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Inside Politics

Bush's Lead Over Gore Evaporating in Summer Heat; Gore and Bush Debate Over Debates; President Defers Decision on Missile Defense

Aired September 1, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer, sitting in for Bernie and Judy.

As George W. Bush closes a rocky week for his presidential campaign, he may be thinking "Thank goodness it's Friday." That is, until he checks out today's poll numbers, which are likely to add to the headaches he's trying to put behind him.

Our Candy Crowley has more on those numbers and Bush's effort to sound upbeat, heading into the holiday weekend.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Labor Day begins the final push, but George Bush punched in early.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's get after them. Let's go side by side and turn out that vote. Let's find those independents, and Democrats and Republicans and tell them there's a better day ahead for America.

CROWLEY: In visits to neighboring Louisiana and the Arkansas side of Texarkana, the governor tested out the major theme of Labor Day and beyond: failed leadership.

BUSH: But I find it so interesting. It's kind of like an echo from the past. It's so interesting that my opponent is having to campaign on prescription drugs for seniors because that's what they promised in 1992. They're having a campaign again, but our message is: you've had your chance, you have not led, and we will.

CROWLEY: The change of seasons finds Bush dealing with a change of fortunes. A "Newsweek" magazine poll shows Bush down by 10 among registered voters, the latest in a series of surveys showing summer's high-flying lead has, at the very least, dissipated. The Republican nominee shrugs it off.

BUSH: My judgment is we got the momentum, and you know, you need to talk to the pundits about all the polls and stuff, but I feel this campaign is in excellent shape.

Continuing to stress what he views as his strength, Bush includes talk of education at nearly every stop. BUSH: This is a book called "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."

CROWLEY: And few days go by without a classroom visit. Still, Bush must also move to blunt the sharper edges of the Gore campaign.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: There is Al Gore, reinventing himself on television again.


CROWLEY: He hopes, for instance, an ad from the Republican National Committee, which begins airing today, will counterbalance Democratic ads on his Texas record.

BUSH: I said in my convention speech and other places, I'll defend my record, and I appreciate the Republicans coming to my defense by questioning the man's credibility.

CROWLEY: Also on tap, a speech on prescription drugs and Medicare. Bush broached the subject Friday in Louisiana, wrapping it in praise for a bipartisan Medicare reform plan cosponsored by the state's Democratic senator.

BUSH: Johnny Breaux says it's time to put politics aside and do something right for the seniors. It's time to bring Republicans and Democrats together to make sure the promise of Medicare is kept to our seniors. And he's on the right track. He's got the right idea, this Democrat from Louisiana, but it was a plan rejected by the administration of which my opponent is a proud part.

CROWLEY: Assailing Gore's record while selling his own brand of leadership, Bush remains confident he can close the sale this fall.


CROWLEY: And the "Newsweek" poll suggests the customers are there. Bush is down by 10 points down, not because Al Gore has increased his lead -- in fact, he has not. Bush is down because he has dropped some, meaning that many of the voters who were in Bush's column have moved to undecided. Bottom line here, they are still out there and are not necessarily lost -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, I take it the Republican vice presidential candidate, Dick Cheney, is trying to put one potential controversy behind him.

CROWLEY: He is. In fact, we just got a statement from Dick Cheney. As you know, he is leaving Halliburton, an oil services company. He had a very large retirement package from Halliburton, which included stock options, some of which were vested and would not be able to come due until after Dick Cheney would assume office, assuming the Bush-Cheney ticket won. This, of course, brought up a lot of potential conflict of interest. Dick Cheney putting out a one- line statement saying, "In order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, I am willing to forfeit any options not vested by the time I assume office."

Now the Bush campaign also tells us within an hour or so, Cheney will have a full financial disclosure, including 10 years of tax statements. They are hoping that this is one of the things they would like to get off the plate as they move into Labor Day, that there was a potential conflict of interest with the oil interest group that Dick Cheney used to work for. They want to get this off the plate, and they're hoping this will do it.

BLITZER: And these options he would give up only if he were elected. If he's not elected, obviously he doesn't have to give up the options, right?

CROWLEY: Right. As I understand, what I'm reading from this one-line statement, yes, that he would give up any options that were not vested, and it's a considerable -- in the millions of dollars it's estimated that he would give up should he assume office.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley in Austin, Texas, thank you

New polls in two battleground states also point to apparent problems for Bush and gains for Gore. In Pennsylvania, Gore has come from behind and now leads Bush by 13 points in the latest survey of likely voters statewide. The poll shows Gore is way ahead with women voters, and he even leads Bush in the traditionally Republican suburbs of Philadelphia. In Iowa, a survey of likely voters shows Gore ahead of Bush by eight points. Gore also has a clear advantage among women voters in the Hawkeye State.

