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Republican National Committee Raising Record Amounts of Soft Money; Gore Enjoying Convention Bounce Among Women VotersAired August 21, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: The Republican Party, awash in soft money to spend on behalf of George W. Bush: New numbers are out, and they're eye-popping. Also ahead...
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AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think the polls matter much. I am tempted to change my view now that they show me ahead.
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SHAW: Al Gore talks to us about his post-convention bounce. Can he keep the tide turning his way?
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JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... predict the vice president has no where to go but down.
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SHAW: Jonathan Karl on the Bush camp's bid to undo Gore's gains.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.
SHAW: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off today.
Al Gore's post-convention bounce in the polls is the talk of the presidential campaign. But today, some other numbers, financial numbers, are adding up quite well for George W. Bush and his party.
Our Brooks Jackson has been going over new campaign finance reports with an eye toward the soft money raised by Republicans -- Brooks.
BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bernie.
Democrat officials were scoffing last week at the Republican Party's plans to spend $100 million to elect George W. Bush. One Democratic official called it "political nonsense." Well, the Republican National Committee's latest report to the Federal Election Commission contains some blowout numbers that show their claims are anything but nonsense. The RNC reported it had $78 million cash-on- hand as of the end of July, 8 million more than CNN had been told to expect, and well more than double the $35 million the Democratic Party reported on hand as of June 30.
Democrats report their numbers quarterly. Republicans report every month. The bulging Republican war chest is swelled by record hauls of soft money: unregulated donations from corporations and others that are supposedly used for party-building expenditures. The RNC raised an astonishing $25.5 million in soft money in July alone, eclipsing the previous record of $21 million also set by the RNC in June. Before that, the one-month soft-money record was $16.5 million, set back in July of '96 by -- you guessed it -- the Republican National Committee.
SHAW: One question: Who is giving the Republicans all this money?
JACKSON: Ah, well, who indeed? A quick analysis of the RNC's July report, conducted for CNN by the Campaign Study Group, shows that about one-fifth of the total came from a short list of 20 mega-donors, each of whom gave $200,000 or more during July. Topping the list were horse racing executive Craig Duchossois and family of Elmhurst, Illinois.
Together, they gave $400,000; $350, 000 was reported from FirstEnergy Corporation of Akron, Ohio, a huge electric utility which just announced plans for a multibillion-dollar merger with GPU Incorporated, another electric utility.
And $275,000 was given by the wealthy venture capitalist Finn Caspersen, who's also chairman and president of the U.S. equestrian team. Ten donors gave a quarter-million each in July. Mostly, they were wealthy individuals. And it will be interesting to see how many of them become ambassadors should George W. Bush become president.
Currently, Republican fund-raisers are busy trying to raise another $30 million in so-called hard dollars, fully regulated donations legal for any party purpose. Based on past performance, the RNC should have little trouble raising that amount. And that means the RNC's $100 million campaign fund is not nonsense at all. In fact, it's mostly in the bank -- Bernie.
SHAW: Money in the bank. Brooks Jackson, thank you.
Now, to the Bush campaign and how it's dealing with polls that show Al Gore has bounced his way into a neck-and-neck race with the Texas governor.
As our Jonathan Karl reports, Bush and his aides are finding comfort in history.
KARL (voice-over): George W. Bush says he's not concerned that his lead in the polls seems to have evaporated in the wake of the Democratic Convention.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Somebody told me there's one that shows it dead-even. I mean, it's going to be -- you know, these polls, you know, are going to be up and down. And I like my chances, but I know that I have a lot of work to do. And it is going to be a close race.
KARL: Bush strategists have long predicted Gore would get a big bounce out of his convention. But now with several post-convention polls showing the race in a dead heat, they are saying Gore has reached his high-water mark. From here, Bush aides predict, the vice president has nowhere to go but down.
Those aides point to the historic record. In 1984, for example, Walter Mondale got within two points of Ronald Reagan after his convention, only to be trailing by double-digits in September of that year. In 1996, Bob Dole peaked after the Republican Convention, getting within single digits of Bill Clinton, only to be trailing badly by September. If history is any guide, his strategists say, Bush will be back in the lead after Labor Day.
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BUSH: Millions are trapped in schools where violence is common and learning is rare.
