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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Photo finish or blowout?

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX, Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) This is going to be a close election, maybe one of the closest ones you've ever seen in a long period of time. And you know, I -- and my attitude is this: I'm going to work my heart out and just turn my fate over to the will of the people. And I trust the people, and I hope I -- I hope I like their judgment this time.

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE (Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) They say this election is the closest race since that one in 1960, 40 years ago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've heard the mantra for two months now:

The presidential contest is a dead heat. It will go down to the wire. They're neck and neck. It's too close to call, within the statistical margin of error.

Well, maybe. But as the race draws to its close, there are portents that campaign 2000 may not be a photo finish after all.

Item: Bush lead grows. Overnight tracking polls by independent news organizations show Bush continues to inch beyond the polling margin of error.

Item: Electoral College count. Ten polling organizations total the states' tallies of Electoral College votes into three categories: Bush, Gore, and too close to call. Eight of the 10 say Bush leads in the Electoral College. One gives the lead to Gore, and one says Bush and Gore are tied.

Item: Committed supporters. Polls show that self-described strong supporters account for 77 percent of Gore voters. Bush self-described strong supporters number 85 percent.

Item: Coveted independents. They are the swing voters both sides see as key to an electoral triumph. Current tracking polls show Bush has an 11-point lead over Gore among these independent voters.

At week's end, the presidential plot thickened. A story broke about a George Bush drinking episode when he was a young man. The story was developed, leaked, and launched by a Democratic partisan fanatic, Tom Connolly.

Two years ago Connolly ran for governor of Maine. He captured all of 12 percent of the vote. Last August, 10 weeks ago, he was at the Los Angeles Democratic convention, serving as a Democratic delegate from Maine, wearing a sword-billed hat, shimmying and swaying to the music, and yelling to the press that he wanted to, quote, unquote, "infect" the delegates with his George W. Bush sloganeering, "W. is for wiener" -- on bumper stickers, signs, handouts. Quote, "If I can somehow get the public to refer to Bush as 'wiener boy,' that would be my dream," he told reporters.

Last Thursday Connolly set up two reporters in Portland, Maine, one from Fox, one from NBC, both affiliates. Connolly produced a court docket hitherto thought to have been officially expunged or cleansed from George W. Bush's court record. The docket showed that 24 years ago, Bush was arrested on a misdemeanor in Kennebunkport, Maine, charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Bush paid a $150 fine and was released. The arresting officer, we have since learned, described Bush during the unfortunate episode as, quote, "a picture of integrity."

GOV. BUSH: (From videotape.) I oftentimes said that years ago I made some mistakes. I occasionally drank too much, and I did on that night. And I regret that it happened, but it did. I've learned my lesson. And it's a regrettable incident that I find interesting that four or five days before the election is coming to the surface.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did Connolly act alone, or were these reporters set up by a more elaborate scheme, meaning it was executed with the knowledge, the consent and the facilitation of the Gore campaign? Interestingly, Chris Lehane, Gore's George Stephanopolous, comes from Kennebunkport, as does Connolly. Michael Barone.

MR. BARONE: Well, John, the answer is we don't know whether it was set up by the Gore campaign or higher-ups or whether it was just this one wacko 12-percent-of-the-vote candidate for governor, here. The Gore campaign has denied it. Of course, their denials have no more probative value than the White House's denials that Bill Clinton committed rape on Juanita Broaddrick, because we they lie about these things. So they may be involved, may not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And also, there's an investigation going on by the FBI into who stole the videotape of George Bush, his debate preparation, and moved it over to --

MR. BARONE: Well, the question --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to the Gore campaign.

MR. BARONE: Well, and revealing confidential documents from Yale and so forth, which showed him, incidentally, with better grades, I think, than Al Gore had.

MS. CLIFT: A little desperate, aren't we, fellows -- (laughter) -- to suggest that this is dirty tricks? This is truthful information that came out. The person who has the poor judgment here is George W. Bush, who should have released this, made this public under his own terms a year ago, and it would not have been a big deal.

