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Bill Clinton Faces Surgery; Kerry in Ohio; An Update on Hurricane Frances

Aired September 3, 2004 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: A September surprise for Bill Clinton. The former president is hospitalized and told he needs major heart surgery.

Welcome to the fall smack-down. Challenger John Kerry jabs back at his GOP convention critics.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here is my answer to them: I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq.


ANNOUNCER: George W. Bush works to keep his job and his garden globe.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With your help, we'll have four more years.

ANNOUNCER: We'll have all the post-convention maneuvering, and how new job numbers figure in.

Florida threatened again.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: ... and you haven't left, now's the time to do so.

ANNOUNCER: We're tracking Hurricane Frances, massive and on the move.


ANNOUNCER: Now, live from the CNN Election Express in New York, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us here in New York City, the adopted home of Bill Clinton and the city where the 58-year- old former president now is scheduled to have heart bypass surgery as early as tomorrow. Both President Bush and Senator John Kerry are wishing Clinton well as they essentially kick off their fall campaigns after the close of the GOP convention here in New York. We will have much more ahead on the race.

And on another main story today, Florida boarding up and bracing for the huge hurricane called Frances.

We begin with Bill Clinton's health. The former president is at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he will undergo bypass surgery. Sources say the operation could be performed as early as tomorrow. Here is how Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton explained her husband's absence at the New York state fair this morning.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: He went to our local hospital yesterday, complaining of some chest pains and shortness of breathe. And the initial testing was normal, so he spent the night at home. And we talked through the day, and he said he -- you know, he felt fine, and not to worry, and he'd see me at the fair.

But his doctors asked him to come back early this morning for some additional tests. And as a result of those additional tests at Westchester Medical Center, they did advise him to have bypass surgery, and to do it soon, as soon as he could.


WOODRUFF: Senator Clinton left that fair early to be with her husband at the hospital. And that's where we find CNN's Alina Cho. She is standing by.

Alina, what are you learning? What are they telling you at this point?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, indeed, Senator Clinton and daughter, Chelsea, will be arriving here at New York Presbyterian Hospital. It is unclear whether they will be arriving together or exactly when that will happen. What is clear, of course, is that they will be joining the former president, who was admitted here this morning.

Now, this all started yesterday, when Bill Clinton checked himself into Northern Westchester Hospital, about a half an hour from here, after complaining of mild chest pain and shortness of breathe. After initial tests were normal, the former president spent the night at his nearby home in Chappaqua.

He went back for additional tests this morning, and that is when doctors there told him that he should undergo bypass surgery as soon as possible. That is when he was brought here to this Manhattan hospital, one of the top hospitals in the country. It is believed that Bill Clinton is staying in the McKean Pavilion (ph), which is a private VIP wing on the ninth floor of this building behind me.

The former president's office did release a statement confirming this today. And no official statement is expected from the hospital.

There is something going on just to my left. It is believed that Hillary Clinton has just arrived here at the hospital. We are -- she went in through a side entrance.

Is she here with Chelsea?

We do not know if she has arrived with Chelsea, but Hillary Clinton has just arrived here at New York's Presbyterian Hospital. Of course, after speaking earlier and cutting short an appearance at a state fair in Syracuse.

Of course, as I was mentioning before, the former president's office did release a statement confirming this today. There will be no official statement from the hospital, at least that is what is expected.

Judy, of course Bill Clinton just turned 58 last month. He lost weight on the South Beach Diet, famously. He has been quite active this summer, was on a book tour promoting his memoir, "My Life" in June, gave what was a well received speech on the opening night, of course, at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. And just this Sunday, Judy, as you know, he gave what is being described as a rousing speech in support of John Kerry at New York City's historic Riverside Church -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Alina Cho, she is at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where, as you just heard, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has just arrived to be with her husband.

Again, surgery, they say, could take place as early as tomorrow. But we're waiting to learn more.

Bill Clinton's fellow Democrats are absorbing the news just out about his health, even as they work to keep a lid on President Bush's possible post convention bounce. In the mix today, a new report showing job growth rebounded in August, with 144,000 jobs created, and the unemployment rate dipping slightly to 5.4 percent.

