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Reform Party May Be Divided Come Convention Time; Will Giuliani's Personal Problems Impact His Senate Bid?; Gore Spends at Latino SchoolAired May 11, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK CITY: I'm not thinking about politics very much right now. I'm trying to think about health and, obviously, thinking about personal concerns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: But some Republicans who are thinking about politics are anxious about Rudy Giuliani's personal problems and what they could mean to his Senate bid.
Ross Perot and Patrick Buchanan, and the battle for the Reform Party. We'll talk to each camp.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bingo!
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bingo! Bingo! Bingo.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bingo!
GORE: Bingo, you all got it. Very good!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RANDALL: Al Gore back at school with questions about whether he can win in the fall.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.
RANDALL: Thanks for joining us. I'm Gene Randall, sitting in for Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.
When Rudy Giuliani disclosed that he and his wife would discuss a formal separation, he might have hoped it would end the speculation about his personal life and how it might affect his political career. If so, he may be disappointed. A day later, questions about the future of his Senate candidacy are mounting.
CNN's Frank Buckley is in New York.
GIULIANI: Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rudy Giuliani was referring to rumors of his political death as speculation surged in New York that the mayor was close to ending his run for the Senate.
GIULIANI: I haven't made up my mind whether I have the energy and the capacity and the -- to run. I may, I may not, and that's where it stands.
BUCKLEY: The day after revealing that he was seeking a separation from his wife, Donna Hanover, after allegations from Hanover that he was once involved with his former press secretary, a week after acknowledging a close friendship with another Manhattan woman, not his wife, and two weeks after announcing he had prostate cancer, Giuliani faced a room full of reporters and a fast-approaching deadline to declare his intentions: May 30, the day New York Republicans nominate their Senate candidate.
GIULIANI: I understand the needs of the Republican Party. I'm going to take that into great consideration, but I don't have a personal timetable.
BUCKLEY: State party officials tell CNN they believe Giuliani will stay in the race, but other Republicans are anxious for an answer.
LEE MIRINGOFF, MARIST INSTITUTE: I think there is a lot of nail- biting right now, and a little annoyance. On the one hand, they want to be sensitive. On the other hand, they want to get this show on the road, one way or the other.
BUCKLEY: Meanwhile, new names are being added to the growing list of possible replacements. An aide to billionaire investor Theodore Forstmann says Forstmann is meeting next week with state party leaders. Long Island Congressman Peter King, one of the few New York Republicans to back John McCain in his presidential run, says he'd consider filling in. And Congressman Rick Lazio has more than $3 million bankrolled as he awaits Giuliani's decision.
GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: I just believe that we have to give the mayor the time and the space and the privacy with his family to make these important decisions. My hope is that he will still run.
BUCKLEY: And for the moment, Giuliani's response to the specific question, "does he have the burning desire to be a U.S. Senator," is less than specific.
GIULIANI: I very much would like the opportunity to carry on my public service, yes, but if I address myself to that now, I'll be answering that question, and I haven't answered that question, and when I am ready to answer it, I will, and it isn't today and it isn't going to be tomorrow, so you can calm down about it.
BUCKLEY: Democrats have their candidate in first lady Hillary Clinton, who is maintaining a distance from Giuliani's troubles.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), N.Y. SEN. CANDIDATE: Out of respect for the mayor and his family, I have nothing to say about that.
BUCKLEY (on camera): Mrs. Clinton will be formally recognized as the Democrats' choice for U.S. Senate next week, when she is nominated at their state convention. The same week Republicans expect to learn if Rudy Giuliani is in or out.
Frank Buckley, CNN, New York.
RANDALL: For more on all this, we turn to Michael Goodwin, executive editor of "The New York Daily News," he is in Manhattan. Mr. Goodwin, thanks for being with us.
MICHAEL GOODWIN, EXEC. EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Pleasure.
RANDALL: The mayor of New York called his domestic situation and his separation decision a very, very painful thing, but how do you see the political context? I mean, did you see it as a sign that he intends to stay in the Senate race and remove a potentially lethal situation?
GOODWIN: Well, I think that is one way to look at it, and I think that an equally valid way is that the personal situation was driving it. He just simply had to resolve the personal life. He has got cancer, which as you reported, I think a lot of people sort of go through a re-examination of their lives.
This strain within his marriage has been building for years now, his decision to sort of go public with his good lady friend, I think a lot of things came together at the same time. And I think that he is clearly reassessing what he wants to do and I think it makes it more difficult for him to run under these circumstances.
RANDALL: Well, if he stays in the Senate race against the first lady, does he all of a sudden have a character issue he must cope with?
GOODWIN: I think he does. I think that one of the things about Rudy Giuliani has always been the level of integrity, I mean, that is how he made his name as a crime-busting U.S. attorney, he came into New York as a reformer, as a Republican in a Democratic-dominated town, he made enormous changes in the government and the way the government does business, the crackdown on crime, changes in the welfare rules, I mean -- and yet, still, in many ways very much a moderate Republican in terms of the national standards.