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KARL: In the a bid to get the momentum back, the Bush campaign is launching an advertising blitz in 21 states, including four states no Republican presidential candidate has carried since 1984: Washington, Oregon, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Bush made his fourth trip to Wisconsin to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars, taking aim once again at the Clinton-Gore administration's record on defense.
BUSH: The current administration inherited a military ready for the dangers and challenges facing our nation. The next president will inherit a military in decline. Our military is still without peer. It's still without equal in the world. But it is not without serious problems that must be addressed immediately.
KARL: Bush touted his plan to increase military pay by $750 per year per active duty member. He also announced a new proposal to spend $350 million to improve the public schools on and near military facilities
KARL: Bush is now here near Des Moines, Ohio, where he just finished an event at the Downtown School. It's the first part of a two-week back-to-school push to tout his education proposals. This education push comes as the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows that Al Gore started to regain some ground he had lost to Bush on an issue is that has traditionally favored Democrats -- Bernie.
SHAW: Jonathan Karl in Des Moines, thank you. Al Gore also is in the Midwest this day. He's wrapping up a campaign cruise down the Mississippi River and trying not to put too much emphasis on his rise in the polls.
Our John King has more on Gore's travels and the issues he's plugging along the way.
JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Quincy, Illinois, a blue-collar outpost along the mighty Mississippi, the kind of place Al Gore is banking on to buy his take on tax cuts.
GORE: I will never support a tax cut for the wealthy at the expense of everyone else that wrecks our economy in the process.
KING: The Democrats are celebrating a bounce in the post- convention polls and looking now to sustain it by targeting working and middle-class families and by turning more aggressive in their critique of the Bush-Cheney agenda.
GORE: It's not just the Social Security privatization plan. It's also the prescription drug benefit. Where are the details? Where is the plan? I've put mine out very detailed. What about the patients' bill of rights?
KING: Governor Bush's signature proposal is a 10-year, $1.3 trillion across-the-board tax cut. Gore and Lieberman told voters brought aboard the riverboat that the Bush plan would squander the federal budget surplus and leave little or nothing for other priorities.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because we don't spent it all in that one big tax cut, there is money left to put $250 billion into Medicare to help seniors pay for prescription drugs.
KING: The Democrats favor a smaller package of tax cuts, geared toward paying college, health, and childcare costs.
GORE: Five-hundred billion dollars over the next 10 years, but it will go to the right people.
KING: It is a theme heard time and again during the Democrats' four-day, 400-mile down-river journey. On tax cuts, health care, you name it, Gore says he's the candidate for working-class families, Governor Bush the favorite of the wealthy and powerful.
GORE: Yes, I stand here as my own man with a vision and agenda focused on you. Let others try to restore the old guard.
KING: The polls tend to ebb and flow around the conventions. Both campaigns see the debates as the next critical phase. And Gore was harshly critical of a Bush campaign offer: stage three presidential and two vice presidential debates, but consider sponsors other than the bipartisan Debate Commission. GORE: It is unprecedented in modern times for a major party candidate to try to stiff the prime-time Commission debates. I think that he is probably engaging in what will turn out to be a vain effort to do that.
KING: Now on the Bush campaign says the vice president is overreacting when it comes to debates, saying the serious negotiations about those have yet to begin. And the Bush campaign accuses the vice president once again of distorting the governor's tax cut, making the case that an across-the-board tax cut would reach all taxpayers including working families.
In any event, the vice president's paddle boat on his way here now to Hannibal, Missouri, the hometown of Mark Twain. It's a town as middle-American as they come, Bernie, and a town whose votes are critical to the vice president if he is to sustain that bounce and beat Governor Bush come November -- Bernie.
SHAW: John King standing on very historic ground.
Incidentally, John had a one-on-one interview with the vice president today. We're going to have extended excerpts from their conversation later here on INSIDE POLITICS.
SHAW: Our Bill Schneider joins us now from Los Angeles.
Bill, who gave Al Gore his bounce?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Women almost entirely. Gore's support went up 16 points among women last week but he gained only two points with men. You know, this campaign is beginning to look like a battle of the sexes. Bush is nearly 20 points ahead of Gore among men. Gore is more than 20 points ahead of Bush among women.
You know, the gender gap, Bernie, has been around for 20 years, but we have never seen anything like this before: competing landslides.
SHAW: What's behind it?
SCHNEIDER: What's behind it? The issues. Women are much more likely than men to say Al Gore agrees with them on issues that they care about. And men are much more likely than women to say Bush agrees with them. That's the biggest difference between men and women in terms of how they see these two candidates.
