-controlled House, how surprised was he actually that Senator Kerry did not concede immediately? How angry was he?
BUMILLER: Hard to know how angry he was. I can tell you the Bush campaign was very angry. They were sending out messages saying that Senator Kerry is delusional. There is—that‘s a direct quote. There is no way he can possibly win this election. He needs to, you know, get a grip on reality.
The campaign was very angry. I would suspect the president was also angry. We haven‘t heard directly that he was fuming. But they were up very late. It was interesting to see last night in the White House. You looked up in the family quarters and the lights were blazing at 4:30 a.m. That‘s not a normal sight at this White House.
OLBERMANN: And in that videotape, we saw somebody else, the number of reports who encountered the president‘s father seemed to be pretty large and their terminology seemed identical. You all describe the former president as wandering around the West Wing. That term had a certain pathos to it last night and it still does tonight. Do you know more about his night, how much he interacted with his son?
BUMILLER: I know that his daughter-in-law, Laura Bush called him the most nervous man in America yesterday. He was obviously at his son‘s side.
He was—I don‘t think he was wandering around in the West Wing. I think
· I mean, he went over to see the senior staff and to greet people. I also think he was walking off a lot of nervous tension. He came over at least twice that we know.
OLBERMANN: Happy now, though. We know that much.
BUMILLER: That we know, yes. There were other people, too. The vice president wandered by about 3:30 in the morning, all of a sudden popped up. He was strolling from the colonnade alongside the Rose Garden into the West Wing. And he said he was going to go into his office and sit a bit. It‘s 3:30 in the morning. He acted like this was perfectly normal that he would want to sit in his office at 3:30.
OLBERMANN: A mass wave of insomnia in the White House.
Elizabeth BuMiller, the White House correspondent of the New York Times. Great thanks, especially under the circumstances.
BUMILLER: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The losing candidate had the presence of mind to shut it down early, even sending out Senator Edwards to say good night to the country. But we‘re thinking it was probably not as smooth an evening for John Kerry as it may have looked. Here to assess that is Patrick Healy who has covered the Kerry campaign for the Boston Globe for 18 months. Patrick, good evening.
PATRICK HEALY, BOSTON GLOBE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We got glimpses of President Bush‘s election night. We did not really of Senator Kerry‘s. What do we know about what it was like?
HEALY: Well, it was tense. He was holed up at his House on Beacon Hill. He was getting data, almost county by county data, at one point, from Ohio when it was clear that Florida wasn‘t happening for him.
His aides all headed to a downtown hotel near the rally site. And they were just crunching numbers, you know, getting precinct captains on the phone saying what happened to these exit polls? Where are the numbers that we thought we were going to see in Youngstown and Toledo and Cleveland? And those numbers just weren‘t showing up.
We know that Senator Kerry was pacing a little bit. He was seen in some of the windows of the house by our stakeout crew. You know, sort of reaching for papers, picking things up. He seemed to be fiddling a decent amount. And then the lights started going out shortly after Senator Kennedy left the house sometime around 2:30.
OLBERMANN: Yes. The lights may have actually gone out a little bit earlier than that, but we‘ll just leave that for the moment. What do we know about that process by which he decided to throw in the towel this morning? Was he advised to do that? Was it a conclusion he reached himself? Do we know where the idea came from?
HEALY: Yes. They had a team of lawyers in Ohio who were really pushing to file court papers at 8:00 a.m., challenging some of the vote counting methods in Ohio. They thought that they could make a challenge to some of the ballots and get Kerry closer to the numbers that he needed to give a real run against Bush.
But once the numbers, hard numbers started coming in this morning that showed that Bush‘s margin was pretty sizable in Ohio, was not going to be 50,000 votes as the Kerry people were hoping, but something more like 140,000. And that the ballots that weren‘t counted weren‘t so high in number, Kerry said apparently to his campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, I don‘t want to go to court, I don‘t want to put the country through this, especially during at a time of war. You know, this isn‘t going to happen to me. The numbers aren‘t working out, so let‘s call it.
OLBERMANN: Not to give him too much credit for seeing what was perhaps obvious to other people outside of the campaign, but did he feel as if that would, making the decision he did would put a semipleasant ending to this process? In other words, was it not merely a mathematical calculation, but also, as you suggested, something he would avoid putting the country through?
