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Inside Politics

Bush Tries Again to Defend Proposed Tax Cuts; Gore Argues Young People Deserve a Break; What's the Book on the Bounce?

Aired August 24, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe I didn't explain what I was trying to explain very well when I came back here.


BUSH: Let me start over.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: If at first you don't succeed -- George W. Bush tries again to defend his proposed tax cuts.

Al Gore talks taxes, too, arguing that young people deserve a break.

Plus, a metaphysical question. Do bounces fade? What's the book on the bounce?

Bill Schneider on whether Gore's campaign lift can last.

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

SHAW: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off today.

We begin with George W. Bush retooling his tax cut pitch, two days after revealing his concern that voters are not getting his message.

As our Jonathan Karl reports, Bush tried to put a different face on the issue in Louisiana?


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After muddling his defense of his tax-cut plan earlier this week, George W. Bush is ready to start over.

BUSH: Maybe I didn't explain what I was trying to explain very well when will I came back here.

(LAUGHTER) BUSH: Yes, exactly. Let me start over.

KARL: Bush is now going on offense against Vice President Gore's tax plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We really thank Governor Bush with his proposed tax cuts.

KARL: To take on Gore's tax plan, Bush presented the family of Andrew Bechak, a public high school teacher, football coach and local Republican who makes $40,000 a year.

BUSH: Under Al Gore's plan, he gets no tax relief. The so- called targeted tax cut means that some are targeted out of tax relief.

KARL: In contrast, Bush claimed Bechak would see his income tax bill fall from more than $2,000 a year to just $475. Because the Bechak children are neither in college nor in childcare, the Bush campaign said they would not be eligible for Gore's targeted tax cuts.

The Gore campaign scoffed at Bush's claim, saying under the Gore plan, a family like the Bechak's could get $2,000 in tax incentives to save for retirement and college tuition.

Talking to reporters on his plane, Bush also declared attacks on Al Gore's credibility fair game, although he criticized an attack ad made, but never aired, by the Republican National Committee.

BUSH: I think it's appropriate to challenge the man's credibility. I don't think it's appropriate to challenge the man's credibility in that context.

KARL: The ad in question used a 1994 interview where Al Gore was asked if he or Bill Clinton had ever told any lies while in office.

BUSH: It had nothing to do with the affairs of the White House. It had everything to do -- it was 1993 or 1994, I am not exactly sure of the full context, but anyway, I thought they made the right decision.

KARL: The comments on taxes and attack ads came on a day Bush sought to highlight a message of racial inclusion. Visiting Dillard University, Bush announced a plan to spend an extra $600 million on historically black colleges and Hispanic-serving institutions.

(on camera): On Friday, Bush turns his attention to international issues, going to Florida and giving what the campaign bills as a major foreign policy address on U.S. relations in the western hemisphere.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, New Orleans.


SHAW: Al Gore also kept hammering on taxes today when he wasn't trying to polish his image as an internationalist.

CNN's Kate Snow has more on the vice president's day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next president of the United States -- Mr. Al Gore!

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the populist agenda with a new twist. This time, Gore was talking to students at the University of Maryland, and he played to those younger voters.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Push past any fear of disappointment or disillusionment, because our nation has always depended on young people.

KARL: Much of the speech was vintage Gore. He promised to protect Medicare and Social Security, continue economic growth, support hate-crimes legislation. And there was more on the subject that's dominating both campaigns this week: taxes.

GORE: I want to make college tuitions tax deductible. I want more student loans and more Pell Grants. I want to have middle-class tax cuts to help parents put their kids through college.

KARL: Launching another volley in the back and forth over tax plans, Gore again criticized "the other side," saying Bush's proposal would give the wealthiest 1 percent the biggest benefits.

Gore and Bush may not have much in common when it comes to taxes, but both are taking an interest in a U.S. visit from Mexico's President-elect Vicente Fox. Gore met face-to-face with Fox for the first time Thursday morning. Aides say the two had a broad discussion about democracy, human rights, the environment and reinventing government. Gore aides say the vice president expressed concerns about Fox's controversial idea to open the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

CHRIS LEHANE, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: This country has been predicated on immigrants and people from abroad coming to this country. We support legal immigration, but we have a 2,000-mile-long border, and we support our immigration laws.

KARL: Speaking on his campaign plane, George W. Bush expressed similar concerns.

BUSH: I don't think he's fully explained opened borders. As you know, I believe we ought to enforce our borders. I support "Operation Hold the Line."