SHAW: Bill, what -- what issues are we really talking about here?
SCHNEIDER: The safety net. Look at what Gore spent most of his convention speech talking about: prescription drugs, health care, Medicare, Social Security. Those are the issues where Gore made his biggest gains last week and where he now enjoys the biggest advantage. We asked people whether they thought the government should do more to solve the country's problems or whether government is already trying to do too much: 63 percent of men but only 45 percent of women said government is doing too much. Now, that's a basic philosophical difference between Republicans and Democrats, and apparently, between men and women.
Men think this economy's in better shape than women do, and men are more satisfied with the way things are going in the country. Women are less secure economically. They responded when Gore said -- quote -- "powerful interests and powerful interests stand in your way, and the odds seem stacked against you."
Gore used his convention to rally women to his agenda and it worked.
SHAW: But was there any downside for Gore?
SCHNEIDER: Well, yes. He turned off some men. Men are now twice as likely as women to say Gore is too liberal, meaning for too much government. Based on his speech, it does look like Gore is turning this election into a referendum on the role of government. He's drawing lines on safety net issues like health care and environmental protection, where Democrats have the advantage. But Bush can fight back by reinforcing his strength among men and by showing women voters that he is on the mainstream on safety net issues, by blurring the lines.
After all, isn't that what compassionate conservatism is all about? -- Bernie.
SCHNEIDER: Bill Schneider, still can't get enough of Los Angeles, thank you.
SHAW: Still ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS: Can Al Gore turn that bounce into a long-term lead? We're going to talk with Beth Fouhy and John Harris about the presidential race and the road ahead.
SHAW: Joining us now to talk more about post-convention politics: John Harris of "The Washington Post" in "The Post" city room, and Beth Fouhy, CNN's executive producer of our political unit.
John, first with you, what accounts for this Gore bounce, in your judgment?
JOHN HARRIS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think that a lot of Americans saw Gore for the first time as a -- somebody who wasn't a vice president, but was a leader in his own right, to use his phrase. And I think in that sense he really did succeed at one of his principal challenges at the convention, which is to make himself seem not just more appealing, but although he was more appealing, but in some sense more plausible, as somebody who could be -- people could envision as a president.
SHAW: And Beth, your view? BETH FOUHY, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, CNN POLITICAL UNIT: Yes, I agree with that. And actually, though, what I think is interesting, Bernie, is the fact that after the whole week where Gore and his running mate, Joe Lieberman, spent time placating traditional Democratic constituencies to say: Hey, we're not too conservative for you; yes, we're middle-of-the-road Democrats, but we're right with you on your issues. Suddenly, Gore turned around and became the populist, and William Jennings Bryan Gore.
He was out there talking about populist views, populist issues that, you know, the base of the Democratic Party traditionally cares about. But suddenly he was adopting a mantle that he hadn't worn in quite a while.
And what I found was interesting is the last time he really did a populist appeal where he was talking about standing up against big oil when the gas prices were going up, standing up against pharmaceutical companies, that was the last time we saw his poll numbers going up.
And strangely enough, they were on this trend of really going up, and then suddenly he turned around and he was back to being a new Democrat. He was talking about crime and welfare reform.
So it really stands to question to whether he's going to stick with this current message, which, according to polls, really worked for him out of the convention speech, or whether again he's going to have to go back to that new Democratic theme that he -- also is a big part of his past and his identity.
SHAW: John, on Beth's point, is Al Gore in effect trying to pull off a high-wire act? On the one hand, embracing prosperity, economic good times, claiming some responsibility, yet on the other hand talking populist themes?
HARRIS: Yes, I think that's exactly the right image. I mean, I hear a message of you've never had it so good and you're getting screwed by big economic interests. So it's a little bit incompatible.
On the other hand -- and there's been a lot of commentary on this point, but it certainly is a departure from the political model that President Clinton used in '96. On the other hand, those numbers are going up, and the Gore people are quite heartened by it. And they do feel that it is in part attributable to this sort of populist message, this fighting and I'm on your side message that the vice president's been striking.
So maybe he knows what he's doing. It definitely has a lot of people scratching their heads, though.
SHAW: Do either of you think that the Bush people might have been caught off-guard?
