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Inside Politics

Al Gore Promises Action on Oil Prices; George W. Bush Criticizes Gore's Hollywood Fund Raising

Aired September 20, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I notice my opponent went out to Hollywood yesterday. It seems like he must be auditioning for a Broadway play because he keeps changing his tune.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush adds a new refrain to his theme of questioning Al Gore's character.

Also ahead...

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Gore revisits the soaring price of oil and his attacks on that industry.



HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm just glad that this is finally over. And I think that most New Yorkers and Americans had made up their mind a long time ago about this.


SHAW: Hillary Clinton clears a campaign hurdle with the release of a final report on the Whitewater probe.

ANNOUNCER: This is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw from Washington and Judy Woodruff from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.

We begin with Al Gore feeling some heat over the rising cost of oil and promising to take action.

As our Jonathan Karl reports, Gore's return to this issue is being fueled by some fellow Democrats and a new report on oil prices.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As oil prices hit a 10-year high, Vice President Gore is promising to do something about it.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to take action because the American people are being taken advantage of in an unfair way. OPEC needs to keep its promise, raise production and bring prices down on the world market. And the big oil companies that have seen their profits skyrocket this year many-fold, we need to respond there, too.

KARL: Gore would not give the details of his proposal, which will be released on Thursday. But higher fuel prices could jeopardize a central Gore campaign selling point: the strong economy.

(on camera): But this hike in oil prices has happened under the watch of the Clinton-Gore administration. Don't you bare some responsibility for what's happened?

GORE: We're going to take action. And the main question is whether or not we're going to have a policy that responds to what's happened with the big oil companies jacking up prices so high and OPEC thus far failing to keep its promise. And I will respond.

KARL (voice-over): The move comes as skyrocketing oil prices have prompted some of Gore's Democratic allies to demand the administration release oil from the 570-million-barrel strategic oil reserves controlled by the government.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The release of the petroleum reserve is important now. If you release it in another month, it won't make the difference.

KARL (on camera): Will you consider releasing oil out of the reserve?

GORE: I'm going to hold off until tomorrow when I make a speech about energy policy.

KARL (voice-over): The Bush campaign is warning the administration not to tap the reserves, which are meant for times of national crisis, to help Gore out of a short-term political bind. And at a town hall meeting in Pittsburgh, Bush placed the blame on the Clinton-Gore administration's lack of an energy policy. Bush said he would use diplomatic pressure to force OPEC to increase production.

BUSH: We need to be mindful of the power of a strong and consistent diplomacy and start playing those chips that we have earned in the past in a constructive way on behalf of American consumers.

KARL: Gore's latest move against oil companies is part of a "people versus the powerful" theme he has emphasized on a campaign swing in California, attacking HMOs and drug companies.

(on camera): With no more California fund-raisers on the horizon, Democratic officials are saying this could be Gore's last trip to the state. They say they are so confident that Gore will win here that they don't need to spend any more time or resources.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Sunnyvale, California.


SHAW: While Gore suggests he is ready to take on Big Oil, George W. Bush was slamming the vice president's dealings with another industry.

That story from our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Al Gore's money-raising trip to Hollywood has caught George Bush's attention in Pennsylvania.

BUSH: It seems like he must be auditioning for a Broadway play because he keeps changing his tune.

CROWLEY: The subject is last week's Federal Trade Commission report accusing the entertainment world of marketing adult-rated material to children. It was campaign ammo in the battle for middle- class moms and both presidential candidates were all over it. Bush called for bully-pulpit persuasion for industry officials and more vigilant parenting. Gore, in Chicago at the time, threatened government action if the industry didn't clean up its act. And then came some high-profile, lucrative Hollywood fund-raisers, providing what the Bush campaign sees as an opportunity to talk issues as a matter of character.

BUSH: At the beginning of the week, he sounded awfully tough on Hollywood. He talked about six months and sanctions and tough language. After a couple of fund-raisers, he's changing his tune. Going out there to Hollywood to collect some money, no longer is it six months and tough talk.

CROWLEY: The Gore campaign insists its message for the entertainment industry has been consistent no matter who's been in the audience or on the stage. As these things go, Bush's criticism was a pretty light tap; enough to keep the story out there, not enough to look mean and scare off swing voters. The heavier blows are left to Bush's newly aggressive vice-presidential nominee.

DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That night, he went to a big party where he raised millions of dollars from the same media moguls who are corrupting our children with images of violence and destruction.

