More Roughing in the Democratic Race; Bush Gaining in New Hampshire; President's State of the Union as an Election 2000 EventAired January 27, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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ALBERT GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He has raised another phony issue.
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BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Last night, I decided, well, it's my turn, and I threw a little elbow.
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JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: More roughing in the Democratic race, as Bradley fumbles and Gore scores in our New Hampshire poll.
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GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How would I feel if I lost? You know, I wouldn't like it for a period of time. I'm a competitor.
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BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: It's hardly a waltz for Bush in the lead-off primary state, but he may be getting more competitive as McCain's poll numbers slip.
WOODRUFF: And the president's State of the Union, as an election 2000 event.
ANNOUNCER: From New Hampshire, site of the first-in-the-nation primary, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff, and analysts Jeff Greenfield and Bill Schneider.
SHAW: Thanks for joining us. We begin with evidence that here in New Hampshire, Al Gore may be enjoying an Iowa bounce.
WOODRUFF: Just five days before the primary here, our daily tracking poll shows Gore now is 18 points ahead of Bill Bradley among likely Democratic primary voters in this state. Yesterday, our tracking poll showed Gore's lead was half as big as it appears to be now. The survey was taken over three days, two of them after Monday's Iowa caucuses.
As CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports, the numbers are likely to reinforce Bradley's view that he needs to turn things around, and fast.
BRADLEY: And last night, I decided I've had it, I'm going to call my opponent on what he's been doing, and we did it.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was, said Bradley, a new beginning, a fresh start. With dropping poll numbers, his campaign needs something different, and Wednesday's debate performance was a start. For the first time in Bradley's campaign, there was improvisation. Impromptu events cropped up throughout the day -- a stop at a convenience store and gas station.
BRADLEY: Can I say hello? I'm Bill Bradley.
MESERVE: There was a mad dash through a supermarket to shake hands and put in a brief stint as a bagger.
Receiving the endorsement of some environmentalists, Bradley again accused the Gore campaign of negativism, misrepresentations and distortions.
BRADLEY: Last night was my way of saying enough is enough.
MESERVE: Keeping up the new pace, the campaign pulled into a Timberland factory, and there it was again: the justification for striking out at Al Gore.
BRADLEY: After absorbing months of misleading statements and misrepresentations, last night I decided, well, it's my turn, and I threw a little elbow.
MESERVE: The Bradley campaign insists the candidate is hitting back with the right tone at the right time. It is not, said a spokesman, too late.
ERIC HAUSER, BRADLEY CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, it's five days before the first primary. It's, you know, six weeks before March 7. It's a long campaign.
MESERVE: But some outside the campaign are asking, did Bradley go too far? Did Bradley go far enough?
WOODRUFF: Jeanne, how did the people around Bradley respond to the point the vice president makes, that there is some hypocrisy here, in that on the one hand, Senator Bradley says, I want to run a high- minded campaign, I don't want to engage in attacks, but on the other hand, he clearly is criticizing the vice president? MESERVE: Well, there's real group-think going on in this campaign, and group-think and they're uniformly denying that that is the case. They say they are talking about the vice president's record, ,and that is fair game. They deny that their man has gone negative. You can make your own evaluation as to whether that's true -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Jeanne Meserve, traveling with Bill Bradley.
Well, the vice president makes no bones about the fact that he believes Bill Bradley has gone too far.
CNN's Bruce Morton was on the road with Gore in the Granite State today.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With polls showing his lead widening and Bill Bradley saying he'd take him on, Vice President Gore complained to an audience of workers at a high-tech company here about Bradley's new tactics.
GORE: Now, in the closing days of this contest, he has raised another phony issue: condemning negative attacks while launching negative attacks himself. I don't quite understand how someone can condemn so-called negative attacks while in the next breath launching real negative attacks.
MESERVE: Gore said he would continue to urge Bradley to give up TV ads and do twice-weekly debates instead, and Gore said if he's the nominee, he'll make the same offer to his Republican opponent.
GORE: And I will not take it as a foregone conclusion that the Republican candidates will reject the idea for twice weekly, substantive, face-to-face debates. I think there are some of them over there who might accept that. I have a feeling that John McCain would say yes.
MESERVE: A worker asked Gore what he would change in his seven years with the Clinton administration.
GORE: What would I change? I argued at the time and would now go back to argue for intervention in the tragedy of Bosnia earlier than we did, and speedier action in Rwanda as well, because I think that the capacity of the United States for moral leadership in the world can not be underestimated.
MESERVE: Earlier, on New Hampshire public radio, a caller asked Gore about his relationship with President Clinton. "Friends," Gore said, adding:
GORE: It's not true that I am either distancing myself from him or that I am trying to run as a derivative candidate. So it's a complex relationship.