But if you're running a campaign focused on trustworthiness, and you're criticizing the other candidate for Clintonian shavings of the truth, and you make a political decision to conceal this, this is going to raise questions, I believe, in the minds of undecided voters here at the end who already have reservations about George W. Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the fact that George Bush says that he didn't reveal it because of concern for his twin daughters and he didn't want them to know that he was arrested?

MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, I think, as a father, I understand the desire not to let your children see those aspects about you. I mean, I think the a whole record of Bush on this has been one of honesty. He hasn't said every detail, but when he was called for jury duty where he was going to be a potential juror in a drunk driving case, he excused himself, saying he'd had these drinking problems before. So he has not been dishonest in the slightest.

Let me say one thing. As someone who has been in press operations for many years, this had all the earmarks of a professional --


MR. BLANKLEY: Hit -- yes. And, now, you don't know for sure who did it, although this Chris Lehane connection is certainly intriguing, as the press secretary for Gore.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now -- I'm going to go for you in one second. I know you're anxious to get into the act here --

MR. PAGE: So anxious, you have no idea, John.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was the -- he was the assistant attorney general of Los Angeles?

MR. BLANKLEY: I was the deputy attorney general in Los Angeles.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Deputy attorney general. Now, what is the story on an expunged or cleansed document? Is that not then sealed so that -- is there a possibility that Connolly, in addition to his -- his cockamamie behavior, is also maybe violating the law?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I mean, I think each state has different rules on what constitutes a document's being expunged, when it can be released, under what circumstances.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because he went ferreting out that document.

MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, you have to know what the state's -- the law is in Maine. I don't know. But I think the larger political question is that this -- this weekend, if the Gore people have leaked this story in an attempt to try desperately to win an election, which I don't think they're going to accomplish, they have done, in a certain sense, they may have hurt themselves, because they've taken the attention away from anything that Gore or Bush is otherwise going to say and left it on this topic. So they may have done themselves a disservice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's distracting for both candidates.

Do you want to add to this?

MR. PAGE: Well, just a little bit, John. I mean, to go attacking the Gore campaign for having this elaborate scheme, that we don't even have any inch of -- any ounce of proof about, is to praise them with faint damnation, you know what I mean? I mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he acted alone? That's a legitimate view.

MR. PAGE: The fact is, who cares? John, who cares? The issue is, why did George W. Bush try to cover it up? We all know the post-Watergate slogan is -- (inaudible) -- scandal --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said he had a problem with alcohol.

MR. PAGE: Allow me to finish my point.

MR. BLANKLEY: He did not try to cover up.

MR. PAGE: I'd like to finish, Tony.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish his point, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: He didn't try to cover it up.

MR. PAGE: Tony, like you, I too am a parent, and I just cannot identify with the idea that he was doing his kids a favor by trying to cover up something that was already out there. He knew he was going to run -- you're running for president; you know people are going to use that kind of thing against you. As Eleanor said, it would have been better to have just been clean about it a year ago, as well we knew about his earlier arrest for --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, you know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before you get totally hysterical on this --

MR. PAGE: I'm quite calm, John!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- his daughters know that he had a drinking problem.

MR. PAGE: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's made that clear. The one thing he withheld from them is the fact he was arrested.

Have you ever been arrested? Would you tell your son that?

MR. PAGE: If I had been, and I would have run for president, do you think I could safely think that nobody's going to care, you know, that nobody --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's a different story.

MR. PAGE: That's not a different story, it's the same point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He thinks more of his daughters than he does of running for president.

MS. CLIFT: Well, wait a second -- no, that is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You could look at it that way.

MR. PAGE: (Off mike) -- good judgment.

MS. CLIFT: That is a very poor excuse. I, too, am a parent. And frankly, if you want to make the case you shouldn't drink and drive, that was a powerful piece of information that he should have divulged.

Secondly, if we're going to use that as a good excuse, I don't think President Clinton wanted Chelsea Clinton to know what he was doing either. That is not a good reason.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you get the logical to that, Michael? What does that mean?

MR. BARONE: Well, I mentioned this earlier. He certainly didn't want her to know about the rape charge brought by Juanita Broaderrick, which, as the Washington Post said, Bill Clinton cannot credibly deny --

MS. CLIFT: You know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's get out. I want to move on.