CROWLEY: Bush spoke at a Pittsburgh town hall meeting -- one-on- ones with voters as the governor calls them. He uses them to put out his basic plan, generally with the help of a made-for-the-agenda family. Wednesday, a couple and their new baby came in handy for discussion of the $1,000-a-child tax credit.

BUSH: I'd rather have this family have the extra $500 than Al Gore and the planners and thinkers in Washington, D.C. CROWLEY: There are questions, but these are largely friendly forums with comfortable questions.

BUSH: I don't support fetal tissue research. I would sign a ban on partial-birth abortion.

CROWLEY: But the flow is interrupted periodically by a stumper.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just wondering if you could tell us your position on the reauthorization of the VAWA legislation?

BUSH: Of the what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: VAWA, Violence Against Women Act.

BUSH: Is it up for reauthorization now? I need to ask...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is, but it's currently being...

BUSH: ... give me the facts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... it's currently being held up by Republicans.

CROWLEY: For the record, most reporters were unfamiliar with the acronym or the status of the reauthorization. Bush asked for more information and promised a reply when he got it.

(on camera): As he searches for the middle-class swing vote, what Bush seeks here is a balance, talking issue specifics with voters in town hall meetings while taking the occasional hit on Al Gore when the opportunity presents itself.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Media, Pennsylvania.


SHAW: For the record, on the Violence Against Women Act, the Bush campaign later told reporters the governor does support reauthorization of its funding.

In another postscript to that story, Republican values advocate Bill Bennett is accusing his old friend, Joe Lieberman, of softening his criticism of Hollywood. The two previously had worked together to try to clean up popular culture. Bennett says he's "deeply disappointed" by Lieberman's recent remarks to members of the entertainment industry; so much so that the former education secretary says he is re-evaluating his praise of Sen. Lieberman's selection as Gore's running mate.

WOODRUFF: Now to a final act in a Washington drama, more complicated than many Hollywood script. After spending six years and nearly $60 million, independent counsel Robert Ray issued a final report on the Whitewater probe. It begat numerous investigations of President and Mrs. Clinton. According to a summary of the report, the president and first lady will not face any criminal charges related to their old Whitewater real estate venture in Arkansas because there was insufficient evidence to prove any wrongdoing.

In addition to the Whitewater land deal, the report closed the book on the investigation of Mrs. Clinton's work for the Rose Law Firm in Arkansas, and on her missing billing records, which later turned up at the White House.

Robert Ray, Ken Starr's successor as independent counsel, said the timing of the report had nothing to do with the upcoming election. But on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton welcomed the findings, even as her Senate rival tried to stir up a new bit of controversy.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick has more on the latest issues in the New York Senate race.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After reading the six-page Whitewater summary, Mrs. Clinton was confident the results would not damage her run for Senate.

H. CLINTON: I'm just glad that this is finally over, and I think that most New Yorkers and Americans had made up their mind a long time ago about this. And, you know, I think now everybody can just move on.

FEYERICK: For Mrs. Clinton, the timing, so close to the election, could have been politically devastating. Several New Yorkers who support the first lady say they would have had to reconsider their vote if the independent counsel had found evidence she committed a crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'd see a trend or, you know, that they're not altogether, you know, straight and narrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would have to really examine the parameters concerning that because she may have been implicated inadvertently or things of that nature. It may not have been her fault.

FEYERICK: Republican candidate Rick Lazio has made trust and character central to the Senate campaign. But rather than target Mrs. Clinton for her Whitewater involvement, Lazio focused on character and soft money, picking up on this exchange during last week's debate.


RICK LAZIO (R), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm asking you to sign it.

H. CLINTON: Well, I would be happy to when you give me the signed letters...

LAZIO: Well, right here.


FEYERICK: Lazio got those signed letters, 14 of them, including one from the Republican National Committee.

LAZIO: It comes right down to the ultimate test of character in this race, whether your word means anything. Mrs. Clinton should today put her soft money where her mouth is and follow through on her commitments to eradicate the poison of dirty money from this Senate race.

CLINTON: I'm going to ask my campaign immediately to meet with his and figure out if what he's offered is compatible with the requests that I've been making for months. And we'll get to work on that right away.

FEYERICK: Ms. Clinton's outside backers have spent 12 times as much as those for Lazio. According to Competitive Media Reporting, a CNN consultant, the New York state Democratic Party has spent over $4 million on Clinton ads in the top five markets since June 1. That's compared to Lazio backers, who have spent $350,000.

