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Can Democratic Presidential Candidates Rock the Vote?; President Bush Assesses Damage From California Wildfires; Interview With Governor Bill Richardson

Aired November 4, 2003 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Getting in tune with young America. Can the Democratic presidential candidates rock the vote? They'll give it a try tonight.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: What's great about these events is the level of unpredictability.

ANNOUNCER: Get out your crystal balls. This Election Day 2003 could help the party see into their political futures.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I see human tragedy and heartache.

ANNOUNCER: President Bush in the fire zone. Where does he stand politically one year before voters decide to rehire or fire him?


ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Faneuil Hall in Boston, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us at the site of "America Rocks the Vote." In this hall tonight, the Democratic presidential candidates will try to bridge the generations in a live give and take with Democratic and Independent voters under the age of 30. It seems fitting that the forum takes place on an election day.

Voters are casting ballots in dozens of cities and states across the nation. More on those races ahead.

Today's vote is a warm-up act of sorts for the big presidential face-off a year from now, an election that could influence and be influenced by the nation's newest voters. Let's talk a little bit about tonight's forum with the moderator, my colleague, Anderson Cooper.


WOODRUFF: Anderson, we keep saying it's going to be different because there's young people in the audience. Is it really going to be different do you think?

COOPER: I think it is. I mean, I don't want to oversell it, but, you know, you've got a group, a crowd of 600 18 to 30-year-olds. They've had the benefit of watching the other debates. They've heard the sound bites, they've heard the talking points, and I think they want more.

You talk to young people, they say, we want to see these people be real. And I don't think they're going to accept anything less.

WOODRUFF: How is it technically going to work tonight? I mean, do you divide it up equally among the eight -- we should say, Dick Gephardt is the only one who is not hear tonight.

COOPER: Right. He was here yesterday. He's now in Iowa now, I guess.

But yes, it's going to be eight candidates. We have this crowd, 600 people. A lot of them have been emailing in questions. We have viewers at home actually even during the program can email and text message in questions to the candidates.

But people here in the audience will raise their hand and we'll call on them. And they're going to be driving this thing, both the questions from the audience and the questions at home.

WOODRUFF: Candidates' staffs typically get kind of nervous on the day of a debate. Have you noticed, or are your people working with you noticing any higher level of nervousness among them?

COOPER: Yes. I don't think -- you know, there's a level of unpredictability, especially with this crowd at this kind of event. Debates are always unpredictable when you have sort of a youth forum.

You know, they can ask questions that a trained political observer just wouldn't ask. So I think everyone's a little bit nervous. I'm a little bit nervous.

WOODRUFF: Do you have a goal going into this tonight? What are you thinking right now about what you want to accomplish?

COOPER: I really do want to allow -- you know the people talk about this disconnect between politicians and young people. I mean, I really want to provide a forum to allow them to connect and to try to really strip away those things we've all heard them say, you know, many times before.

We've heard the stump speeches. We know they're great debaters; we know they're great speakers. It's a question of trying to strip away some of that and just get to the heart. Not just what's in their head, but what's in their hearts.

WOODRUFF: Clothes supposedly don't matter. At the end of the last debate, which I happened to be involved in, in Phoenix, the candidates took off their jackets, were in their shirt sleeves. Any idea what they're going to do tonight?

COOPER: I have no idea what they're going to wear. I really don't. It will be interesting to see. WOODRUFF: OK.

COOPER: We'll see. We'll see if some jeans are here. Could be anything. Could be a crazy night.

WOODRUFF: We'll all be watching, 7:00 Eastern. Anderson Cooper, thanks very much, and good luck.

COOPER: All right, thanks. I'll need it.

WOODRUFF: OK. No you don't. You'll be fine.

Now our election 2003 edition of campaign news daily. The main attractions, two close governors races billed as early tests of President Bush's popularity in states that are now run by Democrats.

In Mississippi, incumbent Ronnie Musgrove is running for a second term against Washington lobbyist and former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour. Good weather appears to be encouraging turnout in Mississippi.

And in Kentucky, for the face-off between Democrat Ben Chandler and Republican Ernie Fletcher. They are vying to succeed Governor Paul Patton, whose final term was rocked by an infidelity scandal. Democrats have run the Kentucky statehouse for 32 years. President Bush campaigned with the Republican candidates in both states this past weekend.

