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McClintock Gains in Latest Recall Poll; Can Bill Clinton Transfer Star Power to Party?

Aired September 12, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: The elephant in the room in the California GOP. No, it's not Arnold. It's the Republican right versus the middle.

He's still the one in the minds of many Democrats. But can Bill Clinton transfer some of his star power to less popular members of his party?

Back in the USSR? Find out how a Soviet-style purge (ph) with a Southern accent translates into the "Political Play of the Week."

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


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. Well, with less than a month until the California recall election, the state Republican and Democrat Parties are holding conventions this weekend. Each party has its problems, but California Republicans in particular are engaged in a good deal of soul searching and second-guessing as they watch two of their own do battle. Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is in Los Angeles.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You can't beat somebody with nobody. It's even harder to beat somebody with everybody, which brings us to California's Republican Party.

BILL SIMON (R), FRM. CALIF. GOV. CANDIDATE: When I got out I said there were too many Republicans in the race and I still believe that's the case.

CROWLEY: Specifically there is one too many. Do the math in the latest "L.A. Times" poll. Democrat Bustamante 30 percent, moderate Republican Schwarzenegger 25 percent, conservative Republican McClintock 18 percent. Together, the Republicans beat Bustamante by 13 percentage points, separately, they both lose.

The California Republican Party meets this weekend amid signs that a unique shot at the governor's office will unravel ion the same old problem, conservatives versus moderate Republicans in a sate which votes center to left. Schwarzenegger, liberal on abortion and gay rights, thinks McClintock should get out of the race because he's too conservative to win moderate swing voters. A California Republican needs a lot of swing voters in a state where there are almost a million and a half more Democrats than Republicans.

McClintock, a social conservative, wants a shot at Schwarzenegger mano a mano.

TOM MCCLINTOCK (R), CALIF. GOV. CANDIDATE: Can we do that in a debate before the convention? Saturday we're both going to be there.


CROWLEY: This phone exchange over California radio is the closest the two will get for a while. They are scheduled for separate appearances at the party meeting. Leaders hope to keep the session from imploding into he usual moderates versus conservative debacle.

Still something has got to give or Republicans are going down, again. Bill Simon, more in sync with McClintock than Schwarzenegger, lost the governor's race in 2000. Neutral now, he says he will back whoever has the best economic plan.

SIMON: But the candidate, let's just say hypothetically, agreed with me on all those issues and was viable, you know, I might be a little more flexible on some other issues. Especially if I don't think that was a priority for them.


CROWLEY: McClintock keeps insisting he will not get out of the race. But even some of his allies think he may eventually change his mind after he's had his say. In the meantime the Republican Party is intent in not arguing with itself. There will be no straw polls at the Republican meeting this weekend -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: They're going to keep it under wraps as much as they can. All right, Candy. And I'll be joining you in Los Angeles over the weekend. See you out there.

That "L.A. Times" poll that Candy mentioned shows Democrat Cruz Bustamante's support has actually slipped. But Gray Davis' camp says things are looking up for the governor. The survey shows support for getting rid of Davis is holding at 50 percent, while opposition to his recall has inched up to 47 percent. And Davis' disapproval rating has also dropped nine points since last month.

Suddenly Democrats around the country are more willing to stand at Davis' side. CNN has learned that one of the 11 Texas senators who went AWOL over redistricting will introduce Davis at the California Democratic Convention tomorrow.

And sources now say that Bill Clinton will appear with Davis at least three times in the coming days. At a church on Sunday, and at an elementary school and an anti-recall fund raiser on Monday. But with the recall and the '04 presidential race, the former president is a busy man.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): He's back, but he never really left, did he? Bill Clinton is the hottest of political commodities these days, the guru of choice for the '04 Dems, and the go-to guy for candidates in trouble.

Nearly three years out of office the former president is still his party's biggest star and top draw. The Clinton mystique will be on full display this weekend, in the political battle grounds of Iowa and California.

Clinton presides over Senator Tom Harkin's annual steak fry Saturday with seven Democratic presidential hopefuls in attendance. He's not expected to endorse in the primaries.