Right now, let's check in on John Kerry's campaign and the senator's reaction to the jobs report and Bill Clinton's scheduled surgery. CNN's Joe Johns is with Kerry in Ohio.

Hi, Joe.


Senator Kerry had two stops here in Newark, Ohio. At the first stop, he didn't talk about President Clinton at all. But at the second stop, a fairly large crowd right here in the town scare, he gave them a status report. Here's what he had to say.


KERRY: We want to extend our wishes and our prayers and our thoughts to him. President Clinton went in the hospital today, and he's -- he's going to be fine. He's going to have -- he's going to have a bypass surgery that is going to take place I think tomorrow.

But every single one of us, every single one of us wants to extend to him our best wishes, our prayers and our thoughts. And I want you all to let a cheer out and clap that he can hear all the way to New York, all the way to New York.


JOHNS: Meanwhile, Senator Kerry was back on the attack today, going after the Republicans. One of the things he did today was he talked about that new report that's come out, the jobs report, indicating jobs did increase in the month of July, though not as much as expected. He says that's not good enough.


KERRY: At that rate, you won't have a net new job created in the state of Ohio until 2011. John Edwards and I have a plan to put America back to work now, not 10 years from now.


JOHNS: Since securing the nomination, John Kerry has now spent almost 20 days in the state of Ohio, underscoring how important it is to his campaign. John Edwards campaigning in Wisconsin this weekend.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right. Joe Johns out on the trail. Thanks very much, Joe.

President Bush is on a post-convention tour also of battleground states. In Wisconsin, he told supporters that Bill Clinton is in his thoughts and prayers, and he wished his predecessor a speedy recovery from bypass surgery. Earlier in Pennsylvania, the president touted the latest jobs report as evidence that his economic policy is working.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This morning, we received a jobs report for August. And it shows that our economy is strong and getting stronger. We added 144,000 new jobs.


BUSH: Plus revisions of about 60,000 for the previous month, which means we increased jobs over the last two months by over 200,000 jobs.


WOODRUFF: And some news. We just a few minutes ago got some new poll numbers that are certain to please the Bush camp. It shows George Bush with an 11-point lead over John Kerry. This is the highest lead, the highest separation -- largest separation between the two candidates during this entire campaign.

The "TIME" Magazine survey of likely voters was taken Tuesday through Thursday, undoubtedly before President Bush's convention speech last night. We're going to have more on that and on Bush's day ahead.

Well, now, we turn to Hurricane Frances, pushing closer to Florida's Atlantic coast, just three weeks after the state was pummeled by Hurricane Charley. Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is at the CNN Weather Center.

Hi, Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Judy. And hello, everyone.

Frances already impacting Florida with some higher wind gusts being reported from St. Augustine down southward, around 25 to 35 miles per hour. That's where we're gusting.

We're starting to get those high surfs with breaker waves up around seven feet right up around the Jacksonville area, extending to southern parts of Georgia. Right now, the maximum sustained wind with Frances at 115 miles an hour. So we've been holding steady here through the afternoon hours, keeping this at a Category 3 status.

Want to show you the radar picture right now and show you where some of those showers and thunderstorms are moving in, already pushing in onshore. We've had these weak little showers and thunderstorms popping up through much of the afternoon, but you can see the main line already moving in.

We're going to zoom down and show you a closer look where some of those heavier rain bands are right around Palm Beach right now, moving along I-95, heading toward the Florida Turnpike here. And this is going to be some very heavy downpours. About one to two inches per hour can be expected. And the winds being reported in this area gusting about 35 miles per hour. We had 38 miles per hour last hour at Ft. Lauderdale.

I want to show you the satellite perspective. You can see some of those heavier clouds now moving in. So expect to see those cloudy skies prevailing.

And one note here. Take a look at the north side of this storm here. This is relaly starting to blossom.

