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updated 10/31/2004 11:01:43 AM ET 2004-10-31T16:01:43

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PLEASE CREDIT ANY QUOTES OR EXCERPTS FROM THIS NBC TELEVISION PROGRAM TO "NBC NEWS' MEET THE PRESS."

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                    MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS

                          (202) 885-4598

                    Sundays: (202) 885-4200)

MEET THE PRESS  Sunday, October 31, 2004

GUESTS:  Former Senator BOB KERREY, (D-Neb.)
                      Kerry Campaign                    
                            
                      Former Mayor RUDY GIULIANI, (R-N.Y.)
                      Bush Campaign                          

                      PETER HART  
                      Hart Research

                      BILL McINTURFF
                      Public Opinion Strategies

                      CHARLIE COOK
                      The Cook Political Report
                   
MODERATOR/PANELIST:  Tim Russert - NBC News

MR. TIM RUSSERT:  Our issues this Sunday:  This is it, the race for the White House, 48 hours to go. Bush and Kerry in a final appeal for votes.

(Videotape):

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH:  If they want a safer America, a stronger America and a better America, put me and Dick Cheney back in office.

(End videotape)

(Videotape):

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA):  We need a new direction, not more of the same.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  With us for the Kerry campaign, former Nebraska governor and senator and September 11 Commission member Bob Kerrey.  For the Bush campaign, the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani.  Kerrey and Giuliani on MEET THE PRESS.

Then the blue states, the red states, the battleground states--how can Bush or Kerry reach the necessary 270 Electoral College votes for election?  Which party will control the Senate and House?  With us:  political analyst Charlie Cook and NBC News-Wall Street Journal pollsters, Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff.

But first, here representing the John Kerry campaign is the former senator from Nebraska, now president of the New School here in New York City, Bob Kerrey.

Welcome.

FMR. SEN. BOB KERREY, (D-NE):  Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me show you someone who entered the campaign on Friday. This is Osama bin Laden addressing the American people.  What effect do you believe that tape will have on this campaign?

MR. KERREY:  I don't think it'll have much all, I mean, other than, you know, focusing attention on the fact that Osama bin Laden is still alive.  You know, I was here in New York City when the president came up here and said, "I'm going to track these guys down and make them pay," and we all rallied to him. You know, we--one of the things the American people should understand that the threat of Osama bin Laden has been substantially reduced as a result of the war in Afghanistan, but we've not finished the job.  He's still alive and well, obviously.

MR. RUSSERT:  Shortly after that tape was made public, John Kerry was being interviewed on Friday in Milwaukee.  The question he was asked is "[bin Laden] is saying the president has misled the American people, but it doesn't matter who is the President--that will be determined by the policy."  "Kerry:  ...I believe I can run a more effective war on terror than George Bush.  I am absolutely confident I have the ability to make America safer.  But, we are united in our determination to hunt down and kill the terrorists.  I regret that when George Bush had the opportunity in Afghanistan and Tora Bora, he didn't choose to use American forces to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden. He outsourced the job to Afghan warlords.  I would have never done that.  I think it was an enormous mistake and we are paying the price for it today."

Was it appropriate for John Kerry on the day that this tape came out to criticize George Bush?

MR. KERREY:  Oh, I think it was.  Look, essential to John Kerry's campaign has been the assertion that we took our eye off the ball.  One thing we know about Osama bin Laden, his whereabouts, he's not in Iraq.  By the way, for the American people, this guy is a mass murderer.  You know, he's Jeffrey Dahmer times a thousand.  So nobody should listen to him with any sympathy.  Nobody should listen to him and try to make their decision about who they're going to vote for based upon what he says.  We need to track this guy down and arrest him or kill him, one of the two.  And what John has been saying central to his campaign is after this war in Afghanistan we wheeled and went to Iraq.  Bin Laden is not in Iraq.  And I think it's a very important point and he's been emphasizing that especially since Labor Day.

MR. RUSSERT:  In December of '01, Senator, John Kerry was on CNN after Tora Bora.  He was being asked about this.  He said, "I think our guys are doing a superb job.  I think they've been smart.  I think the administration leadership has done it well.  We're on the right track."  Why the change? Politics?

MR. KERREY:  Well, it's not a change.  Look, we didn't--at that point, we had not gone to war in Iraq.  At that point, we had not taken our substantial military capability and put our primary emphasis not just on winning the war but we're now a surrogate police force, we're providing border security. We're a surrogate Army in Iraq.  That was before the president made the decision to disband a 300,000-person Iraqi army that was providing border security and domestic security and now we hope to get 125 or 50,000.  And for God's sakes, I don't know why we let these guys last week go back into their homes without being armed.  We put them at considerable risk.  We're having a very difficult time making that go.  And we've tied down almost three-fourths of our military force.

MR. RUSSERT:  But it was after Tora Bora and he seemed to be praising them back then and now he's...

MR. KERREY:  Well, there was a lot to praise in the Afghan War.  A lot to praise in the Afghan War.  And it's been--you know, John Kerry and I and all of us, George Bush included, were changed by 9/11.  Those sanctuaries in Afghanistan were allowed to remain.  We demeaned them.  We diminished their capacity to do damage to us, but not after 9/11.  Our forces performed brilliantly in that war in Afghanistan.  But his observation I think is not incorrect, that bin Laden is not in Iraq.  He supported the war in Iraq as well by the way at considerable cost to him politically and has not repudiated that vote which is very impressive to me.

MR. RUSSERT:  You said he supported the war, and yet, he was very critical last week of the 350 tons of munitions that are missing.

MR. KERREY:  Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT:  And yet, George Bush by going into Iraq has removed Saddam Hussein, has eliminated hundreds of thousands of tons of munitions, and if John Kerry was president, Saddam Hussein may still very well be in power.

MR. KERREY:  Yes.

MR. RUSSERT:  So how can he criticize the president for having munitions that are missing?

