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Interview with California Governor Gray Davis; Howard Dean Formally Announces Presidential Bid

Aired June 23, 2003 - 16:00   ET


HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have the power to take the White House back in 2004!

ANNOUNCER: He's been running for months. So what does Democrat Howard Dean hope to gain by announcing his campaign again?

It's not the kind of history Gray Davis wants to make. We will grill the California governor about the campaign to drive him out of office.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I won that election fair and square. They're trying to overthrow the will of the electorate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you marry me?


ANNOUNCER: You might want to think of it as "The Bachelor" vs. the "Sex and the City" Women. Are they getting together in their political views?


Now, live from Washington: JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

We begin with two powerful weapons for presidential candidates: money and media attention. President Bush headed to New York this afternoon, hoping to rake in more than $4 million for his reelection campaign, the biggest haul yet of his two-week fund-raising blitz.

Meantime, presidential candidate Howard Dean tried to steal some of Mr. Bush's political thunder and stand out from the Democratic pack. He held a formal announcement after months on the trail.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in Burlington, Vermont.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He began more than a year ago, a lonely long shot, but Howard Dean isn't alone anymore.

DEAN: You have the power to take back the Democratic Party. You have the power to take our country back. And you have the power to take the White House back in 2004.

CROWLEY: A Dean presidency is no longer a laughable idea, thanks in no small part to his active Internet campaign and in large part to his opposition to the war in Iraq. Activists came to listen and stayed to support. They were starving for any kind life in the Democratic Party, and the doctor delivered.

DEAN: But most importantly, I wanted my party to stand up for what we believe again.


CROWLEY: Dean's longshot odds are shorter now, but the top tier can be shaky. Dean is getting called on things nobody paid attention to when he was an asterisk. He shoots from the lip, has mischaracterized his opponents' positions, and changed his own on issues including the death penalty, defense funding and raising the retirement age to 70 to bolster the Social Security system.

Dean's foreign policy credentials are slim to none, a gap that may seem glaring in a post-9/11 world.


TIM RUSSERT, HOST: How many terror do we -- how many men and women do we now have on active duty?

DEAN: I can't tell you the answer to that either. It's...

RUSSERT: But as commander in chief, you should know that.

DEAN: As someone who is running in the Democratic Party primary, I know that it's somewhere in the neighborhood of one to two million people. But I don't know the exact number. And don't think I need to know that to run.


CROWLEY: Dean's tough go on the Sunday talks and the headline news that his 17-year-old was cited by Vermont police for allegedly helping also underage buddies steal liquor from a country club was, in some sense, a success story. Dean is a major leaguer now, and it's a rough game.


CROWLEY: Dean's supporters find him refreshing. His critics find him irritating. But everybody agrees that he is the candidate at this point with the most buzz. What Dean must now prove is whether he can convert buzz into votes -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: He sure attracted a lot of attention today.

OK, Candy Crowley, thanks very much in Burlington.

Well, Dean returned to Vermont from Chicago, where he and six other Democratic contenders reached out to African-American voters and to civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.

As CNN's Jonathan Karl reports, yesterday's forum gave the Democrats another platform to lash out at President Bush.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, our candidates.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's become conventional wisdom in some circles to say Democrats are afraid to aggressively take on the popular president. Not so.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are led today, run today by a radical, extreme administration that has sold your government to the special interests of this country.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This administration's idea of diversity is to have a whole bunch of different oil executives from different companies running the government.

KARL: Brought together by Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Push Coalition in Chicago, these Democrats sought to outdo one another in the ferocity of their attacks on the president on issues ranging from the alleged abuse of civil liberties in the war on terror...


KARL: ... to education...

GEPHARDT: No child left behind, it's a fraud. It's a phony gimmick.

KARL: ... to the president's policy on AIDS in Africa.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president's program to deal with HIV/AIDS in Africa is a fraud.

KARL: The issue that seemed to fire up this crowd of liberal activists was the administration's failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Bill Clinton had told the lie that George Bush told, he'd have been impeached for saying that.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And lying to the American people is a weapon of mass destruction, Mr. Bush!

