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Inside Politics

Bush and Gore Duel Over Nation's Prosperity; Will FDA Approval of Abortion Pill Become Campaign Issue?

Aired September 28, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: A new wedge in the political divide over abortion: Will federal approval of an abortion pill become a campaign issue?


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Forty days from now, prosperity itself will be on the ballot.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the vice president gets elected, the big -- the era of big government being over is over.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: The presidential candidates duel over safeguarding America's prosperity.



BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There have always been hot tickets. In Boston, though, where politics is the blood sport, there's never been a hotter ticket.


WOODRUFF: Bill Delaney, on the fight to attend the first Bush- Gore debate.

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

WOODRUFF: We begin with the presidential candidates and their battle over who would better protect the nation's prosperity. As planned, George W. Bush portrayed Al Gore as an economic threat and a throwback to another era.

Here's our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Bush dropped into Green Bay, Wisconsin to play a little offense: on the field with the Packers and from the podium against Al Gore.

BUSH: He is proposing the largest increase in federal spending in 35 years, since the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

CROWLEY: In politics, when your opponent has an issue -- in Gore's case, a strong economy -- you find a way to make work for you. So Bush is moving to shape his Democratic opponent as a big-spending threat to the good times.

BUSH: If the vice president gets elected, the big -- the era of big government being over is over, and so too, I fear, could be our prosperity.

CROWLEY: Bush claimed, if you add it all up, the Gore agenda would make the federal government $2 trillion bigger over 10 years, in actual costs for programs and very expensive overhead.

BUSH: Over 200,000 new or expanded federal programs will be created, and an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 new Washington bureaucrats, 412 new regulations on Medicare, a plan that could double the size of the current bureaucracy.

CROWLEY: The Gore campaign fired back with its own set of statistics, claiming Bush got his figures from supporters, and that with his -- quote -- "reckless tax cut and reckless spending," it is Bush who outspends Gore.

In the governor's assault on the vice president, there is an echo of the Reagan years, when the phrase "tax-and-spend liberal" was a Republican mantra attached to Democrats with considerable success. Bill Clinton, with his more centrist policies and his declaration that the era of big government is over, is credited with moving his party back toward the middle. But Bush says Al Gore, with his plans for the surplus, has abandoned the vital center of American politics.

BUSH: But Vice President Gore has cast his lot with the old Democrat Party. His promises throw the budget out of balance. He offers a big federal spending program to every -- nearly every single voting block in America.

CROWLEY: For all his tough warnings about big government and huge bureaucracies, Bush was careful not to fall into the usual Republican trap.

BUSH: I don't believe that government is always the enemy. After all, it created Social security and Medicare. It builds highways, and has won wars and helped end segregation. Yet government helps best when it empowers individual, not when it builds bureaucracies. Government works best when it treats people as citizens, not as wards.

CROWLEY (on camera): The speech, delivered in fiercely-fought- over Wisconsin, was Bush's sharpest policy attack to date. It is a sign of a close race entering its finale, and perhaps, as well, a bit of a practice drill for next week's debate.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Green Bay, Wisconsin.


SHAW: Though Vice President Gore delivered his economic speech a couple of hours earlier than Bush, it could be read as a rebuttal to the governor's charges against him.

Our Jonathan Karl reports on Gore: trying to make America's prosperity work for him.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Offering a variation of the theme, "It's the economy, stupid," that helped Bill Clinton get elected, Vice President Gore said the election comes down to a question of dollars and cents.

GORE: Forty days from now, prosperity itself will be on the ballot.

KARL: Presenting a contrast Gore strategists say sets the tone for the upcoming debates, the vice president declared fiscal discipline and debt reduction the foundation of his campaign proposals. And he accused George W. Bush of proposing an irresponsible mix of increased spending and big tax cuts.

GORE: That plan doesn't add up to anything but a deficit of at least $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years.

KARL: Portraying the balanced budget as the key to prosperity, Gore used the words "debt" or "deficit" 18 times during the course of his 14-minute speech.

GORE: We now have within it our grasp to completely eliminate the national debt by the year 2012, saving taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars in interest payments.