Then it's off to Los Angeles for a Rally the Base even at an African-American church with embattled Golden State Governor Gray Davis who stuck by Clinton during the impeachment drama.

With an open willingness to take on his successor and a hunger for the political rough and tumble, Clinton breaks the traditional ex- president mold. The closest parallel, Richard Nixon. Although that former president's political savvy was in much higher demand than his personal endorsement.


WOODRUFF: And now to check the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily". President Bush stopped off in Jackson, Mississippi this afternoon to help out long-time Republican leader Haley Barbour. The $1,000 per plate luncheon is expected to raise more than $1 million for Barbour's campaign for Mississippi governor. Barbour is the former chairman of the Republican national Committee and an adviser to the president's father.

Democratic hopeful Dick Gephardt used a speech on Medicare to link Howard Dean with Newt Gingrich. In his remarks, Gephardt said that back in the 1990s, Dean supported a controversial proposal by Republicans in the Congress. In Gephardt's words, it was during this time that Howard Dean "was supporting Republican efforts to scale back Medicare."

Well in a response statement, Howard Dean says he is saddened that Gephardt has resorted to what Dean called name-calling and scare tactics.

Meantime Democrat John Kerry took time out this week to jam at a Boston fund raiser. Electronic musician Moby, who has endorsed Kerry for president, headlined the performance. Kerry also joined a local band, Popgun 7 in their version of a Bruce Springsteen hit.

Their's no word on whether the senator plans to make this musical act a regular part of his campaign stops. As a reporter, we certainly hope that he'll at least think about it. Still ahead more on the California GOP divided. Can they get their act together in time for the recall election? I'll ask a leading GOP strategist.

Plus the '04 Democrats duke it out on the air waves. Who is spending what and are they spending it wisely?

And later how the late Johnny Cash walked the line in his dealings with presidents.


WOODRUFF: Recall candidate Peter Ueberroth withdrew from the California recall race earlier this week, leaving Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock to battle it out for Republican leaning voters.

Right now I'm joined from Irvine, California by the man who ran Peter Ueberroth's campaign. He is Dan Schnur.

All right, Dan Schnur. It was first Darrell Issa and then it was Bill Simon, and then it was your man, Peter Ueberroth. But McClintock is saying he's staying in. Can Arnold Schwarzenegger win if McClintock doesn't get out?

DAN SCHNUR, GOP POLITICAL CONSULTANT: It's going to be much, much tougher if there's two Republicans in the race, Judy.

Both Schwarzenegger and McClintock have an opportunity to reach out to moderate Democrats who are not completely comfortable with someone like Cruz Bustamante, who leans so far left on economic issues. but the math is much, much harder in the race with both in the race. No question about it.

WOODRUFF: But you -- you know, you had, as you well know, McClintock saying all along, "I'm not going to get out. I'm not going to get out." And today we see this "Los Angeles Times" poll today where he's climbing. He's at 18 percent. Schwarzenegger's at 25 percent. Isn't it going to be harder now to talk McClintock out of running?

SCHNUR: Well, two things.

First of all, the poll couldn't have come at a better time for Tom McClintock, heading into the Republican state party convention this weekend.

But second, I think the people around Arnold Schwarzenegger are smart enough not to put any pressure on him heading into the convention this weekend or heading into the debate a week from now. I suspect when you see more serious talks begin is probably going to be with no more than seven to 10 days remaining in the campaign.

WOODRUFF: What's going to happen at this convention this weekend? You think -- you think we're just going to get through the weekend and there's going to be real no change in the race? SCHNUR: There is the potential for real change, here. Republican Party activists want to win, Judy. But they want to win on principle. And right now, both Tom McClintock and Arnold Schwarzenegger offer half of that equation.

Tom McClintock this weekend has to convince the audience that he can win. Arnold Schwarzenegger has to convince them that he has principles. Whichever one does a better job of that comes out of this convention in a much, much stronger position.

WOODRUFF: Well, you have former California Congressman Tom Campbell, who's quoted as saying because there's no prominent Republican statewide office holder, in his words, he said, "We've lost the glue of a dominant figure who can enforce party unity." Is that the problem here?