Those polls, of course, offer a snapshot of where the race is right now. Political analyst Hal Bruno took a more comprehensive look at the fall battleground for the Web site by interviewing political experts and party leaders in the key states. The resulting map gives Gore a strong advantage in a few mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states, including New York, and puts the vice president ahead in a dozen others, including California. Fifteen states are solid for Bush, clustered in the plains and the South, including Texas. Another nine lean Bush's way, including Florida. Eleven states hold the balance of power, clustered in the Midwestern swing state belt.

According to this map, Gore would get 208 electoral votes and Bush 209, with 270, of course, needed to win the presidency. The too- close-to-call states are worth 121 votes.

With me now the man who put that map together,'s senior political analyst, Hal Bruno.

The bottom line in all of this is that forget about the national polls. As far as the states are concerned, this is way too close to call right now?

HAL BRUNO, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, POLITICS.COM: Never seen anything this close in 30 years of doing it, Wolf. You're absolutely right. People forget, an American presidential election is 50 separate state elections, and the name of the game is get 270 electoral votes in order to win the office. There's no other way to do it. So when you look at it state by state, what you've got is a race that at this point, if Labor Day is the traditional kickoff point, it is absolutely dead even.

BLITZER: Now you listed New Jersey and Pennsylvania as very close. Some of the more recent polls suggesting that Gore seems to be pulling ahead there?

BRUNO: Yes. We listed it in this first go-around as both Pennsylvania and New Jersey and also Ohio as being close or even, in other words, too close to call at this point. But at the same time, we were getting information that New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which are verified by the poll that you mentioned, are actually tilting toward Gore. We've also been told by the Bush people that Ohio is tilting toward them. But we were unable to verify that from separate sources, so we're carrying them as too close to call at this point.

BLITZER: And the Pacific Northwest states, Oregon and Washington state, they're pretty close right now, too.

BRUNO: Yes, they are. I mean, you know, California is one of the two anchors, along with New York, that Gore's entire electoral vote strategy, and it's still not locked up totally safe. New York is, but California isn't. What things depend upon there, and also in Oregon and Washington, is how much strength Ralph Nader shows. If Ralph Nader shows real strength in those place, especially California, then Bush might have a chance to challenge him there. But if Nader isn't doing much, Gore has got pretty much of a lock on California.

BLITZER: Now we assume Bush is totally locked in Texas.

BRUNO: He is? No.

BLITZER: Is Florida that close?

BRUNO: No. Florida is in play. And don't forget four years ago, Florida went for Clinton, for the first time they went for a Democrat since 1976, and the issues that did it were health care and Social Security with that elderly population. Well, both campaigns are pouring the money into Florida right now, going on the air with early media ads, and the issue again is Social Security and health care. So Bush has to mind his business and make sure that Florida is secure, because without Florida and Texas, he can't win, just like Gore can't win without California and New York.

BLITZER: So does Gore -- besides, let say, Tennessee, his home state, have any other real openings in the South other than Florida, let's say, and maybe Tennessee?

BRUNO: Kentucky, Arkansas are probably close at this point, but the rest of the South is either solid for Bush or going in his direction.

BLITZER: You know, there's a conventional wisdom as far as national polls are concerned, whoever is ahead Labor Day, and you know this, you've studied this for a long time, usually goes on to win in November. Is that true, first of all? And second of all, as far as state races are concerned. is that a true assumption as well?

BRUNO: Most of the time it has been true: whoever had the lead on Labor Day usually went on to win the election. We've had a few times where somebody had a lead in -- at this point, and it became much closer at the end. The '68 election with Humphrey and Nixon.

This election, though, is truly close. You know, when you look at it as we do, state by state, if you look at the national polls, it is -- we've never seen -- I've never seen an election in the last 30 years that has been this close at the starting point.

BLITZER: Hal Bruno of, thank you so much.

Al Gore is taking a break from the campaign trail today, but a discussion about presidential debates was on his agenda.

CNN's Pat Neal has the latest on the quadrennial dispute over when, where, and how White House hopefuls should face off.


PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Al Gore met for the first time with his debate team in Washington, his campaign manager reiterated Gore's insistence those debates take place in a nationally televised primetime forum.

WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: We're really waiting to hear from the other campaign as to how they want to give the American people the opportunity, the most numbers of Americans, to watch and hear these candidates lay out their programs for the future.

NEAL: For Gore, that means the forums sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which have hosted the nationally televised face-offs since 1988.

