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Inside Politics

Bush and McCain Tone Down Attacks; Forbes to Quit GOP Presidential Race

Aired February 9, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: A more relaxed George W. Bush out on the campaign trail with his new slogan and his issue of the day.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Rival John McCain pulls back the attacks. Is he too planning a kinder, gentler campaign?



WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Of all the issues to drive a Republican primary race, this has got to be the oddest one of all. Not abortion or taxes or morality or military spending. The central issue in the GOP race has become...


SHAW: What's the new campaign buzzword? Our Bill Schneider has the answer.


WOODRUFF: One less Republican candidate: a look at the latest victim of primary attrition.

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

SHAW: Thanks for joining us. After the volley of biting accusations lobbed between the Bush and McCain camps earlier this week, the two main GOP presidential rivals headed back to more positive territory today. Now, this comes amid news that another candidate, Steve Forbes, is set to throw in the towel on his costly five-year presidential crusade.

But we begin today with the Bush campaign and our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They call them one-on-ones. The downside is some ones are tougher than others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before New Hampshire, you were a compassionate conservative. Now you're a reformer with results. Before New Hampshire, you thought can't -- campaign finance reform was ridiculous.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, you're talking...

CROWLEY: Trying to punch through John McCain's image as a reformer and showcase his own, the newly free-wheeling George Bush is rolling with the punches and delivering some as well.

BUSH: Chairman McCain said he wasn't going to take PAC money in the course of a presidential campaign. But nothing illegal about taking PAC money. I take PAC money. He's had -- been successful at accepting PAC money.

My point is it's one thing to say something, and it's another thing to do it.

CROWLEY: Bush is running the political gauntlet: a radio talk show where he's asked to read the top-five rejected campaign slogans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The No. 1 rejected George W. Bush presidential campaign slogan...

BUSH: Is -- "Hey, this George can't tell a lie either."


What do you think?


CROWLEY: A business roundtable where he touts his Texas record in reforming the legal system: curbing frivolous lawsuits, capping punitive damages, restricting the use of contingency fee lawyers by state agencies.

BUSH: Because the plaintiffs attorneys are very strong politically. And they are strong. And they're strong in my state, and they're strong nationally. And this requires a candidate who is willing to stare them down.

CROWLEY: And the one-on-ones where questions ranged from the high cost of health care to the Confederate flag on top of the state capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you become president, then you need to take some type of control over the leaders of this state, our governors and our senators and our... BUSH: Let me -- let me -- hold on a second.


BUSH: Let me stop you for a minute. Hold on for second. Hold on for second. A man's got an opinion. Wait a minute. He's got an opinion. You're allowed to express it. I appreciate that.

CROWLEY: Bush aides say the candidate South Carolinians have seen over the past couple of days is the one they'll get over the next 10 before the primary. And although they have only anecdotal evidence to show for it, Bush strategists believe after the fall in New Hampshire, their candidate is finally moving ahead again.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Greenville, South Carolina.


WOODRUFF: For his part, John McCain seemed ready to take a break from the war on words with Governor Bush, drawing contrasts instead between their two very different tax proposals and reflecting on the power of prayer.

Our John King is traveling with McCain in South Carolina.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was back-to-basics day for John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Bush has a bigger tax cut and ads that say he's for protecting Social Security. But he doesn't put one dime of the non-Social Security surplus toward debt reduction, not one dime to Medicare, and not one dime to Social Security.

KING: The Arizona senator followed the advice of top aides and left the harsher attacks on Bush to their dueling South Carolina TV ad war. The McCain camp is concerned a focus on tactics and TV ads will halt the senator's momentum and tar his maverick image. But the candidate insisted he had no choice.

MCCAIN: Whenever you respond to negative ads, you take a risk, and we're taking a risk. But the one thing that is not acceptable is not to respond to negative ads. Our responses are true.

KING: Fielding questions is a McCain trademark, and young Suzanne Sherwood (ph) was up early to ask hers.

SUZANNE SHERWOOD: If you pray, what do you pray for?

KING: McCain says he prays for the wisdom to do the right thing, and he appeared to have the rough and tumble of recent days on his mind as he continued. MCCAIN: When you get heavily involved in something, you know, and the stakes get high, then maybe you don't conduct yourself as your children would want you to under times of stress.

