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Inside Politics

Bush and McCain Aim Negative Ads at Each Other; Polls Show McCain, Gore Have Momentum

Aired February 8, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The true nature of John McCain evidently is coming out. I am sad to hear that he's running that kind of ad. The people of my state know that I have brought honor and dignity to the office.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The leading Republican hopefuls resort to ad warfare, but have the candidates gone too far?


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When he was -- had a 30-point lead we were buddies. He used to put his arm around me and embrace me. Then we beat him in New Hampshire. Now I am a hypocrite.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Is the thrill of competition getting a little too personal?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave.


WOODRUFF: Steve Forbes gets an encore presentation, but can he pull off a repeat performance of his own in the Delaware primary?

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

SHAW: Thanks for joining us.

You may be hard pressed to remember it, but both John McCain and George W. Bush once pledged to forego negative attacks. They even shook hands on it.

WOODRUFF: Now, not only have they taken off the gloves, but their tit-for-tat negative campaigning is intensifying in the GOP presidential race. We have two reports on this sharp turn in strategy.

First, our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley who is with Bush in South Carolina.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He jokingly calls his plane Retool One, a reference to a post New Hampshire campaign with a sharper edge and a pointed message.

BUSH: I am not going to be somebody who claims that I'm going to be a campaign funding reformer on the one hand and then passes the plate to lobbyists on the other.

CROWLEY: Repeatedly calling his opponent Chairman McCain, Bush's message is this, McCain is a Washington insider, head of a powerful Senate committee who talks about reform. Bush is a Texas governor who has done it.

BUSH: I have gone to my state and if need be I have challenged the entrenched interests to reform education and reform the tort laws and reform the tax code and cut the taxes.

CROWLEY: The shadow of New Hampshire is clear in both message and method. There are new placards and Bush is spending more time taking voter questions, including some that carry the shadow.

BUSH: It's a very good question, he said am I scared to lose? No. You know why? Because I have got my priorities straight, my faith in my family. That's my priorities in life.

CROWLEY: Campaigning through Delaware, which holds its primary today, Bush hit a fire department and a senior citizen's home hoping someone was taking attendance.

BUSH: And I am here asking for the vote. I am here hoping the good citizens of Delaware when they get into the Republican primary check my name on the ballot. I can't wait to be -- I can't wait to see the results.

CROWLEY: Moving into South Carolina for a contest much tougher than anyone expected, Bush was welcomed by an overflow crowd. During his most extensive question and answer session to date, he drew the loudest applause for the conservative cause.

BUSH: I will sign a ban on partial-birth abortion.


CROWLEY: As Bush perfected his ground game, he struck out at a serious aerial assault by McCain suggesting that George Bush, like Bill Clinton, does not tell the truth.

BUSH: Sad, isn't it? The true nature of John McCain evidently is coming out. I am sad to hear he's running that kind of ad. People of my state know that I brought honor and dignity to the office.

CROWLEY (on camera): Though he laments the McCain ad, Bush is more than willing to fight fire with fire. The Bush campaign is now up with an ad of its own basically repeating Bush's stump charge that McCain, while professing that he wants campaign finance reform, has a campaign of his own that is "crawling with lobbyists."

Candy Crowley, CNN, Greenville, South Carolina.



JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Jonathan Karl with the McCain campaign in Charleston, South Carolina.

In front of the crowds, John McCain is keeping it positive. But on the bus, the former fighter pilot is talking war, vowing that when hit, he'll hit back harder.

MCCAIN: That means the only way you dissuade your enemies from attacking you is to make sure that the price they pay for those attacks is a very high one.

KARL: With the latest in a volley of campaign ad attacks and counterattacks between McCain and George W. Bush, McCain unleashed what may be the ultimate insult in a GOP primary.


MCCAIN: His ad twists the truth like Clinton. We're all pretty tired of that. As president I'll be conservative and always tell you the truth.


MCCAIN: If someone attacks you and you allow that attack to go unresponded, then that attack gains credibility.

KARL: The attack that most angered McCain came not from Bush, but from a Bush supporter.

MCCAIN: Really the defining moment was when Governor Bush would stand next to a man who is clearly a fringe person, and stand there while that man accuses me of abandoning our veterans, that's just an unacceptable act, and one that in my view is something that I will never be able to tolerate.

KARL: He's talking about Thomas Burch, who endorsed Bush last week and then had this to say about McCain.

J. THOMAS BURCH, NATL. VIETNAM AND GULF WAR VETERANS COALITION: He had the power to help his veterans. He came home; he forgot us.

