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Inside Politics

Gore and Bush Square Off Over Politics of Oil; Talk Show Circuit Becoming More and More Popular Among Presidential Candidates

Aired September 21, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you should never have to depend on the good will of the big oil companies just to heat your home or drive down the highway.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore responds to soaring fuel prices by endorsing a rare dip into the nation's emergency oil reserves.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It should not be used for short-term political gain at the cost of long-term national security.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush blasts Gore's proposal, even as Democrats hammer on the GOP ticket's ties to big oil.



HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you're Al Gore or George W. Bush, would you rather face these major league journalists, or this major league superstar?


JUDY WOODRUFF: Howard Kurtz on the "Oprah"-ization of campaign 2000.

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

SHAW: Thank you for joining us.

We begin with Al Gore, trying to get out in front of an issue that is ratcheting up as oil prices climb and November draws near. CNN's Jonathan Karl has details on Gore's plan of action and attack, and why it has opened the door to accusations that the vice president is playing oil politics.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Faced with the highest oil prices in a decade, Vice President Gore proposed tapping into government oil reserves meant to be used only in times of national emergency. Gore made his proposal as he launched a new attack on Big Oil.

GORE: And I promise you this: If I am president, I am going to stand up to Big Oil and demand fairer gasoline prices for our families and an end to unfair profiteering.

KARL: Gore called on his own administration to start selling oil, in five million barrel increments, out of the strategic petroleum reserves, and to keep making the sales until the extra supply lowers oil prices.

It's an extraordinary step. But just seven months ago, Gore said he doubted such a move would be effective in lowering prices.

GORE: OPEC has such big reserves, all they would have to do is to cut back a little bit on the supply, and they'd wipe out any impact from releasing oil from that reserve. But that will also be studied. It's not under active consideration right now.

KARL: The Gore campaign says times have changed: oil prices jumping another $7 per barrel, to their highest level in 10 years, prices high enough to have ripple effects jeopardizing the economic prosperity Gore is counting on to help propel him into the White House.

Internally, the White House has been divided on tapping the reserves. Less than two weeks ago, Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers told the president in a memo that the move -- quote -- "would be a major and substantial policy mistake."

But the Summers' memo was in response to a proposal to sell 60 million barrels from the reserve, not Gore's idea of selling oil five million barrels at a time. On Thursday, Summers said the vice president's idea is -- quote -- "now on the table." In addition to tapping the reserves, Gore proposed $400 million in aid to help low- income families buy home oil this winter and $600 million in temporary tax credits for home oil companies to increase their supplies.

(on camera): As Gore tries to minimize political fallout from rising fuel prices, the Gore campaign is working overtime to try to remind voters of George W. Bush's and Dick Cheney's close personal and political ties to the oil industry.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: Well, George W. Bush isn't letting his own oil connections prevent him from slamming Gore's proposals to ease fuel prices.

Our Candy Crowley is traveling with Bush.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Bush finds two things wrong with Al Gore's idea to use the nation's strategic oil reserve to combat high oil prices. It's a bad idea, done for the wrong reasons.

BUSH: The strategic reserves is an insurance policy meant for a sudden disruption of our energy supply or for war. Strategic reserve should not be used as an attempt to drive down oil prices right before an election. It should not be used for short-term political game at the cost of long-term national security.

CROWLEY: On a quick campaign strike into Ohio, Bush was in a Cleveland electronic packing firm. Opening a town hall meeting, he said if the U.S. dipped into the reserve, any oil producing nation could simply cut back supply and prices would rise again. Al Gore, Bush noted, used to think that too.

BUSH: Now that we are 47 days away from election, he has changed his mind and is ignoring his own advice.

CROWLEY: In the short term, Bush says he would put more money into a federal program which helps needy families pay their oil and gas bills.

BUSH: And on the foreign policy front, we need to work with our friends and allies in OPEC, as well as energy producing countries in our own hemisphere to ensure greater stability in our oil markets and energy markets.

CROWLEY: He sees diplomacy as key. President Bush sent the U.S. to war to help Kuwait fight off Iraq, to protect Saudi Arabia and other countries from further aggression and to protect U.S. oil interests.

Now, says the son, we need to remind our oil-producing friends who their friend is. In the long run, Bush favors more aggressive exploration in the U.S. for oil, gas and other fuel alternatives, something he says can be done in a way that protects the environment.

BUSH: America still has no plan to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and my opponent doesn't seem to have any plan to make us less dependent on overseas production.

