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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
The Kerry Campaign; Interview With Wesley Clark; Southern Primaries: Focus on Florida
Aired March 9, 2004 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: He's expected to win today, but can John Kerry top George Bush in the South come November?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the South is simply unavailable for Democratic presidential candidates.
ANNOUNCER: Texas may be George Bush country, but Lone Star State Democrats say they're ready to rumble.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to go down fighting. It is the Texas tradition from the Alamo to present day.
ANNOUNCER: Former rival-turned-supporter Wesley Clark campaigns for John Kerry. Does he want the number two slot on the Democratic ticket?
WESLEY CLARK (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think John Kerry's got to pick whoever is going to help him do the job best.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.
The major question about today's four southern primaries is not which candidate will win, but how many delegates will John Kerry add to his already commanding lead? Four hundred and sixty-five delegates are at stake as voters in Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi go to the polls. Senator Kerry is expected to easily win all four primaries, but even with a clean sweep, he will fall just short of the 2,162 delegates that are needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.
The Kerry campaign has found there's nothing quite like winning to help raise campaign money. Senator Kerry has raised $6 million in the week since Super Tuesday, including more than a million dollars over the Internet for three days in a row. Earlier today, Kerry visited a Florida day care center before flying to Illinois.
CNN's Candy Crowley is on the road with the senator. She joins us now from Chicago -- Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. You're right, we're in the next primary state, as you know. The sort of leap ahead. We spent the last couple of days in those four Gulf states that are having primaries tonight. But now we're in Illinois, where, in Evanston, the senator is holding a town hall meeting with seniors. Subject today, prescription drugs.
The Bush campaign already firing back on that and what has become a really tit for tat race very early on, very heated. Earlier today, he was in Tampa, wrapping up his Gulf State tour. A couple of photo ops in a deli, and then later in a day care, as you mentioned.
Senator Kerry has been, for the past several days, giving kind of a combination of town hall meetings and rallies. The one constant in all of them is the fact that this is a very tough campaign at this point, especially given that it's March. Last night, when it came to the Kerry campaign's attention that Vice President Cheney had said that Kerry's inconsistency and indecision could cost lives, Kerry was very quick to fire back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me tell you something, Mr. Cheney. Let me tell you something, Mr. President. Bad, rushed decisions kill, too.
KERRY: And not giving American citizens health care kills, too. And turning your back on the environment and going backwards on clean air and clean water kills, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Now, as I said, with Kerry talking about prescription drug coverage today, the Bush campaign is already putting out materials, saying that John Kerry missed 36 of 38 prescription drug votes in the Senate. So this has been a very fierce back and forth with the two of them on the road. Nobody expects this is going to let up anytime soon -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Candy, why do the Kerry people think it's gotten this way so fast?
CROWLEY: Well, you know, look, because, first of all, it's a very divided country, which we say sort of every other minute. But beyond that, this campaign was always based on three words: I am a fighter. Sorry, that's four words.
And, you know, Kerry has, more than anything else, wrapped himself around his autobiography in Vietnam to take the president on in a very tough way. There was a feeling that Al Gore never really went after George Bush, that Walter Mondale, when he was there, didn't go after George Bush, the father.
So this was a campaign that from the get-go said, we are going to respond and respond and respond. So this is planned for them. This is exactly how they envisioned it.
WOODRUFF: OK. Well, I guess we've got eight months to look forward to of this, Candy. Thank you very much. Candy reporting today from Chicago, where they are voting one week from today.
Thanks very much.
Well, one more note on Senator Kerry and his fund-raising. Campaign ads say that Senator John Edwards has invited John Kerry to a thank-you event that Edwards is hosting on Thursday for the 100 biggest donors to his presidential campaign. Kerry was invited, we are told, so that he can meet the group and ask them for their financial support. Of course, why else would you have him come?
Well, President Bush used an appearance today at a Washington awards ceremony to defend his trade policies. Mr. Bush didn't mention Senator Kerry this day by name, but he accused his critics of wanting to separate America from the rest of the world.
At the White House, meantime, spokesman Scott McClellan indicated President Bush would spend more than one hour originally promised with the 9/11 Terror Commission. But McClellan fired back at Senator Kerry for criticizing the president's handling of the terror investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think he's someone who lets the facts get in the way of his campaign. I think I've made it very clear the type of unprecedented cooperation this commission -- that this administration is providing to the commission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Yesterday in Florida, Senator Kerry accused President Bush of, "stonewalling efforts to investigate intelligence failures before September the 11th."