So he has been somebody who I think has set a high standard for public service, who has lived an exemplary life in public service in many, many ways, and this goes right to the heart of that. I mean, his wife accused him of infidelity, the "A" word, he's an adulterer, he has admitted to having a female friend other than his wife, a very good friend. There are now allegations about other women almost certain to come out. So I think that this does go to the heart of who Rudy has been as a public official.
RANDALL: There is a school of thought as you know that Giuliani's marital problems will somehow make him more human, is that the ultimate spin?
GOODWIN: Well, it is the ultimate spin. I don't know how much humanity we can take here, I think a little bit of failings is a good thing, and certainly it does make him on another level more like the rest of us, that's something he never tried to be. But, I -- there is a question of how much is enough, and I think we may have more than he can handle right here.
RANDALL: Mr. Goodwin, if Giuliani drops out of the race for whatever reason, how do you see the Republican field, would any eventual candidate start from ground zero given the lead time the first lady has?
GOODWIN: Well, I think one of the interesting phenomenons about this race is that it began so early and, here we are, we are only in May and already we are talking about, is it too late. I don't think it is too late. I think one of the great disadvantages for a new candidate at this time would be money. But Teddy Forstmann, who you mentioned in your piece there, has a personal fortune.
Others I think -- Hillary is a great fund raiser for Republicans. Anybody running against her I think will have the advantage of national money, as the mayor did. The mayor raised just about $20 million now, he's spent a lot of it, but he raised much more money than he ever thought he would at this stage.
And I should add, by the way, that if he does decide to stay in, if he has surgery on his prostate and everything goes well there, and he decides to stay in the race, he would still have a lot of money. So, he may lose a couple of month's of time, but he would have a lot of money should he decide to stay in the race.
RANDALL: And, Rick Lazio, what do you see in his future if Giuliani steps out?
GOODWIN: Well, I think Lazio would be a credible candidate. I don't know though that he automatically inherits the Giuliani group. Don't forget the polls show Giuliani and Hillary -- and "The Daily News" has another poll tomorrow showing still that there is pretty much a dead heat, you have a little variation, but so far it has been pretty much a dead heat. So there isn't a lot of room -- margin of error here.
Now, there is also the question of minor party candidates, Republican conservative and right to life, I should say, parties are looking to nominate a former Congressman who could pull a lot of votes away from the Republican candidate on the more conservative side. RANDALL: Mr. Goodwin, what are your pollsters telling you about the race?
GOODWIN: Well, so far, the issue of Rudy's extramarital affairs have not made a big impact on the public. I think, people so far have not heard enough to say that this would change their mind in any great numbers, but that number is rising slightly and I think it will continue to rise as the story gets more statewide play. Don't forget, we are here in New York City, it's a real media hothouse for the story, he is the mayor of New York after all. But upstate in...
RANDALL: Mr. Goodwin...
RANDALL: ... does the mayor stay in or get out of the race, what do you think?
GOODWIN: Will he?
RANDALL: Will he or won't he?
GOODWIN: I don't -- I think it's 50-50 right now, I think the next week -- I think we will know within a week.
RANDALL: Mr. Goodwin, thanks very much, thanks for being with us.
GOODWIN: My pleasure.
RANDALL: President Clinton, today, touched on Giuliani's marital and health problems.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think everybody in New York and everybody out in America ought to be rooting for the human side of this to work out. We should wish him well and his struggle over his illness, we should wish that family well, we should want the best for their children, and we should want some space for all of them, out of the glare of publicity to work their family issues out, that is what I want and I hope he gets it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RANDALL: Mr. Clinton also said the first lady's Senate bid has not affected what he called his "good personal relationship" with the mayor of New York. And on National Public Radio, the president said his years in the White House have been good for his marriage. He says living above the store, so to speak, has given the first couple more time together.
In that interview, Mr. Clinton did not mention the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The Clintons and the Giulianis, of course, have had to deal with their marital problems with the media and, in turn, the nation watching. Bruce Morton now on politicians, past and present, and the shrinking zone of privacy.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Adlai Stevenson, the Democrats' presidential nominee in 1952, was divorced. Reporters mentioned it, but running against war hero Dwight Eisenhower and a world-class grin, Stevenson never had much chance of winning. John Kennedy had girlfriends, and reporters knew it, but the rule used to be, you only write it if it affects the way the man is doing his job.
HUGH SIDEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I never saw that it got in the way of Kennedy being president, and so we just kind of shoved it aside, not that we approved of it or thought it was a wise thing or anything, but there was so much else to do.
