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Same-Sex Marriage Amendment; Interview With Senator Orrin Hatch

Aired July 13, 2004 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: The political battle over banning gay marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a critical issue that we are debating today. We'll vote on it initially for the first time in the United States Senate tomorrow.

ANNOUNCER: But will a direct vote on the amendment ever happen?

The conservative conundrum: are some on the right less than excited to rally around the Republican Party?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Part of the issue is about the party. And the party, is it a big enough tent for the conservatives?

ANNOUNCER: Once again, it's the economy, stupid.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the past three years, America has had the fastest growing economy in the industrialized world.

ANNOUNCER: As his poll numbers on Iraq slip, will the economy be the president's trump card?



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

Some top Republicans thought they could embarrass Democrats by pushing a vote on a gay marriage ban. But those same Republicans may be the ones who are red-faced today. For the latest on the political maneuvering and what it means for the presidential race, let's go to our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry.

Hi, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. You're right. At beginning of this debate, Republicans thought that they were going to be on the offensive. They scheduled this in part to embarrass Democrats, do it right before the Democratic national convention, get John Kerry and John Edwards on the record against the ban on gay marriage. But in the last 24 hours, we've seen that storyline change dramatically.

Instead, what we're seeing is Republicans being on the defensive a little bit. They always knew at the beginning it would be very hard to reach 67 votes that they need to get a constitutional amendment through. But now it's looking like they may even have a hard time getting a simple majority, getting 51 votes for the original constitutional amendment.

So now they're talking about Democrats going on the offensive. Democrats are pouncing a little bit here, saying Republicans are divided over even the language of the amendment. The Republicans have responded by bringing up two different versions of the constitutional amendment.

Democrats think that's because Republicans are flatfooted. They know they can't win on the original constitutional amendment. But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist a short while ago defended his strategy.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: The reason that I asked to have another amendment to it -- or we could have more, but at least one other amendment -- is that we don't want to just have one vote. And the Democrats just want to have one vote and then skedaddle. And, no, we want to very thoughtfully debate a constitutional amendment, which is serious business. And we wanted to do it well.


HENRY: Democrats insist, though, that Mr. Frist was afraid that the original constitutional amendment was going to get so few votes, he wanted to bring up the second version, muddy the waters a little bit. And Democrats, like Tom Daschle, also believe that if you have this procedural vote, and it actually passes, you would open the floodgates to all kind of constitutional amendments coming up. Here's what Daschle had to say.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Our offer still holds. If they want to have a debate and a vote on a constitutional amendment, not a multiple choice, we're prepared to accept that agreement. If they want to make the Senate a constitutional convention, then we think it's time we -- we shut down the body and -- and get to work. But that isn't -- this isn't the time or place to do that.


HENRY: Judy, this drama is playing out as Senator John Edwards made his first official visit to Capitol Hill as a vice presidential candidate. He sat down and had lunch in the Capitol today with Senate Democrats. They talked about campaign strategy, about the next few months for the presidential campaign. I spoke briefly to Senator Edwards. He said he has no plans to be here tomorrow because it's a procedural vote. Even though we originally heard Edwards would be here for the vote, he's now saying it's not a straight up-or-down vote on gay marriage. It's a procedural vote, it's confusing, he doesn't want to be here for it. So he's saying he will not be here -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: But at the same time, Ed, you and I were just speaking, you are hearing that there's a lot of pressure on Edwards and Kerry to reconsider that.

HENRY: That's right. In fact, I'm hearing that gay rights groups are pressuring Kerry and Edwards to come back. They want to get them on the record. They want them to fight back and make a statement that they're against this constitutional amendment.

But I can tell you, Republicans are also making a lot of political points, saying that Kerry and Edwards are trying to have it both ways here, they're trying to duck this issue by not voting, whether it's procedural or not. They believe that Kerry and Edwards should vote. And what Republicans are saying privately is that this is going to add to the image of John Kerry being a flip-flopper -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK. Ed Henry, talking to everybody up on the Hill. We appreciate it. Thank you.

In the meantime, a leading gay rights group launched an ad campaign today designed to provide political support for those Republican senators who were expected to vote against the gay marriage ban.


