As Ohio becomes Ground Zero in the 2004 election, we speak with Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich about the race for the presidency, John Kerry’s campaign and ballot counting in his home state. [includes rush transcript]
This is Democracy Now!'s special election coverage, Showdown: The Morning After, the Battle for the White House. I'm Amy Goodman. Not since 1960 has such a great percentage of the eligible voting population in this country voted in a presidential election. Millions of Americans awoke this morning with no decisive winner. As it stands right now, President Bush leads John Kerry in the popular vote by some 3 and a half million votes. As for the electoral college count, that is now the source of great controversy. The eyes of the nation now focus on the battleground state of Ohio. After John Kerry took Pennsylvania by a significant margin, President Bush was declared the narrow winner in Florida, leaving Ohio to determine the outcome of an election many saw as the most important of their lifetime. The vote tally in the Buckeye state seemed to trickle in slowly through the night, as Kerry and Bush appeared neck and neck. As Bush pulled to a 4 point lead with a sizable majority of precincts reporting, Fox News and NBC declared Bush the winner in the state. But CNN and the other networks determined that Ohio was too close to call. That also was the view expressed by the Kerry campaign. The Democrats charge that there are some 250,000 provisional ballots that have yet to be counted and that when they are, Kerry would emerge victorious. Here is what Kerry"s running mate John Edwards had to say when he addressed their supporters in Boston"s Copley Square late last night.
- John Edwards, vice presidential candidate.
At about 5 am, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card addressed Bush"s supporters at the Reagan Center in Washington DC.
- Andrew Card, White House Chief of Staff.
Andrew Card speaking very early this morning in Washington DC. So, as things stand now, Ohio has become ground zero in the battle for the White House. We go now to Ohio, where we are joined by Ohio Congressmember Dennis Kucinich who retained his seat in yesterday’s election.
- Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Democratic Congressmember from Cleveland, Ohio and a former candidate for president. Last night, he retained his seat in the House of Representatives.
AMY GOODMAN: Here is what Kerry’s running mate John Edwards had to say when he addressed their supporters in Boston’s Copley Square late last night.
JOHN EDWARDS: It’s been a long night, but we have waited four years for this victory we can wait one more night. Tonight John and I are so proud of all of you who are with here with us, and all of you across the country, who have stood with us in this campaign. John Kerry and I made a promise to the American people, that in this election, every vote would count and every vote would be counted. Tonight, we are keeping our word and we will fight for every vote. You deserve no less. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: John Edwards. At about 5:00 a.m. White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card addressed Bush’s supporters at Reagan Center in Washington, D.C.
ANDREW CARD: I want to thank all of you for staying up so late with us, and good morning. I’m Andy Card. I’m President Bush’s chief of staff. We are convinced that President Bush has won re-election with at least 286 Electoral College votes. And he also had a margin of more than three-and-a-half million popular votes. President Bush’s decisive margin of victory makes this the first presidential election since 1988 in which the winner received a majority of the popular vote. And in this election, President Bush received more votes than any presidential candidate in our country’s history. Republicans also scored other great victories in this election. We won important victories, adding to our majority in the house, and adding to our majority in the Senate. In Ohio, President Bush has a lead of at least 140,000 votes. The secretary of state’s office has informed us that this margin is statistically insurmountable, even after the provisional ballots are considered. So President Bush has won the State of Ohio!
AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Card, speaking early this morning in Washington, D.C. So, as things stand now, Ohio has become ground zero in the battle for the White House, which is where we go right now, to Ohio. We’re joined by Ohio Congress member, Dennis Kucinich, former candidate for president. He won his seat last night once again, from Cleveland. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Congress member Kucinich.
DENNIS KUCINICH: Thank you, good morning.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us, your reaction to the latest developments.
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, I think we have to look at the process play itself out, and that’s exactly what’s happening. I mean, Ohio is going to have to review the votes, and see where the provisional ballots are, and meanwhile, we have to remember our commitments and not lose heart. This is a test of our resolve and the depth of our belief.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you assess has happened exactly, could you explain what the democrats are contending, actually not just the democrats, but Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. Are 250,000 provisional ballots yet to be counted?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, that’s why I say, we have to let this process play itself out. You know it, would appear that President Bush has a — you know a substantial popular vote victory. The electoral votes are still being decided. We must less this process continue. And so, that’s something that I think the American people want to happen, and that we owe it to the effort that’s been conducted here to make sure that every vote counts, and every vote is counted.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play for you the Ohio Secretary Ken Blackwell, last night. He was interviewed on CNN.
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, none of the provisional ballots are counted, and they won’t be counted until the 11th day after the election, Wolfe. We have very clear laws on how to handle those ballots, and remember: there are overseas ballots from militaries and others that only have to be postmarked today. So, we have a ten-day window for all of those ballots to get in. This is a very deliberate and cautious process. So, I tell everybody, just take a deep breath and relax. We cannot predict what the results are going to be opinion we can only guarantee that you are going to get an honest and fair count through our bipartisan system.
AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Kucinich, do you think we can get that fair and bipartisan count?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Secretary Blackwell has really capitalized the integrity of his office with his early conduct of this election. I don’t think that we can give him the benefit of the doubt on this. It’s going to be absolutely essential that all those who have been involved in this campaign become involved in the process of making sure that the count is validated, that the provisional ballots are fully reviewed, that any absentee ballots that are out there are checked, and that a canvass of the election itself and the election returns county by county is carefully reviewed. I mean this is, and you know what, this is actually a routine matter at this point. Because even though the results are not routine, it is as a matter of simple protection of the right to vote of the people of Ohio and of the roll that Ohio will play in the Electoral College, we have an absolute obligation to check all this out carefully and not take any comfort from the secretary of state of Ohio who has conducted his office in a manner of almost of a partisan at a time when people really needed someone in that office who actually shows true impartiality. We haven’t seen that come out of the secretary of state’s office.
AMY GOODMAN: Blackwell said we’d have to wait 11 days. Yet, we heard John Edwards saying people can wait one more night. What about that?
DENNIS KUCINICH: I think John Edwards’ statement was really a matter of fact of saying, "Hey, wait a minute, let’s look at what’s happening develop." You have to realize, even now we are still trying to get an analysis that would give us some guidance as to whether or not the provisional ballots and the absentee ballots provide any kind of opening for a turn-around in the outcome in Ohio with respect to the Ohio’s electoral vote process. You know, let’s face it, I supported John Kerry, and I’m still hoping for a miracle here. At the same time, there is an absolute obligation to keep faith with the American people to make sure that every vote is counted in Ohio, and that there is no attempt to sweep that aside while people simultaneously call for fairness. It’s not fair to sweep it aside. We have to see where the provisional ballots are, and we have to make sure that the absentee ballots are counted. So, you know, we do have the additional problem of a secretary of state in Ohio, who is actually auditioning to be the second Katherine Harris. And look, I have not been a partisan throughout this entire process or my career. You know, I am a democrat, and I’m working to make sure that the Democratic Party does everything it can to provide viable alternatives in our great debates. But I will tell you something, what’s happening in Ohio out of that secretary of state’s office does not give anyone any confidence that he can be an impartial arbiter of the results in the state of Ohio. We have to make sure that an effort is made to fully review the provisional ballots, and the absentee ballots, and then if, when all is said and done, President Bush maintains his lead, well, that’s what the democratic process is all about.
AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Kucinich, many critiqued John Kerry saying he should have appealed more to his base, especially around war in the way that your platform did, when you were running for president. What is your response to that?
DENNIS KUCINICH: I think that John Kerry ran a campaign which was really aimed at trying to give the American people the broadest type of representation in the White House. I think it’s too early to do a post mortem on a campaign and candidacy that is still very much alive. So, I’m proud of the effort that we made in Cleveland County. We were able to build an almost unprecedented margin for a democratic candidate out of our area. I think John Kerry won this area by 217,000 votes. There’s going to be plenty of time for analysis on this, but I think we owe it to each other, to let this process play itself out, and I will say again, we have to remember our commitments we cannot lose heart. This is going to be a test of our resolve, and you know, in the long run it, will be a test of the depths of our belief, but at the same time, you know, it’s the morning after a very closely contested election, and there is always a tendency for those who win to say, well, that basically confirms every policy they believe in and it nullifies the stand of those who have not been successful, this country has a great debate that’s going to continue, and I expect to continue to be a part of that.
AMY GOODMAN: Last question, Congress member, Kucinich, your state, Ohio, is also the state of Waldon O’Dell, the head of Diebold, the company that makes many of the electronic voting machines who vowed to deliver Ohio to Bush, deliver the votes to Bush. What about this, do you believe the results? We saw exit polls yesterday in places like Ohio and Florida that indicated that Kerry was ahead, and now once the counting has been done, it seems otherwise.
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know what, that’s a separate question, Amy. I don’t have any evidence at this point to suggest there’s been any attempt to actually tamper with the vote itself. I share the concerns that people across this country have about Diebold, but I think that most of the votes that were cast here in this state had nothing to do with Diebold, and I cannot tell that you I’m the expert on this at this moment. There’s so many things happening that we’re just trying to do everything we can to get a proper analysis of the election, but right now, what remains to be done is to address the issue of the provisional ballots or the absentee ballots of making absolutely certain that a canvass of the results in Ohio will yield and reflect the will of the people of this state and its proper role in the electoral process. Meanwhile, I’m going to do everything that I can to people posted. The website at www.kucinich.us will have updates and speak directly to people about this as it develops. You know, we are in a moment where everything is still developing. You know, those of us who worked very hard to achieve some change here know that it doesn’t look promising at the moment, but we have learned also from four years ago that we don’t give up and let those commitments that we have pass away like some autumn leaves dropping from the trees getting ready for winter.
AMY GOODMAN: Ohio Congress member Dennis Kucinich thanks for joining us.
DENNIS KUCINICH: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking to us from Cleveland where he just won his own re-election; Cleveland from the state of Ohio, ground zero now in the election of the President of the United States. This is Democracy Now!