SCHNUR: It's part of the problem. But a greater part of the it -- of the problem, or challenge is that you've got two candidates with very, very motivated bases within the party.

Before Peter Ueberroth made the decision to withdraw from the race, we had talked about him inviting both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock to a meeting, seven, 10 days out from the election, just the three of them, no handlers, or consultants, to talk through what needed to be done to pass the recall and to defeat Bustamante. I suspect a meeting like that may still take place as we get closer to October 7.

WOODRUFF: So you actually foresee Schwarzenegger talking McClintock out of the race?

SCHNUR: I see the two of them talking directly. At this point, there's no incentive for Schwarzenegger to put a lot of pressure on McClintock. There's a good new poll out for Tom. They're heading into the convention this weekend, which is really McClintock's home court. And between now and the debate, I think any pressure on McClintock would backfire. But for the two of them to talk directly in the closing days of the campaign makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.

WOODRUFF: Certainly for the Republicans in California.

SCHNUR: Well, that's what I meant.

WOODRUFF: All right. Dan Schnur, who ran Peter Ueberroth's campaign, thank you very much. And we'll be talking to you again before Election Day.

So who won "The Political Play of the Week?" Our Bill Schneider reveals the winner in just a few minutes.

And next, the political ad wars heating up. We'll have a spot check.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Several Democratic presidential hopefuls are already up and running with campaign ads in key states. Here now is a sampling of what viewers are seeing in places like Iowa and New Hampshire.


HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Howard Dean. It's time for the truth. Because the truth is that George Bush's foreign policy isn't making us safer.



SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: George Bush -- he comes from a very different place. He believes if we take care of folks at the top, that somehow the whole country will be lifted.



REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Bush and I see things very differently. My mother was a secretary, and my dad delivered milk door to door. They struggled so I could go to college. They taught me to do what's right, no matter the consequences. I owe them more than I can say.



SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This afternoon, I was in New Hampshire meeting with people who are hurting -- 3.1 million jobs have been lost, while the one person in the United States of America who deserves to be laid off is George W. Bush.


WOODRUFF: Well, with me now to talk about those ads, and how much money is being spent on them is Evan Tracey of TNS Media Intelligence.

Evan, thank you for being back with us again.


WOODRUFF: Talk about these ads, how much these candidates are spending, and where they're running these ads.

TRACEY: Right. Well, we'll go through them in the order in which they've gone on the air.

Dean has been -- the story of Howard Dean has been -- he's been a candidate of firsts. He was first on the air, first in Iowa, first in New Hampshire, first in Texas, which was George Bush's home state -- and he's also been first to spend $1 million so far.

WOODRUFF: And -- all right. What about John Edwards? He's had a surprisingly large number of ads.

TRACEY: Right. John Edwards has been the second candidate up. He went up in August, just after Howard Dean went up, spending in Iowa and New Hampshire. And then really now he's in South Carolina spending money and Oklahoma -- states that he must do well in coming in next year's election.

WOODRUFF: Gephardt?

TRACEY: Gephardt just went on the air on Labor Day, the unofficial campaign kickoff. He started with about an $80,000 buy in his first foray out so far. He's only really in the two major markets in Iowa right now, Des Moines and Cedar Rapid. He's not up all over the state, yet. And he's airing sporadically within New Hampshire, as well, in Manchester.

WOODRUFF: And finally, what about John Kerry?

TRACEY: John Kerry is up. Same -- just went up slightly -- a little bit -- a couple days after Gephardt. And he's on track to spent about a quarter million dollars in his first week. Spending very heavily statewide in Iowa and New Hampshire, two states that he must do well in.

WOODRUFF: And we should say we're talking about these four, because they're the only four out of the nine who are actually out there spending money on television ads.

TRACEY: That is correct.

WOODRUFF: Are you seeing any particular themes in the ads from these men?

TRACEY: The themes, really, -- we call it the three B's in our office. It's bashing, biography and breakout. The candidates are starting off by bashing President Bush. The second place they're growing through their biography and why they think they should be the Democratic nominee for president. And then breaking out. Dean is talking about children's health care. Edwards is talking about national health care for everyone. Edwards is talking about his college assistance program, and Kerry is really pointing to his biography and his resume in the Senate as reasons why he should be the Democratic nominee for president.