HEALY: Yes. I think that Senator Kerry has always considered himself someone who want to be a statesman, someone who doesn‘t want to be a divisive figure. He likes the phrase “uniter not a divider” when it‘s applied to him. He didn‘t want to, as he said, put the country through 2000 again.
And he told us that privately, too. That he felt like he had made the best case for himself. And that if the country still wanted to go ahead to the polls and elect George Bush, you know, so be it.
You know, so they decided and I think he decided that—you know, he just didn‘t want to be seen day after day as someone who was dragging this out when the map really didn‘t make sense for it.
OLBERMANN: Patrick Healy of the Boston Globe, many thanks. And remember the Democratic run for 2008 doesn‘t really begin for a couple of weeks yet. So take some time off.
HEALY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The election night was not all sober deliberation and rancorous disagreement, there was one state proposition decided which we can all drink to. And Republicans on Capitol Hill had their power lead in both the Senate—or pad their power lead in both the Senate and the House. How do the Democrats try to regroup after this one? All of that ahead on COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Countdown now continues from Democracy Plaza in New York. And as we set aside the numbers for a moment and ease back into the noncampaign news, we‘re expecting those of you who do dumb things while cameras are rolling, to step up your game and provide us with even more of the kind of goofy stories that unfold whenever I say let‘s play “Oddball.”
And perhaps lost among the really important ballot issue yesterday, South Carolina‘s battle with the bottle. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Oddball is projecting a crushing defeat for the tiny little airplane bottles of liquor. South Carolina, the only state in the union which had required bars and restaurants to dispense booze from nips, which enabled the government to regulate alcohol distribution and tax by the drink.
But the amendment to the state constitution passed with a 59 percent mandate. And saloon owners are already trying to figure out how to store big bottles on those tiny little shelves behind the bar. But for those looking forward to stiffer drinks from the free-pour bottle, don‘t hold your breath there, rummy. The little bottles actually contain 1.7 ounces of booze, as opposed to the one ounce usually poured from the big ones, so I‘m told.
Scary video from the Taipei Zoo, where this man lives in the end. In fact, he wasn‘t even seriously injured. And though it has nothing to do with our presidential election, we do find it a fitting metaphor for American politics. An unstable man entered the lion‘s den, unarmed unprotected, screaming—quote—“Bite me, bite me.” Well, it‘s a metaphor for something. The male lion is more than happy to oblige, making a few swipes at the guy, bites him on the leg before he is shot, the lion, that is, with tranquilizer darts by the zoo staff.
Officials say the lions had just eaten just a short time earlier, so the situation could have been a lot worse. Yes, tell that to the first guy who went in there. Kidding. Kidding. No people was eaten.
But Iraq still has the capacity to eat President Bush‘s second term. What does he do there? What does he do here? What does he do about Republicans already scrambling for the nomination in ‘08? Those stories ahead.
Now here are COUNTDOWN top three newsmakers of this day.
No. 3 Judy Sgro, immigration minister of Canada. Her message to disgruntled American Democrats who may wish to move north? Get in line, eh? Americans will receive no special treatment, she says. They will have to apply and wait in line, like any other would-be immigrants. That wait can take a year, possibly longer. That depends on how many Baldwin brothers are already in line.
No. 2, Junior, a Labrador retriever, the winner of the mayoral race in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. The race was not even close. Junior took 5,000 out of 8,000 votes cast, crushing second-place finisher, Rudy the Brittany spaniel. The Democratic candidate, Higgins (ph) the donkey barely registered, just like everywhere else last night.
And, No. 1, Diana Cortez, the former mayor of Grulla, Texas. She spent Election Day in a courtroom where she and her bookkeeper pleaded guilty to using nearly $54,000 of public money for psychic readings. They‘re both facing 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Mayor, how in the hell could you not see that coming?
OLBERMANN: Last week, we asked two of Washington‘s top journalists to give us a brief insight into the prospective Cabinet members in a Kerry presidency or a second Bush one. Well, you can throw out those congratulatory notes to Secretary of State Biden and Attorney General Spitzer.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, for the first time in two decades, a Republican administration gets a second chance. What do its leaders want to do with it? What will history and fate permit them to do with it?
It was Matthew Cooper of “TIME” magazine who suggested John Danforth would succeed Colin Powell as secretary state, that Donald Rumsfeld would probably retain his position as secretary of defense, that Larry Thompson could succeed his former boss, John Ashcroft, as attorney general. But the names are hardly the whole story.