MR. BARONE: -- because we know he lies about these things.

MS. CLIFT: Michael, I hope as a journalist and as a former deputy prosecutor, that you make your cases in print and in the courtroom with better evidence than you recite rumors on this show --

MR. BARONE: I'm not -- I'm not the one -- (inaudible) --


MS. CLIFT: -- as though they were facts!

MR. BARONE: Listen, John --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'll put one piece of evidence in. This is the political team that stole my FBI file, along with many other people, and rummaged through it by their political operatives.

MS. CLIFT: Tony? Tony? I would -- I would --

MR. BLANKLEY: So yes, they're perfectly capable of doing exactly this sort of thing --

MS. CLIFT: I would suggest you read the report on that, and that it was an inadvertent thing --


MS. CLIFT: -- and nobody "stole" your file.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, it was inadvertent, right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you this. Is this eccentric's dirty trick, is it a footnote, is it a chapter, is it a book, is it something bigger?

MR. BARONE: No, John. I think it's going to have very little or no effect, basically. It's just going to be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A footnote?

MR. BARONE: No. It's just going to turn a couple of people off Bush; it's going to turn a couple of people off Gore. It's not going to have any significant effect.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Factors out.

What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: In a race this tight, anything matters. It is a small window into whether Bush is hiding anything else. He's been very evasive on a lot of questions, including where he would find the missing trillion dollars to support this Social Security program.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think this is going to hurt Bush more than it's going to hurt Gore?

MS. CLIFT: This is about George Bush, this is not about Al Gore.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, this about a Democratic operative who is eccentric, he's an exotic, and he could have been positioned to do what he did --

MR. BARONE: Like Matt Drudge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- I think there's antecedent probability that he was so engaged by the Bush (sic) camp.

MR. BLANKLEY: He was in fact a Gore delegate.


MR. BLANKLEY: He in fact was a Gore delegate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was a Gore delegate!

MS. CLIFT: Oh, horrors!

MR. BLANKLEY: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he ran for governor as a Democrat.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think this will be remembered as the last foul breath of an irredeemably corrupt political machine.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, don't hold back.

MR. BLANKLEY: I won't.

MR. PAGE: Don't hold back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?

MR. PAGE: I think that, you know, nobody holds it against George W. Bush now, the DUI arrest. It is how he's handled this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.


MR. PAGE: That it brings great question about his judgment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got more ground to cover before we take a break, and that is, the main event, the central proposition of this issue, believe it or not, is whether or not this race is developing into a photo finish or it's developing into a blowout. To recap what we said earlier, the argument for a blowout, as you look and see on the screen, Bush lead grows, electoral college tallies favor Bush, more committed supporters for Bush than Gore, and the 11 percent Bush lead with coveted independents. What do you think? Michael?

MR. BARONE: I think it's not necessarily going to be a photo finish, John. If you look at an average, the seven exit polls as we're sitting here that are most current are the polls that -- the tracking polls, excuse me -- you're looking at 47 Bush, 42 Gore. That begins to sound statistically significant.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's a blowout? What's a blowout, in percentage terms?

MR. BARONE: Well, that would translate into a 50-45 general if you eliminate the undecided -- allocate the undecideds there. The state polls are showing closer in some states, like Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and so forth. But John, I went through the process of aggregating the state polls and showing that against the -- the current state polls that are the hotline -- against the 1996 turnout. And what you see when you do that is those state polls aggregated together were running 44 Bush, 43 Gore. Throughout this cycle, the state polls have tended to lag behind the tracking polls.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point? (Laughter.)

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- Mr. Gore. (Laughter.)

MR. BARONE: The tracking polls, I think, are right, in that there is a significant margin for Bush out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One word. Is it more of a blowout, or more of a photo finish?

MR. BARONE: I think more of a blowout.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I've done some aggregating, too. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you take deliberate pleasure in it? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: The potential for a Bush blowout is this: if the mass of undecideds breaks to him at the end. And traditionally, undecideds don't go with the incumbent. But this race has defied every bit of conventional wisdom, so --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you saying? Photo finish?

