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Inside Politics

Candidates Scrambling in Iowa to Win Over Undecided Voters; George W. Bush Touts His Tax Plan in New Hampshire

Aired January 18, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



TIM GARTEN (ph), IOWA RESIDENT: George W., he kind of seems a little too political, too political family for me. And Gore, he just -- I don't know. I'd rather listen to Styrofoam I guess.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Undecided voters and the scramble to win them over. We'll have an update from Iowa.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore adopts a "no news is good news" strategy in the leadoff caucus state. How do new polls fit into his plan?

SHAW: And George W. Bush in the New Hampshire cold, trying to turn up the heat on the McCain tax plan.

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. We begin with the latest snapshots of voter sentiment in Iowa and New Hampshire now that the early presidential contests are just around the corner and people in those states are presumably paying attention.

CNN's Bruce Morton reports on the new poll numbers and the very different political dynamics in the Hawkeye and Granite states.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Are there more polls than candidates? No, but it's close. First here in Iowa, the "Los Angeles Times" poll shows Vice President Al Gore with a whopping lead over Bill Bradley: 58 to 35 percent, well beyond the poll's four- point margin of error. Gore leads in every demographic category except among men with college degrees.

Texas Governor George Bush is way ahead here too, according to the "L.A. Times" poll: 43 percent to 25 for millionaire publisher Steve Forbes -- again, well beyond the margin of error.

Everybody else -- Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, Orrin Hatch, John McCain, who has not campaigned here -- is well back.

But it's murkier in New Hampshire. A "Washington Post"/ABC poll shows Bush and McCain in a statistical dead-heat. McCain leads 40 to 36, but the margin of error is four points, so it's a tie. A University of Massachusetts poll has McCain at 37 percent, Bush at 29. But again, that's a statistical tie.

Democrats: "The Post"/ABC poll has Bradley at 48 percent, Gore at 47 -- another tie. The University of Massachusetts poll has Bradley over Gore 47 to 37, but the plus or minus five-point margin of error means that's a tie too.

Some interesting footnotes. In that "Washington Post" poll, voters preferred McCain to Bush on character traits: strong leader and so on, but only 27 percent think he has the best chance to win in November. Two-thirds say Bush does.

Bill Bradley is in the same box: 56 percent say Gore has the best chance of winning. Only 30 percent say Bradley does.

Bradley has been painting himself as the candidate of big ideas, but New Hampshire voters say they don't want big ideas. They want a candidate who takes small steady steps, which sounds like that guy in the sweater. And they like by three to one Gore's suggestion of dropping political ads and just having debates.

(on camera): The good news is we won't need polls in Iowa after next Monday, won't need them in New Hampshire eight days after that. People will actually vote.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Des Moines.


SHAW: Even this close to the first primary and caucuses, a number of voters remain undecided. They are prime targets of the presidential hopefuls in the coming days.

In this field report from Iowa, CNN's John King focuses on some of those voters who have yet to make up their minds.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tim Garten isn't terribly impressed with the candidates leading Iowa's menu.

GARTEN: George W., he kind of seems a little too political, too political family for me. And gore, he just -- I don't know. I'd rather listen to Styrofoam, I guess.

KING: The sometime student-sometime cook says Bill Bradley has the best ingredient of the bunch but still isn't sure he'll vote in Monday's caucuses. It's a choice many Iowans have yet to make, a topic debated around many a table at the North End Diner these days. Two friends and Bradley supporters have lobbied attorney Emily Rooney for weeks now, but she's still undecided: a fan of the vice president's but worried so-called "Clinton fatigue" would hurt him come November.

EMILY ROONEY, ATTORNEY: I'd be more likely to be for Gore were it not for Monica.

KING (on camera): Is that fair to him?

ROONEY: Probably not.

KING: But winning is everything?

ROONEY: Winning is very important.

KING (voice-over): Joyce and Jim Munson are Bradley fans. She might attend her caucus. He's taking a pass.

JIM MUNSON, BRADLEY SUPPORTER: I don't necessarily affiliate myself with one party or another, I guess. And so I don't feel like I should be -- try to represent myself as one of two (UNINTELLIGIBLE) those parties.

KING: Most Iowans say the economy is good. Some worry about the farm crisis; others, Social Security. But no single issue dominates the coffee talk, and some say it's not worth all the fuss.

JEAN LONGO, REGISTERED REPUBLICAN: I really believe that most of them tell you what they think you want to hear, and when they make all of these promises, very seldom can they really carry them out.

KING: Jean Longo is a Democrat turned Republican, around long enough to know what happens when a campaign worker calls and she says she's undecided and likely to stay home.

LONG: Oh, they send, you know, brochures about their -- their families or where they stand for us all. The talk on taxes, taxes. You know? No, we get a lot of mail.

KING (on camera): The candidates will have spend a combined 374 days campaigning here by the time Monday's caucuses roll around, not to mention the millions spent on TV ads and campaign mailings. So it might seem a little odd that so many Iowans have yet to make their choice.