Well, Mr. Bush is taking every opportunity to shore up support in important states a year before his own job is on the line. And there's good reason for that. Here now, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Does where the president stands today tell you anything about how he's likely to do a year from today? Let's see.

Six presidents have been elected to a second term since the end of World War II: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. How were they doing a year before reelection day?

Sixty-one percent job approval on the average. Three presidents failed to get reelected: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush. Did their job approval ratings one year out forecast doom? Yes. Their ratings averaged only 43 percent.

So where does this President Bush come out one year before? In between. Mr. Bush has a 56 percent job rating right now. Take a look at the last three presidents.

President Bush's father had a 56 percent job rating at the end of 1991, one year before he got dumped. That's the same rating his son gets now. Uh-oh. But President Clinton was at 52 percent a year before the 1996 vote, lower than Bush is now, and Clinton sailed to reelection.

White House political chief Matthew Dowd says what matters most for reelection is approval on the economy. OK. Let's look at the last three presidents' handling of the economy.

Now we get a different picture of Bush's father. Only 27 percent approved his handling of the economy in November, 1991. Much lower than his overall job rating. He was still coming off a high from having won the Gulf War. He tried and failed to transfer that high to the economy.

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can bring the same courage and sense of common purpose to the economy that we brought to Desert Storm.

SCHNEIDER: Bill Clinton's job rating on the economy was considerably higher in 1995.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our economy is the healthiest it has been in three decades.

SCHNEIDER: Notice that this President Bush's economic job rating is close to Clinton's. He too is running on hope for good times ahead.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This economy of ours is growing.


SCHNEIDER: A year out, the 2004 election is looking like the reverse of 1992. This President Bush, unlike his father, could be running for reelection with an improving economy and a big problem in world affairs -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And we have a whole year to go.

SCHNEIDER: We do, indeed.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

Well, President Bush today is reaching out to Californians struggling to put their lives back together after devastating wildfires. Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is traveling with Mr. Bush.

Suzanne, most of those fires are out now. So what is the president seeing?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president is assessing the damage. Before today, he was seeing a lot. He took an aerial view; he saw a lot of the land that had been destroyed, homes destroyed, acres destroyed. And then he also talked with families on the ground and was actually able to get some of their stories. The president, however, also was talking about Iraq as well, after those series of deadly attacks that occurred. The president defending his Iraq policy with a vengeance, trying to comfort those who are mourning, at the same time insisting that the U.S. administration still is revolved in its mission. The White House strategy threefold to speed up the training of Iraqi security, at the same time, trying to get the international community not to pull out of Iraq with this mission and to rereassure Americans that it's important to stay.


BUSH: These people want to -- these people, being the terrorists and those who would kill innocent life, want us to retreat. They want us to leave because they know that a free and peaceful Iraq, in their midst, will damage their cause. And we will stay the course. We will do our job. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: President Bush is here in California to assess the fire damage, also to comfort families and to pledge cooperation between federal, state and local officials in dealing with this.

He was greeted earlier today by the governor of California, Gray Davis, but also by the Republican governor-elect, Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he arrived, he took a bird's eye view, a chopper aboard Marine One to see the Cedar fire area. That was one of the most heavily damaged areas.

Also, on the ground, he was consoling families who had lost their homes. He spoke with one woman who said that all of her memories had been destroyed. And President Bush said all he could do was simply listen and give her a hug.


BUSH: I see human tragedy and heartache. I see the loss of a lot of material possessions.

However, I see a strong spirit which exists here. I see people who are resolved to rebuild their lives. Amidst their tears, they do see hope. And that is a great tribute to the people in this part of California.


MALVEAUX: Judy, President Bush has declared five counties in California disaster areas. That, of course, opens up the way for federal dollars for aid through FEMA. The breakdown so far, $1.2 for those who have had damage or lost their homes; $1.9 million for other costs, like medical, funeral costs and transportation. And then finally, $3.5 million for home and business loans -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Suzanne, we know that politically speaking, California has been very tough for the Republicans the last few elections. But now, with Arnold Schwarzenegger moving into the governorship, what are the people around the president saying? Do they now have some hope that California will be in play next year?

