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Inside Politics

Al Gore Calls for More Federal Funding for Law Enforcement; Bush Unveils New Web Site, but Keeps People in Suspense About the VP Question

Aired July 19, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET


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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. Bernie is on assignment.

Vice President Gore took another shot today at closing a gender gap. Our latest poll shows Gore has managed to narrow the lead of George W. Bush largely on the strength of new support from women. But he continues to trail among men.

As CNN's Chris Black reports, Gore's speech in Missouri today was crafted mainly for male consumption.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know it's easy to talk tough on crime. But let's be honest, you can't be tough on crime if you're cheap on crime fighting.

CHRIS BLACK, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Surrounded by local police officers, Al Gore is calling for more federal funding for law enforcement. Gore is proposing new money to hire 50,000 more local police officers and 10,000 prosecutors. He also wants to target federal grants to crime hotspots and guarantee federal funding for five years.

And pointing out opponent George W. Bush's Republican friends on Capitol Hill fought the Clinton plan to fund 100,000 local police officers.

GORE: It's time to protect America's law enforcement funding against that kind of wrong-headed thinking so politicians can't play games with it.

BLACK: Al Gore is linking two issues, crime fighting and fiscal responsibility, issues his advisers say are high priorities with male voters.

For the past week, Gore has been addressing the flip side of the gender gap for Democrats. The Democratic candidate enjoys an advantage with women, but is doing poorly among men. The most recent CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows Bush beating Gore among men, 53-41 percent.

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The next president of the United States!

BLACK: Late last year, polls show Gore was losing the male vote to Bill Bradley, the onetime basketball star. Last week, Bradley endorsed gore, potentially boosting standing among his constituency white men.

GORE: Does anybody want autographs instead?

BLACK: Gore's target audience is younger men. Wednesday, he stopped by a family center near Kansas City, Missouri to play with preschoolers. And the Democratic National Committee has revised ad on fatherhood, which will air in 17 states beginning Thursday.

To drive home his point, there can be no money for anti-crime programs without fiscal discipline, Gore is adding an extra stop to his schedule Thursday, an in-your-face visit to San Antonio, Texas.

Gore says Bush can be counted on to spend the federal budget surplus on tax cuts, just as he did with the Texas surplus.

GORE: Texas saved less for the future than almost ever other state in America. The state's so-called "rainy day" fund could barely withstand a drizzle. It's now so small that by this fall, there will be only enough money to run the Texas state government for a single day. You know, there would be a real problem if Texans had a rainy season.

BLACK: Twelve years ago, Bush's father, Vice President George Bush, did the same thing to Democratic opponent, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, sailing through the polluted harbors of Boston Harbor.

Gore aides say the vice president is also trying to reassure swing voters who have given high marks to the Clinton-Gore administration that there will be no backsliding on either crime fighting or fiscal discipline during a Gore administration.

Chris Black, CNN, Raytown, Missouri.


WOODRUFF: George W. Bush's only public appearance today was crafted around the topic of new technology. That aside, he confronted the same old question.

Jonathan Karl has Bush's latest response regarding his choice of a running mate.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, this is not a question-and-answer session. JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's right, this event is to showcase the new campaign Web site. But where's the link to his running mate's homepage?

GEORGE W. BUSH: Amanda was asking me that, as a matter of fact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was asking what?

GEORGE W. BUSH: It's a joke. They want to know who the vice president is going to be.



GEORGE W. BUSH: They're playing like they're interested in the Web page.

KARL: VP speculation is rampant, but Bush insists he hasn't made up his mind yet. As for what factors he's weighing in making his final decision, Bush is sticking to his script.

GEORGE W. BUSH: The same factors Jonathan and I have been talking about -- whether or not the person can be the president, whether or not we can work together well for the good of the country, and of course whether or not they've got a good Web page.

KARL: Colin Powell long ago said he is not interested in being the vice presidential nominee. But there has been widespread speculation that Bush could name Powell as his choice for secretary of state. But late Tuesday, Bush himself said he believes such a move could violate a law against promising government jobs during a campaign. Bush also said he hopes to meet with former rival John McCain shortly after the Republican convention and spend some time campaigning with him.