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

LYNNE CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY'S WIFE: People should be free to enter into the relationships that they choose.

R. CHENEY: I think different states are likely...


WOODRUFF: The human rights campaign spot features past comments by Vice President Cheney and recent comments by his wife, suggesting that gay marriage is a state's issue. The $200,000 ad buy is airing in Colorado, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, and in the Washington and Philadelphia areas.

And we're going to talk more about the politics of the gay marriage amendment in just a moment with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. But while John Edwards is on the Hill today, John Kerry is in Boston with no public appearances scheduled. President Bush is rolling through the Great Lakes region this day on a two-day tour of three showdown states that he lost back in 2000, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Thousands of supporters and hundreds of protesters gathered for his appearance at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. We'll have a live report ahead on the president's trip and his message. Vice President Cheney is taking a break from the trail today.

And now checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily."

The Bush-Cheney campaign plans another high-profile appearance with Republican Senator John McCain. Vice President Dick Cheney will appear with McCain this Friday at a stop in Lansing, Michigan. McCain, of course, is friends with John Kerry, and he was even mentioned as a possible Kerry running mate. McCain also appears in a TV ad for President Bush, and he campaigned with the president last month in Washington State and Nevada.

John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, continues to speak her mind on the campaign trail. Last night in Boston, Mrs. Kerry made clear what she's looking for in a president.


TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY'S WIFE: And we need, above all, a president who is not phased by complexity.


HEINZ KERRY: A president who likes to read, a president who loves history, a president who is rightly proud of the lessons of some of our forefathers.


WOODRUFF: Teresa Heinz Kerry. And a new poll finds Kerry's selection of John Edwards has not paid any immediate political dividends in Edwards' home state of North Carolina. A CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll gives President Bush a wide lead over Kerry, 15 points among likely Tar Heel State voters. Four years ago, President Bush defeated Al Gore in North Carolina by 13 percentage points.

Well now, as promised, we return to the politics of gay marriage. We're joined now by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Senator, thank you for being with us.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Nice to be with you.

WOODRUFF: Who was behind the strategy that many say has apparently backfired for the Republicans?

HATCH: Well, I don't think it's backfired. Everybody knows that this is going to be a long-term battle. And it has to start somewhere. And, look, there's no other way to solve this problem. Forty states have adopted the Defense of Marriage Act. And, of course, because of four liberal justices on the Massachusetts Supreme Court, versus three liberal justices on a 4-3 judgment, they are imposing Massachusetts same-gender marriage upon every state in the union under the full faith and credit clause, and most likely all constitutional authorities say the Defense of Marriage Act will be ruled unconstitutional.

So the only way to allow the people to really make this decision rather than four liberal judges in Massachusetts is, of course, through a constitutional amendment. So this is the first battle. Nobody expects to win it right off the bat. But this is, I think, a battle that will help the American people to understand the issues and hopefully get involved.

WOODRUFF: But Senator Hatch, wasn't there clearly a miscalculation in thinking that there would at least be the votes there for a simple majority, if not for a two-thirds majority?

HATCH: Not as far as I was concerned. I did the vote count four months ago, and I knew that there would not be a simple majority, at least from the Republican side. Most Republicans will vote for it, but there are a number who -- who buy off on the conservative argument that we shouldn't amend the Constitution.

Well, Article V says that's -- there may be times when you should amend the Constitution. And in this particular case, rather than have same-gender marriage imposed on everybody in America by four liberal justices, the only way you can change that is through a constitutional amendment. This is the first battle, and from here it goes into a number of other phases. And I believe in the end the American people are going to be outraged that, you know, traditional marriage would be undermined.

WOODRUFF: I hear you, Senator. But weren't your -- the leaders in your Republican leadership, weren't they counting on being able to pull off an up-or-down vote?

HATCH: I don't think so. I think that they counted the votes, like I did, and they just aren't here for this particular amendment. Although I think it is a very simple, good amendment.

You know, look, I think gay people ought to be able to -- to live the way they want to, and especially in the privacy of their own homes. But they should not be able to dictate a change in traditional marriage that has existed for over 5,000 years. And I think as people gradually get to understand this, I think the vast majority of people in this country are going to say, hey, this amendment is right.