KING: The senator awoke to news the Republican field was losing yet another candidate: Steve Forbes.

MCCAIN: I think he conducted a very high-level campaign that he can be proud to have been a part of.

KING: Forbes had questioned the anti-abortion credentials of both Bush and McCain, and had hoped the issue would help him among South Carolina Christian conservatives. But with Forbes on the way out, the National Right to Life Committee and its South Carolina affiliate rushed to endorse Bush and to attack McCain.


NARRATOR: If you want a strongly pro-life president, then on February 19th, don't support John McCain.


KING: McCain responded by trumpeting new endorsements from local South Carolina anti-abortion leaders.


KING: Now, that hard-hitting McCain ad that compares Bush to President Clinton when it comes to truth telling will run for a few more days here. But the campaign then hopes to switch back to more positive advertising for the final week of the South Carolina campaign, returning to the formula that helped put McCain on the map to begin with -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, if they are pulling back on the negative, then how do they propose to maintain the momentum they have had since New Hampshire?

KING: They believe part of McCain's plus with voters is that he appears to be above the fray. He says he's not a politician as usual. They do not want him to get engaged in a back-and-forth with Bush: for one reason, they think it hurts McCain's image; for another reason, George Bush has a lot more money than Senator McCain. They believe McCain is best off when he's talking about the issues, drawing a contrast with Governor Bush.

They do hope to get back to positive advertising over the weekend, but of course, they say it depends on what Governor Bush does and it depends on what those polls show heading into the final week of the campaign here in South Carolina.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King, reporting from Greenville, thanks. A senior aide to Steve Forbes tells CNN that the conservative publisher will officially withdraw from the Republican race tomorrow and will not endorse anyone else at that time. This move follows Forbes' disappointing third-place finish in the Delaware primary yesterday.

Our Bruce Morton reports.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Voters first met Forbes in 1995, the rich, geeky presidential candidate who wanted to get rid of the income tax and replace it with a flat tax: one rate for everyone. There was a line he used in every speech.

STEVE FORBES (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The only thing to do with the tax code -- it goes beyond an economic issue; it is a moral issue as well. We can't tame it. What we have to do is not just scrap it, but kill this thing, drive a stake through its heart, bury it, and hope it never rises again to terrorize the American people.

MORTON: But his 1996 campaign was remembered, first because of all the money he spent on TV -- 6 million on one New Hampshire station, sources said -- but also because much of it went for negative ads on front-runner Bob Dole.


NARRATOR: Should Congress have spent $2 1/2 million of taxpayers' money to build bicycle paths in North Miami Beach? Steve Forbes says no. Bob Dole voted yes. Two men, different values.

Bob Dole, Washington values; Steve Forbes, conservative values.


MORTON: The ads didn't help Forbes, but most agreed they hurt Dole, weakened him for his race against Bill Clinton.

Forbes never really stopped running; staffers stayed on the payroll. But in the 2000 campaign, he courted the Christian right, emphasizing social issues like abortion.

FORBES: And like many of you, I am pro-life and believe in the life amendment. And...


MORTON: In Iowa, where Christian conservatives are a force in Republican politics, it seemed to work. Forbes finished second in the caucuses, beating two other social conservatives: Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer.


FORBES SUPPORTERS: New Hampshire! New Hampshire! New Hampshire!

FORBES: I love it.


MORTON: But New Hampshire didn't love him. A badly beaten third, Forbes vowed to fight on.

FORBES: Make no mistake: This fight has just begun.


MORTON: And he went on to Delaware, which he won four years ago. This time, he spent the most time there and finished third behind John McCain, who hadn't spent any.

(on camera): And now, it's over. How much of his own money did he spend on those two presidential bids? Maybe $70 million. Maybe more.

Who gets his voters? That's hard to say. Forbes always ran as a non-Washington outsider. So does George W. Bush. John McCain runs as a maverick. Alan Keyes, the third Republican left in the race, seems no threat to those front-running two.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: And joining us now to talk more about the Forbes development, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Bernie, Steve Forbes' misfortune is that he ran on issues in a year when issues do not dominate the race. People are voting for personal qualities, like leadership and vision. And Forbes always had problems competing on a personal level. He lacked plausibility as a president, if only because he's never been elected to public office.