KARL: And it's not just the long-shot, more left-wing candidates taking on the president on foreign policy and national security. Witness Dick Gephardt, who supported the Iraq war, taking on the Bush administration over North Korea.

GEPHARDT: This is breathtaking ineptitude, and we are now in more danger tonight than we've ever been.

KARL: If there was ever a reluctance to vigorously attack the president it is gone.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: And I think these candidates are beginning to get a sharper message that's going to show contrast.

KARL: Presidential forums like this are happening about weekly now and look like Democratic auditions for the role of the best person to take on the president.

(on camera): For now, Democratic candidates are attacking President Bush and for the most part leaving each other alone. It's a tenuous truce that nobody expects to last long. After all, only one of them will get a chance to run against the president.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Chicago.


WOODRUFF: In this preprimary season, the Democratic presidential candidates are, to a great degree, trying to impress the party's core voters.

Our Bill Schneider has been checking out the polls in some key constituencies.

Bill, tell us, first of all, are African-American voters rallying behind any one of these Democratic candidates?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, not particularly strongly.

The latest CNN/"USA Today/Gallup poll includes an over-sample of African-American voters. Here are the preferences of black Democrats: first choice, Al Sharpton. But he's only favored by about a quarter. Joe Lieberman comes in second at 16 percent, Carol Moseley Braun third at 14. No other Democrat is in double digits. So, at this point, no Democrat, including Sharpton, has the black vote locked up.

Now, the poll also included an over-sample of Hispanics. Hispanic Democrats are even more dispersed, with Lieberman slightly ahead at 20 percent. Senator Bob Graham shows some strength with Hispanics, probably because a lot of them live in Florida, his state. But a whopping one-third of Hispanic Democrats say they don't have any preference for the Democratic nomination. It's a constituency, Judy, that's wide open. WOODRUFF: So, Bill, where do these two constituencies stand when you look at a general election matchup?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the poll asked people whether they would vote for President Bush or for an unnamed Democratic opponent. White voters favor President Bush by more than 20 points, but there's no evidence here that President Bush has made any headway with African- Americans. They favor the Democrat, whoever that turns out to be, by better than 10-1.

But President Bush does appear to be making progress with Hispanics, a key constituency Republicans have targeted. Hispanic voters are split right now between Bush and a Democrat.

WOODRUFF: And what other group would you say, Bill, beside Hispanics are the Republicans targeting?

SCHNEIDER: Married women.

We all know about the gender gap. But it turns out that the marriage gap is actually bigger than the gender gap. Among unmarried voters, well, there's no gender gap at all. Unmarried men and unmarried women are both split between Bush and the Democratic candidate. There's a slight gender gap among married voters. The Democrat does a little bit better with married women than with married men. But President Bush enjoys a pretty good lead among married women.

So is the gender gap a myth? No, but a lot of difference between men and women is caused by the fact that most women voters are unmarried, including older widows and divorcees. Most men are married. Married women tend to be more secure economically. Democrats call them, as you know, soccer moms. Republicans call them security moms. And it looks like Republicans may be winning that argument -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Hmm, security moms. So maybe we'll hear that term more often.

OK, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Well, another poll number that seems to bode well for President Bush, among voting-age Americans, he leads an unnamed Democrat by 12 points. But consider this. At this stage of the 1992 presidential race, George Herbert Walker Bush was 21 points ahead of an unnamed Democrat. And, of course, Bush 41 went on to lose the election.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: remembering a mayor who broke new ground for African-Americans in the South; plus, my interview with California Governor Gray Davis. Will he fight a campaign to drive him out of office until the bitter end?

And later: the flavor of the month? Apparently, you cannot judge Ben & Jerry's political preferences by the cartons of their ice cream.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: The former mayor of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson, died today, after collapsing from an apparent heart attack at Reagan National Airport here in Washington. He was 65 years old.

Maynard Jackson was the first African-American to lead a major Southern city when he was elected in 1973 at the age of 35. He left office after two terms and then returned eight years later and helped present Atlanta's bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Former President and Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter today called Maynard Jackson a great friend. He said -- quote -- "Under his leadership, Atlanta thrived and the state benefited as well."