WOODRUFF: But so -- but given the fact that we are some distance away from that happening, is Senator Dianne Feinstein and even your Republican colleague, Lincoln Chafee, not right when they say this is a waste of time driven by politics?

HATCH: Hardly. No constitutional debate is a waste of time, nor is the defense of traditional marriage a waste of time. When we passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which say simple statute, 40 states have now adopted that. Those 40 states wishes the people in those states -- and I believed the other 10 states would adopt it -- they're going to be cast by the wayside because of four liberal justices in Massachusetts. I don't think anybody thinks that's a good result. So we have to -- we have to fight for a change here that hopefully will be fair in the end to same-gender couples, but will not upset and destroy the concept of traditional marriage.

WOODRUFF: So Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president, is wrong when she says this is up to the states?

HATCH: No, she's not wrong at all. I think that's why you want a constitutional amendment. Because it would have to pass by two- thirds vote in both houses.

WOODRUFF: But she's opposing the Constitution ban.

HATCH: Well, yes and no. It would have to pass by both houses of Congress by a two-thirds vote, and then by three-quarters of the states. Forty states have adopted DOMA. I believed it would pass so fast our heads would be spinning throughout the country. But it would let the people make the decision, not four justices in Massachusetts.

WOODRUFF: A quick last question, different subject. You've been very outspoken in favor of expanding embryonic stem cell research, Senator. And I'm sure you know the son of former president Ronald Reagan, Ron Reagan, is now going to be speaking on this subject at the Democratic national convention. What are your thoughts about that?

HATCH: Well, he has a right to do that. And, of course, I chatted with him yesterday, and we were chatting on another program. And all I can say is this: I'm worried about them politicizing this so that it puts it back a couple of years.

We have 58 people who have signed a letter to the president supporting embryonic stem cell research in the Senate. And we have better than 200 in the House. I think we have over 60 in the Senate if this is not overly politicized. But if they do that at the Democratic national convention, it can set us back for a couple of years.

And I'd hate to see that happen, even though I think young Ron Reagan, he's more liberal than either of his parents. He can do whatever he wants to do.

WOODRUFF: Senator Orrin Hatch, it's always good to see you.

HATCH: Nice to see you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you very much. We appreciate you being with us.

HATCH: Nice to be with you.

WOODRUFF: Well, you might think the gay marriage debate was firing up Christian conservatives. Up next, find out why there are rumblings among that important part of the Republican base.

Also ahead, our Democratic convention countdown. We'll have the story behind the story of who's speaking when.

Plus, is it a beauty contest or a presidential campaign?

With 112 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.


WOODRUFF: Some political observers say the Bush administration is talking so much about values and same-sex marriage right now in order to shore up its conservative base. Our Bruce Morton looks at why there's been grumbling from the cultural conservatives on the Republican right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We shall win the victory at the polls because we've been on our knees.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christian conservatives, evangelicals are an important part of the Republican base. But lately, there have been rumblings evangelicals are restive, not enough attention to their social issues.

SEN. WAYNE ALLARD (R), COLORADO: So it's very appropriate that we have this debate now. It's very appropriate that we have full debate.

MORTON: The Senate is debating a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and everyone thinks it will fail. Are Christian conservatives restless? Not with the president, one leader says, but with the party.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: The response we've gotten to the convention is our concern was expressed over the -- the convention speakers, most of them being against federal marriage amendment, pro-choice, that President Bush is a conservative speaker. And he is conservative, but the tent's got to be bigger. If not, the rest of the conservatives are left outside the tent. And some of them are liable to go to other tents, I guess.

MORTON: Four years ago, conservatives who attended church weekly or more often voted 85 percent for Bush, 13 percent for Al Gore. CNN- "USA Today"-Gallup polls in June and July showed that same group, 72 percent for Bush, 23 percent for John Kerry. Some slippage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they care about terrorism. They also care about the family. They care about the protection of marriage and the future of children. And if those messages are not heard, I think it dampens their enthusiasm and their ability to work to the degree that's going to be needed.

MORTON: The problem for the president is how to keep the evangelical base happy and still sound moderate enough to attract swing voters.

THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It is true, the base of the president's party, at least among the activists, is -- is a little unhappy with the developments. And the president is now trying to carefully balance the need to excite his -- his core conservative base, while at the same time appealing to swing voters. It's not clear that the marriage amendment is going to do the trick for him, however.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I now pronounce...

MORTON: If the amendment fails as expected, it may leave evangelicals still feeling neglected, while not saying much to moderates either.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: With me now is Paul Weyrich. He is the chairman of the Free Congress Foundation.

Paul Weyrich, thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate it.


WOODRUFF: Is the president's advocacy of this constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage enough to win him support of conservatives like you, and others, even though it's apparently not going anywhere anytime soon?

WEYRICH: Well, we think that he believes strongly as we believe in this amendment, and that it's good for him and good for the party to be out there in front. If the election is only about Iraqi, I think the president is in mortal danger because it will mean that Osama bin Laden and others will be determining the outcome of the election. But if the election is about values as well as the economy, as well as Iraq, I think the president has a good chance because we think that a majority of Americans are where he is on this amendment, as well as on other issues.

WOODRUFF: You sent an e-mail to a newsletter to your -- a number of your supporters last week saying, among other things, "If the president is embarrassed to be seen with conservatives at the convention" -- the Republican convention -- "maybe conservatives will be embarrassed to be seen with the president on Election Day."

You're obviously referring to the lineup of moderate Republicans, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani at the convention. Why did you go to the trouble to write that?

WEYRICH: Well, I was troubled by the lineup, particularly because three of the people who have been selected are Kerry Catholics. That is, even though they're not going to be talking on values, issues, nevertheless, they are so-called pro-choice Catholics.

And for Catholic and orthodox Christians who take their religion seriously, you cannot be pro-abortion and a Catholic at the same time. And so for them, you know, they -- they recognize that the Catholic vote is critical to winning.

If -- if they get a majority of Catholics, they win. If they don't get a majority of Catholics, they lose. But the Catholics they need to go after are the ones who are serious about their religion.

And this absolutely sent the wrong message. No Henry Hyde, no Rick Santorum, no Sam Brownback. You know, the people who are serious Catholics.

WOODRUFF: You went on to say, "I hate to say it, but the conservatives for the most part are not excited about reelecting the president. They're supporting him reluctantly." And you went on to say, "Often, I've been become a cheerleader for Bush-Cheney, only to be tamped down by the vast majority of people who then turn around and e-mail or phone me." Is there -- are you hearing real concern -- real unhappiness out there among conservatives?

WEYRICH: Unfortunately, I am. I mean, I never expected to be in the position of having to convince people that they need to go out there and work for this president. The vast majority of people who contact me say, "Well, yes, I will end up probably voting for him." But, you know, they've been concerned about a number of issues. The White House doesn't believe this, and...

WOODRUFF: You've talked to the White House?

WEYRICH: Yes. They've talked to me. And, you know, they -- they believe that this conveyed the wrong impression.

I can only report on what I know to be the case, and that is people who contact me, you know, about what I write about. And I'm telling you that, whereas in 2000, there was a great deal of enthusiasm for this president, the events that he has had to contend with have tamped down this enthusiasm.

Now, let me say, at the same time, this president is a conservative. This president, from my standpoint, is one of us. I argue that with the people who are arguing with me. But I am getting an argument.

WOODRUFF: Who called you from the White House? I'm curious.

WEYRICH: Oh, well, I don't want to disclose that. But...

WOODRUFF: Was it Karl Rove?

WEYRICH: Well, leave it to your imagination. But...


WEYRICH: ... you know, they -- they were upset about what I had said because they felt that it was not an accurate representation. It may not be nationally, but it is an accurate representation of people who are contacting me.

WOODRUFF: Paul Weyrich, very good to see you. Thank you for stopping by.

WEYRICH: Nice to see you.

WOODRUFF: We'll continue to stay in touch.

WEYRICH: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Coming up next, the two presidential running mates. The vice president say he and John Edwards have a lot in common in ways you may not have considered.


