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GOP Prepares to Raise Curtain on National Convention; Philadelphians Embrace Big Party; Will First-in-the-Nation Primary Be Thing of the Past?Aired July 27, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
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BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Snapshots from Philadelphia, as Republicans prepare to raise the curtain on their national convention.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The star of the show, George W. Bush, is holed up at home, working on his big speech and taking new jabs at the Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Running against people that all they do is spend time tearing people down, and they're going to give it their level best to tear Dick Cheney down, but they're not going to be able to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People become excited about their old city. They want to show it off. They feel good about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: It's back to the future, as many Philadelphians embrace their city and the big party that's coming to town.
ANNOUNCER: From the First Union Center in Philadelphia, the site of the Republican National Convention, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff, and analysts Jeff Greenfield and Bill Schneider.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us, four days before the GOP Convention opens here.
SHAW: We are high above the hall where Republicans will anoint George W. Bush as their presidential nominee and try to recast their party in his image. As the stage is being set, our new poll shows Bush's lead overall over Al Gore is back in double digits.
WOODRUFF: And the Bush campaign says it hopes the governor's performance here next week will help him harden and perhaps widen his advantage.
Bush says he has been practicing his convention speech, and in Texas today he offered hints about what he'll say.
SHAW: Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is with Bush in Austin.
BUSH: Mr. Chairman, delegates, my fellow citizens...
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The convention speech is written.
BUSH: I thought I'd start off with, "I accept your nomination." I know that may not be original, but it seems to always gets a good applause.
CROWLEY: The speech, along with the choice of a running mate and the fall debates, are a political trifecta. You hit it right, and you're a long way to winning.
BUSH: I'm not nervous, but I'm anxious. I want to share why I am running. I think this is a speech that recognizes we have a unique moment in American history, and we're going to seize the moment if I'm the president. We're going to talk about leadership. We're going to talk about, obviously, issues.
CROWLEY: One top aide titled the speech "Unique Leader for a Unique Moment." It will stress Bush's ability to work across the aisle, to say, said another source, that in a single election, we can put aside eight years of bitterness and broken faith with government. It is part of the broader intent of the convention, to show a different kind of Republican
Part that can appeal to the swing voters who will decide this election. Key to that effort is former rival John McCain. Bush aides describe McCain's speech as very good and very gracious.
A draft of that speech, provided by McCain aides to the Bush campaign and convention officials. reads in part, "I say to all Americans, Republican, Democrat or independent, if you believe American deserve leaders with a purpose more ennobling than expediency and opportunism, then vote for Governor Bush. If you believe patriotism is more than a soundbite and public service should be more than a photo-op, then vote for Governor Bush."
The governor has not yet seen the speech.
BUSH: I trust John. He's a friend. He wants me to be the president. And I'm confident he's going to get up and speak his heart, and he's got a good heart and good judgment.
CROWLEY: Bush and McCain are set to campaign together the week after the GOP convention.
CROWLEY: Also key in next week's festivities, of course, will be Dick Cheney, the running mate that Bush has selected, although he's had a rough going over by the Democrats. Bush says today and said in his opportunity here at governor's mansion that they will try to tear down Dick Cheney, but that they won't be able to. This is a man, he said, of great integrity and substance -- Judy and Bernie.
SHAW: Thank you, Candy Crowley in Austin.
Now to Bush's standing in our new pre-convention poll. He's leading Gore by 11 points among likely voters nationwide in a four-way matchup including Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan. After the Bush-Gore race appeared to tighten early this month, this new CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll puts the candidates essentially back where they were in mid-June.
Now, let's turn to our man, Bill Schneider.
Bill, what's behind Bush's lead?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Bernie, a lot of it is personal, and I'm talking real personal. We asked, does Bush have the right personality and leadership qualities to be president? Two to one, yes. Does Gore? Fifty-fifty. Bush is seen as a stronger leader, a more capable manager, someone with a better vision for the future who's more honest and trustworthy.
Had enough? Well, here's something else. You heard all the jokes about Gore the wonk and Bush the frat boy? Well, we asked people, which candidate has a better understanding of complex issues? And the result, Bush 43, Gore 41. Not much difference. Apparently, people think the frat boy has a brain. So there.
SHAW: Really, are personal qualities more important than issues?
SCHNEIDER: You know, Bernie, they really count about the same. But people think Bush is OK on the issues. When we asked voters which candidate agrees with you more on the issue, slightly more people said Bush than Gore.