Aides to Texas Governor George W. Bush met with members of the debate commission Friday, but no decisions yet. The meeting was described by both sides as informational, with format options and dates discussed.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I look forward to the debates, I do. And I would hope more people watch them than before.

NEAL: But Bush's staff says that, while he will commit to three debates, they will consider not only the debate commission's proposal, but also some of the of 53 other invitations the campaign has received.

These include network talk shows, David Letterman, and the World Wrestling Foundation's "Smackdown." That's placed Gore in the position of rejecting a number of debate requests, despite proposing, back in March, to have frequent debates with Bush throughout the year.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You extend the invitation, I will accept it. NEAL: Indeed, the Gore camp has accepted more than 40 debate invitations so far. But now, they say, no more until Bush agrees to the three sponsored by the commission. They declined a debate invitation from CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE," who hosted a GOP primary debate earlier this year.

Bush was chided for skipping a major televised forum in New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary.

STEVE FORBES (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Like you, I share the frustration that Governor Bush is not here tonight.

NEAL: Bush agreed to later appearances in New Hampshire, but went on to lose the primary to Arizona Senator John McCain.

(on camera): National primetime debates carry high stakes for presidential contenders. History shows the candidate who wins the pre-debate skirmish over rules and format goes on to win the election.

(voice-over): GOP candidates Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both won the debate negotiations and went on to victory in the 1980s. But in 1992, after being taunted by a character dubbed "Chicken George" for refusing to debate Bill Clinton, President Bush relented, even agreeing to this town meeting-style format, which seemed to better suit Clinton's style.

Pat Neal, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, more on the state of the presidential race and the strategy of both campaigns as the Labor Day kickoff approaches.


BLITZER: Al Gore travels to Philadelphia Sunday evening to launch around-the-clock Labor Day campaign swings through the battleground states. Gore ends the day in Flint, Michigan, where he will visit with workers on the job, as he plans to do every stop.

Monday, he plans to have breakfast with firefighters in Tampa, Florida. Then his so-called "American Workathon" takes him to Pittsburgh, and finally to Louisville, Kentucky.

George W. Bush has a more modest Labor Day schedule. Monday, he'll march in a parade in Naperville, Illinois, and then attend a peach festival in Romeo, Michigan.

Joining us now, Ramesh Ponuru of the "National Review" and E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post" to tell us what's happening in this campaign right now.

E.J., how do you assess what's happening right now in this presidential campaign? E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think that the natural state of this election was always close, and probably to Gore's benefit. Because we are in a very well-off time, the country is basically not dissatisfied.

People seem to have a block in getting to Al Gore. They just didn't seem to like him, they had doubts about him. I think what happened at the convention is not that the country fell in love with Al Gore, but that he took down some of the barriers, he made himself acceptable to more voters.

And now they're voting their basic instinct, which is: Times are pretty good, do we really want to take a chance on Bush?

And then Bush has made a few mistakes that have allowed Gore to control the dialogue of the campaign in the last week or so.

BLITZER: Ramesh, it seems the momentum, at least right now, would be with Al Gore.

RAMESH PONURU, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, it's true, the Bush campaign has not had a good last 2 1/2 weeks, and it's not just the polls. It's -- there's a sense that they've been on the defensive, they've been off their game.

But that's what they did when they lost New Hampshire in the primaries, what happened when they lost Michigan -- eventually they got back on track and came back. They've been predicting, pretty much for the last year, that they would be about tied around Labor Day. That's about where they are.

BLITZER: Is there any major shake-up, any major change in style or strategy, expected in the coming days?

PONURU: Well, they're going to come out with their prescription drug plan next Tuesday, and they hope to at least somewhat neutralize one of the major Democratic attacks, which is that they've had no plan.

BLITZER: You know, E.J., some of the Gore people are telling me that the reason the Republicans have gone negative, with this latest negative attack ad, as they've been describing it, is because their own internal polls show Gore moving ahead, Bush behind. And when you're behind you have to go negative.

DIONNE: Well, I think if the polls we saw earlier, which showed Gore with quite a substantial lead in a state like Pennsylvania, which is essential to both of them, if those polls are anything close to true, the Bush people have to be worried.

And I think what they're trying to do is remind people of the Al Gore that the electorate has largely forgotten about, thanks to the convention. I think their difficulty is -- the Buddhist temple story is now kind of an old story to people. And I'm not sure this ad will, sort of, reignite outrage about it. And also one of George Bush's most effective lines has been: You know, I want to restore civility and comity, there's too much fighting in Washington. This new ad kind of goes crosswise to that message, and I think the more appealing Bush, the calmer and friendly Bush is the more appealing Bush.

