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Kerry Within Easy Reach of Democratic Nomination; President Bush Touts Recovery Concern Over Jobs

Aired March 10, 2004 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: John Kerry meets with Howard Dean. Can former adversaries bury the hatchet? We may find out today.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm really glad to be back in the great city of Cleveland, Ohio.

ANNOUNCER: President Bush, back on the trail, takes his optimistic economic message to a key swing state.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into.

ANNOUNCER: Gay Republicans use Dick Cheney's own words to take on the President over an amendment to ban gay marriage.



JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

With four more primary victories in his pocket, and the Democratic nomination all but wrapped up, John Kerry today turned his attention to party unity. After a campaign stop in Illinois, and a speech to union workers, Kerry traveled here to Washington for face- to-face meetings with his party's chairman, as well as his former campaign rival, Howard Dean.

Our Bob Franken is with me for more on Senator Kerry's busy day -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, this campaign is starting to have all the finesse of a brawl, but a coordinated brawl. Senator Kerry, as you pointed out, meeting with Howard Dean at this hour, after returning to Washington from Illinois.

Howard Dean and Kerry are talking about coordinating an endorsement. That could be a very delicate dance that was time consuming. Also coordinating that strong financial base that Dean has, a base that was built mainly on the Internet.

And the Bush administration -- the Bush campaign, rather -- wasted very little time in responding to that, pointing out some of the comments that Dean had said about Kerry, such as, "You're not going to change America by nominating somebody who is a Washington insider, whose biggest long suit is talk."

But now the talk, of course, is going to be aimed at President Bush. And Senator Kerry is very eager to show that he's not going to pull any punches.



SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, yes. Don't worry, man. Thank you. We're going to keep pounding, let me tell you.

We're just beginning to fight here. These guys are -- these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I've ever seen.


FRANKEN: And the Bush campaign very quickly responded to that with statements such as, "Throughout the primary process, and obviously now, Democrats have used some of the most harsh, angry, bitter rhetoric that we've seen in our country's history." Those the words from the Bush campaign.

As far as Kerry is concerned, he is meeting later with the Democratic national chairman, Terry McAuliffe. Going to coordinate their operations to make sure they're on the same page. Then a meeting tomorrow with John Edwards and his supporters, looking for Edwards to announce his support, his endorsement. Again, more coordination, what promises to be, Judy, a brutal, brutal encounter with the Republicans.

WOODRUFF: So Bob, is the Kerry campaign -- is the candidate apologizing for what he said?

FRANKEN: If he would, he'd probably have a hard time keeping a straight face -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bob Franken following the Kerry campaign. Thanks very much.

Well, Senator Kerry's victories in yesterday's primaries added to his already huge lead in the race for party delegates. Kerry won the contests in Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, bringing him within easy reach of the Democratic nomination. By CNN's count, Kerry now has 2,135 delegates, which is just short of the 2,162 needed to put him over the top.

Over on the Republican side, President Bush has clinched his party's nomination for a second term. Mr. Bush surpassed the needed delegate total after the polls closed yesterday in his home state of Texas. Today, the President traveled to Ohio, where he talked about the economy. CNN's Kathleen Koch has more.


KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Bush, here in Cleveland today, departed from his normally 100 percent rosy speech on the economy, reaching out to Ohio voters and saying that he understands how hard hit Ohio, the city of Cleveland specifically, have been hit by the rescission. The President saying that he shared the concerns of Ohio workers who are worried about their jobs going overseas, workers who are worrying about losing their health care, their retirement.

He said that the economy is right now in a time of transition and change, expanding though. The President admitted that the economy is facing challenges. He says that his administration, though, does know how to meet them.

The President criticized what he described as the tired, defeatist attitude of some in Washington who advocate a policy of tax and spend, a policy that the President called a recipe for economic disaster.

BUSH: Some politicians in Washington see this New challenge, yet they want to respond in old ways. Their agenda is to increase federal taxes, to build a wall around this country, and to isolate America from the rest of the world. They never get around to explaining how higher taxes would help create a single job in America. Except maybe at the IRS.

KOCH: Those remarks coming to a summit on women entrepreneurs. The president beforehand visiting a thriving local company, Thermagon, that is run by a woman entrepreneur. The company makes material used in electronic packaging. The president stepped in on the assembly line, took a moment himself to help out the workers there, polishing a piece of metal that is used in this electronic packaging.