Rick Lazio gave Mrs. Clinton 72 hours to make good, saying if her soft money ads were not pulled by then, the deal was off. The challenge, if unmet, could give Mr. Lazio heavy ammunition for the next seven weeks before the election.

(on camera): So while Mrs. Clinton started the day with one potential problem, she ended the day with another, all eyes watching to see whether she'll pull the ads that have been so vital to her campaign.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


SHAW: And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS:


PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the most part, residents of this state strongly support the Second Amendment. But then something monumental happened right in their backyard.


SHAW: Pat Neal on an event that may have turned the tide on a gun initiative in Colorado.


WOODRUFF: With candidates and political parties raising unprecedented amounts of money this election year, one in particular is announcing some eye-popping numbers today. The Republican National Committee had a staggering $63 million in the bank going into the fall campaign, smashing all previous records for political parties at this point in the election cycle.

That is according to the party's monthly report, filed today with the Federal Election Commission. About half of the cash on hand is so-called soft money. The other half is the more tightly regulated hard money. By contrast, the party had about $5 million in the bank at this point back in 1996.

The Democratic National Committee does not file its report until October. But a spokeswoman said that the party quote -- "will have the funds we need to be able to compete" -- end quote.

SHAW: With the vice president running for the top job, and a George Bush on the Republican ticket, this race might seem a little familiar. As our Bill Schneider joins us now to explain, it's more than just the names that makes it seem like we've been here before -- Bill

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Bernie, you have heard the phrase,"deja vu," the feeling that you have been here and done this before. Well, it turns out there is a good reason why the 2000 campaign seems familiar. We've been here and done this before!


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Go back to 1988: a governor versus an incumbent vice president -- just like this year -- only, that year, the governor was the Democrat and the vice president was the Republican. And just to make it interesting, the vice president's name was George Bush.

Look at the polls in 1988. Governor Dukakis was the clear front- runner going into the conventions. "We're going to win," Democrats chanted at their Atlanta convention. And sure enough, Dukakis came out of the convention with an absolute majority of the vote, 17 points ahead of the vice president: 54 percent for Dukakis, 37 percent for Bush.

Then the Republicans met in New Orleans. Bush named Dan Quayle as his running mate. The press turned into a howling mob, and look what happened. Bush erased Dukakis's lead. By mid-September, bush was eight points ahead of Dukakis. Now look at the polls in 2000. This year, Governor Bush was the front-runner going into the conventions. Republicans were bursting with optimism at their Philadelphia convention.

And sure enough, Bush came out of the convention with an absolute majority of the vote, 17 points ahead of the vice president: 54 percent for Bush and 37 percent for Gore. Then the Democrats met in Los Angeles and -- yes, you guessed it -- Gore erased Bush's lead. Now it's mid-September and Gore is six points ahead of Bush.

What's going on here? Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo. Parallel political situations to begin with, peace and prosperity, a president with high job ratings. President Reagan's were around 50 percent in 1988. President Clinton's job ratings are even higher this year, close to 60. Vice presidents who are not seen as strong leaders, but who use their conventions to declare their independence and then take off. In 1988, voters decided they could get what they wanted from the vice president: a change of leadership, but not a change of direction. What does that portend for the rest of the 2000 campaign? By late October, Vice President Bush had broken through the magic 50 percent mark. He ended up beating Dukakis 54 to 46. How close is Gore to a majority of the vote? Right now, he's at 49 percent.


SCHNEIDER: There are some differences between the two elections, of course. President Reagan was personally very popular, while President Clinton is not. But Gore's running mate, Joe Lieberman, seems to be less of a problem than Dan Quayle was for Vice President Bush in 1988. Bush is now running on the theme: "Real Plans for Real People." Do you know what Dukakis's campaign theme was in 1988: "Real Jobs for Real People."

Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo -- Bernie.

SHAW: Deja vu.


SHAW: Bill Schneider, thank you.

The Gore campaign is admitting to a musical misstep that occurred when the vice president was formally endorsed by the Teamsters on Monday.


GORE: My father was one of the first commissioners of labor in the state of Tennessee. And our family came into public service by that route. And, you know, I still remember the lullabies that I heard as a child:

(singing): Look for the union label...


GORE: It's just...


SHAW: But the problem, as "USA Today" points out, that "look for the union label" was not written until 1975, when Al Gore was 27 years old. Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway says the vice president misstated, and he was actually sung -- was actually sung an older song: "Don't forget the union label." That song was written in 1901.

