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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
President Bush Addresses United Nations; New Polls Raising Red Flags For Kerry Campaign?; Interview With Ambassador John Danforth; Presidential Showdowns; John Kerry on the Talk Show Circuit; Evangelical Christians and Election 2004
Aired September 21, 2004 - 15:10 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The proper response to difficulty is not to retreat. It is to prevail.
ANNOUNCER: President Bush takes his decision to invade Iraq to the place his journey began, the United Nations.
The blue state battlegrounds. Do new polls raise red flags for the Kerry camp?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say, well, I don't believe Jesus would vote. I believe he would.
ANNOUNCER: Politics in the pews, how evangelical Christians are doing more than pray for their presidential candidate.
John Kerry on the talk show circuit. Can he lighten up his image with a little help from Dave and Regis?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REGIS & KELLY")
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to have three debates. The big hangup was, George Bush wanted to get a lifeline system, so that he could call somebody during the...
KELLY RIPA, CO-HOST: Wow. Where did he get that idea?
REGIS PHILBIN, CO-HOST: Well, he's on top of things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
President Bush is in the midst of back-to-back meetings with world leaders in New York. The one-on-one sessions come after his address to the United Nations General Assembly this morning, a not entirely friendly audience for Bush, due in large part to the situation in Iraq. We begin with our White House correspondent Dana Bash. She's also in New York.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.
And that address obviously was to the United Nations. He was on the world stage. But the president was very much also speaking to a domestic audience now, talking about the fact that, very briefly in this address, that he still thinks it was the right thing to do, as different from certainly what you just heard Senator Kerry say, to go to war in Iraq despite the fact that he didn't necessarily have a final blessing from the United Nations.
But he mostly broadly talked about the idea that right now the world leaders and the American people really need to look back and realize that just two years ago Mr. Bush did come before them, start to make the case for toppling Saddam Hussein, and now just two years later there is a democracy not only in Iraq, but Afghanistan. Time and time again during this address he linked those two countries.
That is also something that has spurred some criticism from Democrats. That is something that he subtly tries to do, they say, link Iraq and the war against terrorism. Now, the president also in some -- an allusion to what Senator Kerry, the Bush campaign thinks, is trying to do, says that he is simply not going to retreat from Iraq and did in a very, very brief statement again ask world leaders to contribute as much as possible to the situation in Iraq and made it clear that he does not -- that he does think that things are going to get bad.
But he says this is all what happens when you try to put a democracy in place. Now, this is at the United Nations. This is his major speech.
He also took some questions, Judy. Maybe it's something in the water on the campaign trail today. Mr. Bush did take only a handful of questions, three, not like the expansive press conference you just heard from Senator Kerry. But it's the first time he did so in about a month. And Mr. Bush was sitting with the interim Iraqi prime minister when he took some questions.
And he was asked about some criticism from within his own party, some Republican senators who said that perhaps his Iraq policy wasn't the right -- going the right way and that he wasn't fessing up to the situation on the ground. The president was not asked about this situation in terms of the election, but that's the way he framed his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Those senators you quoted strongly want me elected as president. We agree that the world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell. And that stands in stark contrast to the statement my opponent made yesterday, when he said that the world was better off with Saddam in power. I strongly disagree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, you heard the president clearly not on the campaign trail, but going after his opponent just six weeks before the election.
Now, you just heard earlier from Senator Kerry talking about the fact that the president got an intelligence report over the summer saying that best-case scenario there would be instability in Iraq politically and economically. Worst case, there would be a civil war. Mr. Bush was asked about that, whether or not he's sugarcoating perhaps what he says to the American people. Here's what he had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The CIA laid out several scenarios. They said life could be lousy, life could be OK, life could be better. And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, when asked whether or not that means that he simply doesn't necessarily agree with the intelligence he's getting from his own agencies, Mr. Bush didn't answer.
Clearly, what the president was trying to do with his words, with the pictures today, the symbolism of having the Iraqi interim prime minister there, is to show, look, it's not Saddam Hussein anymore. It's somebody who really believes in democracy. And if John Kerry were in charge, Saddam Hussein would still be there -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Dana Bash, following the president in New York City -- thank you, Dana.
Well, John Kerry, as we've just been hearing, continued today to press his attack on the president's Iraq policy, even as he turns his attention to health care and the showdown state of Florida. As you did see live on CNN, Kerry held a news conference a short time ago in Jacksonville.
CNN's Bob Franken is there -- Bob.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he was fully aware that he would be stepping on the health care message, aware.