KARL: The Bush campaign says it is Gore who would spend away the surplus, breaking his promise to pay down the debt. Bush claims he would completely pay down the debt by the year 2016. But Gore wants to remind voters, the national debt skyrocketed under Republican presidents.

GORE: It's always easier to spend money you don't have, rather than save for a rainy day. That's how we ended up with a multitrillion-dollar national debt in the first place.

KARL: The focus on paying down the debt comes as strategists in both parties say the issue resonates among undecided voters, who care more about balancing the budget than either tax cuts or new programs.


KARL: Tomorrow, Gore plans to tee up another issue that he expects to come up in the debates: the environment. He will address the issue before the national Autobahn Society, while his running mate Joe Lieberman goes to Texas to talk about air pollution before a set of smokestacks in Houston -- Bernie.

SHAW: Jonathan, what's this about new allegations of dirty tricks out on the campaign trail?

KARL: Yes, another one. You will have to bear with me on the details here. But the allegation here: The Gore campaign is saying that the Bush campaign has intercepted confidential communications that they were sending to reporters. What happened here is, on September 26, the Gore campaign dropped off 16 packages of written communications addressed to reporters that were traveling with Bush.

And what happened is, these packages were dropped off with the hotel. The hotel gave them to the room of communications director, Karen Hughes. Karen Hughes says -- acknowledges that she got these things addressed to the reporters, but said that what she did is, she turned them over to a staffer.

The staffer then was supposed to deliver them to the reporters, but simply forgot. That's what they're saying up there in Austin. But again, more allegations of confidential communications being taken, being intercepted -- more allegations of dirty tricks.

SHAW: OK, we'll see where that one goes, Jonathan Karl -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, very interesting.

Well, neither candidate commented on camera today about the Food and Drug Administration's announcement on the controversial abortion pill. However, plenty of others argued about the decision and about its political ramifications.

CNN's Beth Fouhy has more on the abortion pill as a new election year issue.


BETH FOUHY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With less than six weeks to go before the presidential election, the day's biggest political news came in the form of a small white pill.

VICKY SAPORTA, NATIONAL ABORTION FEDERATION: Since Roe vs. Wade, the freedom to choose has protected the lives and health of women. Today's approval marks another important milestone in this proud history of safeguarding a woman's health by expanding her choices.

FOUHY: The FDA's decision to approve the sale of the abortion drug, known as RU-486, set off a wave of reaction from both sides of the abortion issue, placing it squarely in the middle of campaign 2000, for now.

In a paper statement, George W. Bush called the FDA's decision wrong, saying -- quote -- "I fear that making this abortion pill widespread will make abortions more and more common, rather than more and more rare."

Earlier this week, Vice President Gore told an MTV audience he favored the distribution of the abortion drug.

GORE: I think that it ought to be available -- provided of course that it is safe -- and I think that what's wrong is to hold it off the market for some kind of political reason.

FOUHY: But politics was a major reason the pill was so late to arrive in the American marketplace from Europe, where it has been used for 12 years. Citing health concerns, President George Bush blocked the importation of RU-486 during his term. Bill Clinton moved to reverse that policy just days after his first inauguration -- a decision Al Gore supported.

OLIVIA GANS, NATL. RIGHT TO LIFE CMTE.: He has actively encouraged the introduction of this drug into the marketplace. He has made sure that, at every turn in this campaign, his pro-abortion position has loudly been heard by Americans.

FOUHY: Anti-abortion leaders scrambled to cast the ruling in a positive light. Here at the annual conference of the Christian Coalition, activists said it would motivate the anti-abortion community to get to the polls. Even before the FDA's decision, groups on both sides of the abortion issue have been poised to pour big money into election 2000.

The National Abortion Rights Action League has pledged a $5 million mail-and-phone campaign to turn out their voters in 15 states. Planned Parenthood will launch a $6 million ad campaign next week. Meanwhile, anti-abortion groups like Priests for Life are already on the air.


NARRATOR: That no public official can responsibly advocate for abortion.


FOUHY: While giants like National Right to Life are planning larger-scale grassroots efforts.

(on camera): Both sides say the scope of this FDA ruling could be affected by the next president. That's left both sides pledging to work their hardest in the weeks before November 7th.

