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Expected Execution of Death Row Inmate Gary Graham Causes Political Headaches For George W. Bush; Will Fund-Raising Scandal of '96 Haunt Gore?Aired June 22, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
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PROTESTERS (shouting): No more lynching! No more lynching! No more lynching!
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BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Protests, politics, and the death penalty: George W. Bush awaits the latest execution on his watch.
Also ahead: a cloud over Al Gore's camera friendly day with Jesse Ventura, the 1996 campaign fund-raising flap comes back to haunt.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.
SHAW: Thank you for joining us. Judy is off today.
About two hours from now, convicted murderer Gary Graham is scheduled to be executed in Texas, the latest flash point in the capital punishment controversy dogging Governor George W. Bush. Protesters and others are gathered outside the prison in Huntsville, waiting to hear the results of emergency appeals, including one to the United States Supreme Court.
Earlier today, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to proceed with Graham's execution. Graham's supporters say his conviction for a 1981 murder is in doubt because it was mostly based on one witness' testimony, which they claim was flawed.
In the state capital of Austin, death penalty opponents are sending a message to Governor Bush, though, under Texas law, he has no power to intervene in this case, at this point. But, as a presidential candidate, Bush's response to the death penalty has been closely scrutinized amid concerns, nationwide, about the death penalty process.
Our Candy Crowley, who is covering Bush, joins us from Austin. And CNN's Charles Zewe is with us from Huntsville Prison.
Candy, have we heard from the governor today? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Bernie. We did spot him. He went to the state capital to conduct some business this morning, we are told that he was expecting to have a regional coffee with some reporters and was indeed going to meet with his chief counsel. But other than that, we have not heard from him. We do expect, however, to hear from him later this evening after the Supreme Court makes some final judgment.
SHAW: The governor has underscored his faith in the Texas justice system and he's insisted that he knows of no innocent person having been executed. Do those statements make him politically vulnerable?
CROWLEY: Well, you know, on the face of it, let me first tell you that Bush was asked yesterday, "Do you think that this entire thing is hurting you politically?" He said, "If it hurts me politically, it hurts me politically. I'm going to do my job and follow the law."
On a policy basis, it happens to be what he believes. If you look at it politically, there is also another argument to be made that the -- on an alternative statement, any kind of sign that perhaps he thought that maybe there was a chance someone innocent had been executed would then have left him wide open to the question, then why do you continue with executions?
So, Bush's position at this point, first of all, has the advantage of being what he believes and, second of all, he says if it hurts me politically, so be it. But there is an argument to be made that any other position considering that the state of Texas continues to execute people would have been more of a political vulnerability.
SHAW: I'll have one question more for you.
But first, I want to pop over to Charles Zewe and, Charles, ask you, is the United States Supreme Court indeed the court of last resort here?
CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed it is, Bernie.
Although, lawyers for Graham have filed appeals with the state court, the federal court and the Supreme Court, it is really the U.S. Supreme Court and Justice Antonin Scalia right now who holds Gary Graham's life in his hand. This case has been before the Supreme Court on four previous occasions and the Supreme Court has refused to get involved. It is back there right now and just about everybody agrees this is it.
SHAW: Well, our correspondent at the court, Charles Bierbauer is standing by and CNN will bring to our viewers the latest word when and if Justice Scalia acts.
Charles Zewe, I want to ask you, how were the witnesses selected for this planned execution?
ZEWE: Well, Bernie, it's interesting, because the witnesses for Gary Graham, who's also known by his African name Chaka Sankofa (ph) -- the witness list includes Jesse Jackson -- who has really been championing this cause, especially in the last couple of week, campaigning for the death sentence and conviction to be overturned here -- along with Bianca Jagger, the former wife of rocker Mick Jagger, and who is now with Amnesty International; Reverend Al Sharpton from New York, the prominent activist; along with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the Democratic Congresswoman from Houston; and his spiritual adviser, Minister Robert Mohamed, who just left a meeting with Graham.
On the other side of that, on the witness -- on the victim side of that are three people who suffered losses at the hands of Mr. Graham: namely, 26-year-old Bobby Lambert, who is victim's grandson, who vividly recalls being told that his granddad had been murdered in Houston 19 years ago when he came home from school one day; Dianne Clemens, who is one of the founders of the victims' rights group Justice For All in Houston; and finally, Rick Sanford, who is a man who was one of Graham's victims in a week-long crime spree that began with the murder for which he was convicted. Sanford was abducted by Graham, says he was abducted and told by Graham during the course of that abduction, "Look, I've already killed six people and I'll kill you, too."