And advisers told me that the reason to hold this news conference now, because they knew it would be such an attention-getter on a day when President Bush was on the world stage. They said they wanted to keep Iraq out front as an issue, not just talk about health care, but they wanted to talk about Iraq. And this came after the president had remarked in New York that John Kerry -- quote -- "does not have credibility," has hardly any credibility at all when it comes to Iraq.
Well, John Kerry was ready to say it's the president who doesn't have credibility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: ... needs to live in the world of reality, not in a world of fantasy spin. At the United Nations today, the president failed to level with the world's leaders.
Moments after Kofi Annan, the secretary-general, talked about the difficulties in Iraq, the president of the United States stood before a stony-faced body and barely talked about the realities at all of Iraq. After lecturing them, instead of leading them, to understand how we are all together with a stake in the outcome of Iraq, I believe the president missed an opportunity of enormous importance for our nation and for the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: And what about the polls, he was asked, Senator Kerry was asked, that so -- that the president is given higher marks on handling Iraq and on questions of leadership than John Kerry. Kerry said the polls don't mean anything. Well, in six weeks, Judy, they certainly will -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: That's right. But, as we always remind our audience, they are only snapshots of the moment when they are taken.
Bob Franken, thanks very much.
The Kerry campaign also is hitting Bush on health care in new TV ads which accuse the president of favoring special interests over ordinary Americans. The spots began airing this week in battleground states.
President Bush holds a slight edge over Senator Kerry in two national polls out today. Bush leads Kerry by three points in the Investors Business Daily survey of likely voters. Bush is four points ahead among likely voters nationwide in the George Washington University Battleground Poll. Do these latest state polls jibe with those numbers? Well, we'll discuss a flurry of blue state battleground polls ahead.
Checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily," Vice President Dick Cheney is on the road in the Upper Midwest, where he had stops today in Ohio and Michigan. Cheney made some critical comments about John Kerry's speech yesterday on the U.S. policy in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yesterday, John Kerry gave us what I think is his ninth position on the war in Iraq. He attacked the progress we're making and the policies we've implemented. Yet, despite all the harsh rhetoric, Senator Kerry endorsed many of the same goals President Bush has been pursuing in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Senator John Edwards started his day in Ohio as well and later tonight links up with John Kerry at a rally in Orlando. Edwards told CNN's Lou Dobbs earlier today that Bush White House policies have hurt the U.S. at home and abroad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to make certain that when voters go to the poll in November that they know we have a president who's cost them millions of jobs, millions of people their health care, put millions of people into poverty. The typical family's income is down, not up, on top of the mess we have in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, new developments in Ralph Nader's battle to get his name on as many November ballots as possible. Nader was added to Maryland's ballot late yesterday, but he was ruled ineligible in the swing states of Arkansas and New Mexico.
Today, Nader said he plans to attend the first presidential debate. He said he's already asked for tickets. Nader also said liberal Democrats trying to block his candidacy are hurting their own cause.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anybody but Bush. Leave Kerry alone. Don't make any demands on him. The more that is done in the remaining weeks of the campaign, the more they will ensure John Kerry's defeat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: A reminder: Ralph Nader and John Edwards will be among the guests on CNN's "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." That's coming up at 6:00 Eastern, 3:00 Pacific.
Well, here's something you don't see every day, a Senate Republican who says he may not vote for George Bush. Up next, I'll ask Senator Lincoln Chafee why the president has not won him over.
Also ahead, a presidential ally internationally. I'll talk with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth.
And the state of the Bush-Kerry race in some important battlegrounds.
With 42 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island has the distinction of being the only Republican senator to vote against the resolution giving President Bush the green light to invade Iraq. That was back in 2002.
But Iraq is only one of several issues on which the moderate lawmaker has sharply differed with Mr. Bush. As we reported yesterday, Senator Chafee now saying he may not vote for Bush in November. The senator joins us from Capitol Hill.
Senator, you are a Republican. How could you possibly consider not -- voting against your Republican president?
SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE (R), RHODE ISLAND: Well, I spent all weekend working with Rhode Island Republicans, working with our governor, Governor Carcieri, and local Republican candidates.
But it's no secret that I have big differences with the president on a host of issues, whether it's the environment, the war in Iraq, women's reproductive freedoms. And, like all Americans, I'll be really looking at this war and what happens over the next number of weeks.
WOODRUFF: What in your mind has the president done or not done that you have a problem with?
CHAFEE: Well, I don't want to really flail away.