The president, though, was also greeted here in Ohio with protesters. Several hundred, many of them union workers, some carrying pro-John Kerry signs. Others carrying signs that said, "George Bush, go home. Don't take away my overtime pay."

Again, Ohio, a state very hard hit, losing some 264,000 jobs since President Bush took office. But the president determines to win this state again, just as he did in 2000, though then by just a 4 percent margin. The president wants to increase that margin come November.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Cleveland.


WOODRUFF: Mr. Bush made a point during that Ohio stop in his remarks of sharing his concern about the loss of U.S. jobs overseas. A new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll finds that many Americans are worried about so-called outsourcing. Sixty-one percent say they are concerned about losing jobs to a foreign country. Thirty-eight percent said they are not concerned.

Checking our Wednesday "Campaign News Daily," Republican Senator John McCain is well known for his independent streak, a trait that has led some to speculate about a possible slot on the Democratic ticket. When asked this morning if he would consider running with John Kerry, McCain didn't completely close the door. "John Kerry is a close friend of mine. Obviously, I would entertain it. But I see no scenario where that would happen."

Predictions that the Democratic electorate would be especially energized this primary season appear to have been overly optimistic. New Hampshire saw its highest voter turnout since 1960, 23.3 percent. But according to the committee for the study of the American electorate, overall turnout for the party primaries for Super Tuesday was the third lowest since 1960.

Turnout yesterday in Florida was light, but one panhandle county finds its self-conducting a hand recount. Bay County officials say that their ballots contained a coding problem that they detected when early results showed Congressman Dick Gephardt leading the field by a 2-1 margin.

Former President Bill Clinton has ruled out a run for New York city mayor, a post that he describes as the second best job in America. In Mr. Clinton's words, "I think Hillary is doing a god job. And one of us in politics is probably more than enough."

President Clinton is also staying busy by taping public service announcements, encouraging young people to vote. The ads will run on Black Entertainment Television, which has committed $1 million in free advertising time between April and November.

Coming up, the battle over same-sex marriage.


CHENEY: I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.


WOODRUFF: A group of gay Republicans uses Dick Cheney's own words against the Bush administration's stated policy.

Later, with the race for the nomination effectively over, Bruce Morton asks whether the Democratic Party's front-loaded primary season was a good idea.

I'll also talk with AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney about big labor's hopes for continued political clout.


WOODRUFF: President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage is coming under fire by an organization of gay Republicans. The Log Cabin Republicans is spending about $1 million to run a television ad in seven swing states and the District of Columbia. It features Dick Cheney's comments from the vice presidential debate four years ago.


CHENEY: The fact of the matter is, we live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody. We don't get to choose and shouldn't be able to choose and say, you get to live free, but you don't.

People should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. That matter is regulated by the states. I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that's appropriate.


WOODRUFF: Mr. Cheney now says he supports President Bush's stand in favor of that constitutional amendment.

Joining me now is Log Cabin Republicans' executive director, Patrick Guerrero.

Thank you very much for being with us.


WOODRUFF: You are a Republican. Obviously the president's a Republican. Why go against him? Why run these ads?

GUERRERO: We consider this a line in the sand. The reality is that gay and lesbian Americans who pay taxes, who are conservative, who follow the laws, and who have families, should not be used as wedge issues in this presidential election cycle. History would not look kindly on our organization if we didn't speak out as our party veered in the wrong direction and became really a party speaking on the wrong side of history when it comes to these issues.

WOODRUFF: How many voters do you think you represent?

GUERRERO: What we know is exit polls confirm that over a million gay and lesbian Americans voted for the President in the year 2000. My memory is that it was a pretty close race. I have a feeling the race will be close this year.

The Republican Party needs to keep growing and bringing New people into the party. And the attempt to amend the Constitution to marginalize one piece of the American family I think counters that. And it actually hurts not only among gay and lesbians, but also among our families and among the people who work and live next to people who they know are good, decent, human beings. This is a bad political play with the Constitution.

WOODRUFF: Did you and others in your organization let the White House know before they made this announcement how strongly you felt? GUERRERO: Absolutely. We love the Republican Party, and the principles of conservatism when it comes to defense, and free trade, and the limited role of government. We made clear to them, though, that if they were going to play politics, play political football with the American Constitution, we would have to react, react strongly. And that is what we've done.