WOODRUFF: A little bit of history there.

Much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come: Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson on the issues big and small. Plus, the race state by state: Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook on the polls and the electoral outlook.

And later:






WOODRUFF: The Democrats decide on a candidate in their bid to catch a Senate seat in Washington state.


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

The U.S. Coast Guard says it plans to transfer eight survivors of yesterday's Cuban plane crash from the Panamanian freighter that plucked them from international waters onto a U.S. ship. Another survivor is in a U.S. hospital, which means that he could qualify for political asylum. One person was killed in the crash. An FBI official says, as of now, yesterday's incident does not appear to be a hijacking, as Cuba claims.

National elections in Yugoslavia are just four days away. The race everyone's watching is the presidential race. Right now, most polls show Slobodan Milosevic trailing the main opposition candidate. The Yugoslav president, who has been indicted on war crimes charges for alleged atrocities in Kosovo, has spent much of the day campaigning in the rebellious republic of Montenegro.

SHAW: The United Nations is extending its peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone. The Security Council voted today to keep the mission in place through December. But a vote to expand the peacekeeping force to more than 20,000 troops was delayed. Right now, 13,000 peacekeepers are in Sierra Leone.

A grim prediction for consumers: Oil heating bills could jump 20-30 percent this winter. That's what an energy policy expert today told a meeting of the nation's governors, a prediction that is similar to forecasts by the Energy Department. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson met with New England lawmakers. They discussed options such as freeing up more money to help low-income Americans pay their heating bills, and tapping into oil reserves.


REP. RICHARD NEAL (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The consensus that we acknowledged in the room today was that there is a national emergency, that the president should strike the strategic petroleum reserve, we should increase the Leahy program, but that the emergency is on now. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Oil prices have jumped to decade highs: October crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange hitting a new peak of $37.80 a barrel.

WOODRUFF: Jitters over rising oil prices are partially blamed for another rocky day on the New York Stock Exchange. The Dow Jones industrial average ended the day down about 101 points at 3897. Earlier in the day, the blue-chip index tumbled more than 200 points. For details on the business day, tune in for CNN's "MONEYLINE." That's at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, 3:30 Pacific.

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate from North Dakota announced today she has cancer. Heidi Heitkamp says she is not dropping out of the governor's race, but she will have to miss some campaign events. Doctors found cancer cells in one of Heitkamp's lymph nodes. But they say it's too soon to speculate on the extent of her illness.

SHAW: When INSIDE POLITICS returns: Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook on the presidential race and the electoral map.


WOODRUFF: Now, to the third-party presidential candidates on the trail. The Reform Party's Pat Buchanan tried to beef up support for his campaign today by visiting a market in Cleveland, Ohio, although Buchanan admitted to reporters that his chances of winning probably are 100-to-1.

And in Wisconsin, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader said he does not have any illusion that he will be the victor on election day. But Nader says he does expect the Green Party to emerge as a growing watchdog against the two-party political system.

48 days before Americans vote for president, the two major party candidates remain in a close race. Our daily tracking poll shows Al Gore leading George W. Bush by six points, 49 percent to 43 percent, which represents little change since the start of the week.

SHAW: And to find out how those candidates are faring when it comes to electoral votes, I sat down with Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report" and Charlie Cook of "The National Journal," and I asked what the electoral map shows now.


STUART ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Well, now we've had a significant reversal, Bernie, from a number of weeks ago. I now have Gore with 244 electoral college votes to 179 for Governor Bush. A few weeks ago, I actually had Bush with a slight advantage. But there have been some significant changes in the map and that's helped the vice president.

SHAW: Let's take a look at how they stand. Which states are safe for Bush?

ROTHENBERG: Well, let's start with Gore. Let's start with Gore's safe and likely states, and these are the core Democratic states, New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota. In addition California is in there.

You may recall months ago there was some discussion of California in play. I never really believed it was. Republicans insisted, yes, it would be. But it's clearly in the vice president's camp.

SHAW: And what do you have leaning Gore's way?

ROTHENBERG: Well, leaning, I mean, I think that's an interesting category. There are a number of states. There are a number of big battleground states now: Illinois, Pennsylvania and Michigan I've moved in there. Delaware in there. I've repeatedly emphasized that that may not be a lot of electoral votes, but it's a good indicator of how things are moving nationally.

So, that's really where we see the Gore advantage in this leaning category.