President Reagan's 11th commandment, we have to somewhat adhere to that, about criticizing a president. But I'm also an American, and I am concerned about what is happening in Iraq. And what I do want is just honest, direct answers. The administration says anyone that questions their policies in Iraq are pessimist hand-wringers. But we don't want to be pessimists or optimists. We want to be realists.
And it's up to us to make some good decisions, but we want to make them on really good information, honest information.
WOODRUFF: Well, what are some questions that you want the president to answer?
CHAFEE: What is the status in Iraq and where are we going and why are we there? And it's pretty simple. And certainly I think all Americans want good answers to those questions.
WOODRUFF: But are you not able to determine the status just by frankly reading the news and watching news on television? I mean, what more do you want to know about what's going on?
CHAFEE: Well, we get a CIA report that's classified that somehow gets out that says the best-case scenario is a status quo in which we slowly get bled to death and a worst-case scenario is chaos and civil war. Is that the truth?
And we're going to have a briefing from some military people tomorrow. And certainly, as member of the Foreign Relations, every hearing we have, the situation is deteriorating. And let's be honest and direct about it, and then we can make some good decisions. WOODRUFF: But in terms of what the United States is doing there, the president has said time and again the United States is building a democracy in that part of the world, helping the Iraqis toward freedom.
CHAFEE: I guess the big question, have the Iraqi people turned against us? And, certainly, we're getting some evidence of that, that, as the saying goes, that we're turning into, instead of liberators occupiers. And that has a negative cast.
And the average Iraqi is turning against us. They don't have the services they had even before the war under Saddam Hussein. And what they want, what they're looking for is, No. 1, security, and No. 2, services. And they don't have either.
WOODRUFF: And the other question you asked is, what are we doing -- or where are we going in Iraq? Do you mean how long is the U.S. going to stay there? Is that the question?
CHAFEE: Well, since the premise of weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction, proved not to be accurate, the real reason we're there was said a grand plan to remake the Middle East.
And where are we going now? Does that mean that we're going to have to engage in Iran, engage with the Syrians? Certainly, we hear some of that type of talk. The reason we're not doing well in Iraq is because of the situation with the Iranians and the Syrians. Let's hear the honest truth about that. Where are we going in those two relationships?
WOODRUFF: Senator, so, if you might not vote for the president, might you vote for John Kerry?
CHAFEE: As I said, like all Americans, I'm looking at where we go in this war. I'm a good Rhode Island Republican. I'm supporting the party in Rhode Island, our local candidates that are running for office.
WOODRUFF: But you're not ruling out a vote for John Kerry?
CHAFEE: I have said that I'm voting Republican. That's what I have said.
WOODRUFF: So leaving it blank perhaps?
CHAFEE: Well, I've said in my local paper there's always the option of writing in -- even possibly the president's father. I think President Bush I is the type of internationalist that many of us support.
WOODRUFF: Well, the message is coming through loud and clear. Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, thank you very much.
CHAFEE: You're welcome, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We'll talk to you again through this campaign. We appreciate it.
WOODRUFF: Well, this president, President Bush, George W. Bush, goes before the world, world leaders, and defends his decision to topple Saddam Hussein.
Coming up next, we'll speak with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
WOODRUFF: President Bush goes before the United Nations and tells world leaders the U.S. will not abandon Iraq and Afghanistan.
And John Kerry goes before reporters on the campaign trail in Florida, continuing his tougher stance on Bush's Iraq policy.
Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.
Well, President Bush did cover a wide range of issues this morning, including Iraq, in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly. With me now to talk about what the president said and current policies, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth.
Ambassador Danforth, we appreciate your being with us.
JOHN DANFORTH, U.S. AMB. TO UNITED NATIONS: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Before I turn to what the president said, we just heard from a Republican senator, John -- I'm sorry, Lincoln Chafee, from the state of Rhode Island. You know his father. I believe you served in the Senate with him.
He's saying he may not, may not vote for President Bush because of his concerns about the war in Iraq. He says he wants to know what the true situation is on the ground and where the U.S. is going. What would you say to him?
DANFORTH: Well, I'd say that the United States did what it absolutely had to do, and that is to enforce the rule of law, along with other coalition partners who saw the prospect of numerous Security Council resolutions being ignored by the then government of Iraq. We felt that we had no option, that if the situation is unsettled now in Iraq it would have been much worse had Saddam Hussein remained in power.
It is clear that he was seeking weapons of mass destruction. He'd used them in the past.
He was a renegade leader of his country, oppressing his own people and thumbing his nose at the Security Council. And it was an intolerable situation. Now, has it been difficult to deal with it? Of course, it has been. But can we back away now? In my view, absolutely not.