MORTON: In 1962, Republican Nelson Rockefeller divorced his wife of 32 years and, in 1963, remarried. The widely-reported divorce and remarriage cost Rockefeller popularity, but he lost the 1964 presidential nomination to Barry Goldwater because the GOP was changing direction -- conservative, not moderate; South and West, not East.
The rule really changed with Democrat Gary Hart's presidential run in 1988. Reporters found out about Donna Rice and the good ship monkey business and asked hard questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Have you ever committed adultery?
SEN. GARY HART (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not have to answer that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: Did that have anything to do with how well he was doing his job? No, but all of a sudden private lives were fair game. And then came William Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. CLINTON: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: The intern eventually did affect how the president did his job. He was impeached by the House and acquitted in a Senate trial. The mayor of New York, unlike the president, hid no gaudy secrets, just some pain.
GIULIANI: This is very, very painful. For quite some time, it's probably been apparent that Donna and I lead, in many ways, independent and separate lives. MORTON: How much of this is the press's business, the voters business? Some, certainly. This can affect how the mayor does his job.
GIULIANI: You have every right to ask me, and then I have a right to answer or not answer, and that's the way I think we can have a respectful relationship with each other.
MORTON (on camera): That may be about right. Different media have different rules these days, draw the privacy line in different places. But if reporters ask and politicians answer when the feel they should, and we respect each other, the voters may learn what they need to know, which used to be the point of it all.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
RANDALL: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: Patrick Buchanan, the future of the Reform Party, and Ross Perot, the X factor at the August convention.
Stay with us.
RANDALL: The Reform Party convention is set for Long Beach, California, in early August, but as we reported yesterday, former -- or party founder, rather, Ross Perot may not be there.
A short while ago, I spoke with former party chairman Russ Verney and Bay Buchanan. Her brother, Patrick Buchanan, is expected to get the Reform Party's presidential nomination, and therein lies the rub for Perot. I began by asking Verney if Perot would address the convention, and if not, why not.
RUSS VERNEY, FMR. REFORM PARTY CHAIRMAN: Still in doubt. Ross has a very busy travel schedule for his businesses this summer and nothing has been finalized for whether or not he will be able to attend the convention in Long Beach.
RANDALL (on camera): But doesn't it seem appropriate that the founder of party would address the convention?
VERNEY: If it is at all possible, I'm sure he will be there.
RANDALL: Miss Buchanan, what would Ross Perot's absence at that convention say about your brother's probable candidacy?
BAY BUCHANAN, BUCHANAN CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR: I don't think it says much at all, Gene. We welcome Mr. Perot being at the convention, we'd be delighted to have him there, he's the founder, the father of this party. But if he chooses to continue to be neutral as he has in this entire primary process, we will respect that as well. RANDALL: Mr. Verney, let's cut to the quick, what is it about Patrick Buchanan that so upsets the Ross Perot wing of your Reform Party?
VERNEY: Well, I'm not sure it is the wing of the Reform Party. Tens of thousands of people built this party based on a set of principles and they are embodied in the principles of reform in the constitutional principles of the party, and that is what we are looking for, somebody who can come in and embrace the principles of what was originally the foundation of this party and help build it. Now, if somebody is coming in trying to change the party, deflect it away from the principles and on to some other agenda, that is not going sit well in the party at all.
RANDALL: Miss Buchanan.
BUCHANAN: You know, Ross -- I mean, Russ Verney met with me about over a -- no, just about a year ago, not quite maybe, and really encouraged with the presence of Pat Choate, encouraged me to tell my brother that they would welcome him into this party, and one of the first things I tell Mr. Verney was my brother is a strong supporter of traditional values, he'll remain that, he would never change that, he supports the unborn child, he's an outspoken advocate of the rights of the unborn and that, that wouldn't change.
He continued to say, we want you in this party, we think you would be a terrific candidate, tell your brother that, and I did. And I encouraged my brother to come in. He has not changed, Gene, you know better than anyone, when you ask Pat Buchanan a question he's going to tell you exactly what he believes, he's consistent in those thoughts, and, so nothing has changed. I don't know why Russ Verney suddenly thinks that Pat Buchanan should change.
VERNEY: What has changed is the distinction between a campaign and a party. Now, whether or not Pat Buchanan wants to campaign on social issues is his business. Our party does not address them -- but the party does not address them specifically.
Now, recent comments in "Human Events" magazine that we are going to put a preamble to our party platform and we are going to become the nation's right-to-life political party, that's contrary to the principles upon which this party was built. He can campaign on that, that is his business.
BUCHANAN: You know, it sure is his business.
VERNEY: By changing...
BUCHANAN: Russ Verney, it is absolutely his business, and he has made it quite clear, from the time I met with you I made it clear to you, and ever since then we have been consistent.
We'll make no effort whatsoever to change the party platform, but Mr. Buchanan is a strong supporter of life, he will make his statement, attach that to the platform, so the country knows where he as a candidate stands and the platform will respect exactly and state what the party stands for.