SHAW: On that note, back to Candy Crowley. In the glare of all this publicity, Candy, what are Governor Bush's plans later today and into tomorrow?
CROWLEY: His plans later today are merely to -- this was supposed to be a downday in Austin and it is again. We do expect to see him after the Supreme Court makes some decision. As for tomorrow, he is flying off to Alabama, he's going to have a fund raiser there and an event, so he will continue on the campaign trail tomorrow.
SHAW: OK, thanks very much, Candy Crowley in Austin, and at the Huntsville Prison, Charles Zewe.
Although Governor Bush maintains that no innocent person has been executed during his tenure as governor of Texas, most Texans do not share his certainty. A Scripps Howard Poll published today shows 57 percent of Texans think the state has put an innocent person to death. And 76 percent say they would support a death penalty moratorium for cases which might be affected by DNA testing. Still, 73 percent of Texans say they favor the death penalty.
Well, if Governor Bush is looking for someone who shares his views on the death penalty, he need only turn to his brother, the governor of Florida.
CNN's Pat Neal reports on the latest execution of Jeb Bush's watch, and how Florida fits into the current controversy over capital punishment.
PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Convicted murderer Thomas Provenzano was executed by lethal injection Wednesday night. It was the fifth death warrant signed by Jeb Bush since he became governor of Florida last year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Game's over for him.
NEAL: Provenzano believed he was Jesus, but a court said he knowingly walked into an Orlando courthouse 16 years ago, shooting three bailiffs. Two died and this man, Mark Parker, was paralyzed. He witnessed Provenzano's execution.
MARK PARKER, VICTIM OF THOMAS PROVENZANO: He's on his way to where he deserves.
NEAL: Provenzano was the 48th person put to death in Florida since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole country is moving in the direction of slow this process down and examine it, get better lawyers involved, and decrease the chances for error. Governor Bush, on the other hand, is moving in the direction of speed this process up.
NEAL: Florida has the third highest number of executions in the United States. Only Virginia and Texas, where Bush's brother, George W. Bush, is governor, have executed more. Both Bushes have backed measures in their states to speed up death row appeals. The Florida law, passed earlier this year, would shorten the time between sentencing and execution to a maximum five years.
JUSTINE SAYFIE, SPOKESMAN FOR GOV. JEB BUSH: Governor Bush believes that within five years, that's an adequate period of time to handle all death penalty appeals for death row inmates. He's concerned with the families of the victims who have to suffer for endless appeals and endless delays.
NEAL: But an adviser to Bush on the legislation sparked controversy after being quoted as saying: "What I hope is that we become like Texas -- put them on a gurney and let's rock and roll." The adviser later apologized and this spring the state Supreme Court ruled parts of the law unconstitutional. But as in other states, evidence has come to light in Florida that some death penalty inmates have been wrongly convicted.
Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee spent 12 years on death row for killing two gas station workers, they were freed after another man confessed to the crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The error rate in Florida is horrendous.
NEAL: A recent national study on the death penalty showed Florida's error rate to be high: 73 percent. And the state now leads the country in the number of death row convicts who are eventually exonerated.
SAYFIE: That just shows in Florida that the system is working, that we have an extensive appellate process for death row inmates.
NEAL: Like his brother, the governor of Texas, Jeb Bush does not believe his state needs a moratorium on executions, like the one ordered by Republican Governor George Ryan of Illinois this year. At least five other states are considering enacting similar moratoriums, and six others have studies under way to determine the fairness of their capital punishment systems.
(on camera): Americans overwhelmingly support the death penalty, but polls show that sentiment is softening. About two-thirds believe in capital punishment, but that's down about 15 percent over the past 20 years.
(voice-over): The increased use of DNA testing and more cases of exoneration have led many states to question the system. But two governors named Bush insist the death penalty works, and if anything, it needs to move faster.
Pat Neal, CNN, Miami.
SHAW: And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: Al Gore is all smiles out there on the campaign trail, but will questions about past fund raising cause problems for the vice president?
Plus, Ralph Nader makes inroads with the Teamsters. A look at what, if anything, it means for his White House bid.