WOODRUFF: Why do you think they went ahead and did this then?

GUERRERO: There might be polling on some desk that shows that gay marriage is not endorsed by the majority of Americans. But I think they overplayed this card.

Most Americans are moving toward supporting some type of civil recognition. They certainly love their Constitution. And even those who oppose gay marriage don't want their Constitution to be played with.

Just in the last 24 hours on our Web site,, we've got hundreds and hundreds of people writing in, making donations, making a case that they want their Constitution protected. And they don't want gay and lesbians used as wedge issues in this election cycle.

WOODRUFF: Do you have allies, do you think, inside the Bush administration or inside the Bush White House?

GUERRERO: I believe, like most American families, the White House is a family, too, divided on this issue. It's so complex and so New. But I would just encourage the White House to not take political advice from failed presidential candidates Gary Bauer, Pat Buchanan and Pat Robinson.

They ran against the Bushes over the last 15 years. They should start listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani and the future of the party, which knows we need to build a big tent party if we want to be the majority party in the decades ahead.

WOODRUFF: Let me read to you, Patrick Guerrero, what the Bush- Cheney campaign spokesman, Terry Holt, said when he was asked about these ads. He said, "We feel that during this election the Republicans will unite behind the president on the big issues facing this country: the war on terror, and growing the economy." The implication being that gay marriage is not something that is a big issue.

GUERRERO: Well, the president used the bully pulpit of the White House to support a constitutional amendment. We hope the president and the party -- and these television ads, I think, will help do this, will help refocus the party on the things Americans are talking about: job security and security from terrorism.

And we hope the party moves in that direction. That's how you win elections in American politics today.

WOODRUFF: Your group endorsed President Bush, George W. Bush, when he ran for president four years ago. Is there a chance you would not endorse him this year?

GUERRERO: His support for an amendment jeopardizes that endorsement. We're going to follow our customary process, which is we will make that decision, our national board will, at the New York Convention in late August.

WOODRUFF: All right. About the same time the Republican National Convention is meeting.

GUERRERO: Exactly.

WOODRUFF: All right. Patrick Guerrero, with the Log Cabin Republicans. Thanks very much.

GUERRERO: Good to be with you.

WOODRUFF: Good to see you. We appreciate it.


WOODRUFF: Well, two months down, and a long way to go. Coming up, the primary and caucus season for all practical purposes is over. And the real battle is under way. Bruce Morton will give us his take on this shorter-than-normal nominating season.

And Bob Novak will tell us why Senator Orrin Hatch has some fellow Republicans squirming.


WOODRUFF: Bob Novak is here now with some "Inside Buzz."

All right, Bob, I understand some Republicans are a little squeamish, if you will, about something that Orrin Hatch did? What's this?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": He's the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They will convene tomorrow morning, and he will ask them and get to them approval to propose a Justice Department criminal investigation of those Democratic e-mails about judicial confirmation strategy that the Republicans got and leaked to members of the press.

Now, the politics of it is this, that Senator Hatch, his supporters think it's a good idea, being open and honest, but there are many Republicans who are very upset that all their secrets are being laid -- will come out, that these memos were handled by many Republicans and their allies in the so-called vast right wing conspiracy. And they're very upset with Orrin Hatch.

WOODRUFF: But it's going to happen?

NOVAK: It is going to happen.

WOODRUFF: All right. Quickly to Colorado, where Ben Knighthorse Campbell, the Republican incumbent senator, not going to run again. This leaves an opening for?

NOVAK: That was a big shock. And what the Republicans hoped was that Governor Bill Owens, very popular, would then run for the Senate. They got a second shock this week, when the Senate Republican Campaign Committee got a telephone call from Colorado, from Bill Owen, and says he is not going to run for the Senate.

He recommended Bob Beauprez, his pal, a first-term congressman, first office he's ever held, to run that Colorado seat, which had been sure for Campbell, is now in play. Why did Owens did this? The theory is that he wants to run for president in '08. It's not good to run for president from the U.S. Senate if you're a Republican.

WOODRUFF: All right. James Hoffa, the head of the Teamsters Union, recently endorsed John Kerry.

NOVAK: And I am told by people close to the Teamsters president that he did this kicking and screaming. He didn't like Senator Kerry very much. He liked Dick Gephardt very much, who he endorsed.

