BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face the Nation, the mid-term elections are two days away. The big question: Who will control Congress?
With a half dozen Senate races still too close to call, the big question of these mid-terms is which party will end up in the majority in the House and Senate? We'll examine the close states one by one with each party's top Senate strategist, Republican Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee and Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington.
Then we'll turn to two campaign experts. Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.
Gloria Borger will be here and I'll have a final word on my favorite thing, voting.
But first, who will control Congress on Face the Nation.
ANNOUNCER: Face the Nation with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent, Bob Schieffer. And now from the CBS News election headquarters in New York, Bob Schieffer.
SCHIEFFER: And good morning. We're here in New York where we'll be until after the elections on Tuesday. Senators Murray and Senator Frist are in Washington.
Lady and gentleman, let we begin with some findings from the new CBS poll which is out today -- which I must say, it's sort of shocking.
It says less than half of the people think the election is interesting. Only one in three say they are more enthusiastic about voting than usual. Only 41 percent of the people we polled said they thought the country was moving in the right direction. And perhaps the saddest finding of all, 66 percent of the people now say that they believe their children will not live in as good a world as they have lived in.
That must not make leaders of political parties very happy. Senator Murray, I'll start with you.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY, D-WA: Well, I think that that reflects what all of us are hearing across this country, that people are very concerned about where we are today. They're concerned about jobs and the economy. They're concerned about whether their kids are going to get a good education, whether they can afford to send their kids to college. They're worried about pensions and whether or not they'll be able to retire and be secure.
And you know, I think one of the things that this election really is about, in the U.S. Senate races, in the states where we have competitive races, is which party is going to focus this country back on those.
And I think the Democratic candidates that continue to talk about education, job training, investing in our economy and in our jobs and getting this country moving again is what will win the day for us on Tuesday.
SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator Frist, I wonder if it's also about neither political party being able to connect with the voters out there. Are we seeing something here where people are just so disgusted with both parties, with these ads that continue to bombard people in every city and state that they're just kind of turned off by the whole thing and are not sure that either party has an answer on these things?
SEN. BILL FRIST, R-TN: Bob, I don't think so. I think we do have to look at that larger environment, an environment that has been very much colored by what happened September the 11th a year ago, the subsequent anthrax attacks, the recent sniper shooting here in Washington, D.C., what happened in Bali around the world. People don't feel very secure today.
And I think what at the end of Tuesday, and the end of the day, people are looking for strong leadership in the United States Senate, leadership with a vision with an agenda that is forward-looking, not looking to the past, not looking to ancient history.
And those candidates who reach out and basically say, "I'm for a safer America, I'm for a stronger America, a better America, and a more prosperous America," and set out a plan and agenda to do that will ultimately be, because leadership is so important, those candidates who win.
And I think the Republicans have done a better job, and therefore I think that, at least in these Senate races, that we will be successful, be successful on Tuesday night.
BORGER: Senator Frist, let's talk about one of those races, Minnesota, which seems to be a dead heat. You've got Walter Mondale now.
When you just referred to ancient history, was that Walter Mondale you were referring to?
FRIST: Well, I think again, you have to look in context, broad context today when you look at these elections. We have 20 Republican seats, 14 Democrat seats, four open seats opened up on our side, both disadvantages.
The fact that we're even talking about in being in striking distance today is truly remarkable, in large part because of the leadership of the President of the United States and the candidates we've chosen.
And when you look at our candidates, at John Thune in South Dakota -- young, energetic, charismatic, leading for the future -- or Jim Talent in Missouri, again a young face, a fresh face, but demonstrated leadership. And you look at a John Sununu, again in New Hampshire, young, aggressive, energetic people looking to the future.
And then you look to what the Democrats, when they get into trouble, have pulled, really, out of the woods or out of the closet, you look back 25 years or 30 years ago with both Mondale and Lautenberg. That fresh face agenda for the future, I think, will play very well for the Republican party on Tuesday night.
SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator Frist, I would I have to point out, especially in that New Jersey race, Senator Lautenberg, who may be an old face, seems to have turned that race around.
The latest polls show about a 20-point swing. He's now leading. Torricelli, the man he replaced, was trailing badly in New Jersey.
FRIST: Well, I think these elections will go back to what you really prefaced our remarks with, and that is where the country is today in terms of voter turnout. And I think, in a place like New Jersey, where clearly the Democrats did not obey the law, they sidestepped the law at a time when we had somebody who was losing, and we were going to win that race. You're exactly right. It puts us at a little bit of a disadvantage.
If Torricelli had stayed in, we would have won, but he threw up his hands, they sidestepped the law, and they put in another candidate. At the end of the day, turnout will determine the race there, and again, Doug Forrester is somebody who is out there, less taxes, strong homeland defense, promotion of jobs, and those are the issues that ultimately will connect with the people of New Jersey.
BORGER: Senator Murray, I think we need to have you respond to this question of the past versus the future, is the way Senator Frist seems to be framing races in Missouri and New Jersey -- I mean Minnesota. Sorry.
MURRAY: Well, certainly in New Jersey, Senator Lautenberg is doing very well there, and we all expect him to win on election day.
And in Minnesota, what happened there was a terrible tragedy that no one could have expected. And I think the people of Minnesota are really reeling from having lost somebody that they cared deeply about. Both political parties. And Walter Mondale stepping in at this time, a man of stature who is well loved in that state, who can bring some gravitas to a state that is really hurting, I think, is going to help him on election day. And I believe that we will win that seat in memory of Paul Wellstone, and I think the ideals that he cared for, and to bring to the Senate somebody with a great deal of experience and stature that can fight for the people of Minnesota.
SCHIEFFER: Senator Murray, I'll ask you first, and then I'll ask Senator Frist. Senator Murray, which states, where Republicans are now the senator, do you think have you the best chance of a turnover?
MURRAY: I think there's a number of states out there that are very competitive, that are Republican seats that Democrats have a shot in.
In New Hampshire, Governor Jeanne Shaheen is just an outstanding candidate, well respected. I believe she's going to win on election day.
In Arkansas, Pryor is leading Hutchinson in all the polls. Well respected. He's going to do well.
In Colorado, dead even state. Our candidate Tom Strickland has so much energy and enthusiasm behind him. Traditionally Republican state, but a good chance of winning there.
And right behind there, we are seeing a race in North Carolina where Erskine Bowles has come from a 20-point behind all the way up to dead even in the polls. I was there yesterday, and I will tell you, the Democrats are very excited.
And right behind there, Texas is a toss-up state. And if I had to said to you two years ago that Texas was a toss-up state in this Senate race, you would have not believed me, but today it is.
SCHIEFFER: All right.
Senator Frist, I'll give you a chance to respond to that. Why don't you just start with North Carolina and give us your view there?
FRIST: Well, we will end up winning North Carolina. The race did tighten last week. We were outspent by special interest groups in North Carolina to a significant sum over a two-week period. That was reversed about four days ago, and with that, the voice of Elizabeth Dole with an agenda, with a vision versus Erskine Bowles will be a loud one, and therefore we will win North Carolina at the end of the day.
I also encourage people to watch what happens in Louisiana. Again, not many people are paying attention to it, but at the end of the day, I predict that Louisiana will be a Republican seat. Suzie Terrell down there, clearly in touch, much more in tune with the voters in terms of their ideological views in Louisiana, versus Mary Landrieu there.
Also, I'd watch Georgia. Georgia, as all of us see, in terms of the polls, and we have to be very careful in watching these polls, we've seen right now Saxby Chambliss pull ahead of the incumbent, Cleland, there, really based on the issues of security.
And then the races that everybody is talking about on television, we've got Missouri and we've got Montana -- I mean Missouri and Minnesota and South Dakota.
In Minnesota, clearly Norm Coleman, the momentum is there with Norm Coleman.