BLITZER: Does anybody pay attention, Ramesh, that this is a Republican National Committee ad, and that the Bush campaign is not directly involved, although they signed off on it?

PONURU: I think those distinctions are lost on people. I think that people just think the Republicans equals Bush equals the Republicans. It's all the same thing.

BLITZER: And as far as you know was there anyone saying to the Republican National Committee: You know, this could backfire, this kind of attack ad?

PONURU: Oh, sure, absolutely there are Republican strategists who worry about this. I mean, they say: Look, we have run on character and scandal issues in '92, in '96, in '98; it didn't work a single time; it backfired each and every time, and it's going to happen this time.

If this -- if something like that happens with this ad, I suspect that's the last we're going to see of this sort of scandal attack

BLITZER: You remember, E.J., in 1988, Dukakis and his people did not respond to the attack ads that were then coming from George -- the George Bush campaign. Do you sense that the Gore campaign is not about to respond to this?

DIONNE: I don't think the Gore campaign is going to respond to this particular ad except to denounce it as negative campaigning and the usual thing you hear when you are under attack. I think they want to stay on the gameplan they're on, because it's worked pretty well.

These issues of prescription drugs and a patients' bill of rights seem to deal with the problems that voters feel they have in an affluent time. So Gore can run these two tracks, don't risk the prosperity and I'll fix a few problems. I don't think they want to get off their current gameplan.

BLITZER: On tax cuts -- this is a big issue, of course, for the Republican ticket. Some Democrats are saying it's a losing issue for George W. Bush. What are you hearing?

PONURU: I think pretty much all the Democrats are saying it's a losing issue for Governor Bush and some Republicans, too. I mean, there's no question that the demand for tax cuts is lower than it would have been, you know, back when tax rates were much higher and back when wealth wasn't increasing as much as it is. But I think the Bush campaign likes to say, look, I mean, we're going to do this whatever the polls say and we're going to get points for leadership because we stand for what we believe in.

BLITZER: Go ahead, E.J.

DIONNE: What's striking is that Bush hasn't really been out there very much defending the tax cuts lately. He tried early on. It didn't seem to work, and he seems to have abandoned them. I don't see how you can be out there with a tax cut this big without going on the offensive on it.

I think the problem is -- Tony Fabrizio, a very smart Republican pollster, has found the Republicans themselves are divided into kind of budget balancing types and supply-siders who like big tax cuts. In '96, Bill Clinton got a lot of the budget-balancing Republican votes, not a majority, but enough to beat Bob Dole. And I think Bush has that same problem all over again this year.

PONURU: Well, Bush needs to make it clear that he's setting aside a lot of money for retiring the debt in addition to his tax cut. The other thing which the Bush campaign isn't doing which one would think it needs to start doing is explaining how its tax cut and its Social Security plan fit in with prolonging the economic expansion, because right now they're just making a moral case detached from how it's going to affect the economy overall.

They think the economy isn't going to be such a big factor in this election. I think that's just wishful thinking.

BLITZER: The other point of attack that we've seen in the last several days from the Republicans, E.J., is that the Clinton administration has let America's military readiness decline and the country is about ready to fall apart, if you will, from a military standpoint. Is that a successful political strategy right now?

DIONNE: It was a good political strategy for Ronald Reagan in the middle of the Cold War. I don't think people sense the kind of threat now that they felt when the Soviet Union was still around.

I also think there's a problem in what the Republicans are saying, because they're saying on the one hand, we need a stronger military, but they're also saying, we want to do less with it. They seem to be suggesting that we're overcommitted and have too weak a military. And even some of the sort of strong Republican hawks say what is the total content of this message.

But I think it's a better issue than -- you know, it's one of the better critiques of the Clinton administration because there are some people, not just Republicans, who say that there are some problems in the military that need to be fixed.

BLITZER: Ramesh.

PONURU: I don't see any contradiction between wanting to have the strongest military you can have and not wanting to use it all the time and wanting to husband its strength. It makes a lot more sense than having an under, you know, an undersupplied military that you're asking to do a lot of things. I think it's an argument that Republicans can win. I think they're beginning to make some headway there, because they've got people like John McCain and Colin Powell backing them up. But they've got -- they've just got to keep on it.

BLITZER: OK, Ramesh Ponuru and E.J. Dionne, thanks for joining us. Good to be with you.

And there's much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Still to come, all 50 states...


BUSH: Develop a missile defense system that will protect all 50 states.


BLITZER: The president leaves the missile defense system to his successor, whoever that might be.



DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Summer's winding down in the upscale Hamptons, and the politics of the rich-and-famous party circuit are giving way to the politics of campaign season.


BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick on a re-election battle with a party- switching twist. And later, why avoiding the campaign trail is worth "The Political Play of the Week."


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

In the news now: New Jersey has its first known case of a human infected with the West Nile Virus. Test results confirmed today that a Hudson County man is infected with the disease. The unidentified 43-year-old man went to a hospital last month with symptoms that included a 100-degree fever. He is reported to be recovering at home. This year, New York has reported seven cases of human infection with the mosquito-borne virus. One of those cases was confirmed today in a 61-year-old Staten Island man.

Another consumer advisory involving Firestone tires: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns that, in addition to the six-and-a-half-million half tires already recalled, another 1.4 million tires may also be faulty. The agency says tread separations for some other model tires exceed those recalled in early August. Most of the tires in question were manufactured years ago. And Firestone says it's unlikely to expand its recall.

A spokesman for Ford Motor Company says more than one brand of tires will be offered on the 2002 Ford Explorer. The company is currently showing the new model with Firestone and Michelin tires. Ford's says depending on one company for tires is too risky. Production of the 2002 Ford Explorer will start in November.

And that's not all of Firestone's trouble. The potential strike by the United Steelworkers of America threatens to shut down operations at nine Firestone plants in seven states. The union has been working without a contract since April. The deadline is midnight tonight. Workers at the LaVergne plant in Tennessee staged a rally between shifts Friday morning to show support for the union.

No freedom for accused Los Alamos nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, at least not yet. The federal order came just before Lee was to be released from jail today on a one-million dollar bond, pending trial. The scientist is accused of loading an unsecured computer with nuclear weapons secrets. Clerks say the Denver court is expecting filings from the prosecution and the defense later today.

Authorities in Cincinnati say a police officer was dragged to death by a car with a 12-year-old driver, who was shot in the incident. Officials say officer Kevin Crayon shot seventh-grader Courtney Mathis in the chest while trying to get control of the car. After dragging the officer several hundred yards, the wounded boy drove home. He died later in the hospital.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns: the vice presidential candidates, a comparison of their style and their substance.


BLITZER: Now, we focus on a question that has been asked in the course of the presidential race: Is the United States ready to try to build an anti-missile defense system? President Clinton weighed in with his answer today.

And as our David Ensor reports, he may have made missile defense even more of a campaign issue.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his speech, President Clinton said he will leave the decision on whether to deploy a national missile defense to the next president.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I simply cannot conclude with the information I have today that we have enough confidence in the technology and the operational effectiveness of the entire NMB system to move forward to deployment. Therefore, I have decided not to the authorize deployment of a national missile defense at this time.

ENSOR: Mr. Clinton lacks confidence, because in two out of three of the operational tests so far, the interceptor has missed its target. The decision puts off construction on Shemya Island, a wind- swept Alaskan outpost, of a massive radar, which would be a key part of the limited missile defense system the Clinton administration has funded work on.

Mr. Clinton and his aides insist his decision will not delay deployment of a missile defense against a future threat by nations like North Korea, Iran and Iraq. And Vice President and candidate Al Gore was quick to endorse it.

But Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush said, that he will -- quote -- "act where they have failed to lead" by deploying an even more robust missile defense shield as soon as he can if elected.

BUSH: The administration missed an opportunity to develop a missile defense system that will protect all 50 states, protect ourselves and our allies from accidental launch or political blackmail.

ENSOR: However, the man who served the governor's father as national security adviser said Mr. Clinton was right to put off the decision.

BRENT SCOWCROFT, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think that the next president is going to have to be the one responsible for fueling a system. And we ought to make sure that it is the right decision and not have that decision made for us by a president who has only five months left.

ENSOR: Besides questions about where a missile defense will work. Mr. Clinton also cited arms control worries, including Russia's refusal to allow amendments to a key treaty so the system would not violate it.

CLINTON: In time, I hope the United States can narrow our differences with Russia on this issue. The course I have chosen today gives the United States more time to pursue that. And we will use it.


ENSOR: Given the remaining technological problems, many experts in and out of government say that Mr. Clinton probably made the right choice today. But some missile defense advocates argue that if the administration had pushed harder years ago, those remaining technological problems might already have been surmounted -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David, the president stressed -- and his advisers have been stressing -- the technological problems caused him to defer a decision to punt, if you will. But it does make his life easier during these remaining month in office as far as U.S. relations with China, with the Western European allies are concerned. Are they saying that it was strictly technological reasons that caused him to defer a decision?