MALVEAUX: Well, they certainly hope so and they're going to give it their best shot. They're not overly optimistic about this, but with Arnold Schwarzenegger in place, they believe that at least it's worth it to fund some of those dollars and put a good deal of time in California, hoping it will be able to capture it. But not overly optimistic about it.

One thing the president has been doing, he's been traveling here quite often, talking about his environmental policy, his healthy forest initiative and other things. He hopes to get the votes and the support from the Californians here.

WOODRUFF: All right. Killing many birds with one stone, so to speak. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you very much.

Well, back here in Boston, the push is on to get ready for the Democratic National Convention next summer. Coming up, I'll talk to the convention chairman, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, about the '04 race and possible hurdles ahead for Democrats.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In six months, I think more kids will pay more attention to it. Right now, it's early and it's football season.


WOODRUFF: ... Are young voters in South Carolina punting on presidential politics?

And later, the ways an FBI probe and racial politics have influenced today's mayoral vote in Philadelphia.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.


WOODRUFF: As we continue our coverage here in Boston, I'm joined from Santa Fe by the governor of New Mexico, bill Richardson. He's the chairman of the '04 Democratic National Convention to be held here in Boston next July.

Governor, thank you very much for talking with me.


WOODRUFF: Governor, tonight's debate geared to young voters. Last time around, in '02, the Democrats seemed to gear a lot of their message to older voters, talking about prescription drugs for seniors and Social Security. What is the message of your party this year and next year to younger Americans?

RICHARDSON: Well, Judy, 29 percent of young Americans eligible to vote, vote. And that's much too low. We're trying to send a message to young people that our party's inclusive. We're going to feature young people at the convention.

The issues affecting young people, jobs, their future, education, high unemployment, lack of privacy, are issues that are Democratic issues. Protecting the environment, young people care deeply about those issues. And we believe that a sustained effort, like the debate tonight, where our candidates are debating freely, taking the heat openly, with "Rock the Vote," to send a message to young people that this is the party that cares about their future.

This is the party that is the party of a balanced budget. And with this huge debt that we have -- $13,000 per young person between 18 and 24 will be affected in the future -- that we're after this vote as a decisive voting block. And that's also going to be one of the themes off you are convention, an appeal to young voters, to young people.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about debates. In the last day or so, the wife of Senator John Kerry who, of course, is one of the Democratic candidates, Teresa Heinz Kerry, told an interviewer that these debates are -- and just I'm quoting -- she said, "It's just silly. These debates are unproductive. They make it hard for all these candidates to get their message across."

Do you agree with her?

RICHARDSON: Well, I think these debates are great. They are showing to the American people -- showcasing our candidates, talking about issues, seven debates. One was in New Mexico, the first bilingual debate, the first Hispanic debate.

They're around the country with various constituencies: women, African-Americans, minorities sponsored by the major entities. I think it shows that we're a party of exciting new ideas, that we're willing to debate our differences.

You know the Republicans, the only debate they're having is trying to blame each other between the State Department and the Defense Department and the CIA after who is leaking. So these debates are very healthy. They're part of the democratic process. We think they're great.

WOODRUFF: So you don't think it's tough with nine or eight of these candidates in the same forum to get their message across?

RICHARDSON: I don't believe so, Judy. I think you're going to start seeing, once Iowa and New Hampshire in the first contest coming, a winnowing of the field. But the fact is, it's a very competitive race. We have a lot of strong candidates up in the higher tiers, and this is what the public wants to see, a real examination of issues.

WOODRUFF: Governor, you're the chairman of the Democratic convention. We just mentioned that. What about this long period next year, when the experts think we're going to know who the Democratic -- presumed Democratic nominee is going to be, maybe as early as March or even late February, and you've got all the way from then until July, the end of July, when your convention is? How do the Democrats with that person compete with the Republicans, who have so much more money, and with an incumbent sitting in the White House?

RICHARDSON: Well, we are the party of diversity, of new ideas. We're going to have an exciting convention that is going to have a lot of pizzazz, appealing to young people, working families. It's not going to be the ordinary convention.

