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Inside Politics

Bush Portrays Himself as Uniter in Chief; Gore Shores up Closing Argument of his Campaign; Gun Power; Polls Shows Race Even

Aired October 30, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He talks of ripping the lungs out of political opponents. He scares the elderly for political gain.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush hammers on his charge that Al Gore is a divider, while portraying himself as a uniter in chief.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me tell you, honestly, George Bush is not ready to be president of the United States.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: While his running mate slams Bush's experience, Al Gore shores up the closing argument of his campaign.

WOODRUFF: Plus, gun power: How is it affecting the hunt for votes in a major presidential battleground?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): CNN, what's your polls show today?


SHAW: Is either candidate carving out a lead? We're in tune with the latest numbers on this Halloween eve.

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw. SHAW: Thanks for joining us.

A week and a day before the presidential election, Al Gore appears to be getting back to basics. Today, his message is all about the economy. And his running mate's message is, for the most part, all about George W. Bush.

Our Jonathan Karl traveled with Gore to the Midwestern battlegrounds of Michigan and Wisconsin.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Gore campaign calls it the closing argument. On the banks of Lake Michigan, the vice president laid out what he believes is the best case for a Gore presidency.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me be clear: Continuing our strong economy is my overriding commitment. Everything else depends on it.

KARL: After hop-scotching from issue to issue, theme to theme during the course of his campaign, for the end game, Gore has settled on an echo of the "stay the course" slogan used in 1988 by the last incumbent vice president to run for president: George W. Bush's father. Explicit in the argument is that the other guy would change course, threatening economic prosperity.

GORE: The result of his overall plan would be a $1.1 trillion deficit, unraveling all our progress in reigning in government and threatening our economic gains.

KARL: But in the slightly below-the-radar-screen campaign, there's another theme being pushed with equal force: that George W. Bush doesn't have what it takes to be president. With that line of attack, running mate Joe Lieberman is the designated hitter.

LIEBERMAN: Honestly, George Bush is not ready to be president of the United States.


LIEBERMAN: Maybe some time! But not -- he sure isn't ready to be the kind of president that the people of America need now. And you know who is ready? Al Gore.

CHILDREN (singing): This land is my land, from California to the New York island.

KARL: Gore is spending much of the time fending off Ralph Nader, who the campaign fears is costing the vice president dearly in a handful of key states, especially in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oregon, all states Gore is hitting in the final days. The Gore campaign is counting on liberal interest groups, especially those on the pro- abortion rights and environmental fronts, to warn their constituencies Bush could win because of Nader.

PAUL WELLSTONE, GORE SUPPORTER: We're going to elect Al Gore to be president of the United States of America! KARL: Liberal stalwart Paul Wellstone, who had supported Bill Bradley in the primaries, joined Gore over the weekend in Minnesota to warn liberals about the Nader effect. With the race so tight, the Nader threat looms much larger than his single-digit numbers in the polls. Some of Gore's top strategists now believe the race will be so close that there is a real possibility that Gore could narrowly win the Electoral College, but lose the popular vote.

(on camera): Gore's schedule from here reveals signs of both weakness and strength. He'll be campaigning in Oregon and California, strongly Democratic states where Bush is gaining, and in Florida, a traditionally Republican state where Gore has a slight lead in recent polls.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Green Bay, Wisconsin.


WOODRUFF: George W. Bush is trying to close the sale on his presidential bid by talking a lot about togetherness. Bush stumped today in New Mexico. And he has rallies in California this evening. A new poll shows Gore leading Bush by 10 points in the Golden State. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader has 5 percent support.

Our Candy Crowley is on the road with Bush. And she joins us from Burbank, California -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, a lot of people say they are surprised to see George Bush here at this late stage of the game. But the Bush campaign has always felt that they had a shot here in California. And so they came back for one last campaign swing, despite all of the numbers that seem to indicate this is Al Gore's territory.

Those numbers have diminished. And, at the very least, what Bush has done is bring Al Gore back to the state later this week -- and even President Bill Clinton. As you mentioned earlier, Bush was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, laying out the final themes of campaign. He will talk about core issues over the next few days and he will talk about leadership.

This afternoon in Albuquerque, he said that his record in Texas shows that he can work in a bipartisan manner and that Al Gore's campaign this year shows that he cannot.


BUSH: He scares the elderly for political gain. His campaign attacks are designed to spread falsehood and cynicism. If you try to win at any cost, the price is high. You lose your ability to inspire our people and lead a nation.