ENSOR: No, they're not. He also said that there are concerns -- arms control concerns. He will be meeting with President Putin of Russia shortly. And obviously, that meeting will be made much easier by this decision -- Wolf

BLITZER: OK, David Ensor, at the White House, thanks for joining us. As Candy Crowley reported earlier, the Bush-Cheney campaign today released information concerning Dick Cheney's personal finances. Cheney submitted a detailed financial statement to the Federal Election Commission and released his income tax returns for the years 1990 through 1999.

In 1999, Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, reported income of $4.425 million. They paid about $1.7 million on that income. As we reported earlier, Cheney has announced that if he is elected vice president, he will forfeit all Halliburton stock options that have not vested in order to dispel any appearance of a conflict of interest. He'll establish a blind trust to manage his accounts.

Cheney is taking a break from the campaign trail, while his Democratic counterpart, Joe Lieberman, campaigned in Maine. Lieberman quoted former Bush rival John McCain, who charged during the primary season that Bush's proposals do not include one penny for Social Security or Medicare.

Let's talk about the two vice presidential candidates right now.

Ceci Connolly of the "Washington Post" has been traveling with Lieberman this week. And Meagan Garvey of the "Los Angeles Times" has been traveling with Cheney.

Thanks for joining us.

This decision by Cheney, first of all, to go ahead and give up stock options if in fact he is elected: Meagan, how is that going to impact in terms of the controversy that's been generated over these past few weeks?

MEAGAN GARVEY, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, I think that he has been under some heat financially, because of the stock options that he held, Some of which -- a large number of which would not invest until he would have been well into his term, should they be elected in November.

And so he had kind of avoided the question. In fact, he even joked with a small child yesterday about how -- the fact that he has less money now than he had before he entered back into public life. So I think it's certainly been on his mind. It's been something that has dogged him. And I think he probably made a decision that he needed to just set it aside and ignore any -- avoid any conflict of interest that might come about.

BLITZER: Ceci, it seems to me -- correct me if I am wrong -- that Cheney has been hammered mostly on these issues of stock options by the news media, not necessarily by Joe Lieberman or Al Gore -- or the Democrats, for that matter. Am I wrong?

CECI CONNOLLY, "WASHINGTON POST": Wolf, I think that is largely the case. Although, I certainly would not discount some of the quiet whispering and distribution of material that goes on from both the Gore campaign, the Democratic National Committee. What you'll often discover is that they're very interested in helping you collect this information.

They may not just be standing up at campaign rallies talking about it.

BLITZER: All right.

Meagan, what about the style? We have two very different vice president candidates. Although both are very intelligent, very experienced, they have very different styles. You've been on the campaign trail now with Dick Cheney. Tell us about his campaign style.

GARVEY: His campaign style is almost to have no style at all. And he seems very uncomfortable behind the podium. He is often clutching his written remarks in his hand. He speaks very briefly. He doesn't seem to enjoy sort of being out there shaking hands with the people.

I think David Vandreli (ph) in the "Washington Post" may have put it best when he says he smiles like his lips are sown shut.

BLITZER: He doesn't seem to be having all that much fun.

What about Joe Lieberman, Ceci?

CONNOLLY: Well, Wolf, he is clearly having more fun out there on the campaign trail. This past week, he had his first solo campaign swing in Spirit Airlines, which he joked in a church in Detroit: The Spirit literally moved me here.

Obviously, since he's been in elective politics all these years -- Cheney, of course, left politics several years ago -- Lieberman perhaps is just a little bit more current in terms of campaigning in the modern age. He's very relaxed. There is an almost a sort of I- am-pinching-myself-that-I'm-here quality about him. He keeps saying to these big crowds: I think I could get used to this.

So, at least for right now, he is having a good time out there.

BLITZER: Meagan, does Cheney seem to be happier when he's together with George W. Bush on the campaign trail or when he's on his own?

GARVEY: I actually have not traveled with him when he's been with Governor Bush. So I am not sure about that. I know that he does better in front of hometown audiences. Yesterday, they let us into a fund-raiser in Fort Lauderdale. He seemed much more at east ease when he was talking to the people inside that fund-raiser -- $1000-a-head fund-raiser -- than he did when he is out sort of among just regular people.

Earlier in the week, in Kansas City, he seemed almost incredibly uncomfortable when he spoke to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at their world headquarters there. He spoke for, I think, less than 10 minutes. It was sort a remarkable campaign event in that it almost seemed to not be a campaign event. BLITZER: Ceci, I know that the Gore campaign, the Gore-Lieberman campaign has some specific plans involving Lieberman in the weeks ahead. What have you been hearing?