“Newsweek” magazine reported on Monday that Secretary Powell had confided to friends that the insurgents are winning in Iraq, not 2 ½ months before the elections are scheduled there. Osama bin Laden is obviously alive and well and did not feel a need to carry his machine gun while he made his last video. The economy is growing for investors, but may or may be doing so for employees.
Ken Walsh is the chief White House correspondent of “U.S. News & World Report” and joins us now.
Mr. Walsh, good evening to you.
KEN WALSH, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD
REPORT”: Nice to be with you.
OLBERMANN: The president spent much, maybe most of his victory speech today talking about unifying the country, directly addressed those who didn‘t vote for him.
But a few minutes earlier, the vice president had called the election a mandate. Those two terms and views would seem to be contradictions. How does Mr. Bush balance those contradictions, say, regarding Iraq?
WALSH: Well, I think that the president does feel he has a mandate. It was 51 percent of the vote, 3.5 million more votes than Kerry, the first time a president has gotten a majority since 1988. And I think he‘s very proud of that.
And I think that his impulses are to go with what he has tried to do before, which is pretty much more of the same in the second term. But I think he does feel that he has a lot more latitude now. He‘s been vindicated in his mind in a number of ways on policy, on Iraq and on a number of other things because he won this second term.
So I think that he‘ll make a run in Iraq at trying to bring in some more allies. I don‘t know if that‘s going to be very successful. I think he‘s dug in pretty hard there, such as Germany and France. But I think pretty much he‘s going to look for ways to get us out of there perhaps more quickly than people might imagine, hopefully, in his mind, bringing the Iraqis along in training and so on, getting through the election in January.
It‘s a very tough challenge for him. But I think this election has apparently given him a big boost. And talking to people at the White House today, they feel that he‘s sort of loaded up and ready for the second term and has a couple of ideas that I think he thinks are big ideas like some of the ones he had in the first term.
OLBERMANN: In the second term, you suggested maybe more of the same in many other areas, but considering outside Iraq, is there one area in which we‘re likely to see the administration change the most, as you suggested, big ideas or big surprises, even?
WALSH: Well, one thing that I thought was interesting today is that some of the White House officials were making the distinction between whether this is a conservative country now, which they had been saying pretty consistently for quite a while, and whether it‘s a center-right majority in the country.
That centrist notion has crept into their conversations privately more than it has in a while. And so I think President Bush does realize that we are dealing with some serious divisions here. So I think that while he is going to continue to govern from the right, I think that on—perhaps on tax policy, you might see some interesting developments there. The Treasury Department is studying this whole notion of simplification of the tax plans, of the tax system, perhaps something along the lines of looking at ad valorem taxes or sales taxes.
I don‘t think it will go that far, but I think the breadth of the things that President Bush is considering will probably surprise some people in terms of reforming the tax system.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, domestic politics are a reality, even on the day after an election. Mr. Bush is suddenly in a position that no president has been in since Woodrow Wilson.
Every two-term president since 1920 has had some sort of line of succession or potential succession. But if Mr. Cheney is still the vice president in 2008, there would be a Republican dogfight for the nomination and it may have started no longer or no later than 14 months from right now.
Is keeping that dogfight from overwhelming policy going to be a second full-time job for Mr. Bush?
WALSH: Yes, I think that‘s a very good point, Keith.
I think that the Vice President Cheney says he‘s not going to run for president. The president‘s brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, has said he‘s not going to run for president in ‘08. So this still leaves not only a lack of an heir, a political heir of the president. It leaves a wide swathe of people out there, including Senator McCain, Senator Hagel, perhaps Governor Pataki—it goes on and on—who want to succeed President Bush.
And so it might even be quicker than 14 months. I think once you get into some high-profile issue on Capitol Hill, I think you‘re going to see some of these people in the Senate, particularly, really moving along to try to jump out. So I think it‘s going to start faster than 14 months.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I got that feeling, too, maybe 14 days.
Ken Walsh, the chief White House correspondent of “U.S. News & World Report,” great thanks for your insight here at the unofficial start of the second term. Thank you, sir.
WALSH: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The world did not waste any time in reminding the president that the main problem with his second term will be the second term.