FOUHY: I don't. I mean, I think that they definitely knew certainly that the bounce was going to be big. Karl Rove, Governor Bush's chief strategist, has been talking about that for quite a while, that they expected a big bounce for the very reasons that we actually did see happen. We saw Gore solidify the base, which had not been solidified behind him before. We saw a lot of traditionally Democratic constituencies at least kind of thinking about giving Bush a chance.
This convention bounce we're seeing now shows them basically back with Gore, but how long that lasts remains to be seen? And a lot of what Bill Schneider was talking about in our earlier segment of the fact that actually Bush had some credibility on blurring the distinctions between Democratic and Republican really may be the thing that brings him back to the top.
SHAW: Now, we all saw on that stage Thursday night at the Staples Center the vice president kissed and embraced Tipper Gore with gusto. But the questions is, did he also embrace with gusto swing voters?
FOUHY: That's a great way to put it, Bernie. It really depends on who the swing voters are. If you think swing voters are independents who liked McCain, maybe not. Those are people who perhaps think that the government is suspect and sort of the rugged individualism is the way to go. The swing voters who think government is their friend and actually think that government needs to be doing more for them -- i.e. women, suburban women -- they may be coming back to Gore now.
SHAW: What do you think, John?
HARRIS: I think the 1996 model that President Clinton used to capture swing voters was based on economic optimism: Things are going good for the country and they are going better for you. The message that Gore is using is based on grievance: You are getting screwed and I can help in this fight to ensure that you're not getting the shaft.
So they are going after, I would say, different segments of swing voters -- Gore's message aiming somewhat lower down on the economic scale and I think it's -- we know that the '96 model worked for President Clinton. This is really untested to my mind.
FOUHY: Yes, and Bernie, you have to wonder. I mean, Gore could really be taking a big chance doing this, because one would logically say: Well, Vice President Gore, you were there for eight years where you actually had the opportunity to help those who are truly in need, the truly disenfranchised. Why didn't you do it then when you actually had the capacity to do so as President Clinton right-hand person, to speak up for those interests? I think he's risking that by taking this position.
SHAW: John, as we close out in the remaining seconds, is Gore's approach another effort at his being his own man?
HARRIS: I guess. But add to one thing here quickly here is that mostly we are talking matters of tone. The content between President Clinton's agenda and Vice President Gore's is not different. Basically, it is a new Democratic policy matter. It's just a question of how he projects it and what sort of tone he operates on.
SHAW: John Harris of the "Washington Post, Beth Fouhy, executive producer of the CNN political unit, thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you.
FOUHY: Thank you.
SHAW: You are welcome.
And there is much more ahead in this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, including that interview with Al Gore.
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GORE: Campaigning as my own man, yeah, it feels much more natural and I'm enjoying it a lot more.
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SHAW: Our John King talking to the Democratic nominee about this new phase of the Gore campaign. Plus, do Democrats have more reason to cheer their convention? Well, we are going to ask Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook about bounce beyond the presidential race. And later:
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Candidates think about it day in and day out, month in and month out.
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SHAW: The common thread of presidential campaigns that reaches all the way back through the years.
SHAW: We will have more of this day's political news coming up, but now a quick look at some other top stories.
The Transportation Department said today it will try to ease what's been a summer of discontent for many airline passengers. Flight delays and cancellations were the topics discussed at a meeting between Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and airline and union leaders. They agreed on a plan of action to tackle the problems.
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RODNEY SLATER, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: This task force will develop ideas for modifying the consumer information airlines' report to us at the department and that we report then to the public.
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SHAW: Bad weather, more passengers and labor disputes are blamed for more than 44,000 flight delays last month. After two weeks of walking the picket lines, striking Verizon Communications workers in New York and New England returned to work today. But an agreement has yet to be reached on forced overtime and other issues with employees in Mid-Atlantic states. Verizon says about 200,000 orders for service have piled up.
Russian officials confirmed today that all 118 members of that nuclear submarine are dead. Norwegian divers entered the Kursk and said this vessel was completed flooded with no sign that any of the crew survived for long. Russia defense minister is vowing to find out who was responsible for this tragedy.
In the Western United States, firefighters have been making some progress in their battle against some major wildfires, but the situation remains very serious.
CNN's Eric Philips reports from Darby, Montana.
ERIC PHILIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With so many acres on fire here in the Bitterroot National Forest, manpower is stretched.
RUSSELL MACDONALD, FIREFIGHTER: There are 180-some-thousand and only 16 crews, so we could easily use another 100 crews.
