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Crossfire

Is Al Gore Gaining in the Polls?

Aired July 5, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, good news for the vice president in a new poll and from the nation's teachers. Are things finally looking up for Al Gore and does Gore's good news mean bad news for George W. Bush?

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Robert Novak. In the crossfire, Democratic consultant Bob Shrum, an adviser to the Gore campaign, and in Columbus, Ohio, Republican Congressman John Kasich, a Bush supporter.

PRESS: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Well, you may still be taking it easy after the long 4th of July weekend, but not George Bush and Al Gore. They were out there campaigning today as if the election were being held tomorrow. In San Diego, Bush spoke to National Council of La Raza, hoping for a double payoff, cutting into Gore's lead in California and winning support of Latino voters nationwide.

Al Gore, who also spoke to La Raza on Monday, was in Philadelphia and Chicago today, picking up the endorsement of the nation's two largest teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.

That wasn't the only bit of good news for Gore, who's had his share of bad news lately. Just one week after CNN showed George Bush with a 13-point lead, "Newsweek" now calls the race a dead heat: Gore 46; Bush 45.

And so as they go neck and neck into the final stretch before the conventions, what will make the difference and which one, Gore or Bush, has the best winning strategy? -- Bob.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Bob Shrum, if I could put this "Newsweek" poll in a little bit of perspective, the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll of June 23rd through 25th showed a 13-point lead for Bush. The Battleground poll, which is a bipartisan poll -- a Democratic pollster, Republican pollster -- showed a 12-point lead. Several other polls showed 10-, nine-, eight-point leads.

Now, why "Newsweek" is a dead heat and these were substantial Bush leads -- there is a reason. And you're a sophisticated political analyst.

BOB SHRUM, GORE ADVISER: Bob, when you say that, I always get worried about what's coming next.

NOVAK: No.

(LAUGHTER)

Are you going -- are you going to tell the audience why -- why this one is even and the others were so wide?

SHRUM: Well, I'll tell you, you must have had a bad 4th of July, Bob, because you had not only the "Newsweek" poll, you had an AP poll that showed a two-point race. You had a Fox News poll, which has actually over time been the poll that has shown the -- the best Gore situation, in which Al Gore was ahead by four points.

Now, look, I'm going to say the same think about this I said to you two weeks ago when you called me about it: This is a very close race. This race is, I think, going to open up after the conventions or at the conventions and when voters find out the differences on issues: for example, that Al Gore is for prescription drug benefit that helps all seniors, and George Bush is for a prescription drug benefit in name.

NOVAK: I want...

SHRUM: I know you don't to talk about issues. But the voters do want to talk about issues.

NOVAK: No, I don't want to go -- do a filibuster. But...

SHRUM: I won't do -- well, if I agreed with you, you'd me to do a filibuster.

(LAUGHTER)

You know it.

NOVAK: But you never agree with me.

(LAUGHTER)

But, Bob, isn't it true that the "Newsweek" poll was up all registered voters, which you know is a worthless poll, while the more difficult poll, the CNN poll, was of likely voters? There's a big difference there, isn't there?

SHRUM: Bob, you keep trying -- and I'm trying to be nice about the CNN poll. I mean, look, the CNN poll the week before said it was a four-point race, then suddenly said it was a 13-point race. The CNN poll in New Hampshire on one day of the weekend said Gore was ahead of Bradley 18 points, the next day said he was behind by five points. Maybe you ought to ask your pollster why you got it wrong.

NOVAK: All right. You dodged that, but I'm going to give you one...

SHRUM: Well, I know what you want, you want low voter turnout, is what you're talking about.

NOVAK: No, I'm just talking about reality.

I'm just going to give you one more thing, Bob, one more poll, and then I'll leave the polls behind. And I think this is something that's really interesting. The poll in Tennessee, "The Knoxville News-Sentinel," shows -- this is Gore's home state, isn't it?

SHRUM: Right.

NOVAK: Still is, isn't it? And it has the Gore 45 percent and Bush 40 percent. Now, the Texas poll by the American Research Group poll shows Bush 70 percent, Gore 23 percent.

Why is one candidate so strong in his home state and the other candidate so weak?

SHRUM: Well, Texas is, as you know, not a very competitive state for Democrats in presidential politics anymore. So, that's a kind of trick question. And I think it's really interesting that you don't want to talk about any of the issues in this...

NOVAK: I want to talk about the issues.

SHRUM: So I hope -- Bob, you hate the fact...

NOVAK: No, this is the last poll question.