MR. KERREY:  Well, the problem is 400 tons of HMX and RDX are now in the hands of terrorists and they weren't before.  That's the central point.  Look, I supported the war in Iraq and still do, still believe it was the right thing to do.  But, boy, I'm telling you this president tested my support for that war when he stands the Iraqi army down and now has our military over there acting as a police force and border security.  You can't sustain that, Tim. It's become unpopular.

I was in Galena, Ohio, down in the southeastern part of Ohio.  They don't give a damn about the war in Iraq.  They're terrified about the loss of their job, health care, their pensions.  That's what's bothering them and then wondering what we're doing sending out Guardsmen over there to be a police force in Iraq.

MR. RUSSERT:  But is it inconsistent for John Kerry to be criticizing the missing weapons of mass destruction when, if he had been president of the United States, Saddam may be in power with all those potential biological, chemical weapons or munitions, however you want to describe them?

MR. KERREY:  Well, first of all, we don't know that.  We don't know that that's the case.  We don't what John Kerry would have done if he had been president.  But this much we do know, that even with Saddam Hussein in power, those weapons were not in the hands of terrorists, and they are today.  And today Iraq has become a place where Muslim youth go and do jihad against U.S. forces.  Today, if you want to be a terrorist, you go to Iraq to kill American soldiers.  Eight Marines died yesterday.  Eight young men who will no longer be able to vote, no longer be able to go to the football games and base-- their families are wondering what in the heck is going on, and what's going on is this thing has been badly mismanaged since the American forces won this war in March of 2003.

MR. RUSSERT:  Saddam Hussein was not a terrorist?

MR. KERREY:  No, Saddam Hussein was not a terrorist.  Saddam Hussein certainly was an enemy of the United States of America.  We have significant military effort against him since the end of the Gulf War, but there was no connection between--Saddam Hussein got a secular government.  Osama bin Laden was an opponent of secular government.  Americans need to understand, that's what Osama bin Laden is trying to do.  He's trying to eliminate secularism. He's trying to eliminate the plebiscite.  He's opposed to the sorts of things that Saddam Hussein was doing.

MR. RUSSERT:  But he sent the homicide bombers, paid for them in Israel.

MR. KERREY:  Yeah.  I mean, look, this guy was not a good guy.  I mean, I wrote the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998.  I supported sending military forces in there.  But I'm appalled by the way this thing has been managed.  Look, does the administration reach out to Joe Biden and Bob Kerrey and ask them for advice, ask them for help?  Oh, no.  If you didn't believe there were nuclear weapons, if you didn't believe there was a collaboration, you're not down the line supporting everything that they do, you're not a part of the team.  They ignored good advice that was coming up from Garner and other people who were telling them, "Don't stand this Iraqi army down."  Every senior military officer in Iraq said, "Don't do it," and Bremer did it, and the president allowed it to happen, and it's produced this terrible situation now where you can't leave and you need to leave.  We're being the police force and the border security and providing the force structure needed to confront terrorism in Iraq itself.

MR. RUSSERT:  At the Democratic convention in Boston in August, John Kerry presented himself as a decorated Vietnam War veteran...

MR. KERREY:  Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...hoping that people would say, "We understand you are now qualified to be commander in chief."  When John Kerry came back from the war in Vietnam, he was outspoken in his opposition.  He actually appeared on MEET THE PRESS, was extremely critical of the behavior of himself and his fellow soldiers.

MR. KERREY:  Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let's just watch that for a second.

(Videotape, April 18, 1971):

MR. KERRY:  There are all kinds of atrocities, and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Many Vietnam veterans were outraged by that.

MR. KERREY:  They were hurt by it.

MR. RUSSERT:  Should he apologize?

MR. KERREY:  I think he--this is what I think he should say.  I tried to end this war, along with lots of other returning veterans.  By the way, I did as well, but what I said I know hurt people.  I know it hurt veterans out there, and it's been--made it difficult for them, and I spent my entire political career working to try to help Vietnam veterans and other veterans.  I've watched John fight for veterans' issues, fight for veterans' benefits, fight for assistance and Agent Orange.  I think--yes, I think he needs to acknowledge that he hurt people.  I think it would go a long ways to defusing some of the pain that Vietnam veterans feel.  And I know that he feels this personally.  I know he understands that.  But it's tough in a presidential campaign when you've got to keep the attention focused on the things that got you in there in the first place.  It's hard to, you know, basically take the bait.

But look, we're now in an unpopular war again, where young men and women are having to make the decision, "Do I sign up?  Do I volunteer?"  And what kind of signals does it say when the president and the vice president, who didn't serve in the Vietnam War, don't condemn these advertisements and ask their friends, Boone Pickens and others, to take these Swift Boat ads down?  What kind of message does it send?  It says, "You're better off not going and fighting an unpopular war because if you want to run for public office later, it may come back and haunt you."  That's a terrible message, in my view, to be sending to our young men and women right now who are trying to decide, "Should I join the Army National Guard?  Should I get in the reserves?  Should I join the active duty military forces?"

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me turn to domestic policy.  You are the co-chairman of The Concord Coalition.  Here's your name on their letterhead, Bob Kerrey, co-chairman.  This is what The Concord Coalition, a group of Democrats, Republicans and Independents said:  "Fiscal policy campaign 2004:  At this stage...it cannot be said that either President Bush or Senator Kerry has a credible plan for dealing with the fiscal challenges he will face if elected. Both candidates are touting expensive initiatives that would make deficit reduction more difficult in the short-term and fiscal sustainability unlikely in the long-term."  You agree?

MR. KERREY:  I agree.  I would write it again the same way.  But, I mean, look, President Bush came into office with a surplus, and his first tax cut was not to create jobs, it was to get rid of the surplus, and he made it exceptionally difficult, in my view, to keep the one campaign promise that had me excited, which was, "I'm going to finally do something about Social Security and these entitlements."  He made it exception--it's difficult to do under the best of circumstances.  That first year of tax cuts, which was done to eliminate the surplus, has made it exceptionally difficult to do the thing that George Bush, as I said, got me very excited about when he was campaigning in 2000.

MR. RUSSERT:  But listen to John Kerry on Social Security.  Here he was last Wednesday in Sioux City, Iowa.