So some more signs on satellite that this is going to be intensifying. We'll have to wait until the 5:00 advisory to see what the National Hurricane Center says -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jacqui Jeras keeping a close eye, along with all of her colleagues in CNN's meteorological bureau, we call it. And, of course, updates coming throughout the day.

Florida officials say they ordered the largest evacuation in the state's history in response to Hurricane Frances. Traffic is said to have died down somewhat today, a day after highways were clogged with people fleeing to safer ground. In all, about 2.5 million people were urged to leave their homes.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered in numerous counties across a relatively large swath of the state given the storm's unpredictable path. Voluntary evacuations were requested in a number of other counts.

Well, let's go now to northeast Florida, the coastal city of St. Augustine. CNN's Kathleen Koch following hurricane preparations there.

Hello, Kathleen.


And residents here still haven't gotten the word on whether or not they need to evacuate. It's been some 40 years. As a matter of fact, the anniversary is next week since a hurricane hit this historic city, the oldest city in the country. That was Hurricane Dora. And I am told the water, when that hurricane swept through this city, was thigh deep in the streets of the old historic town.

Now, that was just a Category 2. So you can see all these businesses in the downtown area, in these old buildings, many of them built in the 1800s, but some going back as late as the 1700s, 1600s, they are boarding up.

A lot of them getting out. We've also talked to a number of business owners who are staying put. The big worry is flooding.

As you can see, this city is surrounded on three sides by water, two rivers and a bay. And even in a severe tropical storm, a severe thunderstorm, they have water in these streets.

So people are not taking any chances, Judy. Beyond the boarding, we've seen people with not only sandbags, but actually even using bags of topsoil, having them at ready inside their businesses.

Schools are closed, government buildings here closed. Everyone getting ready for what might be coming their way. But again, we're on the northern end of this, so -- so they're hoping they won't be too hard hit.

WOODRUFF: Yes. And the unpredictability of this storm is what makes it so hard for everybody along that entire northeast coast. Kathleen, thanks very much.

We're going to have another hurricane update ahead on INSIDE POLITICS. And we ask you to stay with CNN for the next report from the National Hurricane Center. That will come at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. You can also log on any time to, for the latest on the storm's power and its path.

We also have more ahead on Bill Clinton's scheduled surgery. We'll ask a heart surgeon about the risks for the former president and the prospects for his full recovery.

And dueling takes on the GOP convention. I'll have interviews with Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot and Kerry campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill. With 60 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.


WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily," the latest CNN analysis finds George W. Bush has expanded his lead over John Kerry in the race for votes in the all-important electoral college. According to CNN research, and interviews, if the election were held today, Bush would get 284 electoral votes, Kerry would receive 254. Our latest update moves Wisconsin, a state won by Al Gore, into the Bush column.

Both Bush and Kerry are launching new television ad campaigns. John Kerry's ads are custom-made for markets where Bush will be traveling over the next six days. The ads refer to specific states. And like this one, set to run in Pennsylvania, they portray Bush as having failed to live up to his promises.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four years ago, George Bush came to Scranton, promising quality health insurance for every senior. Four years later, five million more people without health insurance, prescription drug prices skyrocketing. Now Bush is back, but around here we remember Bush's broken promises.


WOODRUFF: The new Bush ads are somewhat more positive. And they focus on his proposed second term agenda.


BUSH: During the next four years, we'll spread ownership and opportunity. We need to make our economy more job friendly, to keep American jobs in America. We must allow small employers to join together to purchase insurance. We must end the junk lawsuits and enact tort reform.


WOODRUFF: The new Bush ads start airing Tuesday in the battleground states and on national cable networks.

The Bush campaign's new commercials may be upbeat, but Democrats are steel seething about the tone of the GOP convention. On CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," the Kerry-Edwards campaign new senior adviser, Joe Lockhart, predicted the Republican attacks will backfire.


JOE LOCKHART, KERRY CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISER: I think the public will respond very negatively to the personal character assassination that we saw during this convention. And frankly, as a last point, it does say something about the president. This was the president's convention. I guarantee he knew what everybody was going to say. You know, if he believes those things, he ought to get up and say it himself, or tell all his -- you know, all of his friends to keep -- to keep quiet.