Beth Fouhy, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, more on the debate and the expectations game as the candidates prepare for their first televised face-off.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Forty days and nights until the general election, and the presidential contest couldn't be closer. George W. Bush and Al Gore are in a dead heat: 46 percent to 46 percent in our daily tracking poll of likely voters. The race has been tight all this week, with both candidates' support in the mid-40's.

SHAW: Next Tuesday's Boston debate will give either candidate the chance to pull ahead in the presidential race. But the reaction to the debates may have more to do with expectations than with performance.

Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" takes a look at what the pundits and the political observers are looking for.


HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Al Gore and George W. Bush prepare for next week's debate, everyone -- that is, all the pundits and prognosticators who dispense the conventional wisdom -- knows what to expect. Gore's a world-class debater. Bush is a tongue-tied amateur. Gore's got a huge advantage.

So the candidates are engaged in the time-honored ritual of lowering expectations for themselves and building up the other guy. The perception of Gore as a great debater?

GORE: Well, I think that's way overdone. I'll just do my best to debate as well as I can.

KURTZ: How about his opponent?

BUSH: Look, I want to debate the man. Now, I understand he's a great debater.

KURTZ: But the conventional wisdom can oversimplify things. Bush clearly held his own in 1994 when he ran against popular Texas Governor Ann Richards.

BUSH: It's preposterous for the governor to say that my programs cost $17 billion.

KURTZ: Some Texas journalists weren't convinced. An "Austin American Statesman" columnist said, quote, "Richards demonstrated that she's broader, deeper and smarter than Bush." But the voters went with George W.

Fast forward to Bush's first presidential debate in New Hampshire late last year. He was hesitant and rusty, and it showed.

QUESTION: Can you tell us, sir, what do you read every day?

BUSH: What do I read?

QUESTION: What do you read for information?

BUSH: Well, I read the newspaper. KURTZ: The pundits were harsh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bush didn't lose the debate, but he wasn't a commanding presence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wasn't that impressive.

KURTZ: But bush improved with practice, and by the time he took on John McCain 10 weeks later, he had learned how to throw a punch.

BUSH: Well, I'm just saying, you can disagree on issues, we'll debate issues; but whatever you do, don't equate my integrity and trustworthiness to Bill Clinton. That's about as low a blow as you can give in the Republican primary.

KURTZ: And besides, the low expectations for Bush could turn out to be a hidden advantage, as they were for another Western challenger deemed to have a shaky grasp of facts and figures.





KURTZ: What about Gore?

He may have a reputation for being quick on his feet, but in their '92 debate, Vice President Quayle kept him off balance.


DAN QUAYLE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope that when you talked to those people you said: and the first thing that Bill Clinton and I are going to do is raise $150 billion in new taxes.

GORE: You've got that wrong, too.

QUAYLE: And the first -- that is part of your plan; $150 billion...

GORE: No, it's not.

QUAYLE: You know what you're doing, you know what you're doing? You're pulling a Clinton.


KURTZ: Quayle didn't win the debate, but Gore fell short of the media's expectations.

Gore's best moment in a national debate came a year later, when the new vice president tangled with Ross Perot over the NAFTA agreement on "LARRY KING LIVE."


GORE: I don't know of any single individual who lobbied the Congress more than you did, or people in your behalf did, to get tax breaks for your companies -- and it's legal -- it's legal.


GORE: You didn't lobby the Ways and Means Committee for tax breaks for yourself and your companies?

PEROT: What do you have in mind? What are you talking about?


KURTZ: It was a knockout for Gore, said "USA Today" -- quote -- "That giant sucking sound was the whoosh of the Texan's credibility going down the tubes."

And during this year's primaries, Gore seemed to enjoy roughing up Bill Bradley.


GORE: You know, I think it's pretty clear what's going on, Bill. You're sounding a little desperate because you're trying to build yourself up by tearing everybody else down. It's very clear.


KURTZ: Gore easily defeated Bradley, but also got a reputation as something of an attack dog.

(on camera): The minute the Boston debate ends, the commentators and columnists and surrogates and spinners will be all over the airwaves to tell us who won; but that will be up to the viewing audience, who may not need any expert guidance.