KARL (on camera): Bush will have a chance to get his own clarification when he meets with Fox on Friday. Mexico's new leader is eager to meet with both candidates. Chatting with Vice President Gore, he commented on how tight the race seems, a very competitive race, he said, Gore agreed.

Kate Snow, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: Al Gore's post convention bounce, which showed up in a number of national polls, is reflected in several state surveys released today. In one of the main battlegrounds, Michigan, Gore has moved two points ahead of Bush in a poll of likely voters. Gore had trailed by eight points earlier this month. Gore also has gained ground in Minnesota, where he now leads Bush by eight points among likely voters. Bush was slightly ahead in a similar poll last month.

In the state with the most electoral votes, California, a new survey shows Gore is 13 points ahead among likely voters, about the same as his lead in a similar poll in June. And Gore has pulled 12 points ahead of Bush in a new survey of registered voters in New Jersey. Gore more than doubled his lead since a similar poll was taken last month. Very shortly, we are going to have a national editors roundtable to discuss the races in several key states.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, can the vice president turn his post-convention high into a fall lead? Our Bill Schneider on the staying power of the convention bounce.


SHAW: We're joined now by Robert Novak of the "Chicago Sun- Times."

Bob, how are the Republicans reacting to the new polls showing Al Gore ahead?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Not well. It's virtually a dead heat right now, and that is what the Bush people all predicted. But when it came to the actual event of losing 15, 16, 17 points over two weeks, you are a little bit nervous. And I think they've been a little bit off-stride. The Gore people think they have been off- stride, and I think they are right.

SHAW: What about this anti-Gore ad that the Republican Party officials pulled at the last moment before it could be aired?

NOVAK: Well, that is being off-stride. That was a huge mistake by the Republican National Committee to put that ad on. It was a distorted ad. It went negative. And it didn't have any connection with the Bush campaign. You see, Bernie, this campaign has had a reputation for -- ever since New Hampshire, at least -- for efficiency, for competence, for getting their act together.

They didn't have their act together on that with the Republican National Committee going in the direction of negative ads that they were not prepared to go -- and also a negative ad that was really distorted, because it had -- it spliced together a statement by Al Gore about an event that occurred at some years after the interview.

SHAW: Here in Washington, on the Hill, what are you hearing about a possible government shutdown? NOVAK: Well, this -- what is going on, Bernie, is something that really scares the dickens out of the Republicans, because they have had such bad a track record in dealing with President Clinton. President Clinton is asking for about $30 billion more for this fiscal year than they want to give. That is not a problem. They will give them the $30 billion if the surplus is so big.

But what he is really demanding is everything in the Gore program attached to these appropriations bill. That is prescription drugs -- his version of the prescription drug, his version of the patients' bill of rights, more money for schools -- all this -- all of these legislative proposals put into the appropriations bill. I don't think the Republicans can buy that. So if he vetoes the appropriations because they -- if the president vetoes the appropriations because they don't have the things he wants in it, they will then pass a so- called continuing resolution and hope that he will sign that.

Or if you close down the government, he will get the blame for it. The interesting thing is that George W. Bush doesn't want any part of this mess in Washington -- his hands off. This is nothing he can effect. He can say this is the trouble with Washington, they can't get anything done. That is why they need a new person. But how he -- how does he look on this?

And it is a -- it is -- other than the debates, it is the second- most defining event we are going to have between now and the election.

SHAW: Mentioning debates, what is the latest you are hearing?

NOVAK: What I am hearing from the Gore people is they are saying they want now -- they are not talking about a debate every week -- that was nonsense from the start -- they say: We want the Debate Commission schedule of three debates, three formal debates with the candidates standing at podium. They say: Sure, we will go on "LARRY KING LIVE." We will go on "Meet the Press" as extra debates.

Now, the Bush people haven't made clear what they want, but they are indicating they would like those not as extra debates, but as two of the three regular debates. They think that Bush does much better sitting at a table like this than up in a podium. They think Gore does better in a podium. So there is going to a very tough confrontation on this debate -- on with -- and I know for sure -- I think the Bush position is flexible. But I know the Gore people have really said: We are going to take the three Commission debates, the three podium-type debates -- no changes in that.

SHAW: OK, thank you, Bob Novak.

Now, we're joined by journalists from several key states this election year: Steve Neal of the "Chicago Sun Times; Mark Silva of the "Miami Herald"; and David Postman of the "Seattle Times."