WOODRUFF: Later in the day, Lockhart took an even stronger shot at the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group, telling reporters the presidential race "is not going to be decided by bunch of right wing kooks who are working with the White House."

Well, joining me now from Arlington, Virginia, to talk about the tone of the Republican convention and the rest of this campaign, Bush campaign chairman, Marc Racicot.

Marc Racicot, what -- first of all, what do you say to Joe lockhart when he says that negativity out of your convention is going to backfire?

MARC RACICOT, BUSH CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Well, first of all, he's wrong about the premise. There was no negativity.

Senator Kerry himself invited an examination of his record. We know that the president's record will be examined. There is a contrast that takes place.

There was no vitriolic rhetoric like you've seen come from the opposition. It's not this campaign that's ever -- you and I talked before, Judy, talked about the candidate for the opposition for the Democrats as being killer or a thug or someone willing to poison pregnant women. I mean, there's absolutely no comparison.

We're going to compare records because that's how the American people make a decision. But Joe Lockhart has the premise wrong. There is no assassination, it's not personal. It only focuses upon record and what you have done or haven't done.

WOODRUFF: Well, there were attacks on John Kerry during the convention. And, in fact, John Kerry last night himself said -- he said he won't have his commitment to defend the country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have, and those who have misled the nation into Iraq. Is Vice President Cheney going to continue to challenge John Kerry on his fitness to be commander in chief?

RACICOT: You know, the fact of the matter is that what the vice president talked about was John Kerry's record in the Senate, how he's voted in reference to defense issues, and his inability to maintain a consistent position in reference to performing the duties as commander in chief. Of course those are points of comparison, because both the president and John Kerry had an opportunity to act at exactly the same time on exactly the same issues.

Those are the comparisons and contrasts that the American people have a right to consider. So certainly we'll make them. John Kerry trying to convert this again, which absolutely mystifies me, into an argument about his service 35 year ago, or how it is that all of us served during that period of time when we were young men, is absolutely irrelevant to the questions that we're presenting to the American people. We don't want to talk about Vietnam. We've never said anything about his Vietnam service other than to praise it for being honorable.

And so I don't know why he constantly harkens back to the future and tries to drag up his record in the military, because it's really not a relevant part of the discussion that we're trying to have.

WOODRUFF: Some new poll numbers we just cited a few moments ago that we just learned about, "TIME" Magazine showing President Bush with an 11-point lead over John Kerry. Do you think you got that big a bounce out of this convention?

RACICOT: I'd like to see more evidence personally that, in fact, there is a significant change in the numbers. I firmly believe that, although we're hardened, we believe the convention was probative and it was relevant, and it certainly provided contrast for the American people.

It was very positive. And it reflected the strength of the Republican Party. And we feel very good about going forward.

But we know this is going to be a very, very long and difficult contest. And this next 60 days we're going to have to work very hard.

So we take no solace in the numbers. We're inspired by the framing of the election and also by the president's performance there. But we know we have a lot of work left to do, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about the new jobless numbers out today, 144,000 jobs created last month, the unemployment rate is down. But the Kerry campaign is saying it takes a lot of chutzpah for President Bush's labor secretary to come out and say this Labor Day we have really something to celebrate, when the Kerry campaign points out this administration is the first one to lose jobs, a net number of jobs since Herbert Hoover.

RACICOT: You know, the fact of the matter is, job loss started before this president became president. Then we went -- we've been through a war. We've been in a war since almost immediately upon him taking office.

A serious recession started during the years of the previous administration, and corporate scandals. And now we see it over the last year, since last August, 1.7 million new jobs. And we see the unemployment rate down to a low that is lower than the average rate between the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s.

So the fact of the matter is, this economy, when you compare it, again, knowing that homeownership rates are at an all-time low, inflation rates are low, mortgage rates are low -- I mean, the homeownership rates are very high, and personal income is high.

WOODRUFF: Marc Racicot, we're going to have to leave it there. Chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign. Very good to see you.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.