MESERVE: Gore is running as someone who wants to be given some of the credit for the good economic news of the Clinton years, and that seems to be working. He went back to Washington for the State of the Union Address. He'll be here in New Hampshire campaigning again tomorrow -- Bernie.
SHAW: Thank you, Bruce Morton.
Now let's talk more about Gore versus Bradley and what our new tracking poll numbers say about this Democratic and the Republican contests here in New Hampshire. For that, we turn to CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Bernie, what we have for you in today's New Hampshire tracking poll is a nice, big Iowa bounce. Sound good? It certainly does for Al Gore. An 18- point lead over Bill Bradley, pretty impressive, especially when you look at how close this race was at the beginning of the week. On Sunday, the day before the Iowa caucuses, Gore had a five-point lead over Bradley. That margin has been growing steadily all week -- six points on Tuesday, nine on Wednesday, and today, 18. Looks like an Iowa bounce to me, Bernie.
SHAW: Where has Gore picked up most of this support?
SCHNEIDER: Well, Bernie, among women and among Democrats who didn't go to college, groups that feel economically vulnerable and want someone who will fight for them.
We see an Iowa bounce in the Republican race, too. Only this time, the bounce goes down. Support for George W. Bush in New Hampshire has remained fairly steady all week, but we're seeing a noticeable decline in support for front-runner John McCain, perhaps because of his poor showing in Iowa. His lead over Bush has gain from nine points on Sunday to five points today. McCain's support has dropped the most among independents and college graduates, upscale voters likely to be paying the most attention to the campaign.
SHAW: So what events are reflected in these poll results?
SCHNEIDER: Well, Bernie, the polling here was done Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, so the results mostly show the impact of the news coverage of Iowa Monday night and Tuesday, not the campaign here in New Hampshire. Tomorrow, we'll begin to pick up the impact of last night's debates, and we'll see whether Bradley and McCain can reverse the slide both of them had been in since Iowa.
SHAW: And it will be interesting to see those numbers, too, this time tomorrow.
SCHNEIDER: We'll be here.
SHAW: Bill Schneider, thank you. And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: George W. Bush looking for support here in the Granite State. But can he overcome John McCain's lead? A report from Candy Crowley. Plus, Jeff Greenfield on his conversation with the Texas governor today.
SHAW: With the final New Hampshire debate behind him, George W. Bush headed back to the campaign trail this day. In Nashua this morning, Bush met with supporters and he accepted the endorsement of former Republican vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp. But even as he looked forward to Tuesday's primary, Bush seemed unwilling to let go of last night's exchanges with rival John McCain.
Our Candy Crowley reports.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The questions were a lot more fun the day after.
CROWLEY: At an elementary school in Nashua, George Bush fielded questions about his pets, what he would do as president and whether he'd like to dance.
CROWLEY: The mood was lighter, but last night's exchange with John McCain about who could best debate Al Gore on campaign finance reform weighed on his mind.
CROWLEY: Bush seemed anxious to have a final word.
SHAW: Our apology for that technical glitch -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And I guess we'll try to get at least part of Candy's piece together a little bit later.
SHAW: Awfully hard. We'll try.
WOODRUFF: All right.
CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield joins us now. Jeff, you spent some time with Governor Bush. What did you learn?
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Well, apart from a not surprising fact that he's -- the first thing he said was, "I am tired, this is a grind." The first thing is I think that they are prepared to lose the New Hampshire primary. They don't want to, but what the governor said was, "Look, I have been on a presidential race -- he meant with his father -- I have a sense of pace and perspective, I have a long range look at this, we're going to endure." But he did say, "You know, John McCain is a viable candidate. I don't know when this is going to end, it may go on for weeks more, but, you know, that's OK."
The other thing he said about last night's debate was that he felt he missed an opportunity, he did not use the line he had used before when McCain attacked Republicans on campaign financing and attacked the corrupt system. He was going to say, "Are you saying all the senators who voted against you, John, are corrupt?" That he felt that he missed that.
The other thing that I think was the most interesting, though, is where he's going. That is, he is not changing the basic message of his campaign, which is aimed at November to shore up Republican support in the New Hampshire primary.
WOODRUFF: How do we know, Jeff, that what he's saying about New Hampshire is not just justification? I mean, they're looking at the polls. They're worried they may lose and so they're sort of building a rationale around that.
GREENFIELD: Well, because I think unlike, say, John McCain who has said, "If I lose New Hampshire, my campaign is really in trouble," the Bush people have unprecedented resources. They have the support of virtually the entire Republican establishment and I think -- look, clearly no candidate says something that isn't in his interests. It's just that they're saying, "Look, if we lose New Hampshire, it's a bump. We'd rather not have that happen. We don't want to lose it."