Mark, starting first with you in Florida: Who is ahead and why?

MARK SILVA, "MIAMI HERALD": Well, George Bush is ahead only marginally if you believe the polls. This a state that has voted Democratic really only three times in the last 50 years. Bush has the advantage here.


And David Postman, what about Washington state? What's it looking like?

DAVID POSTMAN, "SEATTLE TIMES": As of today, it's really looking like a dead-heat, which shows some progress by the vice president in the last couple of weeks, but still puts him in a tough place, because a lot of people thought this was a gimme state for him.

SHAW: And Steve Neal, given the weighty presence of the brothers Daley -- one is a mayor in Chicago, the other runs Al Gore's campaign -- how embarrassing would it be for the Democrats if George Bush were to take Illinois?

STEVE NEAL, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Oh, it would a big setback for Mayor Daily and for his brother, Bill, who is of course campaign chairman. But right now, Gore does have the edge here. President Clinton ran stronger here both times than he did nationally. And if the election was held right now, Gore would carry Illinois -- not by much though.

SHAW: And Steve, what trends do you see elsewhere in the Midwest, especially given the status of Ohio, a key bellwether state for example?

NEAL: Bernie, it's interesting that this is probably Bush's toughest state to win in the Midwest. Bush is winning stronger in Ohio and Michigan. He is also very competitive up in Wisconsin. I was talking with some Republican operatives today who said they think they have a shot in Minnesota, which I still would find -- I would be very surprised if the Democrats don't win Minnesota, because they have been dominant there for a long time.

But the Midwest is very competitive. We've seen a lot of both candidates already.

SHAW: Mark, yesterday, Senator Joe Lieberman said in Florida that he and Al Gore are going to take that state. Now, given Jeb Bush's position organization in Florida, are they being realistic?

SILVA: They're being reasonably hopeful, particularly in South Florida, where there is a strong Democratic vote -- which votes very heavily -- and Lieberman and Gore have the opportunity to get a stronger-than-normal vote there. They have a shot. They don't have a great shot. But with Lieberman in particular, I think Gore is alive in Florida.

SHAW: David Postman, detail for us exactly what Ralph Nader is doing in that state and what he is doing to Al Gore.

POSTMAN: Well, he is causing trouble for Al Gore. Ralph Nader arrives here Saturday morning. He is going to speak to a group of union members. He is going to give a speech downtown. He is going to have a fund raiser. And it's interesting, it's a $100-a-head fund raiser. And it shows that Nader is taking this run seriously. It's not like it was four years ago, where his big promise was not to raise money.

Now he wants to show that he can raise money. And this is a good state for him. He did -- you know, he barely measured four years ago. But again, he did that with no money. And now he has got ads running in the state. This is his second or third visit since he formally announced. And I think that the Gore people are worried here. I know the labor people are working hard to keep their members in line and to let them drift to Nader based on the issue of international trade, which is a big one here in Seattle.

SHAW: Is there a similar situation in Oregon?

POSTMAN: Yeah, absolutely. Oregon was one of Nader's best states four years ago. And really, the two states are -- vote the same way often. And so a lot of candidates come and see this as one big state. We get visits together. And I think that it's much more important at this point for the vice president, in Washington and Oregon, because these, again, are places where he was supposed to do well.

You could concoct a lot of scenarios where George Bush could win without these states -- not likely that the vice president could. And that is why it's such a great place for Ralph Nader to make noise and make himself heard.

SHAW: Now, there's been a lot of talk about swing voters, so crucial in this November election. Can each of you tell us how are the swing voters leaning in your areas given the fact that both conventions are over?

First starting with you, Mark.

SILVA: They are pretty well divided. It is a good one-fifth of the vote, perhaps, in Florida that will go either way, has no allegiance to a party. Previous polling before the conventions has shown pretty much division -- Bush perhaps favored. Governor Jeb Bush hasn't really stepped up his presence in the state. He has played a back-door role -- back-seat role. He has been doing some fund raising for his brother. In the next few weeks, I think, as he steps it up, that is what the party will be looking for, to get more of these people their way.

SHAW: Do you expect Jeb Bush to raise his profile much higher?

SILVA: I believe so, within the state. He has avoided a national presence. He has feared the problems it could create for his brother, both positively and negatively -- perhaps overshadowing him. But within the state, he is certainly very popular. And to the extent that he gets on the campaign trail, he is a personally very powerful campaigner and could help quite a bit.