(on camera): The Republican convention will feature 12 minifilms, including a nine-minute feature on Bush's life story and several so-called "profiles in compassion." They're all basically done except for one, which hasn't even been started -- a profile on the vice presidential nominee.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Austin.


WOODRUFF: Joining us now, CNN Sr. political analyst Bill Schneider.

So, Bill, we're talking about running mates, we're talking about when they're going to be announced, and when they're going to the conventions. Do these conventions still serve any real political purpose?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, we wondered about that, so we asked people, do you think the conventions still serve a useful purpose, or do you think the political parties should just stop having them? And boy, were we surprised by the results. Two-thirds say yes, keep having conventions. That's up 15 from 1992. Is it the funny hats? The rousing speeches? Well, no. Two-thirds say conventions are boring. But two thirds also say conventions are informative and good for Democracy. Must be all those wonderful commentators. The public's view is, we may not enjoy conventions, but we know they're good for us.

WOODRUFF: Kind of like oatmeal.


WOODRUFF: So will they watch?

SCHNEIDER: Well, half the public told us that they plan to watch at least some of the conventions this summer. And as you might expect, most Republicans plan to watch the Republican convention, most Democrats plan to watch the Democratic convention and most independents plan to watch something closer to reality, like "Survivor."

But here's something interesting -- young people are the most likely to say conventions serve a useful purpose. What do they know? They've never seen a convention where decisions are actually made. Older people know better. They've seen real conventions. They have their doubts about whether today's conventions still mean anything. But older people are much more likely to watch. They're stronger partisans, they've gotten into the habit, and they have more time. Young people say, we know conventions are important, but we have other things to do. Has anyone ever called up for a date and asked, want to get together and watch the convention? Could be very romantic. Maybe.

WOODRUFF: A long time ago, maybe.


WOODRUFF: Who is showing more interest, Bill, in the conventions, Republicans or Democrats? Or is there a difference?

SCHNEIDER: Well, actually, we're finding that interest is up in both political parties, but especially among Republicans. Republicans are desperate to win. They're like Democrats were in 1992 after years in the wilderness.

We asked voters, how important is it that your candidate gets elected this year? Bush voters are more determined to win than Gore voters. Now that's why conservatives have not been giving Bush a lot of trouble this time. If anything, Gore faces a bigger challenge keeping his base in line. Witness the growing threat of liberal Ralph Nader.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thanks very much, appreciate it.

And while we're on the topic of youth and politics, another Bush has entered the political wars. George P. Bush is working in his uncle's presidential campaign.

As CNN's Pat Neal reports, the younger Bush is collecting valuable pointers and raising eyebrows.


PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A third generation George Bush hit the national political scene.


NEAL: Call it "la nueva" generation. The 24-year-old nephew of GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush has become one of his uncle's most popular surrogates on the campaign trail.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, You're anticipating him, aren't you?


NEAL: "He's very handsome," says Bush. The younger George is the son of Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his Mexican-born wife.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Thank you for keeping the whistles down to a minimum.

NEAL: He recently posed for "People" magazine, which named him number four on a list of the country's 100 most eligible bachelors.

GEORGE P. BUSH, GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH'S NEPHEW: It was fun to do. I don't know if I'd do it again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's very, very good looking.

GEORGE P. BUSH: I'm just afraid that people focus on that instead of what I'm all about, what my uncle is all about. That's my main priority.

NEAL: With so many Georges in the family, his relatives call him "P." Republicans are calling him a secret weapon in campaign 2000. He has two goals: first, to reach out to the all-important Hispanic voting population.

GEORGE P. BUSH: I think that I instantly connect with -- because of my Mexican heritage -- to Latino voters out there.

MERLE BLACK, EMORY UNIVERSITY: What they're trying to do is take their success in Texas and make it nationwide among this emerging group. And George P. Bush is an ideal person, as someone in his 20s, who is part Hispanic, to make that kind of pitch.

NEAL: Secondly, he's trying to whip up support among young voters.

GEORGE P. BUSH: Our generation definitely has the label as being apathetic.


GEORGE P. BUSH: Why vote for George W. Bush?


