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CNN SUNDAY NIGHT

New Republican Ad Raises Outcry Among Democrats

Aired November 23, 2003 - 22:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We've got a new TIME/CNN poll that has some surprising news for both the president and the Democrats. When Americans were asked if they thought the president was a leader they can trust, 54 percent said they had doubts and reservations. But the poll also showed that 52 percent approved of how the president was handling his job.
Now I'm going to bring our Bill Schneider to make some sense of these latest numbers and talk a little bit more about the 2004 campaign. Good evening, Bill.

BILL SCHNEIDER, POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Carol.

LIN: It doesn't seem like these numbers are very definitive, what do you read into them?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think the troubling figure for the president is that a majority of american's in that poll, 54 percent, say that they don't think he's a leader that he can trust. His strength has always been his personal qualities, someone that they feel they have confidence in, even if his policies don't always work, the economy was in trouble, Americans have always had great faith in President Bush's character.

Why is that changing? Well, in a word, Iraq. More precisely, the occupation of Iraq. American's still think it was the right thing to do, to go into Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein, but the occupation is deeply troubling to American's, both in terms of the lives, the gruesome stories that are coming out of there, like the one you just reported and the amount of money it's costing American's.

Do we have a plan in Iraq? Is there a real policy. And they're beginning to ask difficult question about, why did the U.S. go into Iraq in the first place? And was there any deception involved? Those have got to be serious problems for American's, and for this president.

LIN: All right. Let's play a portion of this ad. I know you've already seen it, Bill, but it's an ad produced by the Republican National Committee. It's airing in Iowa right now. And the Democratic candidates who are running for president are very upset about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would take vial, once canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like one we have ever known. Our war against terror is a contest of will, in which perseverence in power.

Some have said, we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike.

ANNOUNCER: The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: Well, there you go. Bill, is this the way that the Republican National Committee hopes to boost President Bush's standing with the public then? That he is the champion against terrorism?

SCHNEIDER: That's right. And that's exactly how the president and the Republican party, one, had a surprising victory, really, in the mid-term election of 2002. They hope to do the same thing in 2004.

And the polls are interesting on this, because they show the president's ratings on handling the war on terrorism, very high, somewhere in the 60's, whereas his rating on Iraq are considerably lower, only in the 40's. American's see a big difference between those issues.

So Republicans are hoping they can make the same issue work for them again. But there's one difference, between 2002 and 2004 came the war in Iraq and that has made an enormous difference. You are hearing Democrats complain that the president is attacking them. The ad says, some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists. General Wesley Clark's response to that was, I'm not critical of President Bush because he's attacking the terrorists, I'm critical of him because he's not attacking the terrorists.

And the ad says, we can't put our national security of others. A new ad that's going to be run in Iowa by John Kerry says, we can't go it alone in Iraq. That was a big mistake. So it's very different in 2004 from the way it was in 2002.

LIN: All right. Perhaps the party who can actually find the terrorists, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, may actually win the White House.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. That's of course the big question. And believe me, Democrats are going to raise that. What happened to Saddam Hussein? What happened to Osama bin Laden? And of course, that's a risk for Democrats, because, you know, a month before the election next year, we could suddenly capture Saddam Hussein and that will change everything.

LIN: Everything. All right. Thanks so much, Bill Schneider. Good to see you.

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