Well, retired Army General Wesley Clark is a one-time rival- turned-supporter of the John Kerry presidential campaign. Wesley Clark is with me now from Little Rock, Arkansas.
General Clark, it's good to see you again.
WESLEY CLARK (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nice to see you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Are you surprised this campaign has gotten so tough, so negative, so critical so quickly?
CLARK: Well, no, I'm not surprised, because the Republican Party has been playing this way for months as they've singled out one Democrat after another to tear down. And John Kerry is simply answering back, and he's putting forth his positions.
And I think there were a number of us who ran because we believed that the direction the president has taken the country is wrong. John is saying that. I think he's saying exactly the right thing.
WOODRUFF: Is John Kerry, though, General Clark, vulnerable, at least on this point that the Bush campaign is already hammering away, and that is his flip-flops, that he takes one position on NAFTA and then says, well, we need to work NAFTA out, he votes for No Child Left Behind and then he turns around and says it isn't working, and Iraq, and so on and so on?
CLARK: I don't think John is vulnerable on this, and I'll tell you why. Because he's got a track record of over 20 years in the Senate. He's weighed in on all of these important issues.
He was a senator when the president was running a baseball team. So he's got a much longer record of engagement in public issues than President Bush has. And those issues change over time.
No Child Left Behind, for example, may have looked good conceptually. But it hasn't been funded. It's short $8 billion to $9 billion. If it were funded, the opinions of No Child Left Behind might be somewhat different. It still has some flaws in it, but it also is under-funded.
So I think that when you look behind it, what you see in John Kerry is a man who looks at the issues. He's pragmatic about it, he weighs both sides of the argument.
I think the American people are looking for someone who is a problem solver. Not someone who comes into office with an ideological template to try to stamp out a series of policies regardless of where the facts and the problems are.
WOODRUFF: You spent a fair amount of time in this campaign, though, General, pointing out that John Kerry vote with President Bush on Iraq, on No Child Left Behind, and on some other important issues, indicating, how is he going to be an effective opponent to the president when he voted with him on these issues. Do you still believe that that's a weak spot, a weak point for the senator?
CLARK: Well, I think, if you look at what John's saying, you can see he is a very effective opponent of George Bush. I think the real test of leadership, Judy, is not whether you're positions have evolved over time in response to changing circumstances and facts, but it's whether you're able to do what you say.
And look at this from the other perspective. Back in the year 2000, during the election, and just before, many Americans voted for George Bush, thinking that he was someone who was going to deal with a balanced budget, someone who advocated a humble U.S. foreign policy, somebody who -- well, he said he was against peacekeeping and nation- building. He didn't want to do that. And yet, when you look at what's happened over the last three or four years, his departure from what he said to what he's done is greater than probably any American political leader in the last century.
WOODRUFF: One other thing. You sent out a solicitation letter today. I think we have a picture of it. Where you, among other things, show a letterhead. And there's a very nice photograph there of you alongside Senator Kerry.
Is this a possible ticket, General? Are you interested in running with him?
CLARK: No, I'm not interested in that, Judy. What I am interested in doing is helping John Kerry be elected president.
I went into this race to become president of the United States because I felt a certain way about the country, about where it needed to go. I have those very strong feelings. I think John Kerry's the man our party's picked.
I think he's a good man. I think he'll make a great president. And I'm fully supporting John Kerry and want him to be elected. I'm going to do whatever I can to help him.
WOODRUFF: That means you're out on the campaign trail between now and November.
CLARK: Well, I've been out a few times already, and I'm looking forward to doing it again.
WOODRUFF: OK. Retired Wesley Clark with us from Little Rock, Arkansas. Thanks very much. We appreciate it.
CLARK: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
Well, turning now to our headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," John Kerry's two remaining challengers are taking time off the campaign trail. Al Sharpton canceled a planned news conference today, but he did receive word that Federal Elections Commission staff have recommended that his campaign be awarded $100,000 in federal matching funds. Final approval is up for the six-member commission.
Dennis Kucinich, meantime, is in a Cleveland hospital battling an intestinal ailment. His spokesman says Kucinich is sending e-mails and conducting interviews by telephone. And he is expected to be released tomorrow.
Well, it's not exactly a delegate gold mine, but John Kerry can add American Samoa to his string of Democratic victories. Three delegates were up for grabs in yesterday's caucuses there. Preliminary results show that Kerry got 83 percent of the vote. Seventeen percent voted for Dennis Kucinich.