Look at Republicans in yesterday's Delaware primary who said they chose their candidate based on leadership and personal qualities. Bush and McCain both outpolled Forbes by a wide margin.

And what about those who voted on the issues, Forbes' chosen domain? Forbes did better among issue voters, but they didn't vote for him because he would have split the anti-McCain vote, which suggests that Bush stands to benefit with Forbes out of the race. Oh sure, some Forbes supporters may be attracted to McCain because of his anti-establishment message. Remember how Forbes kept attacking the Washington establishment?

But this year, more than in 1996, Forbes' message was that of a true conservative believer, and true believers are likely to be put off by John McCain. Of course, George W. Bush is not exactly a hero to true believers either. The biggest risk for Bush is not that Forbes voters will vote for McCain, it's that they'll stay home -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Bill, Bill Schneider.

Well, just three days after the upcoming South Carolina primary, the Republican candidates will be competing for Michigan's 58 delegates, and a new poll released today shows John McCain has erased Bush's lead in that state. McCain was favored by 45 percent and Bush by 43 percent in the "Detroit Free Press"/WXYZ-TV poll. Bush has the backing of Governor John Engler, and he enjoyed a solid lead in Michigan until McCain's victory in the New Hampshire primary.

Still to come here on INSIDE POLITICS, the Democrats who would be president. Bill Bradley and his big bucks, big plan for education reform.



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Only today for the first time in 14 months has Senator Bradley made his first speech on education.


SHAW: Al Gore hitting his rival for the White House with the tag, "Johnny come lately."


WOODRUFF: Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Bradley today unveiled a multibillion-dollar public education plan. The central focus is on improving the schools poor children attend.

CNN's Pat Neal was with Bradley in St. Louis.


PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a St. Louis school, just 35 miles from his hometown, Bill Bradley added education to his list of big ideas, unveiling a proposal totaling more than $175 billion over 10 years.

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These ideas are my core convictions about education in this country.

NEAL: He called for holding both teachers and schools accountable if students don't learn.

BRADLEY: And all parents must have the option of leaving a poor school for a better one.

NEAL: Bradley proposed doubling Title One funding from $8 to $16 billion each year. That's federal money, which goes to schools in poor communities. Bradley says that's twice what Vice President Al Gore would do. Bradley would require each year schools make measurable progress in improving students performance in math and reading, or face consequences.

BRADLEY: I will give the parents a choice to send their child to a better school and give them the information they need to make that choice. Each school must then issue a report card to parents on the qualification of their children's teachers.

NEAL: Bradley also criticized Gore as not doing enough.

BRADLEY: During the past seven years, we've had a lot about education, but too often the rhetoric hasn't been backed up by action.

NEAL: Gore has already proposed a $115 billion education plan that would increase teacher salaries, expand access to preschool, and shut down failing schools. With two huge primary days next month involving 21 states, Bradley says he's talking about education now because voters are more focused on the campaign.

BRADLEY: I feel that this is the best time to do it. It builds on what I've done for the last nine months and it, I think, is something that he has not done.

NEAL (on camera): Another reason Bradley's talking education, advisers say, is to continue to appeal to core Democratic voters, like those here in Missouri, who'll make a big decision in less than a month.

Pat Neal, CNN, St. Louis.


SHAW: Vice President Gore wasted no time in criticizing Bradley's plan, calling his rival a late-comer on education reform. Before doing that, Gore sat down with some folks who definitely will not vote for him in this election, but whose parents might.

CNN's Mark Potter reports.


GORE: Now when I say three, everybody wave. One, two, three.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vice President Al Gore began his day posing with preschoolers at an early childhood center near Detroit. Like his Democratic rival, Bill Bradley, he made education the message of the day and criticized Mr. Bradley's new plan as an afterthought -- too little, too late.

GORE: Fourteen months have passed in this presidential campaign, and three states have had elections now, and only today, for the first time in 14 months, has Senator Bradley made the first speech on education.

POTTER: Speaking before teachers and students, the vice president said a major flaw in former Senator Bradley's plan is that he doesn't have the money to support it. GORE: He spent the entire surplus on an ill-conceived health- care plan and there's no money left in his budget plan for the kinds of improvements in education that we need.