KARL: McCain, who spent five years as a POW in Vietnam, says Bush should condemn those comments. McCain's day included a standing room only town hall meeting in North Augusta, South Carolina. And in Charleston he talked about fighting crime before an audience of police academy cadets.

His sparring with Bush may have directed attention away from his message, but McCain insists he is not concerned that down and dirty political combat will tarnish his image.

MCCAIN: That fighter pilot isn't going to get diverted by the flack. I am still intent on reaching the target, and good fighter pilots don't get diverted.

KARL (on camera): With a big post-New Hampshire fund-raising bounce, the McCain campaign claims to have raked in $5 million over the last week. As one aide said, if we lose the nomination it won't be because of money.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Charleston, South Carolina.


SHAW: Joining us now to talk more about just what the McCain and Bush camps are up to: Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, and in Austin, Texas, Bush's campaign manager, Karl Rove.

Karl Rove, your campaign is releasing today ads in South Carolina, Virginia, and Michigan, part of which one of the ads says, "His conservative hometown paper warns it's time the rest of the nation learns about the McCain we know." What's the purpose of this ad?

KARL ROVE, BUSH CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Senator McCain says one thing and does another. He promises a positive campaign and then runs two television ads comparing Governor Bush to Bill Clinton. The "New York Times" -- I rarely agree with it -- but this morning it characterized this as an insult and as the most -- harshest language yet thus far in the political season.

This is way over the line and it is Senator McCain. When he disagrees with you, he vilifies you, he belittles you, and in this instance delivers the ultimate insult way over the line, comparing a man who served his state, Texas, with honor and dignity, to Bill Clinton.

SHAW: Rick Davis.

RICK DAVIS, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Wow, Karl, it's such a turnaround for you in such a short period of time. Just last week you were blaming The New York Times on being one of our allies in this fight for the presidency, and now he's on your side. You should be ashamed of yourself. And secondly, after weeks of your surrogates...

ROVE: Well, in this instance... DAVIS: ... and yourself -- Karl, please let me speak up. Weeks of surrogates and yourself calling John McCain Clintonian and now you're offended by an ad that doesn't even mention his name. I think it's just a little bit of guilt on your side, and I think it ought to be something you need to grow up and take it straight.

I'll make you a deal right here, Karl. I have got a letter that's just been sent to you and it says, "Let's stop the negative ads tonight." You take yours down, we'll take ours down, same deal we offered you in New Hampshire and you took it. My suggestion, take it again.

SHAW: Karl Rove.

ROVE: Senator McCain is fully entitled to go ahead and run this ad in South Carolina right up to Election Day. If he thinks he's doing himself some good by comparing Governor Bush to Bill Clinton, he's kidding himself. No one on our side has suggested that Senator McCain is Clintonian. What we've suggested is that this campaign led by Mr. Davis, a lobbyist...

DAVIS: Oh, Karl, come on! I can't believe it!

ROVE: ... ran -- deliberately ran a television ad that said that Governor Bush saved not one single dime for Social Security, when in reality, of the $4 trillion surplus, Governor Bush's economic plan sets aside $2 trillion to save Social Security, a trillion dollars for a tax cut, and a trillion dollars for other...

DAVIS: Karl, the same tax cut you set aside, the federal government has already set aside.

SHAW: Well, gentlemen, let me slip in here and quote Senator McCain today in Michigan: "We'll pull our ads and we'll all be nice guys again," his offer, and you, Rick Davis, holding up the letter making an offer to pull ads if the Bush group would pull their ads. Karl Rove, is your campaign interested in this offer?

ROVE: Look, we have run positive ads. We were the ones who had to set the record straight when Senator McCain's campaign ran not one but two ads...

SHAW: Now, I understand that.

ROVE: One ad alleging that Governor Bush was unprepared to be president.

DAVIS: Karl, why don't you just answer the question?

ROVE: Tim Russert confronted Senator McCain on national television about it and Senator McCain stepped back from it. The other ad is the ad that I just referred to that Senator McCain says we do not save a single dime for Social Security. We saved $20 trillion -- $2 trillion for Social Security. Senator McCain yesterday...

SHAW: I have another question. ROVE: ... explained that ad away by saying, "Well, I ran that a month ago, they should have complained then."

DAVIS: Well, Bernie, why don't you ask him to answer the one question you already asked him.

ROVE: And he's running the ad now.

DAVIS: Karl, we can make the change right now.

ROVE: He's running the ads in Michigan and he's running the ads in South Carolina.

DAVIS: You want to do something good for South Carolina?

SHAW: Hold it. We can't all talk at the same time, gentlemen. A simple question to each of you, short answer, please. These ads obviously are stepping -- raining on your message. Do you care?