SHAW: And Governor Bush?

ROTHENBERG: Bush safe and likely states primarily in the South, the mountain states. We're talking about very reliable Republican states that Senator Dole and former President Bush won even in 1992. This is the Republican core.

SHAW: Do you have any surprising toss-ups?

ROTHENBERG: Well, yes, I think there are some. First, let me just mention in terms of Bush leans, I still have Ohio and Arizona in there, even though there are some polls that suggest that those states are deadheats. But in terms of the toss-ups, I now have moved Florida in there, in addition to Georgia and Colorado.

SHAW: Really?

ROTHENBERG: I think that reflects the state polling and the overall national numbers. I still have Missouri in there as a toss- up. There are some surveys, public surveys that have Gore ahead by a few points, some others that have the race a deadheat. And there are still some traditionally Democratic states that are still in the toss- up category, states like Oregon and Wisconsin, for example.

SHAW: Charlie, Stu alluded to the polls. Given the polls, where does this race stand now?

CHARLES COOK, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Most of the polls are showing Gore with a lead of somewhere between 3 and 8 percentage points. I mean, yes, there's a Princeton "Newsweek" poll that's got it at 14 points. There's a Battleground poll that's got the race even or Bush up by a point or so. But the vast majority of the polls are right in that middle range, 3 to 8 points, and I think that's where the race really is today. SHAW: Enthusiasm for the candidates: How would you both assess it?

COOK: I've been talking to some campaign consultants on both sides that are saying that they're seeing a lack of or a lowering in the enthusiasm level, the energy levels of some Republican voters, that in some polls they're saying the party identification numbers of Republicans dropping down. They're seeing the generic ballot test, "Would you vote for a Democrat or Republican for Congress?" dropping a little bit for Republicans, signs that maybe some disillusionment is setting in amongst Republican voters. It could be very dangerous if it continues.

ROTHENBERG: Yes, but definitely there are signs of Republican pessimism, and I think you can see this in a couple of areas. One is I get deluged with faxes about these polls showing Bush up by 2 or 3 points. And this is the panic of the Republicans to say, look, this is not a Gore lead, Bush is actually leading, which is I think silly if you look at the state polls and most of the reliable national polls.

In addition, Republican strategists are saying that they've seen some softening in the Republican Senate and the House numbers, and they think it's a result of some confusion at the top of the ticket.

COOK: The thing is we have 4 1/2 more weeks to go before this election, and more than that. And this is a long way to go. But I think a lot of people are sort of getting ahead of themselves a little bit and acting like the race is over.

I think pessimism is starting to set in, and that -- you know, there's a danger there for Republicans to form the circular firing squad, that, you know, at some point there will be a story that unnamed Republican congressional leadership members or staffer are predicting that -- you know, I'm just making this up -- that, you know, their numbers show, their pollsters tell them that they'll lose seven to 13 seats in the House and four Senator if Bush continues to go the way he is. And then Austin goes to DEFCON 5 and starts attacking. And it just gets to be a meltdown.

ROTHENBERG: But that's why this Bush attempt at counterattack, starting with Oprah Winfrey, is so important. And the polls are not a blowout. This is not a 15-point race, and we have a long way to go here. And Bush has certainly been through a terrible, terrible period. It's hard to imagine him going through another terrible four weeks.

COOK: Yes. I mean, not since Michael Dukakis left this business has a presidential candidate in a general election had three or four bad weeks like this. Now, Bush has put together a couple of good days in a row, and you know, and the fact that he's only, you know, 3 to 8 points down after three or four horrible weeks means that he's still in this fight.

SHAW: Speaking of races, interesting primary results in Washington state. ROTHENBERG: Right. Two Republican incumbents, U.S. Senator Slade Gorton in the 5th district, Congressman Nethercutt well under 50 percent in this open primary. That's always a bad sign. The Democrats got the candidate who most people believe would be stronger in the general election, Maria Cantwell.

And in the fifth district, this is really George Nethercutt not only against the Democratic Party and his Democratic opponent, but also against U.S. Term Limits, which will once again begin advertising against him very, very shortly.

COOK: You know, one statistic, that since 1992, seven of the eight House incumbents in Washington state that came in under 50 percent ended up losing. And so this is a really dangerous sign for George Nethercutt. And the thing is he's not running against a Democrat really. He's running against his own term limits pledge, and that's -- that's causing him -- the Democrat's actually very weak, but Nethercutt's got big problems.