Unless half the country decides to watch baseball instead, this could be the biggest moment of the campaign for Gore and Bush, at least until the media start cranking things up for the next debate, eight days later.

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


WOODRUFF: Not to mention the vice presidential debate next Thursday.

Well, the closeness of this race may make the presidential debates even more important this election year, and that helps explain why so many people are clamoring for ringside seats at the first Bush- Gore face-off this coming Tuesday in Boston. CNN's Bill Delaney helps set the scene for the debate by looking at the fight just to get in the door.


DELANEY (voice-over): There have always been hot tickets, confrontations with a lot at stake.

In Boston, though, where politics is the blood sport, there's never been a hotter ticket than the right to enter the gym of the University of Massachusetts at Boston for Tuesday night's first presidential debate.

If you inquire about tickets, though, on the Presidential Debate Commission's hotline, you get this:

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this time we have no information on the availability of tickets. Please be aware the tickets are extremely limited.

DELANEY: Why the president of the University of Massachusetts, William Bulger, who may get a few tickets, keeps getting all these phone calls from ... dear old friends.


And there's sort of this sense that, I know you can do it if you really want to.

DELANEY: In fact, only a few hundred tickets will be available, divided among the two political parties and the debate commission. Some might ask, why not just watch the darn thing on TV?

BRIAN MCGRORY, "THE BOSTON GLOBE" COLUMNIST: It will be the toughest ticket this town has ever seen.

It's all about ego. It's, you know, get yourself in that hall and you are somebody.

DELANEY: To track a somebody, political insiders say, follow the money. Look for a healthy contingent of big contributors to the two candidates.

(on camera): As if Boston weren't political enough, adding to the pressure for tickets is the lust for them among the political class. Just north of here, in New Hampshire, site of the first primary, where both candidates have plenty of supporters, with those dreaded three words on their lips, "You Owe Me, "

(voice-over): Some are saying, in fact, the only thing worse than not having a ticket in Boston is having an extra one and trying to keep all your friends at the same time.

MARY ANN MARSH, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Boston's a small town. It loves politics. And everybody remembers everything in this town. DELANEY: Final decisions on just who gets in the hall aren't expected much before Monday.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Boston.


WOODRUFF: I think that's going to be true at every debate.

SHAW: Indeed.

WOODRUFF: Much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

SHAW: Still to come, soft money and the ad wars: a look at party spending and which groups are weighing in on each side.


WOODRUFF: Dishing it out in Missouri: a look at a Republican senator's hotly contested bid for re-election.

And later...

SHAW: Putting America's presidents on the road.


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

The Justice Department is vowing to proceed with its case against the tobacco industry, even though a federal judge has tossed out key parts of the lawsuit. She dismissed two claims under which the government wanted to recoup billions of dollars spent by Medicare on smoking-related illnesses. Big tobacco had hoped to have the entire suit dismissed, but the judge said Justice may still try to prove federal racketeering claims.

In Britain, the parents of conjoined twin girls say they will not appeal a court order to allow surgery to separate the twins them to proceed.

Here's CNN London bureau chief Tom Mintier with what has proven to be a case charged with emotion.


TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The decision by the parents not to contest the high court decision, should mean surgeons in Manchester will schedule the surgery to separate the 6-week-old twins. Given the pseudonyms Jodie and Mary in court documents, the surgery will save the life of one of the twins, Jodie, who doctors say has a functioning heart, healthy lungs, and good circulation.

But saving Jodie's life will likely come at the expense of the second twin, Mary, who doctors say has an enlarged heart, no lungs, and depends entirely on sister for life.

Doctors had testified surgery must be undertaken before the twins are six months old to give Jodie any chance of survival. Last Friday, three high court judges ruled doctors should separate the conjoined twins, even if it means certain death for one of them.

The twins' parents, from Malta, are Catholic and came to Great Britain seeking medical assistance. The parents' statement, provided by lawyers, said because the family had already appeared before two courts and four judges, whose decision was unanimous, the parents feel they had done the best they can for both daughters, and are unable to take this any further.