DAVIS: Well, I think your report said it best, John McCain is keeping his eye focused on a positive message as he travels throughout the state of South Carolina. His message is of reform and what to do with the Social Security surplus, what to do with taxes, Medicare, and paying down the debt.

SHAW: OK, let Mr. Rove respond to that question. Your message is being trampled...

ROVE: Senator McCain should be ashamed of his ad. It's a sad moment when he runs an ad comparing Governor Bush to Bill Clinton. He should be assumed. He should be ashamed.

SHAW: Karl Rove, I repeat my question a third time -- are you interested in the offer being made by the McCain group, they pull their ads if you pull yours?

ROVE: If the McCain campaign wants to stop attacking and distorting Governor Bush's positions, great, let them go do it. If they want to stop running an ad calling Governor Bush Bill Clinton, let him do it, and let them apologize for it. But we are reacting to an ad that Senator McCain ran deliberately, after poll testing it, that said Governor Bush did not save a single dime for Social Security. That is incorrect, that is wrong, that is untrue, and they know it, and their response to it is not to say...


DAVIS: Karl, let me ask you a question -- how much of the non- Social Security surplus does George Bush put into the Social Security program? And exactly how much...


ROVE: There's a $4 trillion surplus...

(CROSSTALK) ROVE: Rick, do you want me to answer? Or do you want to just keep talking?


ROVE: There is a $4 trillion surplus. Governor Bush saves two trillion for Social Security. It is the politicians in Washington, like Senator McCain, who have been there for 17 years, who've dipped time and time and time again into the Social Security surplus.


SHAW: Rick Davis and Karl Rove, regrettably, our time has run out.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS, and please promise you'll come back again.

DAVIS: My pleasure.

SHAW: Thank you -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Nothing like a little fireworks. Joining us now is our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Bill, is this kind of negative campaigning, whatever you want to call it, criticizing one another, a risk more for one candidate than the other in the Republican race here?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, I think it's a bigger risk for John McCain. He could be making the same mistake Bill Bradley made when he went negative against Al Gore. It spoiled Bradley's strongest advantage, which was that the didn't look a typical politician. That also been McCain's strong suit -- straight talk.

Now we have Bush and McCain calling each other names, in fact, the worst name imaginable for a Republican -- they're calling each other Bill Clinton. McCain thrives on being different, looking different from other politicians, but he doesn't look very different right now.

WOODRUFF: What about for George W. Bush? Any risk for him?

SCHNEIDER: Well, he doesn't look very compassionate right now, does he? But I would say that the risk to Bush is probably not as serious.

Look, what's happened is, McCain stole Bush's issue, which is reform. Bush started out by portraying himself as a compassionate conservative, challenging the party to be more reasonable and inclusive. Then McCain came in and positioned himself as more reasonable, more compassionate and more inclusive than Bush. And he really challenged the party establishment on campaign finance. McCain really trumped Bush as the post-ideological reformer. Bush's initial response was to run against McCain from the right, with that huge tax cut, but it really didn't work. That's not where Bush wants to be, and it didn't really sell all that well, even to Republicans. And now Bush is trying to reclaim the issue by calling McCain, in essence, a phony and by saying that he is the true reformer who gets results.

WOODRUFF: And what about Bush's original claim to the so-called eligibility -- electability, I'm sorry, electability, the notion that he's more electable in November than John McCain?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Judy, that's why the Republicans threw so much money at him. They thought, well, my God, we've finally got a winner. But in our latest national poll, Bush leads Gore by nine points, McCain leads Gore by 22 points. There goes the electability argument. Now where does McCain do noticeably better than Bush? Among moderates and independents, and among voters who say what matters most to them is leadership skills and visions, not issue positions. There is your post-ideological vote.

The point is, Bush is not going to recoup his claim to electability by running against McCain from the right. Right now, 50 percent of voters nationwide label McCain a reformer; 42 percent say that about George Bush. For Gore, by the way, it's just 36 percent. That's the race that Bush wants to compete in. He wants to be Mr. Reformer, not Mr. Conservative.

WOODRUFF: And again, it's electability, not eligibility.

SCHNEIDER: Electability.

WOODRUFF: Electability. Bill Schneider, you're always electable as far as we're concerned.

SCHNEIDER: I am not running.

WOODRUFF: Still to come -- that's right, you're not.

But still to come on INSIDE POLITICS, on the stump with George W. Bush. Is he too tight or too loose? Our Bob Novak on what Bush's top strategists are saying. And, it may be a small state, but the stakes are especially high for two Republican presidential candidates in today's Delaware primary.