Republicans are counting on the Deep South this November, but a recent poll indicates Florida could be an exception. Coming up, Democratic prospects in the Sunshine State.
We'll also take you to President Bush's home state, politically speaking. Are Texas Democrats heading for the last roundup?
Later, Bill Schneider contrasts the Bush re-election campaign of 2004 with his father's race in '88 and '92. Which pages of history could repeat themselves?
WOODRUFF: As we've said, a lot of political attention this day is on Florida, a key battleground state that's holding a presidential primary today. With me now, Mark Silva of the Orlando Sentinel.
Mark, good to see you again. I guess my first question is, how much interest is there in this primary? Do you think many people are actually going to go vote?
MARK SILVA, ORLANDO SENTINEL: I think interest has been diminished somewhat by the fact that John Kerry walked away with this at least a week ago. However, enough Democratic partisans are sure to turn out and express an opinion. You may see a little bit of difference in some of the minor vote that goes on, just as a protest, perhaps.
WOODRUFF: Mark, we've seen some interesting polls in the last few days that suggest that maybe this could be a close race in November. How is the state shaping up from your perspective for the general election?
SILVA: I think the state starts almost where it started four years ago. It was evenly divided then. It's fairly divided today.
It's a little different from the standpoint that 9/11 has gotten in the middle and there are people in this state who worry about security, care about the military. And to that extent, George Bush can count on a lot of solid support.
At the same time, there are a lot of Democrats in this state that are going to fight 2000 all over again. And in John Kerry they see a fighter.
WOODRUFF: When you say they're going to fight 2000 all over again, memories of the recount still fresh in the minds of Democrats?
SILVA: People are being reminded. It seems that they went to sleep for a couple years and were occupied by other things, including 9/11. But John Kerry and others are doing their best to remind people what happened here.
And the message resonates clearly. There's not a lot of undecideds in those polls that you see in Florida lately. The camps are pretty well split.
WOODRUFF: What are the factors right now? What are the issues, let me ask it this way, that are on people's minds? Is -- the economy nationwide seems to be an issue. Is it an issue in Florida?
SILVA: I don't think Florida has suffered this sort of economic difficulty that states like Ohio and Wisconsin has suffered. Outsouring of jobs is not an issue here.
This is still a low-wage, low-skill state employing lots of people, growing -- professional ranks are growing as well. I don't think the economy is the issue here. I think national security, safety, terrorism, I think those loom larger.
WOODRUFF: We think of Florida as a state with a high senior population. What about the Medicare prescription drug legislation and Social Security?
SILVA: The Medicare bill has always been a big issue here. It was a big issue in 2000. John Kerry was talking about it in Florida on Monday. And he is saying it's a bad bill.
It's a bad deal for seniors. Of course, no one will see the benefits of this bill really until 2006. And he will try to convince people that it was a raw deal, that the Republicans are running on a false promise. And it's a big issue today.
Social Security as well. I don't believe Social Security is as much a threat on people's minds as it was four years ago. But Medicare is a big one.
WOODRUFF: Mark, it sounds as if you're saying it's some of what of an uphill climb for Kerry in Florida. Is that fair to say? And, if so, what would he need to do to be competitive and even to win?
SILVA: Kerry needs to do two things, because it is an uphill battle. The Bush organization is deeply rooted here. There are many people that are fiercely loyal to Jeb Bush, the governor. And John Kerry needs two things.
He needs to invest a lot of time, money, organizational strength, people on the ground, television advertising, organization absentee ballot organizing, all of those sort of tactical things that Al Gore did pretty well. But in addition, he needs to confront some social issues.
He needs to lessen people's fears that he's a liberal, that he's some sort of far-left candidate from Massachusetts. He needs to confront some social issues, as well. They range from the death penalty to gay marriage, perhaps. But they're issues on which the Republicans will try to portray him as too far to the left.
WOODRUFF: And as you suggest, the fact that the president's brother is the governor doesn't hurt him one bit. OK. We're going to have to leave it there.
Mark Silvia, I hope to talk to you often throughout this campaign.
SILVA: Thank you very much.
WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. Mark Silva, the Orlando Sentinel, talking to us on Florida primary day, the day the Democrats go to the polls in the sunshine state.
Mark, thanks again. Well, the Lone Star State, Texas, has produced such renowned Democrats as Lyndon Johnson, Sam Rayburn and Lloyd Benson. Coming up, Ed Lavandera goes looking to see if the sun has set on the glory days of the Texas Democratic Party.