(on camera): The decision by the twins' parents not to appeal the high court ruling to the House of Lords or the European Court of Human Rights has in effect taken the decision-making from the courts and returned it to the hands of doctors.

Tom Mintier, CNN, London.


WOODRUFF: In the United States, a medical examiner claims that a controversial Anthrax vaccine contributed to the death of a Michigan man.

Richard Dunn, who died two months ago, received 11 doses of the vaccine while working at Bio-port, the company that produces it. The examiner says anthrax was not found in Dunn's system, but his reaction to the vaccine apparently contributed to his death. Bio-port says it is "stunned" by the examiner's claim.

The Pentagon says it's looking into the case.


KEN BACON, PENTAGON SPOKESPERSON: It's not proper to speculate at this stage. We have a newspaper report. that's all we have. We haven't seen the autopsy report. We haven't been able to examine any tissue samples. We have not had any detailed conversations with the doctors involved. It's just premature to speculate.


WOODRUFF: The Pentagon says it is not suspending anthrax inoculations despite this man's death.

Actor Richard Mulligan has died after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 67 years old. Mulligan won two Emmy awards for his work in television. He also appeared in several movies, including "The Undefeated" with John Wayne and "Little Big Man" with Dustin Hoffman.

SHAW: Bridgestone/Firestone is no longer the sole supplier of tires for Ford Explorers. Ford will rely on Michelin to supply the majority of tires for its most popular sports utility vehicles. The auto maker says it decided to use Michelin as a supplier for the 2002 Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer before the massive Firestone tire recall.

WOODRUFF: Olympics gymnastics star Andreea Raducan says she is very disappointed. The 16-year-old Romanian is being stripped of her gold medal, arbitrators saying they have no choice but to uphold the decision by Olympic officials. The young woman says unknowingly ingested a banned stimulant in some cough medicine she took. The medicine was prescribed by a team doctor. Raducan says in her heart, she is convinced she did nothing wrong.

SHAW: A mixture of emotions this day for United States athletes at those Olympic games in Sydney.

Norway defeated the U.S. women's soccer team 3-2 in overtime to take the gold medal. American Marion Jones earned her second gold medal by winning the 200-meter sprint. That's not Jones, obviously. Russia beat the U.S. women's volleyball team. The Americans will play Brazil for the bronze. And American sisters Venus and Serena Williams take home gold medals in women's doubles tennis.

WOODRUFF: And that is the Williams sisters.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, who's spending more in the TV ad wars?


WOODRUFF: New poll numbers from Iowa, where George W. Bush has closed the gap on Al Gore. The Iowa Project Poll has Gore at 44 percent, Bush at 42 percent. An ARG poll had Gore leading by seven points just two weeks ago.

Bush also has cut into Gore's lead slightly in New York State. But the vice president still is on top by 20 points. A Quinnipiac University poll two weeks ago had Gore leading by 27 points.

SHAW: Now to the sparring between the Bush and Gore camps over soft money. Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney took a pointed swipe at Gore for saying he would agree to a ban on soft-money ads if Governor Bush would too.


DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have heard a lot from -- from Vice President Gore about campaign finance reform. He crusades around the country about campaign finance reform, says that if he is elected, it will be his first legislative priority. Now, putting Al Gore in charge of campaign finance reform is a lot like putting Bill Clinton in charge of abstinence.


SHAW: Gore's critics note that, on the same day he challenged Bush to ban soft-money ads, the vice president raised a half-million dollars for the Democratic National Committee at an event here in Washington. But Bush also is the target of some criticism from none other Mr. Campaign Finance Reform and Bush supporter, John McCain.

Senator McCain told a reporter today that Bush's apparent refusal to agree to the soft-money ban is -- quote -- "a mistake." But when McCain was asked if that meant Gore is the real reformer the race, McCain said, "No."

Joining us to talk more about soft money and ad spending: David Peeler of Competitive Media Reporting, which tracks ad spending in the top 75 media markets.

David, how much are the parties spending on ads in this presidential race?

DAVID PEELER, COMPETITIVE MEDIA REPORTING: Well, Bernie, in the candidates are talking about banning soft money, they must be talking about doing it in the next election cycle, because we have tallied, since March alone, that the Democratic National Committee has spent almost $30 million on behalf of Vice President Gore's election effort.