MS. CLIFT: I think it's more likely to be a photo finish, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? More of a photo finish or more of a blowout?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think, as I predicted two weeks ago in my column, I think it will be 5 to 10 percent for Bush, not quite a blowout, but something more --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think 5 to 10 percent, you get up to 10 percent, you've got a blowout, don't you? Where's the blowout threshold?

MR. BARONE: This is not a landslide, but I think it will be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the landslide threshold, speaking margin here?

MR. BLANKLEY: 57-43, 57-43.

MR. BARONE: And there won't be that much, no. But --

MR. BLANKLEY: It won't be that fantastic.

MR. BARONE: -- it will be an unambiguous win.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about 12 to 14 points.

MR. BARONE: No, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For a landslide.

MR. BARONE: -- five points.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five points.

MR. PAGE: Quite a bit less than a blowout. I think there are several battleground states that Gore could do better than --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's more of a photo finish?

MR. PAGE: More of a photo finish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, it will be more of a blowout, and the spread will be seven, and it will favor George W.

Exit. Oh, we just did the exit.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Senate 2000. Who wins, who loses? Today, 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats make up the U.S. Senate. Twelve key Senate races will determine whether the Senate stays Republican or goes Democratic. Here are three high-profile contests.

Missouri. John Ashcroft, Republican, versus Mel Carnahan, Democrat. Ashcroft is the incumbent. Carnahan is Missouri's dead governor, tragically killed in a plane crash 2-1/2 weeks ago. Carnahan's name is still on the ballot. This week, his widow, Jean, announced that if her late husband is elected on Tuesday, she would serve.

JEAN CARNAHAN: (From videotape.) I decided to do what I think Mel would want all of us to do -- to keep the cause alive, to continue the fight.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This puts Ashcroft in the delicate position of running against a dead man and his surviving widow. Question: Will the Carnahans defeat John Ashcroft, I ask you?

MR. BARONE: I think no. I think the sympathy factor will wear off, as it did in the North Dakota governor race.

MS. CLIFT: I think Jean Carnahan has made an ad where she's talking directly into the camera and she's making a powerful point to continue his legacy, and I think Carnahan could win by a whisker.


MR. BLANKLEY: After the death -- before the death, Ashcroft was going to win the election. After the death, the numbers shot up; they're coming down. I think Ashcroft will hold.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. PAGE: Carnahan wins.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it creates complicated legal problems, because the candidate has to be a resident of the state and obviously this candidate is no longer a living resident of the state, and I think that would mean a delay in filling the seat and I think that will dawn upon the electorate and they will feel that it's better to elect a living candidate.

Okay, New Jersey. Jon Corzine, Democrat, versus Bob Franks, Republican. This is an open seat with Frank Lautenberg, Democrat, retiring. Multimillionaire Corzine has spent a staggering $65 million to Republican Bob Franks' $5 million.

Question: Is New Jersey safe for the Democrats, meaning Corzine wins, or will there be an upset? Around the horn, quickly. I ask you, Michael?

MR. BARONE: I think New Jersey's not enough a Democratic state. Corzine's paid $65 million and he'll win only by the generic vote.


MR. BARONE: That's my prediction.


MS. CLIFT: Corzine wins.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Corzine wins.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think Corzine is going to be able to hold on, and it's getting fairly close.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Corzine wins, even though he's not revealing the sources of his money, correct?

MS. CLIFT: Some of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Some of them, yes.

MR. PAGE: Corzine bought it fair and square. He wins. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Answer: Corzine wins. Okay, New York. Hillary Clinton, Democrat, versus Representative Rick Lazio, Republican. This is an open seat, with Pat Moynihan, Democrat, retiring. Clinton-Lazio is the most prominent Senate race of Election 2000, and it is arguably the most vitriolic. Question: Who will be the new junior senator from New York, Clinton or Lazio? I ask you, Michael; around the horn again.

MR. BARONE: Well, I think that Hillary's got problems with disclosing contributions. She said from the American Museum Council. It was the American Muslim Council. I think Enrico Lazio.