Take a look at the issues voters think are most important this year: economy, education, Social Security, health care. People see Bush and Gore as about equally capable of dealing with each of them. Education, health care, Social Security -- Gore is supposed to own those issues, but he doesn't, nobody does. Not even the economy. The public's view of the economy is through the roof, irrationally exuberant, so to speak. We've never had it so good? And the economy's not paying off big time for Gore? No. Bush is rated seven points better on handling the economy.
As Shakespeare might have said, how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have an ungrateful electorate.
SHAW: Good quote. Democrats say Cheney is too right wing. We've heard that consistently. We'll hear for weeks to come. Is that hurting Governor Bush at all?
SCHNEIDER: Well, we don't see any evidence of it in this poll, which was taken after Cheney was named to the ticket. We asked voters if they consider Bush too liberal, too conservative or about right. Thirty percent called bush too conservative. When we asked the same question about Gore, 40 percent said Gore is too liberal. So more people think Gore is too liberal than think Bush is too conservative. Cheney or no, it is going to be hard for Democrats to convince voters that George W. Bush is some kind of right-wing extremist.
SHAW: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
To our viewers, you know that we have this city thoroughly wired for sound. Just a quick word to our friends in the technical truck downstairs. We're hearing Charles Bierbauer, and it's really distracting. I'm surprised you got through all that. We still hear Charles Bierbauer.
SCHNEIDER: Talk through it all.
SHAW: OK -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: He's a man who's able to focus.
All right, our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield joins us.
Jeff, you've been listening to what Bill had to say. You've talking to people today. What do you think?
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I think the very elegant line from our academic about sharper than a serpent's tooth is an ungrateful electorate, this is almost to the day, the 55th anniversary, of the day that the British people, weeks after Winston Churchill led them to victory over the Nazis, threw Churchill out of office in a Labor Party landslide, in effect saying, thank you very much, Winston, now we want somebody new.
It's amazing how often doing something really effective actually can hurt you politically. Remember, once the Cold War was won, people thought Bush might get a second term. Instead, people said, well that's done, now let's turn to another issue. In this case, the economy has been so good for so long that a lot of people think what's happening is voters are seeing it as a force of nature, something inevitable, and they're not saying, oh, Clinton did it. Here's another way to put it, Ask me the secret of great comedy.
WOODRUFF: What's the secret of...
GREENFIELD: Timing. Now the reason I mention that is, in electoral politics with the economy, timing is more important than reality?
WOODRUFF: You're saying it's not fresh enough?
GREENFIELD: That's right. If we'd come out of a recession say two or three years earlier, people might have said, as they did in '96, oh, Clinton deserves the credit. The economy been expanding now I believe for more than 90 months, and what's happened is people have said, well, that's another issue, let's think about something else.
WOODRUFF: Bill -- we want to bring Bill and Bernie into this -- are we saying that there is nothing Gore can do to change all this between now and November?
SCHNEIDER: He's going to try everything he can, but there's something unusual also about this recovery, not just the length of it, but the fact that it is not being driven by something obvious, like other recoveries of the last 50 years. In the '40s, it was driven by a World War. The '50s, by huge public works spending on education and national defense. In the '60s, by an immense tax cut. And under Reagan in the '80s, by both a tax cut and a big defense buildup. But we haven't had any of those things in the 1990s. So when you ask people, what did Clinton and Gore do to deserve credit? They are not so sure.
SHAW: I just want to say, let's go to the numbers for a moment. The Bush people clearly feeling very good. He's back on top in the polls, and they assume that he'll get some of a bounce out of Philadelphia. The Democrats have to be banking on their anticipated bounce to close the gap in the polls. If Al Gore does not, then I should think there would be panic in the Democrats' camp?
GREENFIELD: Well, let's remember something. First, the Republicans already making the case that because their base has all come back, they don't expect -- now who knows whether they're lowballing nearly the bounce that the Democrats will get. And second, let's remember 12 years ago, the Democrats gathering in Atlanta, ready to nominate a governor free of the ideological baggage of the past against a sitting vice president, who was seen as vulnerable, enjoying a lead close to double digits. You know, anybody who takes these numbers as anything other than written in fine sand, in terms of what will happen in a few months, is kidding himself.
But the fact is that Gore needs to do something to say to people not just the other guy is no good, but we did something.
WOODRUFF: What can he do, Bill? I mean, you've ticked off so many of the issues today, but what can he...
SCHNEIDER: Well, the first thing he is going to do is remind people of Bush I and how bad things were. That was eight years ago. And a lot of people: Yes, I sort of remember things were bad. But a lot of what they remember about George Bush, the president, is his character, his dignity and the Gulf War. That's Dick Cheney. So it's going to be hard to play on that theme. He's going to talk about the risk of George W. Bush as president. But George W. Bush is not proposing anything terribly radical, so that is going to be a hard sell, too.
