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Burden of Proof

Republican National Convention: Electoral Politics

Aired July 31, 2000 - 12:35 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our extensive coverage of the Republican National Convention here in Philadelphia.

Over these past several days, we have a new feature we've been doing here on CNN in conjunction with It's called "Test Your Political IQ." Every day, we put six questions in Every day around this hour, during the noon hour Eastern, we give three answers. The other three questions we'll have answers tonight at 7:00 p.m. during the first hour of our primetime coverage of this convention.

Let's take a look at the first three questions and the answers: The first meeting of the Republican Party took place in A) Ripon, Wisconsin B) Jackson, Michigan C) Seneca Falls, New York and D) Lincoln, Nebraska.

And the correct answer is Ripon, Wisconsin. Greta Van Susteren's from Wisconsin so she knew that, I am sure.

The second question: After which year's election did Ronald Reagan not receive any votes in the Electoral College? A) 1972 B) 1976 C) 1980 D) 1984.

The correct answer, 1972.

The third question posted: The first Republican president was A) Abraham Lincoln B) Zachary Taylor C) James Buchanan D) James Garfield.

This is not a tough one. The correct answer is Abraham Lincoln.

We'll be hearing, by the way, a lot more about Abraham Lincoln and his role in the Republican Party this evening when General Colin Powell speaks. He'll be talking about the need to have the mantle of Lincoln in this new, inclusive Republican Party.

The answers to the three other questions will be, as I say, made available tonight during the 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour when we begin our primetime coverage of this national convention.

For now, let's go over to our "BURDEN OF PROOF" hosts Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack. They've been monitoring this convention as well. Tell us what's going on from your perspectives, Greta.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, you are right. I am from Wisconsin and I did get A) right as Ripon, Wisconsin.

We're going to do an abbreviated version today of "BURDEN OF PROOF." When the Grand Old Party held its first convention in 1856, 600 delegates came to the City of Brother Love to cast their votes for the party's nominee. This week, at the 37th Republican National Convention, 2,066 delegates are in town with another 2,000 alternates.

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, I got all the others, too. I got all the "A"s also.

But I want to tell you, as the party wades through the electoral process and finalizes its platform, it will follow a protocol of tradition combined with a complicated process of rules.

And joining us to discuss electoral politics is David Norcross, former general counsel of the Republican National Committee who is also a delegate from New Jersey.

VAN SUSTEREN: And also with us today, former New York Congressman Bill Paxon, now a lobbyist on Capitol Hill.

Bill, let's start with the basics. How do you become a delegate?

BILL PAXON, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: You get involved in politics, because delegates generally are people who have been a part of the political process -- most. Some, however, get caught up in the cause of the moment, a candidate that comes along that excites their interest. And those are people that get involved at the grassroots. But many times -- later on, for example, this year Senator McCain may have attracted some people who normally wouldn't have been involved in the Republican Primary process to get involved.

Most of the people who are supporting Governor-to-be-President George W. Bush are people that were within the party structure of many of these states, involved for a long period of time. And in many cases, there were fights within the party to become the candidates for delegate because it's something that's considered somewhat prestigious.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't want to give you trick question, but is it different to becoming a Republican delegate as compared to a Democrat -- the process?

PAXON: Oh, yes, absolutely. Both parties have different processes in terms of what kinds of delegates they have. Some parties -- and I'm not as familiar with the Democrat process, but I know that they have some super-delegates, some quotas that are put in place in terms of who can run in various districts. The Republicans do not. You run for delegate. You can run supporting a candidate. For example, in my state of New York, there are different rules for running as a Republican than some other states. There are all the states are different. Within each party there are some over-arching rules that govern the election of the candidates.

COSSACK: All right, now David, here we have delegates here, and we have some delegates, most of whom are for Governor Bush. But now there's some McCain delegates. And even though McCain released his delegates, suppose there's like a Greta sitting in one of these delegations who says: I'm sticking with McCain, that's my person. What happens to Greta?

DAVID NORCROSS (R), NEW JERSEY DELEGATE: Well, four years ago, that in fact happened. We had a number of people, we did not know until the very end what the Pat Buchanan delegates were going to be. And in fact, as we did the roll call, we weren't quite sure how we were going to get to Kansas, because we couldn't predict all the votes.