CONNOLLY: Well the one thing actually that the vice president said to me just yesterday is that they will campaign together one day a week at minimum. And this is no accident, Wolf. What the Gore campaign is trying to do is replicate some of that sort of buddy-movie feel that we saw in 1992 when Bill Clinton tapped Al Gore.

And the two of them, the tableau of the two young men with their very beautiful wives, we see that image again. You saw it a lot in the Mississippi River cruise when they were joined together. They will be together for part of the big Labor Day weekend campaigning. And frankly, it's just plain a boost to Al Gore to, first of all, have his own deputy there who sings his praises, who enjoys joking around with him, is a peer.

It is a real psychological boost to Gore. And you see that translating on the campaign trail.

BLITZER: And I assume Lieberman will go to some of those battleground states, where presumably, he could generate some support for Al Gore, right?

CONNOLLY: That's absolutely right. What you hear from the Gore campaign strategists is a couple of things. First of all, they think that Lieberman does a really nice job of telling the Al-Gore-story. He can stand up there with credibly and say: Al Gore is a good husband, a good father. He volunteered for Vietnam. He is a man with integrity.

They like having Lieberman go out and tell that story. They also like the fact that Lieberman, as head of the Democratic Leadership Counsel, has some nice ties and openings into more of the centrist, kind of business community, some of those swing voters that we're always talking so much about. So they see him being able to sell that message to a couple of key groups.

BLITZER: Meagan, do you get a sense, covering Cheney, that he is already beginning to look ahead to that eventual debate or debates with Joe Lieberman?

GARVEY: He has said that he is looking forward to debating Joe Lieberman. And he makes a point of saying that he is a man of few words, he's a man from the West. He has told repeatedly the story about how, in the House of Representatives, they are limited to five minutes. And you know, Joe grew up in the Senate, where they make much longer speeches.

So, I think that may try to capitalize on his image as a straightforward Westerner -- not a lot of nonsense, and not a lot of hoopla. I think that in that sense, he believes it might actually work well for him, particularly in a debate, where he is very-well versed, very intelligent man, very well-spoken -- maybe not with the same kind of enthusiasm or boisterousness a Senator Lieberman, but certainly someone who knows what he is talking about.

BLITZER: All right, Meagan Garvey of the "Los Angeles Times," and Ceci Connolly of the "Washington Post," two of the best political reporters out there covering the vice presidential candidates, thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

GARVEY: Thank you.

CONNOLLY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Dick Cheney may be getting something of a reputation for not being a master of the photo-op, but he did appear to have some fun during a science experiment at a Florida school yesterday, when he seemed to try to prove that he is no Dan Quayle.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Drop an eye in each one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Let's find out. Let's just drop it in. Oh, not that one, guys.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, but we want you to tell the press core this is totally unrehearsed.



CHENEY: Just don't ask me to spell potato.



BLITZER: Cheney was of course referring to the former Vice President Dan Quayle's misspelling of potato during a campaign experience at a school.

And just ahead: Will New York voters choose Michael Forbes for one more term, or will his party affiliation get in the way?


BLITZER: While the presidential race steals the spotlight, the fight for control of the House of Representatives wages on. In New York, Congressman Michael Forbes faces an uphill reelection battle against the party he once belonged to.

Deborah Feyerick now with a field report from the Empire State's first Congressional district. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): Summer is winding down in the upscale Hamptons. And the politics of the rich-and-famous party circuit are giving way to the politics of campaign season.

REP. MICHAEL FORBES (D), NEW YORK: Yeah, it's Mike Forbes.

FEYERICK: Incumbent Mike Forbes won his last House race with 64 percent of the vote. That once-commanding lead has vanished, all because he changed parties from Republican to Democratic.

STUART ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": As a pro-life Democrat, recent party-switcher, Republicans feel nothing but animosity towards him. He's going to really have to fight for his life.

FEYERICK: Forbes says his cross-party experience is an asset.

FORBES: I have developed some very good relationship with Republicans and Democrats. And, you know, anything that gets done in Washington, it has to be bipartisan.

FEYERICK: Forbes left the GOP last year, calling it, in his words, angry, narrow-minded, intolerant and incapable of governing. The race has turned into a grudge match with House Republican leaders bent on revenge.

MARIT RABIN, SPOKESWOMAN, REPUBLICAN NATL. CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE: He really abandoned his principals and abandoned the people on Long Island.

FEYERICK: A feeling echoed by Republican challenger, Felix Grucci.