SHAW: David Postman, what does it look like for swing voters in your area? POSTMAN: I don't think we know yet. I think we that we are just starting to see the change in the polls following the Democratic Convention. We have a couple of congressional races, which are likely to be very close. We have had wild swings in congressional delegation the last couple rounds of elections. There are a few that I think are at the top of everybody's list as toss-ups. And I think it's -- we don't know yet. All we know is that they're both very competitive. Incumbents of either party in these congressional seats do not feel comfortable in any way at this point.

SHAW: Steve Neal, Illinois?

Are we having satellite problems with Illinois?

OK, let me ask the two of you, since we've lost one of our guests as we close out, do you see any trends in your state? Say, in Florida, Mark Silva?

SILVA: Well, yes I do. I think issues have become very important this year. I think health care in particular, a good one- third of the people who vote on Election Day will be 65 and older. I think that prescription drugs, Social Security, HMOs, I think they're going to be very this big factors this year, and I think those work to some extent to Gore's favor.

SHAW: David Postman, trends?

POSTMAN: Well, I -- you know, on -- issues themselves have not become a big swing issue, if you will, at this point. The campaigns have largely been about who are these people. And the vice president, I think, has had to work harder again because he has been in the shadow of the president, who has a big presence in the Northwest.

In the meantime, George Bush took advantage of that and visited parts of the state that the vice president never has, has gone to Hispanic schools in the eastern part of the state and made a name for himself in places that I think the Democrats thought he never would. And that really, I think, is what's at play at least for the next couple of weeks.

SHAW: David Postman of "The Seattle Times," Mark Silva down in Miami, of "The Miami Herald," and our thanks to Steve Neal of "The Chicago Sun-Times," who had a slight satellite problem.

There is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come, will Joe Lieberman on the ticket help the Democrats claim Florida?

Plus, chasing down a national issue: David Peeler on prescription drugs and ad dollars.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): At first, most pundits declared that they didn't much like Gore's Democratic convention address. But most voters weren't buying the media's take.


SHAW: Al Gore's new approach, and the question: Is populism still popular?

And later:


STUART ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": The American public likes a fighter. They like to know that the person believes what he says.


SHAW: Stu Rothenberg in Howard Kurtz's piece on the vice president and the opinion gap.


SHAW: We will have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.

Relatives of many of the people killed in the Gulf Air crash are now in Bahrain trying to identify their family members. Bahraini officials are still trying to find out why this Airbus A-320 crashed in the Persian Gulf yesterday. All 143 people on board were killed.

The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have been recovered, and special teams from Airbus and the United States will help in the investigation.

Both the U.S. House and Senate Commerce committees are opening investigations into alleged safety problems with Firestone tires. Meanwhile, Ford Motor Company says incomplete information is fueling a call for Firestone to recall all radial tires made at Firestone's Decatur, Illinois plan. Attorneys filed a lawsuit in Florida today to represent consumers affected by Firestone's recall of 6.5 million tires. A tire expert who reportedly consulted for Firestone says he believes there was a production glitch at the Illinois plant involving the rubber used in all the tires. But Ford says its data clearly show which Firestone tires are good and which are not.

Emotions remain high in Russia over the deaths of 118 sailors who died on the submarine Kursk. Grieving family members and navy officers gathered today for a ceremony honoring the men who died. That service was held in the town where the Kursk began its last mission. The sub sank in the Barents Sea nearly two weeks ago.

Firefighters in Montana are getting some relief from the heat today. It's raining across much of Montana, but authorities say the rain will do little to ease the threat from wildfires now burning in the state. Nationwide, more than 78 big wildfires are burning today. Most of them are in Montana, and eight other western states.

CBS said more than 51 million people watched last night's final installment of its summer hit "Survivor." Early Nielsen figures released by the network indicate ratings for the episode were second only to this year's Super Bowl. Corporate trainer Richard Hatch a corporate trainer was the last man on the island and won the $1 million first prize.

SHAW: When INSIDE POLITICS returns, an update on the ad wars. Who is pumping cash into the quest to help seniors to pay for prescription drug coverage?



BUSH: I need to get over there and talk to my campaign manager, John Ellis Bush. I think we're going to win Florida.


SHAW: George W. Bush is planning to spend tonight in Florida, where he's counting on campaign help are from his brother and former governor, but the Gore campaign now is more hopeful of winning the Sunshine State.