RANDALL: Miss Buchanan, your brother has referred to the Long Beach convention as, quote, "my convention." One could argue that is not the language which will bring about party unity, which I'm sure he wants.
BUCHANAN: Gene, there is only one candidate it appears to me that is going to be formidable at all at that convention and we are very, very strong with the delegates right now, it's not sewn up.
But in order to beat us you've got to come up with a horse and get him in the race, and so when Pat says his convention I think he's feeling pretty good about where we stand right now. We hope it turns into a Buchanan convention, where the Reform Party gathers together and nominates Pat Buchanan to represent them in a general election.
RANDALL: Mr. Verney, do you see Patrick Buchanan's rhetoric as part of a hostile takeover attempt?
VERNEY: That is exactly the problem, here, Gene. If he is coming along to honor the work that is put on the table, $6 million worth of ballot access in 20 states -- they don't have to do anything -- $12.5 million worth of federal funding, networks across the country, if they're looking to come to add to that, help that along, build it, they are welcome.
If they are coming in here, as they did in Wisconsin with a hostile takeover, with the attitude of this is going to become a right to life party, the candidate can be as right to life as he wants, that is his business. The party is not a right-to-life party and is not going become one. There is a Constitution Party out there, if that is what they want.
BUCHANAN: Russ, Pat has been to approximately 25 state conventions. I think we saw you at one of those, and at those conventions it's overwhelmingly supporters of Pat Buchanan, 80 to 20 every single place we go. It is enormously -- many of them hundreds and hundreds of people coming -- we have done just that.
Pat Buchanan has built this party from state after state after state, these people support Pat Buchanan, and there is no Reform Party Perot faction that is opposing us except for a handful of old fellows who are a little upset that Pat Buchanan is going to be the nominee.
RANDALL: Mr. Verney, you get the final 30 seconds.
VERNEY: I have no question that when a candidate shows up he brings a few supporters and some enthusiasm. You should be looking at addition, adding them together, not dividing them, not pushing the old people out of the way and say, your day is over.
BUCHANAN: We aren't pushing anyone who wants to join this campaign...
VERNEY: You did it in Wisconsin. BUCHANAN: ... including you all can, but I'm sorry you are a little upset that you haven't been able to find someone else to run against him.
RANDALL: All of this to be continued. Russ Verney and Bay Buchanan, thanks very much.
RANDALL: There is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.
Still to come...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: No! I can't -- what's going on here? What's going on here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RANDALL: The vice president hams it up with students as he focuses once again on a key campaign issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Morning, how you doing?
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is not quite 6:00 a.m. and still six months to November, yet labor's foot soldiers are on the street.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RANDALL: John King on Al Gore's grassroots army on loan from the ranks of organized labor.
And later, the political numbers game. Who's up, who's down and why.
This is INSIDE POLITICS.
RANDALL: We will have more of the day's political news coming up, but first a brief look at other stories we are following.
Whipped by winds, a firestorm is sweeping across New Mexico. At least 18,000 people have evacuated Los Alamos and nearby communities. As many as 400 homes have been damaged, 100 of them destroyed, 18,000 acres have been consumed by the flames. With winds gusting to 60 miles-an-hour, things could get a lot worse. State and federal officials insist nuclear materials at the Los Alamos National Lab are safe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL RICHARDSON, ENERGY SECRETARY: All our nuclear materials are safe. We believe that our extensive nuclear materials throughout the complex are safe. They are located in many fire-resistant buildings, we believe that the public should not be concerned about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RANDALL: Some in Congress want an investigation of the park services decision to set a controlled burn in such dry, windy conditions.
Federal appeals court judges today aggressively questioned lawyers on both sides of the Elian Gonzalez case in Atlanta. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will decide if the 6-year-old Cuban boy may apply for political asylum against the wishes of his father. Among other questions today, whether the father's allegiance to communist Cuba is in the best interest of Elian.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CASTELLO, ASSOC. DEPUTY ATTY. GEN.: The bond between a parent and his child is recognized not only in our constitutional order, but is also recognized throughout the world. There is nothing in the text of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which was the law that governs the decision here, that suggests that Congress intended to depart from those time-honored principles in immigration matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RANDALL: Outside the courtroom, about 100 demonstrators cheered Marisleysis Gonzalez and other members of Elian's Miami relatives as they left the building. A decision is expected within a few weeks.
It looks likely the Confederate flag will be coming down from its place over South Carolina's capitol dome. A bill to remove it passed the state House today. It already has the support of the state Senate and the governor. The flag will be repositioned near a Civil War monument in front of the capitol building.
FBI agents tell House investigators intelligence agents from other countries have unescorted access to the State Department where they pose as reporters. Department officials say correspondents and other visitors are supposed to be chaperoned in the building. The House International Relations Committee is looking into security lapses at State.