POTTER: By contrast, the vice president claimed that since the start of his campaign, education has been a top priority. He is now proposing what he calls a national tuition savings plan, to help working families pay for college. He described it as a tax-free savings plan that fights inflation. The money would be used to pay for colleges around the country, not just in states where families open their education savings accounts.

GORE: My proposal would make it nationwide, and make it portable, so that families in our highly mobile society that move across state lines will not lose the savings that they have put aside for the college tuition of a child.

POTTER: The vice president repeated his pledge to fight for safer schools, smaller classrooms, and higher pay for teachers.

(on camera): After wrapping up here in Michigan, and a stopover in Ohio to meet with labor leaders, the vice president returns to California to meet with Democratic political leaders in that all- important March 7 primary state.

Mark Potter, CNN, Southfield, Michigan.


WOODRUFF: INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


SHAW: There is much more ahead here on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Coming up, the issue of the day for George W. Bush.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have been such an active tort reformer...

Tort reform.

Tort laws.


WOODRUFF: A look at why this issue matters to the GOP hopeful and what it means for the average voter.



HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: It is outrageous that the mayor has injected religion into this race.


SHAW: The New York Senate candidates take time off the issues to trade barbs over religion.

And later...


BOB DOLE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What does Bob Dole think? Bob Dole thinks he's a dufus.


WOODRUFF: A look at politics of cheese.


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

We begin with a story that underscores the importance and the vulnerability of e-commerce and the Internet. The FBI says it is conducting a criminal investigation into a series of Internet attacks. The disruptions continued for a third day. Internet vandals are inundating sites with messages, jamming popular sites, and shutting out millions of users.


JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are committed in every way possible to tracking down those who are responsible, to bringing them to justice, and to seeing that the law is enforced, and we're committed to taking steps to ensure that e-commerce remains a secure place to do business.


SHAW: The FBI says it does not have a motive for these attacks, nor does it know of any credible claims of responsibility.

WOODRUFF: A hijacked Afghan Airliner is sitting on a runway in London for the fourth night in a row. Today, the hijackers asked for more food and for other supplies. Negotiations were restarted after four crew members escaped from the cockpit on a rope yesterday. Later, a flight attendant was pushed down some stairs out of the plane. Police say there is now no one now on board who is competent to fly the aircraft.

In the U.S., investigators say the Alaska Airlines jet that plunged into the Pacific Ocean last week had two maintenance write-ups last fall. Both of them had to do with problems with the horizontal stabilizer. Moments before the plane crashed, the pilots reported having trouble with the horizontal stabilizer. The Navy has recovered two plane parts from the crash site, both believed to be from that stabilizer.

SHAW: Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez are in Washington today, meeting with members of Congress. They continue to lobby for custody and citizenship on the boy's behalf. However, a possible meeting with Attorney General Janet Reno has been canceled by their attorney, Spencer Eig. State records show two of the boy's great uncles have been convicted of driving under the influence. Child custody experts say the convictions could make it even more difficult for the uncles to be granted custody.

WOODRUFF: And there's more INSIDE POLITICS coming up. When we return, Bill Schneider will look at what has become the central issue driving the Republican presidential race.



BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I was so excited about Jeb and George's success that I thought about getting into politics. How does senator from New Jersey sound?



BARBARA BUSH: Then I switched that to New York, because I am a native-born New Yorker, you know.



SHAW: Former first lady Barbara Bush having a little fun with the New York Senate race. Today, the woman who succeeded Mrs. Bush as first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, was on the campaign trail in Syracuse. There she strayed from her message long enough to rebuke a move by her likely Senate opponent, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Frank Buckley reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next United States Senator from the state of New York: Hillary Rodham Clinton.


FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hillary Clinton was at Syracuse University to talk about education and her proposals to attract more teachers to schools. But first, she blasted her presumed Republican opponent, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, for comments he made about Mrs. Clinton and religion in a fund-raising letter to his supporters.

The letter said, in part, "Hillary Clinton revealed her hostility toward America's religious traditions when she attacked Governor George W. Bush's idea that we should look toward America's faith-based charities more than government programs to address social problems."

H. CLINTON: I was appalled when I read it, because it not only contained false statements about me and my respect for our religious traditions in our country, but it did so in the context of raising money for a Senate campaign.