CROWLEY: The whole subject of energy, in particular, oil, is a delicate matter for Bush, as a former oil man who now governs a state with mega-oil interests. When he took on running mate Dick Cheney, former head of a firm which provided oil field services worldwide, Democrats derided the duo as a big oil ticket. (on camera): To be sure, both men have close ties to the oil industry, and their campaign coffers reflect it. The result is a mixed picture. Bush and Cheney come to the issue with a perception of both authority and baggage.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Cleveland.


SHAW: The Bush campaign's attacks on Gore's oil policy are being echoed by Republicans on the Hill today.

CNN's Chris Black reports on today's House hearing and what is at issue, politically.


CHRIS BLACK, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Capitol Hill, Republicans are blaming the Clinton-Gore administration for rising fuel prices. With home heating oil prices expected to hit $1.31 a gallon this winter, even a moderate Republican from New England got in his licks.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: The Energy Department, which doesn't have other distractions, I'm just interested why it wasn't giving the clarion call that we were going to be having this problem. Why -- as you admit, Mr. Richardson, why were -- why was the administration caught flat-footed on this?

BLACK: Putting the administration's top energy man on the defensive.

BILL RICHARDSON, SECRETARY OF ENERGY: This is a political campaign. I am the secretary of Energy for the Clinton-Gore administration. I'm not interested in blaming anybody. I want to fix the problem.

BLACK: Last March, Richardson came out against using oil from the Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserve.


RICHARDSON: The reserve is very special. It's used for national emergencies: the Gulf War. I don't want to use it every time we need to interfere in the market.


BLACK: Now he says everything is on the table, and Mr. Clinton, under pressure from Democrats representing the Northeast, Al Gore's strongest region, will make a decision within days. The battle is drawn along regional rather than party lines. Northeastern Republicans favor more, not less, regulation to guarantee their constituents adequate and affordable supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: It will be snowing very soon, and I don't think my people are concerned who's right and who's wrong.

BLACK: But Republicans are also accusing the administration of putting environmental roadblocks before increased domestic oil and gas production.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: We need a policy that will help us become more self-sufficient. We have enormous deposits of oil and gas that are off-limits.

BLACK: The Clinton administration officials say the Republican Congress has refused to approve their proposals for programs to increase energy efficiency and conservation.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSWOMAN: If Congress had fully funded past requests for EPA's Energy Star programs, electricity demand this summer could have been up to 3,000 megawatts lower than it is currently.


BLACK: In an election year, rising fuel prices are politically untenable. With Congress due to leave town in just weeks, there is little time for congressional action, but a desire on both sides to dodge the blame -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Chris Black, on the Hill.

Now, some facts about that strategic petroleum reserve that Vice President Gore wants the nation to tap into. It was created in Louisiana back in 1975 to moderate oil supplies and price spikes during the energy crisis of that era.

The reserve has been used only once before by former President George Bush during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. If the entire reserve were tapped, it could replace a little more than two months of oil imports.

WOODRUFF: And let's discuss oil policy and politics with former Congressman Joe Kennedy, he's now chairman of a non-profit group which provides low-cost heating oil to the elderly and the poor; Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas; and Carola Hoyos of "The Financial Times."

Thank you all for being with us. Senator Hutchison, to you first. Is this move, this suggestion by the vice president to tap 5 million barrels at a time out of the strategic petroleum reserve, a good idea?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: It's not a good idea, it's not a policy at all, Judy. In fact, it would leave us -- well, let me just say, if he did too little, it wouldn't help affect the prices, and if he does too much, it really will affect our security. The one time it's been used is in war. If we did start depleting that reserve, Saddam Hussein would see it, and what if he said, 'OK, we're just not going to produce at all? Or we're not going to export to America or through Europe or through Mexico or anything else?' They would put -- have us in a security-risk position. It would be outrageous for us to do that. What we need to do is have domestic production, so that we control our own destiny.

WOODRUFF: Joe Kennedy, is that the solution? And is the vice president wrong, as the senator says?

JOE KENNEDY, CHMN., CITIZENS ENERGY CORP.: Well, I've been in the oil business now for over 20 years. And I tell you, it's news to me that anybody who uses a barrel of oil here in the United States cares where it comes from.

The fact is that we ought to have a long-term energy policy to create energy independence. But right now, we have a problem here in New England, where people are looking at paying over 50 percent more for heating oil this winter than they did last year. Last year, we had price spikes that drove the price of heating oil up over $2 a gallon for one simple reason, which is the industry itself does not put enough reserves of heating oil in place, because it enjoys very large price spikes when shortages occur in the middle of winter.