But you know, I am -- the best thing I think we know that is the message he's getting out, he keeps talking about the need to include everybody, he talks about tax relief for middle-income people, he talks about the need to educate Hispanic and black inner-city kids. That's not a traditional Republican message and he's sticking to it, that's one indication.
WOODRUFF: And after New Hampshire, no matter what happens here, what are they focusing on, South Carolina?
GREENFIELD: Well, I think the most interesting question and this is one that I think the Bush campaign has yet to answer is, OK, what happens if in the wake of New Hampshire everything gets shaken up? There's a prairie fire and John McCain does begin to catch on in states like South Carolina and Michigan, which precede California and New York? I don't think they have come to that yet. I think they hope that New Hampshire will be one glitch in the road to the nomination. They're certainly not talking about changing everything if they lose it.
WOODRUFF: And again, the governor's demeanor today? You said he was tired, but you said his humor was intact?
GREENFIELD: His humor was intact. He danced with that kid, which may be a photo op, but most important he's back holding press conferences. He held a full-scale press availability. Jack Kemp endorsed him today.
And at the press conference when I said to him, you know, when you keep attacking Washington, the Republicans are in charge of spending in Congress, and he said, "Yes, I am talking about both parties." Sort of another indication that he's talking beyond the Republican base. So, you know, I certainly don't think he's panicking, it's nothing like that. I am sure that if you gave him a choice he would rather win than lose, but I hardly think that's a breath-taking exclusive.
WOODRUFF: All right. Jeff Greenfield, who has been on the trail with George W. Bush. Thanks, Jeff -- Bernie.
SHAW: Thank you.
And as we heard Jeff allude, Texas Governor Bush today got an endorsement and he had some reflections on last night. Once again, we bring you CNN's Candy Crowley with a report on the governor's day.
CROWLEY (voice-over): The questions were a lot more fun the day after.
BUSH: You still want to dance? You want to dance in front of everybody? There's no music.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll dance with you.
CROWLEY: At an elementary school in Nashua, George Bush fielded questions about his pets, what he would do as president and whether he'd like to dance.
BUSH: The mood was lighter, but last night's exchange with John McCain about who could best debate Al Gore on campaign finance reform weighed on his mind.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: George, when you are in that debate, you're going to stand there and you will have nothing to say, because you're defending the system.
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CROWLEY: Bush seemed anxious to have a final word.
BUSH: So I think when the Republicans go into the booths in New Hampshire and around the country, it is important to nominate somebody who will be able to debate the Democrat nominee on key issues, not mimic them. CROWLEY: Polls show the gap is closing, but Bush still runs behind McCain in New Hampshire. As the clock runs down, Bush has called the Republican's favorite quarterback to play a little defense.
JACK KEMP (R), FMR. VICE PRES. NOMINEE: Senator McCain, for whom I have high regard, is obsessed with debt reduction and seems to be defending, in my opinion -- I say this with all due respect to a great American hero -- he is defending the Clinton tax code, and that is indefensible.
CROWLEY: As late as early December, a loss for Bush in New Hampshire seemed improbable. It's now quite possible.
BUSH: How would I feel if I lost? You know, I wouldn't like it for a period of time. I'm a competitor. You know, I'm working hard. But I understand sometimes you just don't get what you want in life. I don't intend on losing, but sometimes you do.
CROWLEY: A gracious response, made possible perhaps by the knowledge that things look a lot better after Tuesday. Bush knows this much is true: he holds a huge advantage in the overwhelming majority of states that come after this one. The sense of inevitability may have faded a bit in competitive New Hampshire, but it's not gone.
BUSH: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush...
BUSH: That's enough.
CROWLEY: If Bush should win here in this state, he will have gone a long way toward restoring that air of inevitability, and should he lose he would not be the first candidate happy to get out of New Hampshire -- Bernie.
SHAW: Thank you, Candy Crowley.
And INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
SHAW: There is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: When we continue here in Manchester, John McCain takes aim but not at his Republican rivals. A look at his latest attack on President Clinton.
SHAW: How do New Hampshire Democrats feel about the commander in chief? Our Bill Schneider looks at that and how it affects Al Gore.
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JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's final State of the Union address comes at a critical moment in the campaign to succeed him.
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WOODRUFF: Our John King on the president's words and their affect on Al Gore's bid for the White House.
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RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those lights along the Potomac are still seen this night, signalling as they have for nearly two centuries, and as pray God, they always will, that another generation of Americans that it is protected and passed on lovingly this place called America, this shining city on a hill, this government of, by, and for the people.
Thank you and God bless you.
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WOODRUFF: That was Ronald Reagan in 1988, the final State of the Union address by the last president to serve two terms.
