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 Home > News & Policies > November 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 3, 2004

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Office of the Press Secretary

11:41 A.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: All right, good morning, everybody. Let me go through the President's morning, I think that's probably the best way, and give you a little bit of color, as well.

Q Did the President have his usual briefings this morning? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: Not first, though. Let's see. I think you all are aware, last night he went to sleep around 5:00 a.m. He woke up around 7:00 a.m., and he arrived in the Oval Office this morning at 8:00 a.m. Former President Bush was with him this morning. I know Dan Bartlett stuck his head in there shortly after that to visit with the President.

Then in that time period he had -- he had his usual briefings at 9:30 a.m., his intelligence briefing, followed by his FBI briefing. And in between that time he was visiting with some of the senior staff -- Andy Card, Condi Rice, Karen. He visited with the Vice President during that time period. And the congratulatory calls he made prior to the 9:30 a.m. briefings were to Richard Burr, in North Carolina; David Vitter, in Louisiana; Mel Martinez, in Florida. Then he met some with -- then he had the 9:30 a.m. briefings. Then he visited with Karen and Andy and Condi and the Vice President and Dan for a brief period.

He made some more congratulatory calls after the briefings to John Thune, Jim DeMint, Jim Bunning, and Tom Coburn. And one of those calls, when he was talking to the new senators, he talked about -- and this is a quote from the President -- "Now is the time to get it done," talking about his agenda.

Q Who was that to?

MR. McCLELLAN: I believe it was Jim DeMint. And, let's see, what else do we have? Karl got some well-earned rest. He came in somewhere in that time period, I think around 10:00 a.m. this morning.

Q Do you know what time he left?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it was shortly before I did, so probably in the 5:30 a.m. time period.

Oh, then some of the senior staff that was around between that time period and the time when he spoke with Senator Kerry included Karl, Karen, Mike, Bartlett, myself. Secretary Rumsfeld -- we were visiting with the President in the Oval Office -- Secretary Rumsfeld stopped by the Oval for a visit and congratulated the President.

Then at approximately 11:02, that's when Ashley Estes, the President's assistant, informed the President that Senator Kerry was calling. The President was standing in the Oval at that point, so he returned to his desk. And let me give you a couple of quotes from that phone call -- it was probably about three or four minutes. The President said, "I think you were an admirable, worthy opponent." He also said to Senator Kerry, "You waged one tough campaign." And he also said, "I hope you are proud of the effort you put in, you should be." And the President, when he got off the phone call, said Senator Kerry was very gracious.

Q Is that a quote?

MR. McCLELLAN: I know he used those words to Senator Kerry, too, "very gracious," but he told us after he got off the phone that he was very gracious -- that he was very gracious in the phone call.

Q What was that one, "I hope you're proud of your effort?"

MR. McCLELLAN: "I hope you are proud of the effort you put in, you should be."

And following that, he hugged all the senior staff members that were in the Oval with him during the phone call. Then he hugged some others that came in -- I know Andy Card was there pretty quick, Joe Hagin, Blake Gottesman, and Ashley Estes. I'm probably leaving a few out.

Then he went down the hall and he and the Vice President congratulated each other.

Q Was he in the Vice President's office?

MR. McCLELLAN: It was down the hall, they were outside the Vice President's office. And then he was headed over to the residence to see Mrs. Bush, who I know had placed a call to him. And he was going to get in a workout, which he probably has finished about now.

He will deliver remarks at 3:00 p.m. at the Ronald Reagan Building. That's really what I've got for now, in terms of the --

Q Will you give us a preview of his remarks?

MR. McCLELLAN: One, the President was humbled by the outpouring of support for his candidacy. This was a record turnout and, you know, I think you can expect the President will talk to the American people about how we move the country forward together, to get things done. That's what you can expect from him.

Q What are the logistics for getting in over there? Do we need the credential from last night, or what's --

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll figure that out. I think it's still the RNC event planning it, but we'll try to get you all that information.