FELIX GRUCCI (R), NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The values of the people who elected him are not being represented. And my values, the values that I carry with me, are more in line with the constituents of the 1st Congressional District.

FEYERICK: The Brookhaven town supervisor and fireworks executive already has the backing of Republican, conservative, independent, and right-to-life parties. Meantime, top Democrats are working to reward Forbes. Even President Clinton, whom Forbes voted to impeach, held a Forbes fund-raiser.

JOHN DEL CECATO, DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: Our party is the party of inclusion. We're the party that reaches out, finds moderates from all walks of life and ensures that they have a home.

FEYERICK: And on the state level...


NARRATOR: And Mike Forbes is working to... (END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: ... running ads.

Republican voters here outnumber Democrats two-to-one. In 1992, George Bush won the district. But 1996, the win went to Bill Clinton, a shift Mike Forbes hope will get him reelected in his new party.

Debra Feyerick, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: For now, California's ballot will list Pat Buchanan as the candidate of the now-fractured Reform Party. Secretary of State Bill Jones added Buchanan to the ballot after Buchanan took legal action. Supporters of the other Reform Party nominee, John Hagelin, plan to challenge the decision.

Hagelin is already on the California ballot as the Natural Law Party candidate. Also today, Hagelin announced an alliance between the Law Party and the anti-Buchanan faction of the Reform Party.

And when we return, our Bill Schneider on why attendance is not required to earn a "Political Play of the Week."


SHAW: Vice President Al Gore is out on his own trying to seize that all-important momentum in this presidential race. And his high profile boss, for the most part, is nowhere to be seen.

Our Bill Schneider joins us now with more on that -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, remember back in 1992 -- you're old enough to remember that maybe -- well, President George Bush went racing around the world trying to shore up his international reputation and his critics made fun of him. They called it his "anywhere but America" tour.

Now President Clinton is doing the same thing, but this time, nobody's making fun of him. In fact, this time it's called the political "Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Clinton's not supposed to be relevant to this campaign. That's what Al Gore says.

GORE: And I stand here tonight as my own man.

SCHNEIDER: Don't kid yourself. President Clinton is highly relevant to this campaign. The question is, will it be Clinton the president, or Clinton the man? If it's about Clinton the president, Gore's likely to win. If it's about Clinton the man, so long, Al. Clinton knows this. So what's he doing? Clinton the man is staying out of the way. Clinton the president is doing his job. On Sunday, President Clinton was in Nigeria, calling on Africans to deal openly and honestly with that continent's catastrophic AIDS crisis.

CLINTON: We have to break the silence about how this disease spreads and how to prevent it.

SCHNEIDER: On Monday, the president was in Tanzania, endorsing Nelson Mandela's effort to negotiate a settlement to the vicious ethnic conflict in Burundi.

CLINTON: On Tuesday, he was in Egypt, trying to enlist Arab support for a Middle East peace deal.

SCHNEIDER: On Wednesday, President Clinton was half a world away, in Colombia, encouraging that country to fight drug production and curtail civil strife.

CLINTON: Our program is anti-drug and pro-peace.

SCHNEIDER: On Thursday, he was back in Washington. Uh-oh. Campaigning? Not exactly. Reassuring Americans he was still on the job.

CLINTON: There are already 30,000 federal, state and local personnel engaged in the effort to fight our wildfires, including four full military battalions.

SCHNEIDER: He also vetoed a Republican bill that would have eliminated estate taxes and used the occasion to remind voters of what's at stake in this election.

CLINTON: This bill is wrong. It is wrong on grounds of fairness. It is wrong on grounds of fiscal responsibility.

SCHNEIDER: Clinton's message? This is not about me. I'm not even around much anymore. This is about my record. Keep the spotlight on the record, not the man. That's how Clinton can help win the election for Gore and the political "Play of the Week" for himself.


SCHNEIDER: Woody Allen once said, "80 percent of life is showing up." Well, that's not true for President Clinton in this campaign; 80 percent of what he can do for Al Gore is not stick around.

BLITZER: But he did do something today in announcing he's going to defer the decision on the national defense system.

SCHNEIDER: That's right, and I think that was very clearly -- had some political motive. That had to part of it. He didn't want to make a major concession to George W. Bush, because Bush has been saying that the ABM Treaty, which would be violated by a missile defense system, is outmoded and shouldn't be defended anymore. Clinton didn't want to make that decision, because if he had proceeded with building the radar station, it would have killed the ABM Treaty, and that would have conceded Gore's point. He didn't want to do that.

BLITZER: All right, Bill Schneider, thank you for joining us. That's INSIDE POLITICS.

"WORLDVIEW" is next.



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