SHAW: OK. Stu and Charlie, thank you.

ROTHENBERG: Thanks, Bernie.


WOODRUFF: I always learn a lot when I listen to them.

Well, we have more now on that Washington Senate race as Don Knapp takes a closer look at Maria Cantwell's win in the Democratic primary yesterday and the matchup ahead.


DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maria Cantwell, a millionaire and former member of Congress, campaigned in every one of Washington's 39 counties.

Here she catches a salmon at Seattle's popular Pike Place Market.

The environment, jobs, health care and prescription drugs are key issues in her campaign to become a U.S. senator.

MARIA CANTWELL (D-WA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: And people want to move ahead. They want to continue the great economy we've had in the Northwest. But they believe we do that by investing in people and in our environment.

KNAPP: State Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn campaigned on almost exactly the same issues as her opponent, but voters chose Maria Cantwell by a ratio of 3-to-1. Now, the much tougher battle begins between Cantwell and the state's three-term Republican senator, Slade Gorton.

SEN. SLADE GORTON (R), WASHINGTON: It's no secret that this is going to be a hotly contested general election campaign. I've never had one that was not. But the differences between me and Maria Cantwell are profound.

She represents the old attitudes toward government that the way to progress is more taxes.

KNAPP: The loser in the Democratic primary, Deborah Senn, threw her support to Maria Cantwell.



KNAPP: But political scientist Bryan Jones isn't so sure.

BRYAN JONES, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: ... add Senn and Cantwell together, it exceeds Gorton's vote. But this is -- since the turnout is so different between the primary and the general election, I'd be hard-pressed to speculate that Gorton's in a great deal of trouble.

KNAPP (on camera): Challenger Cantwell has a reported net worth of $40 million and spent 5.1 million of her own money on her campaign. If the record primary spending is any indication, the general election could be a very expensive contest.

Don Knapp, CNN, Seattle, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And when we return, Colorado voters and an election- year issue.


SHAW: Taking a look, now, at the latest state polls: Al Gore has taken the lead over George W. Bush in the Republican-leaning state of Arizona. Gore is nine points ahead in the Grand Canyon state poll of likely voters.

It's neck-and-neck in the battleground state of Ohio, where Bush is leading by four points in the latest Ohio poll of likely voters.

Bush is holding on to a slim lead in North Carolina. He's five points ahead of Gore in a new Mason-Dixon survey of likely voters. And Bush has a whopping 25-point lead in Dick Cheney's home state of Wyoming according to a Mason-Dixon survey of likely voters there.

And, likewise, Gore has a 19-point lead in Joe Lieberman's home state of Connecticut according to a Quinipiac University poll.

WOODRUFF: In November, Colorado voters will not only make their choice for president, they will also decide a key issue.

Amendment 22 would close the so-called gun-show loophole by requiring background checks. Today, state gun owners filed an appeal in their attempt to remove the issue from the ballot.

But, as Pat Neal reports, residents of this Western state may have a new perspective on the issue of gun control.



NEAL (voice-over): Welcome to the annual Snyder, Colorado Bible Church shoot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Line it up. Whenever you're ready, you shoot, OK?

NEAL: Preacher Rich Dunn (ph) is handing down a family tradition to his 5-year-old son, Jonathan (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey! Go get the can now.

Take a look there.

NEAL: Guns, hunting and shooting are a natural part of life here for many on Colorado's prairie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it kind of became part of, at least, my father-son relationship, was to go hunting every year, and that, kind of, gave us something to do together, like maybe people in the city would go to athletic events or sporting events.



NEAL: For the most part, residents of this state strongly support the Second Amendment.

But then something monumental happened right in their backyard.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: And it sounded like heavy shots, as in a long rifle or some kind of an automatic weapon, so we know that we definitely have victims here.

NEAL: The killings at Columbine High School outside Denver last year changed the way many feel about guns. The tragedy changed Tom Mauser's life.

TOM MAUSER, SAFE COLORADO: My son Daniel was killed at Columbine High School, and we're going to close the gun-show loophole in Colorado.


NEAL: Mauser took a leave of absence from his job to push a state ballot initiative. It would require background checks on all firearms purchased at gun shows. Similar efforts in the Colorado Legislature and Congress did not pass.

Currently in Colorado, a background check is only required when buying a gun from a licensed dealer. MAUSER: People who bought the guns for the killers at Columbine traveled over 20 miles to buy those guns. They went to a gun show, they didn't go to a gun dealer.