The Vatican has named the bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Edward Egan, to succeed the late Cardinal John O'Connor as the head of the Archdiocese of New York. Bishop Egan is known as a strict conservative on Roman Catholic prohibitions on abortion, artificial birth control and homosexuality.
When we come back, Bush versus Gore -- a bipartisan look at where they stand with the public and why.
GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: In Al Gore's continuing bid to emphasize education as a campaign issue, he spent another day, where else?, at a school. In the process, the vice president sought to solidify his support in California and reach out, once again, to the Latino community.
Jennifer Auther is covering Gore's swing through the Golden State.
JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vice President Al Gore spent the day hearing from students for whom a good education is perhaps the only ticket to a better life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got it!
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh no! No, I don't believe it!
AUTHER: the Elizabeth Learning Center in Cudahy, California, 11 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, is trying to dig itself out of being ranked among this state's lowest in academic performance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bingo.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bingo.
GORE: Bingo? Bingo? Bingo?
AUTHER: Most of the 3,000 students, grades k-12, are Latino. Most are from working families living below the poverty line. Gore seized an opportunity to reach out to Latino votes by reiterating his call to expand a government-funded children's health insurance plan to include more kids and their parents.
GORE: Did you have trouble reading?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
GORE: But is it better with the classes?
AUTHER (on camera): Recent polls show education and health care to be the top concerns among California's Latino voters. Sixteen percent of this state's 14.6 million registered voters are Latino, which could prove key to a Gore lock on the Golden State.
(voice-over): Longtime Gore supporter, actor and director Rob Reiner says he brought the vice president here because of it's on-site health clinic. ROB REINER, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: School readiness, which every kid entering a school ready to learn, is the biggest single component of K-12 reform that is being overlooked by the other candidate that is being addressed by Vice President Gore, and what I want to talk to him about and what he knows about is that school readiness is not just a cognitive thing; it's a physical thing, and it's an emotional thing.
AUTHER: The Elizabeth Learning Center is a year-round school. It offers English classes to parents as well as students. The vice president has said he plans to visit a school nearly every week during the campaign, and will continue the visits if he's able to win the White House.
Jennifer Auther, CNN, Cudahy, California.
RANDALL: Education also is one of Republican George W. Bush's top issues, and that apparently is impressing women voters. A new poll suggests Bush has closed the gender gap. That has helped him enhance his lead over Al Gore.
RANDALL (voice-over): The bipartisan voter.com Battleground poll reinforces what several recent surveys have found: that George W. Bush remains ahead of Al Gore in the race for the White House. The Battleground poll gives the Texas governor 48 percent to the vice president's 42 percent, a six-point Bush lead, up two points since march.
Bush has worked hard to move back to the political center after his right turn in the primaries. And his general election strategy seems to be working with some important swing groups. He is ahead of Gore by seven points among independents. And among women, who voted heavily for Bill Clinton in 1996, Gore trails Bush by four points. Among married women, Bush's lead is 19 points.
Today on Capitol Hill, some leading Republican Congresswoman used the Battleground poll to talk up their candidate.
REP. JENNIFER DUNN (R), WASHINGTON: Women make up 53 percent of all voters these days. They have great influence in this election, they have great clout if they wish to use it, and we're delighted to see that they think that George W. Bush is the candidate who best represents them.
RANDALL: Gore does very well with Hispanics, a potential swing group. He has a solid 12-point margin, 53 percent to 41 percent, a major turnaround from the march Battleground poll, when Bush was ahead. But overall, George W. Bush appears to be doing a better job of solidifying his base. Twenty-six percent of likely voters voiced a "strongly favorable" opinion of Bush, compared to 19 percent for Gore. Asked about the term "strongly unfavorable," fewer than two in 10 applied it to George W. Bush. Almost three in 10 said the term fit Al Gore. (END VIDEOTAPE)
RANDALL: And now two people who conducted that voter.com survey, Democratic pollster Vicki Shabo and Republican pollster Ed Goeas.
I don't want to undercut all the questions that will follow, but do numbers at this point mean much, or are you looking more at intensity?
ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Well, you have to look at both. You have a very large core of base voters, about 40 percent for both parties, that really at play right now, and the intensity among those voters are very important. But you also have the 20 percent that comprise the swing voter, if you will. The problem with the swing vote is that only about 25 percent of that 20 percent will vote. The other problem is they're a group of voters, if you will, you can rent, but you never buy, and so they're going to swing back and forth between now and the election, depending on the messages from the two campaigns.
RANDALL: Mrs. Shabo, where did you find the intensity at this point?
VICKI SHABO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: We find the intensity a little evenly matched, a little more on the Republican side, but it's still early from our perspective, in this race.
RANDALL: Now is there any cause for alarm in the Gore camp, given what we've seen, these numbers of women voters going for George W. Bush at this point? Again, it's still early.