So we did a running tally to make sure that -- I, in fact, was listening in the control room and on the podium, I was listening to the control room, so that we could direct the right number of people to pass so we could get to Kansas.

The answer to your question is they do what they want to do so long as they don't mind...

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me just interrupt you for one second, David, because, what we're seeing on the screen, or we're going to put up on the screen for you is Dennis Hastert, who's just been made the permanent chairman. And of course, he's getting the applause from the delegates here. That's the speaker, of course.

Go ahead, David, I'm sorry I interrupted you.

NORCROSS: So, in fact, we didn't know what they would do. In the end, my recollection is there weren't more than a handful of Buchanan votes, and they didn't end up in the official record anyway. But if you are willing to resist the importunings of the candidate who's going to get the nomination, you can do whatever you want.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the cost, David? I mean, if I'm going to be a delegate, who's going to pay for my housing, my travel, to come here to Philadelphia?

NORCROSS: You are.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what if I don't have the money. I mean, this is supposed to be a democratic process. What if I just don't have the money but I want to get involved in American politics. It's still -- you have to pay for it yourself?

NORCROSS: Well, you know, the chances are that you're not going start off engaged at the level that makes you a delegate. But there is nothing to say that somebody can't help you do that. But ultimately it comes out of the delegate's pocket. I mean, there is no party structure to pay for that.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I assume there, let me ask you this, and again, that may not be -- it may be trick question, because it's a democratic question: I assume the same is true, if you know, for a democratic delegates.

NORCROSS: Yes, it is for all. VAN SUSTEREN: So it's only the people who can afford to come and be delegates.

COSSACK: All right, Bill, we've heard the phrase "superdelegates." What is a superdelegate? is that like a delegate with more power? with superpowers?

NORCROSS: That's part of the idea.

PAXON: That's part of the idea, it's a great hope. They're people who are chosen by the party to be delegates nationally, that get automatic credentials to be part of the convention.

NORCROSS: Now, in fact, we just did that. When we adopt the rules report on the floor in about 15 minutes, we will in fact do that for the first time ever. We're not calling them superdelegates, but members of the Republican National Committee are going to be automatic delegates in '04.

COSSACK: So who gets to be a superdelegate? You said members of the Republican National Committee, who else?

VAN SUSTEREN: You're out, Roger.

NORCROSS: That's all.

COSSACK: Yes, I think I'm done.

NORCROSS: That's all.


PAXON: We have some change of registration forms, we'd be happy to use that...

NORCROSS: Exactly.

COSSACK: I may not have to change my registration.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bill, how's it different this year? I mean, what's the biggest difference between this convention and the one four years ago? if there's any big difference?

PAXON: I've been coming to conventions not as long as some, but since the mid-eighties, since the 1984 convention. And this reminds me of 1984. It's a party that's united and focused. You just noted Speaker Hastert was named the chairman of the convention. And he's had a lot to do with this. He has brought the party together in the House, better than certainly when I was there, part of the leadership. And it's translated into the party as a whole. Governor Bush is doing the same thing: Focusing on the prize of governing, the kind of reforms we want to be brought about and making sure that everybody's part of the team, not just like running over people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, let me pose the question to you, David. In terms of the difference between now and four years ago, in terms, not just the party unity, but what about the rules? I mean, is there anything significant about the rules or the process that's different today from four years ago or eight years ago, for that matter?

NORCROSS: Well, there's really nothing terribly different about -- there can't be anything different in the process. I mean we set our rules in place for four years. So this convention is being run by rules that we adopted four years ago.

Bill is right, though, there is a whole different feel. I mean, we have -- I have some long-time adversaries on the rules committee. We'd always fight about issues. And this morning, when we adopted the rules for the whole report, those people who disagreed, and they were talking about filing a minority report, they're going to file it, but there's not going to be any fracas on the floor. They want to win. And the feel is like 1980, to me, as opposed to 1996.

COSSACK: It's the love generation all over again.

NORCROSS: It is indeed, it is indeed.

VAN SUSTEREN: And that's all the time we have for now.

Tuesday on BURDEN OF PROOF, a Republican attorney general, how would the Justice Department change if George W. Bush is elected this November?

COSSACK: And joining us will be former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburg, and former California Attorney General Dan Lungren. That's tomorrow at 12:30 Eastern time.



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