That occurs in gasoline and other markets and around the country. And what is required here is the necessity to make sure that we have enough oil to meet the demand of the U.S. consumer. And right now, we don't have that. And that is what creates the emergency, which I think the use of the SPRO is an entirely -- it is entirely within the initial enabling legislation of the SPRO.

And now have a crisis which I think won't be solved over the long run by the SPRO. But certainly, the short-term impact of these huge price increases can be mitigated by the use of the SPRO.

WOODRUFF: Senator Hutchison, what about this -- this precise point that former Congressman Kennedy is making, that it is the immediate crisis that would call for a small tapping into the reserves?

HUTCHISON: What we need to do, and the reason that we have the crisis is not that we don't have enough storage capacity in the Northeast. Do you know that the refineries for home heating oil are operating at 96 percent capacity? They can't make anymore. They don't have the places to store it.

We don't even have a few refinery in this country for home heating oil -- have not had one in 25 years. We must have a -- more domestic production to bring the prices down. To control our own oil prices, we've got to have domestic production. And we could do something in the short term, but not if we don't see a long-term fix, because we would then be in a security risk.

WOODRUFF: Joe Kennedy?

KENNEDY: Yes, the fact is that the senator is correct. There is plenty of storage capacity here in New England. What we don't have is any heating oil. So we have got a lot of empty tanks. What we don't have is the stuff that makes people warm. And that is a failure of the industry itself. I think that there's a fairly simple solution to the problem, which is that we simply mandate a -- not a heating oil reserve, but what we have is just minimum inventory stocks. That's exactly what we require of the electric industry. It's what we require of the natural gas industry. It's not what we require of the oil industry. And so I think that if we did, in fact, have those minimum inventory requirements, that there would be enough heating oil, and this crisis would not have the implications that it currently does.

WOODRUFF: Carola Hoyos of the "Financial Times," as a journalist, as someone who has been looking at this situation for some time, does tapping into the reserve make sense at this point?

CAROLA HOYOS, "FINANCIAL TIMES": I think it does if you want to reduce gasoline prices. It's not going to do as much for heating oil prices. The problem with heating oil, as has been alluded, is that we didn't make enough heating oil during the summer and store it to be ready for the winter. So, unfortunately...

WOODRUFF: When you say we didn't: Who didn't?

HOYOS: Excuse me. The oil companies did not. The refineries did not refine enough heating oil during the summer and store it to get ready for the winter. That's our main problem. Reducing crude oil prices will do a little for that, but it won't do a whole lot.

KENNEDY: On the other hand, Carola, wouldn't it work if we, instead of exchanging crude oil for crude oil, that we in fact exchanged crude oil for heating oil? There is an enormous spread. You know we have a bequidated (ph) market at the moment. You can buy crude oil or heating oil today at more expensive prices and even if the middle of winter.

So there is an opportunity to use the resources of the SPRO to actually get heating oil in here at locked-in prices that I think will enable the people of our -- certainly our region to get through the winter. I don't think that it's been detailed exactly how the SPRO would be used.


HUTCHISON: But the refineries are operating at 90 percent capacity. They're putting out every bit they can. The problem is we have had...

KENNEDY: Oh, no, no, no, no.

HOYOS: No, no, they're deciding whether -- the refinery has to decide whether it is going to make gasoline or heating oil. And at the moment, they're...

KENNEDY: That's right. That's exactly right.

HOYOS: ... deciding more to the gasoline side.

KENNEDY: That's right. HOYOS: Now, one thing I do have to say is this is not a national problem. This is a problem mainly in the Northeast. The rest of the nation uses natural gas and electricity. So I'm not sure whether it's really fair to pull out all the stops nationally to deal with one relatively small area of the country.

WOODRUFF: Carola Hoyos, why didn't the oil companies decide to produce more heating oil?

HOYOS: Well, very easy: It's more profitable to have made gasoline in the summer. And they just didn't think ahead. It wasn't in their interests from a profit line.

HUTCHISON: Well, they needed gasoline in the summer. That's when the highest usage for gasoline was.

HOYOS: Exactly.

WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to...

KENNEDY: Yes, but the truth is that -- that's right.

WOODRUFF: Go ahead. Finish your point.


WOODRUFF: I want to make sure everybody gets their point in there.

