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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Aired July 26, 2004 - 15:00 ET
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And now convention week kickoff, with a special expanded edition of JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS life from Boston.
ANNOUNCER: It's party time in Boston. The Democrats are about to begin their four-day sales pitch for John Kerry.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm here today, the first day of the Democratic convention, because there is no better place to launch something than right here at Cape Canaveral.
ANNOUNCER: Kerry works to convince Florida voters he has the right stuff to be president.
TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY'S WIFE: No, you said something I didn't say. Now, shove it.
ANNOUNCER: Teresa Heinz Kerry vents her anger at a reporter. We'll tell you what her husband and other top Democrats have to say about it.
We have not one but two of the Democrat stars who will be featured at the convention podium tonight. Judy talks to former President Jimmy Carter and Senator Hillary Clinton.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I'm looking forward to introducing the last Democratic president and strongly endorsing the next Democratic president.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from the Democratic National Convention in Boston, a special edition of JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us just one hour before the official opening of the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The delegates, party leaders and volunteers all gathering here in the FleetCenter with one overriding goal, to show America John Kerry as they have never seen him before. And we at CNN are planning to show you this convention in a whole new way, from down here on the convention floor, and from our vantage point at the podium, in the rafters and deep inside this arena.
In fact, at the podium right now, one of the movie stars with a role at this convention, actress Glen Close. She's rehearsing for some of her lines later tonight.
Well, some of the party's most famous names are also getting ready for their prime-time star turns tonight. Gore, Carter, Clinton and Clinton, even they have probably gotten word of the Kerry camp's marching orders aimed at keeping this convention as positive as possible.
CNN's John King joins us from the convention floor, where Kerry's home state delegation will watch the action -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, right up here, front and center, the Massachusetts delegation empty right now. We expect some of the delegates over the next hour or so to flow into the hall. Many more, of course, for a packed house for prime-time tonight.
You mentioned the Kerry campaign directive. They are asking all of the speakers, especially in prime time, to keep it positive. Now, that does not mean do not draw sharp contrast with President Bush, whether the issue be the economy, whether it be fiscal discipline in Washington, whether it be his decision to go to war in Iraq.
The Kerry campaign says it's fine to draw contrast with President Bush, but they want to address their biggest weakness, if you will, their biggest need right now. And our polling shows, their polling shows, any polling will show you a good chunk of the American people still say they do not know a great deal about John Kerry. So they want to use this convention mostly to fill in the biography of John Kerry, his Vietnam service, his time in public service here in Massachusetts, and also his proposals, whether it be education, health care, the approach that he says is different when it comes to foreign policy, especially in Iraq. That is what they want to focus on.
Again, they're not afraid to draw policy differences with President Bush, but they don't want it to get too personal. They believe that is the right tone to strike from the podium.
The Democrats in the hall here perhaps might like some more red meat, if you will, anti-Bush rhetoric. But the Kerry campaign using the prime-time speeches especially to try to reach out to that relatively small but critical slice of the electorate, independent- minded swing voters, again, who, if you ask in polling, say they still don't know a great deal about Senator Kerry. So that is priority one -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: So, John, even though there's this caution that they're not supposed to stay too much, is there any real evidence of how these delegates feel about George W. Bush? KING: There's a great deal of evidence. Many of the delegates complaining they don't like that directive. They want more red meat here in the hall.
The delegates are in workshops all across Boston. I walked into one earlier yesterday, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union, a major union big in Democratic turnout. Cardboard cut-ups of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Attorney General John Ashcroft in the front of the room. Let's say less than favorable pictures designed to generate some enthusiasm among the Democratic base.
And at every convention, T-shirts and buttons often reflect the mood of the party. Let me show you a few of the big sellers here at the Democratic convention so far.
This one here, "Re-Defeat Bush. Remember Florida." Many Democrats -- and we expect to hear a lot about this from Vice President Gore tonight -- believing perhaps the election was stolen from them or at least won under suspect circumstances four years ago. This is a big motivating factor here.
Here's another one that plays up on that. "We didn't elect him. We don't have to keep him." That is a sentiment you hear quite a bit among Democrats here.
Some of them then get a little less friendly, we might say, Judy. "Stop cowboy diplomacy," an unfavorable picture of the president here. And we are told this is the best-seller at the convention so far. I won't repeat the words on this button, Judy. But you might say that is up close and rather personal.
WOODRUFF: Hmm. All right. John King, down there in the Massachusetts delegation. John, we're going to go quickly up to the podium, where former President Jimmy Carter, who is going to be one of the featured speakers tonight, rehearsing or at least getting comfortable with the podium.
You see Jimmy Carter there. We're going to be talking to him in just a few minutes on the half-hour on INSIDE POLITICS. He's there with Jerry Rafshun (ph), his longtime media adviser. We're looking forward to talking to the former president.
Well, while top Democrats talk up John Kerry here in Boston, the candidate himself still out on the trail, fighting for votes in major battlegrounds. CNN's Frank Buckley traveled with Senator Kerry to Florida.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator John Kerry here in Florida, a key battleground state, on his way to Boston. And in 2000, of course, President Bush won this state by a mere 537 votes.
A new CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll indicating that, once again, it's a very close race, President Bush ahead over Senator Kerry. That's within the margin of error.
Here in Cape Canaveral today, Senator Kerry appeared with senator -- former Senator John Glenn, former space man John Glenn, at the Kennedy Space Center, where Senator Kerry was talking about American values and optimism. He also reached out to a key voter group, Independent voters and moderate Republicans, who he issued a challenge to.
KERRY: I want to talk to Republicans and Independents who kind of have a sort of, you know, automatic response. "Who are you going to vote for?" Oh, I'm going to vote - I'm a Republican. I've always voted Republican. I'm going to vote for a Republican," or whatever.
Stop and think. Stop and think about what's happening in America.
BUCKLEY: Now, on his way to Florida, Senator Kerry stopped off in Boston yesterday. We were all on the way here on the press planes, on the campaign planes to come here to Florida, when mid-air, Senator Kerry diverted, or at least announced that the planes were diverting to Boston, where he wanted to watch a Red Sox game and he had an opportunity to throw out the first pitch. So the entire press corps and Senator Kerry continued on to Fenway Park in Boston so that he could throw out that ceremonial first pitch.
The campaign getting a great publicity moment out of it. Virtually every front page of the major newspapers across the U.S. today had a picture of Senator Kerry throwing out that ceremonial first pitch.