Tonight President Clinton will walk into the House chamber and give what is most likely his final State of the Union. This time, his economic and legislative proposals will affect more than his agenda or his legacy. It may also affect the future plans of his vice president.
Our John King reports.
JOHN KING, CN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's final State of the Union address comes at a critical moment in the campaign to succeed him. Tonight's speech will reflect the new politics of prosperity, and Mr. Clinton's agenda is full of proposals to shape the election year debate over how to spend the federal surplus.
The president wants the Republican Congress to embrace spending $110 billion to expand access to health care for poor children and their parents; $1 billion in new spending on after-school programs; another billion more for the Head Start program and $350 billion in tax cuts over 10 years, targeted to education and retirement savings, and to reduce the so-called marriage penalty. The president will also call on Congress to pass what he considers the unfinished business of last year: an HMO patients' bill of rights, a prescription drug benefit for those on Medicare, an increase in the minimum wage, and new gun controls.
LEON PANETTA, FORMER W.H. CHIEF OF STAFF: He will go pounding back at those same issues in the hope that maybe something at some point something is going to break.
KING: Republicans say, Mr. Clinton is trying to spend his way to a more favorable legacy, and election-year pressures will make major achievements hard to come by. But the president will try to strike a note of bipartisanship, offering his hand to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, saluting his cooperation on new aid to areas the booming economy has passed by.
CHARLES JOHNS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: If there is to be production this year, it seems to me that the relationship between Speaker Hastert and the president, that relationship is critical.
KING: The vice president will be off the campaign trail for the night and standing once again in Mr. Clinton's shadow, hoping the president's bragging about the robust economy will benefit him.
The president will give Gore credit for the new health care proposals and for pushing to bring the Internet and other new technologies to inner cities and rural schools.
KING: But the president and vice president will immediately go their separate ways again on Friday morning, Mr. Clinton off to the Midwest to try to sell his final year agenda, Mr. Gore immediately back to the campaign trail in New Hampshire, hoping to share in any bounce the boss gets from his nationally televised address -- Bernie, Judy.
SHAW: Thank you, John King, please stand by.
While President Clinton readied for his address tonight, our Bill Schneider has been checking the poll numbers to find out how Mr. Clinton is viewed by members of his party, especially here in the Granite State.
Bill, is Al Gore likely to get much of a boost from New Hampshire Democrats from President Clinton's State of the Union address?
SCHNEIDER: Well, Bernie, there is a problem. Like other Democrats around the country, Democrats here in New Hampshire believe President Clinton is doing a good job. The economy here is really booming. But they're not like other Democrats in one respect: Most Democrats nationwide have a favorable personal opinion of President Clinton. Not here. Opinion runs 2-1 negative, and remember, that's among Democrats in New Hampshire. Now that's why Al Gore was having a problem here in New Hampshire before this week. Until he won the Iowa caucuses on Monday, he was Clinton's man. The vice president has to hope New Hampshire Democrats pay more attention to the president's public policy, particularly on the economy, than his private behavior. SHAW: But why are New Hampshire Democrats so negative to Clinton?
SCHNEIDER: Well, here's one reason: They're almost all white. Let's see how white Democrats nationally feel about President Clinton. Well, that certainly makes a difference. White Democrats nationally have a negative opinion of Clinton, but still not quite as negative as New Hampshire Democrats.
SHAW: Is there something else going on here though?
SCHNEIDER: Well, there is. Yes there is, something very striking. This is a high-class Democratic Party they've got here in New Hampshire. Check it out -- only 24 percent of white Democrats nationwide are college graduates. Among New Hampshire Democrats, the figure is more than twice as high -- 52 percent. New Hampshire Democrats are also much wealthier and more liberal than other Democrats. White, well-educated, high-income liberal -- that's not exactly a populist constituency. They're the kind of Democrats who like a high-minded, idealistic candidate, like Bill Bradley.
In his State of the Union speech tonight, Clinton needs to rally New Hampshire Democrats for Gore, which means the president is going to have to sound pretty high-minded.
SHAW: Do you think there's still some anti-Southern sentiment up here in the Granite State?
SCHNEIDER: You know, I'm a Virginia boy, and I've been treated pretty well here. But yes, you know, there is something to that. Among white Democrats around the country, we find that Southerners have the highest opinion of Clinton, their fellow Southerner. And where do Democrats have the lowest opinion of Clinton? Why, here in the Northeast, of course. Damn Yankees. Remember, Clinton did not win the New Hampshire primary in 1992, and Gore has had to struggle here.
Gore can hardly wait for this campaign to go south in March. That's friendly territory. Southern Democrats, black and white, are overwhelmingly favorable to Clinton. And there, it pays for Gore to be Clinton's man -- Bernie.
