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White House Hopeful Democrats Use California for Campaign Issue

Aired August 12, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: A gray day in California. Governor Davis takes advantage of an Arnold-free moment in the recall frenzy.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: In my judgment it's an insult to the 8 million people who went to the polls last November.

ANNOUNCER: Who's running the running man's race? Schwarzenegger's political handlers have their own movie connection.

Even the '04 Democrats are talking about California. Is the recall stealing their spotlight or just giving them new ammunition?

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Schwarzenegger is an impostor. You will see at the end of this that I'm the real Terminator. I want to terminate Bush.



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off this week.

No one would ever confuse Gray Davis with Arnold Schwarzenegger. And this hour the California governor is trying to further drive home the differences between himself and the movie star running to replace him. in a nutshell, the embattled Democrat at the center of the recall storm is portraying himself as serious about the state, the issues and his job. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is standing by for a Davis appearance in Brentwood, California -- Thelma.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John. Well you're right, the governor is expected to arrive at any time now. He will make an appearance here at this gas station to talk about the environment and clean burning gasoline.

Now this is his second day this week to actually hit the streets and to talk about the issues. And he says that these are things that he wants to remind voters on. He wants to remind them of how he stands on the issues.

Now yesterday the governor went to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles to talk about legislation to develop a curriculum for educators state wide on tolerance and anti-hate. He says that it is very critical in a state such as California, where he says this is the most diverse state on the entire planet.

Now, it's all part of a strategy again, to remind voters that he has made good on some of his campaign promises. Details, he says, that have been obscured by the entire recall effort. On health care, for instance, Davis says that one million children of the working poor now have health insurance, something they did not have before he took office. On Saturday he visited a community clinic to make his point.

Then last week the governor appeared before a conference of educators in Anaheim, and education, he says, is his top priority. He cites that the California grant program is an example of that. He says that in two and a half years he actually pushed for the largest expansion ever for grants of college students here in California, and that 100 students have benefited for this program in two and a half years.

And again, John, the governor says that the environment is a key priority for him. He'll be here to talk about ,fuel clean fuel and the environment. John, back to you.

KING: So, Thelma, the governor is out talking about his priorities his proposals. Is he criticizing the other candidates, especially Arnold Schwarzenegger, as he does this? Or is he trying to just keep his focus on the job?

GUTIERREZ: Yes, that's a really good question. In fact, some of the reporters asked him to address those issues yesterday. The governor said he wasn't going to go there. He said with some 200 candidates out there throwing rocks at him, he didn't have the time to throw those rocks back. He said he was going to stay very focused on where he stands on the issues.

KING: Thelma Gutierrez in Brentwood, California standing by for the governor at the pump. We might check back in with you later as the governor speaks. We'll keep track of that event and go back, if necessary.

Now as the saying goes, you need a scorecard to keep up with the chaos in California. At last word 115 candidates had qualified for the recall ballot and another 132 applications were still under review. And size isn't all that matters for critics who predict the October 7 election will be a mess.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pull the ballot card out, check for chads on the back.

KING (voice-over): Here we go again, the California recall election cobbled together in just over two months, looking to some like Florida redux.

DICK ROSENGARTEN, "CALIFORNIA POLITICAL WEEK": The county registrars in the 58 counties are yelling and screaming bloody murder.

KING: California's scrambling to pull together an election with more candidates than the state has ever seen and less than half the typical prep time. In Los Angeles alone it's a tall order.

MICHAEL PETRUCELLO, L.A. COUNTY ASST. REGISTRAR: We have to format and print 4 million sample ballots in this style, mail them to 4 million voters. We then have to format the ballot itself.

KING: Not to mention recruit poll workers to pull it off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you available again? This will be for October 7 and we will need you to be the inspector.

KING: There is also the matter of a highly complicated ballot.

PETRUCELLO: You may see as many as 18 or so names per page in L.A. County when you go to vote. So if there's 125 or 150, there will be a substantial number of pages that you have to page through to find the candidate that you want to vote for.

KING: And then in six California counties you'll have to punch. The ACLU is suing to block the use of the punchcard ballots claiming the system is faulty and disenfranchises minority voters. L.A. election officials don't seem too worried.