(voice-over): But waiting is part of Iowa's cherished tradition. In 1996 CNN exit polls, more than 40 percent of Republican caucus voters said they made their decision in the file week. Minister Jeff Hill is in that group this year.

REV. JEFF HILL: I plan to get on the Internet and go to their Web sites. I've heard that most of the candidates or all the candidates have Web sites.

KING: Retired schoolteacher Donna Sue Henkel is aiming to choose on caucus night, split for now between Republican Steve Forbes and George W. Bush.

DONNA SUE HENKEL, RETIRED TEACHER: I don't know the tax structure very well, so I'm hoping some real good accountants or people with money can share and help at my caucus.

KING: Her choice will help shape a Republican race that had 10 candidates five months ago, just six now: some of them struggling to survive Iowa's cut.

John King, CNN, Des Moines, Iowa.


WOODRUFF: Now to the Democratic candidates on the trail in Iowa today. First, Al Gore and his growing sense of confidence about the caucuses.

CNN's Jonathan Karl has been traveling with Gore, and he joins us now from Ottumwa, Iowa -- John.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, as Al Gore works his way across southeastern Iowa there is a sense he is a candidate content with his lead here and intent on running out the clock until the Iowa caucuses on Monday. Today the Gore campaign has staged a series of rallies across southeastern Iowa as the vice president enters what one aide calls a new phase of the campaign, the final phase, a phase where Al Gore is not trying to make any big news and he's also not making any new attacks on his rival Bill Bradley. Instead, he is out prodding his supporters to turn out for the caucuses.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to fight for you. I want you to stand for me at the caucuses on January 24th. Fill out these cards, if you would. Help me become the next president of the United States and I'll fight my heart out for you. Thank you very much: 7:00 p.m., January 24th. I need your help.



KARL: Gore has also dispatched an army of surrogates to Iowa here during this final phase of the campaign here. At that rally in Indianola he was joined by HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, who was just one of four Cabinet secretaries to campaign here in Iowa for Gore in the last 24 hours.

Here in Iowa, at least, the scrappy underdog Al Gore who was constantly needling his opponent has gone into temporary hibernation. He has been replaced by a Gore that even when he criticizes Bill Bradley does so nicely.


GORE: My worthy opponent, Senator Bradley, is a good man, a decent man. He has the right intentions, but he's a good man with a bad plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KARL: The change in tone reflects Gore's confidence here in Iowa. There has been absolutely no change in polls that for months have shown him with more than a 20-point lead. And Gore's aides say that they think they have effectively attacked Bradley and that Bradley has been very ineffective in responding to those attacks.

As one Gore confidant said today, he said -- quote -- "When you've made the case, sit down and say, thank you."

Now, Gore has also been keeping his distance from the press in that effort not to make any news. He hasn't talked to the national reporters traveling with him for four days.

Now, after this, Gore will get on Air Force Two tonight and fly to New Hampshire, a place where we may yet see that scrappy underdog Al Gore again. New Hampshire is a state where the Gore campaign is still concerned, a state where in some recent polls Bill Bradley holds a lead by as high as 10 points -- Bernie.

SHAW: Jonathan Karl in Ottumwa.

For Bill Bradley, this day on the stump in Iowa wasn't exactly deja vu. But he did focus on an issue that dominated the Democratic campaign the day before: race relations.

CNN's Candy Crowley is on the road with the Bradley campaign.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With less than a week before the Iowa caucuses, Bill Bradley spent the morning talking to high-schoolers. It is typical of this atypical campaign, where the candidate often seems more suited to the role of professor than politician.

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the year 2010, less than 60 percent of the people who enter the work force in America are going to be native-born white Americans. And that means increasingly that the economic future of the children of white Americans, if labor economics means anything, will depend on the talents of non-white Americans. And that is not ideology. That's demographics.

CROWLEY: The moral and practical need for better race relations is a Bradley campaign staple, even when it's not Martin Luther King Day, even -- perhaps especially -- if the crowd is white.

What's interesting is that in the middle of predominantly white Iowa, before this almost all-white crowd, this was the loudest applause line.

BRADLEY: And I think the Confederate flag shouldn't be flown over state capitols in this country.


CROWLEY: Later with reporters, Bradley expanded on other racial issues, which were front and center in Monday night's "Brown and Black Debate" in Iowa.

On affirmative action...

BRADLEY: Let's take a college situation. I personally think there should be a minimum standard that everybody should meet and then above that minimum standard, the university should be able to put together a class as it sees fit, considering race among other things.


CROWLEY: Bradley was also pressed on an interview in which he suggested that Gore had injected racism into the '88 primary campaign when Gore complained about a Massachusetts furlough program. Bradley didn't back down, but clearly wants to move on.


BRADLEY: I am going to leave it that I wouldn't have done it, and that's all I am saying.