SHABO: Again, it's still early. Gore has a good record on education, a good record on health care, a good record on Social Security. Voters aren't yet paying attention, and when they learn about Bush's record in Texas.
RANDALL: Mr. Goeas, it may be early, but you probably would like to think those numbers are strong.
GOEAS: Very encouraging numbers. This is the first time I've seen a Republican leading in over a decade with female voters, and one of the things that occurred in the survey is that he did not lose the male voters, and yet increased his vote with female voters. And he's not only doing very well with white female voters, he's doing well with seniors, he's doing well with working women, women with college educations, without college educations. I mean, he really has moved the voters quite a bit.
RANDALL: Mrs. Shabo, if a vice president, any vice president, must cope with a problem of getting out from beneath the shadow of the president that he serves, when does that happen, and is that part of Al Gore's problem to this point, or is there something else?
SHABO: Well, I think you see that starting now, with him coming out with his own proposals on all of these issues. It's early, as we said, voters know Al Gore, but they don't really know Al Gore, and in the coming months, I think you'll see him stepping out, not only from behind Clinton, but also and making his own...
RANDALL: But as a Democratic pollster, would you argue with those who say the vice president hasn't exactly caught fire yet?
SHABO: I think he's caught fire among a lot of core constituencies for Democrats, African-Americans. You see him picking up among Hispanics here, unmarried women, very string for gore. Seniors making up their minds in this election, but still coming our way.
RANDALL: Mr. Goeas, do you think that George W. Bush can afford a strategy when it comes to Social Security of using the campaign to spell out the case for private retirement accounts, using some Social Security dollars privately without spelling out the details of that plan, because that's what we're told he will do?
GOEAS: Well, first of all, partial privatization as opposed privatization. Second of all, the only group that seems resistant that idea are seniors, and when you ask seniors about that issue, it's not because they feel that their Social Security is going to be jeopardized, they question whether the younger generations will invest that money correctly, and I think that's a debate that needs to be held between the generations.
RANDALL: But the vice president obviously will hammer at this issue by referring repeated to Governor Bush's secret plan. At some point, isn't there a point of diminishing returns, where Bush will have to spell out specifics?
GOEAS: Whether George W. Bush gives specifics on this plan or general direction in terms of his plans, Al Gore answer to everything is his risky scheme, his secret plans. I think through the debate of the campaign, through a discussion of the campaign, there is some very specific principles about saving Social Security for future generations, not only this generation that will come out of the course this campaign, very positively for the Bush campaign.
RANDALL: Mr. Shabo -- go ahead, I'm sorry.
SHABO: I'd just like to point out, and Democrats here continue to have a strong advantage on Social Security, health care, Medicare, issues where we have had national advantages, and Social Security, our advantage is still very strong on this issue.
GOEAS: And yet the interesting thing is if you look at seniors, seniors, the margin with seniors and the depths that the Republicans have on Social Security have closed, not widened, and so the Republican discussion, in particular the Bush discussion, in fact, seems to be helping with the senior vote.
RANDALL: Vice President Gore in the primary campaign went on the attack , and all of a sudden the Bradley campaign was over. He has been on the attack a lot early in this general election campaign. Is there a risk, Mrs. Shabo, that if he continues that mode between now and November, voters at some point will get tired of it, and there'll be a backlash against him? SHABO: Well, I think what Gore's trying to do is get Bush's record in Texas on education and Social Security out there for people to see. And I think what we see in this polling is that people don't know a lot about either candidate right now, and part of Gore's task here is to sharpen Bush's image.
RANDALL: Mr. Goeas.
SHABO: I think what you see reflected in these numbers over the last five weeks is that the Bush campaign has been very positive in terms of going out there and talking about the issues, and one of the reasons why we haven't seen as much from the Gore campaign is that if they can't attack, they have nothing to say at this point in the campaign. I think that's been hurting Al Gore, and the reason why his negatives are more intense on his favorable rating.
RANDALL: Twenty seconds -- 10 seconds each -- where will this election be decided -- Mr. Goeas?
SHABO: I think it's going to be decided generally over the direction of the country, the principles behind how this country is going to move forward and keep moving forward, and I think overall, that is going to be the debate framed in the fall.
RANDALL: Mrs. Shabo.
SHABO: I wouldn't disagree with that, but I think what it's going to come down to is how to bring the values component that has risen to the surface into the issues debate, and I think the Democrats have good answers on that.
RANDALL: And on that approximately bipartisan note, thanks very much, Ed Goeas and Vicki Shabo.
For the record, another new poll shows Bush and Gore in a tighter race than they appear to be in some other surveys. The Pew Poll of registered voters nationwide shows Bush with 46 percent, Gore with 45 percent.
Just ahead, rounding up support for the vice president. A look at how members of the AFL-CIO are pitching in.
RANDALL: George W. Bush may be ahead in the polls, but organized labor is trying to change that.
