'Inside Politics' Interview: Stuart Rothenberg, Charles Cook
Discussing the Arkansas School Shooting in the Context of Campaign '98
Aired March 25, 1998 - 5:19 p.m. ET
[THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.]
BERNARD SHAW, CNN: As we've seen and heard, a tragedy such as yesterday's school shooting, is likely to resonate across the political landscape. Joining us to discuss this within the context of campaign '98, Stuart Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report," and Charles Cook of "The Cook Political Report." You've been thinking about this for several hours, what have you come up with so far?
CHARLES COOK, "THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT": I don't think it's going to have a huge impact on the election, because it's seven-and-a- half months from now. A lot of time, a lot of events -- surely it's stirred up a lot of emotions. It's a real tragedy and it certainly will build, sort of accumulative impact in terms of trying to build for some sort of gun control legislation. But terms of affecting elections this November, I'm kind of doubtful about it.
STUART ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": I would tend to agree, Bernie. I think the Republicans will define this as a question of crime and values and upbringing, and the Democrats in terms of straight gun control issue. As time goes by, I think we'll probably offset. Now there are one or two quick points I wanted to make.
One, there was a Democratic primary in western Pennsylvania against Congressman Doyle. The woman who is running Mary Beth Hacky (ph) is running solely because her son was shot accidentally, very comparable to the New York congresswoman you had on earlier.
She says there are no other particular issues, she's just decided this event was such a -- significant factor in her life that she wants to go to Washington. So it is playing -- it can play in individual races. And as you recall, in the Illinois governor's race and Senate primaries it came up.
SHAW: That was going to be my next question.
ROTHENBERG: Well, I'll let you ask it.
SHAW: No, no, please, go into it.
ROTHENBERG: Well, in the Republican Senate race Loleta Didrickson, a sort of moderate Republican, attacked Peter Fitzgerald, the conservative. for being allegedly being extreme on guns. The hook was that he favored a concealed carry belt.
In fact, Fitzgerald also supports the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban, and Didrickson's attacks certainly did not help her win the election, Fitzgerald won. And in the governors race, Glenn Poshard, the pro-life, pro-gun Democrat, the only anti-gun Democrat, won the Democratic gubernatorial race; a four way race. I think that's pretty significant and it goes back to Bill's point about intensity.
COOK: Where this could kick in November, I think, would be if there were some kind of a vote where members voted against some sort of common sense sounding legislation.
SHAW: Now, we had Brooks Jackson telling us about the tough Republican version of the juvenile crime bill.
COOK: But I don't think -- I don't think a juvenile crime bill would have had anything to do with this. It's -- if you had a trigger lock legislation, for example, and there was an up or down vote on trigger locks.
SHAW: Something specific.
COOK: Something specific, because juvenile crime -- these kids weren't criminals until yesterday.
SHAW: If you let me shift focus now, because we want to take a look at independent counsel Ken Starr. His investigation of the president already is figuring as an issue in one House race. In Kentucky, Democratic congressional candidate Bobby Russell has released this TV ad:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOBBY RUSSELL, DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, KENTUCKY: I'm Bobby Russell. I've been prosecuting criminals for 15 years. Independent counsel Ken Starr has spent 5 years and $40 million investigating the president.
What's he got to show for it? What Ken Starr is doing is just plain wrong. That's $40 million we could have used to protect our children and to fix our health care system. To me it's common sense. But it doesn't seem like there's very much of that in Washington right now, and that's why I'm running for Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Those 23 Americans sitting in the U.S. federal courthouse, just a few blocks away from here at that grand jury, continuing to take testimony from witnesses who are sent in there by independent counsel Ken Starr. The charges of sexual misconduct directed at the president -- any resonance, especially with Starr out in America?
ROTHENBERG: I don't see it in very many races. I don't see it in any races other than this. What you have here is a Democratic congressional hopeful in a six-person race, where no one broken out of the pack.
SHAW: Bobby Russell.
ROTHENBERG: Bobby Russell is running this ad to try to break out, to get some name recognition, to be known in the district. He's beating up on Ken Starr; that's easy to do in a Democratic prime ministery.
COOK: You've also seen that in a Senate primary in Arkansas, where Dale Bumpers is not running again, Nate Coulter, one of the Democratic Senate candidates is running to reform the independent counsel law. But again, with Democratic primary voters this can resonate, but within the general electorate I don't think it works well.
SHAW: Stu Rothenberg we have about ten seconds. You have a potential political headline, as regards to the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives?
ROTHENBERG: Well, Bernie, I've got a column tomorrow in "Roll Call" that suggests the Democrats have a chance of breaking a 60-year lock, that is a 60-year jinx, which is the party controlling the White House has not picked up House seats in the mid-terms. I think they have a chance to pick up a seat or two. It might be a small gain, but any gain would be historical.
SHAW: Stu Rothenberg, Charlie Cook, thanks very much.