The next step on the road to Boston for Senator Kerry taking place in Norfolk, Virginia, where Senator Kerry will talk about the U.S. military.
Frank Buckley, CNN, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, aides say that Kerry's running mate, John Edwards, is busy working on the convention speech that he'll deliver on Wednesday. His only public appearance today was at a biotech research center in his home state of North Carolina.
Vice President Cheney is making campaign stops today in showdown states, Washington and Oregon. President Bush, though, taking a traditional route of incumbency during the other party's convention. Since he arrived in Texas on Friday, Bush has stayed out of sight at his ranch.
Well, one day before Teresa Heinz Kerry gives her convention speech, some fellow Democrats, including her husband, are brushing aside her outburst at a journalist. In Pennsylvania yesterday, Mrs. Kerry got angry when pressed to explain what she meant when she said "un-American traits were creeping into politics."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HEINZ KERRY: Of course, understandable. You said something I didn't say. Now, shove it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said "un-American"...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: In Florida, today, Senator Kerry was asked about his wife's comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any comment on your wife's comment yesterday to a Pittsburgh editorial writer?
KERRY: I think my wife speaks her mind appropriately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: And Mrs. Kerry's spokeswoman said, "This was sheer frustration aimed at a right wing rag that has consistently and purposely misrepresented the facts in reporting on Mrs. Kerry and her family."
Well, as a former first lady, Hillary Clinton knows all about the pressures of being in the spotlight. The senator from New York is one of tonight's convention speakers introducing her husband. Earlier today, she talked with me about a number of important concerns facing the Democratic Party as it tries to unseat George W. Bush. I started by asking if the party's claim of unprecedented unity is real.
CLINTON: It's real. It's deep and it's real. Obviously, there will be differences over issues. This is a very big tent of a party.
But the overriding objective to elect John Kerry and John Edwards and defeat George Bush has united Democrats from all ends of the political spectrum. I've never seen it or felt it as strongly as I do this year.
WOODRUFF: At the same time, you've got the Republicans practically camped outside the FleetCenter saying that what's going on here is an extreme makeover, that John Kerry has the most liberal voting record in the Senate, that he's...
CLINTON: That's so funny.
WOODRUFF: ... voted against defense votes one after another, even though this convention is talking about "A strong America." Are the Democrats going to be able to get away with it?
CLINTON: Well, the real question is will the Republicans get away with once again insulting the intelligence of the American voter. Talk about makeover, you know, they've hidden all their most extreme members of Congress and other people in their party. They've got a convention lineup in New York that is filled with people who disagree fundamentally with the president on every important issue.
And I think it's a sign of desperation. You know, John Kerry's record is a record of accomplishment and thoughtful consideration of difficult issues. He has more experience in foreign affairs, he knows more about military and defense policy than certainly this president did, when he came in, and in my view, probably to this day. Because, you know, what Senator Kerry has done is to study issues carefully and consider all the different angles.
And, you know, I think that's appropriate. That's what I want in a president. I don't want someone who is so convinced he is right and tries to create an evidence-free zone so that there is no evidence or facts that can in any way shake his opinion.
WOODRUFF: But the Republicans have been successful, haven't they, in portraying him as flip-flopper, somebody who changes positions on issues?
CLINTON: I don't think so. I mean, they spent, oh, a huge amount of money, $50 $60, $70 million trying to sell that old dog, but it doesn't hunt and it's not going to be very effective in this campaign.
WOODRUFF: Senator, the 1992 convention, which you remember so well, was really important in turning around fortunes for your husband. What does John Kerry need to do at this -- the 2000 convention not so successful for Al Gore. What does John Kerry need to do at this convention to help himself?
CLINTON: Well, I think -- I think John has a different challenge than Bill did. You know, Bill was running behind going into his convention. He really had to persuade the American people to take a look at him and, at the same time, decide not to reelect George Bush the first.
I think most Americans are already reaching the conclusion that they're not enthusiastic about a second Bush term. And what John has to do is what he has done, which is to present his very solid, steady presence with the policies that he has fought for and developed in this campaign to the American people.
You know, he's been so successful. You know, I remember talking to him last fall, Judy, when everybody had written him off and, you know, people were saying he should just pull out. And he called me about a couple of matters. And I said, "Well, what do you really think, John?" And he said, "I'm going to win."
And, you know, I think I have a pretty good ear for when people are just kind of being full of bravado. He was solid, he was steady.
I said last night that some polls ask voters, "Who would you rather have a beer with?" I don't think that's the question in the 21st century.
Who would you rather be in a foxhole with? Who would you put the lives of your children and your family into the hands of? Those are the questions that I think voters are asking, and when they ask those questions, I think John Kerry is the answer.
WOODRUFF: One other contrast for the 2002 convention, is John Kerry and his campaign treating your husband and his administration differently from the way Al Gore treated your husband and his administration?
CLINTON: Oh, you know, I don't know. I think that may be overblown. I think in both instances, you have to run the campaign that you think will win.
And I'm very excited about it this year because we're going to do, both Bill and I, everything we possibly can to elect the Kerry- Edwards ticket. And it's really thrilling to see the Democratic Party united, to see the response from people around the country to what the Kerry-Edwards team is putting out there. And I'm very confident about victory in November.
WOODRUFF: More of my interview with Senator Clinton ahead. Find out what she has to say about Teresa Heinz Kerry' choice words.
Also ahead, three decades after his own presidential nomination, I'll talk with Jimmy Carter about his role in this convention and his party's quest to reclaim the White House.
Plus, we are wired and ready to bring you the inside story of this convention and how Republicans are trying to crash the party.
With 99 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: (AUDIO GAP)
CLINTON: I think she's doing fine. I think she's got a tremendous, you know, wonderful, energetic attitude that people are really responding to. And she's very open and she's independent, and she says what she thinks. And who hasn't been frustrated by, you know, reporters? I think that goes with the territory.
WOODRUFF: All right. Back to this convention, Judith Hope, who was -- was formerly chair of the New York Democratic Party, said it was a slap in the face that you were not originally given a prominent role speaking at this convention. What -- what happened here?
CLINTON: Oh, I don't know. I mean, I think that whatever happened has been totally worked out. And I have a great deal of understanding for how difficult it is to put together a convention program.
It is hard. And I'm just delighted to be here. I'm looking forward to introducing the last Democratic president and strongly endorsing the next Democratic president.
WOODRUFF: So nothing more to say about that?
CLINTON: No. I'm just excited about the convention and about this ticket.