WOODRUFF: The conventional wisdom is that George W. Bush chose Dick Cheney to be his running mate in large part because of his many years of government experience. Well, now that he's being compared to John Kerry's new running mate, John Edwards, Vice President Cheney is revealing a previously undisclosed reason for his spot on the GOP ticket.


R. CHENEY: Somebody said to me the other day that Senator Edwards got picked for his good looks and charm. I said, "How do you think I got this job?"


R. CHENEY: Why is that funny?


WOODRUFF: He does have a sense of humor.

Well, the speakers' list for the Democratic convention came out today. In a few minutes, I'll talk with one of the convention vice chairmen, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

Also ahead, is it still the economy, stupid, or do the voters care more about events in Iraq? Bill Schneider's been studying the polls.



GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: We're very proud, first of all. Forty percent of all delegates are minorities. That is a record in any convention. ANNOUNCER: Democrats highlight diversity as they unveil their convention speakers' list. We'll take a look at the big names in the prime-time spotlight.

Back on the trail. President Bush swings through three states that could be crucial to his re-election bid.

He sure sounds like a candidate.

MIKE DITKA, FMR. NFL COACH: I'll tell you what's in my heart. What's in my heart is what's best for this country.

ANNOUNCER: But will Mike Ditka jump into the race for the Senate seat in Illinois? Some Republicans want the former coach to become a candidate.



WOODRUFF: Welcome back. The political conventions may not draw as many viewers as those TV reality shows, but organizers may take a cue from those small screen hits by remembering that casting is crucial. Thirteen days before the party in Boston, the Democrats already have their leading men. But today they filled in some of the blanks on their convention speaker schedule. They also laid out their themes of the day.

Some themes were left unstated, but we did some reading between the lines.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): Monday's theme, the Kerry-Edwards plan for the future, but the nights' headliners speak to the party's past for better or for worse. Former President Jimmy Carter, and 2000 nominee Al Gore are on the speakers roster, as well as President turned best-selling author Bill Clinton.

Even as the Democrats showcase three southern white men, they'll add diversity to Monday's line-up with Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, a black congresswoman from Ohio; Bob Menendez, a Hispanic congressman from New Jersey, and Tammy Baldwin, an openly gay congresswoman from Wisconsin.

RICHARDSON: We're using the city of Boston, a city of diversity and history, to highlight the diversity in our party.

WOODRUFF: Tuesday's theme, "A Lifetime of Strength and Service," but by and large, this is Teddy Kennedy tribute night, and Teresa Heinz Kerry's opportunity to shine in primetime. Also Tuesday, two high-profile women from showdown states, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, and Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And We will use those four days in Boston to introduce to America John Kerry and John Edwards. WOODRUFF: Wednesday is John Edwards' big night, featuring the theme "A Stronger, More Secure America." But the unstated theme would be "catch a rising star," given the party's new love affair with Edwards and his wife Elizabeth, who will introduce him.

Some up and coming Democrats, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Baltimore Martin O'Malley also will be featured. Other prominent newcomers, Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama, and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm are missing from the schedule as of now, but Democrats say, stay tuned.

And Ron Reagan, son of a Republican president, has yet to be given a time slot for his cameo. Party officials may be trying to figure out how to milk the most coverage possible for his remarks on stem cell research.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thursday brings the whole convention theme back together.

WOODRUFF: In traditional fashion, the final convention night belongs to John Kerry. In his acceptance speech, he'll present his vision for America that is stronger at home, respected in the world. Look for another warm and fuzzy family photo when the Kerry and Heinz children play a role Thursday night.

The Democrats will also play up Kerry's war hero status by parading his swiftboat crewmates in Vietnam from more than 30 years ago. And former Senator and fellow Vietnam veteran Max Cleland, who lost three limbs there will introduce Kerry.


WOODRUFF: Democrats still are searching for slots for Hillary Rodham Clinton and Kerry's former presidential rivals.

Only a few speakers will get face time on the broadcast networks with the big three announcing plans to air a total of three hours each of the Democratic and Republican conventions during primetime. Of course, you can stay tuned to CNN for our extensive convention coverage, including expanded editions of INSIDE POLITICS from both Boston and New York.