CROWLEY: But Bush strategists say this is not just about leadership, although that is the underlying theme in all the core issues. They also believe that Al Gore's policies are seriously out of step with the American voters.


BUSH: His big-government ideas are out of touch with our time and out of step with the American people. He sees a passive nation, where government sets the rules. His vision of reform is to build a better bureaucrat, not to empower people to make their own decisions.


CROWLEY: And those are the two major themes you will be hearing from George Bush over the next seven days: George Bush, as a bipartisan leader, and Al Gore as a big-government guy, a man of gridlock. After 36 hours here in California, Bush will go up the coast to Oregon and Washington, where again, strategists believe they have a chance to take away what is usually Democratic territory -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Candy, so how much of the Bush message at this hour -- at this late hour is a criticism of the vice president and what kind of president he would be?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, it's really a balance. I mean, in the speech that he gave, which was about a 30-minute speech, in Albuquerque, he said: Look, here's what I want to do. I want to do, you know, this on Social Security, this on education, this on Medicare. And here's what Al Gore wants to do -- and then he had a -- sort of a rhythmic closing -- and here's the difference between the two of us.

So it's a balance. And they have to keep the balance. They know that George Bush has to get out there on the issues. They still believe Social Security is a very good issue for him. And they believe education is. In fact, over the course of these days, he will lay out a core issue every day. But he's going to, as aides say, bookend this final run on education, which they believe is George Bush's signature issue.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley on the trail, thanks -- Bernie.

SHAW: In the battle for electoral votes, our CNN analysis suggests Bush has enhanced his advantage over Gore. Bush now is ahead in 25 states, including New Mexico, which we had listed as a toss-up last week. That would give Bush 214 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

Based on our analysis, Gore is leading in 11 states and the District of Columbia, which would give him 171 electoral votes. Since last week, we've taken Maine out of Gore's column and put it in the toss-up category. Our analysis shows 14 states and their 153 electoral votes are up for grabs.

WOODRUFF: Well, given the state of the electoral map, and the closeness of the race in national polls, some people now believe, as Jonathan Karl mentioned earlier, that one candidate could win the popular vote, while the other prevails in the Electoral College. Let's talk about that possibility now with our analysts Bill Schneider and Jeff Greenfield.

And first to you, Bill, with historical perspective.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, imagine a president taking office after more people voted for the other guy. That would really be an outrage. Well, guess what? It's happened -- twice, in fact.

Democrat Samuel J. Tilden got more votes than Republican Rutherford B. Hayes back in 1876. Now, you don't remember President Tilden? Of course not. That's because Hayes got one more electoral vote than Tilden did, and therefore, he became president. Same thing happened in 1888. Democratic President Grover Cleveland, running for a second term, edged out Republican Benjamin Harrison in the popular vote.

But Harrison got a lot more electoral votes and he beat Cleveland. How did it happen? In 1888, the South was solidly Democratic. Cleveland won Southern states by wide margins. But he lost crucial battleground states like New York and Ohio by very narrow margins. Cleveland got his revenge, however. He went on to beat Harrison four years later.

WOODRUFF: All right, we'll come back to you in a minute. Now to Jeff Greenfield.

Jeff, is there a really good chance that this sort of scenario would play out again next week?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Yes. I've been talking about this for years. I'm so obsessed by it, I feel like Jor-El, you know, Superman's father who kept telling the planet Krypton it was going to blow up and nobody listen.

In 1976, it almost happened with Jimmy Carter, who ran 1.8 million votes ahead of Ford. But if about 15,000 votes had flipped in Ohio and Mississippi, Gerald Ford would have been the president with the Electoral College count.

And you can see very easily how, say, Gore wins big in New York, actually wins by the 10 points the polls are now showing in California, and Bush picks up all those battleground states by narrow margins, it could happen. And it would not be like 1888, which was a time when people were much less conscious of democracy, we didn't elect our senators, women couldn't vote, blacks were disenfranchised in a quarter of the country. I think, if people woke up Wednesday morning and found out what happen, it would be, to say the least, a big shock.

WOODRUFF: Jeff, and I am going to ask both of you this question, if this were to happen, how would it unfold?

GREENFIELD: Well, I'll take a first crack at it. The winning popular vote candidate supporters would say to the electors, the actual people who go and vote a month later: You've got to come with the winner. And the people that got the most Electoral votes would say: No, no, this is the rules that we're playing with.