NEAL: The campaign has produced two commercials featuring George P. His outreach extends over the airwaves and in the news magazines. It's not George P.'s first time in the political limelight; 12 years ago, George stepped onto the scene at the Republican National Convention, where his grandfather was nominated for president.


GEORGE P. BUSH: I pledge allegiance to the flag...


NEAL: That same day, his grandfather created a stir when he pointed out George P. and his family to President and Mrs. Reagan.


GEORGE H. BUSH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are Jebby's kids (UNINTELLIGIBLE), those little brown ones.


GEORGE P. BUSH: I laughed about it then and I laugh about it now. In Latin culture, we used distinguishing characteristics to distinguish ourselves.

NEAL: He calls his grandfather his idol.


GEORGE P. BUSH: You know him as a president. But I know him as the greatest man I've ever known.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NEAL: George P. is visiting 14 states on behalf of his uncle in the days leading up to the Republican convention, where he'll serve as youth chairman.

(on camera): George P. Bush may be a rising star on the campaign trail, but he plans on ending his stint three months before the election. He wants to pursue his own career.

(voice-over): He begins law school at the university of Texas next month. He says his grandmother, former first lady Barbara Bush, thinks it's best if he gets off the trail.

GEORGE P. BUSH: She's afraid that maybe all this attention may be getting to my head.

NEAL: But George P. volunteered for this duty. And he says it's all been worth it.

GEORGE P. BUSH: I think I take more out of the experience than the Bush campaign gets out of me, to be honest with you.

NEAL: And despite his family's love of politics, this generation's George Bush says he has no plans to run for office.

Pat Neal, CNN, Atlanta.


WOODRUFF: Ah, the grandmother's advice.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson give us their views on George P. Bush's role in his uncle's campaign. Plus, a closer look at the GOP hopeful's Web revamp and the voter reaction.


WOODRUFF: A new state poll in Connecticut shows Al Gore and George Bush locked in a very tight race. In the Quinnipiac University survey, Gore had 38 percent to Bush's 37. Green Party nominee Ralph Nader had 11 percent, and Reform Party hopeful Pat Buchanan three. In Delaware, a Mason-Dixon poll shows Bush leading Gore by five points, 43 to 38 percent. Nader has three percent, Buchanan two. And in Virginia, which has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1968, Bush leads handily over Gore in a Mason-Dixon poll. Nader and Buchanan combine for only three percent of the vote.

Joining us now, Margaret Carlson of "Time Magazine," and Tucker Carlson of the "Weekly Standard."

Tucker, do these polls tell us anything, really?

TUCKER CARLSON, "WEEKLY STANDARD": I want to know where Quinnipiac College is. No, I mean, I don't know -- I mean, nobody, you know -- people aren't elected in July.

WOODRUFF: Is there enough of a change here, or an inching up or down that makes any difference either way?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": We always knew it wasn't as big a gap as reported, especially during that period after the primaries, when Bush was everywhere and Gore was nowhere man; and that they always tighten. And now they're tightening -- it's mid-July -- and they are tightening. It's not that much of a surprise.

WOODRUFF: A couple of questions about Bush. Over the weekend, Tommy Thompson, who's the head of the platform committee for the party, saying that Bush is not going to feel bound to the platform to appoint anti-abortion judges, pro-life judges to the federal bench. Today, Thompson telling abortion-rights supporters of the party that Bush is going to feel bound to support -- to stick to the party platform language. Which is it? T. CARLSON: I think Tommy Thompson had the conference call with Austin, clearly. I mean, nobody is bound by the platform. One of the things you learn in covering a platform committee hearing is that nobody is really sure what's in it. And I think, from the very beginning, Bush has made it absolutely clear that he's not going to bound by it, or by the idea that, you know, a pro-life candidate has to appoint only pro-life judges, for instance, when he is elected. So, I don't think anybody should be surprised when he really doesn't use litmus tests if he becomes president.

M. CARLSON: Well, he's been very artful on abortion, because, of course, he wants both side. He wants that tent to be really, really big, and get pro-lifers and pro-choicers. And when he says he's not going to do a litmus test, he didn't say he wasn't doing a test. He just used the word litmus. And he told us his favorite judges were Clarence Thomas and Scalia. And that tells you something about the kind of judges he is going to appoint, which are the kind of judges that would probably vote to overturn Roe V. Wade.