And the Republican National Committee has gone in and spent almost as much, $26 million in support of Governor Bush. So the big -- the big national parties are the big spenders in the soft-money dollar race.

SHAW: You have been studying the amount spent on ads by independent groups. David, is there a definite pattern in that spending?

PEELER: Bernie, here is where it gets very, very interesting, and where we see tactics start to move apart a little bit. You know, on behalf of Al Gore, independent expenditure groups are far outspending those that are supporting Governor Bush. You see, the League of Conservation Voters, the AFL-CIO, people like Handgun Control, American Family Voices, Sierra Club, have all combined to -- in the last few -- in the last few weeks -- spend close to $8.3 million.

So that's a tremendous amount of money this early in the race.

If we move on and take a look at what is going on, on behalf of Governor Bush, it's a much different story. While there are some national players in it, in the independent expenditure group -- NRA, Coalition to Protect America, the Republican Leadership Council -- in total to date. they've only spent $383,000.

So, you know, it's a very, very different tactic than we've seen in the past. I think what is important to note here is that this appears to be a table-setter for things to come. As I said, we've never seen this rate of spending this early in the campaign. So it's only going to increase.

You know, these groups don't get any credit if they have money left over to spend at the end of the campaign. So between now and November, you're going to see a tremendous amount of spending by these independent expenditure groups. They are going to all have their own message out there. And what is going to be difficult for both presidential candidates, is they're going to have to try and break through this clutter and try and get their own message out.

And in a race that has really come down to about 20 states, that is going to be a very, very tight media campaign.

SHAW: And we can't wait to see your next batch of figures in coming days. David Peeler, thank you -- Judy.

PEELER: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And now checking some of the comings and goings on the campaign trail: Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan tried to fire up his long-shot campaign in Louisiana today. Buchanan took a ride on one of New Orleans famous street cars. And he had some coffee and donuts in the French Quarter.

Al Gores' daughter, Karenna, also was due to campaign Louisiana today, after a swing through Arkansas. She is trying to stir up support for her father among students.

SHAW: Coffee and beignets.

Just ahead: the balance of power on Capitol Hill and the races that could shape the 107th Congress.


SHAW: Missouri, the Show Me State, a tight battleground in this year's presidential race and the same hold true as a first-term Republican senator fights for reelection against the Democratic governor in a race that is both competitive and negative.

Pat Neal takes a closer look at one of the key races in the battle for control of Capitol Hill.


PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican Senator John Ashcroft serving up his favorite flavor: politics, at a campaign stop in St. Louis; then hoping to score with voters at a Friday night high school football game.

SEN. JOHN ASHCROFT (R), MISSOURI: Good to see you.

NEAL: Ashcroft is fighting hard to keep his senate seat from falling into the hands of another popular Missouri politician, Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan.

A recent poll by the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch," shows the race is too close to call.

ASHCROFT: That gives us every reason to focus on the issues of this race. Issues like better and safer schools for all of our children by sending the resource back to school districts, to moms and dads, school teachers.

GOV. MEL CARNAHAN (D), MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE: As the race focuses more on and more on issues, and I think it will between now and November 7, I think I have the strong side of that argument, rather considerably so, and I think that's how I win.

NEAL (on camera): Political analysts say the race may well come down to undecided voters. Both Ashcroft and Carnahan are fighting tooth and nail to get their attention.

(voice-over): That means the high-minded talk of issues has given way to some bare-knuckle politics, with both candidates on the attack.

PROFESSOR KEN WARREN, ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY: I certainly think that the Missouri race is, in terms of dirtiness, is about as dirty as any, and probably the dirtiest race. Maybe equivalent with the one in New York.

NEAL: Carnahan and Ashcroft are lashing out at one another almost daily on the campaign trail.

CARNAHAN: The other side, particularly my opponent, does not put first priority on Social Security and Medicare. In fact, he has proposed a massive, $4 trillion dollar tax cut, three times as big as George Bush's.

NEAL: There have been ugly insinuations of racism, with Ashcroft under attack for blocking black Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White from moving to the federal bench, and Carnahan forced to apologize for appearing in blackface in the 1960s.