SHAW: CNN is standing by to bring you continuing coverage of the scheduled 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time execution of Gary Graham in Huntsville Prison in Texas. There are several developments we are watching.
An emergency appeal has gone to the United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. When Justice Scalia acts, regardless of what he says, we'll bring that information to you.
We're also standing by to bring you live coverage from Austin, Texas of a news conference planned by Texas Governor George W. Bush reacting to whatever the Supreme Court justice does.
And on top of that, we are covering another breaking story, a story involving Vice President Gore, the Justice Department, and Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter, who joins us now.
Senator, a short while ago on the Hill you held a news conference and you said what?
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I was asked about the questioning we had of Mr. Conrad, who is the Department of Justice chief investigator on campaign finance reform.
SHAW: Robert Conrad.
SPECTER: And I had asked him yesterday in an open hearing whether there was special counsel to be appointed to investigate the vice president, and he declined to answer, and the Senate Oversight has authority to ask about pending matters, and I said today that I asked him those questions, because I have reason to believe that Mr. Conrad has recommended independent counsel to investigate the vice president.
SHAW: Let me stop you for a moment. So, essentially what we have here is internal actions within the Justice Department. Robert Conrad is the lawyer in charge of the task force looking into whether or not an independent counsel should be appointed to investigate Vice President Gore's 1966 -- 1996 fund-raising activities. You, senator from Pennsylvania, have found out about that, you asked him about it. He didn't want to talk about it.
Should Janet Reno appoint an independent counsel to investigate Vice President Gore's activities in 1996?
SPECTER: Well, I think there is no doubt she should have a long time ago, and I think they have gone back to question the vice president, which they did on April the 18th, as a result of our subcommittee's hearings.
It's been very embarrassing for the Department of Justice that they have not appointed an independent counsel back in 1997 or '98, and I think that the attorney general has done the vice president a great disservice, because if these matters had been investigated back then, they might have been put to rest.
Bernie, I think one thing is really critical to understand in fairness to Vice President Gore and that is that the reasons to appoint independent counsel are very different...
SHAW: Independent counsel or special counsel?
SPECTER: Well, special counsel is the word they use now. Independent counsel was the word we used in 1997-1999, when we had the independent counsel statute. But you appoint an independent counsel, who are now a special counsel, to investigate where there is specific and credible information. But it takes a lot more to bring a prosecution.
SHAW: Now, you wouldn't respect me as a journalist if I didn't try to put you on the spot. How do you know Robert Conrad has made this recommendation to Janet Reno? Did it -- was it leaked to you? What makes you believe that he has made this recommendation?
SPECTER: I believe it, Bernie, because I'm the chairman of the subcommittee conducting the investigation. But let me tell you...
SHAW: How did you find out?
SPECTER: Let me tell you this -- let me finish the thought.
And that is that the A.P. is carrying a story today that government officials have disclosed that Robert Conrad recommended special counsel, and then the A.P. goes on to say...
SHAW: I understand that. But I'm asking you, was this leaked to you? How did you find out?
SPECTER: No, it was not leaked in the sense of an inappropriate disclosure. It was something that I found out about on an official investigation. Now, if -- from your journalistic point of view, you want to press me further and ask me for the name of the person who told me in the course of an investigation, that is something that I know you would be shocked if I didn't disclose. I know you are always available to talk about your sources.
SHAW: OK, Senator...
SPECTER: Yes, sir?
SHAW: ... next step for you?
SPECTER: Well, the next step...
SHAW: This represents a form of pressure right now, you're holding this news conference, does it not? What's your -- pressure on the attorney general. What's your next step?
SPECTER: Well, the next steps are to continue our subcommittee inquiry and we have Attorney General Reno coming into testify next Tuesday afternoon.
SHAW: Oh, my.
SPECTER: We have been trying -- you talk about pressure, we have been trying to get independent counsel appointed since 1977. This is more than three years old that I first questioned Attorney General Reno before the Judiciary Committee on oversight.
SHAW: Very candidly, if she didn't appoint an independent counsel twice before after being badgered by Republicans, do you really think she's going to appoint one now to investigate Vice President Gore?
SPECTER: Well, let me distinguish between being badgered by Republicans as contrasted with having a great deal of evidence and reason for appointing independent counsel. That is the basis for the request. I've never called for her resignation, I've never called for her impeachment.