John King takes a look at the union effort for Al Gore and the work in the trenches.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not quite 6:00 a.m., and still six months to November, yet labor's foot soldiers are on the street. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Give me two seconds of your time, guys. Two seconds. Two seconds. Two seconds. This is for Al Gore for president. Local 85 is supporting him. The AFL-CIO is supporting him. It is very important for us to get out and vote.
KING: This morning it's a bus depot in Pittsburgh and a simple flier comparing Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush on health care and Social Security. It's a local snapshot of the AFL-CIO's national organizing campaign, a meticulous, hands-on effort designed to help the Democratic ticket this fall.
STEVE ROSENTHAL, AFL-CIO NTL. POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's going to take a huge union mobilization effort in those battleground states to win this thing for the vice president.
KING: Labor's strategy is born of painful lessons. Only 14 percent of voters in the 1994 elections were from union households. Republicans picked up 52 seats in the house, eight in the Senate, and control of Congress. Four years later, the percentage of voters from labor households was up to 22 percent. Democrats gained five house seats and held their own in the Senate.
TOM HOFFMAN, AFL-CIO ORGANIZER: We're getting attacked as Big Labor, you know, so we must be doing something right, because they didn't bother to attack us before, you know.
KING: Jack Shea helped implement the program in Allegheny County and remembers his first predawn encounter.
JACK SHEA, ALLEGHENY CO. LABOR COUNCIL: "What are you guys doing here? It's 5:00 in the morning," and we said, "Well, we thought we would bring the union right to the site where the workers are. What do you think about that?" And their answer is, "Well, it's about time."
KING: West Virginia is another of the 27 states being targeted by the AFL-CIO this year.
This week's West Virginia primary was an opportunity to check the voter lists, make the calls, and fine-tune for a fall turnout drive Labor hopes lands Gore in the White House and returns the speaker's gavel to the Democrats.
(on camera): The organizing effort is a point of particular pride here, because this is the birthplace of the American labor movement, and after years of seeing its political influence decline, Big Labor believes it has found an old-fashioned formula for rebuilding its clout.
(voice-over): Every encounter is mapped out.
ROSENTHAL: We're asking every local union to contact members two times by phone and two times by mail, but in addition to that, we're asking them every month to visit with members at the workspace to hand them a flier, building up to every week as we get closer to the election. KING: It's a back-to-basics approach for a labor movement that concedes it grew complacent when Democrats dominated the Congress.
SHEA: We're not reinventing the wheel; we're just putting the wheel back on the wagon.
KING: And putting labor's claim of a grassroots revival to the test.
John King, CNN, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
RANDALL: Stay with us. Up next, Beth Fouhy and Rick Berke with their takes on the presidential campaign and the Senate race in New York.
RANDALL: Joining us now, two friends, Beth Fouhy, executive producer of the CNN political unit, and Rick Berke, national political correspondent of "The New York Times."
Rick, let's talk New York first. Rudy Giuliani took great offense today on the suggestion he was leaning toward getting out of the Senate race. Where do things stand there?
RICHARD BERKE, "NEW YORK TIMES": Gene, if you watched that press conference, you couldn't help but think this guy was wrong. He says I'm not withdrawing, but listen to what he said, he said "Politics is not on the tip of my tongue. In fact, it's like the fifth or sixth thing I'm thinking about." He didn't sound like someone who's running for the Senate, and rightly so. I mean, he has concerns about his family, concerns about his health. There are questions that have been raised from the very beginning, if he really wanted to run in the first place.
So he insisted that he's still in the race, but one can not help but wonder what's going to happen.
RANDALL: Beth, what about are pressures for him to stay in the race.
BETH FOUHY, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, CNN POLITICAL UNIT: Well, he's raised a lot of money. He's got a lot of people who really, really hate Hillary Rodham Clinton, who that Rudy Giuliani is basically the only guy who can beat her. He's raised something like $21 million at this point. He's got a lot invested, obviously, in terms of the heart and soul of the Republican Party nationally, not just in New York.
But it's really a very almost impossible thing you can imagine at this point for him to be facing cancer, the breakup of his marriage, his personal life being sort of just splattered across the tabloids. And like Rick said, there's been a lot of speculation that his heart was not just in this anyway, that he was really looking for more to run for governor at some point RANDALL: Does he come out of all this domestic situation as a weakened candidate, Rick, if he stays in?
BERKE: I don't think people are judging him on a character basis. I mean, who knows? We haven't seen polls yet that would show...
RANDALL: Are you saying not yet?
BERKE: Not yet. I think that people are judging him -- I think where this could heart him would be the question that Beth raised, about whether his heart is in this. But in terms of what he did with his wife or didn't do, I think people have known for years; it's been a pretty open secret of the separation, and they were leading separate lives, and there were things were going on. So I don't get the sense that people are that concerned about that.