ANNOUNCER: Surgery for a former commander in chief. Bill Clinton prepares for a heart bypass in New York. We'll bring you the latest on his condition.

From the center of the Garden to the center of the battleground...

BUSH: Register Republicans, register Independents, register discerning Democrats.

KERRY: The president wants you to reelect him. For what? Losing jobs?

ANNOUNCER: The candidates sprint into the showdown states.

Bye-bye Big Apple. The Republicans are on their way out. So are armies of protesters. But who will carry home the "Play of the Week"?

Now, live from the CNN election express in New York, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.


JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Welcome back as we follow several developing stories in and outside of the political world.

We are here in New York City on this day after the close of the Republican National Convention, a launching pad, you might say, for the fall campaign. Both President Bush and Senator Kerry stumping in showdown states today, sharpening their messages and their lines of attack.

Meantime in the political battleground of Florida, Hurricane Frances is closing in, threatening to pummel parts of the state.

More on those stories ahead.

Both President Bush and Senator Kerry are sending their regards today to Bill Clinton as the former president prepares to undergo heart bypass surgery here in New York, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.


BUSH: En route here, we just received news that President Clinton has been hospitalized in New York. He is in our thoughts and prayers. We send him best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery. KERRY: Every single one of us -- every single one of us wants to extend to him our best wishes, our prayers and our thoughts. And I want y'all to let a cheer out and clap that he can hear all the way to New York, all the way to New York.


WOODRUFF: Well, today, doctors told Bill Clinton, he needed bypass surgery.

He underwent tests after suffering chest pains and shortness of breath. At age 58, Clinton has been in good health with no known history of heart problems, and he recently lost a good deal of weight.

I'm joined now by Dr. David Adams. He is the chairman of cardiothoracic surgery at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

Dr. Adams, just in very layman's terms, what's wrong with Bill Clinton's heart, do you expect?

DR. DAVID ADAMS, MT. SINAI SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: The heart has three major blood vessels that come off of two trunks. And what you can see is our heart is a muscle and it lives off of blood that comes off different vessels.

Here's a vessel, a second vessel and a third vessel. And the most common heart disease is actually to develop plaques, or blockages, approximately in these vessels, and that prevents blood from going to the muscle distally.

WOODRUFF: So what -- These vessels have gotten clogged. And the hospital has said he will have bypass surgery, but you and I were just saying there -- there are other options.

ADAMS: There are actually three options for patients that have blockages in their arteries.

One is medical therapy, where often -- We're now learning that we can actually reverse plaques with medical therapy.

The second is angioplasty, where they stick a balloon inside the lesion and blow it up and now place a stint that actually eludes a drug, that keeps the vessel open.

And the third possibility is bypass surgery where we take a graft and we sew it from the main artery that comes out of the heart to the aorta and bypass the blockage.

WOODRUFF: Well, the fact that they're saying he'll have the bypass, does that mean it's serious? It's more serious that they couldn't do something less invasive?

ADAMS: I don't think -- I don't think it mean it's more serious, Judy. What it means is that his anatomy is more favorable for bypass surgery as a therapy, versus angioplasty.

Ultimately, what's important is the condition of the actual muscle, not the way that we revascularize the heart.

WOODRUFF: What are the prospects? I mean, what -- what are the chances of recovery here?

ADAMS: Well, the fact that he's been diagnosed, it appears, early and that his symptoms had only recently started and that he's otherwise in good health all suggest that he's going to do excellent and that there's very low risk with whatever treatment the physicians decide to provide.

WOODRUFF: The fact that he was complaining of shortness of breath and chest pains, could that suggest that he had already had a heart incident, a heart attack?

ADAMS: Well, it can suggest that he had a heart attack. More likely, he was having something called angina, where he's having ischemia (ph) or little valves where he's not getting enough blood flow to the muscle.

Although I'm sure we'll learn that in the coming days, just what the damage to his heart was.

WOODRUFF: Sure. A lot of what we're doing is speculation, but very educated speculation, in your case.