HUTCHISON: We have to have the supply of gasoline as well. That's just as important.

KENNEDY: Yes, it is.

WOODRUFF: All right.

KENNEDY: And there's -- the fact is, there is plenty of fuel to go around if we use it reasonably and rationally.

HUTCHISON: Yes, and what we need is a government policy...

WOODRUFF: All right.

HUTCHISON: ... that would encourage production in our own country.

WOODRUFF: We're going to -- well, I want to thank you, all three. We're going to have to leave it there.

Senator Hutchison, Joe Kennedy and Ms. Hoyos, thank you all three -- Bernie.

HOYOS: Thank you.

KENNEDY: Thank you very much.

SHAW: Really learned a lot there.

On this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, we had hoped to bring you a live interview with the Republican vice presidential candidate, Dick Cheney, but guess what? Technical problems in St. Louis prevent that. But you can believe we'll have Mr. Cheney on in coming days.

WOODRUFF: Still ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS: Texas Governor Bush turns to his Republican colleagues in key states. We are going to ask governor Tommy Thompson why.


SHAW: George W. Bush apparently has regained some ground against Al Gore in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.

A new poll of likely voters shows Bush trailing by only three points. Other recent polls in the state had shown Gore with a double- digit lead. In six other states, we have the first new poll numbers since Labor Day. Georgia is the only one of those states where Bush is in the lead. He's ahead of Gore by 5 points.

In Louisiana, Gore is on top by 7 points. In Kentucky, Gore leads by 6 points. In West Virginia, the vice president is ahead by 8 points. In Iowa, he has a 7-point advantage. And in the battleground state of Wisconsin, Gore is leading by 4 points.

The Bush campaign is working on its Midwest strategy and turning to Republican governors for help.

Joining us here, the governor of the battleground state of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson.

You have a powerful political organization in your state, yet Bush is trailing. What is the Bush campaign doing wrong?

GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON (R), WISCONSIN: Well, first off, the most recent poll, which we took over the weekend shows that it's a dead heat, 42-42.

And I think that's very good, considering Wisconsin has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984, and we think that we're going to win this year. We've got -- the Thompson team is out in full force in all the counties and the precincts and George Bush is coming back in several more times in the month of October, and we think we're going to be able to pull it over the endline for George Bush.

SHAW: What is the governor's campaign doing wrong in your state?

THOMPSON: Well, what he's doing is basically telling the people what he wants to do, and I think that what has happened in the last three months, he's had some stumbles and I think overall it's -- the fact that it's so close after the last three weeks -- I think it's very good for George Bush.

I think George Bush has got to articulate what he's going to do on Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs, military, and what big difference between a tax cut versus more spending on federal program. Once he does that, I think George Bush is going to be in good shape, Bernie.

SHAW: And you are obviously hinting that in your judgment he has not done that effectively, to date?

THOMPSON: Well, I'm not hinting that at all. I'm just saying that he's got to do better and he is doing better.

I think the last three days have made up a lot of the slippage that he's had over the last three weeks. I think George Bush is back on top of his game and I think you're going to see the polls tighten and I think he's going to start pulling ahead next week and throughout the rest of the campaign.

SHAW: Why didn't the Bush people in Austin call on you Republican governors sooner?

THOMPSON: Well, I think that he thought that we would always be there and I guess he didn't really think that he needed us as much as he probably did.

SHAW: Mistake?

THOMPSON: I don't think it was a mistake. I think we've got plenty of time to rally around. Republican governors like George Bush. We think he'd be a great president and we want to see him elected.

You know, 1988, when the Republican governors really formed the backbone of George H. Bush's campaign, he won. And '92, I think the president got away from that. I think this year his son is not going to make the same mistake. He's going to rally the Republican governors around him. We control states that have 69 percent of the population within our states and I think he's going to use us to the fullest, and I think in the next 49, 50 days left in this campaign, the Republican governors are going to lead the campaign for their candidate and we're going to be successful.

SHAW: Tommy Thompson, did you ever think in your wildest political dreams that George W. Bush would be trailing in the Midwest in every state except Ohio?

THOMPSON: No, I did not, but I think when you look...

SHAW: So what's wrong?

THOMPSON: I think the recent polls show that he's not losing. I think they're tightening up across the Midwest. And I think he's ahead in Indiana, he's tied in Wisconsin, and I think that it's very close in Michigan and Pennsylvania. It's coming back strong.

SHAW: Now, Karl Rove, the governor's chief campaign strategist is in your...