QUESTION: What would you have done?

BRADLEY: I think that there are other ways that you could have made the point. I don't even know if I'd make the point on the furlough program.


CROWLEY (on camera): On the brass tax issue of politics, Bradley says only he needs to do better than expected in Iowa, well in New Hampshire and then move on. On that last point, Bradley makes it quite clear he does have the money to keep going no matter what happens in the first two states.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


WOODRUFF: And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: Bradley versus Gore. The Democratic contest from the perspectives of James Carville and Harvard professor Cornel West.


SHAW: Those latest poll numbers showing George W. Bush and Al Gore with big leads nationwide among registered voters in their respective parties. Joining us now from Des Moines to talk more about the Democratic match-up between Al Gore and Bill Bradley: Gore supporter, James Carville, and Bradley supporter and Harvard professor, Cornel West. James Carville, how do you assess your man's position right now before the caucuses Monday?

JAMES CARVILLE, GORE SUPPORTER: I think he's going to do just fine. I mean, I don't want to get into -- I am trying to effect the outcome of the caucuses, not so much predict them. But I feel very good. I mean, I feel on the ground we got a good deal of momentum going here and I think there's a lot of spirit in the campaign. And I think we're going to have a good showing.

I think Senator Bradley has run a good campaign. We have two good candidates. I just happen to think Al Gore is the better candidate and I think he's going to do just fine come Monday night in the Iowa caucuses.

SHAW: Professor West, how do you assess your man's position right now?

PROFESSOR CORNEL WEST, BRADLEY SUPPORTER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, Bernie, we're fighting with dignity and determination. We are forging an insurgent candidacy against an establishment candidate, and Gore, of course, has the establishment here in Iowa, and we continue to fight with smiles on our faces because we're going all the way.

SHAW: Is Senator Bradley making any progress, appreciably, at this late stage of the game in Iowa?

WEST: Oh, sure. I mean, he continues to tell the truth not just in relation to universal health care and eliminating child poverty and campaign finance reform, but especially in the debate yesterday it was fairly clear that when it comes to dealing with issues of race, he not only feels it deeply, but he's willing to fight and follow through executive order, banning racial profiling, that's serious business. The Clinton administration has had 7 1/2 years yet to do it.

When he asked Gore directly what you will do, Gore invokes Clinton. We say, no, we want know what Gore will do. You cannot inherit uncritically the support of black people for the Clinton administration. We want to know what Gore will do. Bradley presents such a stronger alternative in relation to racism.

CARVILLE: You know, Bernie, I was very proud yesterday that our party had a debate about this in Iowa. We have two candidates, let's face it, that have pristine records on race relations. And at the time that we're this debate and talking about how to make a more tolerant and better America of equal opportunity, the Republican Party has collective lock jaw about the Confederate flag flying over top the South Carolina capital. And so, I think there's a real difference between the two parties here.

Our party -- what our two candidates, who I think -- and I say this about Senator Bradley and Vice President Gore, they both have superb records when it comes to tolerance, when it comes to bringing people together. And you contrast to what's going on in the Republican Party and how in their policies and their programs and how they tried to cut school lunches and all the things they tried to do, I was very proud to be a Democrat yesterday, I can tell you.

SHAW: Cornel West?

WEST: He's very right about the opposition to the Republicans, but I think that Bill Bradley is much better than Al Gore in this sense, and I think this is very...

SHAW: Professor West... CARVILLE: I think they're equally -- I think they have equally pristine records when it comes to....


SHAW: OK. Let's...

WEST: They both are good, but Bill Bradley is so much stronger on the ground, I think...

SHAW: Let's move the conversation to New Hampshire. Professor West, are you more confident about New Hampshire than you are Iowa?

WEST: Well, I mean, I am confident in both places in terms of us waging an opposition candidacy here against the establishment. You look historically at Kennedy and others, if they were able to obtain 30 percent that was a kind of victory. In New Hampshire, it's a different context. There is a caucus in Iowa, there is a primary in New Hampshire. I think we're going to do relatively well in both, but we're looking not just at these two moments. We're on our way to the White House, though, Bernie.

SHAW: You say you're looking relatively well in both states. Are you going to win in New Hampshire?

WEST: I think we have got a very good chance of winning in New Hampshire and we have got a very good chance of fighting with dignity here in Iowa as an insurgent candidacy.

SHAW: James Carville?

CARVILLE: To tell you the truth, in politics I've learned the only thing I pick is my nose...


WEST: That's disgusting.

CARVILLE: And so, I am not going to try to pick the winner. I do think that we're going to do very well in Iowa. I think we're going to have some momentum going into New Hampshire. I have worked here for two days. I have been to I don't know how many cities and done how many interviews. I feel real good and I think that the vice president has made a very, very compelling case for himself, but I think we have got two good candidates, and we'll have to go to New Hampshire and see what happens.