What I have done is have laid the facts on the line. What is she going to do at this point? This fellow Bob Conrad is a very impressive man, and there could be a different reaction at this time. But that's up to the attorney general.
SHAW: So, you're -- OK, next Tuesday, before your committee.
SPECTER: That's right.
SHAW: We'll be watching.
SHAW: Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, thanks very much for joining us.
SPECTER: Nice being with you, Bernie.
SHAW: Always a pleasure.
Well, word of this new headache for Al Gore came as the vice president was spending this day with Governor Jesse Ventura in Minnesota.
Our John King has been traveling with Gore, he joins us now -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, obviously, a new independent counsel investigation, even a recommendation that there be one would be a troubling development for the vice president at a time he's already struggling in his race against the Texas governor, George W. Bush.
As you mentioned, the vice president here today hoping to win some fresh appeals from independent voters, campaigning side by side with this state's colorful independent governor, Jesse Ventura. Ventura saying he's a friend of the vice president, saying he won't endorse him, but he will speak out when he agrees with the vice president on policy.
They were here at a school to discuss increased spending for education, especially special education. When word of this new possible development broke, the vice president was meeting with reporters, and he was asked if he knew anything about this call for a new investigation.
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AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're privy to news that I don't have. Oh, is that right? Well, I don't know -- I don't know about that. So I'll have to inform myself.
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KING: Now the vice president then left Minnesota. He's on his way to Denver, Colorado for some Democratic fund-raisers tonight. In a statement, his spokesman James Kennedy said -- quote -- "As of new, we have received now word from the Department of Justice about the reported campaign finance development. As you know, the vice president has cooperated fully with the investigation every step of the way. What we have hard is a Republican senator making his own announcement about the investigation."
That obviously a reference to Senator Specter, who was just on the program. Privately, Gore officials saying that even if there is such a recommendation in the pipeline at the Justice Department, they believe Senator Specter playing politics by leaking word of this or discussing it in public before it came out. The Gore legal team and the political team now scrambling to find out what they can about this. And it comes at a very troubling time for the vice president. He's losing in the national polls and even running just in a statistical dead heat here in Minnesota.
A new poll out today, a "Star Tribune" poll, showing the vice president with 42 percent support, 40 percent support for Governor Bush. That is stunning if you look at this state's history. Not since 1972 has Minnesota supported a Republican for president.
Now the vice president moving onto Colorado then onto California, as his staff tries to assess this latest development, stressing that he has cooperated with the investigation. One of the issues is, did he tell the truth in the view of Mr. Conrad, the head of the Justice Department Task Force, when Mr. Conrad interviewed not only the vice president, but the president a few months ago -- Bernie.
SHAW: John, you referred to the vice president's teams, legal and political, scrambling now to get on top of this situation. We all know that the Gore camp is bracing for pictures of the vice president at that Buddhist temple going back to 1996. But is this the Gore campaign's worst nightmare?
KING: Well, certainly they had hoped all this was put behind them at a time when the vice president is trying to focus on an economic message, trying to make up lost ground, not only here in Minnesota, but across the industrial Midwest against Governor Bush. The vice president wants to talk about his record, wants to talk about a new tax cut plan, and new education spending plans, like today.
This, the vice president's adviser fear, would play right into the Bush argument that Al Gore is a man who represents what the government calls the worst of the Clinton administration, a man involved in questionable fund-raising, a man who can't be trusted, in the words of Governor Bush and Republicans. So a prolonged investigation beginning now in June and heading into the summer would be quite troubling for the vice president.
On the other hand, the vice president's aides hoping that if this recommendation has been made, that the attorney general will say no, and once again reject naming an independent counsel. And if that's the case, they say you would much rather have this happen in June than October, just before the election -- Bernie.
SHAW: John King on the road with the vice president right now in Minnesota. Thank you.
In another Clinton-era controversy, independent counsel Robert Ray made it clear today Hillary Rodham Clinton will not face criminal charges stemming from the 1993 firings in the White House Travel Office. In a statement, Ray says he has decided there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mrs. Clinton's statements and testimony about her involvement in the firings were knowingly false. However, Ray said there was -- and that's a quote -- there was substantial evidence that the first lady -- quote -- "did have a role in the decision to fire the employees." Mrs. Clinton had said she merely expressed concern about the management of the Travel Office.