It's going to be tough. But, you know, he's got to tell people: Remember how it used to be.
WOODRUFF: All right, thank you, Jeff Greenfield, Bill Schneider, all right -- Bernie?
SHAW: Charles Bierbauer.
WOODRUFF: And Charles Bierbauer, behind the scenes -- we'll hear from him in a minute -- Bernie.
SHAW: Before we move on, this a reminder that INSIDE POLITICS will be coming to you live from this convention site again tomorrow and next week with reports on the issues, the delegates, and all the political angles.
And please stay with CNN for live convention coverage beginning with the opening session Monday morning at 10:00 Eastern. For even more convention news, please check out our Web site at cnn.com/election2000.
Still ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS: Will the first-in-the- nation primary be a thing of the past? A look at the Republican plans to shake up the primary calendar, when we return.
SHAW: Look at this: the floor of Philadelphia's First Union Center being transformed now as the Republican Party takes up temporary residence; 2,066 Republican delegates will be here Monday. But as every fan of the NBA 76ers knows, not everyone gets a great seat. Just as corporations woo their best clients with skyboxes, George W. Bush is wooing the most important states with very plum spots in front of the podium -- the all important swing states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois -- with them, the biggest electoral prize in the nation, mighty California.
Bush's home state of Texas is front and center. Dick Cheney's Wyoming is just off to the side. And who gets the cheap seats: New Hampshire, for one. Back in February, Bush couldn't do enough for the first-in-the-nation primary state. Then it voted for the man from Arizona, John McCain.
New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary status may also be in danger. Today, party leaders are dealing with pre-convention business --- on the agenda: the primary calendar and the problem of front- loading. As Charles Bierbauer reports, support for the reform proposals is far from unanimous.
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George W. Bush wrapped up the Republican nomination with primary wins in California and other big states on March 7th, little more than a month after the primary season started. Many Republicans hope it will take longer in 2004. The Republican National Committee is pursuing a plan launched in Delaware to protect the interests of small states. The 17 smallest states and territories would hold primaries first, in February.
Then in March, April, May, bigger states would get their turn, the largest holding their primaries last.
BASIL BATTAGLIA, DELAWARE GOP CHAIRMAN: Everybody has an opportunity to participate. The states have an opportunity to be involved in it. And it lengthens the process, and it stops the front- end loading.
BIERBAUER: The RNC tabled a New Jersey modification that would have only preserved February for the smallest states.
DAVID NORCROSS, NEW JERSEY REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEMBER: After the first Tuesday in March, it's a free-for-all.
BIERBAUER: Another plan could be considered when the Republican Rules Committee takes up the matter Friday. The Ohio plan keeps the smallest states first, but then spreads the remaining primaries by region.
BOB BENNETT, OHIO GOP CHAIRMAN: Let the small states have their pod, so you have retail politics. But then we need some type of a system that spreads out the larger states.
BIERBAUER: There's no turning back the clock to 1948 when Republicans came to Philadelphia not knowing for sure that Thomas Dewey would be their candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1948)
THOMAS DEWEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In all humility, I accept the nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BIERBAUER: Still, many do not like the party accelerating toward an early national primary, but Republicans doubt they can change the primary system by themselves. And the Democratic National Committee says it will work within the same calendar window as the Republicans, but it's goal is to decide early and then unite around the candidate.
(on camera): Republican Party rules require any changes to be made at convention here, or the 2004 primary season could be even more compressed than this year's.
Charles Bierbauer, CNN, Philadelphia.
WOODRUFF: And joining us now, the chairman of the GOP Platform Committee, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.
Thank you for being here.
GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON (R), WISCONSIN: Well, it's a pleasure to here, Judy, with you and Bernie. Thank you very much for having me.
WOODRUFF: We are delighted to have you. That story of Charles' of course is about the order of primaries, coming out of a different committee from yours. But I want to ask you about it first. The plan that is out there that seems to be getting a lot of support from Republicans all over the country is putting the small states first and letting the big states go last. The big states don't like it. And you don't like it either. Why not?
THOMPSON: Well, I don't like it, because it locks Wisconsin always into a position of never really having any input and to electing our candidates for president, whether you be a Republican or Democrat. And we would be put in the third tier. And that means, usually, the presidential candidates have already been chosen by that time. And it's not fair. I think it should be rotating. And then I could certainly consider it.
WOODRUFF: Because the alternative is what you have right now, with more and more front-loading. Pretty soon, people are saying, you know, all 50 states are going to have primaries and caucuses in the first month of the year.
