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In the Crossfire

Whoever runs for president, it's going to be good

Gillespie: "I wouldn't be honest ... if I didn't say there might be a little disappointment on the Republican side about Gore's announcement."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Vice President Al Gore has decided against staging a rematch of the 2000 presidential election in 2004. His announcement on "60 Minutes" opens up a number of possibilities for the Democratic Party.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Dick Gephardt are all possible candidates. Who would scare George W. Bush the most?

Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and Republican strategist Ed Gillespie joined "Crossfire" hosts Tucker Carlson and James Carville on Monday to discuss Gore's decision and who some of the top Democratic contenders may be.

CARLSON: James said it was a surprise that Al Gore announced he wasn't going to run. Not to brag but it was not a surprise to me. My feeling from the beginning was, if he doesn't run again, he'll always be this sort of poignant footnote in history, the man from whom the presidency was stolen in the view of Democrats. But if he runs again and loses, as is likely, he's Mike Dukakis, a disgraced, irrelevant, teacher at some community college in a state you never go to.

That's the real reason that he didn't run, isn't it? To preserve his place in history?

SHRUM: You know, you just said a minute ago that some questions are so ridiculous they hardly deserve an answer. I mean, my first temptation is to say, next question. The fact of the matter is that Al Gore sat down and I think he thought this through. He thought it through from a personal perspective. He thought it through in terms of the party, and I think he thought it through in terms of the country.

And I think he made a very mature decision. It was a tough decision. I believe most people in his circumstance, having the advantages he had going into this nominating contest, would certainly have moved forward and would certainly have run for the nomination. I think he made his decision on the grounds he said he made them. And I wasn't surprised, because he said all along, "I'm going to think about this and then I'm going to decide."

CARLSON: But he also said, and his supporters have said at great length, and I think you're among them, that, look, he really won the election of 2000.

Shrum: "I think he decided that it was right for the country not to have a replay of the Bush-Gore race. It was right for the party and it was right for him personally."

SHRUM: Well he did.

CARLSON: You say it again.

SHRUM: Yes. And I'll say it again and again and again and again. I'll say it 500,000 times, for example.

CARLSON: I believe Al Gore believes that. It's obviously untrue but doesn't he in light of that have a moral obligation to run again? If he's really the president, why not put it before the American people?

SHRUM: Well, by that standard, you could have argued that after the Supreme Court decision that he should have filed other legal actions and tried to win because he really believed he won. Instead, he did what was right for the country. I think he decided that it was right for the country not to have a replay of the Bush-Gore race. It was right for the party and it was right for him personally. And I don't think it was an easy decision. And I think he deserves some credit for it.

CARVILLE: Ed, let's go back to kind of doing a little political analysis. In my political party there are a lot of people talking about running. Just give me a guess as to the serious Democratic candidates there will this be time next year.


CARVILLE: What do you think, Bob?

SHRUM: I have no idea.

CARVILLE: I know, but it's just...

SHRUM: Five, six, something like that. Just how many were there in the Republican Party at this point in 2000?

GILLESPIE: Probably around that. Probably six or seven.

CARVILLE: What is the reaction of most Republicans to Gore's announcement? Are they happy, how was it taken in Republican circles?

GILLESPIE: I think that, first of all, it was a little bit of a surprise. I think that the people thought by his recent actions he was gearing up for a run. And secondly, I wouldn't be honest with your viewers, James, if I didn't say there might be a little disappointment on the Republican side about Gore's announcement.

CARVILLE: One of the points I want to make here tonight is that ... all of the candidates were helped. I think that you've got to give Joe Lieberman credit because he said if Gore runs, I'm not running. He did not equivocate. He did not do anything. And usually people say, "Well, gee, what I meant was I gave him my word, not the American people."

I don't think it's going to propel Senator Lieberman over the top or anything. But I've got to stand here and say that was a pretty smart move on his part, and he came out looking pretty good.

GILLESPIE: I don't even think it was calculated. I think Joe Lieberman is an honorable man.

SHRUM: I agree. It wasn't just smart. I think what happened was that he felt that he owed his place on the national stage to Al Gore, who picked him to run as vice president. And he said to himself, the decent thing to do if this man runs is for me not to run. And he was straightforward about it.

CARLSON: I take him at his word. And I want to show you a poll. Lieberman is at the top of the poll. This is a Washington Post poll asking Democrats, "If Gore does not run, who do you support?" Lieberman tops the list [with] 27 percent, Daschle at 14, Gephardt at 10, Kerry at 9. And then, at 7 percent, someone Democrats never like to talk about, Al Sharpton. You can see he's crushing Senator Edwards and Governor Dean, who are both at 2 percent.

SHRUM: Boy, you really dislike John Edwards.

CARLSON: I like John Edwards very much. But I like Al Sharpton even more. And I'm wondering why Democrats ... don't even mention Al Sharpton. Why do Democrats pretend he's not really a candidate?

SHRUM: He's not going to be the Democratic nominee for president.

CARLSON: Well neither is Howard Dean, but people treat him seriously.

SHRUM: Well I think Howard Dean has a chance to be the Democratic nominee for president. I don't think Al Sharpton does because Al Sharpton does not have the background, training and experience and time in politics that would lead people to nominate him for president of the United States.

CARVILLE: Why do you think David Duke has been more successful in the Republican Party than Al Sharpton has been in the Democratic Party? Do you have any idea why he...

SHRUM: Because Tucker will come up with some rationalization for...

CARLSON: But you're missing it. You're missing it. Hold on, James.

CARVILLE: You're sitting here talking about Al Sharpton, who has never held office in the Democratic Party.

CARLSON: It makes you mad.

CARVILLE: It doesn't make me mad.

CARLSON: Nobody even knows where David Duke is. Right now -- right now, Al Sharpton is in Washington. He's in Washington at the Four Seasons. He's being treated seriously and taken seriously. He's a serious candidate, and I think it is insulting that Democrats pretend he's not.

SHRUM: I love the Four Seasons hotel, but I don't think being at the Four Seasons means you're being treated seriously. By that standard, I'm a serious candidate for president. ...

CARVILLE: Let's go back and let's line up this thing in 2004, because I think there's going to be a lot of interest in this. President Bush's approval numbers are high. President Bush did very well at the election. I was the first person to give him credit and express embarrassment. But why does his re-election number hover in the mid-40s?

GILLESPIE: I'm one Republican who believes that the 2004 presidential contest is going to be a very serious contest. And I think that President Bush is going to win. I think he'll be favored.

But the fact is, we're in a country where the parties are in parity. And I think that whoever ... merges as the Democratic nominee is going to have gone through a pretty difficult process against some serious candidates, and it will be a good year.

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