THOMPSON: Born in Wisconsin, too.

SHAW: OK, is in your state right now.

THOMPSON: Yes, he is.

SHAW: You talked to him on the telephone. What are you guys talking about?

THOMPSON: We're talking about how we're going to win this campaign. And everybody is upbeat and optimistic. I know people think we should be down after what took place in the last three weeks, but we're not, we feel very, very confident that our candidate is going to be successful.

SHAW: What's going to do the trick in the Midwest, in those key battleground states?

THOMPSON: George W. Bush has got to come into our states, he's got to go around our states, and he's got to articulate his vision and when he does that with the organizations the Republican governors got in their respective states, he's going to win.

SHAW: One last question: Where -- honestly, where is he wasting time right now?

THOMPSON: Well, I don't know if he is wasting time. I can't answer that. I don't think he is.

SHAW: OK, thanks very much. Tommy Thompson, governor of the great state of Wisconsin, good to see you.

THOMPSON: Good seeing you my friend, thank you.

SHAW: Thank you -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come: the ground troops. John King on the tangible benefit of labor support.

Plus, the first lady and soft money. Brooks Jackson on the hot topic in the New York Senate race.

And later, turning talk show T.V. into a campaign asset, a look at the hopefuls making the rounds.


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

The Firestone tire recall was back in the spotlight today on the Hill. A House subcommittee heard testimony about tire pressure. Ford officials refuse to take the blame for what Bridgestone/Firestone says was a pressure problem in the tires that have been linked to dozens of fatal accidents.


JOHN LAMPE, BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE: Let there be no misunderstanding: We take full responsibility when there's a problem with our tires. We firmly believe, however, that the tire is only part of the overall safety problem shown by these accidents.

Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, we believe all the relevant safety issues must be addressed. If we removed every one of our tires from these vehicles, rollovers and serious accidents will still continue.


SHAW: Six and a half million tires are involved in that Firestone recall.

Six Cuban survivors of a plane crash are being released to their relatives in Miami. The six were among nine Cubans who were picked from the sea after the plane went down Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico. Three of the survivors are receiving medical treatment. A U.S. immigration official says all nine are expected to stay in the United States. A 21-year-old Cuban man, seen in this picture, was killed in that plane crash.

WOODRUFF: One man is dead and several others injured after a tornado rips through Xenia, Ohio. Last night's storm left a two-mile path of destruction in Xenia, about 20 miles from Dayton. Another tornado swept through two central Ohio counties. The twisters overturned cars, and knocked down walls and utility lines. Many people there are still without power. Ohio Governor Bob Taft toured Xenia today and declared the city in a state of emergency.

A new tropical storm forms in the Gulf of Mexico and heads for the coast. Helene is about 230 miles south of Pensacola and moving about 13 miles per hour. Forecasters say the storm could reach hurricane intensity. Landfall is expected tomorrow morning. Tropical storm warnings are posted from the Mississippi-Louisiana border to the Aucilla River in Florida.

SHAW: A woman is suing President Clinton, the first lady and several others. Kathleen Willey Schwicker (ph), who accused Mr. Clinton of fondling her in the White House back in 1993, claims a White House release of letters she wrote Mr. Clinton violated her privacy rights. Those letters were publicized in 1998 shortly after the woman, then known as Kathleen Willey, publicly accused the president of making the unwanted sexual advance. The White House says it is confident her lawsuit will be found to be -- quote -- "utterly without merit."

When INSIDE POLITICS return, labor's ground war in Election 2000.


WOODRUFF: For those of you who are counting -- we certainly are -- we are now 47 days away from the presidential election and as of today, our tracking poll shows, Al Gore support among likely voters has crept over the 50 percent mark for the first time. He now leads George W. Bush by 10 points, the widest margin yet in the daily CNN/"USA Today" Gallup survey. But, as always, we note: tracking polls are subject to fluctuations, and it will take a few days to see whether this is a one-day phenomenon or a trend.

We also have some new campaign finance numbers to crunch. The Bush and Gore campaigns have filed their first reports with the Federal Election Commission since each received more than $67 million of public funding last month for their general election campaigns. The Bush camp reports spending more than $21 million of those funds so far. The Gore camp has spent nearly half as much, about $11.

And the Bush camp reports raising a record breaking total of nearly $105 million during the primary season. The Gore camp raised about half as much, more than $51 million, including federal matching funds, which the Bush campaign did not accept. The Bush camp has more than $4 million left of that primary season money. The Gore camp has nearly $4 million, cash that can be used to close out the primary campaign.