Now, back to bumps in the political road for the vice president. Teamsters union president James P. Hoffa sent a clear message to Gore today by appearing with Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader here in Washington, though, as CNN's Kate Snow reports, the Teamsters have yet to decide if they'll endorse any presidential candidate this year.
KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There was no official endorsement, but Jim Hoffa had kind words for the long-time consumer crusader.
JAMES P. HOFFA, TEAMSTERS UNION PRESIDENT: No one in the political arena speaks stronger on the issues important to American working families than Ralph Nader. Ralph Nader understands what globalization means. Money and jobs are going overseas.
SNOW: The implication: Ralph Nader is listening to labor concerns, Al Gore has some catching up to do.
HOFFA: Al Gore, if I could give him any advice, he has got to start coming up with a comprehensive program for labor unions, organized labor, and how do we keep jobs in this country. Don't put a band-aid on it.
SNOW: Hoffa is still smarting from his union's loss on normalizing trade relations with China and last week's appointment of Bill Daley as Gore's new campaign chairman.
MICHAEL CORNFIELD, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: This is a real test for Gore, but the way to pass the test is to show tough love toward labor, to say to labor, this is my record.
SNOW: On the campaign trail, Gore emphasized that record with labor.
GORE: On issue after issue, I have been with them. And although there have been a few issues where we disagree, I will continue to work for what I think is in the best interest of working families in this country.
SNOW: For Ralph Nader, any stumble for Gore with labor may be his gain.
RALPH NADER, GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People are always asking, am I worried about taking votes away from Gore, no, I'm worried about Gore taking votes away from me.
SNOW: At the Teamsters event, Hoffa insisted the presidential debates next fall should include Nader and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan in addition to Gore and George W. Bush.
HOFFA: The labor movement seems to be written out of this debate. I mean, who talks about labor anymore except us and Ralph Nader, and that's the problem is. Are we irrelevant?
SNOW: But the latest CNN poll shows Nader with 4 percent of the vote, Buchanan with 3 percent. Under current rules, candidates need at least 15 percent support to be invited to those debates.
FRANK FAHRENKOPF, CO-CHAIRMAN, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: In order to get in the World Series, in order to get in the Super Bowl, you've got to win some games and get yourself raised up to where you are considered by some people to be a contender.
SNOW (on camera): Nader may not have the support yet to be a contender, but his appearance with the leader of 1.5 million Teamsters may give him a welcome boost as he heads off to the Green Party convention this weekend.
Kate Snow, CNN, Washington.
SHAW: There such more ahead here on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Still to come, the presidential hopefuls and the numbers game: Bill Schneider on who's up and who's down. As well as an in- depth look at a new bipartisan battleground poll. Plus, an update on the approaching execution in Texas, in Governor Bush's home state.
SHAW: Crowds outside Huntsville, Texas, the prison where convicted murderer Gary Graham is awaiting a 7 p.m. Eastern Time execution -- his lawyers have made an 11th-hour emergency appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Justice Antonin Scalia here in Washington considering that appeal. We are standing by to report whatever the justice decides.
And within this group right here in Huntsville, Texas, correspondent Charles Zewe -- Charles.
ZEWE: ... about 200 people. They had, frankly, expected a lot more than that, had been saying perhaps several thousand people, maybe as many as 10,000 people would show up. But you can see, that's the group of anti-death penalty opponents right there. It's been about that. They have been very peaceful, they have been vocal, of course.
But outside of the Walls Unit, everything is pretty calm right now, approaching Gary Graham's 6:00 p.m. Central Time, 7 p.m. Eastern execution, which is still on go unless the U.S. Supreme Court, as you just indicated, steps in and stops it.
Down the way, just over the rise of that hill in front of the jail you can see the Texas Rangers gathered in the street there, there are 200 officers here to keep the peace. Down at the end of the street, a group of pro-death penalty supporters, including a number of people holding Confederate flags. Prison officials said they had information that some members of the Ku Klux Klan might show up here. They are not in robes down there, they're carrying Confederate flags, but they're only about four or five of them.
What has Graham been doing in his final hours, if they are indeed his final hours? He's been his cell sleeping on the mattress, refusing food, he's made no last-meal request, has been sleeping on mattress on the floor, and visiting with family and friends, and spiritual adviser, along with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Bianca Jagger of Amnesty International.