I mean, you may know, guys, I wrote a novel about this five years ago that seemed like a fantasy. But you could see a heck of a lot of pressure on these electors, most of whom are party loyalists, to change their vote and go with the popular vote winner.

SCHNEIDER: And there would be a lot of pressure to change the Constitution, essentially to change the electoral vote system. There are ways to do this without changing the Constitution. But I think the electoral vote system, which is now winner take all by state, would just disappear. Because the voters wouldn't stand for this.

They stood for it a hundred and some years ago, in 1888 and 1876, because in those days elections really were not national affairs, they were state affairs. There were no national polls. There was not even a national count until days or weeks after the election. And party opinion counted a lot more than public opinion.

Now the public is sovereign and elections really are national. And the idea that someone could take office, while coming in second in the national vote, would be outrageous.

WOODRUFF: And some are saying it should have been changed already.

GREENFIELD: One quick point, if electors did flip, it's up to the Congress, the new Congress in January, to decide whether they'll count those votes. That's a whole other chapter we don't have to get into just yet.

WOODRUFF: We have got a few days to talk about it. Jeff Greenfield, thanks a lot. Bill Schneider, thanks. We'll see you both.

And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: Missouri's former first lady vows to carry on for her husband. The latest on the Missouri Senate race.

Also, a look at the many questions facing voters in Maine.


SHAW: In Missouri today, Jean Carnahan announced she would take on the job of senator, if, if her late husband, Mel Carnahan received the most votes in the state's Senate race on November 7th. Mrs. Carnahan's decision is the latest twist in this contest and another obstacle for the incumbent, Senator John Ashcroft, the Republican.

Kate Snow has the latest from Missouri.


KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Exactly two weeks to the day she lost her husband in a plane crash, Jean Carnahan announced her decision to the cameras.

JEAN CARNAHAN: Should the people of Missouri elect my husband, I pledge to take their common dreams to the United States Senate. Now, the choice is up to the people of Missouri. Mel always believed in them, and I do, too.

SNOW: Carnahan said she made up her mind on her own with the support of family and friends, she spent the weekend discussing her future at the family farm.

CARNAHAN: I'll not be campaigning in the traditional sense. I think that I'll be trying to let people be informed that a vote for Mel Carnahan is a vote that they can make, it's a legal vote.

SNOW: Exactly how she will do that is unclear.

MARC FARINELLA, CARNAHAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We don't know how we're going to proceed and there are lots of questions about how the right way to move forward is, and we're just going to struggle through them, and do the best we can.

SNOW: The campaign and the state's Democratic Party have pulled all of their ads off the air. They have no plans, as of now, to run a new media campaign. But Jean Carnahan's announcement itself was an enormous media event, and it puts Carnahan's opponent, Republican Senator John Ashcroft, in a difficult position.

RICK HARDY, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI: I think he's in a political straitjacket right now. If he campaigns and says anything about Carnahan or his widow, it seems being disrespectful; and if he doesn't campaign, his supporters say might say: What are you doing?

SNOW: Ashcroft is back on the campaign trail after taking about a week off out of respect for the governor's death.

SEN. JOHN ASHCROFT (R), MISSOURI: We did suspend our campaign for eight days, and frankly, the suspension of that -- of our campaign for eight days hurt us politically. But it was the right thing to do.

SNOW: Before Governor Carnahan's death, Ashcroft was leading, the latest poll now shows Ashcroft trailing Carnahan by 7 points. Ashcroft's supporters say they think the race is closer than that, and they say their candidate's focus on issues will push him over the top on election day.

Democrats are convinced the outpouring of support they've seen for Mel Carnahan will continue and that could matter beyond Missouri.

KEN WARREN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY: Obviously, if there is a great sympathy vote for Carnahan in this state and he actually manages to go into the election, even as a deceased candidate, ahead, with Democrats in particular motivated to vote for him, it's going to help Gore a lot.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: One confusing wrinkle, because Jean Carnahan is not an official write-in candidate here, if Missouri voters write in her name thinking they are doing the right thing, it would actually count against Mel Carnahan, and could ironically end up helping Senator John Ashcroft's bid for the seat.

Kate Snow, CNN, live in Rolla, Missouri.

WOODRUFF: In addition to the presidential contest and a Senate race of their own, voters in Maine have a number of ballot initiatives to decide a week from tomorrow.