PHILIPS: Already, crews of all stripes are here, from the U.S. Forestry Service to local departments. Retired firefighters were called back into service. And college students make up one-third of those fighting wildfires in the Western U.S. But the youngest crewmember in the crew here in Darby is Andy Clark, who is going into his senior year in high school. He celebrated his 18th birthday two weeks ago on the line.
ANDY CLARK, FIREFIGHTER: Yeah, you are treated like everybody else. They don't really treat you like you are a kid or anything. We are all firemen all out here to do the same job, so they all treat you that way.
PHILIPS: To add to manpower, the National Guard is stationed throughout Montana to limit access on dangerous roads and to help with evacuations. More military personnel are on the way.
(on camera): Marines from Camp LeJeune and soldiers from Fort Campbell are expected to arrive here later this week. Also helping in the firefighting effort are international firefighters, including those from Australia and Canada.
In Darby, Montana, I am Eric Philips, CNN.
SHAW: Fifty years after Smokey the Bear was rescued from a New Mexico wildfire, a small bear cub has emerged from the flames of that wildfire in Montana. A wildlife warden rescued this cub from the Bitterroot National Forest. It's going to released back into the wild after it recovers.
And when INSIDE POLITICS returns, Al Gore talks to our man John King about his rise in the polls and his view that George W. Bush is trying to dodge some prime-time debates.
SHAW: As Al Gore tries to keep his momentum from the Democratic convention going, he has been loser and more energized -- looser. Let me say that again. He has been looser and more energized out there on the campaign trail. He also has been making himself more available to reporters.
Today, our John King interviewed the vice president as he continued his campaign cruise down the Mississippi River. He asked Gore about his emphasis on populism and whether suggestions that big corporations are greedy may turn off affluent voters.
ALBERT GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well they have benefited because we have balanced the budget and paid down the debt.
I haven't -- the word "greedy" is your word. I haven't used that in a single speech. I do think that the fact that drug industry profits are the highest of any industry at a time when seniors are really being pressured to pay the bills for prescription medicine and charged a higher price than anyone else is a relevant issue.
What we need is more competition to stimulate better and healthier business activities that stimulate more research and development and not just plow the profits into advertising and promotion. That's what's happening today.
I favor a prescription drug benefit for seniors under the Medicare program and more competition to bring the price of prescription medicine down. That's healthy for our economy.
KING: If you look at our polling, you were 16 points down going into the convention. It's a dead heat now. The biggest change has been among women voters. You have shot way up into the lead among women voters, yet still are substantially behind among male voters. Can you explore why you think those two dynamics exist? Why are you doing so well all of a sudden the gender gap has reemerged, and why you're struggling among men, especially white men, and what do you do about that?
GORE: I don't think the polls matter much. I'm tempted to change my view, now that they show me ahead. But Joe Lieberman and I are concentrating on talking to people in the heartland. This is a wonderful trip. We've been enjoying the huge crowds and enthusiastic responses on both sides of the river in these communities down through the heartland. And the polls are, I think, still misleading, because most people are now just tuning in, because summer vacations are ending and softball leagues are winding down, school is going to be starting again.
And with only 80 days to go or thereabouts, people are now ready to focus on what the choices are. And I think that's good for Joe and me because I sincerely believe that the agenda we're offering is much more in tune with what's in the best interests of our economy and American families.
KING: One of the big debates at the convention, even as the party welcomed you as its new leader, was what role should the president play in the fall? There were some state chairmen who said, hey, he's a great asset. Let's have him out there all the time helping the vice president. Others, such as Senator Bob Kerrey, said he should essentially go into hiding, he should stay out of the picture as much as possible and let this be your campaign.
How do you envision the president's role, and what is your personal role in sort of...
GORE: I think that will develop naturally. I welcome his help. I don't think a president is ever out of the picture ever, no matter who is in the job, and certainly not this one.
I welcome his help in whatever way develops, and I think that will happen naturally.
KING: One of the differences between you and Senator Lieberman -- I know you think the Republicans are making too much of them -- but he has talked about the possibility, or at least in his view, that raising the retirement age for Social Security should at least be left on the table. You in your speech at the convention ruled that out. Is that an iron-clad read-my-lips promise, that in a Gore administration you would never sign legislation that would increase...