SHAW: Bill Schneider, please stay where you are, and let's bring back John King at the White House.
John, time is running out for this 42nd president. How does Bill Clinton exploit, how does he drive this program to benefit Al Gore?
KING: Well, even most Republicans would acknowledge the fact the president remains the premiere politician here in Washington. He has been able to dominate the debate. Remember, the State of the Union address a year ago came in the middle of the impeachment debate, yet the president got a great bounce in public opinion. They believe by stressing policy proposals, he can help the vice president, and the challenge then becomes Al Gore, as much as Bill Schneider was outlining. He wants to associate himself with the president's policies, not the president's personal character. He wants to tell the people of New Hampshire, remember the George Bush administration? You were struggling. Remember the Clinton-Gore administration? You are booming. He wants to make this about the economy and about the policy, not about personal character.
SCHNEIDER: Well, that's right, the record, the record, the record, particularly the economic record, which is what Gore is obviously going to run on, and also the unfinished agenda he's wants to talk about. He's going to lay out a bold, ambitious agenda, exactly the sort of thing Bill Bradley wants to talk about, when he says the Democrats have lost their ambition. Tonight, the president's going to say, no we haven't, I have a big agenda, and it may take five more years to fulfill that agenda.
SHAW: But what about this, Bill and John -- in this election year, the Republicans, we know, are not give to give Clinton carte Blanche, but they have to give him something, and vice versa, because both parties have got to go to the electorate and say, this is what we did.
SCHNEIDER: Well, I think the Republicans are going to, essentially, argue that voters want a change, and they want a change of leadership, and that Al Gore is too closely tied to Clinton. They're going to talk not about the Clinton record on the economy, but the Clinton scandals, not necessarily the Lewinsky scandal, which a lot of Republicans like to forget; they're going to talk about the fund-raising scandal, the worst fund-raising scandal since Watergate -- the Lincoln Bedroom, the White House coffees. They're going to draw a lot of attention to that, and particularly the Buddhist temple, where Al Gore showed up.
KING: But a very delicate balance for the president as well. He wants to build his own legacy, wants to build a legacy based more on achievement, less on impeachment, but he needs to strike compromises with the Republicans. And as you noted, Bernie, the Republicans trying to protect their narrow Congressional majority; they want to get some things done.
We're told tonight the president will draw very hard Democratic lines on issues like raising the minimum wage, and the Patients' Bill of Rights, will make clear he will not accept a patients' bill of rights that does not include the right to sue. That benefits the vice president and the Democrats, because they believe that is the popular position. The question will be, a few months down the road, if the president is looking for achievements, will he strike any compromises that perhaps hurt the other Democrats in the campaign?
SHAW: John, last question. I'll ask it first of you so you can get inside and warm up. The symbolism of President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore -- we're going to see Gore just over the president's left shoulder tonight as he delivers his State of the Union Address. But is there not a downside to this for Gore? KING: Mr. Gore months ago thought so. As he gets closer to the New Hampshire primary. You heard him in the debate last night defend the president. Mr. Gore has now decided that at least on the policy and especially on economic and health care policy, he needs to and wants to associate himself with this president. Watch when the president points to his special guests up in the balcony tonight. One of them will be a man from Tennessee who needs prescription drug benefits. No surprise that someone from Tennessee brought in to help the president illustrate a critical political point to the Democrats: He's very much trying to help the vice president.
SCHNEIDER: And, Bernie, we heard the other day, Tony Blankley, our own political analyst, say that when he worked for Newt Gingrich, Newt Gingrich was coached by professionals about how to look and how to respond silently while he sat behind the president delivering the State of the Union Speech as speaker of the House. Well believe me, Gore is going to put in a performance tonight, and it's going to be a great accomplishment in silent movie acting, probably the greatest since Gloria Swanson.
SHAW: Bill Schneider, John King, at the White House, thanks very much.
And when we come back: One supports the governor from Texas. The other supports the senator from Arizona. It should be interesting.
WOODRUFF: Here in New Hampshire today, Steve Forbes stepped up his attacks on Gov. George W. Bush's record. Echoing his remarks in the GOP presidential debate last night, Forbes charged that Bush's tax cuts in Texas did not help most people in that state. Alan Keyes continued to stress one of his main campaign issues, abortion. Keyes visited an elementary school, after making a fiery antiabortion speech to the New Hampshire legislature.
Rather than emphasizing abortion, Gary Bauer pushed gun owners' rights, and said he is astonished that his rivals have not done the same. Bauer said if elected president, he will appoint judges, only those who support gun rights.
And now to the man who is by most accounts the Republican to beat here in New Hampshire. John McCain's lead in our tracking poll may have diminished, as we told you earlier, but the senator says he is still thrilled that he has a lead at all.