But he doesn't want to lose the pro-choicers, so he says: No, I'm not bound by the platform. And that kind of winks at them. Whether that works all the way through to November, I doubt that it works. He is going to have be -- you know, tilt one way or the other.

WOODRUFF: Another Bush wrinkle, Tucker: the Texas state budget -- shortfall reported coming in the Medicaid program in the state Texas. Is this something with lasting value concern? Should it be of lasting concern in the campaign?

T. CARLSON: Well, I mean, there is no famine in Texas, which is sort of a surprise if you listen to the Gore campaign. I was with the Gore people last week in Green Bay, and they had a briefing for reporters -- a guy from the Texas House of Representatives and a Gore staffer -- and they used the word conservative no less than 12 times to describe Al Gore's economic outlook in contrast to that of Bush.

In other words, Gore is the real conservative on economics, Bush is this wild-eyed, profligate, liberal nutcase. It was very interesting, sort of flipping it right on its head.

M. CARLSON: Well, Bush came back on the plane to address that specifically last week and saying, you know: First he says I'm a weak governor, and now he says look, you are responsible for this budget in which we need a supplemental bid. So, that is exactly what the president is doing. And that's what always happens, and that this makes no sense.

Gore is going to have to do more than point to the budget. If he can do to Texas what was to Massachusetts when Dukakis was governor, then he can get somewhere. It's going to have to be, you know, trauma in Texas, and housing and education and health and famine, as Tucker said. It's going to have to be a lot more than just the budget.

WOODRUFF: What about the nephew, Tucker, George P. Bush? We just saw a report about him. Is he going to help his uncle?

T. CARLSON: I can't imagine he'd hurt. He's great on TV. You know...


M. CARLSON: Oh, please!

T. CARLSON: Oh, please!

M. CARLSON: I mean, a guy in "People" magazine, you know, on the bed like a cheesecake photo. I mean...

T. CARLSON: Yes, that's -- that's really too shallow for politics.

Come on, Margaret!

M. CARLSON: Even Generation Xers aren't going to vote on the basis of a nephew.

T. CARLSON: Oh, boy. I guess I'm more cynical than you are. But it will be interesting to see what percentage if the Hispanic vote he gets. If it's low, I think it tells us there's nothing, nothing a Republican can do to win the Hispanic vote. If Bush doesn't get it, nobody -- no Republican ever will.

M. CARLSON: This is your canary in the mine, that if George P. doesn't pull...


M. CARLSON: ... votes over from the Hispanics, it's a loss for Republicans.

T. CARLSON: Well, I mean, Bush is...

M. CARLSON: This is a kid who's had his picture in "People" magazine!

T. CARLSON: Well, I agree with you. But Bush, you know, he speaks Spanish. He goes out of his way to do events on Spanish- language media. I mean, he's trying. If he doesn't get it, you know, they never will.

WOODRUFF: All right. We've got 30 seconds left. In both parties, what names are you hearing for vice president? -- Margaret.

M. CARLSON: I'm back in the McCain camp. I just keep hearing McCain. And Bush could lock up the election. Now that Nader's in, he might win California, with Nader taking some of the votes if he had McCain on the ticket. And if he could just get over that second part, which is I want somebody I'm completely comfortable with, it would be McCain.

T. CARLSON: I think you're right. I think it's going to be a huge surprise. Nobody who's being batted around now as a contender is going to get it. It's going to be dramatic, and it's going to happen early next week. I'm positive. M. CARLSON: If...

WOODRUFF: And -- and who's it going to be?

T. CARLSON: Well, Dennis Miller is already "Monday Night Football."


So I would say it's going to be McCain or Colin Powell or somebody who people don't think is...

M. CARLSON: If you say you're on the list, you're automatically taken off the list.

T. CARLSON: Oh, you're toast, yes.

WOODRUFF: We don't want either one of you named, because we don't want...

T. CARLSON: We're contenders, I know.

WOODRUFF: ... to lose you on the program.