As CNN's Pat Neal reports, Joe Lieberman's addition to the Democratic ticket has energized many Jewish voters in South Florida.


PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While "Havanegelia (ph)" played, Joe Lieberman, the first Jewish candidate on a national ticket, kibbutz with this crowd he called family.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's great to be in South Florida. Where else would the mayor come up to me and say "Sholamalakim (ph)?"


NEAL: In the competitive state of Florida, Democrats believe the barrier-breaking addition of Lieberman can energize Jewish voters, who make up about 6 percent of the state, double the percentage nationally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is truly, truly a prideful thing.

NEAL: Jews have traditionally voted Democratic. Older Jews, concentrated in South Florida condominiums, continuously turn out to vote in high numbers.

But the Gore campaign believes Lieberman's appeal could boost turnout even more among Jewish voters young and old. BOB BUTTERWORTH, FLORIDA CHAIRMAN, GORE CAMPAIGN: With a high turnout, I believe Democrats win. When Lieberman got added to the ticket, it really rejuvenated the entire state.

SAM GOLDSMITH, FMR. MAYOR, COCONUT CREEK, FLORIDA: I've had many people come up and say, what can we do to help? And these people have sat on the sidelines for years.

NEAL: In 1996, the Clinton-Gore team won about 90 percent of the Jewish vote in Florida. So far this election, among all voters, Governor George Bush continues to lead in the polls. To Bush's advantage, his brother, Jeb, is the state's governor. And Republicans say they don't see Lieberman's Jewish ties making a critical difference.

AL CARDENAS, FLORIDA GOP CHAIRMAN: We think we'll get more than 20 percent in Florida, with or without Joe Lieberman on the ticket. We thought '96 was an anomaly.

NEAL: But Democrats say Lieberman's Jewish connection has helped them make inroads.

SUZANNE GUNSBERGER, BROWARD COUNTY COMMISSIONER: We have brought out Jewish Republicans who have not supported a Democrat ever.

LIEBERMAN: Maybe by now, you know the story of my wife, Hadassah.

NEAL: Also, many here are moved by the story of Mrs. Lieberman's parents, surviving a Nazi concentration camp.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To know that she's a child of Holocaust survivors, it says that we are reborn.

BUTTERWORTH: Leaders have contacted me all over the states, saying, we want Hadassah, we want Hadassah.

NEAL: Democrats say the addition of Joe Lieberman have encouraged Jewish voters who have never donated money before to give to this campaign. They've also seen a rise in calls for volunteering. But the question is, will it make a difference in a state where most Jews would vote Democratic anyway?

Pat Neal, CNN, Miami.


SHAW: The Gore-Lieberman ticket has made description drug coverage through Medicare a key issue in an appeal to older voters. The issue also has come up in ads across the country over the last few months.


GORE: ... afford these ridiculously high prices for prescription medicine. (END VIDEO CLIP)


NARRATOR: Standing up the drug companies with a voluntary Medicare prescription program and savings on every prescription.



NARRATOR: This is Kate Coyne McCoy, and this is her campaign mascot, Phil Bill. Kate is running for Congress so she can work for better health care in America, and she's trying to get Phil Bill in shape.



NARRATOR: Today, there's no law to hold HMOs accountable for withholding needed care, yet Congressman Ernie Fletcher sided with the insurance companies, and voted no to a real patient's bill of rights.


SHAW: Joining us now, David Peeler of Competitive Media Reporting.

David, just how much ad spending is involved in this issue.

DAVID PEELER, PRESIDENT & CEO, COMPETITIVE MEDIA REPORTING: Well, Bernie, this has clearly been the big-money issue this summer. And get ready -- they've spent since July 1st alone $26 million. That's $26.6 million. You know, that's akin to big Whopper money for Burger King. It's Big Mac money for McDonald's. That is a huge amount of money to be spent against this one issue in just a short period of time. If we take a look at how that money breaks down, we see that special interest groups have spent $13.5 million of that. That includes people like the AFL-CIO and Citizens for Better Medicare.

Moving on, you take a look at Senate races and Senate races so far this year, and that's in nine states we've seen over $7 million spent on this one issue. States like New York, Hillary and Rick Lazio are spending money against this issue. We see it in swing states like Michigan.

Moving onto the political parties, take a look at what the political parties have spent alone $3.2 million. Even in House races this year, we've seen over $2 million dollars spent in some of the critical states that you're going see is this fall campaign. It gets down to even governors races. Over $700,000 dollars alone have been spent in states as small as New Hampshire on this issue.