SHAW: In just under three hours from now, the polls close in Delaware, site of today's Republican primary. Because of John McCain's huge victory in New Hampshire, Delaware's primary is vitally important for George W. Bush and Steve Forbes, even if only 12 delegates are at stake.

Bruce Morton is in Wilmington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STEVE FORBES (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm an independent outsider. The Washington lobbyists have no hooks into me. You can depend on me to work for you. Together, we will change Washington. I will not bow to their pressure. I will not give in. I will work for you.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Publisher Steve Forbes, who won here four years ago, still running as an outsider, appealing for votes on Republican primary day in Delaware. He got to this event too late to hear "The Star Spangled Banner," but the singer sang it again for him.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (singing): Say can you see, by the dawn's early light...

MORTON: George W. Bush was doing the same thing here.

BUSH: I am here to ask for the vote. I've come from that school of thought that says, if you don't bother to ask for somebody's vote, you don't deserve their vote.

MORTON: The fact is, even without John McCain, Delaware has become a player. The state chairman is happy.

BASIL BATTAGLIA, DELAWARE GOP CHAIRMAN: The best thing that happened to us was what happened in New Hampshire. The party came out in New Hampshire without a designated candidate, and as a result of that, this became a battleground for both Governor Bush and also Steve Forbes. Each of those men, I think, have to win Delaware so they can get the bounce going into South Carolina.

MORTON: Polling places seemed crowded here. Battaglia says turnout is high.

The rules are different. In New Hampshire, independents could vote in the GOP primary. Not here.

NANCY CHARRON, "WILMINGTON NEWS JOURNAL": In Delaware, the primary is open only to registered Republicans. And because many of the leaders of the party in this state have endorsed Mr. Bush, that probably helps him when the party regulars go to the polls.


MORTON: The consensus, if there is a consensus among political observers here, is that George W. Bush will win this primary, probably not overwhelmingly. Steve Forbes, the victor four years ago, has somehow never found a base here. It'll be interesting to see what John McCain does. He didn't campaign here at all. And if he does well, it will be a test in a state where only Republicans, not independents, could vote -- Bernie.

SHAW: Bruce Morton, Wilmington, Delaware. Thank you. Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, joining us now with some items from his reporter's notebook, Bob Novak of "The Chicago Sun-Times." Bob, first of all, what are you hearing about the big Bush campaign strategy meeting in Austin over the weekend?

ROBERT NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Over the weekend, there was a lot of talk about the staff had not let Bush be Bush, that he was not the warm, engaging person that his old friends knew him to be, he was constricted. So there was a lot of back and forth on that.

And I think there was an agreement that in South Carolina, he has to come -- he has to be more forthcoming and less constricted. But they also have got to push down McCain to size.

John -- Senator McCain is red-hot, Judy, in this country. He is a -- I have seldom seen anything like it.

So there are little tactics that they're using. For example, there was a letter that went out to President Clinton today signed by the two South Carolina senators, Democrat Fritz Hollings, Republican Strom Thurmond, calling on the president not to levy a -- an excise tax on cigarettes .

Now they want -- the Bush people want McCain to answer. Of course he was for a big cigarette tax.

That's the kind of thing they're going to try to do.

WOODRUFF: You say McCain is red-hot, Bob. You've been talking to folks in the Republican establishment here in Washington. What do they think about him?

NOVAK: Well, they're in a panic.

They don't -- they really don't like him in the Senate and they'd like to do some -- anything they could to try and stop him from being there. Even some of his colleagues in the Arizona delegation who -- of course, he's a fellow Arizonan and he wasn't going any place, he was 2 percent, they were going to endorse him. They said, oh my God, John McCain as president.

But this morning, I was in Florida, Judy, in Naples, Florida talking to a bunch of CEOs, and they took a little private poll -- these are rich Republicans. Who do they prefer: McCain or Bush? McCain two-to-one.

WOODRUFF; Fascinating.

Michigan. Primary, Republican primary coming up just three days after South Carolina, 58 delegates at stake. What is McCain doing there?

NOVAK: McCain has got to rely on the non-Republican vote in Michigan. It's a Republican primary in name only. Independents can walk in. Democrats can walk in. And there's a little inside politics there.

John Engler, the governor, who is a strong supporter of George Bush, has a lot of enemies oddly in the conservative ranks of the Republican Party, and also in the labor movement. He has been elected governor three times in Michigan against labor. And they would really like to stick his nose in it. And there's a lot of talk that the labor unions are going to get members out to vote for McCain in this primary to show to it John Engler and to defeat George Bush.

This is a land mine, another land mine for George Bush. And if it comes after a defeat in South Carolina, is he in trouble?

WOODRUFF: Would that be a first labor for a Republican?