WOODRUFF: Well, it's not only Senator Chafee. Of course it's John Kerry, who is arguing that the president is not leveling with the American people now. He's not arguing the U.S. should cut and run, but he's saying the president should be working harder to get help for the troops, for Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi police, that the U.S. should be doing more to bring in the international community to help share this burden.
DANFORTH: Let me say that I'm in a position now where I am -- I am not supposed to be political. Obviously I was in my background. But the permanent representative of the United Nations is really not a partisan position. And I'm trying not to be.
But let me tell you what we're -- what we are attempting to do here at the United Nations. We being particularly the British and the United States.
We are trying to make sure that the election in Iraq gets carried off on time. We're trying to make sure that there is a substantial United Nations presence in Iraq in connection with that election, and in connection with the other things that the U.N. does.
We are trained to make sure that the world provides the security for the U.N. presence, to make sure that that presence can be substantial. So we are working tirelessly here to try to get the rest of the world involved in the responsibility of Iraq.
We think that a sound, strong, democratic Iraq, in control of its own future, is in the best interest of the Iraqi people and in the best interest of world security. And that is the policy of the United States, and we're pursuing that in a very, very energetic fashion here in the United Nations.
WOODRUFF: But do you feel you are on track to winning the support or winning back the support of the international community, when you have the U.N. secretary-general just a few days ago saying that the U.S. went to war, that it was illegal because it was done without the support of the U.N. Security Council, and what he said today in chastising the U.S. about the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib?
DANFORTH: You know, I think that that is really an overstatement and exaggeration of the secretary-general's speech. I don't think that we took it that way at all. He certainly spoke of the rule of law in a very, very broad context.
Now, as to the future of Iraq, if the United States did cut and run, that would be a disaster. It would be chaos. It would be just the worst possible result, and it would mean that the people who have -- who have been there and been wounded there and died there would have done so in vain. We absolutely cannot do that.
Do we wan the rest of the world to participate? Yes. In fact, we did when we went to the Security Council a year ago last March and asked for support. We were unable to get a resolution passed at that time. But it clearly wasn't for trying to get international support.
Now, the question for the world community is, beyond passing resolutions and beyond making public statements, does the world have the will to see it through on behalf of security and on behalf of human rights and democracy? That's a very major question right now.
WOODRUFF: Well, we are going to have to leave it there with a question, and of course many more questions. I hope we have a chance to talk with you again before very long.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth.
Thank you very much.
DANFORTH: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: It's good to see you. We appreciate it.
DANFORTH: Thanks. OK. Thank you.
WOODRUFF: And now we turn to the latest polls in what we call the showdown states. A new survey of likely voters in Ohio shows President Bush with an 11-point lead over Senator Kerry in the Buckeye State, which Bush won four years ago. And the Kerry camp may see red flags in a flurry of new polls from blue states that the Democrats carried in 2000.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): Perhaps the most eye-popping poll comes from New Jersey, which one's was considered safe ground for John Kerry. But look at this.
A new Quinnipiac poll of likely voters shows a dead heat, 48 percent to 48 percent, suggesting New Jersey is a battleground after all. Among remgsed voters in the Garden State, Kerry leads, but just barely.
In Iowa, where Kerry's campaign came back to life during the primary season, the senator now trails President Bush by six points in our new CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll of likely voters. Mason-Dixon's new Iowa poll also gives Bush a six-point lead. Back in late August, Kerry had a six-point lead over Bush in a CNN poll of likely Iowa voters.
Bush holds a narrow lead over Kerry in two other states that went to the Democrats in 2000, New Mexico and Wisconsin. On to Oregon, where a Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters puts the state in Bush's column. But a new Research 2000 Survey shows Kerry with a seven-point lead.
Democrats may find comfort in two other big blue states. A Mason-Dixon poll shows Kerry a point ahead of Bush in the fiercely contested state of Pennsylvania. Two other recent polls showed Bush with a narrow lead among likely voters in the Keystone State.
And in Michigan, two new polls of likely voters show Kerry still in the lead by six points in one survey and by four points in the other. A
WOODRUFF: A close-up look at the showdown over those swing states.
Up next, I'll talk with three reporters from three battlegrounds to see if Bush or Kerry has the edge.
Talk show politics from Letterman to Regis, why modern candidates feel the need to hit the talk show circuit.
And later, a new poll gauges Minnesota's support for radio host Al Franken's potential Senate bid.