SHRUM: You hate the fact...

(CROSSTALK)

You hate the fact that the polls have turned.

NOVAK: No, just tell me why that your candidate is so weak where people really know him.

SHRUM: He's not weak. He's not weak.

Bob, I'll bet you right now...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

SHRUM: Bob, I'll bet you right now, bet you almost anything you want, Al Gore will carry Tennessee in November, and you know it and you're just trying to make a rhetorical point.

PRESS: John Kasich, let me ask you about these polls. And first of all, congressman, I've got to say I believe that all the polls right now are totally meaningless. But you can't pick and choose among them. You've got to face the facts.

"L.A. Times" has bush up 11 points. CNN...

SHRUM: Gore up. Gore.

PRESS: "The L.A. Times"...

SHRUM: No, Bush. I'm sorry.

PRESS: Bush up 11 points.

SHRUM: I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you meant in California.

PRESS: The CNN poll, Bush up 13 points. Now "Newsweek's" got them neck and neck, and this is after one of the worst periods that Gore has had, after all this stuff came out about Janet Reno all over again.

John, it looks like the more people see of George Bush the less they like him. He's sinking.

REP. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), BUSH SUPPORTER: Well, I think that Bob made the point -- and I'm not an expert pollster. In fact, most people watching the show tonight say, "I don't believe these polls anyway; they never called me."

But I think -- my gut tells me from traveling the country and being home here in the middle of America that frankly a lot of people just have not warmed to Al Gore. He has not been able to communicate a consistent message.

And I think, Bill, you have to admit that coming out of the primaries, once George Bush secured that primary nomination, I think he just has done a magnificent job, both on foreign policy, education, a variety of things.

And look, I mean, just as a person that would make an observation, even though I have a bias, people have not warmed to Al Gore. They don't seem to like him.

And you know what I hear all the time? He's wishy-washy.

And so I don't believe those polls. I think if the election were held today, George Bush would win handsomely.

But nobody's going to rest on this, Bill. This is early, this is July, so we've got a long way to go.

PRESS: It is early, congressman, though, if it's dead heat, they haven't warmed to George W. Bush either. But let me show you another poll. We always about George W. Bush, he speaks Spanish. He's a neighbor to Mexico. He's been down there all the time. He's going to do great with Latino voters.

California Field Poll, which is the best poll, long has been, in California looked at Bush and Gore with Latino voters in California just a couple of weeks ago: 64 percent for Gore, 25 percent for Bush.

Now, the Republicans are saying this is better than any Republican's ever done among Latinos. Hey, John Kasich, you've got a long way to go. Where is this Bush magic with Latinos? KASICH: Well, I think, Bill, first of all, that's a California Field Poll. At the same time, it's early. As you know, in Texas, he did unbelievable among Hispanic voters, and that's one of the concerns that Democrats have, that he's going to be able to really eat into the Hispanic vote.

And as you know, George Bush has spent a lot of time in California, and I think he's going to do -- I think he's going to do very well among Hispanics. And I think that the election itself showed that he's able to attract those kinds of voters in Texas.

PRESS: No, it's not Democrats who are worried that he's going to well among Latinos. It's Republicans who are bragging that he's going to do well among Latinos, and it's not showing in the polls yet.

My question is, where's the beef?

KASICH: Bill, what would you rather have? What would you rather have? A poll or an election. I'd rather have an election, because that gives you a definitive result, and in the state of Texas, he blew the Democrat out so far the guy was on Mars by the time that election was over. He won in every category.

And what you're going to see -- and you're seeing it already, frankly. I don't know what polls you're talking about.

When it comes to issues of the economy, when it talks about leadership, George Bush...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: All right. There we go.

NOVAK: Bob Shrum, in the interest of fair play, which I know you're interested in, most Americans would like to have all the candidates at least in one debate, each with a podium, Bush, Gore, Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan. Would you tonight commit the Gore campaign to a four-way debate?

SHRUM: Commit? We've said we'll show up and debate anywhere George Bush will show up and debate.

You know, it's really interesting, this is -- and I know you're not quite a propagandist for the Bush campaign, but you're a strong partisan.

NOVAK: No, I'm not.

SHRUM: This is the new game George Bush wants to play. George Bush doesn't want to stand on a stage one-on-one with Al Gore and debate. He's afraid to do it. He's come up with every pretext to duck it.

Listen, we'll be happy to show up. Al Gore...

NOVAK: So you -- you would... SHRUM: Al Gore will show up for those debates, for a debate like that.