OK. We're going to hang onto you here.

Margaret Carlson, Tucker Carlson, thank you, both.

As Jonathan Karl noted earlier, George W. Bush unveiled a redesigned Web site today. And while the campaign won't say how much it costs, several leading high-tech companies were involved. The Bush campaign claims that its site breaks new ground in the ever- escalating political Web war.


GEORGE W. BUSH: Thank you all for coming.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): The Bush campaign is rolling out its new Web site with all the fanfare of a major policy announcement, with a news conference and a flashy new ad.


GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm running for president of the United States.


WOODRUFF: Behind the hype, some major improvements. The design of the new site, with its informal look and cutting-edge features, is a big departure over the dated design of the old site. Black and gold replaces red, white and blue. Hip new icons replace basic menu buttons. There's a live twice-weekly Net radio show, contests, even yard signs you can download.

But in redesigning the Web page, the Bush campaign kept what one focus group described as the most irritating feature of the old Bush Web site. Last week, a group of Michigan swing voters sat down with CNN to assess the old site. The thing they hated most: an automatic pop-up box soliciting contributions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought that was, like, right away the biggest turnoff in the world, because (a) I hate pop-ups when I go to Web sites, and (b) it was asking for money before you even saw anything that he stood for.

WOODRUFF: In the new Bush site, the box is back, although now the solicitation is a little more subtle and there's a "don't show it again" option.

Another thing that really irritated our panelists about the old site was this: the Clinton-Gore countdown clock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, before I probably would have voted for Bush, but because of, I think, his arrogance, like "I already have it, I'm counting the seconds down" -- I think it's really presumptuous on his part.

WOODRUFF: In the new version, the countdown clock has vanished.


WOODRUFF: Before Bush rolled out his new site, Al Gore had a definite advantage in the Web wars with 10 out of our 12 focus group participants saying they preferred to the old Bush site. Gore is now planning his own redesign in the future. When that site comes out, we will see how it stacks up with the new Bush site.

And next on INSIDE POLITICS, the balance of power in the Senate. We'll look at two Republican-held seats that could be key this November.


WOODRUFF: Much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Still to come...


ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Freshman Senator Spencer Abraham is in a tooth-and-nail fight to hold onto his job.


WOODRUFF: Ed Garsten on the challenger who wants to keep a Michigan Republican from serving a second Senate term.



PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The race between two of Missouri's most popular politicians is one of the closest Senate contests in the country.


WOODRUFF: Patty Davis on the "Show Me" state's Senate battle that pits governor versus senator.

And later...


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To the rest of us -- the voters, the nonvoters -- they are the politicians or that crowd in Washington. But to their fellow members, senators are men and women, good and bad, but people.


WOODRUFF: Our Bruce Morton on the Senate's loss.


WOODRUFF: Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey told reporters today that he would like to enter the race next year to succeed Christie Whitman as governor. Torricelli said he thinks he can win, but only if the state's quarrelsome Democrats unite.


SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), NEW JERSEY: I've talked to the Democratic Party leaders in New Jersey about whether or not we can end the divisions and get on a bold agenda in a gubernatorial campaign. And I made it clear that I would run for governor if we can end the divisions and the squabbling, and set our sights on winning a statehouse. I'm strongly inclined to do this. But it's an offer I've made to the party that we have to be of one mind and we have to unite. It doesn't make any sense for me to do this if the divisions are going to remain.


WOODRUFF: Among other potential divisions is the possible candidacy of Democrat Jim McGreevey, who nearly upset Whitman three years ago. Whitman cannot seek a third term, and under New Jersey law, Torricelli can enter the governor's race without giving up his Senate seat.

Now, we examine two races which could be key to control of the Senate next year. In both contests, freshman Senate Republicans are having to fight for re-election.

Our first report is from CNN's Ed Garsten on the campaign trail in Michigan.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... Michigan Senator Spence Abraham. (APPLAUSE)

GARSTEN (voice-over): Freshman Senator Spencer Abraham is in a tooth-and-nail fight to hold onto his job. Recent polls have him only slightly ahead of his challenger...

REP. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI), SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm Debbie Stabenow. What's your name?