GORE: I've ruled that out for this simple reason, John: Waitresses carrying trays, steel workers working in the winter cold, no matter the fact that average life spans are increasing, the wear and tear on the body for people in hard, physical labor jobs is the same. And I don't think it's fair to ask them to continue those hard jobs until they're 70, because the option to retire at the present age I think ought to be preserved. And I'll fight to keep that.
KING: What did you make of what the Bush campaign is now saying about debates, that they want to do five total, three presidential, two vice presidential, but they want to look outside the commission. Is -- you're shaking your head. What are your thoughts?
GORE: Well, you know, the American people have come to expect at least three prime-time, one-on-one debates among the major candidates. And it's not a question what's best for me or my opponent, it's how best to honor our democracy, what's best for the American people. And it's not the right thing to try to stiff the tradition of having prime-time debates. And to go on some Sunday talk show on Sunday morning with a very limited audience and a crimp and constrained format and call that a debate and then say, OK, we've done that and we're not going to have that anymore, that's just not a right.
And again, the question is what's right for the American people. This election is about the people and their future. And I'm determined to honor the democratic process and get this discussion out there, not only because that's good as a way to frame the political choices, but because after the election, whoever wins, we need to have a basis for going to the American people and saying, hey, look, we talked about this during the election campaign. We've aired these issues. Now let's get busy and do the right thing for our country. And debates can further that process if they're fair and if they're structured in the right way and not gimmicky and sort of put into a politically tactical framework.
KING: Let me come back lastly to where I began here, being your own man, stepping out and being the nominee. People watching you on this trip, even the still photographers around here said you were looser since you picked Senator Lieberman. After the event in Clinton the other night, there was a woman close saying, oh, my goodness gracious, what has gotten into him? after you were up there dancing on stage.
Do you feel personally different, or is it just you think that we in my business have made too much of this over the years? What's your own thought process on this?
GORE: It feels more the way it did when I was in the House and Senate for 16 years. As vice president, that's an honorable way to serve your country, by strengthening the hand of the president. It's inherently a No. 2 position. I feel like I've been able to help my country.
But now, speaking in my own voice and offering my own vision, campaigning as my own man, yes, it feels much more natural. And I'm enjoying it a lot more. And, you know, it's not something that you want to over think. It's just a natural stepping into the position of saying, OK, here's what I think, and not, here's why this other agenda is good for the country. Now I'm speaking about my own vision for the future, and I'm very gratified by the response out there.
SHAW: Talking politics on the Mississippi, the vice president with John King.
Just ahead will the congressional races see any post-convention bounce? We're going to put that question to Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook.
SHAW: Our new poll suggests Democratic congressional candidates got a slightly larger boost from their convention than the Republican candidates did from theirs, though the battle for control of the United States Congress still may be very close: 48 percent of likely voters say they would choose Democrats in the congressional elections; 46 percent say they will vote for Republicans. But 50 percent of Americans say the Democratic Party better represents their values; 40 percent chose the Republicans.
Before the Democratic convention, Republicans held the edge on the values question: 49 percent of Americans said the Democratic convention made them feel more favorable toward the party; 38 percent said it did not.
And as for the GOP convention in Philadelphia, 43 percent said it made them feel more favorable; 40 said it did not.
Joining us now to talk more about the congressional elections and any possible bounce: Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report" and Charlie Cook of "The National Journal."
Both conventions staged differently. Any benefit?
CHARLIE COOK, "THE NATIONAL JOURNAL": Oh, I don't...
SHAW: To congressional candidates?
COOK: You know, Democrats got a little bit of a bounce, but frankly, I don't think the generic ballot test means a whole lot in this election. You know, in 1994. there were 40, 50, 60 big races out there, and you saw in this generic ballot test question signs that there was this tidal wave out there. This year, the playing field looks remarkably level. There are very few competitive races. I think the outcome is going to be more random than anything else, the last dozen or so races where it's going to be who ran the best spot, who said something stupid a week before the election, that sort of thing.
STUART ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Yes, I agree. If you're a Democratic candidate for Congress, I think you have to be happier that Al Gore is running even or a couple points ahead with George W. Bush rather than running 15 points behind. So, that -- that said, there's something there.
But I just think the generic ballot creates a rather artificial situation and asks, "Would you vote for the Republican or Democratic candidate in your district?" It doesn't identify the district, because you can't go district by district in a survey.