Gephardt talked him into endorsing Senator Kerry. Hoffa had met with both Kerry and Senator John Edwards. Liked Edwards much better, but was told by Gephardt Edwards was going any place. If he wants to get with the flow, he better endorse Kerry. And he did so.

WOODRUFF: So he got with the flow, so to speak. All right. Last but not least, on the fund-raising front, a man at the White House...

NOVAK: Oh, those fund-raising stories. You know, they have -- you pay a lot of money, you get a picture with Bush, with Cheney. Now, Judy, if you pay only $1,000, you can get your picture taken with Karl Rove, that special -- the senior adviser to the president. I've never heard of that before.

They're having an event, a fund-raising event March 18 at the Birchmere here in Alexandria, and it only costs $250 to go. That's cheap for a fund-raiser. But $1,000, you get your picture taken with Karl Rove.

You going to be there?

WOODRUFF: Well, it sounds like the kind of fancy group that you'd be hanging around with, Bob. Those people can write those big checks.

NOVAK: I think I got a picture with Rove.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bob Novak, "Inside Buzz." Thank you very much.

NOVAK: Thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: We'll talk to you very soon. He's going to be back, by the way, on "CROSSFIRE" at 4:30.

NOVAK: No, I won't be on. WOODRUFF: You won't be on?

NOVAK: Not today.

WOODRUFF: But "CROSSFIRE" will still be on.

NOVAK: "CROSSFIRE" will be there without me today.

WOODRUFF: It goes on regardless.


WOODRUFF: All right.

Well, we are just over two months into the presidential election year, but already the Bush versus Kerry battle has begun. Primaries and caucuses stacked up at the beginning of the year have guaranteed a short nominating season.

Our Bruce Morton takes a closer look at this process known as frontloading, and its possible impact on the race for the White House.


KERRY: Get ready. A new day is on the way.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENET (voice-over): It's over. The Democratic Party has its nominee. It is fairly united, not much bloodshed in the primaries, ready for the general election. It's just what chairman Terry McAuliffe wanted. Is it a good thing?

DAVID BRODER, WASHINGTON POST: I think it probably is a good thing for the Democrats to get their competition out of the way. I'm not sure it was a great thing for the voters or for the country, because after Iowa and New Hampshire the people had to vote on the basis of very quick glimpses of the candidates, not really a chance to examine them.

MORTON: Years ago it took months. In 1984, Walter Mondale won in Iowa, Gary Hart in New Hampshire, and the nomination wasn't decided until June. In 1992, Bill Clinton faced hard questions on White Water, an alleged affair with Jennifer Flowers in the primaries. They were old news by fall.

Even last time there were five weeks between New Hampshire and Super Tuesday. This time, seven states voted the week after New Hampshire.

BRODER: There really was not much chance for reflection by the voters in any state after Iowa and New Hampshire.

MORTON: And winning early can be a problem. Bob Dole won the nomination easily in 1996, then watched as Bill Clinton hammered him for months on TV.

BRODER: But the Democrats have learned something from that experience. They have all of these corollary organizations gearing up; they're starting their own TV campaigns at this point.

MORTON: And a lot of politics watchers feel the voters don't really start paying attention until fall anyway.

BRODER: And I expect that in September and October, that the country will be focused very much on the candidates who are running at that point. I don't think Senator Kerry is seriously disadvantaged by what happens in the next five or six months.

MORTON: He's probably right. The flaw in this system is that the primary voters had to make up their minds in a hurry after Iowa and New Hampshire. That may be why John Kerry floated through so easily. People voted for the guy last week's voters picked.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And we have this update on an item we told you about a few moments ago, and that is Arizona Republican Senator John McCain in an interview earlier today with ABC not ruling out the notion that he might be a running mate for John Kerry. We told you that when asked, he said, "John Kerry's a friend of mine. Obviously I would entertain the idea." But he said, "I see no scenario where that would happen."

Well now, John McCain's office is making it very clear. They say -- speaking for Senator McCain, the senator's chief of staff, Mark Salter (ph), tells The Associated Press, "The Republican senator will not be a candidate for vice president this year."

There you have it. No mistaking anymore. All right.