As Bill Delaney reports, the issues and the initiatives, themselves, are causing controversy in the state.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For John Speh of Bar Harbor, Maine, and for his 18-year-old daughter Kate, this election day will be a matter of life and death. He suffers from terminal stomach cancer and supports what's known in Maine as Question One, a ballot initiative to allow doctors to assist patients to end their lives.

JOHN SPEH, CANCER PATIENT: My goal is to live as long as I can and live every day the best I can. I can imagine there could come a time when it's just too difficult.

DELANEY: Should Question One pass, Maine would be the second state after Oregon to allow physician-assisted suicide.

What chills Dr. Laurel Coleman in the age of managed car: where it all could lead.

DR. LAUREL COLEMAN, GERONTOLOGIST: Who's to say that insurance companies might not influence doctors in some way to offer this, to encourage this to save them money at the end of people's lives?

DELANEY: What also angers opponents of the measure, they say right to die supporters from outside the state have spent $1 million to get the issue on the Maine ballot and help pass it.

(on camera): You're entitled to a referendum on an issue in Maine if you can come up with as many signatures as 10 percent of the number of voters in the last gubernatorial election. This time around, that meant about 43,000 signatures based on 430,000 voters.

(voice-over): Maine voters will confront six referendums this election day, nowhere near as many as voters in, for example, Oregon, with 26 initiatives. Still, Maine governor, Angus King, says bulging ballots present voters often simplistic or deceptive one- or two-line questions on complex issues.

GOV. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: It is not the way the founders of this country designed our system to work. DELANEY: Case in point, says the governor: a question claiming a vote for video gambling at a race track will guarantee property tax relief. It won't, says the governor; it does sound good. Others wonder whether video gambling even belongs on the same ballot with a question like the right to die, or the gay rights referendum, also on the Maine ballot. Some ask how voters can sift through so many initiatives on clear-cutting trees, fishermen's rights, the right of the mentally ill to vote.

KING: What I am saying is that 51 percent of the people can be fooled on one given day, and if they are, then you can have some pretty disastrous consequences.

DELANEY: As surely as Maine produces the stuff of picture postcards, though, expect it to continue spawning referendums. Signatures for dozens more are already on the dotted line.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Bar Harbor, Maine.


SHAW: And there is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Still to come:


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Pennsylvania the hunt is on for turkeys and for votes.


WOODRUFF: Jeanne Meserve on drawing the political line on the issue of gun control. Plus:


HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The media mob soon stops shuffling off to Buffalo and Poughkeepsie and Albany and Elmira. The race has become, let's face it, a bit of a snooze.


SHAW: Howard Kurtz on the New York Senate race and the dangers of high expectations. And later...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I had enough money I'd take them both to court. Sue them both for false advertising.


WOODRUFF: ... a look at battleground voters suffering from political ad overload. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, today, blamed Palestinians for continued violence in the Middle East. But, he says Israel remains committed to a peaceful settlement. Palestinian leaders say Israel is to blame.

While each side was blaming the other, new clashes broke out. An Israeli guard was killed in a gun battle in East Jerusalem. At least five Palestinians and an Israeli were wounded in Gaza.

It may take more than a month for the USS Cole to arrive in the United States. The damaged Navy destroyer was scheduled to be loaded onto a heavy-lift ship today to begin the journey home.

A short time ago, President Clinton commented on the investigation into the attack.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They were just great, the Yemenis were, in the beginning of the first phase of this work. And I think, you know, there have been difficulties now. I think, not because they don't want to find out who did it, but perhaps because they are worried about having America deploy more resources in Yemen to do the investigation than they are.


SHAW: The October 12th attack on the USS Cole killed 17 American sailors.

WOODRUFF: Two Russians and an American are set for liftoff early tomorrow morning, CNN's space correspondent Miles O'Brien spoke with the team about its historic mission.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first keepers of the International Space Station were having a tough time keeping up with the clock on the morning we caught up with them. Inside a full-sized simulator at the cosmonaut training center in Star City, Russia, they were practicing an important task scheduled for the first stay of their four-month stay at the outpost: connecting laptop computers.

But to a man, U.S. commander Bill Shepherd and Russian crewmembers Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev are embarking on their odyssey convinced it will be anything but straightforward.

Would you be surprised if you didn't have your hands full with a lot of problems? SERGEI KRIKALEV, COSMONAUT: I would. I know it couldn't happen because we have so many different systems, and we expecting problems from all of them.