So I think we can guarantee one thing, Bernie, that regardless of who wins in November, this is going to be one of those "first to hundred day" issues that the party that takes the seat, or takes the presidency is going to have to deal with. You know, if you think back, remember what the last election was like for tobacco. That was the big money issue that election, and we saw the tobacco legislation come out of there, so this is going to be with us throughout the fall.

SHAW: Getting back now to the presidential race, both candidates have launched their first post-convention ad campaigns. Al Gore's new biography ad begin running in 17 states yesterday. The campaign expects to spend as much as $5 million in the first week.

The Bush campaign has been on the air since Monday, with two new ads focused on education and inclusion. David, how much is Bush spending on this ad buy?

PEELER: We've been watching this process together for about the last 18 months, and we predicted a couple of things. We said, that after the convention, they were going spend a lot of money because the race was going to be tight, and that's exactly what they're doing. George Bush has spent -- he's up in 21 states, went on air on Monday. He's spent in two days alone close a million dollars in those states. You can expect that rate of spending to continue now and through the election in the fall.

Let's look at Al Gore. Al Gore went up yesterday. He's been spending against 30-second spots and 60-second spots. We don't have numbers on him yet, but we'll have them in the next couple of days.

I can guarantee you, he's spending in 17 states right now, that that rate of spending is only going to increase between now and November.

I think there's one interesting point here that you need to pay attention to as we get down to the election. Remember, we talked about the amount of money that was being spent against the health care issues. That's a tremendous amount of clutter out there in this marketplace that both presidential candidates and even statewide candidates are going to have to break through, so I think the key to media part of this campaign is going to be who can target that very small, select group of independent voters or swing voters with the right message. So I think you're going see a lot of money, but it's going to be more about the creative and getting the message across this year than it's been in past elections.

SHAW: David Peeler of Competitive Media Reporting, thanks very much.

PEELER: Thank you, Bernie.

SHAW: You're welcome.

In this week after the Democratic National Convention, some of the party's congressional candidates are banking on a bounce in the Al Gore mold, as the Democrats fight to win back control of the House.

CNN's Jennifer Auther has an inside view of one house race in California where a former Democratic congresswoman is trying to make a comeback.


JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): During last week's Democratic National Convention, Jane Harman appeared confident she'll retake her old seat.

JANE HARMAN (D), CALIF. CONG. CANDIDATE: As a former three-term member of the House of Representatives, a former candidate for governor of California, and a candidate, once again, to represent California's 36 congressional districts.

AUTHER: Her opponent, Republican Steve Kuykendall, is back from Washington and busy conducting a series of townhall meetings.

Aides say internal polls show a dead heat. But...

STEVE KUYKENDALL (R), CALIFORNIA: I was very pleased that when we got to the primaries, when they stood up all eight candidates, we were the top candidate in the bunch.

AUTHER: Harman came within 2.5 percent behind Kuykendall in California's blanket primary. She got into the race in the last hour on the last day of filing and spent virtually no money in the primary.

And if there's one thing Harman has plenty of, it's money. She gave up her third term in Congress, spending $16 million in an unsuccessful bid for the governor's job. While independently wealthy...

HARMAN: In the governor's race, about three to one, three to one, put in and raised.

AUTHER: So why run this time?

HARMAN: So we keep our prosperity going, and that won't happen if we have Tom DeLay and Dick Armey putting forth this endlessly ideological and partisan agenda.

AUTHER: She's running in a district that is evolving. The number of registered voters in both major parties has declined. The 36th Congressional District was severely impacted by defense and aerospace industry downsizing. That vacuum is now being mostly filled with e-commerce business.

(on camera): This coastal area is the known as a classic swing district. Independent-minded voters make up about 20 percent of the electorate, some of them declining to state their party affiliation, others registering with third parties; the rest are Democrats and Republicans willing to vote the other side.

SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE, POLITICAL ANALYST: I see Dick Cheney as being somewhat of a dicey factor in this race for Steve Kuykendall. And here's why: Dick Cheney presided over base closings.

AUTHER (voice-over): The freshman incumbent has received some help from Arizona Senator John McCain, while Mailers highlights issues where Kuykendall is not in lockstep with the Republican majority.