Well, the gloves have come off in the political ad wars. Coming up, I'll ask a veteran of the Clinton White House about the behind- the-scenes battles over what we're seeing on the air.

Later, with fewer members than ever before, can big labor keep its sizable political clout?


NARRATOR: George Bush's priorities are eroding the American dream.

ANNOUNCER: Is this commercial illegal? We'll ask the man behind the latest attack ad on President Bush.

Can organized labor recover from internal disorganization in time to have an impact on the presidential election? AFL-CIO president John Sweeney will join us.

KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you very much.

ANNOUNCER: And Senator John Kerry conjures up the king on the campaign trail. (END VIDEOTAPE)


WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

The long road to November showed new signs of turning negative today just as John Kerry solidified his grip on the Democratic nomination. One day after he swept four southern primaries, Kerry traveled here to Washington for a meeting with his one-time rival, Howard Dean. After a speech in Illinois this morning, Kerry was heard calling certain Republican "crooked," and describing them as "a lying group of people."

President Bush, meantime, told an audience in Ohio that the economy is recovering, and that he shares their concerns about the loss of U.S. jobs overseas. A Bush spokesman said that Senator Kerry's tough comments represent what he called the Democrat's bitter rhetoric.

As the candidates take their messages on the road, an equally tough battle is emerging on the nation's airwaves. An independent interest group called The Media Fund has launched a $5 million...

As the candidates take their messages on the road, an equally tough battle is emerging on the nation's airwaves. An independent interest group called the Media Fund has launched a $5 million ad campaign in 17 battleground states. Just one of several so-called 527 groups that are spending big money to defeat President Bush.

Yesterday the Bush/Cheney campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, claiming that these ads are illegal because they oppose Bush and are paid for with unlimited soft money contributions.

Our Bill Schneider has more on the rise of 527 groups, and their potential impact on this campaign.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Here's a campaign ad run by the Democratic Party, paid for by unlimited and unregulated soft money back in 1996.

AD ANNOUNCER: If Newt Gingrich controls Congress and his partner Bob Dole enters the Oval Office, there'll be nobody there to stop them.

SCHNEIDER: Under the McCain/Feingold Reforms now in effect, that ad would be illegal. Here's a campaign ad, run by an independent group called the Media Fund paid for by unlimited and unregulated soft money, being run now.

AD ANNOUNCER: George Bush's priorities are eroding the American dream. It's time to take our country back from corporate greed, and make America work for every American.

SCHNEIDER: Why is that ad legal? Because it's not being run by the Democratic Party. It's being run by a so-called 527 organization.

LARRY NOBEL, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: What you're seeing on the Democratic side is a number of groups being set up in an essence to shadow what the Democratic Party would normally do with soft money. They're trying now to do it out of these 527 organizations.

SCHNEIDER: The Campaign Finance Law says that any group that tries to influence federal elections must register as a political committee, and its fund raising must be limited and regulated.

Isn't the Media Fund trying to influence a federal election? The Federal Election Commission says maybe not.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (R), WISCONSIN: The FEC took the position that if a 527 was not spending money on express advocacy, mainly communications that urge a vote for or against a candidate, it could then operate under the radar screen.

SCHNEIDER: In other words, it can run the ad, paid for by soft money, as long as it stops short of saying "vote against George Bush." Isn't that a loophole?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: As my 15-year-old son would say, Jimmy would say, duh! They're engaged in partisan political activity, so therefore they should be regulated.

SCHNEIDER: Defenders see Republican efforts to ban the anti-Bush ads as moves to stifle dissent. This is a free country. Don't groups have a right to criticize the president?

LINDA CHAVEZ THOMPSON, EXEC. VP, AFL-CIO: Instead of engaging them on the issues or trying to out-organize them, they are seeking to use the FEC as a weapon to crush their involvement in the political process.


SCHNEIDER: Most Democrats embrace the cause of campaign finance reform. Now, they're exploiting a loophole in the law. How do Democrats justify it? They say it levels the playing field with President Bush, who's been much more successful at raising money -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much. A little earlier this afternoon I sat down and talked with Clinton White House veteran Harold Ickes about his group, the Media Fund. I started by asking him what they are trying to do that the John Kerry campaign can't do for itself.


HAROLD ICKES, DIR., THE MEDIA FUND: Well, nothing. The John Kerry campaign is going to talk about John Kerry and George Bush.