WOODRUFF: Well, three reporters are with me now to talk about the battle for votes in three presidential battleground states. Dick Polman of "The Philadelphia Inquirer" keeps watch over politics in Pennsylvania. David Yepsen, long-time reporter for Iowa's "Des Moines Register," and Craig Gilbert of the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he's with me here in Washington.
Dick Polman, let's start with you on Pennsylvania. We know that Al Gore won Pennsylvania by four points back in 2000. Right now, John Kerry's barely got a one-point lead in the latest poll.
What are you hearing? What are you feeling?
DICK POLMAN, "PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER": Well, I think what's happening there is I think the security issue is hurting Kerry. There's two parts of the state which are significant here, northeastern Pennsylvania and southwestern Pennsylvania, around Pittsburgh, where you have basically a lot of voters who -- middle class, working class. They should be with the Democrats, at least on economic issues.
But the problem is right now the security issues are crowding those out. And Kerry has a real deficit in that. And maybe it's partly because of what happened in August with the Swift Boats and things like that. But that's where he needs to make up ground.
It's much too close in Pennsylvania for comfort. If he loses here, I don't know how he wins.
WOODRUFF: Very quick, Dick, what do you mean by security? Are you talking Iraq? What do you mean exactly?
POLMAN: Well, the whole notion of trusting who's better on the war on terrorism and who do -- and who's better on handling Iraq and conducting the war in Iraq and postwar in Iraq. There should be ample ground there for Kerry to make a case, but he hasn't made it so far.
WOODRUFF: All right.
David Yepsen, Iowa? We know Gore won by just a fraction of a vote in 2000. Right now, Bush ahead of Kerry by several points. What is it looking like you to?
DAVID YEPSEN, "DES MOINES REGISTER": Yes, I think your poll is a very good one...
WOODRUFF: Of course, again, two polls, but one of them has Bush ahead of Kerry. That's right.
YEPSEN: Well, most -- all polls recently in Iowa have shown Bush opening up a lead. I think Bush is starting to break this thing open here. And Kerry has got to move pretty quickly to fix it.
It's a lot of things, Judy. Kerry has not been here. Bush has.
I think the same thing's happening here that Dick mentioned out East, that the security issues, terrorism and Iraq, Kerry just has not been proficient on those. And I think those have an impact here.
But one thing that's going on here, Judy, I think the economy is getting better, and I think he -- Bush is doing better with rural voters generally. A group called the Center for Rural Strategies, which studies rural voters in America, is finding that Bush has opened up a new lead.
He's got a 12-point lead among rural voters. A month ago it was nine. Bush carried those voters by 20-some points in the last election. So he needs to do well.
He's starting to do better among these voters. And I think that explains a lot of what's happening in rural America. He's just -- Bush is just a better cultural fit, Judy, with a lot of voters in rural America than is John Kerry.
WOODRUFF: All right.
Craig Gilbert, let's talk about Wisconsin. Here's another state that Al Gore won. It was very close, but Al Gore came out ahead of George Bush in 2000.
Right now, Bush is ahead by two points. What's happening in Wisconsin?
CRAIG GILBERT, "MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL": Well, I think if the election were held today, Bush would probably win Wisconsin. And I think it's -- Democrats know they have a struggle on their hands. It's no accident that Senator Kerry is going to be in the state Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday preparing for next week's debate.
You know, I would echo what the other guys have said. I think on the subject of rural voters, I mean, one key there is in these states in the upper Midwest Democrats have actually been pretty competitive with rural voters in the past. And that's allowed them to carry these states. And so it's troubling to them to lose that advantage among rural voters, because if they lose that advantage they're in danger of losing the upper Midwest.
WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to take a short break, but I'm going to come back with all three of you, Dick Polman, David Yepsen, Craig Gilbert, all three of you. So just stay with us, and we will be right back.
WOODRUFF: More now on the White House race in three showdown states. I'm joined once again by reporters Dick Polman of "The Philadelphia Inquirer"; David Yepsen of the "Des Moines Register"; and Craig Gilbert of the "Milwaukee Sentinel Journal." Three states again that Al Gore won in 2000, but three states where John Kerry is slipping in the polls.
Back to you again, Dick Polman. In Pennsylvania you said a minute ago it's security issues, it's -- it's how George Bush and John Kerry played it in August. What do you hear from voters? You have a chance to talk to them. What do they say in terms of what they want to hear from these candidates?
POLMAN: Well, here's -- here's something I can share with you, because just this morning I was with a group of suburban voters in Montgomery County, next to Philadelphia. And mostly Democratic voters, I have to say.