MS. CLIFT: You know, Lazio's made some enormous mistakes in this race. He's essentially given the victory to Hillary, but this is going to be very, very tight. Neither of these candidates may get 50 percent of the vote, but I say Hillary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hillary has been hurt by her contributions to Muslim organizations; perhaps seriously hurt.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, there's no doubt that if she loses, it'll be because of a number of the connections both with Arafat's wife and more recently. I think that she may hang on by a -- just by a hair.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are aware, are you not, that the Jewish vote is evenly split, more or less, between Lazio and Hillary at 45 percent, and it is said you can't win in New York State unless you have 60 percent, minimum, of the Jewish vote.

MR. BARONE: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: However, Lazio is doing poorly in northern New York, is he not?

MR. BARONE: In Upstate. Yes, he is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's about 10 points shy of what he needs.

MR. PAGE: That's right.

MR. BARONE: And -- well, she's campaigned very heavily in Upstate New York, and she's won over some voters on that.

MR. PAGE: And she campaigned early. Lazio got a late start, not just because of Giuliani dropping out, but also with familiarizing himself with the economic problems in upstate New York, especially around Buffalo. And he hasn't really gained the traction in the last days that he needed, John. I think Hillary's going to squeak it out.


MR. PAGE: Yup.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's four for Hillary so far?

MR. BARONE: Three.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three? I'm with you.

MR. BARONE: You're with me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think maybe a Lazio upsurge --


MR. BARONE: To the bitter end!

MS. CLIFT: Can't stand it, can you, John? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I only said "may."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Which party will control the Senate next year, and by how many seats, Michael Barone?

MR. BARONE: Republicans, 53-47, down one seat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The current ratio is 46-54. And you're saying they're going down one seat --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- so it'll be 47-53.

MR. BARONE: Right.

MS. CLIFT: I say Dems pick up three, so they don't quite get the majority back, but they come very close.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor's right. I pick 51 also -- 51-49.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That much of a loss?

MR. PAGE: When you've got Eleanor and Tony coming together, who am I to break up this harmonic conversion? (Laughter.) We're talking about a 50-50 Senate, aren't we?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you saying?

MR. PAGE: Fifty-fifty.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty-fifty?

MR. PAGE: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you're all close, but unfortunately no one gets a cigar. Can we use that word anymore?

MR. PAGE: Cigarette? (Laughter.)

MR. BARONE: You can use the word. (Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, the Republicans will lose two seats.

Issue three: The House -- a nail-biter.

Currently, the GOP holds the majority in the House -- 222 Republicans, 209 Democrats, two independents, two vacancies, one formerly Republican, one formerly Democratic. To win control of the House, Democrats need a net gain of seven seats.

All 435 congressional districts are at stake, and nobody can take anything for granted.

Question: Which party will control the House of Representative next year, and by how many seats, Michael Barone? The current distribution is 222 to 211, two independents, and two vacancies.

MR. BARONE: John, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: These vacancies will be filled.

MR. BARONE: John, I think 18 seats are going to change hands, nine in one direction, nine in the other, and it's going to be 223 to 210, with --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The margin will be 13 seats for the Republicans, favoring them?

MR. BARONE: Same as it is today.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Same as it is today.


MS. CLIFT: Dems take the House by three seats, a very narrow margin. Those Nader voters, who vote Nader, they're going to put in -- they're gong to vote Democratic on the Congress --


MR. BLANKLEY: The Republicans are going to pick up two seats in Minnesota -- Minnesota -- two in Minnesota -- six -- which will offset some of the losses. Republicans have a net loss of about three. They'll hold the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they will have a 10-point -- a 10-seat --

MR. BLANKLEY: They'll have a net loss of three, so they --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're going to --

MR. BLANKLEY: They're going to hold it by three. They're going to hold it by three --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They wind up with a 10-seat plurality --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- hold it by three, instead of by seven.


MR. PAGE: Yeah, I think House Democrats will benefit more from this election than Gore. They're going to get a majority. But it'll be very close. It'll be maybe only a one- or two-seat --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think with Bush winning by 7 percent, he'll pull the Republicans in. Not only that; they currently have a 13-point spread favoring them. They will have a 17-point spread come November the 7th.