THOMPSON: Well, the present system is a disaster, as everybody knows, But I think they have to be fair. I just don't think the small states should be the ones on all times. I think, you know, the medium-size states like Wisconsin should have an opportunity to be the first. And that's why I'm suggesting a rotating primary is much better -- rotating regional. And every state would have -- once every 16 years -- would have an opportunity to be involved.
WOODRUFF: What's likely to come out of this convention?
THOMPSON: Well I think what's going to come out of it is a modified Delaware plan or nothing.
WOODRUFF: It's the early states, the early states -- or the smaller states first.
Tommy Thompson, Republican platform draft being released at 6:00 this evening Eastern time. It's been described as very conservative but not combative. What does that mean?
THOMPSON: Well, it means that we've taken out all the language that really criticized President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. We want to be very uplifting, we want to be visionary and we want to be progressive, and that's what we're doing. In regards to being a document that takes out the language of doing away with Department of Education, Department of the National Endowment of the Arts and other things like that, then we're sort of critical as far as various departments.
We're much more visionary. How can we help people solve societal problems? How can we really come in with a document that's going to benefit the vast majority of Americans? And that's what we're trying to do, make sure that we emphasize education and these kind of subjects.
WOODRUFF: On the question of abortion, I know you're trying to limit the controversy at this convention, will this platform ultimately reflect Governor Bush's view that there should be exceptions in the case of women who have been raped, been the victim of rape or incest or if their life is at stake?
THOMPSON: Well, I would certainly like to see that, but I doubt very much that's what's going to take place. The platform is going to be pretty complete as it relates to the 1996 platform, Judy, and I think most of the delegates have pretty much assured that that's what's going to take place. And I think there should be some exceptions, but it's...
WOODRUFF: So those...
THOMPSON: ... not going happen.
WOODRUFF: So those -- excuse me -- so those delegates who are here who are pro-choice are really going away with nothing, in effect, of what they wanted?
THOMPSON: Well, I'm not so sure about that. We've got some other things that are very interesting and exciting. We've got a big plank on women's health that I drafted, and it's very good, very progressive. We've got other things dealing with education. You know, there are a lot of women that are much more concerned about education and women's health and things like this. And the platform addresses those. And so there's a lot of issues that pro-choice women can feel very, very good about in this platform. And I feel very good about it.
WOODRUFF: So when Governor Bush stresses that he's a compassionate conservative, you're saying that compassion is reflected?
THOMPSON: Oh, absolutely. This document...
WOODRUFF: Even though he doesn't agree with every line in the platform?
THOMPSON: Well, I don't think anybody -- I don't agree with every line in the document, and I had a hand in drafting it. It's one of those things that you have to get a majority of votes for, and this is a platform in which the party stalwarts come together 107 strong and they make the decisions.
WOODRUFF: Well, if it doesn't reflect all the views of the nominee of the party, whose views does it reflect?
THOMPSON: It reflects the vast majority of the Republican delegates assembled here in Philadelphia. And I think George Bush is going to feel very comfortable with the platform that finally passed, one in which he can embrace, not in total -- and I don't think anybody can embrace it in total, and I think that's something that everybody should recognize.
WOODRUFF: Governor Bush's running mate, you know him well...
THOMPSON: I know him well.
WOODRUFF: ... former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Are you comfortable -- a lot of...
THOMPSON: And he also got his politics started, his political training, in Wisconsin.
WOODRUFF: In the state of Wisconsin.
WOODRUFF: A lot of discussion now about his voting record in Congress and how very conservative it was. Are you comfortable with all of the votes that he cast?
THOMPSON: Well, no, and I don't think anybody is. I mean, the only person that could be satisfied with every vote somebody takes is a person that gets up in the morning and stares at you in the mirror. And Dick Cheney is a wonderful person, great integrity, great intelligence, and he's going to bring a lot to this party. And just because he had a couple votes representing his state of Wyoming. And that was before he became the secretary of defense, you know?
And there's different things. And I think the vast majority of his votes are things that I can embrace very easily -- not all of them. And I don't think anybody can. I don't think they should be able to.
WOODRUFF: Governor Tommy Thompson, thank you for being with us. And we'll be watching you over the next few days.
THOMPSON: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be out here.
WOODRUFF: Thanks a lot. Thank you.
And much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.
SHAW: Still to come:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK FABIANI, GORE DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Anyone on this campaign who tells you they know what the vice president is thinking probably is just trying to impress you with their knowledge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Keeping the Democratic veepstakes under wraps. Chris Black on Al Gore's private decision.
WOODRUFF: Bob Novak on why Republicans see a certain Florida senator as a formidable choice.