On top of all of this is a costly ad war with negative TV images flooding the airwaves.


NARRATOR: Now Missouri has the third highest number of failing schools in America.

Mel Carnahan, failing schools and taxpayers.



NARRATOR: Is John Ashcroft telling the truth? The "Post- Dispatch" says no and calls Ashcroft's TV ads misleading and unsubstantiated.


NEAL: Carnahan denies he's running a negative campaign.

Asked about his attack ad, Ashcroft chooses to simply reiterate his campaign theme.

ASHCROFT: We're focused on the issues: better and safer schools.

NEAL: The state's political parties, meanwhile, are both calling for investigations.

Democrats, into whether Ashcroft tried to aid the merger between telecom giants AT&T and MediaOne, in which he owns stock. Ashcroft denies it.

Republicans, into questionable contributions to Carnahan. Money, Carnahan says, he has returned.

With the election just weeks away. Neither side is backing off from the bruising campaign tactics as they try to break their deadlock in the polls.

Patty Davis, CNN, St. Louis, Missouri.


WOODRUFF: Well, with Senate Democrats just five seats away from regaining the majority, every Senate seat is critical.

I sat down yesterday with Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report" and Charlie Cook of the "National Journal" to talk about the Senate outlook. We began with the big picture.


CHARLES COOK, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": I still think that you're looking at Democrats picking up one or two, maybe three seats, something like that. You've seen some Democratic improvement in Washington state and Montana. But Republicans are looking a little stronger than they were in Michigan; but I'll stay at one, two, maybe three.

STUART ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": I'm not going to budge from two to four, Judy, though I think that three is probably the singlemost likely number.

But, I think, you have to take notice, as Charlie alluded, there is some movement out there. A state like Nebraska may actually be coming into play for the Republicans. There is a poll. We want to see whether there are others that support that; seen some Montana numbers that suggest that's coming into play. There are even numbers in Pennsylvania and Nevada, that suggest those races might be worth watching.

I don't think they are at this point; I don't really believe those numbers -- but I think we've got a period, here -- it's a little bit more fluid.

WOODRUFF (on camera): All right; Charlie, let's look at some specific states: Washington state -- Slade Gorton being challenged by Maria Cantwell.

COOK: Well, Cantwell won her primary very impressively last week. The early polls are showing the race very, very close. There's one poll that's got Cantwell ahead, a couple of others show Slade Gorton slightly ahead, but it's going to be a very, very, very close race.

Gorton probably has the best campaign he's ever had, but he's never had an opponent this tough before.


ROTHENBERG: I agree. He's running a good campaign but it's going to be very difficult for him.

WOODRUFF: All right; Michigan, Stu?

ROTHENBERG: I came back from there just the other day.

Suddenly, amazing Republican optimism. A number of polls now show Spence Abraham pulling ahead, whether it's eight points or 10 points, it's a significant margin.

He was on the air first. He has had more money. Some questions; but is she running -- Debbie Stabenow, the Democratic nominee -- the best campaign she could have? I'm starting to hear some grumbling -- I think that Abraham is looking pretty good, actually.

COOK: And this is important just, simply because Republicans up there were very pessimistic about Spence Abraham's chances, and this is a real turn; I mean, I think it's still going to be a close race but, you know, he is a step ahead and he looked like he was in real trouble before.

WOODRUFF: Charlie, what about Florida?

COOK: That race has tightened up.

It's Bill McCollum is the Republican, Bill Nelson is the Democrat. It's closed up a lot -- it's probably three or four or five points. But the thing that -- that's the good news for McCollum, the Republican. The bad news is that Governor Bush is not winning by the kind of margin that he needs to kind of help pull him through.

Now it will be interesting to see, as Bush has increased his national numbers, how much has he picked up, or has he picked up, in Florida. That will be very important to see because McCollum desperately needs a lot of help.

ROTHENBERG: I agree. I think, actually, Republican Bill McCollum needs George W. Bush to win the state, and win it pretty comfortably, if he's going to win the Senate race.

WOODRUFF: All right, let's look at Pennsylvania. Both of you touched on it a minute ago.