WOODRUFF: Senator, you know very well what the conjecture is. It's not just among the press and the pundits. It's a lot of Democrats are saying it's you and John Edwards spoiling for whatever in 2008, if this ticket doesn't make it this year, or 2012, if it does.
CLINTON: You know, Judy, I just don't see politics as a zero-sum game like that. And I guess it makes for interesting speculation. But I don't think that's any way to live a life.
I think you have to do what you believe is right every single day. And that's what I'm trying to do as the senator from New York.
I also think that it's great being part of a winning team. You know, I loved being part of the winning team in '92 and '96. I'm looking forward to being part of the winning team in 2004.
I think John Edwards brings so much to this ticket. He's going to be a terrific energizing force, not only on the campaign trail, but as vice president.
What I care about is team America. Yes, I'm a Democrat, and I'm proud to be Democrat. But I believe that we are at a moment in our history where we've got to be unified, we have to be up to the challenges we face. And one of my great sadnesses about this president is that after 9/11, when he had a chance to unify the country, he chose a different direction.
He decided to adopt the old divide and conquer strategy, and I think that's been a losing strategy for him. But it's also been very unfortunate for America.
WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of 9/11, there's a report today that the president is now saying he is going to implement by executive order some of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Is this going to undercut any effort by Senator Kerry to make an issue of that report?
CLINTON: Well, I don't think so. He's had two-and-a-half years since 9/11 to do more than he's done. And unfortunately, I and others have been urging a different strategy for all that time.
I have taken to the Senate floor many, many times to argue that we didn't have a national strategy when it came to protecting our borders or our ports or our critical infrastructure. And we didn't have a good strategy for getting money where it was most needed; namely, to our police officers and our firefighters, our cities, our front-line defenders.
I have been saying that, a lot of people have been saying that. You know, maybe it's fine now that the president is going to try to implement some of the 9/11 Commission report recommendations, which I think is absolutely critical, but we need to make sure that we have a president in office come January who will actually follow through.
We get a lot of rhetoric from this administration on homeland security and other issues. And then when the cameras are off, basically they just let it die. Because look what they've done. They've driven our country into this huge deficit hole that can't afford to do what we need to do on homeland security.
The most sacred thing to them far above security is protecting their tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent of Americans. So it just doesn't add up. We need new leadership and a new direction.
WOODRUFF: Last question, back to the convention. You're going to be speaking here tonight, introducing your husband. We are told that the Kerry campaign has been asking speakers to delete any criticism of President Bush. Have they asked you to -- you and your husband to do that?
CLINTON: No. But, you know, we're not usually hyper-critical. You know, we like to draw contrasts. And we think the contrasts speak for themselves.
So I think you'll hear a lot of contrast-drawing tonight from my husband and me. But I think that the case for John Kerry positively is so strong, that this is the week to present it.
Most people know what they don't like or they're worried about when it comes to the Bush administration. What we want to do is to get them to feel very comfortable in the choice of John Kerry for our next president.
WOODRUFF: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
You know, the first convention I ever covered was a Democratic convention in 1976, which nominated none other than Jimmy Carter, the former governor of Georgia. He's sitting right here next to me. And I'm going to be talking to him in just a moment.
I am looking forward it to, Mr. President.
JAMES E. CARTER, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE United STATES: Oh, thank you.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back to this special edition of INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff, live from the FleetCenter in Boston. We're just about a half an hour away from the call to order, which kicks off the Democratic National Convention.
Just a few hours from now, some of the best-known names in the Democratic Party will take the stage to speak to these delegates. The most recent Democratic president, Bill Clinton, will be the night's final speaker. He will be preceded by former President Jimmy Carter, as well as the party's 2000 White House nominee, Al Gore. Former President Carter joins me now here on the convention floor.
President Carter, thank you very much. It's good to see you again.
CARTER: I'm delighted to be back with you at another convention. That's great.
WOODRUFF: Twenty-eight years ago, you were nominated at another Democratic convention. How has your party changed since then?
CARTER: Well, I don't know. The party, I think, has come together at this convention more than any in my memory, including my own. The '76 convention was quite harmonious. The 1980 convention was divided, and we never could put the Democratic Party back together. And since then, I don't think we've ever seen as united and determined and harmonious a party, and determined, I said, as the Democratic convention of this time.
WOODRUFF: You mentioned the 1980 convention being divisive. You had been challenged in the primaries by Senator Ted Kennedy. You beat him, but then you went on to lose in the fall. Why should one expect another Massachusetts liberal to do well in this election? He didn't do so well that year.
CARTER: Well, I don't look on John Kerry as a so-called liberal. You know, anyone who offers his life to go to war for our country, and is wounded several times, and comes back to speak out fervently in favor of peace when a war is not necessary, I don't look upon as being anyone to criticize as being liberal or overly conservative or whatever.
I look on Kerry as one who has gotten through his lifetime of experience, exactly what is needed in makeup and battleground and learning and determination, and his ideals to be the president we need now in this troubled time. My wife and I have visited, I would say, about 120 countries since I left the White House, and we've seen the last two-and-a-half years a devastating reduction in the basic esteem that the rest of the world has for our country, and the basic trust that people have in our country. And I hope to see John Kerry restore that respect and esteem.
Also, we need to concentrate our effort on the battle against terrorism. And we've lost the support of the vast number of countries in the world that offered their support after 9/11. I think John Kerry is a guy who can bring that back.
WOODRUFF: You're saying that esteem is lost under President Bush, because of President Bush? Is that what you're...
CARTER: Absolutely. We've had such -- such a confused foreign policy, you know, with demands on other nations. We've alienated almost everyone who offered their support after 9/11, and now we have just a handful of little tiny countries supposedly helping us in Iraq. We need to marginally combine the effort of major allies and minor countries as well in combating terrorism around the world.
WOODRUFF: I hear what you're saying about Senator Kerry's record, President Carter, but the polls are showing, when the American people are asked who would do a better job on the war on terror, George W. Bush or John Kerry, George W. Bush is far ahead. Isn't that a real problem for Senator Kerry?
CARTER: It's a temporary problem. But I think after this convention, and when the two candidates are face to face, either in debates or on the campaign trail, you'll see a dramatic change in favor of John Kerry as the one to be most trusted in combating terrorism and defense -- and defending our country's security, because he's proven in advance of this in Vietnam, I'm ready to give my life, if necessary, to defend my country. When that is made clear to the American people, which it hasn't been so far, I think that difference will be dissipated.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you, though, something about this convention. The platform says, among other things, it's clearly trying to paper over differences in the party. For example, on Iraq, it says, "People of goodwill will disagree about whether America should have gone to war." Is that smart not to be straight forward about Iraq?