Dr. David Adams with Mt. Sinai, we thank you very much for talking with us. We appreciate you, especially, appreciate you bringing the model to demonstrate. Thank you very much.

ADAMS: You bet. Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And now we turn back to the race for the White House and a new sign that President Bush may get a notable convention bounce.

A just released "TIME" magazine poll shows Bush now leading Kerry 52 percent to 41 percent, Ralph Nader getting 3 percent. A survey of likely voters was taken between Tuesday and Thursday this past GOP convention week, but apparently before the president's acceptance speech last night.

The president is in battleground states today, trying to get more mileage out of the convention themes. Out senior White House correspondent, John King, is with Mr. Bush in Iowa.

Hello, John.


Mr. Bush just landed here in Cedar Rapids. He had a stop earlier today in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three key battleground states. Three states the president very much wants to put in his column.

Now Bush aides -- you see the president at Cedar Rapids, I believe; we have a live picture of that. He arrived a short time ago. Mr. Bush's emphasis today, much as it was at the Republican convention. A lot of talk at the convention about playing to the conservatives even more than reaching out to swing voters in the middle. You heard that from the president today.

At his first event in Pennsylvania, Mr. Bush saying that John Kerry is on the wrong side, wrong side of abortion and the wrong side of debates over gay marriage and gun control.


BUSH: If you voted against the bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act, which my predecessor signed, you are not the candidate of conservative values. If you consistently vote against the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment, as my opponent has, you are not the candidate of conservative values.

There is a clear difference of philosophy in this race. He is for expanding government. I am for expanding opportunity.


KING: The president also talking about the new unemployment data out today from the federal government, relatively modest job growth, 144,000 new jobs last month. But the president saying 200,000 new jobs over the past two months, the Bush campaign trying to cast this at least at the trend line in the right direction, even if the job growth is not as robust as they would like.

Mr. Bush saying the national unemployment rate down, 5.4 percent, down about a point from this time last summer. So (NO AUDIO) And as the Bush White House (NO AUDIO) at least a trend line will help the president as we get closer to election day, now just 60 days out, Judy, the campaign (NO AUDIO).

WOODRUFF: OK. Our apologies. It looks like we're having some difficult with audio with John King. We'll try to get that straightened out before the program is over.

John King, thank you very much, traveling with President Bush.

Well, John Kerry is targeting Ohio today with an eye toward job losses there. The senator took aim at a new report showing a jobs rebound last month, disputing the Bush camp's positive take on the numbers.

Kerry says that more jobs have been lost than gained during Bush's term, and the Democrat says he could do better.


KERRY: The president wants you to reelect him. For what? Losing jobs? Building the biggest deficit in American history, getting us into a war that you've spent $200 billion on, when he told you it would cost you $1 billion?


WOODRUFF: Kerry also continued to hit back at his Republican convention critics, saying he would not stand for attacks on his patriotism by a president, who in Kerry's words, misled America about the war in Iraq.

Well, we're going to continue with politics in just a moment. But first, let's check in once again on the path of Hurricane Frances. CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is at the CNN Weather Center.

Hi, Jacqui.


WOODRUFF: Jacqui, bringing us the very latest. Thank you.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is in one of the areas of the storm's path along the state's central east coast. He is standing by for us in Melbourne, Florida.

Hi, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER: 360": Hey, Judy. How's it going?

It's -- I'm actually in Melbourne Beach, which is a barrier island right off Melbourne. The winds here have already picked up significantly. Winds here have been clocked as high as 40 miles an hour.

As you can see, the surf behind me is already very high. It has been pounding now for several hours.

And the storm is more than -- still 24 hours away. There is no telling how to strong it is going to be by the time it actually gets here. Jacqui Jeras just said word is it is now picking up. That is the last things residents here in Florida wanted to hear.

Parts of 16 counties are now under mandatory evacuation, parts of five other Florida counties are under voluntary evacuation. The Red Cross says this is going to be their largest relief effort, their largest disaster response effort in their history to a natural disaster.