CNN's Jonathan Karl has been traveling with McCain.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain wants New Hampshire Republicans to know he's a true conservative.
MCCAIN: Look, my friends, I can beat Al Gore like a drum!
KARL: As George W. Bush paints John McCain as a moderate who mimics Al Gore, McCain is turning up the anti-Clinton/Gore rhetoric.
MCCAIN: I just had a random thought: Maybe we can send Gore back to that Buddhist monastery.
KARL: That was a pumped-up McCain celebrating his performance in Wednesday night's debate. Out on his relentless tour of New Hampshire, this was town hall meeting number 106. It's more of the same.
MCCAIN: My friends, in 1996, the president of the United States took the Lincoln Bedroom, treated like it Motel 6 and he was the bell- hop.
KARL: In fact, McCain insists he can take on Gore on that issue in a way his main opponent cannot.
MCCAIN: Governor Bush can't do that. He stands mute because he will not support campaign finance reform, so it's much more difficult for him to attack President Clinton and Vice President Gore.
KARL: With less than a week until judgment day, McCain knows he needs support from more than independents and moderates to win. He needs the conservative base of the Republican Party as well.
MCCAIN: I am a proud conservative Republican. I have a 17-year record of conservatism.
KARL: His aides believe McCain turned in his best debate performance on Thursday, but the candidate acknowledges a tough moment during the debate when Alan Keyes criticized McCain's response to a hypothetical question about what he would do if his 15-year-old daughter wanted an abortion.
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ALAN KEYES (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If your daughter came to you and said she was contemplating killing her grandmother for the inheritance, you wouldn't say, let's have a family conference.
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KARL: McCain acknowledges Keyes' question left him struggling to keep his cool. After the debate, he told CNN he was saying to himself "stay calm, stay calm," as Keyes spoke.
KARL: McCain will hit the airwaves with a new ad tomorrow, telling the people of New Hampshire to "send a powerful message to America by giving him a victory on Tuesday." McCain knows he needs a rocket of a boost coming out of New Hampshire for his campaign to catch on in the rest of the country -- Bernie.
SHAW: Jonathan, looks like the wind is about to boost you. Jonathan Karl, thanks very much.
Now, let's talk more about the Republican race with John McCain adviser and former United States congressman Vin Weber. Also joining us, Bush adviser and former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed. They join us from Washington. First, beginning with you, Vin Weber. What's the key? What's the key to winning this state, New Hampshire?
VIN WEBER, MCCAIN ADVISER: I think the key to winning this state is going to be increasingly seen as the key to winning America and that is being able to appeal beyond party to a broad range of independent voters.
We're seeing in New Hampshire really one of the first states in the country where independent voters outnumber either Republicans or Democrats, but that is a trend that is taking place across the country. And a nominee that is reduced to a narrow partisan base is not going to be able to get elected president. That's key in New Hampshire, that's the key to getting elected nationwide.
SHAW: And, Ralph Reed, your assessment to the key that unlocks the door of victory here next Tuesday night?
RALPH REED, BUSH ADVISER: Well, obviously you want as broad a support as possible. But the fact is, Bernie, historically, the person who wins New Hampshire on primary day is the one who wins Republican votes and the one who wins conservative votes, and today that candidate is George W. Bush and I think he'll be so on Tuesday as well.
I mean, look, if you look at who won the last two contested Republican primaries, Pat Buchanan in 1996, and George -- President George -- then-Vice President Bush in 1988. In each case, they won a plurality of the conservative vote and they won a plurality of the Republican vote, and today that's George W. Bush.
Now I think that John McCain is making this an awfully tight and awfully tough and competitive race. Clearly we're the underdog, but the way you win the New Hampshire primary is by attracting the conservative and Republican votes.
I think George W. Bush by proposing his bold tax plan is doing so and John McCain's tax cut is smaller than the one that Bill Clinton will propose tonight in his State of the Union, and I think that's going to hurt him next Tuesday.
WEBER: I don't think that's the case, by the way.
REED: No, it is. It is.
WEBER: But we'll wait to see, because I tried to check that out. I think it's not the case depending how many years you extend it out. But let's wait to see what Clinton says tonight. Look, the fact is on taxes, though, we got two Republican candidates, both of whom have proposed serious tax cuts. We have a different mix in ours.
We want more debt paid down and more money reserved to preserve Social Security. The governor wants less to do that, more for an immediate tax cut. But essentially, we have two Republican tax- cutting plans in front of the voters. We ought to feel good about that.
REED: Well, Vin, I would just disagree with you. I think the fact of the matter is that if you look at John McCain's tax cut, number one, he's criticized George Bush in the same language that Bill Clinton and Al Gore have.