He's being held in a cell, which is just three feet from the execution room itself. He was moved there overnight, he resisted being moved to the cell, the holding cell -- in fact, had to be subdued by prison guards at the death row unit known as the Terrell Unit, which is just a short ways away from the Walls Unit, where we're located now. Jackson will be among the witnesses tonight. The Reverend Jackson saying today that he is a reluctant witness.
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REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: He's asked me to be a witness to his execution. I've never done that before. I really don't want to go, but I will feel some need to go all the way to the end. There are five of us that can sit there. There is an empty chair for Governor George Bush. If he believes that Texas will be a safer state tomorrow morning because this man is killed, let him witness the execution and show the courage of his convictions.
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ZEWE: And officials hear say they expect to learn within the hour whether they will go ahead with this execution -- Bernie.
SHAW: Charles Zewe with the very latest in Texas at Huntsville Prison. We'll check back with you later on.
When INSIDE POLITICS returns: public opinion and the presidential race -- Bill Schneider, plus pollsters Ed Goeas and Celinda Lake on how voters rate the candidates.
SHAW: As George W. Bush deals with the death penalty and Al Gore faces the possibility of more questions on fund raising, our Bill Schneider takes a look at how the candidates are faring among voters.
Bill, where do these polls stand as of now?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Five national polls have been taken since mid-June, and all of them show Bush with anywhere from a 4-12 point lead. So, we can average them to get our poll of polls. Bush's support in those five polls ranges very narrowly between 49 and 52 percent, average 50. Gore's support ranges between 40 and 45 percent, average 42. So, the poll of polls shows an 8-point lead for Bush, 50 to 42 percent. It's not a big lead, but the fact that it's reflected in all of those polls suggests that Bush's lead is real.
SHAW: Is there anything that jumps out in these five surveys?
SCHNEIDER: Well, there certainly is, and what's remarkable is how solidly Republicans are lining up behind Governor Bush. And what's even more striking is the independent vote. All five of those national polls show independents going decisively for Bush by double digit margins. On the average, Bush has a 17-point lead among independents. That's huge and I think it's decisive.
Now, why is Bush doing so well with independents? Independents give President Clinton a good job rating and they like both Bush and Gore. The big difference is leadership. Independents even more than other voters see Bush as a strong leader and Gore not a leader. Remember, independents place no value on partisanship, and this suggests that Bush has succeeded in expanding his appeal beyond his party while Gore has not.
SHAW: Polls taken in June in a presidential election year -- how reliable are these polls?
SCHNEIDER: Well, Bernie, we have checked and the answer is, not very. In June 1980, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were virtually tied with Carter 2 points ahead. Reagan ended up winning by 10. On the other hand, the Gallup Poll taken in June 1984 was just about dead on, it showed Reagan beating Walter Mondale by 17 points, Reagan eventually beat Mondale by 18.
But in June 1988, Michael Dukakis was leading Vice President George Bush by 5, and Bush ended up winning by 7. In June 1992, Ross Perot was running first by just a hair, Perot 34, Bush 33, and Bill Clinton was in third place.
Now, how is that for predictive value? In June 1996, Clinton was leading Bob Dole by 19 points. Clinton ended up beating Dole, but by just 8. What do they say? The opera isn't over until the fat lady sings. Well, you know what? She hasn't been on yet.
SHAW: Is she gargling?
SCHNEIDER: She's getting ready.
SHAW: OK, Bill Schneider.
The new bipartisan battleground poll shows Bush performing well among several key voter groups. The Texas governor has doubled his lead over Gore among male voters from 10 points in May to 23 points. Bush and Gore are nearly even among female voters, where the vice president was expected to be strong. And the race is tied among union members, another area expected to be a strength for Gore. Democrats appear to fare better in the battle to control Congress, with the polls showing them with a 2 point lead in the generic congressional ballot.
Now, joining us now, the two pollsters behind the voter.com battleground poll, Celinda Lake and Ed Goeas.
Celinda, what stands out?
CELINDA LAKE, VOTER.COM: What stands out is one of the things that Bill mentioned, which is the degree to which the intensity of Republicans, the degree to which they are energized, the degree to which they are paying attention. Democratic voters aren't paying nearly as much attention, they aren't as intense and that could produce turn-out problems in the fall for Democrats, but it also is going to produce a closing race when Democrats and independents start to pay more attention.
SHAW: And for you, Ed Goeas, what stands out?