(Videotape):

SEN. KERRY:  I will not privatize Social Security.  I will not cut the benefits.  I will not raise the retirement age.

Because deep in my gut, I believe that when you've worked for a lifetime in America, America owes you what you've earned.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Now, your same Concord Coalition has said this:  "Even with the cost of Social Security and Medicare expected to double over the next 30 years, Senator Kerry has said he would not reduce benefits.  The only alternatives are to raise taxes to match this spending growth, or allow rapidly growing deficits to pile up a debt burden that's unsustainable."

John Kerry has not stepped up to the problems of Social Security.

MR. KERREY:  No, neither he nor George Bush have.  They both--I mean, the president has a plan to cut the payroll tax and to create these private accounts, but no plan to solve this tremendous demographic problem that we've got.

But again, Tim, the president made it more difficult with his first-year tax cut, and it's going to take bipartisan effort.  Whichever one of these guys wins--and I hope it's John--because among the reasons that I want John to win is because I want to see Republicans become Republicans again on the deficit, on corruption in government, on readiness in our military where they're today silent because they've got a Republican president.  They used to be great on fiscal matters.  They used to be great on military readiness, and they're silent--with the exception of John McCain and a handful of other people who are willing to criticize this president's fiscal policies and his military readiness policies.

So it's going to be exceptionally difficult, and it's going to take a president who can move to the center like George Bush's father did in 1990 with that budget.  The president repudiated his father's policy on fiscal matters.  He repudiated his father's policies on foreign policy.  And it was a Bush power doctrine that was dominating our foreign policy.  We had established that with the first Gulf War.  So it's going to be very, very hard to get this done and it's going to take Republicans and Democrats willing to say the truth to the American people, and right now I don't think either candidate is.

MR. RUSSERT:  If it's a close election...

MR. KERREY:  Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...will either man be able to really unite and govern the country?

MR. KERREY:  Only if they move to the center.  Only if after the election, they move to the center.  And whether it's a--whether it's Bush moving to Democrats or--you know, Zell Miller is not somebody I would say, "Gee, I got Zell Miller on my side."  You've got to move to the center, and unfortunately, you know, you've got the situation right now where the president's got his guys out campaigning against Tom Daschle in South Dakota.  Tom Daschle was the guy that New York City went to after 2001 to get our $20 billion.  He was our most important ally.  He supported the president in Afghanistan.  He supported the 9-11 Commission report and passed 96-to-2 even after Bill Frist went out and campaigned against him.  It's going to take that kind--it's going to take people's willingness to get over their partisan disputes to be able to do anything, I think, of the major important issues that are facing America.

MR. RUSSERT:  Before you go, 10 seconds, why should America vote for John Kerry?

MR. KERREY:  They can trust him.  John Kerry has served in his--served his military.  John Kerry understands the need to go to Congress and tell them the truth when you go to war.  He fought in a war that was authorized by the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that was based on a presidential lie.  John Kerry understands that he needs to keep this country safe.  John Kerry understands that we need to do something to increase the number of Americans that have health insurance and have good jobs and have a chance to send their kids to college.  He understands that, and he will move to the center in order--he will work with Chuck Hagel, with John McCain, with Dick Luger and other Republicans to fashion a more centrist foreign policy, one more like President Bush's father than we currently have.

MR. RUSSERT:  Bob Kerrey, thank you for representing the John Kerry campaign.

MR. KERREY:  You're welcome.

MR. RUSSERT:  And we'll be back with a representative of the Bush campaign, former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani.  Then insights and analysis from our pollsters--who's going to win and where-- right after this.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  Rudy Giuliani, representing the Bush campaign, and the latest tracking polls for president, Senate and House, after this station break.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  We are back at Democracy Plaza, Midtown Manhattan, the site of NBC's election coverage on Tuesday night.  We are joined by the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, representing the Bush campaign.

Welcome.

FMR. MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI, (R-NY):  Thank you, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me show you Osama bin Laden.  He was addressing the world and the nation on Friday, and he said this:  "Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda.  Your security is in your own hands, and each state that does not harm our security will remain safe."

He's not supporting Bush or Kerry.  He's telling America that it's the policy that's the problem.

MR. GIULIANI:  Yeah, I think that's correct and I think it has to be treated that way.  I think Americans have to unite and this should not be a partisan political issue.  I think President Bush reacted to it exactly the right way. He said, "I'm sure Senator Kerry joins me in saying that this man should have no influence in our election," and then John Kerry turned right around and tried to politicize it, and tried to make the point, well, he hasn't been captured, he hasn't been this, he hasn't been that.

Well, the fact is, and if you want to be clear about the rest of the statement, bin Laden--he certainly didn't say he was in favor of John Kerry and I'm sure he's not but he certainly wants George Bush out of the White House.  He went on and repeated Michael Moore's diatribe against President Bush, almost word for word, as if he had watched that movie and been influenced by it in some way, and he makes the point, he talks about George Bush lying and things like that, almost things coming out of a political campaign.  So, I mean, I think that bin Laden should be discounted in this election.  But there's no question that he very much opposes George Bush, and I think there's a reason for that, because the man's on the run.

I mean, if he would ask me on September 11, 2001, just a few miles away from here when I watched that attack orchestrated by him, by bin Laden, I would have said this country is going to be attacked multiple times since then--from then until now.  I think we are going to be attacked again.  I hope not, I pray not, but we haven't been, and part of the reason is the very, very effective policy of this government, which President Bush turned around on a dime and created an offensive against terrorism.  He's put them on defense and he's put us on offense and bin Laden having to communicate in that fashion is a lot better than where he was pre-9/11 and on September 11.

MR. RUSSERT:  Are you suggesting if John Kerry wins, bin Laden will take credit?

MR. GIULIANI:  No, absolutely not.  I have no idea what his position is on John Kerry.  He didn't say it, and I would imagine, you know, he has no interest in who wins.  I do think he has an interest in who loses, and that's one of the reasons he put in all those criticisms of President Bush--and for good reason, because President Bush has put him on defense.  President Bush...

MR. RUSSERT:  Well, how well does he know the American people if he's trying to inject himself on the...