But I think -- I was in New Hampshire on Friday and I detect that there's some momentum and some emotion there in the vice president's favor. I am very proud of the way the vice president has come back. I think he's shown a lot of tenacity and I think Senator Bradley has shown himself to be a good candidate. We're in pretty good shape here.

WEST: But even beyond New Hampshire, though, New York, California and the South. I think that what -- one of the major secrets of this election will be the way in which the black community begins to look closely at Bill Bradley and does not uncritically follow Gore because of the connection with the Clinton administration, but actually it judges in such a way that they see that Bill Bradley is a better alternative. And the black community is going to be pivotal in this.

CARVILLE: In all candor, I think the black community looks at the record of this Clinton administration and they see a pretty dog- gone good record when it comes to that issue.

WEST: Compared to Republicans, yes, but compared to...


SHAW: Professor West and James Carville...

WEST: We shall see.



SHAW: Thanks for joining us.

CARVILLE: Thank you for having us, Bernie.

SHAW: Quite welcome.

Next on INSIDE POLITICS, a Democratic debate follow-up.


BRADLEY: I want you to walk down that hallway, walk into his office and say, sign this executive order today.



SHAW: Bill Bradley is challenging Al Gore to press the president to outlaw racial profiling. We'll tell you how that controversial police tactic has played out on the highways of Bradley's home state.


WOODRUFF: We focus now on the law-enforcement tactic known as racial profiling, which has been a source of political and legal controversy for some time. Well, now the issue has become part of the Democratic presidential debate, and it got particular attention during a candidate forum in Iowa last night.


BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We all know what "driving while black" is. WOODRUFF (voice-over): Bill Bradley's home state of New Jersey has been ground zero for the racial-profiling debate. New Jersey has acknowledged evidence that some of its troopers were systematically singling out black and Hispanic drivers, and pulling them over because of their skin color. Under pressure from the U.S. Justice Department, last month New Jersey became the first state to allow a federal monitor to begin reviewing traffic stops by its troopers.

BRADLEY: I urged the governor to open up and let people see what the statistics said. She denied and resisted, and then the Justice Department got involved, and only when the Justice Department gets involved in these situations do you actually get at the facts.

WOODRUFF: The federal inquiry intensified after troopers shot three unarmed minority men at an April 1998 traffic stop.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also must stop the morally indefensible, deeply corrosive practice of racial profiling.

WOODRUFF: Last summer, President Clinton instructed federal law- enforcement agencies to collect data on their practices with relation to race, ethnicity and gender.

The process is underway, but Bradley says it doesn't go far enough.

BRADLEY: If I were president of the United States, I would put an executive order in immediately that would end racial profiling in the federal government. I would work to get local police departments to keep data to be able to demonstrate that there was racial profiling.

WOODRUFF: Not to be outflanked, the vice president says that he would attack racial profiling on day one of his presidency.

ALBERT GORE, VICE PRESIDENT: The first civil-rights bill introduced from the White House of the year 2001 would be a bill outlawing racial profiling.

WOODRUFF: It was the topic of racial profiling that caused sparks to fly in a Democratic debate on racial issues in Iowa.

BRADLEY: But we have a president now. You serve with him. I want you to walk down that hallway, walk into his office, and say, "sign this executive order today."

GORE: I don't think President Bill Clinton needs a lecture from Bill Bradley about how to stand up and fight for African-Americans in this country.

WOODRUFF: Eliminating racial profiling remains near the top of the agenda for civil-rights leaders.

RON DANIELS, CTR. FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: To be black, and brown, or red, or yellow in America today is to automatically be threatening, and that's what we have got to get over.

WOODRUFF: The Justice Department is now investigating discriminatory police practices in at least four other states -- New York, California, Florida, and Michigan. And last week, the department reached an agreement to monitor the Montgomery County, Maryland, police over racial-profiling allegations.


WOODRUFF: One further note on Bill Bradley's record on racial profiling: Newark, New Jersey Mayor Sharp James, who was a Gore supporter, contends that he asked for Bradley's help in ending racial profiling when Bradley was a senator, but he says that Bradley did not follow through.

And there's much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Coming up, Bill Schneider on the issues voters care about. Plus, Jeanne Meserve on the Texas governor's strategy. And the political ads are multiplying in Iowa. We'll ask David Peeler how many and how often. And later, our Patty Davis goes behind the scenes of the Forbes campaign.


SHAW: We will have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.

He calls it the biggest crack down on gun crimes in U.S. history. Today, President Clinton called on Congress to approve $280 million for new steps to combat gun violence. The plan includes 500 more federal agents, and 1,000 more prosecutors to go after those who violate existing laws. It also calls for expanding an existing gun- tracing plan and more.


CLINTON: We will create a ground-breaking national ballistics network that eventually will enable us to trace almost any bullet left at a crime scene anywhere in America to the gun of the criminal who fired it.


SHAW: The president's efforts to further restrict firearms after last year's string of school shootings have stalled in Congress. This new effort is seen as a shift toward priorities embraced by Republicans and groups such as the NRA.