CARTER: I didn't write the platform. And there are a lot of Democrats who feel that we should have gone to war. I was opposed to the war from the very beginning, as you may remember. But now that we're in the war, I think it will be a mistake for the Democratic Party to come out and say we're against what's going on over there now, as far as American military personnel are concerned.
We have to show our patriotism, we have to show our support for people at war for us in Iraq. But as far as the beginning of the war, and the lies that were told to justify it on behalf of the Bush administration, I think the American people are slowly realizing that it was a mistake.
WOODRUFF: You actually believe the administration told lies to get the country to -- the Congress and the American people...
CARTER: There were obviously false statements, Judy. I mean, that's been proven about weapons of mass destruction and their so- called relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda and so forth. All that's been proven to be completely false. Whether it was deliberate or not, I'm not in any position to say.
WOODRUFF: You -- you -- it's been known -- they told us, the Kerry campaign, that they are vetting all of these speeches, they're making sure that any overt criticism of George W. Bush is kept to a minimum. Did they give you instructions about your speech tonight and tell you what to say or not to say?
CARTER: Of course not. No, I wrote my own speech with the help of some old friends with whom you're familiar, and my speech is just what I want to say.
WOODRUFF: They didn't say go easy on George W. Bush and focus on Mr. Kerry or...
CARTER: No, they didn't have to. You know, I think it would be a mistake for me, you know, as a senior statesman -- and I emphasize the word "senior" -- to come out and start berating George Bush personally.
What I want to do is to draw a distinction between his credentials both in the past and now, and those credentials of John Kerry in facing future challenges to this country. And that's what I'm going to do.
WOODRUFF: A couple of other things, President Carter. The South, your home state of Georgia apparently is not even in play for the Democrats in this election. Does John Kerry -- do they even have a chance anywhere in the South? Does John Edwards make any difference in Dixie?
CARTER: Well, I couldn't say. I think Georgia is heavily inclined to vote Republican. I can't deny that. I hope it will change between now and November.
But there are a lot of other states in the South. Florida, I think, is kind of a tossup. I think John Kerry has an excellent chance to win Florida and a lot of other states as well.
But I think in the long run, it's not a regional basis. It's who gets the most votes, as you know, in the final analysis. And I don't have any doubt that John Kerry has at least an equal chance now to win at this moment. The polls show that. And my belief is that between now and November the odds will change heavily in his favor.
WOODRUFF: But, I mean, are they smart to basically make it a Midwest strategy? They're not saying, of course, they've written off the South, but -- but the indications are they're not making the kind of effort in the South that they are in Ohio, Michigan.
CARTER: Well, we did the same thing back in 1976. We tried to concentrate on states where we had a fighting chance. But New York's not in the South, Massachusetts's not in the South, Connecticut's not in the South, California's not in the South. And the Democrats are making an all-out effort in those states and have an excellent chance to win.
So I think there has to be a picking and choosing of where you spend the limited resources, particularly of a candidate's time. And to make a judgment by the poll results, we do have a fighting chance here based on the previous election results four years ago and the ones now I think is a proper decision to be made.
WOODRUFF: Last question. What does John Kerry have to do this week to help himself?
CARTER: I think a lot of American people are going to tune in to hear his acceptance speech. He's done a fine job in choosing a vice president. And he's got a good platform and he's got excellent credentials from the past. I think when he makes his acceptance speech he's got to show he has the firm resolve that he's shown the reset of his life for our nation's defense, that he -- that he's wise and sound, that he'll be, I would say, resurrecting the finest aspects of America's basic principles and judgment and values. And I think that's what he's going to do.
I'm sure he's going to try hard. And judging from his past successes, I believe that will be a good speech and will (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
WOODRUFF: President Jimmy Carter, sounding like a loyal Democratic supporter for his party's about-to-be nominee.
It's very good to see you. We appreciate you coming by, President Carter. Thank you very much.
CARTER: Well, thanks. It's a pleasure, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thank you. Take care.
COLLINS: Good to meet you again.
WOODRUFF: Good to see you. Thank you.
All right. More INSIDE POLITICS in just a moment.
WOODRUFF: Live pictures from the Democratic National Convention. Maryland Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski, one of tonight's featured speakers, is one of the women senators, women United States senators. She's up there in the pink jacket. She'll be speaking tonight, along with the other women senators. You can see them standing behind her.
Well, while the Democrats put on their big show, the Republicans are not lying low. The GOP has a so-called rapid response team in place here in Boston. The story from CNN's Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Opening day tension (ph), the other party's convention, that is. Some 30 Republican staffers are set up behind enemy lines to try to combat the themes and theater inside the FleetCenter just down the street.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have the chairman doing INSIDE POLITICS.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) WQXI Atlanta, it's Wisconsin Public Radio, it's NPR evening analysis. You name it. If they're pulling numbers, we're on it.
BASH: Rapid response operations and war rooms are not new. But this year, Republicans are pushing hard to make their presence known. Even before a Democrat utters a word in here... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, my role today is to be here for one day, just to provide a little bit of balance.
BASH: Republicans players like Colorado Governor Bill Owens, enlisted for the occasion, are up on the satellite. Oh, and in case you missed their message...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The senator trying to escape 20 years of his record in the United States Senate...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're a hard core extreme Democrat, this is your dream ticket.
BASH: It's all mapped out on the wall, whose speeches to respond to and when.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then we'll see what everyone says. And if anything needs to be corrected or updated, we would put something out after the speeches.
BASH: When unfavorable articles about the other side appear, like this one about the governor of Iowa's wife, somehow they're prepared to respond.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I suspect that before she stands at the podium here in Boston as a convention speaker to reflect the values of the Democratic Party, she may consider apologizing for those remarks.
BASH: And not to be outdrawn on their own turf, Democrats are sending characters like Enron Ed and Billionaires for Bush to hang out outside the Republican headquarters. And Judy, I haven't figured out what to call that yet. Maybe it's countering the counter-spin or oppoing the oppo. Not sure yet.
WOODRUFF: Oppoing the oppo. I like that, Dana. Thanks very much.
Well, we just heard in Dana's report that the chairman of the Republican National Committee is going to be talking to me here on INSIDE POLITICS. We expect him any second now. We'll take a quick break and be right back with Ed Gillespie.
WOODRUFF: With us now from elsewhere in Boston, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie.
Ed Gillespie, good to see you. Such a big Republican presence near this convention. Does that signal that you're worried?