RANDALL: What happens to Republican chances in New York, Beth, if Giuliani does step aside?
FOUHY: Well, that's a very good question. I mean, basically, they've got a number of other candidates that they're looking at. We know that, based on Frank Buckley's piece today that the state Republican Party's been talking to Pataki, Rick Lazio, congressman from Long Island. I know that the state Democratic Party is already doing a lot of research on Congressman Lazio. They really think he's the most likely person to be tapped by the state party if Giuliani decides to stay out. But he's a young guy. He does not have a ton of money at this point. He's got about $3 million, which isn't bad, but Mrs. Clinton has got about $7 or $8 in the bank right now. It's going to be a very hard thing to do to go from a standing start at this point.
RANDALL: And, Rick, it's a very short timeframe for the mayor at this point, isn't it?
BERKE: Right. May 30, I believe, is when the state party meeting is when they have to decide all of this. Ted Forceman (ph), a financier in New York, is another candidate who's been talked about, but I would say there is no telling who, if someone else's comes into this race, how well they will do, because Rudy Giuliani is a very divisive figure, just as Hillary Rodham Clinton is, and they have their friends and their enemies. And if you have one of these other people come in, and they raise money quickly, the race certainly would be a priority nationally for the Republican Party. They raise money, fresh face, enthusiasm, no baggage from the past. You know, I would not rule out a Republican doing very well in New York.
FOUHY: Yes, that's right, because at this point, the race has been so much about personalities. For the longest time, it was about her. Now it's all about him. Now it's all about him, and his problems, and his marriage, his personality. Once it goes back to being about her and the spotlight is back on her, it really is going to depend on the charisma and the potential of the candidate who's the Republican candidate to get through that.
RANDALL: Go ahead.
BERKE: But you've got to say, Gene, at least for today, I mean, the Clinton campaign, they must be behind the scene popping champagne or doing something. I mean, the timing of this couldn't be better. And look this morning, she's on the "Today Show" at the town meetings, saying I wouldn't are infringe on my opponent and talk about his marital problems, and they can just sit back and not even touch this, and let his campaign theme just fall apart before them.
FOUHY: Yes, and she's been doing pretty well. She's put out a great ad. She's been doing very well in the polling.
RANDALL: OK, we've got to move to presidential politics. You both are aware of these numbers in the Dot.com Survey. What's happened to the gender gap? What is it that George Bush is doing right to attract, at least at this point, women voters -- Rick.
BERKE: Well, he's talking about issues that Republicans often don't talk that much about, like education, health care, other issues that previous Republican nominees, or would-be nominees, didn't talk about it. His compassionate conservative slogan and theme has some appeal to women and he's been very successful in erasing the bad blood and the stigma from when he turned right in the South, in South Carolina, during the Primaries. So he's recalibrated his campaign to where he was before the primary season, and so far, it seems to be working.
RANDALL: And, Beth, what does the vice president have to do to reverse this?
FOUHY: Well, I think what he's doing now, he's taking a very calculated risk in deciding that George W. Bush is not very well defined in the minds of voters, so they're attaching a lot of negative symbolism. He's attacking the governor every single day he goes out on the campaign trail. That's a calculated risk, because it may serve to drive up Governor Bush's negatives, but it doesn't help make Al Gore a more appealing person. And right now, so much of this is driven by personality, that he hasn't really explained to anybody who he really is and make them feel more comfortable with his persona.
RANDALL: Rick, the attack strategy worked in a shorter timeframe for Gore in the primary season. We're talking about something different here between now and November.
BERKE: And the risk for Al Gore is that people will start feeling him as not having a positive message, and being too much on the attack and not having anything upbeat to say, and we have several months to go, and it works well in a compressed period where there was a primary candidate he had get out of the race. Whether it will work now, I don't know. Whether or not they have a strategy to lay on some issues and so forth on top of this, which I think they will do, that could change the picture as well.
RANDALL: Thirty seconds -- if Al Gore is to win this election, does he do it as Bill Clinton Jr. or his own person -- Beth? FOUHY: Oh, he is so different. I think he's perceived so differently than Bill Clinton right now. I think it's very much got be his own person, and he's to go out and give a little bit of a positive message, or else this attack strategy is just going to keep driving women away.
RANDALL: Of course, it's the Clinton economy -- Rick.
BERKE: Yes, he has to take credit for the good things that are happening, and I think we can't forget there are months left. Everything can change by next week.
RANDALL: Rick and Beth, thanks very much.
That is all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Tomorrow, Jonathan Karl will examine the gun control positions of Al Gore and George W. Bush. And of course you can go online anytime at CNN's allpolitics.com. This programming note: Today's court action in the Elian Gonzalez case will be the focus tonight on "CROSSFIRE" at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The guests will be Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel of New York. I'm Gene Randall.
I'm Gene Randall.
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