WOODRUFF: So much for those unseasonable, spring-like temperatures much of the United States had been enjoying. Winter weather has arrived and with a vengeance. Snow closed or delayed the opening of schools in North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. And the Northeast is coping with bitter temperatures. Saranak Lake, New York, reported 29 below zero. In Burling, New Hampshire, 28 below. Meanwhile, subfreezing temperatures and gusting winds are making life miserable for firefighters in Newark, New Jersey. They have been battling a huge fire at a candle factory since last night. The blaze is now under control, but the crews are both exhausted and frozen.

SHAW: A U.S. government source says the U.S. and Cuba have discussed the possibility of the two grandmothers of Elian Gonzalez going to Miami to get him. The source says too the U.S. cannot promise Cuba that the 6-year-old's extended family won't subpoena the women once they arrive. A family spokesman says Miami relatives will file a federal petition tomorrow seeking asylum for Elian.

As many parents know, installing child car-safety seats can be frustrating. In fact, most child car seats are put in improperly. Help is on the way. Starting next month, General Motors is setting up clinics at GM dealerships, child-care centers and shopping malls throughout the United States. There you can make sure your child's car seat is secure.

WOODRUFF: And finally, Jesse "The Body" Ventura has done it, so why not "The Nature Boy" Rick Flair? Pro-wrestler Rick Flair, known to his fans as "The Nature Boy," says he hopes to run for governor of North Carolina this year. Flair says that he was inspired by former wrestler Jesse Ventura's election as governor of Minnesota.

And when INSIDE POLITICS returns, which issues are on voters' minds, and which candidates do they help?


SHAW: (AUDIO GAP) ... zeroing in on their primary season contests, but the front-runners certainly haven't lost sight of the general election down the road. Our new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll of registered voters nationwide shows George W. Bush leading Al Gore by 11 points in a possible fall match-up. Gore loss some ground since early this month, when Bush was seven points ahead. Among likely voters, our new survey shows Bush ahead of Gore by 19 points.

Our Bill Schneider has been going over the new poll numbers with an eye toward the issues. He joins us now.

Bill, are there any issues voters care about this year?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There are. We gave people a list of 25 issues -- guns, gays, taxes, trade -- we asked them all. We asked people to tell us how important each issue is when they decide how to vote. Now at the very top of the list: education and the problems of raising children in today's culture. Now according to our poll, most Americans would rather spend money on the public schools rather than pay for school vouchers. And the public favors tougher gun laws, presumably to protect children, including the registration of all handguns.

So these issues help Democrats, right? Wrong. Voters who say education and child raising are their top issues split their votes right down the middle between Al Gore and George W. Bush. SHAW: What other issues do voters care about?

SCHNEIDER: Well, let's take a look. There is health care, Social Security and Medicare. Voters care a lot about them, and those who do vote Democratic. They still want health care reform. Voters also care about taxes and the country's moral standards. Those issues pay off for Republicans. People still want tax reform.

Wait, wait, what about the economy? There it is, finally, the economy. That's the orphan issue. It ranks below the others. It doesn't help either party. You know, we've come a long way since 1992, when a pledge to fix the economy paid off big-time for Bill Clinton. Now the economy's booming, but it doesn't seem to be paying off for Gore. There's gratitude for you.

SHAW: What about the issues the candidates are debating out on the campaign trail, such as gays in the military, campaign finance reform?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Bernie, those are much less important to the voters. Take gay rights, race relations and abortion. They rank near the bottom of the list. The candidates had better be careful about taking positions in the primaries on those issues that can cost them votes in the general election.

And remember the startling moment last month, when John McCain and Bill Bradley signed a pact in New Hampshire to support campaign finance reform? It's still not a big issue. Remember Seattle? Trade is not a big deal to the voters either. Most Americans see international trade as an opportunity for economic growth rather than a threat to the U.S. economy. Sorry, Mr. Buchanan.

SHAW: After hearing you say all that you've said, I have to ask you, are issues driving the vote?

SCHNEIDER: You know, Not really. More Americans say their vote will be determined by who has the best leadership skills and vision, rather than by the issues. In fact, most voters say they're content with the way things are going in the country. They're not angry about anything. You'd think a contented electorate would keep the Democrats in power. But this year, you know, they're so contented, they're thinking, maybe we'll try a new guy -- Bernie.

SHAW: Interesting. Bill Schneider, thank you -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, as the presidential candidates make their final push in Iowa, the GOP front-runner is not among them. George W. Bush's attention is in New Hampshire, thanks to a strong showing there by John McCain.

Our Jeanne Meserve reports.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Less than a week before the Iowa caucuses, Governor Bush is not in Iowa, but in New Hampshire, where he faces a stiff contest with Senator John McCain. Bush is using the tax issue as a bludgeon, saying McCain's plan smacks of Democratic-style class warfare.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The rhetoric is amazingly similar to what I would expect from a Vice President Gore or Senator Bradley.