REP, STEVE KUYKENDALL (R), CALIFORNIA: I view myself, I think, more as a pragmatist, and I'm an independent vote, quite frankly. I mean, I've still got an R after my name, so I'm going to have votes where I'm going to help defend my leadership when they need challenge to the leadership of the House.

AUTHER: One of the key reasons Democrats hope to keep Kuykendall firmly on the endangered list.

Jennifer Auther, CNN, Redondo Beach, California.


SHAW: And INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


SHAW: Al Gore's lead in the polls has been attributed to the Democratic convention and the traditional bounce, and that raises one important question.

Our Bill Schneider joins us now from Los Angeles -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Bernie, a metaphysical question: Do bounces fade? Is there some law that says after a candidate gets a convention bounce it is bound to fade away in a few weeks, or can a bounce defy the law of gravity and stay suspended in midair for weeks at a time?

What's the book on the bounce?


(voice-over): Before the Democratic convention, when he was running behind, Al Gore pooh-poohed the polls. This week, he's reconsidering.

GORE: I don't think the polls matter much. I'm tempted to change my view, now that they show me ahead.

SCHNEIDER: Now the Bush campaign is saying this can't last.

BUSH: You know, these polls are up and down, and I like my chances.

SCHNEIDER: They say what goes up must come down. Must it? There are plenty of examples of candidates getting a bounce out of their conventions and then keeping it into the fall campaigns.

Jimmy Carter got a big bounce out of the 1976 Democratic convention. In September, he was still riding high.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan left the Republican convention with a solid majority and kept it through the fall campaign.

In 1988, Vice President George Bush took the lead for the first time after the Republican convention -- and never lost it.

Before the 1992 Democratic convention, Bill Clinton was running third in the polls. The convention bolted Clinton into the lead. Clinton kept his lead, even though his margin diminished after Ross Perot got back into the race.

Those candidates used the convention not just to consolidate their base but also to win over swing voters who stayed with them into the fall campaign. They kept their bounce. Why? Because the force was with them. What force? The prevailing conditions in the country leading voters to favor either change, in the case of Carter and Clinton, or continuity as with Reagan and the elder Bush.

This year, George W. Bush got a 4-point bounce out of the Philadelphia convention, coming out with 54 percent of the vote. Clearly Bush did more than consolidate the GOP base.

But then last week, Gore trumped Bush with an 8-point bounce. Gore took a lot of the swing vote back.

Is Gore now destined to lose his bounce? No, it's not inevitable. It depends on which force is stronger this year, the force for change or the force for continuity. That's hard to tell right now. Both forces are out there.


SCHNEIDER: The economy is terrific, and record numbers of voters are saying we've never had it so good. But President Clinton is also widely disfavored, and record numbers of voters are also saying it's time for a change.

Bernie, that's what makes this race so hard to call.

SHAW: Bill, what's to say Gore won't lose his bounce the way Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis did?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. Well, Bernie, the force was not with Mondale and Dukakis. They were offering change in years when voters clearly wanted continuity. Well this year, Gore is clearly selling continuity. And voters do want a continuity of direction, but they want a change of leadership. If Gore can break away from Bill Clinton and show voters that he's a different kind of leader, then I think he'll keep his bounce. But if he cannot make that break with Clinton, then I think he could go the way of Mondale and Dukakis.

SHAW: Thank you, Bill Schneider in Los Angeles.

Now we are going to take a closer look at the theme that seems to have helped Gore drive up his poll numbers. In his "Campaign Journal," our Bruce Morton looks at populism and whether it is an effective way to win votes.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Populism: anti- big. Anti-big business when Democrats do it. Franklin Roosevelt used to thunder against economic royalists and malefactors of great wealth, anti-big government when Republicans do it.


RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.


MORTON: And now comes populist Al Gore, promising to help the people, not the powerful.

GORE: That's the difference in this election. They're for the powerful, we're for the people.

MORTON: But does that still work? Can you run us versus them, rich versus poor, when 54 percent of Americans told a poll last month that they own stock, mutual funds, 401(k), whatever.

Well, maybe you can. Seventy percent told a poll last month that the government is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves.

CNN pollster Keating Holland:

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: Rich Americans and poor Americans agree in precisely equal numbers that the government is run by special interests. Sixty-nine percent of the richest Americans, 69 percent of the poorest Americans both say that government is not run for the average Joe but is run by special interests.

MORTON: Gore is careful to target specific bad guys, big drug companies, HMOs. And it may be that people versus powerful pays other dividends for a Gore who is finding his own voice, separating himself from Bill Clinton.