ED GILLESPIE, RNC CHAIRMAN: We just want to make sure that we can get the facts out, set the record straight on some of the misrepresentations of President Bush's record, frankly some of the misrepresentations of Senator Kerry's record. Both sides have done this going back many cycles. When I was at the RNC in 1996, we had a presence in Chicago, Democrats had a presence in San Diego. And there'll be in New York as well, just like we're here in Boston.
WOODRUFF: Someone pointed out to me, Ed Gillespie, that you had said you would have a truth squad here. But you're -- you're almost being -- you are being more proactive than that. You've done a poll that you put out over the weekend. We understand that on Wednesday, you're going to be releasing an 11-minute video on Senator Kerry's record on Iraq and national security.
Is this a more aggressive effort than we've ever seen?
GILLESPIE: Well, I think what we're seeing, Judy, is frankly the effects of CNN and other 24/7 cable networks that are, you know, demanding of response and stories on a fairly constant basis. And we are trying to do our share to -- to meet that demand.
And we did release a poll over the weekend that showed that residents of Massachusetts themselves, who know Senator Kerry best, expect that if he were to be elected president that he would raise taxes, that he would cut national security spending, that he would tighten gun control rules and increase federal regulations. So we thought it was worthwhile, give that the Democrats say they're trying to introduce Senator Kerry to the -- to the country at this convention here in Boston, to let the people know what those in Massachusetts who know him best -- and he's represented them for 20 years here -- what they think he will do in office.
WOODRUFF: What about that video that you're putting out on Wednesday? Who's going to see that?
GILLESPIE: Well, we are going to release a video on Wednesday. I think many times, Judy, the fact is, when -- when I point out Senator Kerry's inconsistencies or some of the flaws in his record, it's not nearly as effective when we let Senator Kerry speak for himself. And when it comes to Iraq, he's had a number of very different policy positions, contradictory policy positions, and we're working on a little highlight reel that may illustrate that.
WOODRUFF: A little highlight reel. You're not...
GILLESPIE: It may be a big highlight reel, really.
WOODRUFF: All right. You have said, among other things, that the Democrats trying to put forward a centrist platform doesn't represent the real Democratic Party. And yet at the Republican convention coming up in New York, you have speaker after speaker who is, shall we say, a little to the left, a little more moderate than some in your party. How is what they're doing any different than what you're doing, in another sense, in New York?
GILLESPIE: Well, the fact is, President Bush is running on his record from his first term, highlighting the benefits of his economic policies. We're seeing job creation like we haven't seen in this country in years, the economic growth rate's the highest we've seen in 20 years. Home ownership at an all-time high, and his resolve in winning the war on terror is appreciated by the American people, his leadership is appreciated. We're going to highlight those things, as well as the president himself will talk about new policies for a new term.
That's very different than what we're seeing here in Boston, where, you know, we on the Republicans side here in Boston will probably be the only ones who will talk about Senator Kerry's record in the United States Senate here in Boston. The rest of the time, I think they're going to try and hide that record, going to try and reposition the senator at odds with his 20 years in the United States Senate and the votes he has cast against the child tax credit, against repeal of the marriage penalty and the tax code, the fact that he voted for the Iraq war and then voted against funding for our troops.
WOODRUFF: Ed Gillespie, anything the Democrats are doing well? You and I were talking last night. And you said the idea they're trying to put out a positive -- largely a positive message is pretty smart. What do you think?
GILLESPIE: Well, Judy, I think they've been hurt by all of the anger and the bitter rhetoric coming out of the Democratic Party. I don't think it was helpful to them when people out of Kerry-Edwards and then entertainers called the president a "cheap thug" and "killer" and a "liar." And then Senator Kerry stood up afterward and embraced those sentiments and said, in fact, that the entertainers reflected the heart and soul of America.
And I suspect what they'll try to do here, and what I understand what they're trying to do, is to try to tamp down that political hate speech and all of that anger to try to present a more positive message. I think if they try to do that, they may get a bounce out of here. And I suspect that would be smart. But at the end of the day, it is still a party and a nominee driven by anger.
WOODRUFF: We hear you, Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican Party, right here in Boston. Thanks a lot.
GILLESPIE: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We'll talk to you later.
Just ahead, convention protesters keep a low profile, at least so far.
Also, TV talk show host Jerry Springer offers some advice to John Kerry on how to win the showdown state of Ohio.
WOODRUFF: Security officials here in Boston have made detailed arrangements to handle the expected crowds of convention protesters. But so far, the demonstrations have been limited.
About 50 members of a self-described anarchist group called the Black Tea Society rallied today on the Boston Common. Others groups have complained that the designated protest site, a fenced-in area outside the FleetCenter, violates their first amendment rights.
Well, checking the convention week headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," a new poll finds the presidential race tightening in the showdown state of Nevada. A Mason Dixon Survey gives President Bush 46 percent to Senator Kerry's 43 percent, and Ralph Nader picking up four percent. Back in March, a similar poll showed Bush leading Kerry by 11 points in Nevada.
The pro-tax cut group Club for Growth has unveiled a new TV ad targeting John Kerry. The group is spending $1 million to air this spot in Boston all this week. Plans to expand the ad buy to selected battleground states. The Club for Growth also says that it will spend more than $10 million on the entire presidential race.
Provocative TV talk show host Jerry Springer is here in Boston. At a party last night sponsored by Rock the Vote, Springer said economic problems have made his home state of Ohio fertile ground for a John Kerry victory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY SPRINGER, TALK SHOW HOST: And if John Kerry can show how life could be different, how jobs don't have to leave our state, how there is a future, how young people could stay and raise their families and get the decent education, if he can show people that, they'll vote. Even though the state often goes Republican, they'll vote for John Kerry in a heartbeat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: The latest CNN -- the latest CNN poll in Ohio gives John Kerry a six-point lead. And Springer, you might recall, once considered running for the Senate from Ohio.
Straight ahead, we are just minutes away from the official call to order of the Democratic National Convention.
Also, four years after he was nominated for president, Al Gore returns to the convention stage. We'll preview his remarks.
Plus, John Edwards is on the campaign trail in North Carolina. We'll check in on the vice presidential pick when INSIDE POLITICS returns.
AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States of America.
ANNOUNCER: The former vice president speaks tonight. Are Democrats worried about what he'll say?
A party united? Not everyone's touting the party line. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I just want to say this one thing, and I hope I won't offend any of the planning of the convention and the rest. This war in Iraq was a grotesque blunder.