MR. GIULIANI:  He probably doesn't know at all the American people.  He made critical mistakes.  He thought when he attacked us on September 11, 2001, that we were going to cower, that we were going to back down.  And, in fact, we haven't.  We've become stronger as a result of what happened to us and more united.  And I hope it's going to continue that way after this election.

MR. RUSSERT:  You mentioned John Kerry was critical of George Bush not getting Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora.  The Kerry campaign countered, saying, "George Bush was informed of this tape early on Friday morning."  And for several consecutive campaign stops, he continued to criticize John Kerry for not being up to the task of commander in chief, and only when the tape was made public for everyone else did he change his tactics.

MR. GIULIANI:  Well, I mean, the fact is the president has shown much stronger leadership with regard to terrorism than John Kerry.  I mean, John Kerry has changed his position on the war maybe 12, 14 times.  He's changed his position on terrorism numerous times.  He's voted against--I mean, I find this absolutely mind-boggling for a man who wants to be commander in chief in time of war--he voted against the Persian Gulf War.  When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, John Kerry voted against it.  It didn't pass his global test. It even passed Syria's global test but not his.

So these are very, very important issues.  This is the end of the campaign. The country has got to select the man they think is better able to handle a wartime situation.  And John Kerry has found himself always on the side of being anti-war, anti-military--a whole career in the United States Senate that he ignores in which he's voted against military funding.  During the Ronald Reagan era, he was against our military.  When he came back from Vietnam, he was against our military.  He was against the Persian Gulf War.  He consistently attacks our military now.  He does it in the guise of attacking the leadership, but, in fact, he's attacking the military, the same way he did after Vietnam.

MR. RUSSERT:  He will say he voted for all major defense expenditures, even ones that Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney wanted to cut.

MR. GIULIANI:  Oh, I was in the Reagan administration.  I remember one of the strongest opponents of Ronald Reagan's buildup of our military, which he had to do after President Carter, was John Kerry.  One of the biggest opponents of probably the thing that brought down the Soviet Union--as Gorbachev says, Ronald Reagan spent him into oblivion, spent the Soviet Union into oblivion. One of the biggest opponents of that was John Kerry, and I remember that as if it were yesterday.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me turn it to consistency.  After Osama bin Laden attacked us, we heard George Bush saying, "We're going to get him.  He can run, but he can't hide.  He's wanted dead or alive."  And yet October 22, here's Vice President Dick Cheney on the campaign trail.

(Videotape, October 22, 2004):

VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY:  We haven't seen much of him.

Frankly because we think he's probably in a deep hole someplace and hiding.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  "He's in a deep hole hiding."  He appeared on TV.  And President Bush, March 13, 2002--this is important.  Let's watch.

(Videotape, March 13, 2002):

PRES. BUSH:  And I don't know where he is.  I'll repeat what I said.  I truly am not that concerned about him.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  It's a much different tone than we heard the days after September 11.

MR. GIULIANI:  I think the point is that Osama bin Laden is very different than he was before September 11 and on September 11.  He's now a person with three-quarters of his leadership either captured or killed with a significant amount of his forces captured or killed.  He is displaced.  He's not sitting there with nations-state support that he had before.  And instead of being able to attack us, thank God, now what he's got to do is reduce himself to making some kind of political documentary and repeating Michael Moore's criticisms.  I mean, it is a far different situation than what we faced before.  So when people say, "We're not safer now," yeah, we're not as safe as we would like to be.  We've got a long way to go.  That's why we have to re-elect George Bush.  But the fact is we're in a lot different position.

You know, before September 11, he was capable of doing what he did a few miles from here.  Now, all that he's been reduced to is being on the run with his forces dramatically reduced because of President Bush's policy, because of the Bush doctrine.  I mean, what President Bush has done is to put us on offense against terrorism.  We had previously been only on defense, through a number of administrations, not just the Clinton administration but through a number, and maybe for good reason because we--I shouldn't say good reason but maybe because we didn't see the danger as we should.

President Bush has understood that.  John Kerry is still in a pre-9/11 mentality.  He said that 9/11 didn't change him very much.  He said he wants to go back to when terrorism was just a nuance, meaning pre-9/11.  I don't know when the heck terrorism was just a nuisance.  Was it just a nuisance when they attacked the World Trade Center in 1993 and killed people in my city in 1993?  And John Kerry then proposed gutting our intelligence budget, and Teddy Kennedy had to oppose it?  I mean, he has a pre-9/11 view, which is the reason why this country would be a lot safer in dealing with bin Laden and the other terrorists with George Bush sitting there.  He understands the lessons of September 11.  John Kerry has consistently indicated he does not understand what happened to this country.  He's said it to The New York Times:  "I wasn't changed very much by 9/11."  Bob Kerrey said he was changed very much by 9/11. Different Kerrey, right?

MR. RUSSERT:  When previous bin Laden tapes have been released, the president never responded to them.  In fact, the administration called the networks and said, "Be careful about airing this because of subliminal message and so forth."  This time, the president chose to answer directly to the American people.  Was he trying to take advantage of it politically?

MR. GIULIANI:  No, I think the president gave a very judicious and very statesmanlike answer, and what he said was, "This man should not affect our election.  I'm sure Senator Kerry would agree with me."  I mean, that's the only thing you could have said at a time like that.  You couldn't leave it unresponded to.  John Kerry chose to immediately politicize it and immediately criticize the president, the same way he tried to criticize what happened in Tora Bora where he's totally distorted the facts.  We were using the elite unit of our Special Forces in Tora Bora, and it's unclear as to whether or not Osama bin Laden was there.  We didn't outsource it.  We had our elite unit of Special Forces supervising that.  We were using Afghan warriors that were tried and tested and had been successful before, and then we don't know whether or not he was there or he wasn't.  Just like we don't know what happened to the ammunition and the explosives that John Kerry is now complaining about, which represents a very small portion of the explosives, 400,000, that were actually seized and destroyed.

MR. RUSSERT:  I want to talk to you about that because you were on the "Today" show Thursday and asked about it.  Here's your answer to the question and we'll roll it.