MESERVE: Bush also singled out McCain's plan to eliminate tax deductions for employee benefits.

BUSH: That's going to hurt working people.

MESERVE: A McCain spokesman responds that Bush is purposely misstating the McCain plan to scare voters. For his part, McCain Tuesday asked Bush to commit to a permanent ban on taxing Internet commerce. Bush says he would extend the current moratorium. Bush believes the tax issue will be a boon in New Hampshire, but national polls indicate the public prefers McCain's approach, a smaller tax cut with a bigger investment in Social Security and Medicare.

BUSH: I do not need a poll or a focus group to tell me what I think is important. If people don't like the tax cut plan, they can find another candidate.

MESERVE: Despite the apparent bravado, Bush is take the McCain threat seriously. Today he launched a new ad in the state, with "Washington politician," a code for John McCain.


BUSH: Washington politicians want to keep your money in Washington, not me. I believe taxes are too high.


MESERVE: Bush may want to talk taxes, but New Hampshire voters are not always on the same wavelength. At one forum, a man approached Bush to ask if he had used drugs, yes or no. Bush says he would not answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just a voter, and I want an answer.

BUSH: You just got my answer.

See you later, buddy.

MESERVE: And security people moved in to escort the questioner out of the governor's presence.


MESERVE: Polls show McCain even or ahead here, but the Bush campaign is fond of pointing out that in 1996, 2/3 of New Hampshire's voters didn't make up their mind about who to vote for until after the Iowa caucuses. And with John McCain taking a pass on campaigning there, they are hopeful that a big Bush win in Iowa will push undecideds here Bush's way -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jeanne, I think I know the answer to this question, but since Bush is doing so well in the polls all over the country, why are they so worried that he might not win in New Hampshire?

MESERVE: Well, they want the momentum. They want to win everywhere. Of course, New Hampshire is only one state, but it's one of the first; it's important. They think it would look very good to put a big "W" next to the George W. Bush name here -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeanne Meserve, in a very cold looks like scene there in New Hampshire.

Thank you, Jeanne.

Well, joining us now, veteran political observer from Des Moines, Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times." We were hoping to have Bob Novak join us, and he may still, but right now, Ron, it's you and me.

We've just -- you've had a chance to look at the Republican campaign there in Iowa. Is George Bush on safe enough ground to be able to leave Iowa at this point and campaign in New Hampshire?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, in the "L.A. Times" poll that we published today, his margin here in Iowa is actually a bit narrower than Al Gore's margin over Bill Bradley. We had Governor Bush leading Steve Forbes 43-25, which may be a little closer than they prefer, but nonetheless, I mean, I think the suspense here on both races really is the margin of victory. The front-runners look to be locking in their leads. Most voters, two thirds or more pretty much, for all of the candidates say they are certain to vote for their choice, and you have the sense of the result being preordained in that sense. But The suspense will be over the margins.

WOODRUFF: Still on the Republican side, Ron, what about the Forbes campaign? Is it still a matter of they've got to do well in Iowa?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think ultimately, they really have to do well in New Hampshire. And whether doing well in Iowa can help them or not remains to be seen. I think he has more barriers in New Hampshire. There's more of a lingering resentment over his '96 barrage of ads.

Ultimately, I think it's very difficult for anyone to finish out of the top two in New Hampshire and exert a real staying of influence on the race. There's not a lot of precedent for that.

You know, Judy, the striking thing is that John McCain needs Steve Forbes and vice versa. The real finding that jumps out, not only from our poll, but from many polls, is that Governor Bush has, by far, the broadest range of support within the Republican Party. He is drawing virtually equally from men and women, from moderates and conservatives. He has appeal everywhere. Right now, Forbes tends to be stronger among conservatives, especially in New Hampshire. McCain tends to be stronger among moderates, especially in New Hampshire. And what they really need is for both of them to cut away at Governor Bush from each side and bring him down to a level where one of them -- certainly McCain seems like a better choice right now in New Hampshire -- has the ability to get past him.

WOODRUFF: All right, Ron, we've talked about the Republicans. Let's look at the Democrats now. Now I understand you had a conversation today with Vice President Gore. What did you learn?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think Vice President Gore clarified his position on some of the issues that came up last night. I mean, you saw in that debate here in Iowa, you know, some people said that the real winner was the Republicans and the Republican general election nominee, because both Gore and Bradley sort of tumbled over each other to embrace a series of liberal priorities.

One of the issues that came up that may have been one of the most controversial was the question of whether drug sentencing laws had to be revised on the grounds that they were unfair to minorities. The vice president talked in general terms about inequities in the system, the need to address disparities. Bill Bradley went quite a bit further, saying that he would seek to roll back mandatory minimum sentences for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders, and also to narrow the current gap in penalties associated with crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

I talked to the vice president about both those issues today. He said that he would not support rolling back the mandatory minimums. And on the issue of the disparity between crack and powder, he would support narrowing the disparity, but by toughening the penalties on powder cocaine.