Hungary just pulled its troops out of the coalition of the willing today. That nation‘s new prime minister bowed to public opinion in his country. Polls showed 60 percent Hungarians wanted him to immediately withdraw the 300 noncombat transportation troops who were stationed in Hillah outside Baghdad. They will go home by March 31, the prime minister announced, as he also celebrated the end of mandatory military service in Hungary.
Speaking of the end, Dick Gephardt retired. Tom Daschle has been forcibly retired. Not even the Democratic father of a movie star could gain a House seat. It was much more than a presidential victory last night for the Republicans.
And after the long, hard election battle, COUNTDOWN will highlight the one thing that unites us all, laughing at the long, hard election battle.
OLBERMANN: It was the comedian Richard Belzer who observed about 10 years ago that there was a reason that the right who was so angry at then President Clinton and the liberals. If you analyze, Belzer said, the platform of the Socialist Party presidential candidate from 1936, a platform so radical that, in a time in profound economic chaos, it still hurt its candidate only four-tenths of 1 percent of the popular vote, you will find that everything in the hard-left Socialist platform, from welfare to abortion rights, had in the ensuing six decades become the law of the land. Even when out of office, liberalism ran the table on conservatism pretty much unopposed until 1980. And the blowback expressed by Ronald Reagan has been going on ever since.
Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, maybe as important as the presidential vote last night, what happened to the Democrats in the House and the Senate races. While Democrats only gained two new seats, Barack Obama romping to victory in Illinois, Ken Salazar gaining Colorado, Republicans raised their majority to at least 54 seats, their total, anyway. And Alaska is still too close to call, leaning Republican.
The GOP officially picked up Zell Miller‘s old seat in Georgia, Bob Graham‘s old seat in Florida, the first Louisiana Senate seat since Reconstruction, Senator John Edwards‘ seat in North Carolina, and even the Senate minority leader‘s seat in South Dakota, thus making Tom Daschle the first Senate leader to lose a seat in 52 years, the first minority leader ever. Senator-elect John Thune and his supporters and Mr. Daschle and his backers managed to spend $35 million to contest the smallest constituency in the nation.
And with many congressional votes still being counted, NBC News is projecting that the new House will show a majority of 34 for the Republicans, plus or minus three, but from 20 -- or up from 22, rather, with four of five redistricted Democratic incumbents Republicans in Texas gerrymandered out of office, and even George Clooney‘s father, Nick, losing his bid in Kentucky.
Some Republican commentator was gracious enough today to compare the Democratic Party to the Whigs in the 1850s or the Federalists 30 years before that. It might be a bit of an exaggeration. At minimum, their president got 238 electoral votes.
Still, as our correspondent Andrea Mitchell points out, these will not be happy years in Democrat country.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
Democratic candidates can dress up to look like they belong in the red states, but they risk being ridiculed and looking phony to voters.
MERLE BLACK, POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they probably think that he looked silly out there, you know, killing the goose.
MITCHELL: That tank ride by Michael Dukakis in 1988 was just one example of the lengths Democrats will go to connect with middle America. Increasingly, critics say, rural voters see Democrats as too smug, too urban, too elite.
STEVE JARDING, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: They‘re writing off rural America, it seems like, writhing off Southern America.
MITCHELL: Even though Bush has blue blood, he seems to fit right in.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gentlemen, start your engines.
MITCHELL: Before the Reagan landslide in 1980, Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, the Senate, and a majority of the nation‘s governors. But they‘ve been losing power steadily ever since. As a result of yesterday‘s election, Democrats will be an even smaller minority in both houses of Congress and hold only 22 statehouses, largely because many voters say Democrats don‘t understand their moral values.
(on camera): Even some Democrats say it boils down to guns, God and gays, issues of faith and culture especially important in the Midwest and South.
BLACK: As I read the Democratic Party today, there really isn‘t any effective conservative wing left in the party.
MITCHELL (voice-over): Except for John Kennedy, for nearly 50 years, only Southern Democrats have been able to bridge this cultural divide and win the White House. Howard Dean, a Vermont liberal, even tried appeal to Southern whites by saying he wanted to be the candidate—quote—“for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.”
Now the party faces an identity crisis. Should it move towards liberals like Dean and Hillary Clinton or try to appeal to red states by leaning more to the right?
Andrea Mitchell NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: Forget the speeches. Forget the debates. Forget the commercials. Please forget them. Purge them from your mind. But never, ever forget about the candidates from outer space or the fertilization efforts of the president‘s dog.