(Videotape, Thursday, "Today"):

MR. GIULIANI:  The president was cautious, the president was prudent, the president did what a commander in chief should do, and no matter how you try to blame it on the president, the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there.  Did they search carefully enough?  Didn't they search carefully enough?

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  As soon as you uttered those words...

MR. GIULIANI:  Yeah, right.  Boom.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...John Edwards, vice presidential candidate, had this to say: "George Bush sent his chief surrogate, Rudy Giuliani, out to defend the president's incompetence, and Giuliani blamed the troops.  He said they didn't do their jobs.  The Republicans couldn't be more wrong.  Our men and women in uniform did their jobs.  It's our commander in chief, George Bush, who didn't do his."  Why did you say the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops?

MR. GIULIANI:  Because I was talking about--if you listen to what I said before that and what I said right after, I'm talking about John Kerry's position.  The point that I was making then, if I wasn't clear enough then, I've been clear since then and I'm clear now, but I think I was clear enough then, and they jumped on it.  John Kerry is the one who is blaming the troops. By blaming it on the commander in chief, blaming it on the leadership and taking away credit from the troops, as I went on to explain for the 400,000 tons of ammunition and explosives that they've taken, and seizing on this 1 percent of 1 percent, he is blaming it on them, on their performance.  The same way he did when he came back from Vietnam and exaggerated his complaints against our troops in Vietnam.  The same way as he did--as he's done about Tora Bora.  This is a consistent, over 20-year approach of John Kerry.  The simple fact is he's anti-war, he's anti-military, he is running away from that, and then he gets himself into these complaints and blaming it on the troops.  That's what I said.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Mayor, Bob Kerrey was just here, a decorated war veteran. He said he and John Kerry served in Vietnam, decorated heroes.  George Bush was in the Guard, Dick Cheney never served, you never served.  How can you criticize them for being anti-military?

MR. GIULIANI:  Because you have to look at John Kerry's career since Vietnam? All John Kerry wants to do is look at his service in Vietnam.  We respect him for that.  We honor him for that.  Whatever happens in this election, I think he's going to always have an honored place in history for the way he served our country in Vietnam.  It's since he came back from Vietnam that John Kerry turned against his soldiers, his colleagues in Vietnam.  Nobody else did that. He's the one who turned against them.

He printed a book with the American flag, his name on it, the American flag turned upside down.  A book, by the way, that you have to pay $1,000 to get because it's out of circulation.  He turned against us in the war--in the Persian Gulf War.  He voted consistently against defense programs, one of the most ardent critics of Ronald Reagan, and he's taken 14 different positions on this war in Iraq.  That's the record since Vietnam.

The reason why John Kerry doesn't talk about the period of time between his Vietnam service and today is because he's had a consistent record of being anti-military, anti-defense, anti-intelligence services, and now he's trying to do the best that he can to reconcile all those positions, and that's why he's described as, I guess, a flip-flopper or a person who changes positions.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me show you the Bush-Cheney administration record in terms of the economy.  Since inauguration day, the unemployment rate has gone from 4.2 percent to 5.4 percent.  That's up 28.5 percent.  Jobs, there's been a net loss of 900,000 jobs.  We went from a $281 billion surplus to a $412 billion deficit.  And our national debt has gone from $5.7 trillion to $7.4 trillion, up 29 percent.  Why should the American people rehire a CEO with that kind of economic record?

MR. GIULIANI:  Because President Bush has taken us through maybe one of the worst things that's ever happened to us, the attack of September 11.  The human toll in that is incalculable and indescribable, but the effect on our economy was dramatic.  We lost over a million jobs as a result of these attacks that took place.  Our economy was going through bad times when the president took over.

You have to look at what's been going on in the last 13 months.  Since President Bush's tax cuts have had an impact on our economy, which has been a very favorable one, last 13 months, every single month, economic growth, some of the strongest economic growth we've had in 20 years.  A million jobs, a million seven now added to our economy since we've turned it around. President Bush has turned our economy around.  The tax cuts, putting money back into the hands of the American people, putting it back into their pockets so they can spend it is the reason for that.

John Kerry would raise taxes.  He's voted to raise taxes throughout his Senate career.  I think your record tells you more about what you're going to do when you go into office than the promises that you make, which sometimes are inconsistent in the case of Kerry, and I think he will imperil that recovery by raising taxes.  George Bush followed the policies of John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.  John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan instituted two of the biggest tax cuts we ever had in our history and we had economic growth.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you agree with Senator Kerrey...

MR. GIULIANI:  John Kerry disagrees with that.  He wants to raise taxes.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you agree with Bob Kerrey that no matter who's elected, he's going to have a hard time governing, and he has to move to the center?

MR. GIULIANI:  When I heard Bob Kerrey speak before, I said, "That's the thing we agree on."  I think that's absolutely correct.  I think that the next president--I hope the next president will be the same president, George Bush. But however it turns out, we're Americans; we have to get together.  I think going to the center is exactly right.  If it's the president, you've got to get some Democratic support, you've got to bring some Democrats into the Cabinet, as he's done.  And if it's a Democrat, it has to work the other way.

We've got to get back to the days in which we had unity on foreign policy.  I saw that after September 11.  I mean, I saw Republicans and Democrats standing next to me, helping me, helping my city--the president, Democrats and others. We've got to bring back that spirit.  And you know something?  We're going to do it.  We always do.  I mean, Americans get together.  We looked at that Osama bin Laden tape, put the politics aside and we said, you know, "We're not going to let this man determine our elections.  We're stronger than that, we're better than that."  And I know we're going to get together.

MR. RUSSERT:  Ten seconds.  You're for George Bush because?

MR. GIULIANI:  I'm for George Bush because he's a strong, determined leader. He's taken our country through the worst attacks in our history.  I believe he's going to be a great president when history looks upon this because of the way he took us through the worst things that have happened to us.  He's revived our economy; he's going to continue to do this.  And I'll tell you the other reason I'm for him:  I know him.  This is a really, really good man and a strong man, and we sure as heck need that now.