For Al Gore, union endorsements are worth as much, if not more, than campaign donations. With labor's support comes a volunteer force, reaching voters one on one.

Our John King takes a closer look at labor at work in the campaign trenches.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another early morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More election information.


KING: Another day of hands-on encounters in organized labor's campaign 2000 ground war. It's pretty basic stuff -- a worksite handout contrasting Al Gore and George W. Bush on issues like health care and the minimum wage; a night-time phone call to echo the morning message and to boost both the vice president and the Democrat running for Senate here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we count on your support for Al Gore and Ron Klink on November 7? Yes.

KING: This phone bank is just north of Scranton, Pennsylvania, a key battleground in the race for president and control of Congress, a key test of labor's political muscle. JIM BYRNES, AFSCME: We are going to touch at least three or four times with the phone, and three or four times with the literature and door-to-door, and that's what we're going to concentrate on between now and Election Day.

KING: It's a snapshot of an unprecedented national AFL-CIO effort in 71 congressional districts across 25 key states.

STEVE ROSENTHAL, AFL-CIO POLITICAL DIRECTOR: There are literally tens of thousands of activists involved in this program. We're trying to generate more grassroots activism than ever before, and frankly, we think this will be the greatest union turnout effort ever.

KING: So, over lunch, these Columbus, Ohio firefighters are reminded they can't vote if they aren't registered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody else want any more forms? Do you know family members or friends or anybody?

KING: Turnout is the focus in the final weeks.

(on camera): In the key battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and here in Ohio, as much as 40 percent of the vote could come from union households. Exit polls four years ago show that 59 percent of those voters backed the Clinton-Gore ticket, and labor's goal this time around is to at least match that performance for the Gore-Lieberman team.

(voice-over): It's a tough sell with some blue-collar workers here in conservative central Ohio. These union plumbers and pipe- fitters urged not to let their opposition to gun control or abortion turn them away from the Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't let them buffalo you on one issue and then you end up voting for this individual on one issue and you kill yourself on four, five other issues.

KING: That message is a lesson from the Republican route of 1994.

ROSENTHAL: We've seen elections that were about gays in the military, and prayer in school, and guns, then working families don't participate. So, to the extent that we can help shape an election so that it's about things that really do matter, economic security issues for families, basic pocketbook issues, then working families respond in big numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got to vote this November.

KING: The shift change at Buckeye Steel brings another handout, another reminder the economy wasn't so good the last time a Bush lived in the White House.

RALPH HORSLEY, STEELWORKER: The Democrats are for working family, working man, you know, and everybody knows that Republicans is company-minded people. KING: Shop steward Ralph Horsley joins the cause after a hot day in the foundry. It's a national AFL-CIO effort, but there's a local lesson in the laughter and smiles here. The information tends to matter more...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Praise the Lord, brother.

KING: ... when it comes from someone you know.

John King, CNN, Columbus, Ohio.


SHAW: The AFL-CIO's latest ad centers around a teacher in criticism of Governor Bush's record in Texas.


NARRATOR: Bush says he'll protect Social Security while pushing a massive tax cut, but studies show Bush's plan would lead to benefit cuts, an increase in the retirement age, or both.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush broke his promise to the people in Texas.


SHAW: And joining us now from New York, David Peeler of Competitive Media Reporting. David, how much is the AFL-CIO spending in this presidential race?.

DAVID PEELER, PRESIDENT & CEO, COMPETITIVE MEDIA REPORTING: Well, Bernie, here is the interesting story. You heard John King talk about the ground war, we are going to talk about the air war. In the last week alone, we saw the AFL-CIO weigh in with a $1 million dollar buy in the states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Missouri.

Now, this is a little bit different, Bernie, because in the past we have seen the AFL-CIO weigh in in a lot of House races and Senate seats, this the first time that we have seen them really come across in a presidential campaign. They are attacking George Bush's record and they're not mentioning Al Gore at all. So this is a first time for the AFL-CIO.

SHAW: The AFL-CIO is also airing ads criticizing health-care votes by Republican congressmen in key districts, among them Representative Steven Kuykendal of California.


NARRATOR: Every years tens and thousands of Americans suffer permanent and crippling repetitive motion injuries on the job. Yet Congressman Steven Kuykendal voted to block federal safety standards that would help protect workers from this risk. Tell Kuykendal his politics causes pain.


SHAW: Now David, how much is the AFL-CIO spending in these races?