ANNOUNCER: A view from the top. We'll show some of the cheap seats at the FleetCenter.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from the Democratic National Convention in Boston, a special edition of JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back to the FleetCenter and the moment many Democrats have been waiting for. The gavel is set to fall on this opening day of John Kerry's nominating convention. We have a ringside seat to watch this round of the 2004 election unfold.
One by one, the featured speakers will help put together a presidential portrait of Kerry. Tonight, several White House veterans have been assigned to that task: Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton.
It sounds like they're getting ready to start right now.
Among tonight's speakers, Al Gore may have the toughest time keeping his anti-Bush rhetoric in check, given how angry and critical some of his recent speeches have been. Let's go quickly to CNN's Kelly Wallace with the delegation from Gore's home state of Tennessee -- Kelly.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, we're coming to you from the floor from Tennessee. If Al Gore won this state back in 2000, he would be president today. Judy, I think we want to go over now. We see Terry McAuliffe, the chair of the Democratic National Committee about to bring this 2004 Democratic National Convention to order. Let's listen in.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: The 44th quadrennial national convention of the Democratic party will now come to order! We welcome our delegates, alternates, representatives of the news media, friends, guests from all around the world. And the American people, to our deliberations here. Our task during the next four days is to demonstrate to all Americans that with John Kerry...
WALLACE: And Judy, now, we're going to focus again on Al Gore, the former vice president. Many Democrats are a bit confused and concerned about some speeches the former vice president has delivered over the past few months. We talked to a senior Gore adviser. He says tonight's speech will be respectful and questioning in tone, not negative and that the Kerry folks will be happy about it.
WALLACE (voice-over): He's the forgotten man of Campaign '04. He even jokes about it.
AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States of America.
WALLACE: Rarely seen, rarely mentioned but when he's spoken lately about the war in Iraq, he's gotten people's attention.
GORE: Donald Rumsfeld ought to resign immediately as the chief architect of this plan.
WALLACE: He's become one of the most outspoken Democrats against the Iraq war.
GORE: This a disaster for our country.
WALLACE: A contrast to the centrist, who backed the 1991 Persian Gulf War, but daughter Karenna says her father's not the one who has changed positions.
KARENNA GORE SCHIFF, GORE'S DAUGHTER: My dad hasn't moved from the center to the left. I think it's just that the right has moved even further to the right and they happen to be in control of the country.
WALLACE: Gore endorsed Howard Dean, not John Kerry. His invitation to speak, more about getting the Democratic base fired up than about how fired up Camp Kerry is about Gore.
PETER BEINART, EDITOR, "NEW REPUBLIC": Putting Gore out there, you show, particularly to the African-American base who was most upset about feeling disenfranchised in Florida, that the party recognizes that happened and is going to make sure it doesn't happen again.
WALLACE: The former vice president will be walking a fine line political observers say, careful not to turn off swing voters with an angry tone, while keeping his focus on rallying the party.
STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the only thing that he could do that could offend elements of the Democratic base would be if at the end of his speech Democrats looked at one another and said that was about Al Gore.
WALLACE: Gore's loyalists say his presence alone will speak volumes for Democrats hungry to defeat President Bush.
CARTER ESKEW, FMR. GORE ADVISER: He's going to be standing up there and in the back of people's minds I think they're going to think, how different our country would have been had he been elected.
WALLACE: But what a difference from four years ago, when Gore took center stage, his wife in his arms, a celebratory kiss that seemed like it would never end.
Now, he returns to the podium, not as the star but the winner of the popular vote in 2000 who represents to many Democrats, dashed hopes about what might have been.
(END VIDEOTAPE) WALLACE: And the former vice president came into the hall a little bit earlier this morning to get a look. And Judy, he's expected to take the podium a little after 8:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight.
WOODRUFF: Kelly, thank you very much. Of course we're going to carry former Vice President Gore's remarks tonight live when he speaks. Thanks very much.
We are here. The gavel has just fallen. Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic party has just called this convention officially to order. It is underway. Delegates are gathering. But we've also been hearing about the Kerry camp limiting what some of their speakers say about George W. Bush. Just how far are they going? Joining me CNN political editor John Mercurio.
JOHN MERCURIO, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, Democrats are confirming that the DNC and the Kerry campaign have been screening all the speeches that we're going to be hearing this week in Boston. Now this is a fairly common practice. Mary Beth Cahill told us this morning that it's done mostly to save time. But it's sort of interesting, you know, in a year when Democrats seem more motivated by their hatred of George Bush than their love for John Kerry, it's sort of ironic that they would be under such pressure not to criticize President Bush now . Speakers are being told that if they really need to be critical, if they just can't resist, that they should focus their criticism on the administration or on Republican leadership but to stay away from specific criticism of -- personally of Bush.
Obviously it's sort of directed at two speeches we will be hearing tonight. Howard Dean and Al Gore, both known for sort of wild rhetoric but the practice is much more widespread.
One labor leader that I talked to today said that he had a speech that he submitted that had a great line in it he wanted to use and he was told to take it out. The line was -- we can report what the line was. Quote, "More than two hundred years ago, patriots gathered in Boston to overthrow an aristocrat named George. This year, we're gathered here to do the same thing. Now the Kerry campaign read that line and scratched it out.
So how are Democrats reacting to this sort of speech scrubbing? The labor leader that I talked to said he was more than happy to abide by the campaign's wishes as long as he was going to be able to speak. Another person I talked to, another Kerry campaign supporter, a film- maker you might know named Michael Moore, I ran into this afternoon in the Fleet Center said it was a good idea, that Democrats are united in a goal of defeating President Bush and if that means compromise, then so be it.
WOODRUFF: It's funny. I asked former President Jimmy Carter if they did had scrubbed his speech and he looked at me, you know, no! No, they didn't.
MERCURIO: No one's scrubbing my speech. Right. WOODRUFF: But it's interesting to see and we'll hear very shortly as you said. Howard Dean, Al Gore. We're going to be hearing from Bill Clinton tonight.
WOODRUFF: John Mercurio, thanks very much. John is all over the place for us this week. We'll look for John Kerry to play up his Vietnam experience, even before he gets here to Boston. He'll appear with a fellow veteran and swift boat captain in Norfolk, Virginia tomorrow after his pre-convention swing through Florida earlier today.