Another convention note, Senator Kerry and Boston Mayor Tom Menino apparently have mended fences. The two met yesterday and reportedly reached an understanding about "working together and moving forward." Two weeks ago, Menino called Kerry's campaign "small-minded" and "incompetent" after Kerry refused to cross a police and fire union picket line to address a mayors' conference hosted by Menino.


WOODRUFF: And now to the Bush campaign. The president today kicked off a campaign swing through the Great Lakes region with a rally in Michigan, where recent polls give rival John Kerry the edge.

Our White House correspondent Dana Bash is traveling with the president.


DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president's two- day campaign swing is taking him through three states: Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, three states his campaign thought they could win in 2000 but ended up losing to Al Gore.

Now Mr. Bush took his daughter Jenna on the campaign trail last week for the first time, this week he has got her sister Barbara with him. And as they make their way through the rural areas of all these states, they're going to places where his campaign wants to fire up his base but also wants to try to appeal to Democrats who are socially conservative.

So Mr. Bush stepped up his talk about socially conservative issues, like abortion. He also added an attack line -- a few attack lines, on Senators Kerry and Edwards, a week-old Democratic team, talking about the fact that they are liberal and don't represent the values of these areas, also referred to a fund-raiser last week where some Hollywood celebrities used vulgar language and that both senators had to then say that they didn't believe them.

BUSH: The other day my opponents said when he was with some entertainers from Hollywood that they were the heart and soul of America. I believe the heart and soul of America is found in places right here in Marquette, Michigan.

BASH: Knowing for better or worse the Iraq war is a defining issue of his presidency and also a defining issue of the campaign, Mr. Bush continued to defend his decision to go to war even in light of the bad intelligence he got, and also made clear that he does believe that America is a safer place because of that decision.

He also added another attack line on the issue of Iraq, talking about the fact that Senators Kerry and Edwards both voted for the war, but then both decided to vote against funding for that war.

BUSH: Members of Congress should not vote to send troops into battle, and then vote against funding them, and then brag about it.

BASH: The president's trip to Marquette is the first time a president has been here in nearly a century, since President Taft was here in 1911, but it's also a place that Mr. Bush lost by 10 percentage points. And his trip here makes it clear he needs to close that gap in order to win this state.

Dana Bash, CNN, Marquette, Michigan.


WOODRUFF: Candidates Bush and Kerry will debate a wide range of issues between now and November of course, but for many voters, the war and the economy are the two issues that matter most. After crunching the latest poll numbers, our Bill Schneider has an early look at where the voters stand. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): There are two big issues in this election. Issue one, the economy. President Bush sees the bright side.

BUSH: Since last summer, our economy is outpacing the entire world by growing at its fastest rate in nearly 20 years.

SCHNEIDER: John Kerry says, who is he kidding?

KERRY: They say this is the best economy of our lifetime, you think I'm joking.

SCHNEIDER: Good news for Mr. Bush, since May, Americans have become more optimistic about the economy, a majority now say they say it's getting better.

Issue two, Iraq. Mr. Bush is reassuring.

BUSH: A threat has been removed, and the American people are safer.

SCHNEIDER: Mr. Kerry is skeptical.

KERRY: America will only be safer when we get results.

SCHNEIDER: Bad news for Mr. Bush, since May, more and more Americans have come to view the war in Iraq as a mistake. A majority now feel that way.

So which issue is driving the vote? Look at voters who think the economy is getting better, but the war in Iraq was a mistake. They're voting for Kerry by better than three to one, even though they think the economy is improving. Iraq trumps the economy. That's why Michael Moore's movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11", is a big campaign event.

Moore's critics say the movie is just preaching to the converted. Is it? Only 8 percent of the Americans have seen the picture, but another 18 percent say they plan to see it in a theater. And 30 percent plan to watch it when it comes out on tape or DVD in September. That's a majority of Americans who plan to see it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want people who are for the war in Iraq, who are against the war in Iraq, who are undecided about the war to see "Fahrenheit 9/11."

SCHNEIDER: Fifty-nine percent of independents say they plan to see it. So do nearly half the people who say they support the war. And nearly 40 percent of Republicans.


SCHNEIDER: The movie is generating a huge curiosity factor, what they call in Hollywood "buzz." Even people who disagree with Moore's politics are eager for find out what all the fuss is about -- Judy. WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider. Thank you very much.