This is why we're trying to get young people geared up. Between that period, Judy, we can't compete with the Republicans when it comes to money or incumbency. But you're going to see a sustained effort by Democratic office holders around the country, uniting to make sure our candidate is competitive financially, issues-wise.

You're going to see a lot of governors involved. You're going to see a lot of new ideas unveiled. This is going to be a very competitive presidential race. But our convention, it's ahead of schedule.

Mayor Menino in the Boston community is doing a great job. You're going to see a real, real spectacle in Boston that's going to be terrific.

WOODRUFF: And we're going to be talking to Mayor Menino a little later in the program. All right. Governor Richardson, who will be chairman of the Democratic convention next summer, thanks very much. We appreciate your talking with us.

Turning to pitching the Democratic message down South, are young Southerners responding to the Democratic candidates? We're going to head to campus and talk with students straight ahead.

And later, decision day in Philadelphia. A live report on the final hours of one of the most contentious campaigns of '03.


WOODRUFF: Well, the quest for support from young voters, regardless of their musical taste, is also under way in South Carolina. The Palmetto State will hold the first southern primary on February 3. And it's not too soon to ask if the Democratic candidates are having any success down south.

Anish Raman (ph) reports from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.


ANISH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Young Democrats in the capital city welcoming the latest presidential candidate. Wesley Clark courting votes in the nation's first southern primary just three months away. It's an effort that seems to be working, says 20-year- old Christopher Robinson.

CHRISTOPHER ROBINSON, COLLEGE SENIOR: I think they're all qualified. I think they're very charismatic and are true leaders.

RAMAN: Others, like this law student, Aaron Polkey, say the issues are what's bringing them out.

AARON POLKEY, USC LAW SCHOOL STUDENT: Our economy has suffered for many years. And I think that people are concerned about whether or not they can get a job when they graduate from college or high school.

RAMAN: And for some, like Graham Newman, president of the law school Dems, it's electability.

GRAHAM NEWMAN, USC LAW SCHOOL STUDENT: George Bush is very beatable. The reason why is because we've had nothing but failure during the Bush administration. We've had a downward spiral in the economy, we've had a downward spiral in foreign affairs.

RAMAN: But as candidate Clark works the rope line, talk amongst these South Carolina students at the tables at Groucho's (ph), a popular lunchtime hangout, is of party politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, I think the pull of the Democrats right now are pushing the party too far to the left.

RAMAN: That's the wrong way for voters like this waitress Lauren Peele.

LARUEN PEELE, WAITRESS: I feel like Bush is leading the country in the right direction. I think he has been a force.

RAMAN: On issues, the mantra for Bradley Randolph and others is a familiar one.

BRADLEY RANDOLPH, USC UNDERGRADUATE: Well, in the aftermath of the war, I think mainly the economy will be the biggest issue.

RAMAN: And for some, despite the critical importance of this primary as the gateway to the South, it's too early to talk presidential politics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In six months, I think more kids will pay more attention to it. It's just right now, it's early and it's football season.

RAMAN: The overwhelming message from young voters in this part of the South, grid iron polls take precedence over political ones.

Anish Raman (ph), CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.


WOODRUFF: That makes sense.

Well, it's one of the wildest races this year. Next, we're going to go live to Philadelphia to check on a mayoral election that has been full of surprises. Plus, three of the Democrats running for the White House team up to take on a rival.

And Al Sharpton is about to go where none of his fellow presidential hopefuls have gone so far this campaign.


WOODRUFF: And hello again from Faneuil Hall, where we are now three hours away from "America Rocks the Vote." Eight of the nine Democratic presidential candidates will be taking part in a town hall forum, featuring questions from young Democrats and Independent voters.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is here in Boston too. Candy, I want to ask you, first of all, about this comment from the wife of John Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts, Teresa Heinz Kerry, very outspoken.


WOODRUFF: She said when asked about the debates, she said, I think they're unproductive. She said, I don't think America, I don't think the candidates benefit. What do the candidates really think about these debates?

CROWLEY: Pretty much what she thinks. They're very time consuming. Not just the hour and a half that they spend here, but the time they spend preparing for them, although I judge after about 29 of them, they don't spend as much time preparing.