SHAW: Mary Matalin and Mike McCurry on the talk about the No. 2 slot and a senator from Massachusetts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A White House facade, an Oval Office, first lady gowns, a distinguished -- well, we're not sure who he'll be when he gets his head, but lots of stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Our Bruce Morton on how Philadelphia is showing off it's political spirit.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
We'll have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.
Air France Concorde Flight 4590 might have been doomed from the start. Investigators say the supersonic jet that crashed in France Tuesday may have been plagued by several problems. An initial review of the Concorde's recovered data recorders indicates trouble with two engines as well as with the landing-gear. Tire debris was discovered along a runway, raising the possibility a tire blow-out may have contributed to the accident which killed 113 people shortly after take-off. Investigators say other pieces of the Concorde also were found all along the path of the jet.
Anti-drunk-driving groups want Congress to require each state to lower its drunk driving standards to 0.08. Mothers Against Drunk Driving says that could save hundreds of lives a year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we're going to wage a winning war on drunk driving, we have to start by drawing the line against drunk driving at 0.08. But just saying yes to a national 0.08 provision, Congress can prevent 500 deaths and thousands of serious injuries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The legislation would withhold a portion of federal highway funds from states that don't comply. Currently, 18 states have the 0.08 standard.
Critics of the America Online-Time Warner merger are also making their case to the Federal Communications Commission this afternoon. NBC and ABC-owned Disney say the $120 billion deal could limit competition, product distribution and consumer choice. But AOL's CEO, Steve Case, told the commission the merger will not only benefit consumers but will take the Internet to the next level.
Time Warner is the parent company of CNN.
Napster is appealing a court order that could shut down the music-share service this weekend. A federal court has ordered Napster to stop distributing copyrighted music on the Internet. The recording industry accuses Napster of copyright infringed. CNN's parent company, Time Warner, is a member of the industry group which asked for the injunction.
Ford plans to increase the average fuel economy of its sports utility vehicles by 25 percent over the next five years. That's a boost of about five miles per gallon. Ford says that it will do that by decreasing weight, improving aerodynamics and using new technology. The move comes during a summer of rising gas prices.
On Capitol Hill today, the House considers a plan to reduce taxes on Social Security. The bill would affect individuals with incomes above $34,000 and married couples with incomes above $44,000. The Social Security tax would be applied to the pre-1993 level of 50 percent benefits rather than the current 85 percent. President Clinton promises a veto, and he warned House Republicans to stop passing bills they know he won't sign.
Another bill President Clinton plans to veto, the marriage penalty tax bill, made it's way to the White House in an unusual manner. A fake bride and groom delivered it today. The bill would reduce married couples' income taxes by $292 billion over the next decade. Texas Governor George W. Bush says he supports the bill and wants Vice President Al Gore to take a position on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Vice President Gore has not said whether he would sign the bill or veto the bill. And the vice president ought to -- and if he's for the bill, and he claims he has been one of the most influential vice presidents in our history, he ought to use his influence to get the bill signed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The White House says the GOP bill is simply too costly. When INSIDE POLITICS returns, from Philadelphia, Bob Novak on a kinder, gentler GOP convention and an update on Al Gore and his vice presidential pondering.
SHAW: In the crow's nest, these seat down below will cradle delegates as the Republican National Convention that opens here in Philadelphia next week will be one of George W. Bush's best opportunities to grab the attention of voters and try to impress them.
Instead of trying to compete for the spotlight, Al Gore is ceding it to Bush for now.
As CNN's Chris Black reports, Gore will use the time to focus on family and his important political moments ahead.
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While Republicans gather in Philadelphia for their national convention, Al Gore gathered up his family and headed on vacation. Gore says he will announce his running mate sometime after the Republican convention and before Democrats hold theirs in Los Angeles in mid-August. He is believed to be close to a decision.
Since George W. Bush chose Dick Cheney as his running mate, insider speculation has focused on Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Democratic sources say Kerry is the best candidate to reinforce Gore's message that Democrats represent the future and not the past.
But apart from the vice president and perhaps Warren Christopher, his VP selection chief, no one really knows if Kerry will be the one.
FABIANI: Anyone on this campaign who tells you they know what the vice president is thinking probably is just trying to impress you with their knowledge. But I've got to tell you, the honest truth is no one other than the vice president, his wife, Tipper, and former Secretary of State Christopher know what's going on with the process.
BLACK: Gore is spending the next seven days with his wife, four children and year-old grandson Wyatt at the Figure 8, a barrier island off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina, the last break before the intense three-month sprint to Election Day.
While he is resting and relaxing, the Gore campaign will be hard at work preparing for the next phase of election 2000.