And, Bill, somewhat related to that and on a tragic note. CNN can report that the Al-Jazeera network is reporting that it has been told by a purported Iraqi group that one of two Bulgarian hostages being held in Iraq has now been executed. The report goes on to say that the second hostage will be executed as well unless certain demands are met within 24 hours.

Again, Al-Jazeera and one other news organization reporting that an Iraqi group is saying it has executed one of two Bulgarian hostages being held in Iraq and it is threatening to kill the second Bulgarian hostages within 24 hours unless certainly demands are left.

CNN, of course, following this story. And as soon as we have any more details, we will get them right to you.

Appearances by former presidents are going to be kicking off the Democratic convention, as we've been telling you. When we come back, more on the Democratic ticket and the party's big plans in Boston.

I'll also discuss the Kerry-Edwards ticket and party strategy with Pennsylvania's Governor Ed Rendell, who is the convention's vice chairman.

And later, Iron Mike. He's still thinking it over. Will the former Bears coach make the leap into politics?


WOODRUFF: Joining us now, the Democratic governor of the state of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell. A former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the vice chairman of the party's upcoming convention.

Governor Rendell, is this going to be a successful convention?

GOV. ED RENDELL (D-PA), DNC VICE CHAIRMAN: I think so, Judy. I think it will be a good opportunity for most of the nation to see John Edwards and John Kerry, to listen to them, and to really get a taste for what they're made of, and the character they have and the way they want to take America forward.

And to be honest, even though we had a pretty active primary season, it was mostly the real committed Democrats who focused on the primaries. I think the polls show that most American people don't even believe that they're familiar with John Kerry yet.

So I think his speech and John Edwards' speech are going to be very important. And the way we present ourselves as a party will be very important.

WOODRUFF: So you're counting on a lot of people watching this convention.

RENDELL: I think so. And I think the interest in this election, as you have noted, is probably at an all-time high. You look at the number of people who say they're definitely voting. And that's pretty extraordinary for recent presidential elections.

And I think that interest will manifest itself. And certainly Wednesday night and Thursday night probably a be viewing audience as well.

WOODRUFF: Governor, the polls are showing John Kerry and President Bush neck and neck in your state of Pennsylvania. What's it's going to take for the Democrats to keep Pennsylvania in their corner?

RENDELL: First of all, I think the polls are a little misleading because I think the last poll had Nader at 5 or 6 percent. And I think come election today, that Nader vote will probably drop to around 1 percent. And most of that Nader vote will go to John Kerry. In fact, if you eliminate Nader from the poll, John Kerry's winning by four or five points.

But what it's going to take is, I think, Senator John Kerry has to define himself as a reasonable alternative. I think the majority of the American people have made up their mind that they don't want George Bush to be reelected, but they're not to put just anybody in.

And I think when the American people and people of Pennsylvania get exposed to John Kerry, the things he belies in and the type of person he is, I think they'll be reassured to an extent that I think will carry Pennsylvania right about at the same margin that Al Gore carried Pennsylvania.

WOODRUFF: Governor, I know you love to be reminded of this. Your comment about John Edwards right before John Kerry named him as his running mate. Among other things, you said, "Look at John Edwards. People say, boy, he's terrific. Bright, young senator. He's going to be something someday. I don't think they consider that day being now."

RENDELL: Well, I think what -- again, everything's taken in context, Judy. That was asked -- I was asked that to compare the strengths and liabilities of the different and potential Democratic candidates for vice president.

But I will stack John Edwards up against Dick Cheney -- or for that matter George Bush. I mean is John Edwards too inexperienced in foreign policy? Well John Edwards has been in the Senate for almost six years, and they've been a really tumultuous six year where there's been a lot of focus on foreign relations and terrorism.

When George Bush ran for president, he had absolutely no foreign policy experience whatsoever. I think John Edwards is way ahead of George Bush.

And in terms of what type of vice president he would be, the operative question now is how does he compare to Dick Cheney. And when you think of the mistakes that Dick Cheney has made on foreign relations, i Iraq, the miscalculations, the things he's done to our energy policy, and you compare him to a bright, abled guy like John Edwards, I think the comparison is tilted directly in our favor.