BUCKLEY: The letter also recalled the Brooklyn Museum exhibition that included a controversial painting of the Virgin Mary: "In the minds of left-wing activists like Hillary Clinton, Giuliani wrote, I guess it's OK to use taxpayer funds to subsidize religious express, so long as it involves the desecration of religious symbols."

Mrs. Clinton, a one-time Methodist Sunday school teacher, told reporters Giuliani comments were out of bounds.

H. CLINTON: You know, I am outraged that he would inject religion into this campaign in any form whatsoever.

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK CITY: It's the Clinton campaign that injected it into the race. The reality is, nobody attacked them. Nobody said anything today. Nobody said anything yesterday. Nobody said anything the day before yesterday. They take a letter that goes back four months, and they use it today to create an issue so they can spin all of you.

BUCKLEY: Mrs. Clinton has, in fact, spoken publicly in support of religious charities, recently at an appearance at the New York Theological Seminary.

H. CLINTON: I believe in an even, level playing field. I believe in faith-based institutions, providing services, and I believe that we ought to do everything we can to fund those services that are effective and that get good results.

BUCKLEY: At Syracuse, Mrs. Clinton's address on education included proposals to create a national clearinghouse to help teachers find jobs and an initiative to fund scholarships for prospective teachers who would commit to teach in high-need schools.

CLINTON: If I am the United States Senator, I will be on your side in the fight to create a national teachers corps so we can put more than 75,000 talented teachers every year into our schools that need them the most.

BUCKLEY: The Clinton proposal echoes portions of education plans put forth by both Democratic candidates for president.


BUCKLEY: President Clinton indicated today how closely he was watching this Senate race, when he told supporters during a trip to Texas today that one can measure how well a candidate is doing by how hard that candidate is being attacked. He said based on that, he says that his wife is a cinch to win -- Bernie. SHAW: Frank, quick question for you, since announcing her candidacy, any difference in Mrs. Clinton's campaigning?

BUCKLEY: I think there has been, Bernie. Previously, during her so-called listening tour, she was doing; she was listening occasionally, making a speech or giving a comment about her view on things. This week, she's been very targeted every day, a different theme of the campaign. Monday it was jobs. Yesterday it was health care. Today it was education. Tomorrow it will be families. Those are the primary planks of what she is running on. Those are the themes that she is running on. She also has what sounds like stump speech lines that she repeats frequently in some of her speeches. So she does seem more and more like a focused candidate.

The curious thing is we've nine months away from Election Day, and it's very, very intense already.

SHAW: Frank Buckley, in Syracuse, thank you -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, joining us now, in New York, Tucker Carlson of "The Weekly Standard," and here in Washington, Margaret Carlson of "Time" magazine.

Margaret and Tucker, but Margaret, I want to start with you. This New York Senate race is obviously taking shape now, with the first lady officially getting in. Is she off to a strong start?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, it got much more intense. I went to see her announcement in Purchase, New York on Sunday. I noted that she had changed into a candidate, not that, you know, she was all that good, but that she had taken on another guise, which is she's now "Hillary," with all but the exclamation point after her name. Her husband had a back seat. He was doing the Nancy Reagan-type nodding, taking on the spousal duties, and she spoke in a pointed way. There was no more listening tour about her.

Even though the one thing that was similar to Clinton, however, was that there was this laundry list, that's similar to the State of the Union, where she ticked off just about every possible issue.


TUCKER CARLSON, "WEEKLY STANDARD": I must say, I, too, am wondering what happened to the rest of her name. She has sort of ventured into the, you know, Cher, Madonna, Oprah world. No, I mean, look, it's hard to see what exactly what the rationale is for this campaign. As people have said a lot, there isn't enough separating the two candidates on policy now. Rudy Giuliani's prickly personality could be an issue. He's got high negatives. And I think if Mrs. Clinton were to parlay things like this direct-mail incident, it could be helpful. I often thought that if candidates actually read their own direct mail, they'd probably retire out of shame and embarrassment, because it is so ugly so much of the time, and this is, too.

But apart from that, it's so hard to see how exactly in one sentence Mrs. Clinton describes why she's running. And until she does that, it's going to be hard to get her own negatives down, which are high, too.