But they need to be in Iowa, they need to be in New Hampshire, they need to be in South Carolina. And those are the voters really that count more at this point.

And so -- and they also don't like the fact that they don't get that much time. When you take eight candidates and divide it into 90 minutes and all the questions, you don't get a lot of time.

And so they just feel that they can be not counterproductive but not as productive as someplace else.

WOODRUFF: Speaking of Iowa, the one candidate who is not in Boston tonight is Dick Gephardt, who is campaigning in Iowa, which is a state he's got to win. Is this a smart move on his part not to participate?

CROWLEY: We'll see. I think if he wins Iowa, he'll count every minute that he spent there as a good time.

He had to make a judgment here. He must win Iowa. I mean, there's -- his campaign has said that. He hasn't said it out loud. But -- so he felt his time was better spent in Iowa. And, by the way, he has it all to himself. So, you know...

WOODRUFF: For this 24-hour period.

CROWLEY: There's a giant forum for him and so he's obviously going to use it.

WOODRUFF: Candy, what about from the standpoint of reporters who follow these politics very closely like you and, frankly, from the standpoint of the American people. What do the debates mean to them?

CROWLEY: This is Off-Broadway at this point. And I think it helps the candidates, but people are just now beginning to tune in. It's helpful to see all of them together talking about the same issue.

Otherwise, they are down to, OK, here's what this candidate did and this candidate did. See them all together trying to have a conversation. I think when you're just beginning to tune in it's very helpful for the Democrats in this case.

And later on when whoever it is meets the president. They can be very beneficial to people who tune in. Is everybody tuned in at this point? No, but they're beginning to.

WOODRUFF: You not only are hearing what they're saying, you're watching a little body language, which sometimes tells you something. Remembering a watch that one candidates looks at.

CROWLEY: Exactly.

WOODRUFF: Candy, thanks very much. We'll be watching you through the night as well. Thanks.

Checking the presidential headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," three rival campaigns are cooperating, it turns out, behind the scenes in an effort to keep Howard Dean from picking up a key endorsement. Aides to John Edwards, Dick Gephardt and John Kerry recently spoke by phone to consider ways to prevent the Service Employees International Union from backing Dean. A union rep has said that the group will either endorse Dean or endorse no one.

Gephardt, meantime, continues to work his own union contacts. He meets this afternoon with the Iowa chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

A new poll from Howard Dean's home state of Vermont finds the former governor running well with those who know him best. Dean leads President Bush in a hypothetical matchup 50 percent to 38 percent in the Research 2000 Survey. Dean also has a wide lead over all the other Democratic hopefuls among voters in Vermont.

The Reverend Al Sharpton has confirmed plans to host an upcoming edition of "Saturday Night Live." He'll be live from New York on December 6, joining a long line of political leaders who have hosted the program and poked fun at their opponents as well as at themselves.

In many places around the nation, voters don't have to wait until 2004 to have their political say. This is, today, after all, an election day. As we told you earlier, tight governors races in Kentucky and Mississippi are getting the most attention, in part because President Bush has stumped for candidates, trying to get the top job in those states away from the Democrats.

But there are some interesting mayoral races too, including what is essentially a referendum on San Francisco's ultra liberal identity. In the race to succeed term-limited Democrat Willie Brown, a relatively moderate city supervisor, named Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, is expected to be the top vote getter in a crowded field. His rivals say they hope to force a runoff.

And then there is the mayor's election in Philadelphia. Incumbent Democrat John Street said today that this campaign is different from anything he's ever been through. Well that's putting it mildly.

CNN's Jason Carroll reports on a contest coming down to two issues -- race and allegations of corruption.


SAM KATZ (R), PHILADELPHIA MAYORAL CANDIDATE: That was one small step for my campaign, one giant step for Philadelphia.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican challenger Sam Katz has been here before, trying to come from behind to become Philadelphia's next mayor.

KATZ: I believe there will be a record turnout in the city. That could be good or bad for both candidates.

CARROLL: The other candidate, Democratic incumbent John Street, cast his vote at a school.

MAYOR JOHN STREET (D), PHILADELPHIA: Why would you want to be mayor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you can do what you want to do.

STREET: You can do what you want to do? Not exactly.