They went to where they would not have left a record, they would not leave a trace -- there'd be no questions asked.

(chanting): Save our kids! Save our kids!

NEAL: Mauser found support from the Million Mom March organization, which captured national attention with its demonstration on Washington against gun violence.

The group chose Denver for its first national conference.

But the initiative does have strong opposition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're under assault right now, and we feel like the Jews did in Nazi Germany.

NEAL: Gun owners like Dudley Brown (ph) say the initiative would rob them of a basic freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It creates a registration of gun owners, and we think that's the next step toward confiscation.

NEAL: Proponents say that's not their goal.

(on camera): The measure has bipartisan support, including many gun owners.

Current polls show Colorado residents overwhelmingly back this initiative.

(voice-over): So far, more than $100,000 has poured into Colorado from national gun control groups.



NEAL: But at least five groups are fighting the initiative, including the NRA, which just sent $75,000. More NRA money is expected to mount a full offensive on radio and television.

National gun groups say this is one measure they have every intention of shooting down.


Pat Neal, CNN, Snyder, Colorado.


WOODRUFF: Still ahead, talk shows, prescription drugs and the presidential race: Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson with their thoughts on the latest from the campaigns.


SHAW: The Republicans, apparently, are leaving no stone or compact disk unturned as they try to make an issue of the Democrats' Hollywood connections.

The Bush camp is trying to tie Al Gore to a compact disk handed out in a gift bag during the Democratic Convention at a luncheon honoring Congresswoman Nita Lowey of New York.

The CD in question, "Daisies of the Galaxy" by the Eels, reportedly features cartoon children on the cover, but it contains obscene song lyrics. The Bush camp notes that the CD was produced by Dreamworks, whose founders, including Steven Spielberg, are among Gore's most famous contributors.

WOODRUFF: And joining us now from Washington, Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine and Tucker Carlson of "The Weekly Standard."

Hello to you both.

All right. We have George W. Bush on "Oprah" yesterday. A week ago, Al Gore was on "Oprah." I think it's Regis Philbin tomorrow for Governor Bush.

Is this the way to get at the women's vote, Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, it seems a -- sort of a vulgar way to do it. I mean, there is just so much kissing and I am against it. All this public display of affection, I think we need some sort of anti-PDA rule in politics, kind of like in high school.

But I mean -- look. People are saying almost up-front that the kiss at the Democratic convention and the -- the displays that both candidates put on, on "Oprah" are somehow winning over female voters. And one hates to think that that's actually true. And so officially I'm not going to believe it.

WOODRUFF: Margaret?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": I don't know who came up with the measurement of -- of the kiss at the convention. I mean, Gore's -- Gore's ratings went up, but not necessarily because of the kiss. Who knows whether it was his, you know, prescription drug policy or the kiss?

And we've descended -- and I say it's a -- it's a -- it's a rapid descent -- from the "Year of the Woman" in 1992, when six women were elected senators, to the "Year of the Kiss." And this is how you get women's votes?

It's such an insult. I mean, going on "Oprah" shouldn't get you anything unless you say something on "Oprah."

WOODRUFF: But wait a minute. Women and some men do watch "Oprah Winfrey." Certainly a lot of people watch "Regis," and -- and some of these other programs. David Letterman. I mean, why...

M. CARLSON: Right, but there was nothing -- these are not programs. Bush said he was coming back to issues. Remember that, Judy? This is the week of issues? And what he's doing is planting a big one on Oprah's cheek and talking new-age babble? That's not issues.

I don't think there was anything about issues on "Oprah." It would be fine to go on "Oprah" and describe, you know, what you intend to do as president...

T. CARLSON: But then -- and there's also sort of a groveling, really. I mean, both candidates sort of went to "Oprah" as supplicants. I mean, they really did. And there was -- there's this remarkable photograph on the -- on the front page of "The Washington Post" this morning that has Bush leaning in intently, smooching Oprah, and Oprah's sort of looking off in this sort of "I run the world" way, and maybe it's an accurate reflection of the way things really are.

M. CARLSON: Yes, yes, it was like the cover of a bodice-ripping romance novel.


And -- which reminds me, you know, authors go on "Oprah" to hawk their books because they know they'll be the bestsellers if they could just get on "Oprah." And it's kind, you know, down there to be hawking your presidency that way, unless you're going to go on there and be serious.

T. CARLSON: And it doesn't end here. I mean, I don't think there's any question that "Jerry Springer" will be next. And why not? Honestly. Or why not WWF? It's the highest-rated cable program...