WOODRUFF: Margaret, no rationale for her campaign?

M. CARLSON: Well, both of them are looking for the next thing to do. Rudy doesn't have that good a rationale either. And it is going to be, who do you like less, or who do you hate less in this campaign, because they both have extraordinarily high negatives.


T. CARLSON: And well earned, I would say.

WOODRUFF: Are you going to...


M. CARLSON: We're going to give you a negative, Tucker, if you don't pipe up.

T. CARLSON: Well, I mean, look, Giuliani...


WOODRUFF: ... to pull words out of you today?

Go ahead.

T. CARLSON: Well, he can point to New York City, obviously, and does, and say, gee, whatever you think of my personality -- he can do, essentially, an Al D'Amato: I may be too colorful you, but you know, I fixed the potholes, on in Giuliani's case, you know, look what I've done to Manhattan. And that's not uncompelling.

Mrs. Clinton is going to have a much harder case. She's been talking about for over 30 years, I've been an advocate on behalf of women and children and education, et cetera, but she's going to have to be awfully more specific than that, and I think it's going to be tough.

WOODRUFF: Let me switch you both quickly to the presidential race on the Republican side. Clearly, at least up until today, the rhetoric was heating up. You had one calling the other a hypocrite, and the other one comparing his opponent to Bill Clinton. Is either one of them advantaged more by this kind of discourse, Margaret?

M. CARLSON: Well, for Bush, it requires a change of personality. He's the genial, amiable candidate, who now, you know -- the biggest criticism of his demeanor was he had a smirk about him. Now it's a nasty smirk, and so he's lost part of his charm in doing this. And while he -- if he's going to throw the kitchen sink at McCain, the kitchen sink should have some good stuff in it. And so far, he threw that McCain takes money from lobbyists, and it turns out when it was toted up, Bush takes 10 times as much as McCain from the same people. McCain had $90,000; he had close to half a million. On the veterans, why would somebody from the Texas Air National Guard, who kept, you know, Texas safe from Oklahoma want to criticize John McCain on veteran's matters. Another huge mistake. So it's -- the throwing the kitchen sink has to be done where you've got good things to toss out. And I don't think there's been one winner among them.

WOODRUFF: Tucker, is one of them doing a better job than the other?

T. CARLSON: I'm not sure. I can tell you this, though. I spoke to three different people on the Bush campaign last night, and every one of them made the same point: Bush is mad, personally mad, angry by the McCain ad, the comparison to Clinton, infuriated. And every person I spoke to in that campaign was also. It's interesting to note that despite a lot of rumors to the contrary, the Bush campaign hasn't melted down from a staff point of view. There hasn't been all the firings we keep hearing about. Everyone is still there. So there isn't necessarily panic, though, you know, maybe there should be.

But they seem to have tightened up the campaign, and I think they're going to hit McCain very, very hard. I don't see how that can be good for McCain. The Bush people are blaming it on him: He started it, et cetera, et cetera. Part of that is rhetoric. I think part of it is probably true. He really struck a cord with that Clinton ad.

WOODRUFF: Margaret, both of them, just quickly, are claiming victory in Delaware. Can either -- I mean, can they both do that?

M. CARLSON: Well, yes, in fact, they can. If you've never set foot in the state, you get a quarter of the vote, this was like magic. You know, the only loser is Forbes, and we barely knew he was still in the race and now he's out of the race. And so in some ways, it's a big win for Bush if you think the Forbes' vote in the future is going to go to Bush.

WOODRUFF: And, Tucker, is it?

T. CARLSON: I don't know. I think anybody who brags about winning Delaware -- there is really no clear sign of desperation, as far as I'm concerned. Delaware? Steve Forbes won in '96.

WOODRUFF: And what about Forbes's departure? Does that help George Bush more?

T. CARLSON: Yes it does, and it's a perfect opportunity for Forbes to run for Senate in New Jersey, which is what he should have done in the first place. He has a message in his campaign. People nationally didn't care about it. But it will probably play well in New Jersey. Who knows? He's got a big staff and a lot of money. He could be a real politician.

WOODRUFF: But he's going to have to switch back from being a born again Christian, which he became.

M. CARLSON: Oh, he's flexible, Margaret, come on.

WOODRUFF: All right, come on, both of you. Tucker Carlson, Margaret Carlson, thank you both. And we'll see you very soon.

M. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And INSIDE POLITICS, more in just a moment, including from Bill Schneider: What's the "r" word in the Republican presidential race.


WOODRUFF: In the event you missed it, an unexpected twist has occurred in the Republican presidential race. For George W. Bush and John McCain, the battle now is over the "R" word.

Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins us again with his take on what has happened -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Well, Judy, of all the issues to drive a Republican primary race, this has got to be the oddest one of all -- not abortion, or taxes, or morality, or military spending. The central issue in the GOP race has become reform, and the debate is over who's the real reformer. How did this happen?


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): In the months leading up to the New Hampshire primary, George W. Bush tried several messages. Message one: I challenge my party to be more open and inclusive.

BUSH: I will work hard to unite our party, put an optimistic face on our conservative philosophy.

SCHNEIDER: Message two: I've got a record of accomplishment.

BUSH: I'm the one on the stage who's had executive experience when it comes to government.

SCHNEIDER: Message three: I'm a real conservative.

BUSH: I am a tax-cutting person.

SCHNEIDER: None of it worked. Bush got creamed by John McCain in New Hampshire. McCain won on biography, a subject on which Bush dare not try to compete with McCain. But McCain also won as a reformer: calling himself the candidate who could truly change the way Washington does business. Bush's response after New Hampshire: run to the right.

BUSH: It's going to be a clear race between a more moderate to liberal candidate versus a conservative candidate in the state of South Carolina.

SCHNEIDER: But after going to Bob Jones University and receiving Dan Quayle's endorsement, Bush realized pretty quickly he didn't want to get trapped as the leader of the party's right wing. So after retreating to Austin last weekend, Bush decided to challenge McCain for the mantle of reform.

BUSH: In this race there is only one person who can stand up and say, I'm a reformer with results.

SCHNEIDER: What results? Bush claims he's reformed taxes, education, and the legal system in Texas. And what is Senator McCain? Bush says a hypocrite, a Washington insider who's been in Congress 17 years.

BUSH: He is the person who is, Mr. Chairman. He's been in Washington for a long time. He's been in there so long that he's now the chairman of a very important committee, and chairmen of very important committees have got the capacity to call people up and say, I'd like your help. On the one hand, he preaches campaign funding reform. On the other hand, he says pass the plate.

SCHNEIDER: McCain's defense: Even if I do accept contributions from lobbyists, they don't influence me, and even if they have, I want to make up for it.

MCCAIN: I am tainted by a system that most Americans believe is corrupt, and that increases my zeal to repair this system.

SCHNEIDER: Besides, McCain says, who is Bush to talk?

MCCAIN: Now we seem to have evolved into as to who is the captive of the special interests, that coming from a campaign that was proud of raising $70 million.

SCHNEIDER: Touche, Senator, at least that's what South Carolina Republicans say. Poll after poll shows they think McCain would do a better job than Bush in reforming government.


SCHNEIDER: It's going to be hard for Bush to steal the title of the reform candidate away from McCain. Bush has three things going against him. One: his name. Two: $70 million. And three: voters in South Carolina don't know his record in Texas. If Bush is a reformer, that's news to them -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

And we'll have more INSIDE POLITICS right after this.


SHAW: As we reported earlier, George W. Bush pressed ahead with his "I'm a reformer theme" today by rolling out a plan for tort reform. He says it would discourage frivolous lawsuits and place other restraints on lawyers.

Well, joining us to talk more about this, Jim Wooton, the president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, and Barry Nace, former president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

Gentlemen, the governor today also called for three-strikes legislation -- that was his phrase -- that would bar from federal court a lawyer found to have filed three frivolous lawsuits.

Your reaction to that? That lawyer would be barred for three years, Mr. Nace?

BARRY NACE, FORMER PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF TRIAL LAWYERS OF AMERICA: Well, lawyers shouldn't file frivolous lawsuits to start with. We all agree with that. But in addition, we do have provisions right now that if somebody does file a frivolous lawsuit, there are plenty of rules out there that can be enforced by the court to stop that sort of thing.

SHAW: Mr. Wooton?