We have this debate tomorrow morning, where for the first time the people of Minnesota will look to the past in terms of where Mondale has been, versus the future, where Norm Coleman is out promoting jobs and has a demonstrated track record.
Jim Talent in Missouri, it is a very, very close race, we're ahead outside of the margin of error. Again, Senator Carnahan has not been a particularly distinguished senator in accomplishments, is having a little bit of a hard time answering the question of why she wants to be a senator. Versus Jim Talent, demonstrated leadership, again, fresh face, demonstrated leadership, looking to the future.
And then John Thune in South Dakota against Johnson there. John Thune, a very attractive face, very strong on taxes, can deliver to the people of South Dakota, somebody who, again, the people there have a contrast, somebody who can work with the president of the United States.
GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: Senator Murray, let's talk about South Dakota a little bit. The president went to Aberdeen, Texas, which is Tom Daschle's home town.
Clearly this seems to be some kind of a grudge match here, Daschle versus President Bush. How do you think it's going to turn out? Senator Frist, obviously, says John Thune is going to win.
MURRAY: Well, I will tell you this. Tim Johnson has done an outstanding job in the United States Senate fighting for the people of South Dakota.
And when the president landed there a few days ago in the home town of Senator Tom Daschle, it only reminded his, the constituents in South Dakota that the last time the president came he was completely wrong on drought relief.
And I see the race in South Dakota very similar to what I see in many of our other states today. What the people in this country are looking at is that this president came in 15 months ago, put through an economic plan with a Republican-controlled House and Senate that has resulted today in 2 million jobs being lost, $8 trillion being lost in the stock market, and consumer confidence at a nine-year low.
What voters are looking at is, do we have a check-and-balance on this White House that will allow another voice, a debate and a discussion? Or are we going to see extreme agendas move through?
I think the people on Tuesday are going to vote for having a debate and a discussion and a check on this White House, and to make sure we invest in education and have pension reform and put in place an economic package that works.
SCHIEFFER: OK, let's give Senator Frist a chance to make one final comment.
FRIST: Well, I think Senator Murray is in part is right, in that on Tuesday night people will be voting whether or not they want to check this president or not.
The president of the United States has an economic agenda that cannot be surpassed. The Democrats have offered absolutely nothing. In fact, when you look at what the president proposed, making tax cuts permanent in order to give consumers more to spend, all the people who are listening today, they obstruct.
When the president said let's pass an energy plan which will keep gasoline prices low, the Democrats in the United States Senate object, obstruct.
When the president of the United States says "I need an anti-terrorism bill," which may not mean a lot to people, but what it does translate into is more construction jobs, and the Democrats say "Object," it's the Democrats in the United States Senate which are thwarting the positive, forward-looking agenda of the president of the United States, and that's not the sort of check the American people want.
SCHIEFFER: All right, we have to stop it there. Thanks to both of you, two very articulate spokespersons for your respective sides. We'll come back with a little perspective and analysis in a minute.
SCHIEFFER: And joining us now CBS News Consultant Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.
Well, I'll ask both of you. You just heard the chief spinners for both parties, lay out the case for why they think their party will do what they will do. Norm, it's a very unusual year, isn't it?
NORM ORNSTEIN, American Enterprise Institute, CBS News Consultant: It's an extraordinarily unusual year. First of all, with everything that's been happening out there -- September 11th, the war on terror, impending war with Iraq, an economy that's sinking -- the public has not gotten focused on this election until now, basically.
And we still have the 50-50 nation. We have an evenly divided public. For all of what our Senate colleagues said, we don't have a clue what's going to happen out there other than that the Democrats have a tough slide trying to win back the House and the Senate's up for grabs.
SCHIEFFER: I tend to agree with you. Amy, what's your take at this point?
AMY WALKER, The Cook Political Report: Well, absolutely. What's most amazing is that we just don't have a nationalization of this election.
Usually by this time, this close to an election, we have a sense of what's going on out there, what's sort of bubbling to the surface for either side.
Instead, we're looking at a Congress that's being decided on a case-by-case basis.