O'BRIEN (on camera): There could be no question this crew is well trained for the space marathon that lies ahead. In fact, they have been preparing to be stationkeepers here in Star City and in Houston for about four years. But that was not by design, they were held up and strung along just like everything else in this far flung international partnership.

(voice-over): But Commander Shepherd is more concerned about the relationship with ground controllers, particularly in Houston where they are more accustomed to planning shuttle missions down to five- minute increments.

BILL SHEPHERD, COMMANDER: Our experience on the shuttle is very scheduled, very time-driven, very scripted. We have got to be careful that we step away from that on this station and kind of do it differently.

O'BRIEN: There is no question this is a different kind of space mission and when things don't go as planned the problem may not be something Houston or anyone else on the ground can solve.

Miles O'Brien, CNN, Star City, Russia.


WOODRUFF: When INSIDE POLITICS returns, the latest tracking poll numbers, plus Stu Rothenburg and Charlie Cook on the presidential candidates' endgames.


SHAW: George W. Bush and Al Gore are neck-and-neck in our daily snapshot of the presidential race.

An average of interviews conducted over the past three days shows Bush leading Gore by three points in the CNN/"USA Today" Gallup tracking poll. Checking the longer term trend, a six-day average of interviews shows Bush five points ahead of Gore.

Comparing our tracking poll to others, Bush leads Gore by three points in the Reuters/MSNBC survey. And Bush is up by just one point in "The Washington Post" and ABC News polls.

I talked about this tight presidential race today with Stu Rothenberg, of "The Rothenberg Political Report," and Charlie Cook of "The National Journal."

I began by asking them about the candidates' strategies in these closing days of the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHARLES COOK, "THE NATIONAL JOURNAL": Well, I think that it's keeping -- for Gore, it's keeping -- getting a -- building up an intensity, getting out the base Democratic vote and particularly going after liberals, these liberals that Ralph Nader has been reaching into and kind of pulling them back in. But you've got -- you've got a lot of just very fickle voters that will kind of halfway go towards one candidate, then get scared off and move back towards the other. We've never seen an election like this.

SHAW: Stu.

STU ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Well, I think I'd agree that base is somewhat of a problem for the vice president. He needs to energize them. He needs to pull votes away from Nader. He also, however, can't give up on swing voters. He has to keep talking to them about his experience, his background, his knowledge and about contrasts on issues.

In terms of the governor, not that he wants to take my advice or needs my advice, but I've been arguing in the final few days he should emphasize that he's going to -- wants to come to Washington to overcome the bitterness and the partisanship, kind of a good government outsider message, I think, might appeal to any of these undecided voters, if indeed they vote, since they're less partisan and less issue-oriented than voters in general. But I'm sure as well he'll be talking about character and trust and a new beginning.

COOK: Also, Bernie, it might be interesting to see whether this new Gore line of attack of whether George Bush is ready to be president, whether that starts taking hold or whether that comes across as a little mean spirited. It will be interesting to see what happens there.

SHAW: Do either of you think Nader's vote is solidly Nader's?

COOK: No, I'm not so sure of that because I think to a certain extent a lot of these are new people, they're young people, below 35- 40 years of age, who I'm not sure they would be voting if it weren't for Nader. It's kind of like the Perot phenomenon of 1992. And with these people, they -- Ralph Nader may pull them out, but I think the danger for Republicans in the House and Senate races is they may come in to vote for Nader, but down ballot they're going to be voting for Democrats. In a place like Washington state with Slade Gorton and Maria Cantwell in that very close Senate race, that could make a difference and really hurt Republicans.

ROTHENBERG: Bernie, I'd agree that the first couple of points for Ralph Nader are "Naderites," pure and simple. I think to the extent that he gets five points or beyond that, even in an individual state, he is starting to pull votes that otherwise might go to Al Gore. And clearly, the Gore people, Democratic allies, interest groups, have decided now that they need to make an explicit appeal to Nader voters to keep them in the Democratic camp.

So it doesn't matter what I think, at least they think that it's important to keep Nader's vote down. SHAW: Charlie and Stu, let's go to the electoral map, starting with you, Stu. What do you see now?

ROTHENBERG: Well, Bernie, I -- I mean, I don't -- I hate to sound like a broken record, but I still think that the critical races here are Michigan. Missouri and Pennsylvania. I actually think that Bush has a narrow lead in Michigan, a narrow advantage in Missouri. Pennsylvania is close, but I think Gore has a slight edge, although some recent Republican polling suggesting the race is pulling even.