M. CARLSON: Yes, yes. Go Rock!

T. CARLSON: Well, sure. The people watch this. I don't know. If that is the criterion, you know, what do people watch, then you can get pretty low pretty quick.

M. CARLSON: Right. Judy, it's so...

WOODRUFF: We want them both -- we want them both on INSIDE POLITICS, so keep talking.


M. CARLSON: No, I was going to say, Judy, it's so important that the Bush people were putting out yesterday that they were swamped with calls saying how great George W. Bush had done on the "Oprah Winfrey Show." However, they were saying this when the show had only aired in Chicago and nowhere else, so we -- they could have hardly been getting calls from around the country, which this is a more ridiculous aspect of this, where they're warring who got better ratings on "Oprah."

WOODRUFF: Tucker, what about the Bush declaration, so to speak, that he is going to focus -- or focus again on issues, and not on the other things he was talking about?

T. CARLSON: The character thing. Well, I think, you know, I think it's probably a pretty clever strategy. I mean, there's this general sense that the character attacks haven't worked. I'm not sure that's true. But I think it's plausible that the Bush people could pull within -- I mean, they're at a natural disadvantage on issues. That probably is true.

I don't see why they couldn't pull within -- to within five -- say five, three or five points of Gore on issues, and then at that point perhaps the character thing could make a difference. And that may be why, at the same time they're talking about issues, this week, they're also talking a lot about Al Gore's dog, Shiloh, and the apparently phony claims he made about Shiloh's drug regimen.

And they think this is the key to getting voters to recognize the fact that Al Gore's a phony and a liar.

WOODRUFF: Margaret...

M. CARLSON: I mean, the problem is that what they said about Shiloh isn't untrue. I mean, it didn't -- they didn't...


No. Listen, you play -- you pay two to three times as much for the same drug if you are getting it through your insurance program as you do from a vet. But he's -- leave that...

T. CARLSON: Well, I mean, I don't know Shiloh, but I think -- the specifics were wrong, though, I think.

M. CARLSON: But I think it may be off by a few cents, but $2.31 cents versus 92 cents. It's kind of close to three times. But as you can see, I'm very upset about this pandering to women thing, because you announced you're going to do issues. Eighteen months into the campaign, you announce you're going to talk about issues, as if OK, this is a change of strategy.

Well, why would -- to get the women's vote. But then you go and you just say the same old stuff. It's not as if, you know, George Bush is being a serious person when he simply announces it -- I mean, when you haven't been doing it.

T. CARLSON: Well, it's a bit heavy-handed. On the other hand, you know, they have been issuing paper after paper after paper on issues, and at some point, it's up to the public to read them, I think.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you all one final thing about the Whitewater report essentially saying: We don't have enough information here to do anything with it. After all these months and all of this money, is it -- does it just go away in a wisp and we never hear of it again, as far as Mrs. Clinton is concerned?

M. CARLSON: Not with a bang, but a whimper. It does seem like an awful lot to do, and to go on yet further -- remember Robert Ray went on I don't know how long after Starr, with many millions more dollars to come up with, well, we just don't have enough.

And you know, most of us could have told him that a couple years ago.


T. CARLSON: But the -- the language is not -- I mean, it's not, you know, out-and-out exculpatory. It's not like, you know, they never did anything nothing wrong. It's like "We can't send them to prison at the moment, so we're not going to."

I mean, I think -- you know, it's amazing how quickly the White House jumped on, you know, the official document here as somehow, you know, absolving the Clintons completely, though it did technically. You know, if it had said anything else, they would have attacked it as partisan and unfair and mean.

WOODRUFF: All right...

M. CARLSON: But Judy, you know if they could have indicted, they would have indicted.

WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there.

Margaret Carlson, Tucker Carlson, thank you both.

And that is all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's

And we'll see you again tomorrow when George W. Bush will be on the campaign trail in New York, Ohio and Tennessee, and Al Gore will be campaigning in Maryland.

SHAW: And this programming note: The Whitewater report will be the topic tonight on "CROSSFIRE" at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The guests will be two members of the House Judiciary Committee: Democrat Robert Wexler and Republican Bob Barr.

I'm Bernard Shaw.

Judy, we'll leave the light on for you here.

WOODRUFF: Thanks. And I'll be back tomorrow. I'm Judy Woodruff.

"WORLDVIEW" coming up next.



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