GARSTEN: ... Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow. Observers call Spence Abraham one of the Republicans' most endangered incumbents.

ED SARPOLUS, POLLSTER: He's not naturally being picked up in this state. He's not catching fire on his issues. He's been sort of a behind-the-scenes type person.

STABENOW: I think we're going to...

GARSTEN: With less than half of Abraham's $5 million war chest, Debbie Stabenow says she may be outspent, but she won't be outworked. A single mom and Michigan native who's well-known throughout the state, Stabenow is hitting the road this day on a bus packed with senior citizens, crossing the border to Canada to buy cheaper prescriptions.

STABENOW: We need to take away the protections for the companies right now and allow Americans to buy American-made FDA-approved medications anywhere in the world wherever you can get the best price.

GARSTEN: Stabenow supports a Clinton plan to allow Medicare to underwrite the cost of prescription drugs for seniors. On every mile of her excursion, Stabenow's bus is trailed by a billboard sponsored by the Abraham campaign decrying that plan as too expensive. Abraham supports a plan to encourage private insurance to cover drug costs.

SEN. SPENCER ABRAHAM (R), MICHIGAN: The difference is that our plan doesn't charge a costly premium to seniors to participate.

GARSTEN: Abraham's suffered some political setbacks in the campaign. His attempt to abolish the federal gas tax to bring down high fuel prices fell flat, and his support for relaxing immigration quotas for certain workers sparked an angry attack ad from an outside group.


NARRATOR: Senator Spence Abraham is pushing another to import more than 200,000 foreign workers a year to take good American jobs.


ABRAHAM: They don't like me because I believe that legal immigration should not be abolished.

GARSTEN: And while the ad is seen to benefit Stabenow, she says she doesn't appreciate that kind of help.

STABENOW: I wish that they were not in Michigan. It's an extreme group. I'd like to run my own campaign.

GARSTEN: With much less to spend, Stabenow is not running any television ads yet. Seeing an opening, the well-financed Abraham campaign is airing a spot starring the man who won the Michigan presidential primary.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: You know, we have a saying about the United States Senate. There are show horses and work horses. Spence Abraham is a work horse.


SARPOLUS: He's finally at 50 percent in favorability plus, and finally gotten a job rating around 50 percent. So the McCain ads have finally caught some traction.

GARSTEN: But that traction might not hold for the duration. Sarpolus predicts the Senate race here will be a cliffhanger, with the very real chance this freshman could be expelled by the voters.

Ed Garsten, CNN, Detroit.



DAVIS (voice-over): This is Patty Davis in St. Louis, Missouri.

Missouri's Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan, who wants to be his state's next senator, kicked off a four-day, 21-county whistlestop tour, much like another famous Missourian years ago.

GOV. MEL CARNAHAN (D-MO), SENATE CANDIDATE: The seat I'm seeking in the United States Senate is Harry Truman's old seat.

DAVIS: Just two weeks ago, the man who now holds that seat, Republican Senator John Ashcroft, launched his own campaign with a bus tour.

SEN. JOHN ASHCROFT (R), MISSOURI: Hello. How are you?

DAVIS: The race between two of Missouri's most popular politicians is one of the closest Senate contests in the country.

PROF. KEN WARREN, ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY: You have two titans squaring off, two politicians that are not used to losing: not only not losing, but winning by gigantic margins throughout their whole careers. And this time one of them has to lose.

DAVIS: The latest poll by "The Kansas City Star" shows Ashcroft at 47 percent, Carnahan at 43: within the four-point margin of error. As in the presidential race, education, health care, Medicare, and Social Security are big issues.

ASHCROFT: I designed the lockbox that is in the Senate rules that makes sure we don't spend Social Security trust funds.

DAVIS: Carnahan is a moderate to liberal Democrat who has fought for abortion rights and gun control, and says he's setting his sights on working families.

CARNAHAN: Providing their security for future years, sending a child to college, paying the high cost of health care and prescription drugs.

DAVIS: With 10 percent of voters undecided, Missouri's political parties are waging war.


NARRATOR: Ashcroft proposed an irresponsible $4 trillion tax cut, three times more than even George W. Bush thinks we can afford.