ROTHENBERG: Well, the Democrats decided to put some money in there behind Ron Klink, whose -- always -- fund-raising was mediocre, was not known well in the eastern, southeastern part of the state.

I still think it's going to be difficult for the Democrats, but the fact that they committed some funds has got me watching it a little bit more. I still like Rick Santorum's position. He starts out as the only favorite; he has the money, he still has the edge.

COOK: Labor pushed Democrats to get in there and get in there very heavily, and they've got some polling that suggests it's closed up some. There's some Republican polls that I, frankly, have a little bit more confidence in, that shows that the race has not tightened up that much.

But I think Republicans are about to unload on Klink, and I'm still very skeptical about whether this is going to be that close a race.

WOODRUFF: All right; last but not least: New York, Lazio- Clinton?

COOK: Boy. I think Republicans are starting to get very, very nervous about this perceived stature gap. That Rick Lazio comes across as so young; he looks probably, at least -- what is he, 42, he looks 32, if that. And there's just this question about, does he look like an impact senator, someone who's going to come in to the Senate from day one and be a major force. He looks awfully young, and that stature gap is trouble.

ROTHENBERG: I think that what Charlie is getting at is, if there is a mood momentum in this race, it's with Mrs. Clinton. Polls suggest she may be opening up something of a margin. The race is far from over, Lazio still has a terrific chance to come back, make this a real contest.

But a slight, slight pinky at the scale for Mrs. Clinton at the moment.

WOODRUFF: All right, Stu Rothenberg, Charlie Cook. Thank you both, see you next week.

And up next, art and political history, the latest campaign across America.


SHAW: Next Friday, after the first presidential and vice presidential debates, America's past presidents will begin a three- year tour. No, they're not campaigning. Their portraits will be on the road, thanks to a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.

Fred Voss, a senior historian and curator of the Hall of Presidents, gave us a preview before the exhibit was packed up for the first stop at the George Bush Presidential Library in Texas.


FRED VOSS, SMITHSONIAN'S NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY: No exhibition of presidential portraits is going to be complete without a few -- a little bit of sampling of likenesses of George Washington. And we have here a portrait of Washington, by Rembrandt Peale that was done in 1796. Rembrandt Peale, was 17 years old when he had this opportunity to paint Washington.

I'm not going to start all of my remarks with, "I love this portrait." But, I really, truly, do love this portrait of John Quincy Adams by George Caleb Bingham. Again, not just because the way it looks. But that is a large part of it, because I think that George Caleb Bingham captured him to a tee. He captured this crusty, determined old New Englander. And you really get a sense of the determination and stubbornness that characterized John Quincy Adams.

This portrait of Kennedy by Elaine de Kooning is definitely one of the most unusual portraits in our presidential collection. You can look at it and you can know that it's Kennedy. It nevertheless has an awful lot of the traits of abstract expressionism. And it's very spontaneous, almost chaotic brush work. It's vivid -- it's use of vivid color.

One of the portraits with -- or a portrait with one my favorite presidential stories -- is this portrait by Peter Hurd of Lyndon B. Johnson. Actually, the relationship between Johnson and Peter Hurd started out as a love-fest. Johnson loved the cover that he did of him for "Time" magazine. And on the basis of that, he decided that Herd should be his official White House portraitist.

At the private unveiling of this portrait at the Johnson ranch, the first thing that Johnson said when he saw it is, "That's the ugliest thing I ever saw." And so ended the relationship, the sweet relationship between Lyndon Johnson and Peter Hurd.

This is a portrait that is a real biographical moment. As you can see in the likeness, Nixon is looking very relaxed, very mellow, and with good reason, I suppose. He posed for it right after his first election to the presidency in 1968.


SHAW: Hard to see that one.

WOODRUFF: Something you want to see. That's right. Sure.

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

WOODRUFF: And we'll see you again tomorrow when White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart will join us on his last day in that position.

SHAW: We'll also be on the road with the presidential candidates: George W. Bush in Michigan; Al Gore on the trail in Maryland.

WOODRUFF: And this programming reminder: Vice President Gore and his wife Tipper will be the guests tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE." That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff. SHAW: I'm Bernard Shaw.

"WORLDVIEW" is next.



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