We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To clarify, all five members of the panel agree that the Senate will be retained by the Republicans, and three out of five agree that the House will be retained by the Republicans.

Exit question: Give me the percentages of George Bush and Al Gore in the current race for the White House.

MR. BARONE: Bush, 50-44.


MS. CLIFT: Gore barely breaks 50 but squeaks through in the Electoral College as well, with 273 electoral votes -- three more than needed.

MR. BLANKLEY: About 51, 52 to 43 or -4 for Gore.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty-one-43.

MR. PAGE: Bush wins the popular vote, 49-48; Gore wins the Electoral College.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is 50-43 -- a seven-point margin favoring George Bush.

Next week: Election fallout -- White House, Senate, House and governorship.




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Campaign bus to Fond du Lac. >From Shreveport to East Landsing, from Muskegon to Fond du Lac, Al and Tipper Gore embarked on what newspaper columnist (Wes Puten ?) called their "Magical mystery, kissing, caressing, cuddling and snuggling tour of the heartland."

Gore's well publicized and staged passion with his wife, Tipper, began at the Los Angeles Convention and has now become a campaign strategy. And on a related note, Gore got controversial this week by a posed cover photo for Rolling Stone, requiring what a media watchdog group called an airbrushed crotch. And he raised eyebrows again on the Queen Latifah Show by talking about whether he prefers women in leather or lace.

Americans wonder what Mr. Gore might be trying to prove. Is he looking for a last-minute bounce in the polls? Is he using his wife to get that? The bottom line is that someone who has no sense of self will jump on whatever comes along to help their image. After awhile, people worry about that tendency. The kiss, and all that's come with it, could have a real backlash. So writes psychologist Robert Butterworth.

What do you think of Butterworth's commentary?

I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I can understand people getting offended when Bill Clinton was kissing somebody other than his wife. But are we going to get worked up when a politician kisses his wife in public? I mean, that seems to me rather excessive.

You know, I think Al Gore and Tipper Gore, anybody's who been around them in Washington know that they are demonstrative with each other. This is not a secret. And if -- I don't think it's a pose --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've met with the Gores. I've never seen all that kissing going on.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: Maybe they were intimidated by your presence!


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think I put a chill on their romance?

MR. BARONE: John, the fact is -- no. I think the fact is when you do -- they don't get demonstrative necessarily when they're together. But there clearly is a strong bond between them. And I think the single most attractive feature of Al Gore's personality and character -- and his opponents would say there weren't many -- is his relationship with his wife. They are genuinely charming to be with when you see how well they relate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. There's something more than that behind this. I mean --

MR. BARONE: Now, he's also proving he's not Bill Clinton and she's not Hillary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Everything that Gore does is calculated, all right? So what's -- who is he appealing to with this?

MR. BARONE: He's telling us --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he appealing to men because he's down with the male vote; he's trying to look like Macho Man, he's the alpha male of Naomi Wolf, that's he trying to revive?

MR. BARONE: John, he's just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or with this osculation?

MR. BARONE: John, he's telling us that he's not Bill Clinton and she's not Hillary Rodham Clinton, and that is true, and he's telling it with something that's genuine.

MR. BLANKLEY: You know, look, you know, either he can't control himself, or it's calculated. I assume it's the latter, and one time at the convention, to make the point, perhaps. It seems to me it's going on to the point now where I can't imagine it's really appealing to people anymore. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that they got good results in the polls at the convention with the kissing and then they decided on a further light petting, right? Is that what they wanted to do?

MR. PAGE: We just spent half the show last week talking about stiff Al Gore is and how much of a robot he is, and now we're going to begrudge him for showing some humanity? Let's give them all a break, John. What do you say?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, Tony says he can't control himself -- I mean, I don't find these kisses all that offensive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they help him with the female vote?

MS. CLIFT: You know, they make him seem more like a warm human being, but I --

MR. BARONE: Well, now, just a minute.

MS. CLIFT: I think it's fine. It's not offensive unless you really -- unless you really don't like Al Gore, you're not going to be bothered by this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard what the psychologist --

MR. BARONE: Clarence is saying that he makes him look up -- look less stiff. I'd say, "In Rolling Stone, you look more stiff."