NOVAK: You'd go for a four-way debate then.

SHRUM: Sure. Why don't you ask George Bush? He's the one who refuses to show up.

NOVAK: Well, the interesting thing is, Bob, that your other people in -- connected with the Gore campaign that I've talked to say that they will insist on a two-way debate. And I'd like you to listen to what our old friend...

SHRUM: I don't know who you talked to. Mark Fabioni (ph) and I talked just before this program (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

NOVAK: We made news tonight.

SHRUM: Al Gore's position -- Al Gore's position is that George Bush ought to accept debates. If he insists that somebody else has to be there for a debate, that's fine. But he ought to stand on a stage one-on-one...

NOVAK: Well...

SHRUM: Look, this country...

NOVAK: Wait, wait, wait. I...

SHRUM: ... has to choose between these two guys.

NOVAK: I got confused. A minute ago I thought we had a scoop that you're going for a four-way debate, and then a minute you say you want one-on-one.

SHRUM: No, no. We do want a one-on-one debate. But I think...

NOVAK: Oh, OK. All right.

SHRUM: Wait a minute, wait a minute. George Bush is afraid of a one-on-one debate.

NOVAK: All right...

SHRUM: But let me say to you again. Let's be clear. It's your candidate, George Bush, who is afraid to debate one-on-one, who has never debated one-on-one, who used Alan Keyes and other candidates as his insulation during the Republican process. And we think George Bush ought to stand on the stage and debate one-on-one.

NOVAK: I'd like you to hear what Pat Buchanan, our mutual friend, says about the idea of a one-on-one debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Presidential Debate Commission is basically had a little collusive conspiracy between the two parties in power, Republicans and Democrats, the objective of which is to keep our party, the third party, out of the debates that are going to decide the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Is that a fair statement?

SHRUM: Look, Pat's -- no, of course it's not. George W. Bush -- George Bush Sr., President Bush, abided by the debate commission in 1988. In 1992, both Dole and Clinton did. Ross Perot got into those debates. Pat's problem is that he's got 2 percent of the vote in the polls.

NOVAK: You know...

SHRUM: He's not at this point a serious candidate.

NOVAK: See, what I think you're -- can I make a speculation? I think you're afraid of Ralph Nader.

SHRUM: No, I -- Bob, you won't take yes for an answer.

NOVAK: Let me -- let me...

SHRUM: Bob, take yes...

NOVAK: You say one-on-one.

SHRUM: No, no, Bob, I said...

PRESS: He also said...

SHRUM: I said -- sure. Let's have a debate. We'll have all of them. But let's also -- why is George Bush afraid of also having a one-on-one debate? Why is he afraid of the debate commission?

NOVAK: Let me suggest what -- I don't...

SHRUM: I think we know the answer.

NOVAK: I'm not saying he is. I think there's going to be one- on-one debates because you won't let Nader in.

But let me -- let me suggest what Richard Berke, the political writer of The New York Times, wrote on June 22nd, and why and how you're moving to keep Mr. Nader from being endorsed by the Teamsters Union.

He said -- quote -- "Gore advisers said they had moved aggressively behind the scenes to try to keep Mr. Hoffa" -- James Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters -- "from endorsing Mr. Nader to the point where they had directed projects through federal agencies that would use Teamsters." Unquote.

Is that fair politics? SHRUM: I don't know who he talked to. I don't know anything about it. Don't believe it's true.

KASICH: Bob, let me make a prediction...

PRESS: Go ahead, John...

SHRUM: John, go ahead.

KASICH: I think there will be one-on-one debates between George Bush and Al Gore, and I can't wait for that to happen.

SHRUM: Well, good. If you can't wait, John, how about next week? How about next week if you can't wait?

KASICH: Let me tell you, I'm not the campaign manager, but I will tell you this: George Bush debated an incumbent governor, Ann Richards, the darling of the Democratic Party. And you know, and he just handled her with great ease, and he did a great job in the Republican debates. And you're going to have an opportunity.

I can't wait until they're on the same stage. And at that point, Al Gore is going to have to actually say that he's for something instead of raising all the ghosts and goblins.

SHRUM: John...

(CROSSTALK)

For example, John...

KASICH: But let me also say...

SHRUM: He's for -- he's for a $1.5 trillion surplus over the next 10 years.

KASICH: Let me also...

SHRUM: You guys are for a $1.5 trillion deficit.

KASICH: Hey -- hey, can somebody...

SHRUM: Why not debate next week?