WOODRUFF: Senator John Kerry's recent campaign swing through Texas gave Lone Star State Democrats something to cheer about. Well, many observers expect that their mood will be much different come November. But as Ed Lavandera discovered, not all Texas Democrats are giving up hope.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the images Texas Democrats want voters to remember, state legislators, all Democrats returning from exile in Oklahoma and New Mexico last year in the failed bid to block a congressional redistricting plan. Democrats here are hoping voters will lash out against Republicans for redrawing the state's congressional lines. The way districts are drawn now is expected to give Republicans another five to seven seats in Congress. Democrat Martin Frost is angry.
REP. MARTIN FROST (D), TEXAS: People come up to me and say, "We want to help." You know, "We're for you. Stay in there. Fight hard." And I've never had that happen.
LAVANDERA: Frost has represented the heavily-Democratic 24th district in Texas since 1978. But because of redistricting, he now has to run in the newly-created Republican-friendly 32nd district. Frost says this has his supporters angry and energized.
FROST: We've always had to go out and beg people to work in campaigns. This is a different year.
LAVANDERA: Republicans now control the state legislature and argue the newly-created congressional line will better reflect the state's political views. Republicans have been defending the new lines and say they're fair to both Republicans and Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been completely fair. Everything has been done in the open, where every member could have a chance to participate in the process.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The extent to which delay in the Republicans had to cut up the state to create districts they could win in really destroyed a lot of the political fabric of our communities. And Democrats, Republicans, Independents, alike, in those areas that were ripped apart aren't happy with it.
LAVANDERA: Well, as you might expect, the redistricting issue has played well among the bases here in Texas. Hard-core Democrats enjoyed the fact that their representatives took off to Oklahoma and New Mexico. The hard-core Republicans chastising them for doing so as well.
The question will be, is how these sing voters will react, if at all, to this come November. And that's what Democrats are shooting for. And Texas voters heading to the polls today, although turnout is expected to be light.
John Kerry favored to win here as well, in Texas, making a campaign stop as you mentioned, Judy, through here. Over the weekend, in San Antonio, rallying the troops there, which brings us back to the issue. To keep all of this in perspective, you're not going to find many Democrats here in Texas who say that George Bush is going to lose, but they are hoping to at least make a little dent in the amount of support that he has here -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And since it's eight months away, tough to keep an issue alive that long. But I'm sure they're going to try that and more.
LAVANDERA: You'll hear it.
WOODRUFF: All right. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much. We appreciate it. Joining us from the Lone Star State.
Well, they stand with their party on major issues such as fiscal restraint, but some gay Republicans are now criticizing President Bush for his stance on same-sex marriage. The Log Cabin Republicans, the group is called, are launching a television ad campaign tomorrow in opposition to the president's push for a constitutional ban on gay marriage.
The ads will be ruing in seven battleground states. And we want to add that Patrick Guerriero, who is the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, will be a guest right here on INSIDE POLITICS tomorrow, on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, in a new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, only a third of the respondents say that gay marriage should be recognized as legally valid. The issue of a constitutional ban is much closer.
Fifty percent say they favor an amendment. Forty-five percent say they are against it. But when asked about civil unions, instead of legal marriages for gay couples, 54 percent say they favor that approach; 42 percent say they are opposed.
We're going to continue our tour of the Gulf Coast states that are holding presidential primaries in just a minute.
There's been an important change at Florida's polling places, but will it result in less confusion?
Also coming up, the view from a different part of the country, as well as the Republican end of the political spectrum. I'll speak with Senator Jon Kyle of Arizona.
And what's all this we keep hearing about a possible Kerry-McCain ticket? Nobody's taking that suggestion seriously, or are they? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ANNOUNCER: The president's coming on strong.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My opponent clearly has strong beliefs. They just don't last very long.
ANNOUNCER: He's trying to avoid the fate of his father. But is George W. Bush pulling a page from dad's 1988 playbook?
Electronic voting hits the Sunshine State.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There will be issues that will crop up that we'll just have to deal with.
Issues that could spell 2000 redo. Florida hopes not.
No-no, or political necessity? we'll tell you why Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is regifting. The initial regifter? None other than Martha Stewart.
Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back. Of the four Southern states holding primaries today, many believe Florida could once again play the most crucial role come November. Texas is considered a lock for President Bush this fall, while Louisiana and Mississippi don't carry the same electoral weight as the Sunshine State.