PETRUCELLO: We've never had any problems. As like I said, it's been 35 years of successful voting.

KING: Still, though election day is October 7, decision day may come quite a bit later.


KING: Quite a confusing situation, of course. Let's try to sort through it now, all this recall ballot confusion, with Alfie Charles. He's public affairs director for Sequoia Voting Systems.

Am I right, sir, 30 of the 58 counties your company is responsible for preparing the ballots?

ALFIE CHARLES, SEQUOIA VOTING SYSTEMS: That's right, we'll print the ballots and we'll also help the candidates prepare the sample ballots that provide the list of candidates to all the voters (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: So somewhere in the ballpark of maybe 200 candidates, and you have to do this in California in seven languages, is that correct?

CHARLES: In county like Los Angeles they have seven languages. Different counties have different language requirements. We're also required to place the candidates in random alphabet order and rotate those candidates by assembly district. So we have to make sure that the candidates are in the right order, spelled the right way, proofread in the right languages and the right ballots for all the right voters. It's a difficult process but one that we'll be able to get done.

KING: I understand one of your concerns is overvoting. That is the candidates flip from page to page to page through this complicated ballot. They might not just vote once.

CHARLES: Absolutely. Something that poll workers and candidates and election officials will have to make sure that voters understand. If they're looking at a paper ballot that may be two pages long, may be multiple cards on different side of the piece of paper. Voters are used to seeing all of their candidates on one block on one side of the piece of paper. The potential for over voting is there so voter education is key.

That won't be the case with touchscreen voting. Those systems prevent overvoting. So voters will have that safeguard. But as we saw in Florida, the optical scan ballots and the punchcard ballots are subject to overvoting by voters who may not be familiar with seeing that many candidates on that many different pieces of paper for one election.

KING: Does the specter of Florida and the presidential race hang over your work at all? Do you remember all that negative publicity and think, Oh, my God, how do we do this?

CHARLES: Every election official in the country hopes that is not the type of situation that comes our way. But from Florida we also had a tremendous amount of voter education and voters understand the new systems, they'll be able to prepare for that and check those ballots to make sure they're marking them properly.

But as we move to touchscreen voting and as the electronic systems get in the hands of voters and election officials, it will simplify things quite a bit and will eliminate a lot of the problems that we saw.

KING: How long do you think reasonably it will take to count? This is all moot, of course, if Governor Davis passes the first test. But assume as the polls show today, that California voters decide to recall their governor. How long do you think it will take reasonably to count the ballots on question two then and find out who the new governor will be?

CHARLES: Counting ballots in California has always been a 29-day process after the election. We'll have semi-official results from counties coming in that night. The size of the ballot is not much greater than traditional ballots have been, it's just that they're all in one context and that creates some programming and logistical challenges.

But we will need to wait for all of the absentee ballots to be processed, all of the provisional ballots to be processed. So if it's a close contest I don't think that we'll see a final result on election night.

But the counties are doing an excellent job preparing for this and under short time frames and difficult circumstances. So I know that they'll get the work done.

KING: And you mention, sir, how critical it is in your view that the voters be educated, the voters have a sense going to the polls what they're going to encounter. Given the fact that we still don't know with certainty how many candidates there are yet, the secretary of state's still working on that, when do you think it will be possible to get a sample ballot ready and start sending it to homes so people will have some time to actually look at this ballot?

CHARLES: The printing will start as soon as that list is certified. I believe that will be done tomorrow. The typesetting, the proofreading will take place and the sample ballots will be prepared. So printing will take place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until those ballots are in the hands of county election officials and those sample ballots are in the hands of voter.

The voters should have those several weeks before the election so they'll be able to see what they're facing in the polling place on election day. And we hope they'll take the time to read that and understand exactly what voting system their county has and how they'll see the candidates portray to them in the voting booth so there won't be any mistakes.

KING: Alfie Charles of Sequoia Voting Systems, we thank you for helping us try to understand this very complicated process and we wish you luck. Thank you very much for joining us today.

Now if you're wondering what's missing from our recall coverage today, it's a new photo op of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He doesn't have any public events scheduled today, except for a movie star turn on "Access Hollywood."