ED GOEAS, GOP POLLSTER: I'm going to go to something that was just mentioned too, and that's reliability of the polls in June. I wouldn't look at the overall ballot as much as -- what I would look at is the favorability of the two candidates. With George W. Bush, you see him with a 63-28 favorable/unfavorable, and Al Gore's at a 47-44. And if you look at the intensity of that support, George W. Bush holds his two-to-one margin on favorability, on strongly favorable, and Al Gore is at a 1 1/2 to one negative. That creates a dynamic that is very difficult for Al Gore.
SHAW: I'm fascinated by one category here. What's going on with women voters and these two candidates? We were told earlier that Bush had closed the gender gap, and now your indication is that there's something there.
LAKE: Well, Bush is very strong with women. And I think most of those five polls show that Bush is ahead with women overall. There's a very big gap between women of color and white women. And he's doing very well with white suburban women, white married women, white married moms. Al Gore has made some progress. These are also voters who are paying much less attention than men are right now.
And again, I think when the race comes down to the issues and women are not worried about getting their kids into camp, and finding cheaper gas, and getting their work done, I think you'll see this race close. I think you'll see Al Gore pull ahead with women. But more than any other Republican we've seen, George Bush knows how to effectively target women voters.
SHAW: Do you believe Gore's going to pull ahead?
GOEAS: Well, no. And quite frankly, the thing that was exciting about this poll for Republicans is George Bush, in our last poll a month ago, had a four point lead with women. He held a two point lead with women, and actually increased his lead with men from 10 points to 23 points. But the real thing we're seeing in the data right now is the married gap. If you look at married individuals, George Bush leads Al Gore 53-38 with married people, married couples. And what you find on unmarried individuals is it's flipped.
SHAW: OK, I'm anxious to get to one other category, because we're fast running out of time. We saw what happened in the run-up to this period, the caucuses, the primaries. We knew about the controversy involving Catholics.
What about Catholic voters, Governor Bush, and Al Gore, given the battleground status of such states as Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey? GOEAS: We're finding in this survey that George W. Bush is leading with Catholics by 11 percentage points. He's actually leading with Reagan Democrats, another group that we look at, by 18 percentage points. And one of the reasons why you're seeing it even in union households is he's restructuring that old Reagan coalition of Reagan Democrats, Catholics, that are in the union house holds.
SHAW: Is that bad news for Gore?
LAKE: It is bad news, but there's also good news in this poll, and that is the Democrats in Congress win those very same households. And Gore has been picking up among Catholics. So, again, I think when the issues get out there, watch for some of the that dynamic to switch.
SHAW: Celinda Lake and Ed Goeas, we've got to have you back time and again between now and November 7th.
LAKE: Thank you.
GOEAS: Thank you.
SHAW: Quite welcome.
SHAW: And, still ahead: Bob Novak predicting the Electoral College vote. Plus, an update on the expected execution in Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: As a supporter of the death penalty, I am deeply troubled by any false conviction for obvious reasons. You have an innocent person executed, but you also have somebody who has actually committed that crime still out among the public, posing a threat to others. So whether you support or oppose the death penalty, everybody wants to see the administration of justice without these mistakes, with competent counsel, with a system of justice that operates effectively. And I've said that any state that has a record comparable to that found in Illinois, I think would be justified in also having a moratorium.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Vice President Al Gore on the trail in Minnesota today commenting on the death penalty. Gore, as you know, has refrained from commenting specifically on the pending execution of Texas inmate Gary Graham, saying he does not know the details of the case.
Now, for the latest, we turn once again to our man Charles Zewe at the prison in Huntsville, Texas -- Charles.
ZEWE: Bernie, protesters still going at it down here, voicing their objections to the impending execution of Gary Graham, set to die in just a little bit more than an hour, an hour and 15 minutes. The prison officials are saying they will not go ahead with the execution until they get a final clearance from the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering the case right now for the fifth time in the 19 years that Gary Graham has been on death row.
Graham has been a holding cell. His spiritual adviser came out a short time ago after meeting with him for what could be a final time, saying that Graham would resist being taking into the execution chamber. He had to be subdued to be brought here to the death house. He is expected to give the prison guards trouble again. The prison officials say they have what's called a prison, a cell extraction team standing by to forcibly put him on the death gurney -- Bernie.
SHAW: Charles Zewe with the very latest from the prison there. We're standing by to report on whatever if Justice Scalia, Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court does relevant to this case. Texas Governor George Bush will schedule a news conferences once Mr. Justice Scalia issues a statement. And we will carry that live.