MR. RUSSERT:  Rudy Giuliani, we thank you for your views.

MR. GIULIANI:  Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT:  Coming next, back here at Democracy Plaza in Midtown Manhattan, we'll have the very latest tracking polls, insights and analysis from the pollsters from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News and Charlie Cook, political analyst, right after this.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  And we are back, joined by Bill McInturff.

Welcome.

MR. BILL McINTURFF:  Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT:  Charlie Cook, Peter Hart, welcome.

MR. CHARLIE COOK:  Hey.

MR. PETER HART:  Great to see you.

MR. RUSSERT:  It's that time of the year, guys, 48 hours to go.  Here are the latest tracking polls for the presidency of the United States.  Newsweek says George Bush, 50 to 44.  Zogby says it's 48-48.  The Washington Post says Bush 49-48.  American Research Group says 48-48.  FOX says 47 Bush, 45 Kerry.

Bill McInturff, what's going on?

MR. McINTURFF:  It's that close.  We're dead even.  And we're dead even, and about six or eight states will decide this election.  And so it is going to--it's a terrible bromide about turnout, but I'm afraid this year, after 20 years of saying it, it's really true.  It's going to be what happens in terms of who votes and the composition of the electorate that decides who's going to win the presidency.

MR. RUSSERT:  Peter Hart?

MR. HART:  Oh, it's going to be as close as it can be.  I mean, I think Newsweek is your East German judge at this stage outside the margin.  But it is as close as it comes.  And Bill's right, turnout--and it's going to be massive; greater interest than ever.  You have to go back to the 1960 presidential race to get something this close where people are this intense. And it is a fabulous race.

MR. RUSSERT:  Charlie Cook?

MR. COOK:  I think the same thing.  But the thing is--what haunts me is this turnout issue because if the turnout goes up this much, then I think we have a decent idea of what might happen.  But what if it goes to 125 million?  What if it goes from 105 million last time--what if it hits 130 million, I mean, where just the doors just get blown off and all of a sudden all the old assumptions go out the window?

MR. RUSSERT:  Could that happen?

MR. COOK:  I think it really could.  I've never seen anything like this. I've been through 37 states this year.  I've never seen anything like this kind of interest.

MR. McINTURFF:  Well, in the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, we do this question where we ask, "How interested are you in this campaign?"  The percent 10, the percent very interested is 20 points higher than four years ago; 27 points higher than in 1996.  But I think what the Bush campaign is looking for is--they believe what will happen is we'll have very high turnout.  But it's also the composition, which is the Republican vs. Democrat turnout.  The Bush campaign believes that we're going to have equal turnout by party, and that's a position in which they can win a very, very close election.

MR. RUSSERT:  Peter Hart, what happens to all these polls if you have a huge turnout?  All these new registrants decide they're going to vote, they haven't been polled, they have cell phones, they haven't been contacted.  Is this the end of public polling?

MR. HART:  Oh, I don't think so.  But I think what it does tell us is that those polls that have been having very tight screens are going to be end up being fooled and what it means is, and what we've been doing for NBC and The Wall Street Journal is having it on the basis of the interest, and 15 percent, I think 13 percent of all of our sample are new registrants, and I think that tells us an awful lot about what's going to happen.  I agree with Charlie, we could go over 120 million, which would be astronomical.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let's turn to some of the states that we've been polling, starting with Arkansas.  President Clinton went back there for John Kerry and that--we have the Mason-Dixon, Knight Ridder, MSNBC, 51-43.  We also have Colo--there's Arkansas right there, 51-to-43.

Let's look at Colorado, we have MSNBC, Bush 50, Kerry 43; Zogby has it 50-45, all Bush.  Let's go to Florida, Florida, Florida, Mason-Dixon says Bush is up 4; Zogby says Kerry's up 2; Quinnipiac says Bush is up 3.  Let's look at Iowa. This is a state that Al Gore won and now hotly contested.  MSNBC says Bush up 5; Zogby says Kerry up 1; Research 2000 says Bush up 1.  In a new poll this morning from the Des Moines Register, the Iowa poll, Kerry up 3.  Michigan, MSNBC Bush 45, Kerry 47; Zogby has Kerry up one.  The Detroit News out today has Kerry up 2.  Minnesota, with the St.  Paul Pioneer Press, Mason-Dixon has Bush up 1, Zogby has Kerry up 3.

We turn to Missouri, Bush up 5, according to MSNBC.  Nevada, with the Las Vegas Review Journal, Bush up 6; Zogby says Bush up 4.  New Hampshire, a state that Bush won in 2000, MSNBC has Kerry up 1; Research 2000 says Kerry up 3; University of New Hampshire says Kerry up 4, a potential gain of four electoral votes.  New Mexico with the Santa Fe New Mexican, George Bush 49, Kerry 45; Zogby says Bush up 52-43, a net gain of five, because Gore won New Mexico.

Ohio, Ohio, Ohio.  MSNBC says Bush up 2; Zogby says Bush up 5; LA Times says Kerry up 6.  And out on the West Coast, Oregon, another state that Al Gore won, John Kerry up 50-to-44.  Pennsylvania, what a battleground.  MSNBC says Kerry up 2, 48-46; Zogby says Kerry up 2; Quinnipiac says Bush up 2; LA Times, dead even, 48-48, a critical state for John Kerry.

West Virginia, went Republican in 2000, Bush ahead 51-to-43, according to MSNBC.  Wisconsin, look at this:  MS has John Kerry up 2; Zogby says John Kerry up 8; University of Wisconsin says George Bush up 3.  On we go, gentlemen.  The battleground, it is remarkable to see this, Bill.

MR. McINTURFF:  Well, I think that's true but I think what you're seeing is, better to be George Bush this weekend than last weekend.  You look at a lot of public polls in Ohio, in Florida, in multiple other states, and we're seeing Bush creeping up, creeping up and stronger this weekend than last weekend. That's something I think that's very important, because normally in an incumbent campaigns you can see them fade if there was really a move in the other direction, and we're seeing instead Bush stabilizing in a number of states.