DAVIS: The state Republican Party put this photo on its Web site: Governor Carnahan performing in blackface 40 years ago. Carnahan has apologized. But Ashcroft is not expected to pick up many black votes. He blocked a black Missouri Supreme Court justice from being appointed a high-profile federal judgeship, angering many African-Americans.

(on camera): Ashcroft even abandoned a possible presidential campaign in order to keep the seat in Republican hands. Observers agree a Carnahan pickup would be a major victory for Democrats, who haven't elected a senator here since 1980.

Patty Davis, CNN, St. Louis, Missouri.


WOODRUFF: And we'll look more at these Senate races and more when we come back.



WOODRUFF: Joining us now from the White House, our senior correspondent there, John King.

John, this comes on the heels of what was reported to be a letter from Prime Minister Barak. President Clinton blaming the Palestinians for much of this impasse right?

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is correct, Judy. Of course Palestinian sources equally arguing that it is the Israelis to blame. white House officials saying those back and forth, the letters from Mr. Barak, comments from Palestinian officials. They view that as both leaders positioning themselves should these talks fail, for when they go home and have to explain how things went at Camp David to their domestic political audiences.

As you just heard Mr. Lockhart say, he said the most important thing in his view and in the president's view is that all of the leaders are still there, both delegations still talking.

One noteworhty thing for the first time in this 10-day summit the president reached outside of Camp David. We're told he worked the phones today, calling other Arab leaders, the Egypitan president, Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Jordan, another call we're told the president made today. Mr. Lockhart not confirming who the president spoke to or why he called them, but other senior U.S. officials telling CNN the president hoping that they would prevail upon the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and convince him of the president's argument, that this is the best chance for Mr. Arafat to make peace.

U.S. officials saying that they're looking for key concessions from both sides, but especially the Palestinians, according to at least one U.S. official, in the final hours of these talks. Mr. Lockhart saying of course the deadline was extended from yesterday, another full day of negotiations, but the president's plans are to leave for Japan sometime tomorrow -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King at White House. And of course as soon as there is any development, CNN will bring it to you.

We'll be right back with "INSIDE POLITICS."


WOODRUFF: Joining us now: Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report" and Charlie Cook of "The National Journal.

Gentlemen, let's talk about the Senate races in some states where it's close. Missouri, Stu, you've got the governor running against the incumbent senator: Carnahan, Ashcroft. What's going on?

STU ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Well, as that package pointed out and the poll pointed out, this race has been close, it will be close, three or four points. Ashcroft seems to be narrowly ahead consistently. He has a small cash-on-hand financial advantage of about $600,000, but they're both well-funded, they're both going to get their message out, they're both trying to portray as the other as ideological extreme.

I think we're headed for a long hot summer and fall.

WOODRUFF: Charlie?

CHARLES COOK, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": I agree completely. They're just wailing away at each other on Social Security. You'd expect it was October instead of July.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's move on to Michigan. We had a report as well, Stabenow -- Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow -- challenging the incumbent Senator Spencer Abraham -- Charlie, Charlie.

COOK: Oh, OK, I will go. This only thing -- this race has been very, very close. It looks like Stabenow may have leaked out a little bit of a lead over the later winter-spring. Abraham has been on television with a very, substantial buy. Stabenow has been holding her money back. It looks like Abraham may have picked up a little bit. His favorable ratings are up 14 points from the last poll.

So he has helped himself. He may be giving himself just a little bit of breathing room, but this is going to be a very close race.

ROTHENBERG: Yes, and he has a cash-on-hand advantage according to "Roll Call" -- which is coming out tomorrow morning with this nice tape, plus everybody should read it -- a cash-on-hand of $1.9 million. That's a considerable advantage. But unlike Ashcroft in Missouri, he has not demonstrated an ability to win in a neutral political environment. And that is why we are all watching Abraham, because this environment is very different from '94 when he won last.

WOODRUFF: The state of Georgia tragically has lost Republican Senator Paul Coverdell. We are going to remember him in just a moment. What happens there? The governor has the option now of appointing someone. Who are -- what are some of the names that are already surfacing?