TAD DEVINE, GORE CAMPAIGN CONSULTANT: We're going to want people to get to know Al Gore, you know, who he is, where he comes from, what he believes, and where he wants to take the nation. I mean, I think that's the most critical task in the weeks ahead.
BLACK: And the Democratic National Committee is dispatching a rapid response team to Philadelphia to reply to any Republican attacks and offer an opposing view to the GOP message.
(on camera): It may be the dog days of summer, but there will be no let-up here at Gore headquarters on Mainstream Drive, because Al Gore is about to enter the most critical period of his presidential campaign.
Chris Black, CNN, Nashville, Tennessee.
WOODRUFF: Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle has given Gore some advice, though, about whom he should not choose as a running mate. Daschle says he told the Gore camp to think twice about selecting a Democratic senator who comes from a state with a GOP governor. If that were to happen, a Republican would likely be appointed to fill the Senate seat, possibly throwing cold water on Democrats' growing hopes that they may recapture a majority in the Senate. There are four possible Democratic vice presidential contenders that we know of, four of them who are senators from states with GOP governors, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Bob Graham of Florida and Richard Durbin of Illinois.
Well, joining me now with his "Reporter's Notebook," Bob Novak of "The Chicago Sun-Times."
Bob, you've been talking to a lot of Republican here in Philadelphia. What are they saying about the democratic V.P. choice?
ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Don't forget, Judy, these are politicians so they think like politicians. And they think particularly after a safe choice made by Governor Bush and Dick Cheney that Bush -- Gore should be a little bit more daring in making a political choice.
And they think the strongest, the one they fear the most, is Bob Graham, senator from Florida, because it takes Florida, a state which the Republicans need and expect to win, and it puts Florida into play. And they don't see anybody else on the Democratic side who means electoral votes and really a switch, possible switch, of a state from Republican to Democratic.
WOODRUFF: All right, you've covered a lot of conventions. What do you think so far about what's going on here?
NOVAK: I've been covering them for 40 years, and this is the sweetest, kissy-faced convention you have ever seen. I've never seen anything like it. I remember just four years ago in San Diego, Judy, the Republicans came in here, Dole was way behind, they got pepped up quite a bit when Kemp was put on the ticket...
NOVAK: ... They were terribly upset and they were coring (ph) about things. Very happy with the Cheney choice. A lot of the media bring up his voting record, but the Republicans say, hey, that's a Republican record. They think it's a good, sound choice. They think Bush is ahead.
And the interesting thing is -- you had Tommy Thompson on before -- they are not going to mess with that platform. A lot of these pressure groups, left and right, have come in to have a traditional platform fight. There ain't no platform fight. It's behind closed doors tonight, speed it up tomorrow. They usually have a week of open sessions, and it's not going to be any fights.
WOODRUFF: All right, last but not least, big questions for our friends in the press. Four years from now, is there going to be a New Hampshire primary early on in 2004? What are you hearing?
NOVAK: Bad news for all of us, Judy. The people on the Republican National Committee said no matter what happens on the so- called Delaware plan to change the structure of the primaries, New Hampshire is dead, they say. New Hampshire voters have been quirky twice too often, having Pat Buchanan win four years ago, having John McCain win this time. They're sick of New Hampshire, and it's just going to be slaughtered with a lot of other states.
The big question, though, is if they're going to have this Delaware plan, which is going to force gig states like California into a caucus system, because they can't run their own primary, I think the Delaware plan is going to be killed tomorrow in the convention rules committee. And they will go back to where they were.
New Hampshire thinks that's going to save them. I'm afraid it's not. There is a real anti-New Hampshire bias by the Republicans right now.
WOODRUFF: But just quickly. if the Republicans do away with New Hampshire on their schedule, the Democrats could keep it there.
NOVAK: Sure they could.
WOODRUFF: So we could still get the gun in New Hampshire.
NOVAK: That's true, but it won't be as much -- it depends who wins the election. If Gore wins the election, you won't go to New Hampshire.
WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Novak, thanks a lot.
NOVAK: Thank you.
SHAW: Yes, I like to go to New Hampshire.
Well, at their respective conventions, George Bush and Al Gore will get a rare and valuable opportunity to define themselves in the public mind. And according to a new poll, each starts with a canvas that's mostly blank. Despite the intensive coverage of the campaign, most Americans still have only the vaguest impressions of Bush and Gore. In a new Pew Center poll, just 26 percent of Americans say they know a lot about what Gore stands for. Just 23 percent say the same of Bush.
The Pew poll also asked Americans what parts of next week's Republican Convention they were most interested in. At the top of the list: the Republican platform, followed by Bush's speech, vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney's speech Wednesday night, the roll call of states, and John McCain's speech.