But what was interesting about them was that they are very, very upset with the Kerry campaign. Frustrated, I should say, that he has not been able to articulate a message, a clear, resonant, repeatable, simple, memorable message that has traction, particularly on Iraq. Which, as you know, is beset by all kinds of postwar problems which the senator addressed yesterday for the first time. And what these voters are basically saying is they would like to see him -- that he made a good start, but that he needs to talk again about the reality on the ground in Iraq every single day from here on in, which is I think what the -- what the campaign is starting to do.
WOODRUFF: David Yepsen, do you hear that in Iowa? And if you do, is John Kerry starting to do that with yesterday's speech, today's news conference? What do you think?
YEPSEN: Well, he's got to try. I mean, clearly, he's got to break the psychology now that's set in on him.
I mean, the Pew poll, for example, recently showed that voters -- more people were starting to expect Bush was going to win. That starts to create a momentum. Democrats get discouraged.
When that happens, marginal voters that Democrats are working so hard in this state to try to find, start to flake off. It's just -- you know, a good organization, which the Democrats have in this state, is worth a couple points. But it can't make up six, seven, eight points.
And so I think -- I think John Kerry has got a real task here in terms of breaking the psychology and trying to get some enthusiasm. He's got a chance in the debates. And I don't think any of us would make any firm predictions about how our states are going to go at this juncture, because those debates will be huge. But the focus of the campaign has just shifted, Judy.
It's all terrorism. It's all Iraq.
I think one thing that I saw that just changed minds out here was when the Chechen terrorists killed those Russian school children. It's the same day many people were sending their own kids back to school.
That was not lost on a lot of people. And I think that's one reason the president picked up, particularly among women voters.
WOODRUFF: Craig Gilbert, what about in Wisconsin? The voters you talk to, your colleagues talking to voters, are they saying some of the same things?
GILBERT: I hear some of that. I think -- I think, you know, one thing -- David mentioned this earlier about the economy. In the upper Midwest, the jobs have come back faster than most other battleground states. Wisconsin actually has added more manufacturing jobs this year than I think any other state, or certainly any other battleground state. So that tends to neutralize that issue for Senator Kerry.
I think he does have an opportunity, given how things are going in Iraq, if he can kind of clean up and clarify his message on that front. But, you know, the thing about the upper Midwest is these states were always potential minefields for him because they were so close in 2000, they're so -- they track so closely with the national numbers that if Bush is up nationally he's in the driver's seat in places like Wisconsin and Iowa.
WOODRUFF: All right. We've only got about a minute or so, but let me come back through all three of you.
Dick Polman in Pennsylvania, what is it that John Kerry needs to do to break through? Conversely, what does George Bush need to do to hang on to the momentum that he's built?
POLMAN: Senator Kerry needs more than anything else to argue that the president is too -- well, too reckless, basically, in foreign policy and not paying attention to the facts on the ground in Iraq. And that is a credibility issue. In effect, a character issue.
And he has to basically turn that around and focus that on Bush. I mean, it's -- this -- he has to make this election a referendum on Bush and not a referendum on himself.
WOODRUFF: David Yepsen, what does John Kerry need to do? What does President Bush need to do? YEPSEN: I think John Kerry has got to make a clearer case for what he would do with Iraq right now. Until he does that, he doesn't get a chance to talk about the economy.
WOODRUFF: And he has started to do that. And we'll see whether it has any -- whether it gets through to voters.
Finally, Craig Gilbert, what about from a Wisconsin perspective?
GILBERT: Well, I would agree with that. I think he's got to shift the focus back to the president to -- I mean, the economy's doing better in Wisconsin right now, but the state also took a big hit earlier.
I think he's got to shift the focus back to the way things have gone, and also the way things are going in Iraq. And do a better job of making -- of making his critique about Iraq, which has been muddled so far.
WOODRUFF: All right. Craig Gilbert with the "Milwaukee Sentinel Journal." David Yepsen of the "Des Moines Register." And Dick Polman of the "Philadelphia Inquirer." We appreciate all three of you, and I hope we get to talk to you again very soon in this campaign. Thank you.
YEPSEN: Thank you, Judy.
POLMAN: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Well, getting now to what some call the real issue in the campaign, is that what Bush and Kerry are finally doing? Bill Schneider is just ahead with his answer based on the candidates' latest speeches.
Also, what the GOP is doing to try to turn out evangelical voters.
And the talk show circuit. We'll tell you which candidate is making the rounds.
ANNOUNCER: Two very different views on Iraq.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since the last meeting of this General Assembly, the people of Iraq have regained sovereignty.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions. And if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight.
ANNOUNCER: They sound worlds apart. But when it comes to their positions, are George Bush and John Kerry closer than they appear?