Q Can you go over in a little bit more detail last night? Was there a point at which the President wanted to go over to the Reagan Center, even in the absence of a call from Senator Kerry?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that it ever got to that point. I mean, there was a discussion about it. The senior staff made a recommendation that we proceed with Secretary Card going over there to make a statement, and the President agreed with that recommendation. We wanted to -- you know, the President wanted to give Senator Kerry time to reflect, and it was a sign of respect, I think.

Q When was that decision made, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: On the time?

Q Yes.

MR. McCLELLAN: Gosh, it was probably about -- I mean, just before 5:00 a.m., or right around 5:00 a.m., because that's when the President retired for the evening for his few hours of sleep.

Q What was his mood when he went to bed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, he was in very good spirits because I think it was clear that the American people had spoken, as you heard from Secretary Card.

Q Was there a moment last night when the President really felt that this had pivoted from the anxiety generated by the exit polls to a feeling that he really was going to win?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think early on when some of the states started coming in, you saw that the exit polls were off-base. Some of the early states, from the Virginias and South Carolina, as I recall, showed that it was moving in a different direction from the exit polls.

Q When was the first time he was told about those early exit polls?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think he got some indication first when, I think it was about the time we were landing, before he was headed back to the White House, as I recall. You can check --

Q Karl called him about some of those?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. Yes. He was in close contact with Karl throughout the night. Karl had the Old Family Dining Room set up with computers, TVs, so he was monitoring results from there, and the President was in close contact with him by phone a number of times, and he came down a couple times to the Old Family Dining Room.

Q Was Karl skeptical about those exit poll numbers right away?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the early ones that we were hearing, I mean, I think that most experts say don't put too much stock in the early ones. But then when some of the later ones were coming out, we were watching -- and we watched closely when the results were coming in. I think the campaign can probably talk to you probably more --

Q When was the last time the President stayed up this late? (Laughter.) Would it be during his irresponsible years? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: The night before.

Q Until --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, close.

Q What, 1:00 a.m.?

Q Scott, does the President feel he has a mandate for --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think he'll talk about that, but I think it's clear that the -- by the results that he does. I mean, you have -- he received, as Andy said, more votes than any President -- presidential candidate in our nation's history. And he's the first President -- first candidate since 1988 to receive a majority of the popular vote. And I don't know what's been officially declared by the media, but Iowa and New Mexico, you know, I think that puts us right --

Q Scott, jobs and economy were priorities of Kerry supporters. But that wasn't listed as a top priority for Bush supporters. And I'm just wondering, does the President feel he has an economic mandate?

MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about all the exit polling analysis?

Q I'm talking -- do you feel the President has an economic mandate, given that a lot of the new voters were drawn to wedge issues, like marriage, gay marriage --

MR. McCLELLAN: He's going to talk to this later. First of all, there are a lot of people on the campaign and here at the White House that deserve a lot of credit for the organization that they put together, the ground game they put together, I mean, from Karl to Ken Mehlman to Matthew Dowd. I mean, I can't go through all the people. And this is a time for them to enjoy in this victory, as well. I mean, I think they can talk a lot about the analysis. I'm not sure that I'd put a lot of stock in the exit poll -- exit polling saying this is what voters thought here and there. We'll have to look at it. They can probably talk to you more about the analysis.

Q -- one of the main reasons that many of these voters came out to vote?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not -- there's going to be plenty of time to do a post-election analysis of all these issues. There was a very clear choice in this election, and the American people spoke at the ballot box with an overwhelming -- with overwhelming support for the President and his agenda. That is clear from the results.

Q Does the President understand why Kerry wanted to wait overnight?

MR. McCLELLAN: He did. I mean, starting the day yesterday, you go from the early exit polls, which pointed in one direction, and then by the evening it was pointing in a different direction, so he understands what Senator Kerry was going through, as well.

Q Do you have a length, Scott, how long the speech is going to be?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's not long. I mean, it's brief. I'd call it more of a statement, a statement to the American people.