We'll have much more on the Pew Center study as we set the stage for the Republican convention on tomorrow's INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Fascinating stuff. And when we return, Mary Matalin and Mike McCurry on the conventions, the GOP platform, and the party tickets.
SHAW: Joining us now from Washington, former Clinton White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry and Mary Matalin of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." Mike, starting out with you first, which party will the Bush- Cheney ticket electrify most?
MIKE MCCURRY, FMR. CLINTON PRESS SECRETARY: You mean at the convention, which of the parties that people are going to as delegates? I don't know. Electrifying segments of the electorate is just something that is a little hard to ponder right now. The Pew study that you just mentioned had some interesting numbers on it. The degree to which people are paying attention to this race right now -- it's sort of a quiet summer.
I don't think that Dick Cheney's selection adds a lot of excitement and pizzazz to that equation that is going to fire up the electorate at this point right now. I do think this, though. It do think that it sets the stage for a very substantive debate. These are serious people. Al Gore most likely is going to have a running mate with him that I think will want to concentrate on issues too. And you know, that is not at all a bad thing. We always say we want to have presidential campaigns that are about issues. I think we may get one this time.
MARY MATALIN, HOST, CNN "CROSSFIRE": Well, wouldn't that be a shock to actually have a campaign about issues? Mike is exactly right. If you believe all the previous Pew numbers, that about 19 percent of the people have been following this election so far, and in the end, over 50 percent vote, these conventions, for both candidates, are the first time that the general election audience will get to see, in a concentrated, in a comprehensive, and positive, a presentation of each candidate's platform.
But equally importantly, as Bill Schneider indicated earlier, their personas -- who is George W. Bush? What is compassionate conservatism? And for the vice president, he needs to step out of the president's shadow as my beloved George Bush did in 1988 when we bid Reagan adieu and Bush was the heir apparent.
SHAW: So, it's important, Mary, for the Republicans, when they meet here starting Monday -- from the time the gavel falls down at 10:00 in the morning -- to stay on message, to be unified. We heard Judy interviewing Governor Tommy Thompson, chairman of the Platform Committee indicating -- and Bob Novak did -- there will not be quantum disagreement among these delegates down on the floor -- no nasty fights in public.
MATALIN: Well George W. Bush has done something unprecedented in modern American politics. He unified the base in the course of the primary. When that primary was over -- and all up -- since then until now -- we see George Bush receive 91 percent of the Republican vote. Usually, that is something that you have to do at the convention. And the strategic purpose of the convention in past years has been to unify that base. That is already done.
We already -- and we know how to run a disciplined -- Republicans know how to run a disciplined convention. They won't be off-message. What Bush needs to do more than anything else is flesh out that message. He is a new kind of Republican, a 21st-century Republican. What does that mean? And who is George W. Bush? That is the challenge for this candidate at this convention.
MCCURRY: You know, Bernie...
SHAW: Yes, please.
MCCURRY: Bernie, I think Mary is right about that. I think he also needs to demonstrate some gravitas too in the course of his convention, This is an opportunity for him to really satisfy some Americans that may really wonder: Is junior really up to the job that his daddy did? And I don't -- I think, by the way that Dick Cheney's selection may have compounded that problem. But part of the message that he certainly has to convey is that he is really qualified to do this very important job.
One another though about conventions -- Mary and I have worked against each other, but we both are real believers, I think, in political parties and institutions and what they do -- and I really think it's important for the press -- and certainly CNN will be doing this -- to really examine what the party as an institution does to gather itself for the coming campaign in the fall. That is the story that goes on behind the scenes, as delegations work as they think about the fall campaign.
It frankly is a much better story than the press sometimes thinks. And so it is good that at least some will be covering that story.
SHAW: Well, clearly, one of the stories, Mike, we are covering is the Democratic attack on the selection of Dick Cheney, and also on Mr. Cheney's voting record in the House. My question to you, sir, is: Must the Democrats be very, very careful and not over-demonize Dick Cheney?
MCCURRY: Absolutely, because he is not a demonic character. He looks like a very solid citizen. But, you know, that is a voting record that he is going to have to defend, because it is quite conservative. I happened to be in the Florida yesterday, and the "Miami Herald" -- biggest paper in the southern part of the state -- had a little summary of his voting record -- negative on Medicare and raising Social Security, retirement age, negative on expanding some of the benefits on the prescription drug coverage.
It is going to a very, very tough record for him to defend if George W. Bush is trying to move to the center of the political spectrum. SHAW: Mary, have the Democrats already overdone it?