From the United Nations to the Sunshine State, with six weeks until Election Day, we've got the campaign trail covered.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back.
George W. Bush and John Kerry trading jabs over Iraq again today. The senator came out swinging in Florida, while the president delivered his punches from the United Nations.
Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, is with President Bush in New York City.
Hello again, Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi again, Judy.
You know, in most campaigns, in most presidential campaigns, the ability to give this kind of speech on this kind of world stage forum is really considered one of the benefits of incumbency. But it goes without saying that the president's relationship with the United Nations is to say the least complicated because of the war in Iraq and the fact that Mr. Bush went to war without final approval from the United Nations is what's really the crux of Senator John Kerry's criticism of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy, what he calls his "go it alone policy" and Senator Kerry says he's now paying the price for going to war without the United Nations.
Now the president did not dwell on that at all when he spoke today. He gave really what was essentially a lofty speech about the fact that what you're seeing now is democracy starting to take hold in Iraq, and that is something he said the world leaders listening to his speech must take into account, and they cannot turn their back on, no matter how difficult things are on the ground, and he did briefly acknowledge things that things are difficult, but said that he simply won't retreat.
Now one of the symbols of Mr. Bush's argument is the interim Iraqi prime minister. He's here in New York and Mr. Bush had a meeting with him, a one-on-one meeting with him and perhaps to demonstrate some of the democratic ideals that perhaps some of the people that travel with Mr. Bush haven't seen in a while. He actually took some questions from three reporters, something he hasn't done in about a month on some issues, and he wasn't asked specifically about his opponent John Kerry, but when he was asked about Iraq, took the opportunity to take a stab at him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I believe we'll have a free society in Iraq, and I know that a free society in Iraq makes America safer, and the world better off. My opponent has taken so many different positions on Iraq that his statements are hardly credible at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, one of the other criticisms from Senator Kerry is on the campaign trail, President Bush does not give what he thinks should be a proper assessment, a realistic assessment of the violence that is going on on the ground in Iraq, particularly because he's gotten an intelligence report over the summer that says that things do seem to be quite dire.
Now Mr. Bush, in the face of a beheading yesterday, and this obviously was before the reports of another beheading today, said that he understands what people are seeing on their television screens is quite violent, but again he says what's important to remember is that the Iraqis are doing what it takes to fulfill their Democratic ideals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The American people have seen horrible scenes on our TV screens and the prime minister will be able to say to them that in spite of the sacrifices being made, in spite of the fact that Iraqis are dying and U.S. troops are dying as well, that there is a will amongst the Iraqi people to succeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, the president was also asked about some criticism from within his own parties, Republican senators, who say that his Iraq policy simply needs some help, essentially, and the president said that those senators perhaps have criticism, but they still support his candidacy, and that, Judy, is the crux of the Bush campaign's argument when talking about the Iraq issue that even those who disagree with him, even those who criticize from within their own party still think he is the better person to deal with the situation on the ground in Iraq and John Kerry -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: OK. Dana Bash reporting on President Bush. Now we turn to Senator Kerry who is in Florida trying to get more mileage today out of his newly sharpened critique of Bush on Iraq. CNN's Bob Franken is traveling with Kerry and covered his news conference in Jacksonville.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What was the candidate to do when his opponent, the president, dominating the world stage at the United Nations. The main subject, Iraq. How could John Kerry keep the attention on his point of view on Iraq. His advisers suggested he do something he hadn't done for a while and that was hold a news conference using that to reclaim part of the stage.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the president missed an opportunity of enormous importance for our nation and for the world. He does not have the credibility to... FRANKEN: That a response by Senator Kerry to comments by President Bush at the United Nations who said that Kerry has, quote, "hardly any credibility at all when it comes to Iraq." Kerry is trying to keep the issue over Iraq and credibility on the front-burner even to the point of overshadowing another hugely important issue to the voters, health care.
Bob Franken, CNN, Jacksonville, Florida.
WOODRUFF: Well, as Kerry and Bush go after one another on Iraq, our Bill Schneider has been listening closely and trying to find the bottom line.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): After all the controversies over Swift Boats and National Guard records, we are finally getting to the real issue in this campaign.
KERRY: We must have a great and honest debate on Iraq.
SCHNEIDER: ...is not going well in Iraq. John Kerry is arguing to change the course.
KERRY: If we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight.
SCHNEIDER: President Bush argues that in the face of difficulty, the United States must stay the course.
BUSH: The proper response to difficulty is not to retreat, it is to prevail.