So I was answering a theoretical question. Now the nitty-gritty is how does he compare to Dick Cheney? Does he have the experience, more experience than George Bush had in 2000? And the answer to both of those questions is very well.

WOODRUFF: Governor, very quickly, a "Los Angeles Times" editorial today is saying that Senator Kerry and Edwards need to say whether they would have supported the resolution authorizing war in Iraq if the had known then what they know today. Should they give that explanation? so far, they have not done so.

RENDELL: I think they should give that explanation only if President Bush gives that explanation. If he answers the same question, if Dick Cheney answers the same question. You know, we can play the hypothetical game as much as we want. But we ought to play it on both sides, No. 1.

And No. 2, I really think, Judy, and I feel very strongly about this, that the American people have made some judgments about whether it was right or wrong to go to war. And those judgments, obviously, have been colored by the recent revelations.

I think the operative question now is, who can best lead America among the community of nations in this world and help us not only get out of Iraq successfully but build a foreign policy where America becomes a respected leader again.

Clearly the Bush administration has failed. We are a country that is literally reviled around the world. We're a country that doesn't exercise the moral leadership we once did. I think John Kerry and John Edwards can turn that around. It won't be easy to turn it around but I think they can turn it around.

WOODRUFF: It was my impression that the president and vice president have said they would indeed have gone to war under any -- even with what we know today but we will leave it there for now. Governor Ed Rendell...

RENDELL: Well, the 9/11 committee hasn't issued its final report. And when they do, it would be nice to ask them that question again.

WOODRUFF: We'll remember that. Governor Rendell, always good to see you. Take good care.

Illinois Republicans need a candidate, we know, for the U.S. Senate. Stay with us for an update on the chance they'll get one who is a proven team player.


WOODRUFF: Illinois Republicans apparently won't have to wait much longer to find out if former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka will be their candidate for the U.S. Senate. With the latest on the Ditka watch, here's CNN's Chris Lawrence. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now Illinois GOP leaders are waiting for Mike Ditka to say definitively he is interested in running for the Senate. They're considering about ten people and would like to make a decision in the next week or so to begin campaigning against Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

Now Obama is a very strong candidate. Polls had him up by 20 points on his original opponent. Allegations of a sex scandal forced Jack Ryan to drop out and since then Republicans haven't exactly been rushing to put their political career on the line with less than four months to go until the election.

Some say their only chance is with an unconventional candidate with instant name recognition. And supporters say Mike Ditka is the only one who can win.

TOM PENCE, DRAFTDITKA.COM: At this point, the Republican party in the state of Illinois, we don't have a lot of options. We've got to find somebody to run for Senate. And once again, just about everybody I talk to, they think Mike Ditka is a great candidate, especially at this time.

So we're hoping he can come in and save the party like he saved the Bears years ago.

LAWRENCE: To do that, Ditka would have to translate his appeal from the football field to the political arena.

SUSAN SCHOPE, REPUBLICAN: Everybody loves the coach. Don't know how he's going to do in politics but he surely would win the vote of the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Ditka is one of the most fantastic coaches and one of the greatest guys in Chicago and I wish him all the best, but I hope the other guy wins.

LAWRENCE: Well, he would probably hate this description but Mike Ditka sure sounds like a politician. When he was pressed on whether he would run or not, Ditka proved he's already mastered the noncommittal answer saying, "well, there's no no, and there's no yes. Let's just see what happens."

Ditka has already been critical of the partisanship in the current Senate.

MIKE DITKA, FMR. CHICAGO BEARS COACH: But there's got to be somewhere down the middle of the road that says OK, this is the best course to take for this country. And I don't see people trying to find that right now and that's what bothers me.

LAWRENCE: Now there are definite upsides to Ditka's potential candidacy in that Republicans wouldn't have to spend a lot of money to tell people who he is. And he could lose the race but get enough votes to make it respectable. On the other hand, if he performed poorly in a debate or voters began to look at his candidacy as a joke, it could leave the Illinois Republican party in worse shape than it is now -- Judy.


WOODRUFF: All right. Chris Lawrence, thanks very much. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Tuesday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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