NOVAK: Well, it's a -- shall we call that a temporary alliance or alliance of convenience.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Novak, thank you.

NOVAK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: In New York state, a new Marist College poll shows John McCain has gotten a huge boost from his primary win in New Hampshire.

Among likely Republican primary voters, McCain now trails Bush by only nine points. In December, McCain was 44 points behind among registered New York Republicans.

On the Democratic side, Al Gore also has gotten a boost from New Hampshire. He now leads Bill Bradley by 21 points among likely voters in the state where Bradley was a pro basketball star. In December, Bradley trailed Gore by only three points among registered Democrats.

When we return, the Republicans on Capitol Hill. How are they? More on how they're weighing in on the GOP Presidential race.


SHAW: As Bob Novak mentioned earlier, John McCain is short on support among his Senate colleagues. For more on that, we turn to our White House correspondent, Major Garrett, who also is well-connected on the Hill.

Major, what are you hearing about Republicans on the Hill and their reactions to McCain's recent success?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I would say there are or two words I keep hearing. First is panic, and the second is Mr. Chairman.

I think in the coming days of the campaign, you're going to hear Republicans in the House referring to Senator McCain not just as Senator McCain, but Mr. Chairman, indelibly imprinting on the minds of South Carolina voters that John McCain is a chairman of a big committee in Washington, the Commerce Committee. He has raised money from people who have business before that committee, and they want to ask South Carolina voters to consider if that's consistent with the reform message that McCain has made so much his own. And that's really the course of things right now on Capitol Hill.

SHAW: I understand the Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, of Mississippi has weighed in.

GARRETT: Yes, the Senate majority leader, Mr. Lott, as he does every Tuesday, met with reporters today. And he talked not only about Senator McCain, talked about Governor Bush, and he also talked about what many Republicans in Congress consider to be the central weakness of the Bush campaign.


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: I think that Governor Bush has got to focus his message more. He's got to make sure the truth is out there about his record and what he stands for. And I believe that he will achieve that as the campaign goes forward.

But I -- you know, I don't think you can take anything away from John McCain. He did an excellent job in New Hampshire, and the vote results show that.

But I do think he's gotten a massive boost from the media that for some reason is attracted to him.


GARRETT: The elements of this campaign, Bernie, will be to attack McCain and to encourage Bush to work harder and campaign more strongly.

SHAW: Major Garrett, thanks very much.

Well, there is much more ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Coming up, we will shift to the Democratic race for the White House.


BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Al Gore and I say, take the flag down. John McCain and George Bush say, leave it up.


WOODRUFF: Bill Bradley takes on a controversial issue in South Carolina and points a finger at the GOP hopefuls. Plus...

SHAW: Al Gore heads south, to Florida, and the legions of senior voters there. And later...

WOODRUFF: Campaigning in the Empire State. A look at the first lady, talking issues and asking for support in the New York Senate race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Sorry about that. We'll have more of this day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.

New information today into last week's crash of Alaska Air Flight 261. Radar images indicate pieces of the 727 may have fallen off the plane moments before it crashed into the Pacific.

Joining us now to talk about this latest development, CNN's Carl Rochelle -- Carl.

CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, they took a good, hard look at some of the radar data that they have been picking up from a number of areas around, and something called "primary radar data," where it actually the radar hits the surface of an object and reflects back. And that shows them what they believe parts -- to be parts of the plane coming off before it went down.

Chairman Jim Hall of the National Transportation Safety Board laid it out just a little while ago over at the NTSB offices.


JIM HALL, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: These primary radar hits might be indicative -- and I emphasize "might be indicative" -- of something coming off Flight 261 at this point. I have instructed assets of the United States Navy to search an area of the ocean where we believe that something -- we believe something that would have departed the aircraft at that point could have landed, which is about 4 miles from the main wreckage site.


ROCHELLE: Now, Navy salvage teams working in the area of the crash have already recovered parts of the stabilizer assembly: part of the left stabilizer, part of the center area. That is the part that the pilots were complaining about having a problem with and having to deal with.

Chairman Hall said the flight data recorder indicated that the stabilizer trim went full nose down roughly 13 minutes before the plane hit the water and they never recovered from that. In the final moments, Judy, it was plunging out of the air at roughly, oh, from 17,000, 18,000 feet to the surface in about one minute. That's about 6,000 feet a minute.

So all the way down and it broke up rather substantially.

They're putting all of this information together to try to come up with a complete picture of what happened. But clearly, something wrong with that stabilizer. And now this latest data indicates it may have broken off in flight, and that would, of course, explain why the crew could no longer control the airplane, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Carl Rochelle, thank you very much.