So I tend to think that what's more important is, as Charlie suggests, something like advertising. And if you look in a district like Kentucky's sixth congressional district where you've got Scotty Baesler with his own ads and you've got Democratic ads and interest group ads that are going to outspend Ernie Fletcher, the Republican incumbent, I think that's much more important than asking the generic ballot.
SHAW: Ah, you just used the "i" word and I was going to use it if you hadn't. Incumbency?
COOK: Oh, yes. I mean, it's -- you're talking about in the worst of years for incumbents an 88 percent re-election rate, the best of years 98. My hunch is you're going to see 97, 98, maybe even a record, 99 percent of all the incumbents get re-elected because the economy is so good, neither party's behaving in a suicidal fashion, neither presidential candidate's likely to have strong coattails.
This is going to be a great year to be an incumbent.
ROTHENBERG: I agree. I mean, I can imagine six or seven or maybe eight incumbents going down. That's really stretching it, and I think most of the action will in open seats, and you have relatively few numbers there. So the changes are going to be relatively small.
SHAW: And the battle for control of the House: a few seats.
COOK: Oh, it's going to be -- yes. I mean, and Republicans -- I mean, the only problem Republicans have is they've got simply more open seats, a lot more open seats and vulnerable open seats than do Democrats. So it's really less a question of whether Republicans are going to lose seats, but how many and will they lose the six that would tip the House in the other direction. And I'd say it's a 50-50 proposition.
ROTHENBERG: I'd agree. I continue to believe that money is a potential problem for the Republicans. The Democrats have just done a terrific job, the DCCC, in raising money hard and soft, and that will be a problem, because in individual districts money can matter.
COOK: That is -- normally, Republicans have had historically a big advantage, and this time it looks like the financial playing field is going to be level as well.
SHAW: But Brooks Jackson led INSIDE POLITICS today saying that Republican war chest is muy grande?
COOK: Well, at the RNC level over the DNC, yes. But when you look at the House and Senate campaign committees, where the money is spent directly on individual races and less sort of generically, Democrats are in a better financial position they've ever been before.
SHAW: Having watched that Los Angeles convention and covered for four days out there, do you conclude that Gore spruced up his image?
COOK: Yes, but he had only one way to go. You know, it was kind of interesting that the last two days of that convention, the level of pessimism among Democrats seemed to be getting worse every single hour. And then leaving the convention hall you almost sensed that Democrats just breathed a sigh of relief that, you know, I think he hit at least a double, maybe a triple, you know, probably not a home run. But they felt like at least he's not going to be a drag, and it looks like he's back in the hunt again.
ROTHENBERG: Yes, I thought that Gore helped himself with his speech, but I have to tell you almost every political reporter that I talked to said to me as we were leaving either Thursday or the next day, Friday, well, do you think -- do you think Gore salvaged this race? Do you think he's back in the race? So among the political insiders there was a lot of cynicism about Karenna Gore getting out there and saying how here father took her to get Q-Tips to build...
SHAW: Well, what do reporters know? Wasn't Gore really talking to the people at home?
ROTHENBERG: Well, I know, but we're supposed to have a sense on what's going to resonate, and I think the base firmed up. That we knew. But I think what was surprising is that Gore's speech sold generally pretty well, even amongst swing voters and independents.
SHAW: One quick last question before we leave you: Polls, polls, polls. Is it wiser to step back and wait a week or two or three or four?
COOK: My advice to people would be don't look at any polls until after Labor Day. You know, until all these things have had a chance to settle.
ROTHENBERG: Keep your powder dry. I'd wait -- I'd look next week, the end of next week to see what the numbers are, if the Democratic numbers have come down a bit, if Bush's is up a hair. But no, you're absolutely right, Bernie. One poll does not make a (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
COOK: If you're going to look at one, look at the Gallup/CNN/"USA Today" poll, but I would -- you're better off just waiting a week or so.
SHAW: OK. Wise counsel. Charlie Cook of "The National Journal," Stu Rothenberg, "Rothenberg Political Report," thanks a lot.
And when we return, old-fashioned campaigning. Bruce Morton on what else the candidates of today share with their predecessors.
SHAW: As Brooks Jackson reported earlier in his lead story here on INSIDE POLITICS, there will be a great deal of money, much of it soft money, pouring into this presidential campaign.
But as our Bruce Morton reports, money is no newcomer to American politics.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once it was easier. George Washington running for Virginia's House of Burgesses bought rum and ale for his friends. Even then, money mattered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Money is a constant in elections. The campaigns require money to get exposure. And exposure comes expensive in the American system.