Florida, you know, there are a multiplicity of polls, each showing whatever the candidates want to show. I think it's probably even, maybe Bush is up by a point.

This is a strange map to the extent that Florida and West Virginia and Wisconsin are still -- and Tennessee are not behaving the way that you think they're going to behave. But I still think the Republican victory rests on carrying probably Michigan and Missouri. The Democrats have to get Pennsylvania and one of the other two states.

COOK: You know, the other anomaly that Stu didn't mentioned was New Jersey. I mean, normally speaking, if we were talking about a very close race or a race where a Republican may be up two or three percentage points, four percentage points, maybe, that the fact that Gore seems to be ahead by a pretty steady margin in New Jersey is another surprise.

I mean, I think we're looking at basically 13 to 16 states. Bush -- and more often than not, Bush is up by one, two, three percentage points, something like this. And so he's ever so slightly ahead in most of these states, but it's such a narrow margin that, you know, it sort of depends on the day whether he's ahead or behind. Ahead more often than not, but, boy, this thing's still in flux.

ROTHENBERG: I'd agree. And, Bernie, I'd simply add this, that it looks to me as though Bush is ahead by maybe a couple of points nationally. If Gore can gain some ground nationally, I think you'll see him also moving in these swing states. So I expect the race to move in tandem between the electoral college numbers and the popular vote.

SHAW: Stu Rothenberg, Charlie Cook. Gentlemen, thank you.


WOODRUFF: In some presidential battlegrounds, gun politics could play a decisive role on Election Day.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve, reports on the skirmishes in Pennsylvania between the gun lobby and its opponents.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Pennsylvania, the hunt is on for turkeys and for votes. Last year, this state issued more hunting licenses than any other, and membership in the National Rifle Association, already huge, grew by 35 percent.

CHARLTON HESTON, NRA PRESIDENT: I urge you to find every gun owner, every NRA members and everyone who treasures American freedom and to get them out to the polls on November 7th.

MESERVE: NRA President Charlton Heston's whirl through this state on behalf of George W. Bush is just part of a huge onslaught here.


ANNOUNCER: Don't let Al Gore stack the Supreme Court with zealots who oppose your constitutional rights. Protect your rights. Vote freedom first, because if Al Gore wins, you lose.


MESERVE: Gore has tried to neutralize the NRA's arguments against him.

GORE: None of my proposals would have any effect on hunters or sportsmen or people who use rifles.

MESERVE: And Pennsylvania's powerful labor unions are working on Gore's behalf to undercut the NRA.

BILL GEORGE, PRESIDENT, PENNSYLVANIA, AFL-CIO: Our workers who are hunters here understand what the issue's about, and they're not going to vote their gun, they're going to vote their union.

MESERVE: But at an NRA rally on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, evidence and testimony otherwise.

RODNEY PATTON, AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION: The Second Amendment is a right, not a privilege. That is why I will endorse Mr. Bush for the presidency, no matter what my union says.

MESERVE: But in the Philadelphia suburbs, many hold a different view of guns and the candidates.

ONA HAMILTON, MILLION MOMS MARCH: I've always voted Republican my whole life. I was out campaigning for Nixon when I was in grade school around here. And over this gun issue, I'm switching over to the Democratic side, because I feel so strongly about it. And the NRA seems to have co-opted the Republican Party.

MESERVE: It is here in Philly's Republican suburbs that handgun control is making an all-out effort to counter the NRA with ads focusing on the Bush Texas record.


ANNOUNCER: He signed the law that allows carrying those concealed handguns in churches, nursing homes, even amusement parks.

ANNOUNCER: No wonder the NRA says:

KAYNE ROBINSON, NRA FIRST VICE PRESIDENT: If he wins, we'll have a president where we work out of their office.

ANNOUNCER: Say no to the gun lobby.


MESERVE: Knowing the gun issue can cut two ways, the candidates have remained largely mum.

(on camera): But because this presidential race has no major overriding issues, some analysts say guns could be a deciding factor in whether Pennsylvania goes for Bush or for Gore.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Tuscarora Lake, Pennsylvania.


WOODRUFF: Just ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, the media, the polls and the presidential race with Stephen Hess.

Plus, the front-page event in New York, and why Howard Kurtz says it's not the Senate race.



GREG SIMON, GORE ADVISER (singing): CNN/U-S-A-A-A, tracking polls, CNN, what you polls show today. Oh won't you tell me, why we're up at 1:00, but losing when the day is done. One day, we're cracking out the wine. Next day, you've got us crying!