MATALIN: Well, yes, Bernie, I think they have. And here is why. It's an ineffective strategy. We just looked at our poll here at CNN earlier, the head to head right now. And of course these polls right now are not dispositive. But since people have gotten to see all of this well-planned attack on Dick Cheney, the margin between the two presidential candidates has only widened in Bush's favor.
But it is a bad strategy for another reason. It reinforces a negative of Al Gore's, which is he is perceived to be, and rightly because of some his actions, too political and too negative; that is the legacy of the primary for Al Gore and he runs the risk of reinforcing that negative going forward for the general election. They had to be very careful and, as that polled showed, Schneider pointed out, more people think that Al Gore is too liberal than think Bush is too conservative. You need to get a little bit outside the Beltway to redefine conservatism, People out in the country don't think of conservatism as it has come to be defined by the Democrats inside our little echo chamber.
SHAW: Mary Matalin, Mike McCurry, of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." We can't wait to have you folks right up here next to us.
MCCURRY: We will be looking forward to being with you.
MATALIN: Thanks, Bernie.
SHAW: You are quite welcome.
And just ahead, from here, the site of the Republican Convention, rolling out a welcome for the Grand Old Party. Bruce Morton on Philadelphia's plans to impress and to entertain the Republican masses.
WOODRUFF: Over the next week, the Republican delegates will spend much of their time here inside the First Union Center. But city leaders hope they will also spend some time and money at Philadelphia's businesses and attractions.
Our Bruce Morton has a convention preview of the many things to see and do here in the City of Brotherly Love.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You could say it started with money. The 1996 convention made Chicago $150 million. Philadelphia's then mayor noticed.
ED RENDELL, FORMER PHILADELPHIA MAYOR: So I convened some business leaders and political leaders from both parties and I said, ladies and gentleman, we are going after both conventions. We can only get one, but we are going after both conventions, and we are going to get one.
MORTON: And they did! And the city is more up than it would have been a few years ago. Ask a guy who has lived here a while. No, he is not really Ben Franklin, but he has played him most days here. RALPH ARCHBOLD, PORTRAYS BEN FRANKLIN: What has changed over the last 20 years is people have become excited about their own city. They want to show it off. They feel good about it.
MORTON: Conventions are serious business, of course. The Republicans are picking a presidential nominee. The city hopes to make money and burnish its image. But Philadelphia also hopes the visitors, and the people who live here, will have some fun.
Plenty of four-star restaurants, of course, but food scholars will want to visit Pat's, where the Philley cheese steak began. American, you should know, is cheez-whiz. And whiz, listen again -- whiz means with onions.
What else? lots. Tall buildings, quiet streets, horse-drawn cabs to take you around to downtown, where that is is still a good way to travel.
A sand Abraham Lincoln, not exactly Mt. Rushmore, but who is counting.
And at the Moore College of Art and Design, the ultimate in Republican art, painting done by elephants. These paintings, prices start at $300. They hold the brushes in their trunks, If you don't believe me, look.
And there is more.
KAREN DOUGHERTY BUCHHOLZ, PRESIDENT, PHILADELPHIA 2000: We have been planning for well over two years, the city looks terrific. There is banners, there is more than a thousand banners all over the city. You see flags, red, white, and blue flowers.
MORTON: She is president of Philadelphia 2000, which is sponsoring Politicalfest, a kind of virtual convention and more downtown. A White House facade, an Oval Office, first lady gowns, a distinguished, well, we are not sure who he will be when he gets his head, but lots of stuff.
Philadelphia is very pretty this week, but it is also a modern American city, complete with slum housing, mean streets, and home to kinds where hope is still a round ball you dribble. Visitors may not throng these neighborhoods.
RENDELL: I would like to see the Republicans look at and enjoy the beautiful parts of this city, but look at the parts of this city that represent all of urban America that are not doing well, and try to figure out a way to deal with them.
MORTON: And if the delegates and the rest of us are seeking inspiration, well, this is the city where that first convention met more than 200 years ago and wrote the Constitution that still guides us. Now having more than one convention is proof, in a way, the Constitution of the United States still works -- Bernie, Judy. WOODRUFF: A reminder of why these conventions really matter.
SHAW: Yeah, it's truly very, very good being here in Philadelphia.
WOODRUFF: A majestic city. And it is a forgiving city, and that is good, Bernie, because I just want to say that I misspoke earlier in the program. At one point I said Tom Daschle was the Senate majority leader, of course, he is the minority leader being head of the Democrats, and they are in the minority. So a word apology.
SHAW: Trent Lott still has his mantle.
That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow from here at our convention site in Philadelphia.
WOODRUFF: And, of course, you can go on-line all the time at CNN.com/Election2000. I am Judy Woodruff.
SHAW: I am Bernard Shaw.
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