SHAW: Two light planes collided in mid-air in suburban Chicago this afternoon, causing one to plunge through the roof of a hospital. The aircraft were on their final approach to a nearby airport when they collided. One plane landed on the roof of the hospital; the other in the street.

The pilots were believed to have been killed.

Doctors soon will be able to use genetic testing to predict a patient's medical future, but that information could also be used to deny people jobs and insurance. With that in mind, President Clinton says he is an issuing an executive order banning federal agencies from discrimination based on genetic testing.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must never allow these discoveries to change the basic belief upon which our government, our society, our system of ethics is founded: that all of us are created equal, entitled to equal treatment under the law.


SHAW: The president also supports legislation that would extend that ban into the private sector.

And INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: We're hearing a great deal right now, including earlier on this program, about the sharp words flying between the Republican presidential candidates George W. Bush and John McCain. Well, today, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley fired off some tough words of his own, and for a change, they were not directed at his Democratic rival.

CNN's Pat Neal reports.


BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That flag should not fly another day over the state capitol.


PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bill Bradley went on the attack Tuesday against Republican presidential contenders who won't call for the Confederate flag to stop flying over the South Carolina statehouse.

BRADLEY: That flag shows the true colors of the Republicans who want to be president.

NEAL: The Republican primary in South Carolina is on February 19th. Both George W. Bush and John McCain have said that South Carolina voters should decide whether the flag should continue to fly. BRADLEY: The weakness and passivity of the Republicans on this issue is appalling. At a time when leadership, courage and principles should guide our leaders on this issue, both George Bush and John McCain have instead embraced the narrow political expediency of the Republican Party. It's an expediency that ignores a hateful and shameful past in an effort to bottom fish for votes from the most right-wing elements of the Republican Party.

NEAL: Bradley spoke at the historically African-American Benedict College in Columbia for a reason. Even though South Carolina doesn't have a contest looming for Democrats, Bradley advisers say he's here using this event and others this week to emphasize affirmative action, education and gun control to connect with core Democrats.

Polls show Bradley lagging behind Vice President Al Gore in support from Democratic groups of women, blacks and minorities before the big multistate primary days next month.

Despite the often harsh debate between Bradley and Gore, Bradley pointed out here that he and Gore share many similar principles. Even so, South Carolina's Democratic Party chairman asked Bradley to get out of the race in the interest of party unity.

His spokesman says Bradley certainly won't, because he believes he has something more to offer.

BRADLEY: We need a Democratic presidential candidate who isn't just dedicated to those issues, but who can win. And that means a Democratic candidate who talks straight with the people.

NEAL (on camera): From South Carolina, Bradley came here to Ohio, where he'll continue to hit Gore on the electability issue. He'll also keep trying to draw in core Democrats: first a town hall meeting on diversity, then on Wednesday with announcements on education.

Pat Neal, CNN, Cleveland, Ohio.


WOODRUFF: And just ahead, we'll have a report from our own Mark Potter on the vice presidents day in Florida campaigning, and the New York Senate race: a look at the first lady's campaign and her chances with upstate voters.


SHAW: In Rochester, New York today, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton returned to a key issue and key failure of the early Clinton administration: health care. Mrs. Clinton continued her first official campaign swing through the Empire State as her likely opponent, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, questioned her credentials for the Senate seat.

Frank Buckley reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome the next senator from the state of New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton.


FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hillary Clinton was welcomed at a hospital in Rochester, where she received the endorsement of two major nurses associations: the first lady also unveiling the first specific health care proposal of her now official campaign -- a plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs by allowing pharmacists to re-import the drugs from outside of the U.S. where prescription drug costs are sometimes significantly less expensive.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: Americans are paying more in retail costs than the rest of the world pays in wholesale costs. I was always told that New Yorkers never bought retail. Well, that's wrong when it comes to drugs, and it must stop.

BUCKLEY: Mrs. Clinton acknowledged her failed health care initiative as a first lady, but she said she continued to see health care as a fundamental human right.

H. CLINTON: Now, you may remember that I had a few things to say about health care back in 1993 and 1994. I tried very hard to come up with a way to provide safe, affordable, quality health care for all Americans against a lot of odds and interest groups. I didn't give up then and I won't give up now.

BUCKLEY: While Mrs. Clinton campaigned in Rochester, her opponent in the race, New York City's Republican mayor, Rudy Giuliani, took to the airwaves in Rochester. In one of three upstate radio interviews, he emphasized his main campaign theme.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I think the difference between Hillary Rodham Clinton and me is, in her case -- with all due respect -- it's essentially just promises of what she might do since she's never had a government position before or an elected position before. In my case, it's not just a promise of what I'm going to do. It's a record of having actually done these things.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... take time off to come to these meetings.