KASICH: Can somebody tell Shrum to just -- to chill for a second?

SHRUM: Well, if you would stop talking so I didn't have to interrupt...

KASICH: Let me suggest to you that...

SHRUM: ... it'd work out.

NOVAK: All right. Well, we're going to have to take a break, both of you. PRESS: You're both chilled.

NOVAK: Yes. And when we come back, we'll ponder whether this election is about picking presidents or Supreme Court Justices.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Is this an election for president or for Supreme Court justices? That's a good question considering all the talk about Vice President Gore and Governor Bush making very different selections for likely vacancies on the high court.

We're talking to Democratic consultant Bob Shrum, who is a key Gore adviser, and to Republican Congressman John Kasich of Ohio, who is a Bush supporter -- Bill.

PRESS: Congressman Kasich...

KASICH: Listen. Bill, wait a minute, before we go, I've got to tell you I'm not going to let Bob Shrum talk over me and interrupt me. I want to make two points.

First of all, in regard to the debates, there ought to be a way for Nader and Buchanan to be able to participate in some kind of a way, probably can't be in all the debates. We certainly want Al Gore and George Bush to engage each other directly.

And the other thing is Bob Shrum and I did a show on Sunday, and I tell you, it amazes me a man that a man could live in such fear of tax cuts, that he is so much in fear of George Bush wanting to eliminate estate taxes and get rid of the marriage penalty so that we don't punish people when they get married.

Bob, I think you and I ought to have a debate on taxes...

SHRUM: John...

KASICH: ... so I can advocate giving money back to people...

SHRUM: John, I'll accept.

KASICH: ... and you want to keep all the money in Washington with all the bureaucrats. I understand that.

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: The only reason -- the only reason I ever interrupt you is because you never stop talking. What did you do? Get a call from the spin room during the break and they told you to go back to the debate issue?

Look...

KASICH: Bob, the fact is... SHRUM: The fact of the matter is...

KASICH: ... you live in fear...

PRESS: Whoa! Whoa!

NOVAK: Whoa!

SHRUM: I am going to finish.

(CROSSTALK)

John, I am going to finish.

(CROSSTALK)

John -- John, I'm going to finish. You're not the chairman of this program, even if you're the chairman of the Budget Committee.

Look, Bush's tax cut is huge. It's 1.6 trillion over 10 years, 60 percent of the benefits go the top 10 percent of the population. Al Gore is for targeted tax cuts for working families.

That's what we ought to have. That's what I believe in.

What you wouldn't respond to...

(CROSSTALK)

... on Sunday is that your economic program turns a $1.5 million (sic) into a $1.5 trillion deficit.

KASICH: You know what, Bob, the fact is...

SHRUM: You're chairman of the Budget Committee. Do you know any numbers?

KASICH: Let me tell you. Bob, you know what's funny about this is that we have for the first time as Republicans going to actually not raid Social Security and we want to fix the program and we actually want people to have some control. You don't.

PRESS: All right, congressman -- congressman...

KASICH: We also want to take the rest of the surplus and cut taxes.

PRESS: Whoa! Whoa!

All right, congressman, before you go any further forward, let me come back to what we wanted to talk about: the Supreme Court. All right.

Governor Bush has said his favorite chief justice -- justices are Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The next president is going to get three appointments to the Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas and Scalia both -- both for overturning Roe v. Wade. Two plus three means if Bush is elected president, Roe v. Wade is history, correct?

KASICH: Well, we really don't know that, Bill, but I will tell you...

PRESS: Add it up.

KASICH: ... that George bush is -- George Bush pro-life. I would anticipate that he will have judges that are pro-life. But George Bush says he does not want to have a litmus test. He wants to have people who don't violate the Constitution and make their own laws.

And in fact, if Roe v. Wade were to be repealed -- and that's speculative at this point -- as you know, the states across this country would set the policies and the laws that they want that govern abortion.

But George Bush has made it clear he's not going to have a litmus test, but he is a pro-life. And you should not be confused about to.

He wants to get rid of partial birth abortion...

PRESS: Congressman...

KASICH: ... which most Americans don't...

PRESS: Congressman, let's talk about the court. He has given us his litmus test. His litmus test is Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. If I'm a woman or I'm a man who believes that choice is an important issue -- not the biggest issue in this campaign, but an important issue in this campaign -- that is, looking at that Supreme Court is the No. 1 reason for voting for Al Gore. It's the only way to protect Roe v. Wade.

How can you deny that?