A short while, I spoke make with Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin about the Graham case and the recent controversy over the death penalty. I began by asking senator Hutchison whether this execution as scheduled could hurt Governor Bush's election chances.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Well, I think certainly everyone takes this kind of issue very, very seriously, and I know Governor Bush does as well. We have to follow the law. Certainly, in this case, there have been 19 years of appeals. This has gone before over 30 judges. And I know he has taken this seriously. And the attorney general has spoken out very firmly that the evidence in this case shows that there's not any kind of a reason to continue to keep the appeals open. So, I think he's taking it one case at a time.
He's trying to follow the law. And I think it will be an issue. I think we'd be walking away from it if we didn't think it would be. But I think people realize in this country that the death penalty is a deterrent. Most people do support it. And I think we have to make sure that it is fair, that everyone gets an absolutely fair trial, and that all of the evidence is put forward, and that you have all of the appeals that are warranted. And I think that will be a discussion item for sure.
SHAW (on camera): Senator Durbin.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I support the death penalty, but I also support my Republican governor, George Ryan, who has declared a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois because they've had too many cases come up where people on death row were proven not to be guilty. They've sat there for years and they come up with DNA evidence to establish they could not have committed the crime.
They also have clear evidence in Illinois and in Texas and in many other states that those who are defending people in capital cases are attorneys who are not qualified and competent. Many of them have been disbarred, they've been intoxicated in the courtroom, sleeping through the trials, missing the most important parts of the trial.
I think that my governor did the right thing. I think if we're going to have a death penalty, which I have supported, we should have it in a fair fashion to make sure that we never execute an innocent person.
SHAW: Senators, we thank you very much for your time, for being on INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you.
SHAW: And when we return, Bob Novak will look ahead to the November election and give us his electoral college forecast.
SHAW: We have late word from our CNN justice correspondent Pierre Thomas regarding our lead story. A government source says that the lawyer at the Justice Department in charge of the task force looking into Vice President Gore's 1996 fund-raising activities -- that lawyer has made a recommendation that a special counsel indeed be appointed.
Now, this recommendation is going upstairs to a panel of senior justice department officials. They in turn will decide whether or not to recommend to the attorney general.
Joining us now, Bob Novak of the "Chicago Sun-Times." Bob, we were going to do your electoral college map, but we're going to put that off for another time because of this breaking story and also the death penalty.
We had Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania here where you're sitting now just about a half hour ago indicating that he had learned independently that this indeed is what's going on. That the man in charge of the task force is recommending to Janet Reno that she appoint a special counsel to investigate Vice President Gore in his '96 fund-raising activities.
ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": There are a lot of things we don't know about this. Mr. Conrad, who is now heading the task force, has been considered a very straight-shooter, not a political operative and certainly nobody -- wears nobody's hat.
But what new information he has, we don't know that would lead -- that would convince the attorney general not to make the decision -- to reverse the decision she has made repeatedly, rejecting the advice of the FBI director Louis Freeh, rejecting the advice of Charles LaBella, the previous task-force leader.
The question -- the difference is the new thing that has happened is that Mr. Conrad has interviewed President Clinton, Vice President Gore since then. Those were secret interviews. Congressional committees have asked for copies of them, been denied. So there's a lot of information we don't know. Was there something said in those interviews that leads him to make a recommendation that he thinks would be compelling on the attorney general politically, of course?
Bernie, you know, it would be very, very bad news for the vice president if this -- if an independent counsel would be named, but we are a long way from that now.
SHAW: Long way from that. Our White House correspondent John King reported a short while ago here on INSIDE POLITICS from Minnesota that the vice president's staff members are scrambling to get on top of this.
Bob, we're fresh out of time. I wanted to ask you about the death penalty. Promise you, we will get back to your electoral college projection later on.
NOVAK: Thank you.
SHAW: Bob Novak.
Well, that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow when our Bill Schneider will have his political "Play of the Week."
And, of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.
And please, these programming notes -- CNN will have a special report on the Graham execution tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. And tonight on "CROSSFIRE," Congressman Asa Hutchison and Jesse Jackson Jr. will discuss the political impact of the Graham case on Texas Governor George W. Bush. That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
I'm Bernard Shaw. "WORLDVIEW" is next.
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