ROTHENBERG: The American public likes a fighter. They like to know that the person believes what he says and is passionate about it and is emotional about it and is tough and is a fighter. And so the words are important, in particular good guys and bad guys that are created, but also the message is, I'm a fighter, I'm a leader, I'm there for you. I think that's just as important.

MORTON: Not everyone thinks this approach will work. Bill Clinton in 1996 appealed to so-called "soccer moms" in relatively affluent suburbs. Gore may be aiming at swing voters a little further down the ladder, working moms who need their jobs. But it may be that voters like the "fight for you" approach, and the candidate clearly is comfortable with it.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: There is word today that Al Gore has accepted a debate invitation from Judicial Watch, a group that claims credit for exposing a number of the controversies that have dogged the Clinton administration. The conservative group's chairman, Larry Klayman, tells CNN he thinks Gore's decision to take part in the October 20th debate is, quote, "gutsy." And he says he believes it will force George W. Bush to take part in that debate, too.

The Bush camp has said it is still considering debate offers. The Gore campaign notes today that it has accepted every single debate invitation it has received, more than 40 in all.

Still ahead, is there a media disconnect when it comes to Al Gore? Howard Kurtz takes a closer look.


SHAW: Immediately after his Democratic Convention speech, Al Gore received an apparent thumbs-up from people watching outside the hall across the country, despite a thumbs-down from many pundits. Now the reviews are warming.

Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" takes a look at the media's change of heart.



HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ... nomination, Vice President Gore got roughed up by the press. He was down in the polls to George W. Bush. He was stiff and wooden. He kept changing his wardrobe. He was surround by the gang that couldn't shoot straight.


AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": If they don't eat significantly into that big lead by August 18, they are going to have a tough time winning this election.



JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: It's not just the overall numbers that Gore should be concerned about here.


KURTZ: But all that changed in Los Angeles -- once the public weighed in, that is. At first, most pundits declared that they didn't much like Gore's Democratic convention address.


BILL KRISTOL, POLITICAL ANALYST: I honestly thought it was a disappointing speech. SCHNEIDER: It was so programmed and machine-like, rattling off this list of programs, as if fast was the opposite of stiff.


KURTZ: But most voters weren't buying the media's take. The vice president started surging past Bush in the polls. Newspapers played up the new polls, and a funny thing happened: The tone of Gore's press coverage changed virtually overnight.


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: The new one out today even gives him a slight edge over George W. Bush. And that's causing the Gore team to use a word it hasn't use in a long time: momentum.



CHARLIE GIBSON, ABC: We have a new "ABC News"/"Washington Post" poll this evening. It indicates that Al Gore has not just pulled even in the presidential race; our poll says he is ahead.


KURTZ: Now journalists began calling this speech a smashing success.


JOHN HARRIS, "WASHINGTON POST": He really did succeed at one of his principle challenges of the convention, which is to make himself seem not just more appealing -- although he was more appealing -- but in some sense, more plausible as somebody people who could be -- people could envision as a president.


KURTZ: And the gap between voters and the press seemed wider than ever.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": People tend to like speeches that are content-heavy. Pundits tend to like speeches that are content-free. People are hungry for substance. Pundits are not hungry for substance.

KURTZ: Gore is so hot that the media are obsessed by his brief moment of public passion with his wife, Tipper.


DIANE SAWYER, ABC ANCHOR: One hundred and seven articles about that kiss.


JANE CLAYSON, CBS ANCHOR: Everybody is talking about that big kiss you planted on your wife.


KURTZ: Whatever the post-convention Gore did was seen as a sign of his newfound confidence, as CBS's John Roberts made clear on this riverboat trip.


JOHN ROBERTS, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: If Al Gore was guilty of a little showboating on his tour of the Mississippi, it could be because his lagging campaign is suddenly back in the game.


KURTZ (on camera): Back in the game: A candidate ahead in the polls is like a baseball manager on a winning streak. Last week, he was a bum. Now he's a genius. But Al Gore's convention bounce could easily fade in the coming days. And that could put a sudden end to his media bounce as well.

This is Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."


SHAW: And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We will see you again tomorrow, when Bill Schneider will have his political "Play of the Week." And of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's

And this programming note: The Dick Cheney retirement package will be one of the issues discussed tonight when former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich joins Mary Matalin on "CROSSFIRE". That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Bernard Shaw. "WORLDVIEW" is next.



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