But the Media Fund is a vehicle for people who want to give more than they could under the new rules. And to permit us to raise issues, to talk about the radical Republican policies that we think are very detrimental to the middle class in this country. And that's what the Media Fund is about. That's what our spots will be about. that's what our advertisements will be about.

WOODRUFF: Are the Republicans right when some of them say that the Democrats will end up with more money even that George W. Bush when you add together what the Kerry campaign and what your groups like yours are going to pay?

ICKES: Oh, give me a sponge for the tears. The Republicans talking about we're going to have more money on -- the Democratic progressive side will have more money than the Republicans? Give me a break, Judy.

They're going to -- the president's campaign and the Republican National Committee together, I predict, will have in the neighborhood of $400 million to $500 million. That's close to half a billion dollars, that's a lot of money.

WOODRUFF: How do you know that your effort isn't going to step on for go in another direction from or in some way interfere with the Kerry message?

ICKES: We're not coordinating with the Kerry campaign. We can't by law and we don't.

But we're going to be raising issues of concern to the American people. All our polling shows, all our focus groups show that people are increasingly concerned about the radical nature of the policies of the -- of the Republican administration.

Jobs are going overseas, 2.3 million jobs have been lost since in the last three years. People are very nervous about health care. And about education. And those are issues that we're going to be talking about. I assume that Senator Kerry will be talking about those issues as well. But we're not coordinating with them.

WOODRUFF: But what do you say to those Republicans who say they're going to be watching you very closely to see if there's any illegal coordination between you and the Kerry?

ICKES: I served for three years in the Clinton White House. I understand how closely they can watch. We have -- are advised by some of the best lawyers in the country. We are well within the bounds of the law. And we know what we're doing on that score.

WOODRUFF: From a legal standpoint, what do you say to the Bush/Cheney campaign and other Republicans who are out there saying this is a blatant violation of campaign finance laws that prohibit soft money going...

ICKES: They need to get new lawyers because they can't read the law. The law is clear on its face, the Congress rebated it, the Congress decided to sever the connection between soft money and federal officials and federal candidates.

But they left in place the existing law with respect to organizations such as the Media Fund which permits citizens, average citizens to come together and to express their political views, and exercise their First Amendment rights. That's what we're doing.

WOODRUFF: But among others you know Fred Wertheimer very well. There's probably nobody more associated with campaign finance reform than Fred Wertheimer. He argues that groups like yours are subject to the same laws that apply to groups that are not -- that -- to all groups that are in any way trying to influence federal reelections.

ICKES: Well, I have a enormous regard for Fred, but the fact is that he's just misreading the law. And the Republicans are misreading it deliberately. They want to chill our contributors. They want to divert our attention and they want to harass us. They're past masters at that.

We want to talk about the issues. We suggest that the Republicans start talking about the Republican issues rather than trying to harass us.


WOODRUFF: I asked Harold Ickes also about the fallout for the Media Fund if these legal challenges force new restrictions on the so- called 527s. He said there is no legal basis for any changes to the current law. He added that this group would go to court to challenge any restrictions that if they were proposed by the FEC.

Well, the nation's labor leaders are meeting this week in Val Harbor, Florida. The AFL-CIO get-together comes at a time when union membership has hit an all-time low. Just 12.9 percent of the U.S. workforce is now union sized. Another problem, when it comes to politics, the unions are having trouble staying united.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: George Bush thinks exporting our jobs is good economic policy.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): In the end, most labor unions married Kerry. But for the majority he wasn't first love material.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gephardt needs your help, man.

WOODRUFF: Dick Gephardt began the race as the union candidate, a veteran supporter of labor's pet causes.

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), FRM. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not put up with trade treaties that don't say the right things about labor rights and human rights and environmental concerns.

WOODRUFF: He won the backing of the Teamsters and a wide swath of industrial unions. But he wasn't a fresh face. And the year's fresh face was very enticing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The largest union of health care workers and janitors in this country today is announcing our endorsement for Howard Dean as president of the United States.

WOODRUFF: Two labor power houses, the Service Employees International Union, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, went with the former Vermont governor setting up a Dean-Gephardt clash in the union battleground of Iowa. Both sides fell on that field.

Harold Schaitberger, the fire fighters' leader whose members came out strong and early for Kerry, was the last man standing. Now he's hailed as a labor hero.