Senator Kerry wrapped up his latest swing through Florida this morning. And President Bush has been a frequent visitor to the state since taking office. CNN's John Zarrella is with me now from Plantation, Florida for more on today's primary as well as the race ahead. Hello, John.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Hi, Judy. Well, if Democrats want revenge for 2000, and that's what they say they want, here in Florida, they're not showing it today at the polls. Very, very light turnout. But many of the election officials here have told us they expected that with Senator John Kerry having pretty much wrapped up the race for all intents and purposes.
The one thing we don't have to worry about in Florida anymore are these. This is a ballot from here in Broward County. Back in 2000, the paper ballots, the chads. No chads any longer. No butterfly ballots. The machines you see behind me there, the electronic voting machines, are in 15 of the counties now. The other counties have other forms of machines. Optical scanners.
But this is the latest technology. Touch screen voting machines. And while they are fairly new here in Florida, they're just coming online in other states and other counties around the country. And elections officials are telling us that with this new technology, they're still bound to be some difficult growing pangs.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): For an hour during last week's Maryland primary a memory card error in new electronic machines forced voters to go back to the old fashion way, paper ballots. That doesn't surprise Oliver Parker who is still scratching his head it.
OLIVER PARKER, DEFEATED FLORIDA HOUSE CANDIDATE: It just doesn't make sense.
ZARRELLA: Parker lost a Florida state house seat by 12 votes. He believes the electronic machines malfunctioned because 137 of the voters went to the polls, pushed the vote button, but never selected a candidate.
Because electronic machines don't leave a paper trail, there was no recount.
PARKER: The whole problem with this is the votes exist in cyberspace but we exist in real space. And you can't manually count something in cyberspace.
ZARRELLA: Devices that could printout a voter receipt have not been purchased.
REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: I'm asking for a back-up system.
ZARRELLA: Florida Congressman Robert Wexler has filed suit in federal court to force the state to put in printers, because machines, like people, are not perfect.
WEXLER: Effectively they're asking us to believe that these are the first machines in the history of mankind that will never ever have a problem. I think people said that about the Titanic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Push the blinking red light.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
ZARRELLA: Nationwide, as many as 50 million Americans could be casting ballots electronically in November. Florida's Broward County is using an extra 600 county workers to run Tuesday's primary. State officials say there is bound to be growing pangs with new technology.
BRENDA SNIPES, BROWARD CO. ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR: We're marrying people and machines, and I think there will be issues that will crop up that we'll just have to deal with.
ZARRELLA: Preferably now, rather than in November when the presidency is on the line.
ZARRELLA: This is really a bad test of how well the system is going to work because voter turnout has been so light, even if there are issues that they're being faced, they can be dealt with quickly. There have been tech support people are here on and off today. The part of the contingency of people that are needed to run these electronic machines.
You heard in the piece, 600 additional county workers needed just for today's primary in Broward County alone, and that's for a primary with very light turnout. So come November, lots more volunteer workers, lots more county workers across the state are going to be needed to help support this new technical equipment.
It may be a lot easier on the voter, but it's a lot tougher on the counties -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Makes you wonder if Florida will ever be able to get over what happened in 2000. OK, John, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
Senator John Kerry is expected to breeze through today's primaries in the South, but come November, will Kerry need to win some Southern states to beat President Bush? That's a question our Bruce Morton has been looking into.
KERRY: Thank you, New Orleans.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Kerry campaigning in the south. Should he bother? Of the 11 states which succeeded to form the Confederacy, Al Gore in 200 carried none, not even his own Tennessee. He would have won anyway, if he carried little New Hampshire or smallest West Virginia, Vermont, Ohio, but he didn't, of course.
Still, most experts think that Kerry should not write off the South. There are states there he might win.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly Florida and then possibly Louisiana, Arkansas, even North Carolina under certain circumstances.
Secondly, by appealing to the south, he has a better chance at attracting rural voters in Ohio and Missouri, where the real battle ground is.
And finally, he can help Democratic senatorial candidates in the South by keeping up some kind of a campaign there.
MORTON: Jimmy Carter from Georgia carried ten of then 11 old Confederacy states in 1976 but only his own Georgia against Ronald Reagan in 1980. Mondale carried none, Michael Dukakis carried none in 1988. They lost. Bill Clinton who won carried four of the 11 including his home state of Arkansas in 1992 and four in 1996.