Nonetheless, Schwarzenegger still is generating headlines. "The San Francisco Chronicle" reports Schwarzenegger did not vote in five of the past 11 statewide elections. Schwarzenegger's aides say they're researching to try to find out why absentee ballots requested by the actor in for of those five elections were not recorded as being received by election officials.

And there's another poll out showing Schwarzenegger far ahead of the other replacement candidates if Governor Davis is ousted. The NBC News survey shows him with 31 percent support of registered California voters. Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat, is a distant second with 18 percent.

Schwarzenegger's campaign has been likened to Jesse Ventura's insurgent run for Minnesota governor. But while Schwarzenegger was on hand for Ventura's inauguration, the wrestler-turned-governor-turned ex-politician now, says he will not endorse his old friend's campaign. Ventura says as an independent, he doesn't endorse Republicans or Democrats. And besides, Ventura says he thinks the recall is ridiculous.

There's much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So what we're seeing in California is that the California governor is getting the blame for the things George Bush has done to this country. If you want to recall somebody, it ought to be George Bush. And we'll have that opportunity.


KING: Look who's talking about the Terminator now. Can the '04 Democrats compete with the Arnold Schwarzenegger show from California?

What does a Boris Yelt -- what does a movie about Boris Yeltsin's campaign have to do with Schwarzenegger's run for governor? Our Bill Schneider has been working the connections.

And he may have just played that "Top Gun" swagger, but is President Bush more of a G.I. Joe?


KING: For Californians, it could be the end of days for old Schwarzenegger movies on TV. We'll explain.

Plus, he may be on vacation, but there's no rest from fundraising for George W. Bush. We'll have the latest news from the presidential campaign.

INSIDE POLITICS is back in a flash.


KING: Whether it's on stage in a form-fitting brief for a body building competition or taking it all off for the movie cameras, Arnold Schwarzenegger is comfortable in the spotlight. But his bid to be "Governator" of California is stealing the spotlight from an even bigger race.

Here's our Bruce Morton.


REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not about me. It's about us.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The nine of us running for president of the United States.

SHARPTON: But I'm the real Terminator. I want to terminate Bush.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're out there somewhere, eight men and a woman who want to be president. But something's happened.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIF. GOV. CANDIDATE: Shut up! MORTON: They haven't, of course, but nobody's listening. They're watching Arnold, listening to Arnold campaigning, Arnold handshaking, Arnold sucking all of the oxygen out of the political fish bowl.

Remember, Governor Dean, when you were on the covers of "TIME" and "Newsweek" the same week? That was then.

This is now.

You know the daily political newsletter "The Hotline"? Monday, the first nine stories were about California. The 10th was about Arnold and not the presidential wannabes was getting all the coverage. Tuesday, the first six were California.

Other California candidates squirm in to share pictures with Arnold. That's Arianna Huffington. When the others talked, they talk about Arnold.

BILL SIMON (R), CALIF. GOV. CANDIDATE: Obviously, he's known from the stand point of name identification, but from the standpoint of his views, from the standpoint of where he stands on the issues, from the standpoint of what his priorities are, he's a blank slate. We need to hear from Arnold.

MORTON (on camera): California is fascinating, of course. All those candidates -- 200, maybe more. A ballot as big as a bed sheet. You need an old fashioned political machine with precinct captains to tell the voters how to handle that.

Arnold doesn't have a machine, of course, but he's played one in the movies.

SCHWARZENEGGER: I am a machine.

MORTON (voice-over): As Shakespeare said of Caesar, "He doth bestride the narrow world like a colossus."

Even the wannabes, the presidential wannabes, are talking California. It may be the only way to get any attention.

DEAN: So what we're seeing in California is that the California governor is getting the blame for the things that George Bush has done to this country.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to make sure that California recognizes that the recall is a disaster.

MORTON: So the country, the world maybe, is watching Arnold, watching California.

Can he do it? Actors have before.

Oh, and if you happen to see a presidential wannabe out there somewhere, give him a smile, a friendly word. It's lonely these days being them. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


KING: We'll give the '04 Democrats a featured role in today's "Campaign News Daily."