PEELER: Well, here's the conventional tactic. They've spent about $600,000 in the last eight days. They're spending them in very, very competitive races. There are about a dozen of them that they're spending in across the country in the states of Kentucky, Arkansas, Pennsylvania. These are races that are in the balance and the AFL-CIO is weighing in heavily in those races.

SHAW: Now, another group, the Citizens for Better Medicare, is weighing in with ads praising the work of lawmakers who share similar views on Medicare reform. Among the 18 members of Congress mentioned in the ad campaign is New Mexico Republican Heather Wilson.


NARRATOR: Congresswoman Heather Wilson has voted to strengthen and improve health care for seniors. She's working to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, and make sure medicines are available for every senior who needs them.


SHAW: Citizens for Better Medicare, which includes a number of pharmaceutical interests, favors a private sector-based prescription drug benefit.

David Peeler, how much is this group spending on this ad campaign?

PEELER: Bernie, we've seen this group. It's probably the most sophisticated and well-organized of the independent expenditure groups. All summer long we saw them push their legislative agenda, now they're pushing their political agenda.

They're in 15 states, they've spent $2.2 million. If you recall, their last ad, back in the summer, was the bus ride from Canada. Now they're going after individual congressional seats. They're doing it with a kind of warm, everyday approach.

But what's interesting here is they're now no longer against an issue. They're really saying, we're for prescription drugs, some kind of program, but they're not talking about which program they're for. So it's a change in their tactics.

SHAW: OK, thank you, David Peeler. We'll see you next time.

PEELER: Thank you.

SHAW: You're welcome.

And when we return, money and the Empire State. Brooks Jackson on the impact of soft money in that New York Senate race.


WOODRUFF: Now, the state of the New York Senate race, which varies somewhat depending on which poll you read. Republican Rick Lazio and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton are dead even in a new Marist survey of likely voters.

But Clinton is 9 points ahead of Lazio in the latest "New York Times"/CBS News survey. Both polls were conducted after the two debated for the first time last week.

The challenge issued by Lazio during that debate prompted a meeting today between his aides and Mrs. Clinton's to discuss a possible ban on soft money in their race. Each side still appears to be questioning the other's sincerity, but they say they're hoping to reach an agreement by Saturday night.

In light of all that, CNN's Brooks Jackson brings us the first substantive look at the soft money benefiting Mrs. Clinton's campaign.



REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), SENATE CANDIDATE: It's the height of hypocrisy to talk about soft money, when she has been raising soft money by the bucket loads out in Hollywood...


BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just how much money are we talking about? A new report released Thursday shows Hillary Clinton raised just over $1 million in soft money last month. That brings the total so far to more than $4 million in soft money funneled through a special fund-raising committee. The money is helping fund two new ads starting Thursday morning.


NARRATOR: Hillary has a real plan for upstate New York.


JACKSON: Fifty-seven percent of the money behind the ads is soft money, illegal for Clinton's campaign to accept directly. Political parties spend it for issue ads that praise their candidates, and attack their opponents, like this one.


NARRATOR: Can we trust Rick Lazio to fight for us? He helped write the Gingrich budget, slashing Medicare.


JACKSON: Hillary Clinton has raised her soft money from people like Wall Street mutual fund magnate Jack Dreyfus, who gave through a Clinton committee called New York Senate 2000. Records show he's given $250,000 so far, mostly soft money, making him Clinton's top donor.

Two Westport, Connecticut women, wealthy widow Sandra Wagenfeld and friend Francine Goldstein, together have given a total of more than $228,000. It's illegal for labor unions to give directly to candidates, but the big public-employee union AFSCME, headed by Jerry McIntee, has given $125,000 to Mrs. Clinton's soft money committee.

Other big donors include New York insurance man Walter Kaye and his wife, Selma, who gave $125,000. Apparently he's forgiven for helping get an internship for Monica Lewinsky. Stan Lee's company -- he's the guy who dreamed up "Spiderman" comics -- gave $100,000.

One donation that's possibly controversial: another $25,000 gift last month from Metabolife International, maker of a diet pill that the Food and Drug Administration is trying to regulate because of concerns about several deaths. Metabolife's total so far: $50,000.

The donor list includes plenty of old Clinton friends and retainers, like former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and his wife: $50,000; and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin: nearly $34,000.

(on camera): So it won't be surprising if some of Hillary Clinton's big donors also turn up on a list of guests who have spent the night at the White House, a list expected to be released within days.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: Up next, from the campaign trail to the talk show circuit -- a look at the latest by the candidates and their families.