INSIDE POLITICS back in a moment.


WOODRUFF: Later today, the California secretary of state's office is expected to release the latest signature totals in the effort to recall Governor Gray Davis. GOP Congressman Darrell Issa recently stepped in to help bankroll the effort to gather almost 900,000 signatures that are required from registered voters. Organizers say they have collected already collected about 800,000.

As the recall effort gains momentum, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has now taken herself out of the running as a possible replacement for Davis. Party leaders have asked for unity to help Davis defeat the recall effort.

Governor Gray Davis joins me now from Sacramento.

Governor, is this recall effort going to be successful in getting on the ballot?

DAVIS: I can't speak to that, Judy.

But I can tell you this. The people of this state were kind enough to elect me last November. I'm working hard in the job they asked me to do. And in these difficult days, now is the time for people to come together and solve our problems, not pull us apart. And a recall will not educate one new child, provide health insurance for one more person, or help public safety in this state.

So that is a divisive, partisan -- that is divisive, partisan mischief, when the times call for all of us pulling together to solve the state's problems.

WOODRUFF: Well, Governor, the people behind this recall say that, essentially, when you ran for reelection, you misled the voters of California. You didn't let them know the deficit was going to grow to $38 billion. You didn't let them know that you were going to be wanting to raise taxes. What do you say to all that?

DAVIS: Well, this is all revisionist history.

In the year 2002, everyone from Alan Greenspan on down thought there would be a recovery sooner and it would be more robust. Of course, that hasn't occurred. It really hasn't occurred to this day. And so governors and, to some extent, mayors, across this country, as you know, Judy, are dealing with difficult financial times. And we are dealing with it as best we can.

I didn't let any grass grow. I proposed a special session last November -- last December -- with very serious reductions in a variety of programs in state government. My budget is balanced. It is supportive of education, public safety, and health insurance for children. In fact, I have the most pro-education budget out there now.

WOODRUFF: But you've got right now a higher unemployment rate in California than the national average. Your approval rating right now is at an embarrassing 21 percent. How do you surmount that? How do you get around this?

DAVIS: You know, governors tend to get more credit than they deserve in good times. I remember, a couple years ago, I was in the high 50s, low 60s. And the people -- the thing that people liked the most about me was the strong economy in California.

Well, governors only can do so much on the economy. We do our best. But I probably didn't deserve all that credit. And I probably don't deserve all this blame. But that's the just deal when you want to be governor. I know, if I can work through these problems and the economy recovers, people will feel better about themselves at the end of four years and better about the job I did.

WOODRUFF: Governor, as we've been reporting, a number of the top California Democrats have now said they'll stay off the ballot, that they won't get involved if this makes it on the ballot.

However, my question to you is, do you have solid commitments that, if this goes forward, that they will absolutely stick with you and not run?

DAVIS: Well, I very much appreciate the statements that the constitutional officers have made. Our senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, she has just been terrific.

As mayor, she overcame a recall financed by the right wing, as I will overcome this one. And she's worked tirelessly day in and day out to fight this recall. So I very much appreciate the expressions of support from all seven constitutional officers, our two United States senators, California Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. And, obviously, they want to see this partisan mischief by the right wing exposed for what it is. So we're all sticking together and doing the jobs that we were elected to do.

WOODRUFF: But, still, Governor, it's looking like there's a good chance it is going to get on the ballot. If it looks like that and if the situation continues to deteriorate, can you foresee a circumstance where you would simply step aside?

DAVIS: Absolutely not. Seven million people went to the polls last November, Judy, and asked me to be governor of this state for four more years. I have an obligation to them to work as hard as I can to improve education, to provide health insurance for children, help vital programs for seniors, and promote public safety in this state. I have one goal, which is to leave this state better off than I found it.

WOODRUFF: At the same time, Governor, if this does reach the ballot -- and it is simply a plurality that's needed for the next governor to be chosen -- and you have somebody popular on the ballot, like actor Arnold Schwarzenegger or even Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, aren't -- that must be something that has you staying awake at night.