HAROLD SCHAITBERGER, IAFF GENERAL PRESIDENT: Brothers and sisters, please welcome the next president of this great country, John Kerry.

WOODRUFF: As Kerry moved closer to nailing the nomination the mighty ALF-CIO up till then on the sidelines followed the fire fighters lead.

On the other end of the equation AFSCME President Gerald McEntee.

GERALD MCENTEE, AFSCME PRESIDENT: This is, and you know it, the most important election of our lifetime.

WOODRUFF: But he bailed on Dean before the candidate dropped out, calling him, quote, "nuts" in an interview with "The New York Times." Now he's in the dog house as labor struggles to get its house in order.

With union membership down and a White House they view as hostile, labor is trying to finally unite. If not totally behind a candidate, then against one: George W. Bush.


WOODRUFF: And coming up, two perspectives on the labor movement and the union's political clout. I'll talk with AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and with Bill Miller of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Also ahead, a medical update on presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

Later, have you ever noticed a resemblance between John Kerry and a certain legendary rock star?


WOODRUFF: As labor leaders from across the United States -- I'm sorry. Three days after he checked into a Cleveland area hospital, Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has been released. The Ohio congressman left the hospital a short time ago. He'd been treated for a stomach ailment possibly caused by food poisoning.


WOODRUFF: As labor leaders from across the United States meet this week in Florida, a big part of their agenda will focus on ways to help defeat President Bush. Senator John Kerry won the AFL-CIO's endorsement last month and as we reported earlier he spoke to the group by satellite today. AFL-CIO president John Sweeney is with me now from Val Harbor (ph), Florida. Mr. Sweeney, thank you for being with us.

We've been reporting on the divisions among organized labor, the fact that several unions were behind Dick Gephardt, some behind Howard Dean and it really wasn't until very recently when this nomination was about wrapped up that the AFL-CIO, you and other unions lined up behind John Kerry. Is that going to hurt his campaign?

JOHN SWEENEY, PRESIDENT, AFL-CIO: I think solidarity and the unity of the labor movement is going to become more evident as we get more and more into this campaign. Every union that has is a part of our executive council unanimously endorsed a political program this morning and I think the process of different unions going for different candidates during the primary season was good for the democracy in the unions and the processes that they went through.

And I think our rank and file are ready to join behind John Kerry in his presidential campaign, and they're energized and they realize that they have had a role in the process and now they want to solidly support John Kerry for president.

WOODRUFF: But don't you think it contributes to an image of a divided house of labor?

SWEENEY: That's what some of the media is saying. But really, while there were differences in the primaries, everyone is united behind John Kerry. There are a couple of unions that haven't endorsed yet. But only because they are still going through their own internal process.

WOODRUFF: Don't you, at the same time, have a fundamental divide between the manufacturing unions which are worried about losing jobs overseas, among other things, and then on the other hand the firefighters and the public employee unions which are worried about budget cuts and very different issues.

SWEENEY: They are different issues. But the budget cuts affect the industrial unions, as well as the public unions. And the jobs cuts, we're seeing not just in manufacturing, but now with more of the outsourcing of white collar jobs, we're seeing that impacting on some of the unions, and the fact of the matter is that we're in a national jobs crisis and we're all concerned about it and our members are really concerned about it.

WOODRUFF: I want to cite to you, among other things, President Bush made a speech today in Ohio, a campaign speech. He's arguing he inherited an economy on the decline. He said the economy was further hurt by forces out of his control. 9/11. Corporate scandals. The time that it took to prepare to go to war in Iraq. Isn't the president right about that, Mr. Sweeney?

SWEENEY: No, the president is not right. The president has created this crisis, and has had the worst track record of any president the past 20 years in terms of developing jobs and advancing the economy. And he inherited a budget surplus, and then gave tax breaks to the wealthy and to the corporations and to business, and wiped out that surplus and created a huge deficit that we're confronted with. We've been able to support international activities, wars in the past, and yet pay attention to the domestic issues. The fact that we've lost 2.5 million jobs over the president's watch in just in the manufacturing industries is very very serious.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, the president also today criticized Democrats who, in his words, he said they want to build a wall that will isolate the United States from profitable global trade, and cost jobs. In the last analysis.