So I think he was trying to get back a little bit to the center on those issues after -- on a whole series of questions last night: both of them moving again toward the left, which we've seen quite a bit in this primary.

WOODRUFF: What should we look for from Gore and Bradley, Ron, in the days now leading up to the caucuses next Monday?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, Judy, I think the big question for Bill Bradley is the one we have really talked about for months and months and months: Can he broaden his base of support?

In our poll here, he was leading Vice President Gore only among one demographic group: college-educated men. That is the core of his support. Those are the people who like him most. He runs reasonably well among college-educated women.

But among core Democratic groups -- women overall, voters with a high school education or less, union members, families earning less than $40,000 a year -- he is basically getting flattened out here by margins approaching 2 to 1.

Now, in New Hampshire, he does a little bit better, but you see the same disparity between his level of support among these core Democratic groups and more upscale, less partisan, you know, more white-collar college graduates and so forth.

The challenge for Bradley really is even if he wins New Hampshire, he has to be able to demonstrate that he can attract the voters that he's not getting in Iowa, because ultimately there are not enough, I believe, of those upscale voters in the Democratic primary to carry you through, so -- you move, as you move beyond the coast, especially as you get in the Midwest and the South and so forth.

So I think that the real thing I think we'll be looking for in the Iowa result, and even to some extent the New Hampshire result, is what are the dimensions of the support that each of these men are attracting and what does that tell us about their ability to compete in the states down the line.

WOODRUFF: And Ron, it's not because Bradley hasn't been trying to broaden his base of support, is it?

BROWNSTEIN: No. I think obviously -- you know, in some ways, he -- you know, he's offering -- he would argue he's offering a more tangible sweeping agenda. I think that he has problems of style. He comes across as very, you know, academic and so forth. And you see the vice president very, I think, consciously trying to push at this wedge.

When he says the presidency is not an academic exercise, it is not a seminar on theory, I am a fighter, I am a practical fighter for working families, I think what he's trying to do is create some barriers for Bradley: in effect to wall him off in an ivory tower in a way that makes him less attractive to those voters.

So you know, the other thing at work there, Judy, I think also is just basic loyalty to President Clinton. One of the things you see very clearly in the polls is that voters who like President Clinton are much more well-disposed toward Vice President Gore than those who don't, even though virtually all Democrats approve of his job performance.

WOODRUFF: All right, Ron Brownstein, joining us from Des Moines, thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And we'll see you out there tomorrow.

Up next, tuning into political ads: the view from the living room of an Iowa voter.


SHAW: We begin our ad reel segment today with the reappearance of a familiar couple. You may remember the Harry and Louise ads of '93 and 1994, in which the couple discussed the health-care debate at their kitchen table. Now, the Health Insurance Association of America is bringing Harry and Louise back.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Forty-four million Americans without health insurance.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That's huge, an epidemic.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: That only coverage can cure.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We can't leave working families and kids without insurance.


SHAW: The ad promotes the Insurance Association's plan called Insure USA. The group plans to spend $1 million to run the ad, starting tomorrow through January 30th, on the national cable and here in the nation's capital.

The Human Rights Campaign is launching a new ad this week as well. The ad is a response to a recent Republican National Committee ad criticizing Al Gore's position allowing gays to serve openly in the military.


NARRATOR: The Republican presidential candidates are so busy fighting about who can and cannot serve in the military, they may have forgotten the values we actually fight for.


SHAW: The Washington-based gay-rights group is airing this ad in New Hampshire, Iowa and Washington starting today. The group is planning to spend $25,000 to $30,000 over the next week.

WOODRUFF: Well, for Iowa voters, those two ads may get lost in the avalanche of candidate advertising. With just days to go before the caucuses, Iowans may find political ads are just now unavoidable. With more on that subject, David Peeler of Competitive Media Reporting. He joins us from New York.

David, first of all, just how many ads are the voters of Iowa being faced with on a daily basis?

DAVID PEELER, COMPETITIVE MEDIA REPORTING: Well, Judy, if you're a viewer in Iowa today, you're receiving an onslaught of political advertising coming at you ever day. We took a look at last Friday for an example. We saw that 146 ads ran that day. What that equates to 73 minutes of broadcast time dedicated to political ads. That's a tremendous amount of one-category advertising coming at any given viewer.

WOODRUFF: So which candidates are viewers seeing the most of?

PEELER: Well, that's interesting. What we saw on that Friday is that Bill Bradley led with 52 ads, followed by Al Gore with 33, George Bush with 28. You'll recall that George Bush has a little bit of a benefit here in that he doesn't have John McCain running on the ads in Iowa, so he doesn't have to spend as much. Gary Bauer at 17, and Steve Forbes brings up the pack with 15 ads.