COOK: Well the name, the support that is going out more than any is Buddy Darden, a former Democratic congressman. We're also hearing Lou Massy (ph), who is the former secretary of state, and ran against governor Barnes, but dropped out rather than forcing a runoff. But, you are looking at a whole host of names. But the governor has a choice. He's probably going to appoint someone.

The question is, does he appoint a caretaker, or does he go with someone who is going to the Democrat in the election. And then he has a second choice. Do they have a primary, or do they have, basically, a nonpartisan primary -- or general election -- where everybody runs together without party designation. The betting right now is that he does not appoint a caretaker and that he skips the primary, and just has one big primary. But he steps in, clears the field, so hopefully there's only one Democrat. And then the whole Republican delegation is looking at the race.

ROTHENBERG: Yeah, I think the odds for a runoff. Republicans are praying that former Governor Zell Miller doesn't -- is not interested in this, because they don't think that they could beat him. There are a number of Republicans who are mentioned the most frequently. Mentioned, there's Johnny Isakson, and a congressman who has run state-wide unsuccessfully -- but would at least have state- wide name I.D.

And the problem for the Republicans, Judy, is that this election is a very narrow, very short one -- two months and then maybe a runoff. So you are going to need a Republican who is either well- known state-wide, or has lots of money -- somebody like Joe Rogers, the waffle entrepreneur, who has been mentioned. Otherwise, it's a congressional delegation. And they're not known statewide, except for Isakson.

COOK: The other danger is, if it's one of the House members, is that the ones that have a vulnerable district -- the problem is, would risk losing that seat.

WOODRUFF: Gentlemen, we will leave it there. Thank you both -- Charlie Cook, Stu Rothenberg.

Well, as we suggested, flags on Capitol Hill and at the Georgia Statehouse are at half-staff today as friends and colleagues mourn the death of Senator Paul Coverdell. Coverdell died yesterday in an Atlanta hospital, after suffering from a cerebral hemorrhage.

Our Bruce Morton on how he is being remembered.


MORTON (voice-over): To the rest of us -- the voters, the nonvoters -- they are the politicians, or that crowd in Washington. But to their fellow members, senators are men and women, good and bad, but people. This week, the Senate paid tribute to one of its own: Paul Coverdell of Georgia.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: At the appropriate time, I will join the rest of my colleagues in trying to make appropriate remarks, pay tribute to Paul. But for now, I can't do any more than just make this announcement. I do want to say to Nancy Coverdell and the family that we extend our sympathy and our love. And our hearts are breaking also.

SEN. DANIEL P. MOYNIHAN (D), NEW YORK: We know him so well, and miss him so much, and only share in the thought that he rest in peace.

SEN. MAX CLELAND (D), GEORGIA: He was a true, honest-to-goodness statesman and a real, real dear friend of mine. I'm mourn his loss. There are a lot of tears on the floor of the Senate today, and rightfully so.

MORTON: Robert Bennett of Utah mourned Coverdell and recalled another colleague who died recently: John Chafee of Rhode Island.

SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R), UTAH: It goes without saying that we will miss him terribly, but it is my conviction, Mr. President, that, as we mourn, we do not mourn for Paul. I don't know the details of what goes on, but I think it not out of the question to think that John Chafee may be showing Paul the ropes now.

SEN. PHIL GRAMM (R), TEXAS: My grandmother used to say that, as long as anyone remembers you, that you are not dead. As long as I live, Paul Coverdell will be remembered.

MORTON: Flowers, a flag at half-staff, words and tears for a friend who has left them.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And a few more words from a journalist who covered Paul Coverdell in his earliest days in politics in the Georgia State Senate. I was a brand new reporter, covering the state capitol, and found Coverdell always as one of the friendliest and most accessible in that quite unpredictable body. He was in his early 30s, still cutting his political teeth, but he already had a reputation for hard work, and more important, for integrity.

He was a Republican in a heavily Democratic legislature, so he had to work with colleagues across the aisle. And he did, winning the respect of members from both parties, the same respect you hear today in Washington. Sometimes, a member would tell me they couldn't believe a politician could be so nice and still get so much done. He was. He did. And I will miss him, too.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. I am Judy Woodruff. "WORLDVIEW" is next.



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