Q When the President spoke with Senator Kerry, was the President seated at his desk in the Oval Office?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes -- well, he was standing when Ashley came in and said, Senator Kerry is calling. He went to the Oval -- went to his desk, sat down at the desk, picked up the phone.

Q What about the unusual situation of a losing presidential candidate now returns to the Congress? These two men said some very harsh things about each other. Can the President work with Senator Kerry after --

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. And they talked about that, as well, in the phone call.

Q Was there ever a point last night when the President thought he might lose the election? Or yesterday?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. I mean, not that I recall. Obviously, we were looking at the exit polls, like everybody else, but you don't count on the exit polls. And it's a good thing we didn't.

Q Scott, was the call a surprise, or had he been alerted that the Senator was going to call?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we heard -- I mean, we were hearing things, just like you all were, that the Kerry campaign was meeting and that we might be getting a call soon. But we didn't know until it came in.

Q And, also, is there going to be a victory lap, maybe Thursday, Friday, for the President?

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll try to update you on the schedule, but I do expect there will be some quiet time.

Q Oh, some quiet time. (Laughter.) I thought you were going to say --

Q So the ranch, to the ranch then?

MR. McCLELLAN: He wants all of you to get some rest, too, and all the volunteers, all the campaign people.

Q Can we say we got that from you, that you wouldn't expect any travel for the rest of this week?

MR. McCLELLAN: What's that?

Q You wouldn't expect any travel for the rest of this week?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. Not beyond Camp David.

Q Was the President's father in the Oval when Senator Kerry called?


Q Still here?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I believe they're over in the residence. But double-check that. I know he was here earlier.

Q So Camp this weekend?

Q Camp David?

MR. McCLELLAN: I expect so. We'll update the schedule, but I do expect --

Q Will he go to the ranch this weekend?


Q Scott, anything on the First Lady, her reaction, her thoughts?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, she -- like I said, when I left, the President was headed -- I know she had called over to the Oval Office, and that was when he was headed down to see the Vice President, and he was then headed back to the residence. And I suspect that they had a good visit when he got back there.

Q So will all of the Secretaries tender their resignations today, as is tradition? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: Let's get through the President's statement at 3:00 p.m., and there will be plenty of time to talk about everything.

Q Who's going to stay, who's going to go?

MR. McCLELLAN: Are you leaving? (Laughter.)

Q I don't know. What've you got for me?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't know, you tell me. You tell me. (Laughter.) Is Ken Herman going to go home to Austin, or maybe stay? (Laughter.)

Q Does the President feel like he has to mend a divided nation at this point?

MR. McCLELLAN: He's going -- look, he's going to talk -- that's why I said, he's going to talk to this in his remarks this afternoon. As I said, he's going to be talking to the American people about how we move forward together to implement the agenda that he outlined for the next four years.

Q Does he have any inclination to speak with us any time in the near future? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: You, personally, or everybody as a group?

Q As a group. I speak for a nation. (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, you're here with everybody -- you don't want an individual interview or anything.

Q Scott, why does the President think he won? Is there an issue, or part of the platform, or some reason that he thinks particularly --

MR. McCLELLAN: Some of this will be in his remarks. Listen to his remarks. But the choices were very clear. The American people knew where the two candidates stood on the big priorities facing this nation. They knew where they stood on the war on terrorism and the economy and health care. And you'll hear more from him --

Q Were you surprised that moral issues came to such a forefront in people's preferences?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I -- look, let me leave it to all the campaign team that did such a great job in this campaign to talk about the post-election analysis. That was an important part of the election, as well. I mean, there were a number of issues that the President highlighted and that were debated throughout the campaign -- from the issues I mentioned to the values that we share.

Q But did you ever expect moral issues to be number one among voters?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, let me leave the post-election analysis to the Ken Mehlmans and Matthew Dowds and the Karls, and there will be plenty of time for that.

Thank you all.

END 11:55 A.M. EST