WOODRUFF: Can you imagine what would happen if he could carry a tune?

That's Gore adviser Greg Simon, poking fun at the somewhat volatile CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup tracking poll. The Gallup organization says the big swings reflect swings in enthusiasm for the two candidates.

There's also some serious criticism out there of polls in general, and the way some in the news media have let the various surveys drive coverage. According to the Brookings Institution's Center for Media and Public Affairs, 63 percent of political coverage by the three major broadcast networks has focused on the horse race, instead of substantive stories. That's up from both 1996 and '92.

Joining us now, Steve Hess, of the Brookings Institution, who has been analyzing the data.

Steve Hess, are we in the press captive to these polls?

STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It seems to be. The tracking polls and the volatility have made it such an interesting story that you can hardly resist it. You know you always have horse stories when you get into October. But usually in September, you have stories about the qualities of the candidates, their issues and so forth. I have never seen a profile of coverage as of this election. Right from Labor Day, you are up there at two-thirds horse race, and it hasn't let off.

So it's a different profile. I think there are various reasons, but one reason surely is your infatuation with the polls.

WOODRUFF: Is it such a bad thing, I mean the polls, you know, there is some discrepancy, but generally people think they're fairly close to being accurate.

HESS: I am not criticizing even the accuracy of the polls. I am simply saying of all the ways for you to frame a story, and the three close elections in our lifetime, were never framed purely as close elections, horse races, but it's really the least interesting way to frame it. It doesn't help anybody very much. On November 7th, we will know who won or lost. And so, you really -- you, I don't mean you personally, but the media -- has lost an opportunity to help people know how their votes might make a difference. In the meantime, it's fun. I am not criticizing it. It's the balance I am talking about.

WOODRUFF: What are viewers missing out on?

HESS: Well, I think, actually, these are two candidates who are very different, who have very different personalities and profiles and issues, and a high degree of specificity. When you compare what they're saying to what past candidates are saying, it is not quite ready to put their proposals in the hopper, they don't look like legislation, but they look about as close to that as I must say I have ever seen, particularly of course the Gore proposals.

WOODRUFF: Can you imagine the press turning the clock back on this?

HESS: I don't know. That's a hard thing to say. I think the answer is partly yes. That if there was a big war, you know, how it would be framed. If there was a recession, if there was a charismatic figure, if there was a scandal, if there was some overriding issue, yes, this wouldn't have been an election that is just explained in the terms of its closeness.

WOODRUFF: Stephen Hess, with the Brookings Institution. We are having you on every week. Thanks a lot.

HESS: My pleasure.


SHAW: Now let's consider the news media coverage of another big race.

Journalists tend to like pictures such as this one showing Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and her daughter Chelsea at a pastry shop in Utica, New York today. But, as Howard Kurtz of CNN's "Reliable Sources" explains, some in the news media say Mrs. Clinton and her opponent Rick Lazio are not giving them the riveting race they had hoped to cover.


HOWARD KURTZ, CNN MEDIA ANALYST (voice-over): It was supposed to be the race of the century; the first time a first lady has run for public office. And not just any first lady, the always controversial Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had survived all manner of White House scandal, including her husband's humiliating affair with a young intern.

So when Hillary jumped into the New York Senate race, the media were there by the bus load.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), SENATE CANDIDATE: I must say that I am very humbled and more than a little surprised to be standing here today.


KURTZ: As the Illinois native embarked on a listening tour to get to know New York, her expected opponent, the colorful, combative, you-talking-to-me-mayor, Rudy Giuliani, was rarin' to go. Until he got prostate cancer, and had to acknowledge that he had two first ladies, his wife Donna Hanover, and what the tabloids call his "gal pal," Judy Nathan.


MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: She is a good friend, a very good friend. And beyond that, you can ask me questions, and that is exactly what I am going to say.


KURTZ: Once Giuliani dropped out, the press pack descended on Rick Lazio, the boyish-looking Long Island congressman who lacked Giuliani's polarizing personality.

(on camera): But the media mob soon stopped shuffling off to Buffalo and Poughkeepsie and Albany and Elmira. The race has become, let's face it, a bit of a snooze. New York reporters saying privately, they're disappointed by the lack of fireworks. The reason, both candidates are trying oh, so hard to sound moderate.