BUCKLEY: But Mrs. Clinton, who this week began stressing her record of public service outside of elected office, said a vision of the future is just as important.

H. CLINTON: It's going to be a great opportunity for the people to decide who has the kind of experience that in the future will help advance the interests of New York.

BUCKLEY (on camera): The back-and-forth between the candidates indicative perhaps of how this campaign might be run, neither candidate will to concede anything or to let any assertion go uncontested: the battle to capture New York voters intense already, nine months before the election.

Frank Buckley, CNN, Rochester, New York.


WOODRUFF: Well, joining us now to talk more about the New York race and perhaps other politics, the director of the Marist College Poll, Lee Miringoff, and Fred Pierce of "The Syracuse Post Standard."

Lee Miringoff, to you first. Tell us what your polling is showing in this Senate contest.

LEE MIRINGOFF, DIRECTOR, MARIST COLLEGE POLL: Well, right now, we're showing Rudy Giuliani with 47 percent, Hillary Clinton with 40 percent: a seven-point edge for the mayor from New York City. And what's been interesting, throughout the year, most of the polls have been 40-something to 40-something. And when someone makes a mistake, because both have high negatives, it doesn't create a stampede to the other. The best thing both of these people have going for them I think is their opponent.

WOODRUFF: But not much change we see?

MIRINGOFF: No, not much at all. Initially when she announced her interests, that was right after the impeachment trial, the trial balloons went up. She soared. Scrambling upstate numbers, winning upstate women overwhelmingly. Those trial balloons have come back down to Earth as she had a somewhat bumpy transition from celebrity first lady Clinton to candidate Clinton. Now she's trying to have a second chance to make a first impression, announcing her candidacy, having moved into New York state, and trying to get more on message, talking issue, which is better than trying to out-Rudy Rudy about ethnic constituencies that New York has.

She hasn't been really doing very well doing that part.

WOODRUFF: Fred Pierce in Syracuse, how are voters in your part of New York responding to the first lady, particularly now that she's officially in the race?

FRED PIERCE, "SYRACUSE POST STANDARD": Well, she's got a long road to climb. This is a very conservative, very Republican area, and she comes with some great negatives in the Clinton administration.

The Syracuse area, upstate New York in general, hasn't benefited really from the economic boom that the Clinton administration has presided over the last nine years. They're willing to listen, but what they want to hear is what the candidates are going to do for them. In the case of Hillary Clinton, she's now starting to tell them. She's been up here an awful lot. She's starting to say, OK, I understand what your problems are, here are some concrete things that I plan to do about them.

WOODRUFF: Lee Miringoff, we just heard in that report from Frank Buckley, we heard Mayor Giuliani referring to the first lady's lack of experience, the fact that she's never held public office before.

Is that going to be a potential weak spot for her?

MIRINGOFF: Yes, well, she can claim that she's been an advocate. And as she said in her announcement address on Sunday, that, you know, she's a new neighbor but not new to these issues. But that's all she can do. She can't claim anything other than that.

But you know, other people have run for office. You know, Ronald Reagan ran for governor of California before having been -- holding elective office. Senator Bill Bradley right across the river in New Jersey ran for the Senate having been a basketball player. John Glenn, of course, had been a hero but had not held elective office.

I don't think that ultimately can be a problem other than the fact that he wants to say, Giuliani does, that he's going to do for the rest of the state what he's done for New York City, be a fighter for the state in Washington. She's going to argue that she can work well with others, and I think that's where the balance of power in this fight's going to be fought.

WOODRUFF: Well, Fred Pierce, getting right to the point, you were telling us a minute what her weak points are, that she is part of the Clinton administration, particularly unpopular there upstate in the Syracuse area. Does she have any strong points going into this race?

PIERCE: Oh, she certainly does. She is a terrific campaigner. She's had a really a very strong presence up here. She vacationed here this summer with the president. She's been upstate several times. She's coming to Syracuse tomorrow.

Rudy Giuliani meanwhile has been absent. We haven't seen much of him. He's going to make his first real appearance in Syracuse I think next week.

What he did in New York City can only go so far with upstate voters. It's really a race of two outsiders. New York City is definitely not upstate. We have different sets of problems, different sets of issues.

He's got -- and he hasn't done it yet -- to be able to show us that he cares about upstate New York, he understands our issues, and he's got to play it.

MIRINGOFF: Yes, Judy, I think Fred is exactly right. These are both carpetbaggers of a sort for upstate, and upstate is going to be the battleground, because they're both so well-known here in downstate New York.