WOODRUFF: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) say to me, It seems early to be running ads for the presidency. But is it really early to be doing this?

TRACEY: It's not unprecedented. In fact if you look back in 1999, six of the candidates were on the air by January of '99. When you look at this year, they waited until June.

Really the unprecedented thing we're seeing in this race is the Howard Dean buy where he's extended his campaign into these other states that are really late February, early March primaries. George Bush, for example, in 1999 only went on in Michigan in late December. So in that respect, it is unprecedented.

WOODRUFF: Dean it is in states, as you said, that the other candidates are not.

TRACEY: Dean is really stretching the field. It's going to be interesting to see if these other candidates -- I'm sure they haven't planned on being in states like Washington and New Mexico at this early a junction in the campaign.

It will be interesting to see if the Dean this strategy either helps him in these states in the poll because he's got it all to himself, or it's going to pull other candidates and force them to spend dollars they may not want to now in those states.

WOODRUFF: All right, Evan Tracey of TNS Media Intelligence, helping us watch these ads. Even though it's September, they are out there.

TRACEY: We've got a long way to go but they're off to a bold start.

WOODRUFF: OK. Even, thank you very much. Good to see you, again.

TRACEY: Good to see you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

WOODRUFF: The "Political Play of the Week" is still ahead.

Plus he may have dubbed himself an outlaw, but Johnny Cash mingled with politicians in high places.


WOODRUFF: Well, his heart may have been in Nashville, but Johnny Cash had Washington connections. His performance in the Capitol included a 1970 White House appearance when he sang "A Boy Named Sue" for President Nixon.

But the country music legend apparently was comfortable in a Democratic White House as well. We found this 1977 picture of Cash with President Jimmy Carter.

Johnny Cash died early today at age 71. No one else like him.


WOODRUFF: There's a Republican governor who may be feeling taxed after a big battle pitting him against members of his own party. Here's our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

(AUDIO GAP) WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: ... when officials strayed from the party line. But this is America. Purges here can be brutal but they are more Democratic. Like the GOP purge, make that the GOP "Play of the Week" in Alabama.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): How do you convince Alabama voters to approve a $1.2 billion tax hike? Maybe if there's a severe fiscal crisis and a conservative Republican governor like Bob Riley leading the campaign.

The perfect storm.

GOV. BOB RILEY (R), ALABAMA: What's more important, foster care or education? What's more important, prescription drugs or nursing home care? Because we are going to have to make some brutal decisions next week if this does not pass.

SCHNEIDER: It looked like Riley had support from teachers, business interests, and legislative leaders. And, one would suppose, the loyalty of his party. That's where Riley miscalculated.

GROVER NORQUIST, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: George Bush Sr. played this role in 1990. He raised taxes and was rejected by the party, by the base, and by the electorate.

SCHNEIDER: An anti-tax coalition sprang into action. Angry property owners, angry preachers. Remember the furor the few weeks ago over removing the Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama supreme court?

BOB INGRAM, SYNDICATED POLITICAL COLUMNIST: I received a phone call over the weekend from the head of the Christian Coalition of Alabama saying the very same people who took the monument out of the judicial building are now trying to raise your taxes.

SCHNEIDER: And instead of supporting their governor, angry Republicans came out against him. On Tuesday, Alabama voters rejected the tax plan by better than two to one. The perfect storm turned out to be the perfect ship wreck. Conservatives intend to turn Riley's experience into an object lesson.

NORQUIST: We will be regaling little baby Republican governors in the future with scary ghost stories about what happens to Republican governors that decide to loot the people rather than to govern.

SCHNEIDER: From anti-tax conservatives, the message to Republicans is clear: threaten to raise taxes, and you could become the political "prey" of the week.


SCHNEIDER: Riley has three years to mend fences with the voters of Alabama. One of the first things he did, unveil a plaque in the state Capitol, depicting the Ten Commandments -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: We'll have to see what happens to education in the state of Alabama, too. All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. We're in California next week. I'm Judy Woodruff.


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