COUNTDOWN stumbles down campaign memory lane next.
OLBERMANN: Somewhere in India, that nation‘s leading astrologers are trying to cover their moons right now.
In Utica, New York, Zogby International, whose tracking poll at 5:30 p.m. last night forecast 311 electoral votes for John Kerry is probably to looking to expand into ceramics. In Washington, the football Redskins have snapped their streak of having predicted accurately the outcome of each election since Alf Landon. Their home game on or about November 2, 2008, will now simply determine how well year 17 of their five-year rebuilding plan is going.
Our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, it‘s all over, including the shouting. And another set of cherished illusions about the democracy, the endless threads of history and the outer limits of campaigning have also vanished. Given that some time before the sun rose this morning, we heard the first footsteps of the 2008 presidential campaign, it‘s a damn good thing that, for 2004, it‘s a final.
KERRY: This will have to be the very last question. I apologize, but it‘s got to be. And in deference to Lambert Field and Vince, whom I‘ve quoted a few times, I‘ve got to go this Packer fan.
G. BUSH: If someone offers you a cheesehead, don‘t say you want some wine. Just put it on your head and take a seat at Lambeau Field.
KERRY: There were three countries, Great Britain, Australia and the United States. We can do better.
G. BUSH: Well, actually, you forgot Poland.
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: And you show the world exactly what women can achieve with faith, with hard work and a whole lot of chutzpah.
TERESA HEINZ KERRY, WIFE OF SENATOR JOHN KERRY: You said something I didn‘t say. Now shove it.
G. BUSH: Need some wood?
Questions with our key members of the defense team about a variety of subjects. We talked about Iraq. We‘re making progress on the ground. We were briefed on...
KERRY: Last time I was here, you had a great big giant cow made of butter.
G. BUSH: Nice to be here at the Boone County Fairgrounds. I was hoping to get a corny dog.
KERRY: And what I really liked was the Harley Davidson made of butter.
G. BUSH: Lemonade.
KERRY: I got chili and a Frosty.
G. BUSH: You need a rib?
KERRY: Chocolate Frosty.
G. BUSH: You want some ribs?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, behind us, you see Teresa enjoying a cold drink from Wendy‘s.
G. BUSH: You want some ribs?
KERRY: I‘m having some chili and a Frosty.
G. BUSH: I‘m ordering ribs.
KERRY: First of all, No. 1, No. 2, No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, we need a president who understands, No. 4, guess what, Tim, $8 million, $10 million. Guess what, Tim, $11 million. That said, No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4. But here‘s the bottom line, No. 1.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. PHIL, HOST: Were you all spankers? Did you spank them?
G. BUSH: Not really.
L. BUSH: Not very often.
G. BUSH: Not really.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you want to be vice president?
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To build a better country and a better world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to interview somebody else.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The amount of debt you can afford—oh, I‘ve got a spider on my back.
LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: And if you don‘t mind my saying so, the vice president is no slouch either.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘ll never forget the paper he wrote in the fourth grade where he explained that, in 1519, Ferdinand Magellan set out to circumcise the world.
G. BUSH: Need to maintain spending discipline in our nation‘s capital. I have a plan to protect small business owners and employees. House members, all the local officials. The high sheriff with us today. If you‘re worried about the quality of the education in the community in which you live.
We stand for the fair treatment of faith-based groups. They‘re going to receive federal support.
G. BUSH: Tribal sovereignty means that, sovereignty. And you‘re a—you‘ve been given sovereignty and you‘re viewed as a sovereign entity. And, therefore, the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.
KERRY: I know that my plan has a better chance of working.
G. BUSH: We got issues in America. Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB-GYNs are not able to practice their love with women all across this country.
KERRY: But I will make certain that our troops are protected.
G. BUSH: You‘re doing good, Sandra (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I told you would have to cut me off.
G. BUSH: Well, I haven‘t cut you off.
G. BUSH: You and my mother go to the same hair-dye person.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, President Bush.
G. BUSH: The superintendent of schools, big Bob Watson, is here.
Do they ever call you big Bob?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. And, Governor—excuse me, President.
G. BUSH: How quickly they forget.
You know, one of the most meaningful things that‘s happened to me since I‘ve been the governor—the president—governor—the president.
G. BUSH: Oops.
OLBERMANN: From New York, that‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it.
I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
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