The battle in the South is not just economic, it's lost jobs like other regions, but cultural. And issues from to guns to God can play. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good news for John Kerry on the cultural front. On the one hand, he's a war hero, he's a hunter, he rides motorcycles. On the other hand, he's -- he's taken quite liberal positions on a host of issues from abortion to same-sex marriage.
So it will -- it's a mixed picture. Certainly the president will be much closer to the cultural center of gravity in the South than Senator Kerry.
MORTON: One other question confronts Kerry as he heads toward the general election campaign. Should he pick a Southern running mate? Well, the last time the Democrats won without a Southerner as either president or vice president was when Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman got elected way back in 1944. So history, at least, suggests a Kerry and somebody Southern ticket.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: Roosevelt. That was a long time ago.
We have a story we want to tell you about that is the passing of someone who was a notorious terrorist figure, well before 9/11. For the very latest let's turn to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Judy, one of the best-known Palestinian terrorists of the 1980s has now died in U.S. custody in Iraq, according to U.S. military officials.
The man is Abu Abbas. He had been captured in -- near Baghdad in April by U.S. Special Forces. He had been living in Iraq. They had been tipped off and they caught him many months ago. He had been in U.S. custody since. U.S. officials saying Abu Abbas died of natural causes. The U.S. Central Command expected to issue a formal statement on this momentarily.
Many people will remember that Abu Abbas was one of the masterminds of the 1985 Achilles Lauro incident, the hijacking of an Italian ship at sea in which an American who was in a wheelchair was killed. It was one of the best-known, most notorious terrorist incident of that time.
He had been convicted in absentia in Italian courts. But now he is dead of natural causes after being in U.S. custody for the last several months -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon reporting on the death of Abu Abbas. As she said, death by national causes in U.S. custody.
With the United States' economy still on shaky ground and job growth anemic, some of President Bush's critics are comparing him to the father. The elder Bush whose administration faced economic troubles of its own, lost his reelection bid in 1992, we all remember, to Bill Clinton.
But are the comparisons between now and then fair? Here's CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Does George W. Bush 2004 look more like George Bush 1988, the year his father beat Massachusetts Democrat Michael Dukakis? Or more like George Bush 1992, the year his father ran for reelection and lost?
Where does the race stand at this time in 1988? Bush was leading. And then what happened? Bush stayed in the lead until May, when Dukakis suddenly moved ahead. Dukakis kept his lead until the Republican convention in August, when the race turned around.
MICHAEL DUKAKIS, FMR. GOV., MASSACHUSETTS: Read my lips, no new taxes.
SCHNEIDER: Bush moved into the lead and stayed there through election day. March 1992, Bill Clinton challenges President Bush, who starts out ahead? Bush. He leads Clinton by double digits. And then what happened? Bush stayed in the lead until the Democratic convention in July.
BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's time for a change in America.
SCHNEIDER: Then Clinton led from the convention through election day. As this campaign gets started, President Bush is running behind John Kerry. Looks like he's in worse shape than his father was, even in 1992. Should the White House be worried? Well, there are big forces out there that shape the election outcome. One of them is the president's job rating. In 1988, when President Reagan couldn't run again, Vice President Bush was more or less his stand-in. Reagan's job approval rating in March, 1988 was at 50 percent and moving up. That worked to his vice president's advantage.
GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to go out and win one for the gipper.
SCHNEIDER: In March 1992, President Bush's job rating was just above 40. By election day, it had dropped into the 30s. This President Bush starts his re-election campaign at 49. Closer to Reagan in 1988, than to his father in 1992. That's one good sign. Here's another. In March 1988, 38 percent of Americans said the nation's economy was in good shape. Not great, but not nearly as terrible as March 1992, when only 11 percent thought the economy was good.
And now? 39 percent say things are good. About the same as in 1988, when his dad won. Not like 1992, when his dad lost.
SCHNEIDER: In 1992, the numbers were so bad the first President Bush's re-election seemed doomed. In 1988, the numbers were not so great that his father's victory seemed assured. That election could have gone either way. 2004 is looking a lot like 1988.
WOODRUFF: Which is good news for Mr. Bush.
SCHNEIDER: It is good news, but it could go either way.
WOODRUFF: OK. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
During the primary season, just about every Tuesday is a Democratic day in the spotlight. Coming up, a view from the other side. I'll talk with Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.
Later, the "Hotline's" Chuck Todd tells me why some people are listening to whispers of a possible Kerry-McCain ticket.
Plus, some Californians will want to lower the voting age. Find out how low it could go.