They've already set up more than 80 shelters. Last night, 21,000 Floridians spent the night in a shelter. Tonight, there's no telling how many people will be spending the nights in shelters. We're getting reports some shelters have already filled up. New ones are opening up in schools across this area.

People are being advised to stay off the roads. The roads are largely OK at this point. People have -- have sought safety in their local communities, and that is exactly what governor of Florida Jeb Bush has recommended people do, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Anderson, thank you very much. Of course, Anderson is going to have much more on his program, "ANDERSON COOPER: 360" tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern. Of course, Anderson got down there very quickly after last night's reporting on the last night of the Republican convention. He got down to Florida overnight. He's there to report today and into the weekend.

We're going to turn back to politics in just a moment. I will be talking with one of the top officials in the John Kerry team, his campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill.

Later, after a four-day convention and a city of eight million people, does Bill Schneider find just one "Political Play of the Week"?


WOODRUFF: I spoke during the last half hour with the chairman of the Bush/Cheney campaign. I am joined now by John Kerry's campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill.

Mary Beth Cahill, first of all, this new "TIME" magazine poll showing that George Bush has moved into an 11 point lead, higher than anything we've seen in this campaign.

What's your reaction?

MARY BETH CAHILL, KERRY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: My reaction to that, Judy, is that there are three polls that I know of out today, one of which has us even, one of which has the president two points ahead and then this.

I don't think we know yet what the real poll numbers are going to be, as we go forward, but I think that, you know, a bounce is a bounce. You go up and then you go down. And this race will go back to where it's been, even and with both campaigns fighting over the undecided voters.

WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk about this convention. Today, John Kerry has already hit back at the criticism that he said he received during the campaign.

Among other things he's talked about how dare they, in essence, challenge me on being commander in chief when Vice President Cheney didn't even serve at all in Vietnam?

Is this a line of attack that your campaign is going to continue to rely on?

CAHILL: You know, actually, I think it's a line of attack that we have been exposed to over the last six weeks or a month. And this is the first time that we've responded to it.

It's -- Obviously, John Kerry wants to talk about the future. He wants to talk about the economy. He wants to talk about healthcare. He wants to talk about keeping jobs in this country. But you know, the Bush/Cheney campaign and their allies want to talk about the past, and they want to talk about fitness for service. John Kerry takes a back seat to nobody in this country in his devotion to patriotism and leading this country.

WOODRUFF: You said he wants to talk about the economy. Let's talk about these new numbers out today.

The Bush campaign is saying 144,000 new jobs. They're saying 1.7 million new jobs added in the last year. The rate of unemployment is down, and they're saying President Bush's tax cuts are largely responsible for this.

CAHILL: You know, this is actually fewer jobs created this month than it is people coming to the work force. Once again, it's a net job loss for this president.

I think, you know, as -- with 60 days to go to the election, there's a scorecard on the Bush economic plan. And it's an "F."

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about one of the themes, Mary Beth Cahill, coming out of the Republican convention. And that is that John Kerry does not take consistent positions.

They not only criticized him, they ridiculed him. For example, New York governor, George Pataki, I just want to read you very briefly what he said last night in introducing President Bush, talking about John Kerry and the voting for and against the war.

He said, "He was for it, and he wouldn't fund it. He would fund it but he wasn't for it. He was for the Patriot Act until he was against it, or was he against it?" In sort of a singsong delivery.

Are you concerned that this is an impression setting in with voters or could set in, and if not, how do you turn it around?

CAHILL: I think, actually, that is that tactic on the part of the Bush/Cheney administration, because they don't want to talk about the real issues.

And they certainly don't want to talk about their own record: a net job loss, people unable to pay for their health care, people concerned about children's education, the real issues that affect people in America day-to-day in their lives.

I think that ridicule is something that they fall -- they fall to because they can't talk proactively about a positive agenda. John Kerry and John Edwards can, and that's what they'll do from now until election day.