MR. RUSSERT:  Peter Hart, the conventional wisdom is that if an incumbent is in that 50 percent, that the undecideds are going to break disproportionately for the challenger.  Do you see any evidence of that or should we throw that out window because with the issue of terrorism hovering over this campaign, it may not be relevant?

MR. HART:  Two things to keep in mind.  Going over the last 30-plus years, we always note that the incumbent gets the same number as the final poll, so that's the thing to keep in mind.  So if George Bush is at 48 or 49, probably going to end up pretty close to that, and so that's the importance of your poll.  Second thing to note is massive turnout, massive does not work for an incumbent.  It always works for a challenger and so those are two things to keep in mind at this stage of the game.

MR. RUSSERT:  Charlie Cook?

MR. COOK:  I think that if--I think first of all, Nader and the others are going to get about 2 percent, so I think the president needs to be around 49 to get over the finish line first.  But when I look at the states, I have to say I think Florida and Iowa, I tip a little bit more towards President Bush, and the thing is, if that happens--and I have Wisconsin going for President Bush--if that happens, Kerry can win Ohio and Pennsylvania, which I think are really too close to call, and he's still one electoral vote short, so I...

MR. McINTURFF:  Well, this is the story of the election in New Mexico, which is now a very--state where we're getting Bush has trended, 100,000 volunteer calls made by Republicans, not paid calls, 100,000 volunteer calls.  The Bush campaign has spent four years getting ready with the largest, most extensive effort ever in the Republican Party to mobilize real people.  So have the Democrats.  That's why we're talking about this turnout, but that's why some of our assumptions--we're all in doubt.  We won't know till Tuesday, and we'll all look really smart on Wednesday morning, and we'll look a lot smarter than we would today.

MR. RUSSERT:  And people forget Al Gore won New Mexico in 2000 by 366 votes.

MR. HART:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  It was that close.  I had my little board out just to play around here.

MR. HART:  We always like your board.

MR. RUSSERT:  If George Bush wins every state he won in 2000, he'd have 278 rather than 270 because of the Census, the changing population.  John Kerry would have 260.  If Kerry wins Ohio, that would give him 280.  It would bring Bush down to 258.  Kerry would win.  However, if you, in fact, say that Bush can win Iowa and he can win Hawaii, where Dick Cheney is out there, as we speak, trying to steal that state, that would be 11 more.  Guess what, guys? Two sixty-nine minus 11 to 269, a deadlocked Electoral College.  The race then goes to the House of Representatives.

MR. McINTURFF:  And you know what?  Thank goodness Republicans will keep the House and have majority control and enough delegations.  So if that happens, thank goodness that we're in good shape in the House.

MR. RUSSERT:  Well, the Republicans control 30 states.  So they had opt for George Bush, but what if the Democrats capture control of the Senate?

MR. McINTURFF:  They're not.  I think one of the major--no, I'm serious.  I'm sorry.  One of the other things that's happening is we're very close.  There's five open Southern seats and I'm feeling really good.  I think we're going to get at least four of the five and maybe--'cause this is the other story. George Bush is carrying his core states, the third of the country carried by more than 5 points.  Boy, this is Bush territory and we talk about the intensity on the Democratic side.  We need to remember that for Republicans, they love this guy, and in the South, in the white South, George Bush is up by 40 points.  And it is pushing us to, I think, perhaps sweep all five of those Southern open Democratic seats and pick up seats in the Senate.

MR. HART:  I don't think it's quite that simple, Bill, but that's nice to hear.  I would tell you, you know, you also have to look at two border states, Oklahoma and Kentucky.  Charlie Cook is the expert, and Charlie would say a year ago neither of those were on the radar, both of them are potential steals for the Democrats.  So you have the South, but also the Democrats will sweep in the North, which will be Colorado, Alaska and Illinois.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me go to the Senate polls, if I can, starting with Alaska. This is--former Governor Tony Knowles is at 47, Linda Murkowski, incumbent, is at 45.  Colorado, Pete Coors is at 46; Salazar, the attorney general, the Democrat, at 49.  Florida--check this out--Betty Castor, the Democrat, 45; Martinez, 47.  Zogby says 48-45 Castor.  Quinnipiac says, "No, it's Martinez," all within the margin of error.  Kentucky, a surprisingly close race, Jim Bunning against Dr. Dan Mongiardo, 49-43.  Louisiana, Vitter comfortably ahead, but if he doesn't get 50 percent, there's a runoff.  We won't know until December 4 who has won that seat if he does not get 50 percent.  North Carolina, former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles--you see it 46-47 against Congressman Richard Burr.  Mason-Dixon call it dead even.  And in Oklahoma, two polls.  The Sooner poll has Tom Coburn ahead by 9 but just 3 in WRS Research.  South Carolina, the Fritz Hollings seat, has Republican Jim DeMint over Inez Tenenbaum, 47-43, within the margin of error.  And South Dakota, Tom Daschle, Democratic leader, 49-47 in the Mason-Dixon; 45-48 the other way in the Zogby poll.

MR. McINTURFF:  Here--but, you know, some of those in Alaska and South Carolina were a little bit old.  We've got more recent stuff, all of which is better, but there's something called throwaways.  You know, in Alaska, Bush will win by 20 points.  In Oklahoma, it's by 25 points, and in North Carolina, Bush is going to win.  It's not the Democrats' fault.  They are playing on the worst possible terrain in terms of the states that are up, 'cause with the exception of Colorado and Florida, these are heavy Bush states, and so you get someone close in Alaska and you get somebody 20 points on top of the ticket or 25 in Oklahoma, and you wake up and you tend to wake up with a Republican senator, and that's no one's fault.  These are good candidates to the Democratic side, but that's the barrel they're staring down.

MR. RUSSERT:  So you think Republican gain in the Senate or hold?

MR. McINTURFF:  I think we're plus two or three and we're keeping the House.

MR. RUSSERT:  Charlie?

MR. COOK:  I think it's somewhere between wash and Republicans pick up a seat or two.  I think North Carolina, South Carolina, I do think Republicans will pick that up, and to be honest, I've sort of put a feather on the scale for beating Tom Daschle in South Dakota.  On the Repub...