He's said that his tax cut would help the wealthiest Americans, when, in fact, the opposite is true. It lowers the toll booth to the middle class. Secondly, John McCain's tax cut would -- it contains a $9 dollar tax hike on charities, churches, synagogues and faith-based ministries.
WEBER: Ralph Reed, are you going to tell me that you prefer George Bush's fix to the marriage tax penalty, which penalizes stay- at-home moms?
REED: I prefer George Bush's tax plan, absolutely.
WEBER: But how about the marriage penalty?
REED: Yes, absolutely.
WEBER: You prefer to penalize stay-at-home moms.
REED: Well, he gets at it with the AITC.
WEBER: No, not really.
REED: Yes. Yes, sir.
SHAW: Jeff Greenfield has a question for you.
GREENFIELD: Sorry to butt in fellows, but I do have a question for both of you, beginning with Ralph Reed.
Ralph, you helped build the Christian Coalition into what once was a pretty formidable group, and I'm wondering how you -- and then I would like Congressman Weber to react -- how you react when you hear questions beginning to dominate the discussion like, what would you do if your daughter were raped? What would do you if a daughter's friend was pregnant? How can you listen to this kind of music? How can you jump into a mosh pit? Is this the kind of dialogue that belongs in a presidential campaign?
REED: Well, look, what I try to advise candidates, Jeff, when they're asked those kind of questions and Governor Bush has been asked those kinds of questions as well, is say, listen, the issue is not my daughter or my son or my wife or my niece or nephew. The issue is where do I stand on the issue, and then articulate your position.
I think to the extent that John McCain's run into some choppy water in abortion, it wasn't the question about his daughter, it was him saying he was going to change the pro-life plank on the Republican Party platform and when he gave an interview last August to "The San Francisco Chronicle" and said that he hoped we didn't overturn Roe v. Wade. I think those caused problems. I don't really take issue with the personal questions and I really don't think that we ought to focus on those kind of personal questions personally.
WEBER: Jeff, I think that they're not helpful questions. I think that any time you -- you're out there with the -- at CNN with the guy who's the expert on these issues, which is Bernie Shaw, whose question to Michael Dukakis in 1988 about the fictional rape of his wife was sort of the first of these things. I don't think they are helpful. I think that they emotionalize the issue in a way that makes it harder to find out what the candidate's public policy position is.
Specifically, let me say, on abortion, it's a really tricky thing and almost a trick question, because Roe v. Wade specifically prohibits a parent from preventing a minor child from having an abortion. That's one of the problems with Roe v. Wade. So you ask somebody, a parent whether it's Dan Quayle in the past or John McCain now, what would you do if your daughter wanted to have an abortion? What are they going to say? They're going to say, I'd commit a federal crime by stopping them from having an abortion? It's a trick question. The problem is that Roe v. Wade comes -- brings the judiciary in between a parent and a minor child on this very important issue.
SHAW: OK. Gentlemen, we thank you very much for joining us, Jeff Greenfield, also Ralph Reed and former Congressman Vin Weber. And by the way, that's one mantle of alleged expertise I cannot accept, but thank you.
WEBER: Sorry, Bernie.
SHAW: It's all right.
Coming up here on INSIDE POLITICS, Mike McCurry and Tony Blankley on the State of the Union, the Republican response, and the presidential race.
INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: Joining us now from Washington, former White House press secretary Mike McCurry and former Gingrich press secretary Tony Blankley.
Gentlemen, let's turn to the State of the Union. Mike McCurry, how important is this address, first of all, for the president?
MIKE MCCURY, FORMER CLINTON SPOKESMAN: Well, look, every single State of the Union address that this president has given is very important. It is a road map for the work that the president wants to do in the year ahead. I think ever since 1995, President Clinton has been very effective in sort of sketching out his whole year by first sort of giving the rhetorical case in the State of the Union, then presenting his priorities as they are contained in the budget.
Now a lot of people would be inclined to sort of say this is a nostalgic moment because it's the president's last State of the Union in person in Congress. I don't think so. I think there is some work that Congress and the president may do this year to actually move the agenda forward.
I don't think any incumbent in the House of Representatives is going to want to go empty-handed to the voters in the fall, and there may be a reason why Republicans in the Congress come together with this Democratic president to try to do some real work this year.
I think you are going to hear about education, you are going to hear about prescription drugs, all the things the president has sort of effectively outlined in this whole month. The president, in fact, has been giving this speech now for over a month, giving his details.
WOODRUFF: Much of it has been coming out, that is right.
MCCURRY: That's really right. But I think the hard case for him to make tonight is he's going to call for a new 21st century American revolution. This is a country that's prosperous, at peace, largely happy, largely satisfied with its circumstances. It is not a moment in which you can kind of make a clarion call for revolution, but probably, if anyone can do it effectively, Bill Clinton might be able to.