WOODRUFF: So when Vice President Cheney himself says that John Kerry's liveliest disagreement, he said, is with himself, and he talks about a habit of indecision, I mean, these are very tough charges. And again, if that "TIME" magazine poll, you know, holds up, some of this must be taking hold on the public. CAHILL: Well, as I said previously, there are two other polls that I know out today that disagreed violently with this poll. We'll see what happens. We've heard that, you know, there are problems inside of this poll.

But regardless, this election is about the future. And the thing is, voters think that elections are about them and about their choices, not about what a vice president might charge in a convention.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Mary Beth Cahill, the reports this week of possible staff changes in the Kerry campaign. You're staying where you are?

CAHILL: I'm staying where I am, happily stay writing I am.

WOODRUFF: All right. Mary Beth Cahill, manager for the John Kerry campaign. Thanks very much. It's good to see you.

CAHILL: Thank you very much. Bye-bye.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Well, like Bush and Kerry, the two presidential running mates are fanning out to the various battleground states today. Democrat John Edwards is in Wisconsin, where he held a rally in Green Bay just a few hours ago. He plans to tour the state by bus all weekend.

Also today, Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, released their federal income information. Between 1994 and 2003, the couple made -- paid more than $13 million in federal taxes, or about 35 percent of their total income during that period.

Dick Cheney headed straight for the West Coast after the GOP convention ended. Cheney attended a rally in Pendleton, Oregon, a short while ago. He has an event scheduled in Las Vegas later this evening.

Whenever there's a big show in town, New Yorkers breathlessly await the critics' reviews. Well, Bill Schneider is ready to single out the week's best performance, when INSIDE POLITICS returns.


WOODRUFF: Over the years, Madison Square Garden has been the site of many spectacular sports plays, but Bill Schneider says it was an even bigger stage for this week's most memorable initial political performance -- Bill.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. The reviews are coming in: great performance, exceeded all expectations. The president? No. The winner of this week's "Political Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): To many New Yorkers, it looked like the war of the worlds, alien invasion, the red world invading the blue. Republicans in New York, a city where they say even the Republicans are Democrats.

Critics predicted catastrophe, like Chicago, 1968. But the critics forgot something. New Yorkers know how to deal with problems, including monstrous tragedies. The convention was a major test of the city's post 9/11 security system. How did it do?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK CITY: And I'm proud to say by any standard we passed this one with flying colors.

SCHNEIDER: The protesters had their say in true New York style. The protests were loud but overwhelmingly orderly. They made their point without handing the Republicans a campaign issue.

RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: The organizers for United for Peace and Justice should be commended for keeping their word. They pledged that the demonstrators would follow the march route and that's exactly what happened.

SCHNEIDER: During the July Democratic convention terrified Bostonians abandoned their city. But New Yorkers disrupt their routine? Forgot about it.

President Bush made exactly the point he intended to make by bringing Republicans to New York.

BUSH: My fellow Americans, for as long as our country stands, people will look to the resurrection of New York City, and they will say, here buildings fell; here a nation rose.

SCHNEIDER: And New York City made exactly the point it wanted to make, too.

BLOOMBERG: The convention will reinforce -- reinforce public confidence in our capacity to handle big events.

SCHNEIDER: Especially with the "Political Play of the Week" in hand.


SCHNEIDER: Now, New York is making a bid to host the 2012 Olympics, and for both political parties to hold their conventions here in New York next time.

You got a problem with that?

WOODRUFF: Maybe both parties will hold their convention in New York the next time.

SCHNEIDER: That's what they're bidding for. Mayor Bloomberg told me that.

WOODRUFF: It may happen. We'll be the first to report it. Bill Schneider, thanks very much. And we have a little bit of news to tell you, and that is we've just learned, our CNN's John King reporting to us that President Bush from Air Force One, on his way to Iowa, has placed a phone call to Bill Clinton at the hospital in New York, Presbyterian Hospital here in New York, with President Clinton, awaiting bypass surgery for what apparently is a heart condition, the president passing on his best wishes, saying the president is in his prayers.

We'll be right back.




WOODRUFF: ... the polls is -- She said there may be problems with that poll. There's another poll out today that has them even. I don't know what it is.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. You picked up on our conversation.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff; have a great weekend. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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