JIM WOOTON, PRESIDENT, U.S.CHAMBER INSTITUTE FOR LEGAL REFORM: Well, I think anything that's going to be a disincentive for lawyers to file suits that put defendants and often the corporation shareholders at risk, ought to be considered. And this is a creative way to raise the stakes for lawyers that aren't careful about the suits they file.

SHAW: What about rule 11? Does that not already cover that provision?

NACE: I would say that rule 11 clearly covers that provision and has for a long time. But you know, what somebody says is frivolous, many times we hear people saying frivolous just because a plaintiff doesn't win or they don't like what they hear the first time around. But frivolous is something that doesn't happen that often. We hear about some strange cases, but this is not a problem that we generally have in the profession.

SHAW: Jim Wooton, Governor Bush said today in South Carolina, the plaintiffs attorneys are very strong politically in the state and nationally. And then said this: "This requires a president who's willing to stare them down." Do you agree with that?

WOOTON: Well, I think the plaintiffs trial bar has gotten very aggressive politically. And now there's a lot of money flowing into the individual's pockets, about 8 billion has already been awarded in just three of the tobacco states, and the trial lawyer donations are up over 100 percent.

And the fact is that they become a force on the political scene and it will take a lot of courage to make sure somebody keeps them from rigging the system in their favor.

SHAW: What about that, Barry Nace?

NACE: Well, trial lawyers are people that protect the little guy. And when you're talking about becoming a force, you have to say, what force does the little guy have versus what force does this -- these various big corporations have that have consistently been controlling what happens to the lives of the little people.

I think we have consistently, as trial lawyers, said we are more interested in the individual than we are in the big corporation. And that offends some people.

SHAW: I want to ask each of you, because you feel so passionate about this subject, a very simple question. Starting with you, Mr. Wooton. Where are the votes in this proposal for tort reform by Governor Bush?

WOOTON: Well, I think the votes are in the shareholders of America who see their share prices depressed by an out-of-control litigation system. And they're actually in the votes in the clients who have been ripped off by trial lawyers, who get tens of millions sometimes when the actual clients get coupons. The American public's on to lawsuit abuse and they know it's costing them money.

SHAW: And you, Mr. Nace?

NACE: Well, you know, this is the kind of thing that really gets blown out of proportion. When you talk about the little guys and you talk about lawyers, the little guys want the lawyer when they get hurt and when they need somebody. And it's -- you know, we can use all these trigger words like lawsuit abuse and so on, and it's just another word for trying to keep the individual from having a fair playing field.

That's all we've ever asked for and we have a good system. The tort reform is really nothing more than "tort deform," take the rights away from the little guy.

SHAW: Gentlemen, thanks so much for your time: Barry Nace, former president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America; and Jim Wooton, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.

Thanks for joining us -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And finally, in North Carolina, a national commercial about cheese is hitting a little too close to home. The ad by the American Dairy Association is called "Election," and it looks at cheese -- yes, cheese -- as a hot political issue for two fictional candidates.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That's why I want to be your president

No, thank you. I don't like cheese.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hayes' campaign stumbled today.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I don't like cheese.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This cheese thing is really just a non issue.

Hi, there, I'm John Hayes.

Hey, John Hayes, running for president.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What if we say, he chewed, but he never swallowed?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I think that we're very strong in the Farm Belt.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And on the farm, we don't like eggs

ROBERT DOLE (R), FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: What does Bob Dole think? Bob Dole thinks he's a dufus.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: With all your support, on to victory.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I wanted to live in the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Unlike my opponent, I love cheese!


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I am not a dufus.

NARRATOR: Ah, the power of cheese.


WOODRUFF: Well, the ad is airing all over the country, but in North Carolina's hotly contested eighth district congressional race, the candidates are named Hayes and Taylor, same as in the ad.

The producers of the ad called it a complete coincidence, and they said they were unaware of the House race.


SHAW: No comment.

WOODRUFF: No comment. Different first names, though.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow, when our Bill Delaney will report on Democrats switching parties so that they can vote for John McCain in the big upcoming primaries.

And of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's

SHAW: And this programming note: Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi will be discussing the presidential race and the Clinton budget proposal tonight on "CROSSFIRE." That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. I'm Bernard Shaw.

WOODRUFF: And I'm Judy Woodruff. "WORLDVIEW" is next.


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