MR. RUSSERT:  You think Daschle loses?

MR. COOK:  It's close but I'd put a little feather there, and on the other side, I think Democrats are going to--it's close, but Alaska, Colorado, I kind of think they're going to win there and I kind of think they may pull off an upset in Kentucky, and that leaves Florida and Louisiana still out there, and Florida, I just would never begin to call it.

MR. RUSSERT:  Peter Hart, how do you see the Senate?

MR. HART:  It's as close as it comes, and I think the Democrats probably end up at about where we are.  They may be fortunate and pick up one.  That's what they need.  But if they lose South Dakota, the night's over for the Democrats in the Senate.

MR. RUSSERT:  What effect do you if I the Osama bin Laden tape is going to have on the electorate, Peter?

MR. HART:  I think it's a net zero.  In other words, I think on one hand it moves the issue to the forefront, which is national security, which is the president's issue.  On the other hand, I think it reminds people that, no, we haven't captured Osama bin Laden, and I think the most important thing to recognize is that most voters have made up their minds, and many voters have already voted, so we're only talking about a handful of people that are out there, and that's why Bill's point about turnout is the real key.  I think in the end it's a net zero.

MR. RUSSERT:  You disagree?

MR. McINTURFF:  I think what's important is in the NBC-Wall Street Journal in September, we said, "What do you care about:  terrorism and values, economy and health care?"  And we were tied.  Since then, over the last six weeks, including this last weekend, we're seeing a shift where almost a majority of people are saying terrorism and value.  The Bush campaign has spent months making this campaign about security and terrorism.  We're fighting in that terrain and, you know, here's what's interesting is the dog that didn't bark.

Four years ago, one out of four voters said Social Security was critical to their vote.  This campaign instead has been about the issues Bush wanted to talk about, and if he wins and wins narrowly, that will be the key, and I think the Democrats will spend a long time saying, "Where was Social Security? Where was Canadian drugs?  Where was Medicare?"  These are core Democrat issues that have just not been part of the public debate in the last two or three weeks of this campaign.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me talk about celebrities and show you some video.  Here is Bruce Springsteen in Madison, Wisconsin, with John Kerry, 80,000 people turning out.  Not to be outdone, Columbus, Ohio, we have George Bush being greeted by the governor of California, Arnold "The Terminator" Schwarzenegger. Of course, John Kerry then countered, we have a picture of Bette Midler down in Florida, the Divine Miss M, and then Boston Red Sox Curt Schilling, after an extraordinary World Series performance, let loose that he was going to vote for George W. Bush.

Charlie Cook, do these celebrity endorsements mean anything or do they help turnout?

MR. COOK:  I think it just sort of gets people jazzed up a little bit, but I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference.  I mean, I just think turnout is going through the roof.  People--one-half of this country is going to be crushed by whatever happens in this election.  But I've just never seen people as committed, feeling that this one really counts.

MR. RUSSERT:  Why?  Why?

MR. COOK:  I think there's a sense that John Kerry and George Bush are two extremely different people that would make very different presidents and would take this country in really different directions.  I think there's a sense that this is a big-issue election.  This is an election that's about, you know, the global war on terrorism, Iraq, the economy, jobs, health care, prescription drugs, deficits.  This is about big things.  It's not like Willie Horton or Pledge of Allegiance or Boston Harbor.

MR. HART:  Can I pick up on that?  Because, boy, Charlie's just absolutely right.  And what it really comes back around to is:  How do you knit a nation back together after this election?  And you have 37 percent of the voters who say, "I'm pessimistic if George Bush becomes president again."  And four years ago it was only about 14 percent.  So it is the whole question of how you put it back together, because I think half the nation is going to be crushed, and it is the ability to be able to talk about change and where you go from here, and I think that's really important, Tim.

MR. McINTURFF:  I'm sorry, I run campaigns for a living.  I'm kind of focused on Tuesday.  I will confess that in my secret heart of hearts I would have loved to see The Boss, but I'll tell you what's important about these Bush events.  You know what they do afterwards?  They put folks on buses after they get all these folks together, these 20,000 people in Pontiac to see the president, these extraordinary crowds, and they put thousands of them on buses to go door-to-door.  And the Bush folks have taken these large events and translated them into real action on the ground, which has been terrific to watch.

MR. RUSSERT:  And in Madison, Wisconsin, they had "follow me" signs after Springsteen, right to the voting booths.  Both parties trying it hard.  All right, guys, this is the call, the Electoral College.  Bill, Bush gets how many and Kerry gets how many?

MR. McINTURFF:  I have--I hope--I believe that Bush, who I hope will be in around 278 to 284, and I'm not quick enough on the math.  I think...

MR. RUSSERT:  We'll leave it at 278.  Charlie Cook?

MR. COOK:  Two seventy-one to 269.

MR. McINTURFF:  Oh, my goodness.

MR. RUSSERT:  Oh, my gosh.

MR. McINTURFF:  But thanks, Charlie.  We appreciate the tip.

MR. RUSSERT:  Peter Hart?

MR. HART:  I'm sorry that they're both wrong, but I'll go with 277--no, wrong side.

MR. RUSSERT:  Two seventy-seven.

MR. HART:  Thank you very much.

MR. RUSSERT:  Two seventy-seven.

MR. HART:  That's for Kerry.  And I think that Ohio and I will say, I think, Florida is going to tip on the Democratic side.

MR. RUSSERT:  We are saving this magical board.

MR. HART:  All right.  Don't save it too long.

MR. RUSSERT:  Bill McInturff...

MR. McINTURFF:  Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...Charlie Cook, Peter Hart...

MR. COOK:  Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...thank you all, and we'll be right back, Democracy Plaza, Midtown Manhattan, the site of NBC News election headquarters.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  Stay with NBC News, MSNBC on cable and MSNBC.com for continuing coverage of the race for the White House 2004.  I'll be here Tuesday night with my colleague, Tom Brokaw, for all-night-long election coverage.

That's all for today.  We'll be back next week.  If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.

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