KASICH: Again, the fact is, look, because you know that you can never predict how a person is going to come down on any particular issue. But let's not confuse it. George Bush is pro-life. I'm glad he's pro-life. So am I. The Republican Party is fundamentally pro- life. So is David Bonior, one of the Democratic leaders.

But if in fact...

NOVAK: All right, all right.

KASICH: ... Roe v. Wade was overturned -- and this is an important point, Bill -- that would then mean that the states...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: You've said that.

PRESS: That means choice is dead.

(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: No, it doesn't. It means the states decide.

PRESS: Choice is dead.

NOVAK: All right, Bob...

KASICH: ... outlaw abortion is just a conclusion that you can't leap to.

NOVAK: Bob, I want to get into this abortion thing in a moment. But first, I just want to make a spec -- give a theory of why you people are so terrified of Ralph Nader and what he might do to your candidate.

Ralph was at this table a couple nights ago. And I'd like you to look at something. Did you see the show?

SHRUM: No.

NOVAK: Oh, you missed it.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm going to show you...

SHRUM: Bob, I miss some of your shows.

PRESS: You can't watch everyone of them, right?

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: I want to -- I want to watch -- I want you to...

SHRUM: Your rating is up to 50 percent. But...

NOVAK: Take a look at what Ralph said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH NADER, GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Do you know any other president that has morally disgraced the status of the White House, No. 1, and committed perjury, No. 2, as judicially determined? And he's an officer of the court as an attorney. I mean, you know, what's the standard for impeachment?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Now, you just don't want this liberal, this -- this hero of yours -- and I know he was a hero of yours most of your life -- to go on a debating platform and say what he had to say about Bill Clinton.

SHRUM: Bob, I now know why you spent so much of the show, wasted so much of the show on this question I answered in the first minute. That's because you wanted to show that clip. Now, the fact of the matter is that you want to keep running against Bill Clinton, you want to keep attacking Bill Clinton, you want to keep scandal-mongering. The voters are tired of it and the voters aren't going to have much to do with it this year.

Now, I want to go back to John Kasich's argument from a moment ago, because he and I have had this exchange before and I don't understand his argument.

What if we repealed Brown v. Board of Education and we had a patchwork all across the country -- some places we had integration, some places we had segregation? When it comes to people's fundamental rights, you don't have a patchwork in this country.

The difference between you and me is that I believe a woman under Roe v. Wade has a fundamental right to choose, and I'm absolutely certain that if George Bush became president, he would appoint clones of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, and that would be the end of Roe v. Wade.

NOVAK: I've got to get one -- I've got to get one question in there. The case that has caused all this stir is on partial birth abortion, and you have maneuvered your candidate into supporting a procedure that is opposed by the Democratic leadership of the Congress and about 70 percent of Americans. You're in a corner on this.

SHRUM: Two quick responses. Bob, I don't know whether you read the opinion or whether you followed the argument.

NOVAK: I did. I did.

SHRUM: The attorney general of Nebraska, Don Stenberg, was asked during the oral arguments, isn't this statute overly broad and doesn't it create the potential of eliminating second-trimester abortions? And he said, yes, but I promise you I won't let the statute be enforced that way.

NOVAK: That's...

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: That's what happened.

PRESS: And that's got to be the last word. Bob Shrum, thanks very much for coming back to CROSSFIRE.

SHRUM: You're welcome.

PRESS: Congressman John Kasich, good to you back.

KASICH: Thank you.

PRESS: You guys have a healthy debate, and it will continue, and we'll have you back. And Bob Novak and I will wrap things up with closing comments, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Bill, there's so much I'd like to explain to you I don't know where to start.

(LAUGHTER)

But I'll start with your misunderstanding of the Latino vote. It isn't that George W. Bush has to get 51 percent or 40 percent. If he gets 25 percent of that vote, Al Gore is in trouble, and that's what they're worried sick about in California and elsewhere.

PRESS: Well, Bob, I'll help you out, too, by explaining to you why Ralph Nader is not going to make it anywhere in these polls, is because the closer this gets to the election, Bob, people are going to realize how much is at stake with that Supreme Court. Not just choice -- it's death penalty, it's vouchers, it's school prayer. They're not going to waste a vote on Ralph Nader.

NOVAK: And that's why they're going to keep -- the Democrats are going to keep him out of the debates, guaranteed.

PRESS: Well, I'd like to see him in the debate. But he's not going to get the votes.

NOVAK: They're going to keep him out of the debates, and that's how he gets the vote.

PRESS: From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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