ROBERT GEORGE, "NEW YORK POST": No campaign turns out exactly the way people predict. And So I think people were building, building it up a little bit. The media-hungry beast around New York city has been somewhat chomping at the bit and they have not a chance to really -- to jump in.

KURTZ: And Mrs. Clinton has shied away from the one topic everyone is interested in: her long-distance relationship with her husband.

Except when journalists asked her about it, point blank.


CLINTON: Well, you know, Tim, that was a very, a very painful time for me.


KURTZ: There have been some moments of drama. Both candidates' ads pull no punches.


ANNOUNCER: Hillary Clinton, you just can't trust her.



ANNOUNCER: Lazio did serve as Newt Gingrich's deputy whip for four years, and he still says he has absolutely no regrets about voting with Gingrich to take $270 billion out of Medicare.


KURTZ: The congressman confronted the first lady in their first debate.


REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), SENATE CANDIDATE: I want your signature because I think that everybody wants to see you signing something that you said you are for.


KURTZ: There were blasts from the past.


SHAW: Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted in the so-called Travelgate case.


KURTZ: But other stories helped knock the New York race off of the front pages, the presidential campaign turned out to be a barn- burner, violence in the Middle East, the bombing of the USS Cole, and the Subway Series, which knocked this "New York Post" cover story on the race inside a special sports section.

GEORGE: That has definitely created a news brownout in the last 10 days, and that was at the point probably where Lazio really needed to try and get his message through one last, one last time.

KURTZ: The campaign is close, with Hillary Clinton leading in one poll, behind in another.

This man is certainly paying close attention. But for the press, the much-hyped battle has become just another Senate race.

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


WOODRUFF: Up next, bombarded by candidates and their ads, some voters say enough.


WOODRUFF: Al Gore is making his pitch to undecided voters in Wisconsin today. George W. Bush did the same over the weekend.

As our Bob Franken reports, some residents in this battleground state are, if you could imagine it, tired of all of the political attention.



ANNOUNCER: And now live from your home town team...


BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's impossible to turn on the TV in Wisconsin these days without being deluged.


UNIDENTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: We'll check out the wind chills and your nice weekend forecast a little later on.



BUSH: Parents need tools to help them protect and nurture their families.



ANNOUNCER: The Bush plan does not add up.


FRANKEN: There have been more TV ads ran in the Green Bay market than almost anywhere in the country. For many who live here, that's a dubious honor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've heard them all 20 or 30 times. It's overdone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's just too many, I think. People lose focus. They're sound bites.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get sick of hearing about it, really. They're OK in a way, but in another way you just don't want to hear about them no more.

FRANKEN: Small wonder. According to a just-released independent tabulation, Green Bay television stations have carried more than 7,000 political ads in the last four months alone. Why? Analysts say that in battleground Wisconsin, this most-undecided region is crucial.

KENNETH GOLDSTEIN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: Listen, campaigns aren't about being efficient at this point. They're desperate.

FRANKEN: There's a steady parade of candidates in the flesh through the Fox River Valley. George Bush attracted thousands to a rally in an Appleton stadium Saturday. And now, Al Gore has hastily scheduled his own rally here in Green Bay.

(on camera): The candidates come and go in a flash, but their TV spots are ever-present. Since June, the ads in the presidential race alone have brought Green Bay television stations more than a $1.7 million.

(voice-over): One would think the local TV managers would be deliriously happy with so much political money rolling in -- not necessarily.

JAY ZOLLAR, WLUK-TV GENERAL MANAGER: It's really displacing a lot of the advertising that would have been there anyway.

FRANKEN: And by now, local TV executives say, they worry about turned-off viewers turning off their stations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I kind of tune them out now. You don't really -- after a while, you quit paying attention. And you're sick of hearing the same thing over and over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like I told my wife, if I had enough money, I'd take them both to court and sue them both for false advertising.

FRANKEN: The prevailing view in this ad-weary region is that the best thing about presidential campaigns is that they only happen every four years.

Bob Franken, CNN, Green Bay, Wisconsin.


WOODRUFF: And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Starting tonight, CNN will make some changes in its programming lineup until the election.

At 8:00 p.m. Eastern each night, we'll present "COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION 2000," with Wolf Blitzer.

SHAW: It will be followed by "UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM," with Jeff Greenfield and his guests looking at the campaign.

And at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, we will have "THE SPIN ROOM," with Tucker Carlson, Bill Press and friends.

I'm Bernard Shaw.

WOODRUFF: And I'm Judy Woodruff.

"WORLDVIEW" is next.



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