Running mate John Edwards is in his home state of North Carolina getting in some work on his convention speech. CNN's Elaine Quijano is with him.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The next vice president of America will be Senator John Edwards from North Carolina.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From almost the moment John Kerry chose him as his running mate, Senator John Edwards knew what he would say Boston says a senior campaign official. Edwards will mention Iraq and will bring back a theme from the primaries: the concept of the two Americas. What will be missing aides say is a harsh tone. Instead, Edwards plans a positive message with three goals, to introduce John Kerry to the American people, to introduce himself and to explain where the two men would take the country if elected.
Although campaign officials won't be specific, they say some of the address will be familiar to campaign reporters, sounding themes already a part of Edwards' stump speeches.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to reject this tired old hateful negative politics of the past.
QUIJANO: Aides say the Senator has worked on his speech during flights and practiced it out loud in hotel rooms sometimes in front of wife, Elizabeth. To rest his voice, which sounded strained Monday during a campaign appearance in Raleigh, the senator canceled what was to be his last stop before leaving for Boston. But aides say he's fine and is looking forward to delivering his speech.
QUIJANO: And just a few moments ago we received these photos of Senator Edwards reading over his speech this afternoon at his home here in Raleigh. A senior campaign official says that right now, the speech runs about 20 minutes long without applause. When pressed for details on whether or not the speech would be more policy-based or appeal more to emotion, this official would only say that a good political speech does both -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Elaine Quijano reporting from John Kerry's home state of North Carolina. Thanks very much.
We can tell you the Democrats have already made a little news in here in Boston. They started their convention on time at 4:00 Eastern. Terry McAuliffe, the party chair, just gaveled this convention to order. We have just seen the presentation of colors. They're about to begin the Pledge of Allegiance, all proceeding on time.
We quickly want to turn to President Bush. He may be out of sight at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, but the 9/11 commission report is said to be very much on his mind. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is with the president in Texas -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Bush is laying low at his Crawford ranch. White House officials said that he's taking the fast track when it comes to making some of those recommendation real from the 9/11 commission. Today he held his first task force meeting regarding the 9/11 report through a secured video teleconference call about 40 minutes or so. That involved at least a dozen cabinet-level officials, some gathered in the situation room at the White House, others on the line.
Those including the vice president, secretaries of homeland security as well as the Defense Department, the acting director of the CIA, the head of the FBI and top officials from Justice, State as well as the National Security Council. Now senior administration officials tell us that the priority of the president now is to try to enact some of those recommendations that he can take care of immediately through executive order.
It was just moments ago Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington state campaigning, elaborated on the meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're in a process now, we had a session just this morning where we began the process of looking specifically at specific recommendations that they have made. And I think that we're at the beginning here of what will be and should be a great debate as we look at how we can improve both the executive branch and legislative branch's ability to function in this area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: The National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice arrived here just moments ago. She is going to be joining the president at his Crawford ranch in about a half hour or so. The two of them will be meeting. They'll be discussing these recommendations.
But a White House spokeswoman today saying that there were no decisions that were made during that meeting. That the president has yet to decide on those recommendations but she does say that it's expected he will make some decisions within days. And one of the proposals, Judy, a controversial one is that creation of the national director of intelligence. One source who is familiar with those deliberations of the task force says that the president is warming up to that idea. It's a very controversial one, as you know, both the head of homeland security and the CIA both oppose it -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Suzanne, thanks very much. It's interesting to see how the reaction and the approaches are changing. We are just finishing up the national anthem here as the Democratic convention come underway but picking up what Suzanne was saying, in the House of Representatives, Republican leaders also seem to have a new sense of urgency about the 9/11 commission report after their initial go-slow approach. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay now planning hearings next week and they say they want to bring legislation to the floor during the first week of September.
Well, the Democrats say they are determined to present an upbeat united image during this week's convention. That means toning down the way many of them feel about the current occupant of the White House. In a minute, Bill Schneider examines exactly what has united this party.
We'll also get some journalist perspective about the goings on both inside and outside the Fleet Center.
Later I'll take a field trip to the state delegation that is farthest away from all the action.
WOODRUFF: Democratic party leaders preaching unity as their national convention gets underway right now but why does the party seem to be so unified this year? Our Bill Schneider joins me now with some answers -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you can call it the miracle of 2004. The Democratic party is completely unified. How did this happen and more importantly, will it help the Democrats win the election?
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Democratic conventions have always been about placating the losers. A losing candidate usually on the left would show up at the convention and demand platform concessions, a prime-time speaking role, a budget to play a role in the presidential campaign. Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis had to placate Jesse Jackson. Jimmy Carter had to reach out to Ted Kennedy in 1980. Kennedy didn't seem to reach back.
No need to do that this year. The last holdout, Dennis Kucinich, a man on the left was the one who reached out to Kerry last week.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I intend to reach out on behalf of the Kerry-Edwards ticket to unite our party with all those who may have felt left out. I will let them know that the time has come to unite in a common effort for change. SCHNEIDER: What's uniting the Democrats? For one thing, the party's smaller than it used to be. Conservative Democrats are a dying breed. Senator Zell Miller of Georgia who founded Democrats for Bush may be the last one.
A liberal consensus prevails among the Democratic delegates in Boston. Three quarters endorse abortion on demand. Don't expect to hear any anti-abortion speeches at the convention.
A whopping 93 percent of the delegates oppose the war in Iraq which puts them to the left of John Kerry and John Edwards, both of whom voted to authorize the war.
But the thing that most unites the delegates is President Bush. 91 percent of them say Bush did not legitimately win the 2000 election. A convention like that is longing for red meat, the kind of harsh anti-Bush rhetoric they've been hearing this year from Al Gore.
GORE: He betrayed this country! He played on our fears!
SCHNEIDER: But the delegates are not likely to hear that in Boston. John Kerry knows he has to become the candidate not of Democratic party unity, but of national unity.
KERRY: I'm running to be president of the United States of America. I'm running -- I'm running to be president of all of the American people.
SCHNEIDER: The Democrats are united by the division of the country into us and them. But to win, they have to promise not to perpetuate that division.
WOODRUFF: They've got four days, four nights to prove that.
SCHNEIDER: That's exactly what they have.
WOODRUFF: We'll be talking about it all week. Bill Schneider, thanks.
Well, unity does appear to be one of the Democrats' main watch words at this convention. But can they get keep their anger with President Bush submerged long enough to get behind their own nominee and not scare off undecided voters? Just what Bill was talking about. A panel of journalists (UNINTELLIGIBLE) some more next.
WOODRUFF: Joining me now, "Boston Globe" columnist Ann Kornblut -- Liz Marlantes -- wrong. Liz Marlantes of the "Christian Science" -- who wrote that? Peter Beinart, the editor of "The New Republic," and Jonah Goldberg, who is a familiar face on CNN.