BORGER: It seems to me we have a half a dozen close Senate races. So is this going to come down to which party is best able to get the voters to the polls? And which party is best able to do that, Norm?
ORNSTEIN: It's turnout. Absolutely. Because we know it's going to be a low turnout election, first of all, as mid-terms usually are. Barely a third of American voters will turn out.
So who turns out becomes the critical issue here. And it varies from state to state, including the ability of the parties to mobilize their voters. Most of these ads, including the negative ads, are designed to drive down the turnout of one party and bring up your own.
The real critical question here, especially in terms of control of the Senate, is whether the AFL/CIO, with its vaunted "Get Out the Vote" effort -- and they put all their money into it, not into ads this time -- can be matched by the Republicans who've caught on and are now putting a sizable sum of money into their own "Get Out the Vote" effort.
SCHIEFFER: Well, you know what I find so interesting is you go around the country, all of these ads are the same. We're now into this consultant-driven politics. It's almost like franchise restaurants around the country. They're all the same. Call so and so and tell him such and such.
I mean -- And we're seeing it now in Washington where we have a hot Congressional race and a governor's race in Maryland. We don't normally see that in Washington. But we're getting treated to the same thing that the rest of the country is, and it's given me, really, a new understanding of this.
You have so much of this. You're bombarded with so much of it, it becomes like white noise. You don't hear it, you don't know who's telling who to call whom. And I think it's almost meaningless.
And you bring up that the unions are now putting their money into "Get Out the Vote" campaigns rather than into commercials.
ORNSTEIN: I think it's partly because everybody is crowded out.
There's no space for any other ads. I made a swing this last week where I was in Boston, and then I was in Houston and then I was in Florida.
And I saw one ad while I was surfing each night that was a Ford commercial in Houston. Everything else was a political ad. You just couldn't help but be turned off by it. They were all the same thing and they were nauseating.
SCHIEFFER: Well, Amy, do you think that's why people are so turned off by this election? Is that part of it?
WALKER: Well, I think your new poll points it out, where voters are saying, "I don't think either party has a vision for where this country is going."
And we're saying in these individual races that, as I said, they're being fought on a case-by-case basis. A certain issue works here with voters in a poll-driven campaign. A certain issue works in another part of the country for another candidate.
And so instead of both parties coming out and saying, "Here's what we're going to do when we come to Congress." They're saying, "Well, this candidate's going to do this and this candidate's going to do this." Neither party has a mandate going into this next Congress, which is going to be equally, evenly divided.
SCHIEFFER: Well, what does that do for governors, Gloria?
BORGER: Well, I think it's tough for governors. I think, you know, first of all, I think the Democrats are going to have a very good time with governors this year.
I think they're all facing budget deficits right now and I think this is the one area where the Democrats actually see that the economy is taking hold.
But the governors are part of the whole negative ad campaign. And I think it's a problem for turnout for them, too.
One thing I wanted to ask both of our consultants is, we've seen the president out on the campaign trail five solid days. It's almost as if he's campaigning for the presidency. And in a way, is he?
ORNSTEIN: Well, sure. The stakes for him are fairly high here. He has campaigned more in these last couple of months than any other president we've ever seen.
We saw Richard Nixon get out in 1970 and campaign hard.
Bill Clinton obviously did, too. George W. Bush has taken it to a different level. Working hard to get a Republican Senate to go along with his Republican House and the governorships as well.
If they don't do well this time, then it's going to suggest that the emperor has no clothes a little bit, although the results are probably going to be muddled enough that he can get by.
But to put this much stake into an election is extraordinary, and when we get to governing the next time, where you're in a highly partisan mode, it's going to make it very hard, harder to work out these bipartisan agreements.
SCHIEFFER: Actually, I think I misspoke when I turned to Gloria. I said, "What does this do for governance?" You said, "What does it do for governors?"
BORGER: Oh, I thought you meant governors, I'm sorry.
SCHIEFFER: Which we wanted -- we wanted to get the governors a little later, but now we've done that. But I think that's a very important point you make there, is that we're going to see more governing around the edges when you have the country this closely divided.