WOODRUFF: Lee Miringoff, a quick question about the conservative line, the Conservative Party.

We just heard the head of the party, Michael Long, say that he really would prefer that Mayor Giuliani not run. He'd like to see Rick Lazio in there. Is the Conservative Party going to be a factor?

MIRINGOFF: Oh, I think it could very well be, along with the Reform Party line and the Liberal Party line. For people around the country, New York has lots of minor party lines. They don't have to endorse the major party candidates. They can if they choose to.

But it can in a close race -- two, three, four points here and there -- could definitely make the difference in what looks will be indeed a very close race down to next fall.

WOODRUFF: And Fred Pierce from your perspective?

PIERCE: Well, the conservative line is -- has been very important in upstate New York. If Rudy runs without the conservative line -- and there's no other candidate that has it -- I don't think it will make much of a difference. But certainly, you have someone like Lazio running on a conservative line, it would siphon votes away from him.

MIRINGOFF: I would be surprised if Congressman Lazio ran on the conservative line without the Republican Party nomination, which would be hard to get without seeking a primary that way. I think it's more likely it stays empty or someone else, an unknown, ends up on that line.

WOODRUFF: Lee Miringoff, we have less than a minute. Just give us a quick thumbnail of the presidential numbers in New York.


WOODRUFF: Bush-McCain and Gore-Bradley.

MIRINGOFF: On the Republican side, we've seen a major swing, a New Hampshire bounce for John McCain. Bush was ahead in December by 44 points. He's now ahead by only 11. We don't have independents voting here in New York. So McCain still has to do a little better. South Carolina, Arizona, Michigan will be very important table setters for New York, on the Republican side.

On the Democratic side, Al Gore has opened up a 15-point lead over Bill Bradley: 21 points among likely voters, as he indicated earlier in the program. And clearly there, the bounce is there. Bradley is going to have to change something. This is his home court, you know, it's probably his best place, but doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be good enough for him here.

WOODRUFF: All right, Lee Miringoff, with the Marist college poll, and Fred Pierce, with the Syracuse "Post Standard," we thank you both, and we'll see you again. Coming up, we are going to look at Al Gore's day in Florida, what it was like on the campaign trail with him, with our own Mark Potter.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


SHAW: Now to the vice president and his day on the campaign trail. He was on the stump in Florida and his message was aimed at a target audience.

Mark Potter has the story.


MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vice President Gore came to South Florida to shore up that area's large elderly vote. Before an audience in Century Village in Pembroke Pines, he held an impromptu contest over who has the most grandchildren, a popular tactic for this new grandfather throughout campaign, and in this crowd, a big hit.

ALBERT GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Twenty-seven, and it'll be 28 in a month.

POTTER: In returning to heavily Democratic South Florida, Mr. Gore found himself on friendly turf. Polls show him with a commanding lead over Senator Bill Bradley here, and state campaign staffers believe he may be making inroads against George W. Bush, whose brother, Jeb, is Florida's Republican governor. His message here is about his proposed changes in health care.

GORE: The first step we take is to wrest control of the medical decisions, often life-and-death decisions, away from the bureaucrats, and the HMOs and the insurance companies, who don't have a license to practice medicine and don't have a right to play God, and give those decisions to the doctors, and to the nurses and the medical professional.


POTTER: The vice president continued to criticize Senator Bill Bradley's health care plan, but added that he won't make personal attacks against Senator Bradley, a promise that also drew applause. And at the end of his speech, he brought the senior citizens to their feet.

GORE: I want to fight for better health care. I want to fight for a strong economy. I want to fight for Medicare. I want to fight for prescription drug benefits. I want to save Medicaid. I want to fight for a better country.

POTTER: Florida's presidential primary is March 14, a week after major primaries in New York and California. As to why Vice President Gore would come to Florida now, his state campaign chairman said it's partly with November in mind, but it's also, in large measure, an attempt to influence voters March 7 who have relatives living or vacationing this winter in Florida.

(on camera): The Gore campaign says it is still actively considering Senator Bradley's proposal to have one debate a week. The vice president says his preference is two debates a week, with a reduction in television ads. The negotiations between camps continues.

Mark Potter, CNN, Pembroke Pines, Florida.


SHAW: And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow when George Bush and John McCain will be in South Carolina, Al Gore will be in Michigan and Ohio and Bill Bradley will be in Missouri.

WOODRUFF: And of course, we will be there with them. And you can go online all the time at CNN's

This programming note: Tonight on "CROSSFIRE": Has the press gone overboard in its coverage of John McCain? That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: And I'm Bernard Shaw.

"WORLDVIEW" is next.


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