CARROLL: A federal probe into possible city corruption, a probe which included the planting of an FBI listening device in the mayor's office, seems to have galvanized street's base of African-American and white liberal voters, turning the embattled mayor from a villain in the eyes of some to a victim.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a federal investigation, whatever the outcome is, that will be the outcome. But as far as the mayor, I'm very pleased with his issues and I'm very pleased with him as a mayor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that John Street is a man of integrity. I believe that his record suggests that. And I think that that's what will ultimately be discovered.

CARROLL: But Katz has run a campaign suggesting the city has lost its momentum while being run by a mayor who engages in croneyism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Sam Katz has a good business, financial background and will bring, hopefully, some of that to the city.

KATZ: I want a city government that doesn't embarrass us.

CARROLL: Katz, who narrowly lost to Street four years ago, has beefed up his get out the vote operation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last time it was 9,000 votes out of 450,000 people voting. The key thing is last time Sam had no union support. This year, we have 13 unions from Catholic school teachers to teamsters.

CARROLL: For Street, the challenge is making sure his lead in the polls doesn't lull supporters into a false sense of security.

STREET: We've been out here now for days, weeks and months. And people have heard virtually everything that we've all had to say. It's now time for the people to have the last say. That's the great thing about our country. The people have the last say. Most of the time.


CARROLL: Street using a little bit of humor there. Obviously voter turnout will be key to both candidates, especially Katz. Spoke to some of the representatives from the Katz campaign and they say that so far turnout has been higher than expected in some areas. As for the Street side of things they say turnout so far has been solid. Polls close in four hours from now -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jason, regardless of the outcome tonight, when they count the votes, is there going to be a racial divide in the city of Philadelphia that's going to last for some time to come, or can this be smoothed over?

CARROLL: Depends upon who you talk to. I think there are optimists who say once this election is over, people are going to get back to the business of fixing this city and trying to get it back on track. At least that's what some people are saying.

But you talk to some people in this community and they'll tell you that this election has really driven a wedge between a city that has already been racially divided -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jason Carroll, thank you very much for the reporting. We appreciate it.

Here in Boston, the '04 Democrats are hoping, as they say, to rock the vote tonight. What will they have to do to impress the MTV Generation? We'll ask the music channel's political reporter what young voters want.


DAN LOTHIAN, BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): It's Boston's other race. Not a marathon but a nine-month sprint to the Democratic National Convention.


WOODRUFF: CNN's Dan Lothian asks the question, is Boston ready to host the Democrats in '04?

Later, the drama over the miniseries "The Reagans." Did defenders of the former president's legacy get their way?


WOODRUFF: When the Democratic Party delegates gather here in Boston next July, they're going to be joined by thousands of journalists and other visitors in an historic event that requires months of preparation at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. The money is needed for everything from security to street beautification projects.

Question is, will the city be ready?

Our Boston bureau chief, Dan Lothian, reports.


LOTHIAN: It's Boston's other race. Not a marathon, but a nine- month sprint to the Democratic National Convention.

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO (D), BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS: We're going to make sure Boston works well that week.

LOTHIAN: Officials acknowledge there are hurdles in Beantown. Security and traffic have collided just outside the convention's main venue. Interstate 93, just a few feet away from the Fleet Center, is the subject of intense discussions. Should some traffic be rerouted, be limited, or shut down altogether out of safety concerns?

Mayor Menino says he'll try to prevent traffic chaos at this first post-9/11 convention.

MENINO: There is public safety issues but, I am very confident we can work through the issues.

LOTHIAN: Inside the arena...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We see a lot of empty seats. We see ice.

LOTHIAN: Set up for hockey, not delegates. Work continues behind the scenes to give the standard convention look a makeover.

ROD O'CONNOR, CEO, DEM. NATL. CONVENTION: I think you could see a different stage. I think you could see a set-up that allows the candidates and the speakers to interact more directly with the people in this hall.

LOTHIAN: And officials will be relying more on technology, helping that department in the form of equipment, software, and services; $2 million worth will come from IBM. Still boxed up, the system must be put online.

One other hurdle, Boston's Big Dig highway tunnel project. Long plagued by cost overruns and major delays, officials are speeding up work to tear down an old central artery seen as an eyesore in time for the convention.

Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought hard to bring the DNC's event to Boston, says the city will be ready for his party's defining moment.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Our party can show the best of the past, what our values really are and show that we're also a party of the future of new ideas.


LOTHIAN: One other big issue is money. The budget for the convention here roughly $50 million. A big chunk of that for security. They've been able to raise about half of that. And the mayor told me yesterday he's confident that they can reach their target -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Dan Lothian, standing right outside Fanueil Hall, if I recognize the building. Thanks a lot. Dan, thank you.

Well, with me now to talk more about all of this is the mayor of the city of Boston, Thomas Menino.

Mr. Mayor, thank you very much.


WOODRUFF: I would be stunned if you said Boston is not going to be ready. But let me ask you, is Boston going to be ready for this convention?

MENINO: We sure will be ready. The Big Dig is coming to a conclusion, March or April next year, and we're moving forward and we're raising the funds necessary. There will be some hitches over the next nine months, but we'll get through it.

WOODRUFF: Now I just heard Dan Lothian say you're trying to raise as much as $50 million. You've raised only about half of that. While you've got all these Democrat candidates for president trying to raise money, how are you going to raise this money?

MENINO: Well, we're going for the corporations. The corporations have been good to us. We raised $22 million before we were designated a site for the Democratic Nation Convention. We've raised several million of dollars since then and will continue our fundraising over the next several months. I mean, some of that is about the federal government helping us with security issues. And that's not come to fruition yet, but we're working with the New York City, who's hosting the Republican convention, to get the federal government to help us with security issues.

WOODRUFF: And what about those people who say, Hey if a political party is asking the corporation for money, that means the two are getting too cozy.

MENINO: No, it's about -- this is about a showcase in the city of Boston, I think. It's not just about political parties. It's about what Boston is, what Boston's past has been about, what Boston's future is all about.

WOODRUFF: Everybody would agree Boston is a wonderful city. But how do you compete with New York City next summer. A few weeks after the Democratic convention, the Republicans are going to host their convention there. How do you compete with the sentimental value in a city where 9/11 happened?

MENINO: Of course, 9/11 was a tragedy in our country's history.

But, you know, go back to the history of Boston. The revolution, that started here in Fanueil Hall, the historic sites in our city. It's about the great things that happened in Boston, from education to health issues. And we're a leader when it comes to health issues and education.

WOODRUFF: We're here today for the debate, tonight, Rock the Vote with CNN.

What do you look for from this debate? At this point in the campaign, what do you want to hear from these candidates to distinguish them from one another?

MENINO: I want to hear a message. What's the message for the young people of America? you know, many of them are unenrolled, independents. But how do we attract them to our party? That's the real issue here tonight.

And I think the message has to be economic security. How will these young people have a better future? They graduate from college, they all go looking for jobs. What is future? Where are the jobs being created? How do we connect them? That's the issue of this campaign and the campaigns of the future.

WOODRUFF: What about the young people in your life, either your children or your nieces and nephews? Do they care about politics? What do you hear?

MENINO: No, they're too young. They're too young. My grandchildren are only 5 years old.

But, you know, I find -- I have a youth council in the city where I meet with them on a regular basis. They're interested in -- what about jobs? How we are going to improve their education, and what's the services they get from the government? And that's what they're interested about. And I just say that we have to connect...

WOODRUFF: But the economy's turning around. That's going to be a boon for President Bush, isn't it?

MENINO: Who is saying the economy is turning around? I don't see it turning around in our city. Other mayors in the county don't see it turning around.

So, I mean, yes, it's a lot of rhetoric coming from the government. They found $87 billion for their war. What about the cities of America? Where is the money coming from cities? And I'm looking for the -- anyone one of these presidential candidates to mention the word cities when they talk about their future.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, do you think American troops should stay in Iraq to see the mission finished there, or should we bring those troops home?

MENINO: No, we have to finish our job. But there's no plan to finish the job, and that's unfortunate. We've made this dramatic sacrifice and, you know, every day are making more sacrifices. We have to continue those sacrifices to get the job done. We're there. We can't walk out now. We need some of our allies to help us with the battle.