SHAW: In this presidential race, politics is a family affair. While Al Gore campaigned in California yesterday, his wife Tipper rallied supporters in Oregon on the steps of the state capital.

In Missouri, Hadassah Lieberman read to children and talked issues on behalf of her husband, the vice presidential hopeful. Also, yesterday, Karenna Gore Schiff stopped at the University of Missouri to cheer her father's candidacy despite protesters there. Schiff also made appearances with the Liebermans' daughter, Rebecca. And Laura Bush made an appearance on "Good Morning America" today before joining her husband on the campaign trail.

WOODRUFF: George W. Bush's appearance on "Live with Regis" today was the latest in a string of talk show stops by the presidential hopefuls from daytime to late night.

Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" looks at the political appeal of talk shows. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ (voice-over): If you're Al Gore or George W. Bush, would you rather face these major league journalists, or this major league superstar? Not exactly a close call, which is why the vice president paid a well-publicized visit to "Oprah Winfrey..."

GORE: What gets me going is my family: Tipper, my kids, my grandson.

KURTZ: ... and why he keeps popping up on late-night TV, with "Leno.."


JAY LENO, HOST: It's the man who invented the cue card: Al Gore! Wow!


KURTZ: ... and "Letterman."


GORE: Remember, America, I gave you the Internet and I can take it away. Think about it.


KURTZ: And it's why Bush appeared Thursday morning with that guy who makes people millionaires, and it wasn't a fund-raising visit.


REGIS PHILBIN, HOST: You ever watch "Survivor," Governor?

BUSH: I did.

PHILBIN: Did you really?

BUSH: I did. I did. Yes. Coming down the stretch in particular, I was watching...

SUSAN HAWK, CO-HOST: Oh that's right, yes.

BUSH: I was fascinated to see who was going to survive.


BUSH: Kind of like me.


BUSH: I feel like I am going through "Survivor."

(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: He also played the "Oprah" card this week and topped his rival, greeting her with a kiss.


CALLER: Governor Bush, what is the public's largest misconception of you?

BUSH: Probably: I am running on my daddy's name -- that, you know, if my name were George Jones, I would be a country and western singer.


KURTZ: Candidates like the talk show circuit for a reason. The questioning, shall we say, is not what you would get with Tim Russert or Ted Koppel.


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: Your favorite movie of all times.

GORE: "Local Hero."

WINFREY: Favorite cereal?

GORE: Wheaties?

WINFREY: For real?

GORE: Yes.

WINFREY: Wheaties? OK.


KURTZ: It's a way of reaching folks who aren't political junkies, and particularly women. It provides pretty pictures for the networks to replay, just as we're doing here, and plenty of headlines the next morning. But schmoozing with Oprah and Dave and Reg also makes it easier for candidates to reach the public, unfiltered, as they like to say, while minimizing contact with the press corps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice President? Mr. Vice President?

KURTZ: Back when Bush was having trouble explaining his tax plan, interviews with the traveling press corps produced these less- than-ideal sound bites.

BUSH: I've got to do a better job of making it clearer...

KURTZ: And after Gore was interviewed by prosecutors in the '96 fund-raising scandal, he was also forced to play defense.

GORE: I have always cooperated fully. I have admitted that I made mistakes in fund raising. But I want the American people to know that I have always told the truth about this matter.

KURTZ: Now, the vice president, leading in the polls, has gone weeks without a news conference. And even the gregarious governor, finding himself behind, has limited his once-marathon sessions in the press cabin.

(on camera): Chatting with the likes of Oprah, of course, is no substitute for answering serious press questions on the road to the White House. But in this era of message control, both Gore and Bush will limit such questions for as long as they can get away with it. The voters may be entertained by hearing the candidates talk about their favorite cereal, but it's not exactly a high-fiber diet.

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


WOODRUFF: And we want him to come on INSIDE POLITICS.

SHAW: Any day. We'll be here.

WOODRUFF: Any day. That's right, we will be.

Well, that's 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 Al Gore will be on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania and George W. Bush will be campaigning in Florida.

SHAW: This programming note: Oil politics will be the topic tonight on "CROSSFIRE" at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The guest will be Democratic Congressman Marty Meehan and Republican Senator Frank Murkowski.

I am Bernard Shaw.

WOODRUFF: And I am Judy Woodruff.

"WORLDVIEW" is next.



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