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MSNBC Hardball - Transcript

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October 31, 2004 Sunday

HEADLINE: HARDBALL for October 31, 2004

BYLINE: Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell, Ron Reagan

GUESTS: Ben Ginsberg, Johnathan Alter, Joe Trippi, Bill Owens, Bill Richardson, Rosey Edeh, Vanessa Kerry


I'm Chris Matthews and welcome to a special pre-election edition of HARDBALL. We're broadcasting, as you can see, from Democracy Plaza in Rockefeller Center in New York City. We'll be here day and night through the election now.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Democracy Plaza here in Rockefeller Center. It is still 2 days to election day, although it seems like it is coming on. And The fight in Florida is already fierce.

I'm joined now by members of both parties. Republican Ileana Ros- Lehtinen, and Democrat Robert Wexler. I haven't seen Bob Wexler since the last fight in Florida. There's always trouble when I see you, Bob. But thank you for coming on Congressman.

You start the first time. You've been around in a while. Are we going to get a clean result Tuesday night around, oh 9:00?



WEXLER: Unfortunately, I think we already have some significant problems. There are thousands of absentee ballots in Broward and Palm Beach Counties that have not yet been received by people who requested those ballots. So if this is a close race, I think we'll see an effort to extend the time in which people can legitimately return their absentee ballot.

Hopefully, when people go to vote on these electronic machines, there will not be systematic problems. That remain to be seen. We also know that these electronic machines are incapable of conducting a manual recount, which Florida law requires if there is a close race. Hopefully, it won't be that close.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. We've all been covering it to some extent, this Broward County mess-up. A couple of 20 some thousand, or 30 something thousand ballots went out, these were applications for ballots. You know, these people probably already left on their vacations, wherever they were going, on business, or whatever it was, family matters. How will they get ahold of ballot applications to get it back in time for Tuesday?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, first of all, that was the worst-case scenario. Now they've really looked at the numbers and those numbers are substantially decreased. And you're right, there may be some people who really have left and they won't be able to get their ballot in on time.

But now, this has become such a national, international problem. It is well known. A lot of those folks are contacting their neighbors. They're getting the, make sure that they get their ballots. A lot of people are coming back from vacation to cast that ballot, because they know how important it is.

And let me answer something about what Robert has said, we've had a couple of elections now using these new voting machines. They've gone flawlessly. I voted early voting, 2 weeks ago. My parents voted with absentee ballots. It's all been going well.

So yes, you hear about some of the problems that are not Republican problems at all, they're nonpartisan problems. But for 90 percent of the state, it has been going well. And the 10 percent that isn't working well, those problems are getting fixed. So I think it is going to go well.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Wexler, should we bring Jimmy Carter in there to straighten those things out down there like he does in third world countries?

WEXLER: I think we have enough monitors in Florida. Ileana and I are close friends. We're going to be traveling together next week. but I would respectfully differ with her. We've got studies by the local newspapers and the secretary of state, Jeb Bush's secretary of state that says these electronic machines are 6 times more likely to lose votes than way they vote in the 52 other counties in Florida.

We've had Republican primaries where there's an unusual number of votes lost, and they were close elections. We couldn't really determine who won. So to suggest that we had gone through flawless elections in the last 2 years, I think is wishful thinking.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I think that what we're setting up here is that the Democrats already figure that Florida is going to be a loser for them. They're setting up their legal arguments. And they're getting ready to be in the courts by November 3.

So that's OK. We'll be in the courts, too. If we see there are some shenanigans, we'll be ready to fight. We have got a whole legal team, the Democrats have as well. But I think Wexler is more concerned about it, because they know Florida will swing Bush's way.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think it will be different this time, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen? Why do you think there will be a clear mandate for the president down there? Last time it was murky as hell. You can argue either way. You could say that most people wanted to vote for Al Gore and they didn't get the job done for a lot of reasons. We don't know who won. But you say this time it is a clear mandate. In other words, it'll be 2 or 3 points. We'll know who won by the end of the evening.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I really do think so. I think 9/11 has changed the whole equation. This is a very pro military, pro defense state throughout our area. And we have seen a very strong leader, a committed leader. Not one who is vacillating. Not one who is changing position. And like him or not like him, you know where George Bush stands. And that's what his rally was today in Coconut Grove, such an enthused crowd.

MATTHEWS: OK, Congresswoman. Thank you. I wish I had more time. Thank you, Robert Wexler for coming back. You're always a great guest here. And Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, especially you.



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