DAVIS: Well, if you're asking me if this is my favorite subject, the answer is, no, it isn't. But I was asked to do a job. These are hard times. And governors are expected to make tough decisions. I'm going to do it.

I'll tell you this, Judy. I have faith in the electorate. I've run five times statewide for governor -- for statewide office in this state, and the electorate has been good enough to support me every time. I like to believe they made the right decision last November. And if they're asked to make another decision, I think they'll make the right decision again.

WOODRUFF: Arnold Schwarzenegger, do you think he'll try to run?

DAVIS: The Terminator, I don't know if he'll be back or not. But whoever runs, I'll make my case to the people of this state. They know these are good -- these are hard times. And they know it requires making tough decisions.

But I want to tell you, I'm not going to retreat from the success we've made in education. Test scores are up four years in a row. We have more college scholarships for deserving students. That is a passport to a better life. I'll make my case to the people. And I think they will be supportive.

WOODRUFF: Governor Gray Davis making his case for us today.

Governor, good to see you. We thank you for talking to us today.

DAVIS: Thanks, Judy. Good to be with you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it very much.

DAVIS: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Howard Dean relaunches his campaign back home in Vermont. But one of the Green Mountain State's best-known activists is backing one of Dean's rivals -- the activists and the rival ahead in our "Campaign News Daily."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily": Ben & Jerry's ice cream was among the treats served at Howard Dean's big home state announcement today, but Dean is not the No. 1 choice of company namesake Ben Cohen. The ice cream maker and liberal activist has endorsed Dennis Kucinich for president. Cohen says he supports the Kucinich plan to cut military funding in favor of more spending on social programs.

Senator Bob Graham runs well among home state voters against his fellow Democratic hopefuls, but he faces a tough race in a hypothetical matchup with President Bush. A new Research 2000 poll of Florida voters finds Graham the clear leader among the Democrats, with Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman tied for second. In a hypothetical matchup with President Bush, however, Graham still has work to do. Mr. Bush leads Graham by 13 points among Florida voters who were polled.

Still ahead: Wall Street takes a turn for the worse. We'll have a live report.

And can the Democrats get enough of announcements? Our Bruce Morton will consider the political power of repetition.




WOODRUFF: Advertising executives know it, and so do politicians: You can better sell your message by saying it over and over again. But do we really need multiple presidential campaign announcements?

Here's our national correspondent, Bruce Morton.


DEAN: Today, I announce that I am running for the presidency of the president of the United States of America.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Howard Dean announcing for president. Gosh, didn't he do that already? Well, yes, he filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission last month. So this is No. 2, but that's how do you it.

GEPHARDT: I announce my candidacy.

MORTON: Dick Gephardt February 19. But, before that, his campaign had accidentally faxed out invitations to a presidential exploratory committee fund-raiser. Then they announced they would file exploratory committee papers. Then they filed the papers. Then Gephardt announced. So that's four, if you count the goof with the fax machine.

The theory, of course, is that, if you call it an announcement, reporters and cameras will cover it and you'll get some publicity, which, with nine candidates running, you need.

LIEBERMAN: I am a candidate.

MORTON: Still, some take a more conservative approach. Joe Lieberman announced once. John Edwards announced an exploratory committee and could announce some more, same for John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton. One each, but they could do more. Bob Graham filed papers and made an announcement, but he could do more. Does it work? Do you get more coverage? Hard to say.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), TEXAS: I'm running for president of the United States.


MORTON: Our research shows, George W. Bush, more or less, announced four times in 2000. And he, of course, won. But Dan Quayle sort of announced four times, too. And he lost early. So it depends.

One rule is certain, though. Ask Chris Dodd or Tom Daschle or Al Gore. When you announce you're not running, you only have to say it once.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Well, we can tell you that Howard Dean's campaign had to scramble today to stop their announcement photo-op from being spoiled. As Dean delivered his speech, a sign touting former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader could be seen very clearly behind him. So Dean supporters stepped in with their own signs moving up and down whenever necessary to block the pro-Nader poster.

Now, we can tell you from years of covering campaigns, that's a necessary skill for a campaign worker.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us.


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