SWEENEY: That's rhetoric. The president, he doesn't get it in terms of -- our trade policy has to work for workers as well as capital. And trade is important to our country. But we have to address the issues of workers, and we have to address the issues of the environment, and the president should be as interested in addressing the concerns of workers as he is addressing the concerns of corporations.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. John Sweeney is the president of the AFL-CIO meeting this week in Florida. Mr. Sweeney, thank you very much.

SWEENEY: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Jobs and the economy. From a business owner's standpoint when we come back, the political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be with me to talk about the key economic issues that could help decide who wins the race for the White House.


WOODRUFF: While labor leaders are meeting in Florida to talk about job losses, economic performance and the race for the White House, the American business community is also keeping a close watch on those issues. With me now Bill Miller, he's vice president and political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Bill Miller, what about John Sweeney's comment just a moment ago that the -- President Bush inherited an economy that was doing well, and left it and has created economy in deficit. In other words, it is on this president's watch that many of these economic problems have happened? WILLIAM MILLER, POLITICAL DIRECTOR OF U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Well, I think, quite frankly, many of the issues that are relating to the economy were present during the time of the last days the Clinton administration. The president did inherit an economy that was in a brief recession. We believe that some of the actions that the president took with regard to his original tax cuts, helped stimulate the economy, shortening -- shortening the recession and allowing us to move forward. The job loss, and those sorts of things, part of it is the cycles of the economy. But we believe that some of the policies that the president has put forth have actually done a lot to help create an environment whereby the economy is beginning to take -- to turn the corner.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you, cite to you actually two polls I've seen this week. The Associated Press has a poll out today showing 53 percent of voters nationwide disapprove of the way the president's handling the economy. CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll yesterday said when voters were asked which candidate would better handle the economy, 50 percent said Kerry, 42 percent said Bush. Is this going to be a tough sell for the president?

MILLER: Well, I think from the business community's perspective, we look at who supports policies that will help growth. And the president -- this president has supported policies that allow businesses to grow, businesses to invest American, and quite frankly, now businesses to hire. Recent studies of CEOs have suggested that 60 percent of American CEOs are planning to hire this year. Is it a lag? Is it something that hasn't happened to the degree that we in the business community are comfortable with and certainly I'm sure at the White House they would be happier if this was moving faster, but the reality is, companies are beginning to make investments which are going to create jobs.

WOODRUFF: When are those going to turn into jobs? As you know the White House has predicted officially 2.6 million jobs this year. But we saw nationwide, what, 10,000 jobs in January, 20,000-some jobs in February. How many jobs are we going to see this year?

MILLER: Well, I think economic forecasting is just that. It's forecasting. What we believe and our economists have suggested that economic growth in this year will be 4.8 percent. We believe that that is a number that will create more jobs in this country. It's 10,000, and 21,000 big robust numbers? No, they're not. But everything that we see from the CEOs that we've talked to and the companies that we talk to, growth is here, investment is here. And employment is around the corner.

WOODRUFF: Why is it taking so long for these companies to hire people?

MILLER: Well, I think that one of the things that has happened over the last several years is remarkable increases in productivity. That in this country, the workforce, the American workers, the most productive worker in the world, American companies are the most productive in the world. But what we're seeing is that these companies are at a point now, although during this period of time in the last two years, had had difficulties economically, post-9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be able to move forward, they are well-positioned to do that now.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to leave it there. Bill Miller who is vice president and political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Obviously this is something we could spend much more time talking about. We thank you very much for talking to us.

MILLER: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: John Kerry supporters got to see the lighter side of the Democratic presidential candidate during a stop in Illinois. Still to come on INSIDE POLITICS, we'll let you hear the senator's impersonation of a rock 'n' roll legend.


WOODRUFF: Well, he's no Elvis Presley but Senator John Kerry might pass for an Elvis impersonator. Look at this performance by the Democratic candidate during a campaign rally yesterday in Evanston, Illinois.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I was a kid, I had the whole deal down. I had the snarl and I could kind of do the lip and put my collar up and get my hair combed back and I would just come out with a guitar and gyrate and I'll learn as a, you know...thank you very much. Thank you very much , everybody Thank you very much.


WOODRUFF: We hope he won't be so bashful next time, he could show us the whole routine that he used to do. All right, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff and "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


Patrick Guerrero>

President Bush Touts Recovery Concern Over Jobs>

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