WOODRUFF: Mayor Thomas Menino of the city of Boston, it's very good to see you.

MENINO: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for having -- for coming to talk with us....

MENINO: Thank you much.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate. Thank you.

Well, it turns out that the network CBS has second thoughts about its Ronald Reagan miniseries.

But first, we're just a few hours away from our Rock the Vote special. I'll preview tonight's forum with MTV reporter Gideon Yago next.


WOODRUFF: His name is Gideon Yago, he's a reporter for MTV. He covers music and politics and he's with me to look ahead to tonight's Rock the Vote forum here on CNN. Gideon, great to meet you. Thank you talking with me.

All right, everybody wants to know what is it that young voters are interested in? And how -- and obviously you can't speak for all of them. How is it different from what everybody else is interested in?

GIDEON YAGO, MTV NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I don't think it's that different in the respect that I think young voters' attitudes and the issues important to them are pretty much the same as the rest of America.

I mean what tops the list for young voters in America is access to a quality education, they're worried about civil liberties, they're worried about the war on terrorism and they're worried about sexual health.

But I think the big difference between young voters and the rest of the voting public at large is that politicians don't have a long and storied tradition, certainly in this election cycle, of trying to engage young people and talk to them about the issues that's right concerned about.

WOODRUFF: You and I were saying there are other parts of our society that are salivating for the dollars of young people. And, yet politicians, it's different.

YAGO: If you're a major corporation you want to go after what is exactly going to be the first time voter or the young voter, the 18 to 24-year-old, try to get them brand loyal.

Political parties, for some reason, they just don't think in the same way. And I don't really understand why. The vast majority of people that we cater to, the MTV audience, right now I think you'd be hard pressed to find more than one in five that could name a presidential -- a Democratic presidential candidate. There's a huge disconnect.

WOODRUFF: What do you say to those Democratic operatives, if you will, who say, Wait a minute. Only a third of the young people really vote. Is it worth all that effort on our part if two-thirds aren't even going to go to the polls?

YAGO: I think it is and I think you look at the successful campaigns of people like Howard Dean. And, you know, there's your living proof. It's a huge -- first of all, it's the echo to the baby boom. It's a huge demographic in terms of manpower.

They're also willing to work for cheap. These are the people that you can go out and have your message and ultimately, they want to be talked to. What's interesting about the first time voter in 2004 is that they've grown up with so much information around them, they're used to shutting things out. So unless somebody walks up to them and says, OK, I'm here for you, they're not going to go out and pursue them anyway.

WOODRUFF: Gideon Yago, are your friends interested in this campaign?

YAGO: Very much so, but they're my friends.

WOODRUFF: You hang out with people in politics?

YAGO: Absolutely. I think, you know, I think it's not just the political horse race. It's about the issues. If you're a young voter, you'll vote on the issues. And bridging that disconnect is what's going to get a candidate to win and get this voting demographic ultimately.

WOODRUFF: We hear you. Gideon Yago, MTV, thanks very much.

YAGO: Thank you for having me.

WOODRUFF: It's great to talk to you. We appreciate it.

Young voters at the Rock the Vote event tonight aren't going to be the only ones asking questions. You too can ask the candidates some of your own questions. Just e-mail or text message us at the address you see on the screen, "AMERICA ROCKS THE VOTE" tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Conservatives just said no to a Ronald Reagan miniseries. Next, how are they reacting to a major network's announcement about the show's future?


WOODRUFF: CBS is denying that it is bowing to pressure from conservatives. But the network announced today it will not air a planned miniseries about Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

CBS says that it decided the final film, starring James Brolin, was not a balanced portrayal of the former president and his wife. So the program will air on CBS' corporate cousin, the Showtime cable network instead.

The Republican National Committee had raised concerns that the miniseries doesn't accurately portray the Reagans. The RNC now says moving the show from CBS to Showtime is, quote, "A decision to misinform a smaller group of people, which is not a noble decision."

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Tune in tonight as "AMERICA ROCKS THE VOTE," 7:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

Tomorrow, I'll be live from Concord, New Hampshire. I'll take a look at the political landscape in the home of the nation's first primary.


President Bush Assesses Damage From California Wildfires; Interview With Governor Bill Richardson>

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