Joe Lieberman plans to visit California recall land later this week. He's expected to talk about environmental issues during his swing through Los Angeles and San Francisco on Thursday. Campaign sources tell us Senator Lieberman has no plans for any recall-related events.

Lieberman and his Democratic rivals traded harsh words about the war in Iraq during their joint appearance last night in Philadelphia.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people will not elect in 2004 a Democratic candidate for president who sounds an uncertain trumpet in these uncertain times.



DEAN: My trumpet is pretty certain. I supported President Bush -- the first war in the Gulf in 1991. I supported our attack on Afghanistan because I thought that was a matter of national security. They had killed 3,000 of our people. And I did not support the war in Iraq, and let me tell you why. I do not think that it is all right for a member of Congress to say that we ought not to rush into war having given the president of the United States the authority to rush into the war.


KING: While the Democrats sparred, President Bush was raising another cool million in campaign cash. Including last night's haul in Colorado, the Bush re-election campaign has raised at least $44.4 million so far.


KING: Now much like the wizard behind the curtain ran Oz, nobody in politics gets the keys to the Emerald City without a little help. When it comes to running a campaign, who does Arnold Schwarzenegger turn to? We'll let you know on the other side of this break.



KING: The only thing about Schwarzenegger's campaign that is probably more secretive than his decision to run is his stand on the issues. But even that may get the Hollywood treatment. Let's get details now from our senior political analyst Bill Schneider in Los Angeles -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: John, you think the line between politics and show business is blurred? Get a load of this. Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign team is trying to turn a movie star into a governor. Meanwhile a TV movie is about to come out in which those very same campaign advisers are played by movie stars.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Here's George Gorton, Schwarzenegger's campaign manager, played by actor Jeff Goldbloom. Pollster Dick Dresner, played by actor Anthony Lapaglia. And Leev Shriver (ph) playing operative Joe Shoeman (ph). All used of them used to work for California Governor Pete Wilson. When Wilson dropped out of the presidential race in 1996, they went to work for another candidate for president, of another country.

GEORGE GORTON, SCHWARZENEGGER'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I got a strange call out of the blue from a guy who said in a thick Russian accent, "We know all about you, and we'd like you to come to Russia."

SCHNEIDER: Their client? Boris Yeltsin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a world stage. We get Yeltsin re- elected, we're going to be hotter than wildfire.

SCHNEIDER: Can you just go to Russia and apply America campaign techniques? Apparently you can.

GORTON: Focus groups in polls are like hammers and saws. You know, they're tools and they work anywhere.

SCHNEIDER: In the movie version, "Spinning Boris," re-electing Yeltsin was no small task.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You haven't heard the best part. If the election were held today, apparently Stalin would get 8 percent. That's more than Boris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe? Stalin is dead.

SCHNEIDER: You think American campaigns are nasty?

GORTON: The commercials that we ended up with even had people being shot in the head by Communists.

SCHNEIDER: The Boris Yeltsin campaign involved some mysteries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Brandon, are we or are we not working for Boris?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course, we are. But please, no names. SCHNEIDER: The Schwarzenegger has its mysteries, too. Like say when the candidate went on "The Tonight Show" to announce he was running.

GORTON: I had in my pocket a statement that he had conspired with me to write which said he was getting out. And I certainly expected him to give it, and I was the most startled person in America when he didn't.

SCHNEIDER: Working for the Terminator looks like a snap compared to running Boris Yeltsin's campaign in Russia.

GORTON: It became frightening as we went on, in fact to the point where both Dick and I called home and left messages on our answering machine of who might be going to commit foul play against us, should we turn out to be missing. We also arranged escape routes and we -- where we'd meet in parks.


SCHNEIDER: Sometimes a political campaign turns into a thriller, sometimes a farce. We can't wait to see how this one ends -- John.

KING: Bill Schneider in Los Angeles, tracking the subplot to the movie drama. Or something like that. Thank you, Bill.

That's all the time we have today for INSIDE POLITICS.

Please stay with CNN for continuing developments on this breaking story, the arrest of a British citizen here in the United States on an apparent plot to smuggle, perhaps surface-to air missiles. Details still scare on this story, but our correspondents are working quite vigorously. Stay with CNN for the latest.

Again, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for watching.



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