WOODRUFF: Tony Blankley, are Republican -- I mean, you now know enough about what the president is going to say, are Republicans going to be able to find points that they can agree with and that they can go forth and work with the president on after tonight?
TONY BLANKLEY, FORMER GINGRICH SPOKESMAN: They're going to try. I think they're going to take two issues particularly, education and health. They are going to try to neutralize health as an issue with some agreement in principle with Clinton, and then they are going to try to take the education issue, actually, away from Clinton and the Democrats this year.
You know one thing about Clinton's State of the Unions in the last few years, he has through these speeches dominated the legislative of agenda of the Congress, but it's been in a negative way. When he said: Save Social Security first, he stopped a lot of other legislation from moving, but he hasn't been able to move his own legislation too effectively so far.
So if he can do it this year, it will be the first time in a couple of years that he has actually been able to move legislation, but he has set the frame by which politics in Congress has been debated over the last few years.
WOODRUFF: Tony, I'm sorry, the producer was talking to me at that moment. I didn't realize you had stopped talking. Sorry, but that sometimes happens in television.
MCCAIN: We'll be glad to fill in any dead airspace you need us to.
WOODRUFF: Sorry about that.
Mike McCurry, let's talk about the presidential campaign, the debate last night. Clearly, high in the what's on the president's mind tonight must be his vice president. We pointed out he's sitting right behind him tonight. To what extent, how much more maybe I should say can the president help Al Gore than he's already been trying to do tonight?
MCCURRY: I think he's been doing a very effective job of defining the environment in which the candidates on the Democratic Party side have to communicate. Bill Clinton is still, as you've been hearing throughout this program, still largely very popular with Democrats and people who appreciate his program irrespective of what they think of him personally. They still appreciate the program, his job performance, and particularly in New Hampshire, the strength of the economy there. That is a good environment for the president to nurture, and it helps the vice president.
There will be a wonderful delicious moment at beginning of the speech because of course, the vice president, constitutionally, is the president of the Senate. So Bill Clinton gets to refer to Al Gore as Mr. President. That will be a nice moment.
But I also think that, in the larger sense, the vice president has been struggling so hard to stay out of Bill Clinton's shadow it is kind of uncomfortable to be stuck up there having to watch this incredibly effective politician when it comes to communication lay out an agenda. What the vice president has to do is quickly associate himself with that agenda on the campaign trail.
WOODRUFF: Let me quickly turn to the debates last night. Tony Blankley, from a Republican perspective, how did the vice president come out of the debate, the Democratic debate?
BLANKLEY: He didn't do well, but he didn't have to do well. Bradley had to take him apart and he didn't. Now, when you and I talked a couple of nights ago, I was saying, the thing to look for coming out of Iowa was the debate and whether Bradley was able to shift his attack mode more effectively. He tried to this time when he called Vice President Gore a liar, et cetera, but then couldn't follow up because Gore, in fact, made some statements that Bradley could have jumped on, regarding soft money that he hadn't raised, when in fact he had. But apparently, Bradley either wasn't disposed or hadn't been prepped sufficiently to be able to take advantage of it.
So I think, although Gore did only an average job, it was sufficient for him for New Hampshire purposes.
WOODRUFF: Mike McCurry, what about from where you sit?
MCCURRY: I agree with that. I think Bill Bradley is stuck in a very uncomfortable place. It is very hard to run a high-minded campaign on the low road. And it is very hard to kind of go negative and to keep calling personal attention to shortcomings in the vice president or in his performance in office. I think it is just a tough position to be in.
These two candidates are much better, frankly, for the party and for our chances as a Democratic Party in November when they stay focused on the things that have defined their real debates so far, their differences on health care, some of their differences on education, the way in which they would use forthcoming federal budget surpluses. That's a debate that's got texture and it's a real debate.
WOODRUFF: All right. we know that's a point that Mike McCurry has made before and it is one that we need to keep in mind. Mike McCurry, Tony Blankley, thank you, both. And we'll see you again, very soon. Thanks.
SHAW: Many, many soons.
WOODRUFF: That's right.
SHAW: That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But please stay with CNN throughout this evening for the latest on the New Hampshire primary here and, of course, the State of the Union address.
White House press secretary Joe Lockhart will be one of the guests on "CROSSFIRE" at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
And our special State of the Union coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. on "THE WORLD TODAY."
SHAW: House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri will be among the guest on a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, following the State of the Union address. And of course, there will be complete reports on-line at CNN's allpolitics.com. I'm Bernard Shaw.
WOODRUFF: And I'm Judy Woodruff. "WORLDVIEW" is next.
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