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The "Inside Politics" Interview: Political Analyst Charles Cook

Aired April 21, 1998 - 5:20 p.m. EDT

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: More now on the gubernatorial contests of '98. We turn to Charles Cook of the "Cook Political Report."

Charlie, let's stick with Maryland for the moment. What do you make of it?

CHARLES COOK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is a great year for governors -- for any governor. The last four years has been the greatest economy, revenues just flowing in at a record rate. They've been able to cut taxes, rate-increase spending. So and it's really is unusual for Parris Glendenning to have these kinds of problems. And I think what happened was he was elected in 1994 and people didn't know much about him.

In that first 90 days that he was in office he made mistake after mistake after mistake, and just things that made him look bad. And his introduction to the voters, ironically after the election, was so awful that for the last three and a half years he's been trying to sort of live it down. And he's had a few missteps since then -- not that bad -- but the policies have not been that controversial, it's just that he made such a lousy first impression that he's having a hard time getting out from under it.

And as a result, local leaders around the state have -- local political leaders -- have been able to sort of hold him up for huge, huge amounts of money, and if he hadn't come through they were threatening to pull the trigger on him.

SHAW: Now let's expand. Let's go coast-to-coast in looking at the playing field. Thirty-six states, including Maryland, are holding gubernatorial races this year. Twenty-four are currently in the GOP column. Eleven Democratic hands. One -- Maine -- is independent, but incumbent Angus King generally sides with the Democrats. Charlie, based on the numbers it would seem the Republicans are open to a lot more losses in November than the Democrats, but you say it may not turn out that way.

COOK: Historically speaking nine times out of ten a party in this situation would have big losses, but when you look at it race by race Republicans are in pretty good shape, and actually I think could pick up a few, but the problem is they could lose the biggest prize of them all, and that's California.

SHAW: California. OK. What about Florida?

COOK: Well, Florida is a good one where Jeb Bush, who narrowly lost to Lawton Chiles last time -- it's going to be an open seat where Chiles is not running for re-election. The Democrat's going to be Lieutenant-Governor Buddy MacKay, who was sort of a rising star, a golden boy of the Democratic party a few years back, but since he's sort of lost some of the momentum -- the shine's a little off. And right now if you look at the polls I would say, yeah, Jeb Bush -- President Bush's son -- has probably a 11, 12, 13-point lead, where it's still a competitive race but where Jeb Bush has a big advantage.

SHAW: We'll work our way back to California, but let's stop off in Texas.

COOK: Texas. George W. Bush is going to win huge. I mean, he's got sky-high job approval numbers. A lot of Democrats thought that the best course would be not to oppose him at all. Gary Morrow (ph), the state land commissioner, is going to be the Democratic candidate. And while he's a fine guy, he's just going to get crushed.

SHAW: Georgia.

COOK: Georgia is going to be -- it's, boy, it's a zoo. It's an absolute complete zoo. Zell Miller, the incumbent governor, is not running for re-election. The Democrat's probably going to be Lou Massey (ph), the secretary of state. And on the Republican side you've got a really complicated situation. Mike Bauer is the attorney general. Guy Millner a millionaire who owned -- founded Norrell Temporary Services. It's nasty. It's vicious. I would give Millner the edge for the nomination.

SHAW: Does Miller have any coattails?

COOK: Zell? I don't think so. At this point, y'know, you see voters -- they have -- they're getting tennis elbow on election day. I mean they're switching back and forth, splitting their tickets back and forth. And while I think Governor Miller has been a very popular governor, and has certainly taken some of the stain off being a Democrat there, I think it's just a wide open race.

SHAW: California? Bring plenty of money?

COOK: Oh, gosh, it is -- it's something. And the thing is for some -- okay, let's back up. Pete Wilson's not running for re- election. The Republican nominee is going to be Dan Lungren, the state attorney general, former Congressman, who is very, very popular within the Republican party.

The Democratic nomination has just been turned inside-out. The original frontrunner was Gray Davis -- who's the state lieutenant governor, who has been toiling in the vineyards for the party for years and years and years -- started off with a lead, and then Al Checchi, who owns about 20-something percent of Northwest Airlines -- he's worth $7, $800 million -- he jumped in the race first. Started spending money just left, right, up, down, and started moving up.

And then Jane Harman, a congresswoman from the southern part of the state, jumped in. She's personally very, very, very wealthy. Her husband is Harman Cardin (ph) stereo equipment. She starts spending -- now it's the two candidates at the bottom are now at the top, the two personally well-funded candidates are at the top. Gray Davis is way down. He's just going on the air this week, and is gonna try to catch up. He's coming from the party left. Checchi is sort of ambiguous in the middle. Harman is -- well, both are fairly more -- a little bit more moderate. It's going to be a great race, and...

SHAW: What's your call?

COOK: I guess -- first of all, if I thought you'd let me get away with it, I'd punt.

SHAW: Right now we can't do that.

COOK: Yeah, yeah, I figured that, so I'd say Jane Harman. But boy, it's going to be a very close primary, and the general election a toss-up.

SHAW: Charlie Cook, we'll be watching. Thanks very much.

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The "Inside Politics" Interview:
Political Analyst Charles Cook


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