I want to ask all three of you if the Democrats are going to be able to get the job done this week, staying positive? Jonah, if that's what they try to do, can they get the job done?
JONAH GOLDBERG, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, I think they're definitely going to try and do that. They have to give some red meat, they just simply have to, otherwise this thin will get protein deficient. The delegates want red meat.
They're going to have to give it somehow, either through Al Gore in one of his screaming tirades or in one of Teddy Kennedy's nostalgic rants. But it's going to come somewhere. But all in all, they are keeping it toned down, and -- because they're just so happy and they think they're going to win.
WOODRUFF: Liz, do you think they can't resist?
LIZ MARLANTES, "CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": No. I actually think that there's so much unity in the party right now, and they're so focused on winning.
I mean, there's been all this speculation that they're not going to be able to resist, that it's going to be this big bummer for all of the delegates to have to hold back. But in fact, they're really focused on winning, and they want to do whatever it takes to win.
WOODRUFF: What are you hearing, Peter?
PETER BEINART, EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": That's right. The red meat is George W. Bush. Usually, it takes two or three election losses to get hungry enough to do what it takes to win, to put aside your differences. The Democrats have done it after only one loss, and it's because of George W. Bush. It's puts them in a strong position.
WOODRUFF: Now, you know, they're also trying to say that, you know, they don't have any major disagreements -- that Iraq, for example, and the platform, they've pretty much washed that over and saying, you know, people have a right to disagree.
Can they get away with that when there's obviously -- Bill Schneider just did a poll showing the vast majority of these delegates don't approve of the war in Iraq?
GOLDBERG: Right now, what they would like the media to think is that essentially the delegates are like an infomercial audience, where they just applaud at all the applause lines and everyone's happy.
But the reality is, is that, you know, as a Republican or as a conservative, we always hear how extreme and how far right wing the delegates on the floor of the Republican conventions are, and how -- what a lie it is to have moderates up on the stage.
Well, the same thing is going on here. The floor -- the delegates at this convention are far out of the mainstream of the Democratic party, let alone the mainstream of America.
BEINART: But the difference is that they wield power in the Republican party. George W. Bush has to pander to them. John Kerry can essentially ignore these guys on Iraq, on gay marriage, on a whole host of issues, talk to the center of the country.
That's why he's ahead. That's why he's a favorite right now.
MARLANTES: There's been an irony to all this, though, I think. And one of the thing's that's happened is that it's made it -- it's been good for Kerry in the sense that he has a really unified party and a lot of support. But it's also made it harder for him to sort of grasp onto a good message, because, in a way, everybody's so focused on the tactics on beating Bush, that Kerry hasn't been able to come forward with a really catchy message that is exciting to the party.
BEINART: That's right. The danger is that his only message will be biography, Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam -- that's not enough of a message.
GOLDBERG: I think the problem's even greater than that. Ever since New Hampshire, we know from the exit polls that most Democrats actually don't like John Kerry very much. They hate George Bush, but basically it was only when Howard Dean's head exploded like one of those guys in "Scanners" that they decided all of a sudden, hey, we like John Kerry and he went skyrocketing in the polls.
I think they're going to focus on biography, because they have no issues that they feel safe running on and they want -- they want America to like John Kerry. If they can't seal that deal, I think it's going to be really bad news for Kerry.
WOODRUFF: All right. Much more to talk about. We're going to have to leave it until the next time we see you.
We're going to hear from Bill Clinton tonight, Hillary Clinton, and a number of others. Jonah Goldberg, Liz Marlantes, Peter Beinart, thank you all very much. We'll see you this week.
Just ahead, I'm going to head out to the convention floor, check in with a delegation from Idaho. I'll find out how Democrats are faring in a state now considered a Republican stronghold.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And come November, when we elect John Kerry as our president...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is now my great honor to announce...
WOODRUFF: CNN's exclusive location on the convention floor allows us to roam around the building and get to visit all of the delegations.
Right now, I am with the delegation from the State of Idaho. Just in case you didn't know, this state gave George W. Bush his largest margin four years ago: 67 percent. It hasn't voted Democratic since 1964.
I'm here with Carolyn Boyce, who is the chair of the Idaho State democratic Party. Do you feel left out at this convention?
CAROLYN BOYCE, CHAIR., IDAHO DEM. PARTY: Absolutely not. We were on the floor. And we're excited, and we think we're going to get a much higher percentage for John Kerry and John Edwards this time than we did four years ago.
WOODRUFF: How much bigger?
BOYCE: Well, our goal is -- our motto is we're turning blue. So, that's our goal is to be a blue state this time. It's a challenge, but we'll work hard. And our goal is to elect Democrats from the courthouse to the White House, and that's what we'll be working on in Idaho.
WOODRUFF: What do you need for John Kerry to say to get more people in Idaho to vote Democratic in November?
BOYCE: I think he needs to have real solutions to problems that are facing Idahoians -- jobs, the war in Iraq. And when he -- he tells us what his vision is, I think a lot of Republicans will vote for him.
I have a lot of Idaho Republicans who tell me they are not going to vote for George Bush. They're not quite sure if they're going to vote for John Kerry, but if he gives them the message and the vision that I see, I think they will vote for him.
WOODRUFF: What do you make, though, Carolyn Boyce, of the Republicans who are literally lurking on the doorstep of this convention, saying John Kerry is an ultra-liberal, he's trying to do an extreme makeover here to turn into somebody he's not, that's he's weak on defense and so on?
BOYCE: Well, I think labels are really -- they hurt our country. And I think that that's the Republicans' way of doing anything but talk about real issues. Americans want to hear solutions, and they know that they're losing their jobs, they're going overseas, and they want to hear a vision. And that's what John Kerry presents.
George Bush can go out there and belittle him like he does all his opponents, but I think Americans want answers.
WOODRUFF: Carolyn Boyce, who is the chair of the Idaho Democratic Party. Thank you very much. It's great to see you. Predicting that Idaho is going to have some more Democratic votes in November.
Well, that's it for this INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff, live from the convention center.
Stay tuned for CNN's special coverage tonight. I'll be here with Wolf Blitzer, Jeff Greenfield, all of our floor reporters, starting at 8:00 Eastern. We'll have continuous coverage until 1:00 a.m. Eastern. And I'll be back again tomorrow at our special time, 3:00 p.m. Eastern, on Tuesday.
Until then, have a great evening. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now from the CNN Election Express.
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