ORNSTEIN: It's really hard because there isn't a moment when the fact that the House and Senate two years from now are going to be up for grabs in the same way, we'll be in toss-ups again.
It's on the minds of everybody at every minute, and that means if you come together in a bipartisan fashion, you may damage your chances of either winning bodies or holding the bodies. And that makes it tough.
WALTER: Yes, and ironically enough, if folks in the House who are the most vulnerable, the incumbents who are the most vulnerable, are actually the ones who are the moderates for both parties.
Connie Morella in suburban Maryland, one of the last liberal Republicans. Conservative Democrats who are in member-versus member incumbent races in Mississippi and southern Illinois. They have tough fights.
So, you could you lose the moderates on both sides and, again, go back to this, the real polarizing of Congress.
SCHIEFFER: Amy, we should point out, won the "Washington Post" crystal ball-gazing contest among all their prognosticators the last time around. How do you think the House is going to come out this time, Amy, and how do you think the Senate is going to come out?
WALKER: Well, it's going to be very close, as we pointed out. And the real question today is for Democrats to take back the House something really, really big needs to happen.
The odds are very, very long. And we just don't see that groundswell as I said, that nationalization to push them over the top. The real question is, if Republicans pick up seats.
Now, that would be history-making. There have only been two other times since the Civil War that the party in the White House has picked up seats going into Congress. So that's the real question.
SCHIEFFER: But you think the Republicans will hold the House?
WALKER: They have a big advantage.
SCHIEFFER: Will you hazard a guess on the Senate?
WALTER: I don't know. The Senate is much more up for grabs. And I wouldn't be surprised to see it, it's a one-or two-seat swing either way.
SCHIEFFER: Gloria, what about the Senate? What do you think will happen there?
BORGER: Oh, thanks, Bob. It's too close to call. I know we're supposed to prognosticate here but I think we would be foolish to do so. I think it could go either way.
The interesting thing to me about the House is that if Republicans keep control I wonder what's going to happen to Speaker Gephardt.
SCHIEFFER: My prediction is that Speaker Gephardt will resign as leader of the Democrats in the House and run for president. Norm, who do you think will capture the Senate?
ORNSTEIN: Remember, Speaker Gephardt in his dreams, and the dreams don't look like they're going to be a reality now because there are so few contests out there that the Democrats can win.
The Senate, you know, there may be six, there may be 10 contests that are up in the air that are going to be decided by a literal handful of votes, and in some cases we won't know for days or weeks who winners will be.
If I had to hazard a guess, I would say the Democrats have a slight edge at maintaining the status quo there as is likely to happen in the House.
But we've got a possibility of a swing of two or three seats here either way.
SCHIEFFER: I think you're exactly right.
ORNSTEIN: Thank you, Bob.
SCHIEFFER: We'll be back in a moment.
SCHIEFFER: Finally today, tragedy can bring out the best in people, but it can also bring out the worst, as we saw last week in Minnesota.
They had not yet identified the remains from the plane crash that took the life of Senator Paul Wellstone, when state Republicans began polling and launched an attack on Walter Mondale, the man they correctly expected to replace him.
As distasteful as that was, Democrats managed to top it when they turned a memorial service for Wellstone into a partisan campaign spectacle and booed Republican senators who'd come from around the country to pay their respects.
I suppose we shouldn't have been surprised in this age of mean, negative politics, when the only objective has become to win, no matter what the cost. Still, it took my breath away. Our politics has become so partisan that it has divorced itself from reality, and the insiders have lost all sense of how they come off to the voters.
But that's the bad news. Now comes the good part. On Tuesday, we can close the curtain on the voting booth and vote for or against any of them, for good reason or bad or no reason at all. It's still free. We don't have to tell anyone, or we can tell everyone. That's still the best deal in the world.
As I always say at this time of year, go vote. It makes you feel big and strong.
That's it for us. We'll see you next week, right here on Face the Nation.