MORTON: White, property-owning men were the only voters back then. Where better to meet them than a pub?
Running for national office, newspapers mattered, but back then they were full of opinion, often slander. Thomas Jefferson once huffed, "Nothing can now be believed that is seen in a newspaper."
Debates, Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln debated when they ran for the Senate -- Douglas won -- but not when they ran against each other for president in 1860. And the debates were little events: no amplifiers, no PA systems. Just "Hey, can you hear me?" Some candidates traveled. William Jennings Bryan did back in 1896 with his speech denouncing the gold standard. But William McKinley sat on his front porch, gave interviews, chatted with visitors, and won, sitting down.
Money still mattered. Mark Hana (ph), a 19th century senator, said: "There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can't remember what the second one is."
The country changed. Industry replaced agriculture; cities replaced farms. Businesses gave money, and in the cities, bosses organized wards, gave precinct captains "walking around money."
HERBERT ALEXANDER, POLITICAL ANALYST: Sometimes, to bring potential voters to the polls by car, sometimes to pay off homeless or winos who may be will be able to vote.
MORTON: Conventions changed. Bosses picked the delegates; the mayor of Chicago made sure all that city's delegates voted his way. Some states would adopt the unit rule: all the delegates, again, voting one way.
Party leaders picked the nominees and didn't do so badly. Picked Franklin Roosevelt for one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I accept the commission you have tendered me! I join with you!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: And Roosevelt was the first to use, brilliantly, a new medium, which let presidents, candidates speak to the whole country: radio.
When he gave a fireside chat, people said, you could walk down the street and hear every word because every house had it on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROOSEVELT: We have a long way to go, but we are on the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: FDR campaigned by train across the country. His successor, Harry Truman, made the whistle-stop tour famous, denouncing the Republican Congress and upsetting all the predictions by beating Thomas Dewey in 1948.
Dwight Eisenhower was the first candidate to raise most of his own money independent of his party. Sometimes, that has weakened the bond between president and party.
DAVID BRODER, "WASHINGTON POST": As things work now, as you know, it's very often the case that you have an opposition Congress of the same party as the president.
MORTON: Eisenhower campaigned by plane: You could hit more TV markets in a day. And TV, of course, was the other big change. Richard Nixon and John Kennedy had the first TV debates in 1960.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Both he and I are going to abide by whatever the people decide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is no certain road to the presidency. There are no guarantees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Back in the 19th century, how many people ever saw a president in the flesh? How many people ever saw a photograph of a president?
MORTON: Now, they're in your living room. You feel you know them.
BRODER: Which has got to be a benefit. The irony, of course, is that fewer people proportionately vote now than did in the times when these were simply names on banners or posters or in newspaper headlines.
MORTON: Another big change: Bosses lost power, parties got rid of things like the unit rule, and more and more turned to primaries to pick convention delegates. Under the Democrats' rules, delegations had to mirror the state: so many women, young people, minorities, though the word "quota" was unpopular.
Of course, winning delegates in primaries cost money, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PHIL GRAMM (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have the most reliable friend that you can have in American politics, and that is ready money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: He lost four years ago, but the top money-raisers this year, George W. Bush and Al Gore, are the nominees.
Maybe money matters even more now.
BRODER: Money's always been part of it, but I don't think it's ever been nearly of the scale of preoccupation that it is now. I mean, the candidates think about it day in and day out, month in and month out. MORTON (on camera): Money is the mother's milk of politics?
DALLEK: It is indeed, but many people think it's turned sour.
MORTON (voice-over): One other change: Choosing delegates in primaries and caucuses means you know who the nominee is before you get to the convention. They've become party celebrations. No real business, just a chance for the party and the candidates to strut their stuff.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Los Angeles.
SHAW: And before we leave you, one more piece of news to report: Arizona Senator John McCain returned home this afternoon after his weekend surgery. On Saturday, doctors removed two melanomas, a type of skin cancer, from his left temple and left arm. He had been expected to stay in the hospital for another day or two.
That's this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We will see you again tomorrow when our John King will be on the road with Al Gore in Milwaukee, and Jonathan Karl will be will George W. Bush in Peoria, Illinois and St. Louis.
And of course you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.
I'm Bernard Shaw. "WORLDVIEW" is next.
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