WOODRUFF: Well, take us, David, through the day of a typical Iowa viewer. When might he or she see most of these ads?

PEELER: It starts off with your first cup of coffee in the morning. You cannot avoid the ads. You'll see about 34 political ads air in the early morning news programs of that Friday. That's a traditional strong media time period for political candidates. You know, those people tend to be up getting their kids ready to go to school, getting ready to go to work. And that's a prime time to get at likely voters, people that are involved in the work force and the home life, and they tend to be the people who get out to vote. So, that's what you first see.

As you move into the daytime, which are the television soap operas and talk shows, you know, you still see 36 political ads. There's a little different spin here, however, that we saw. The bulk of those ads tended to be Democratic spots: either Al Gore or Bill Bradley. In fact, 20 ads for Bill Bradley of the 52 that we saw him run aired in daytime. So he's after a slightly different voter base, as is Al Gore, but he's after a slightly different voter base than are the GOP hopefuls.

Let's move to the next period of the day, which is what we'll call the "get time when you come home from your workday." That includes the early news, primetime and late news periods. That's when you cannot help, even if you channel surf, you cannot hope to avoid political ads: 57 political ads aired during the evening after people got home from work. So, that's -- you're bombarded. It's hard to get away from it.

You know -- and I swear this is not an editorial comment. It's in the truth is stranger than fiction category. We saw on that particular day Bill Bradley ran the first ad at 6:15 in the morning in the early news. He also ran the last ad of the day, but it happened to run on a program on ABC called "Politically Incorrect."

So again, I won't leave the editorial there, but it's all over the airwaves.

WOODRUFF: Maybe a message there.

All right, David, tell us now what, in the six days left before the caucuses are held in Iowa next Monday night, what can voters and viewers in Iowa expect to see?

PEELER: Well, here's -- if you are a candidate, and you are seeing any move at all in the polls, what you want to do is you want to grab every available broadcast time that may be left in the local markets. That would include a -- probably a very, strong heavy up in your local cable buy. Try to get all the available time that's available in broadcast, as I said. And you want to make sure that no message that your opponent airs is left uncountered.

So, it's interesting to watch the creatives unfold between now and the primary-caucus dates, because I think we will see some different creative messages being used both to attack your opponent and, too, to make sure that you get your voter base out into the caucus.

WOODRUFF: Oh, David, I can't wait to get out there and watch all those ads.

PEELER: Have fun, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, David Peeler.

Well, still ahead, on the road with Steve Forbes. A look at the GOP hopeful's life on the campaign trail.


SHAW: Though he lags in the polls, Republican hopeful Steve Forbes is spending the days before the caucuses reaching out to voters across Iowa. Forbes is counting on his organization come next Monday night.

And, as he moved from town to town on his campaign bus, our Patty Davis was there too.


PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly and Steve Forbes walk in lock step when it comes to abortion. Schlafly is traveling with Forbes on his bus throughout Iowa touting his anti-abortion views.

PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY, EAGLE FORUM PRESIDENT: If I were in Iowa next Monday, I would be voting for Steve Forbes in the caucus next year.

DAVIS: Forbes has spent more days touring Iowa than any other candidate, most of it on board his campaign bus. On Monday, it's Sheldon, a town so small the grain elevator dwarfs Main Street. On Tuesday, Forbes is on the move again, this time in Carol, Iowa.

The towns may be small, but Forbes' audiences are sizable: 200 in Sheldon, 300 in Carol. They like his anti-tax, anti-politician rhetoric.

STEVE FORBES (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This coat is going into the dumpster of history, and if you lobbyists don't like it, then you are going to have to find another line of work. We're in charge again.

DAVIS: But in true politician style, Forbes shakes as many hands as he can, listens to as many voters as he can -- even this man who buttonholes him twice, once inside on global warming.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then have him answer.

DAVIS: Then again outside on disabled rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Am I right or wrong? You follow what I'm saying?

FORBES: I'm incensed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your common sense.

DAVIS: At each campaign stop, aides make the big sell to come to the caucuses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't care if they are family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, whatever -- take responsibility to get five people there.

DAVIS: After grinding out 57 days on the road wooing voter after voter in town after town, Forbes doesn't complain of being tired -- it's just the opposite.

FORBES: And whatever happens politically, it will be one of the finest and best moments of my life.

DAVIS (on camera): Now if it is any indication how he is received in these small towns, Forbes has the potential to do well here on Monday. The real trick, though, will be turning the enthusiasm at the rallies into votes at the caucus.

Patty Davis, CNN live, Carol, Iowa.


SHAW: Thank you, Patty.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow from Des Moines, Des Moines, Iowa, as INSIDE POLITICS goes on the road for two weeks.

WOODRUFF: We'll be in Des Moines, and then later in Manchester to provide you the latest information leading up to the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. And you can go online all the time at CNN's

I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: And I'm Bernard Shaw. "WORLDVIEW" is next.


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