WOODRUFF: This story just in to CNN. U.S. marines will begin tomorrow Wednesday, to help police in Haiti disarm rebel groups. This according to a marine spokesman talking to reporters today. Marine spokesman told reporters he was counting on Haitian newspapers and Haitian radio stations to circulate the word to rebels that it is in their best interest to turn in their weapons. The marines spokesman said the program would contain pro-active and reactive elements. Again, U.S. marines, according to this report, will begin tomorrow helping Haitian police disarm the rebel groups in that island nation of Haiti.
After his trip to Texas, President Bush is back here in Washington on this primary election day. Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona is with me now from Capitol Hill to talk more about Mr. Bush's re-election campaign. Senator Kyl, thank you very much for talking with me.
Let's begin quickly with a question about Haiti. Senator John Kerry has said out on the campaign trail that if he had been president, Haiti would not have dissolved into the chaos that it's in, that he would have not sent the signal to the rebels to leave that country in the mess that it's in. What do you say to that?
SEN. JOHN KYL (R), ARIZONA: It's hard to understand John Kerry's position. He criticizes President Bush for taking unilateral action when it's clearly in the national security interest of the United States to do so, as for example, in Iraq. And then he says he would have taken unilateral action to take our troops to Haiti where clearly we have no national security interest. We may have a reason to be there after the Haitians have decided to throw out Aristide who John Kerry supported. But that's a different matter than going in before the fact so his position, I think, would have been irresponsible and I'm glad the president handled it the way he did.
WOODRUFF: Senator, let me ask you about something different that is not specific to international relations in defense. And that is an article in the "Weekly Standard." It's a very well-known conservative publication. Bill Crystal (ph) and Fred Barnes (ph) together reporting, and I just want to quote briefly from what they wrote this week.
They said, "the White House and the Bush campaign seem to have been spooked. They seem fearful and weak at exactly the moment when they need to be confident and aggressive. Democrats and their allies are united behind John Kerry. At best, Bush's aides respond defensively." And they say, "at worst, their clumsiness turns a minor flap into a prolonged controversy." What do you make of all this?
KYL: I have no idea what they're talking about. Again, the president has been somewhat criticized for taking bold and decisive action. I think he continues to show that kind of leadership. So maybe aides are being defensive.
I'm not sure that anybody could accuse the president of being defensive. I particularly note the comments he made yesterday about his opponent, John Kerry, with regard to intelligence. Noting that John Kerry introduced legislation to slash the intelligence budget just two years after the first World Trade Center bombing with over 1,000 casualties there by a billion and a half dollars, which was criticized at the time by the Democrat chairman of the intelligence committee, by Democrat Senator Inowa (ph) who said it would be a significant harm to the intelligence budget.
I noted that today when Director George Tenet of the CIA was asked, and he was CIA director at the time, if that would have been hurtful, his exact comment was, "it would probably be very hurtful." And the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency director, Admiral Jacob (ph) said the same thing, it would have compounded the problem significantly.
WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about two quick things. One other thing George Tenet is quoted as saying is that there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein before the decision to go to war in Iraq.
KYL: That's right. George Bush made the same point. In his State of the Union speech he said there is no imminent threat and we shouldn't have to wait until there is. Tom Daschle said the same thing. The administration was not arguing that we needed to engage in military action against Iraq because there was an imminent threat.
WOODRUFF: Quickly, the White House has been saying the president would only answer questions before the 9/11 commission for one hour. They now seem to be showing a little more flexibility on that. Do you think the president should give more time than just one hour to this commission?
KYL: I think he will give the amount of time that it takes to answer their questions. I've forgotten how many millions of pages of documents they've turned over. And they will -- the president, himself, will be available for their questioning. And I'm sure that by the time they're done, that they will have had all the time with him that they need. WOODRUFF: So more than an hour, it sounds like you're saying.
KYL: Obviously, I can't say and I can't say how much time they really need. It will be up to them. Again, I don't think the president wants to deny them information. That's why he's willing to cooperate with them.
WOODRUFF: Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, good to see you. Thanks very much. We appreciate it.
In Colorado, voters suddenly have an important vacancy to fill. Coming up, the "Hotline's" Chuck Todd looks at the race to replace retiring U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
WOODRUFF: All sorts of names are being floated for the number two spot on this year's Democratic ticket, including none other than Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona. With more on that, much more, I'm joined by Chuck Todd, he's the editor-in-chief at the "Hotline," an insider's political briefing produced every day by the "National Journal." Chuck, what is this about John McCain?
CHUCK TODD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "HOTLINE": Well, it's sort of some Republicans who are old time McCain supporters are kind of panicky. They didn't like the way John McCain answered the question the other day. He was asked on a Sunday show would he be interested in it and he didn't, you know, use any Shermanesque (ph) lines, instead saying it would be hard to believe that Democrats would want a pro-life, pro- war Republican on the ticket.
That said, it's interesting that I've tried to get a whole bunch of people to shoot it down. I can't get it completely shot down. Of course, there's all sorts of conspiracy theories as to why it wouldn't be shot down. One could be that Democrats fear that somehow Republicans are just trying to make McCain's endorsement of Bush matter sometime down the road and make a bigger deal out of it and the other could be it's just a way for McCain to make sure he gets some work done in the U.S. Senate. Who knows.
WOODRUFF: You can think of all sorts of games.
TODD: Yes. But I can't get it shot down.
WOODRUFF: But it's worth reporting.
WOODRUFF: All right. Let's talk a little bit about the electoral map and some small states that could make a difference.
TODD: It's been fun. You see all these new gadget and interactive maps that you can do with the electoral college and since this is the day that Florida is voting in a primary and they, of course, caused us all sorts of electoral grief last time. It's interesting to note that with the new redistricting and everything, that a switch of nine electoral votes now from the old Bush-Gore map and this Kerry-Bush matchup would give us a 269-269 tie.
The easiest nine electoral votes to move are in two states, West Virginia, worth five, and New Hampshire, worth four. Talk to any strategist out there and they say if there are two Bush states that are more vulnerable to going to the -- from the red column to the blue column, it's those two states. West Virginia has a huge job issue, they're normally a Democratic state, and New Hampshire, right next door to Massachusetts, a state that Kerry's a little more popular in than most Democrats and he could carry -- we're worried about what's going to happen to Florida, Ohio. What if we have to worry about what's going on in the House and how they would vote for president.
WOODRUFF: We learn to pay attention to these little states.
WOODRUFF: And their electoral votes, too. Finally, the Colorado Senate. Ben Nighthorse Campbell retiring, what are you hearing?
TODD: Earlier this afternoon, the governor, Bill Owens said he's not going to run for the seat. So there's now a little bit of a Republican vacuum. A lot of focus is going to be put on the freshman Congressman Bob Bopray (ph). He's won a very hotly contested House race in a newly configured district in 2002. A lot of the Republican establishment out there would like to see him run but he's not going to have a clear primary feel. Tom Tancredo, sort of an immigration opponent of the president. He may run in the primary. Lots of names being floated. That could be a mess. Meanwhile, the Democratic side, Rock Bridges (ph), a millionaire Democratic businessman who jumped in the race and at a day later Campbell jumps out. Well, he may not. All of a sudden, Mark Yudol (ph), the congressman from Boulder, he wants to run. But now all eyes are focused on the attorney general in that state Ken Salisa (ph), a Democrat. He might clear the entire Democratic field. It's a mess.
WOODRUFF: But it's politics.
TODD: It's politics and it could make Colorado one of the ground zeroes in the battle for Congress. It's a serious big race.
WOODRUFF: We will watch very closely. There's nobody who can watch it more closely than Chuck Todd with the insider's briefing, produced every day by the "National Journal." It's called the "Hotline." Chuck, thank you very much.
TODD: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: And checking our second edition of our campaign news daily. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to cut her political ties with Martha Stewart. Senator Clinton's office now confirms that in light of Stewart's conviction last week on criminal charges, the senator has decided to donate Stewart's $1,000 campaign contribution to charity.
Reports in Michigan say the father of slain child pageant star Jon Benet Ramsey is considering a run for the state House of Representatives. A spokesman for the Michigan House speaker says that John Ramsey may run for a seat currently held by a Republican, who is leaving office because of term limits.
INSIDE POLITICS back in a minute.
WOODRUFF: If four California lawmakers get their way, some teens who were too young to get a driver's license would be able to vote in state elections. The lawmakers pushing a constitutional amendment that would give 14-year-olds a quarter of the vote. 16-year-olds would get half a vote. The bill sponsors are all Democrats. One of them says today's teens are much better informed than their predecessors. A Republican colleague says, quote, "it's the nuttiest idea I've ever heard."
We'll talk about it more later. That's INSIDE POLITICS for this Tuesday. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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Primaries: Focus on Florida>