SCHNEIDER: Kerry wants to maximize his differences with President Bush on the war.
KERRY: We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.
SCHNEIDER: Bush scoffs at that notion.
BUSH: It's hard to imagine a candidate running for president prefers the stability of a dictatorship to the hope and security of democracy.
SCHNEIDER: But the prospects for democracy in Iraq look shaky. Kerry's response to the difficulties in Iraq is to offer a new course, one with more support from other countries.
KERRY: The president should convene a summit meeting of the world's major powers and the Iraqi's neighbors this week in New York.
SCHNEIDER: President Bush's response? That's what I'm doing at the U.N. BUSH: The U.N. and its member-nations must respond to Prime Minister's Allawi's request and do more to help build an Iraq that is secure, democratic, federal, and free.
SCHNEIDER: Kerry also proposed the timetable for bringing U.S. troops home. President Bush called that unwise.
BUSH: If we pull out of there early Iraq will become even more dangerous.
SCHNEIDER: Bush wants to minimize his differences with Kerry on Iraq.
BUSH: My opponent has now suddenly settled on a proposal for what to do next, and it's exactly what we're currently doing.
SCHNEIDER: Kerry's answer? What they're currently doing is not working. I would do it differently.
KERRY: It is not a question of staying the course, but of changing the course.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): As events take a turn for the worse in Iraq, more and more Americans are likely to question what the Bush administration is doing there, and vote for something different even if they're not entirely sure what that is -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: So are you saying John Kerry still has some work to do in terms of explaining to the American people what he would do differently?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I think he's started out doing that very well. He's laid out a path that he regards as a maximum difference from President Bush but the fact is the differences are mostly differences of doing them better, not doing something radically different.
WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
In the Bush vs. Kerry battle, many evangelical Christians are enlisting for duty. Up next, we'll visit a church where would-be voters are being encouraged to do what Jesus would do.
Plus, John Kerry joins the ranks of politicians who turn TV chat fests into campaign forums.
And later a new poll tells us whether Minnesotans think an Al Franken for Senate campaign would be a joke.
WOODRUFF: It has been said that religion and politics mix like fire and gasoline, but the Republican party sees that often explosive mixture as a fertile source of voter support on Election Day, especially when it comes to evangelical Christians. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
PASTOR DAVE LANDIS, WORD OF GRACE MINISTRIES: You say I don't believe Jesus would vote, well I believe he would.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): Last Sunday, Pastor Dave Landis preached an unusual sermon that was more secular than sacred.
LANDIS: We need to make sure Godly men are appointed in positions. As Christians, it's our responsibility.
WOODRUFF: And with that in mind...
LANDIS: This is voter registration Sunday. You say what is that? Well, we as pastors in the area went to a meeting here about two months ago where...
WOODRUFF: ... a meeting convened by Let Freedom Ring, a socially conservative group working to organize ministers in key campaign battlegrounds. The goal: to register churchgoers and get them to vote.
LANDIS: They told us that one out of four Christians voted in the last election.
WOODRUFF: The statistic troubled Pastor Landis, so much so that last Sunday, in front of his Word of Grace Ministries, he placed a sign with a very secular message.
For George W. Bush, evangelical churches like Word of Grace are political gold mines. Polls have shown that two thirds of people who attend church more than once a week vote Republican.
But in the last election, four million people who identified themselves as Christian and conservative stayed home. So, the president's campaign has urged supporters to distribute voter materials in churches across the country, including 1,600 Pennsylvania congregations it's identified as friendly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can fill it out at home, or you can fill it out here, we can take it in to the courthouse for you.
WOODRUFF: At Word of Grace, the voter registration materials came from Focus on the Family, one of the largest evangelical organizations in the U.S.
The kits include registration forms and pamphlets explaining why Christian conservatives need to vote now more than ever.
They also spell out exactly what a pastor can and cannot say from the pulpit. To get the message across without jeopardizing a church's tax-exempt status.
LANDIS: We, as a church, can't give you a -- tell you how to vote. We can't say, you know, you should vote for this person or not that person, but we can encourage you to register. WOODRUFF: He can also tell his congregants to...
LANDIS: Vote your values -- how's that? Vote your values. Amen, be informed on the issues.
WOODRUFF: And at Word of Grace, values are steadfast and unambiguous.
LOIS ROMBERGER, CHURCH MEMBER: I'm looking at abortion, same-sex marriage. I'm looking at educational issues. I'm looking at where the man stands morally.
WOODRUFF: Lois Romberger lets social issues guide her vote.
ROMBERGER: If he has a good moral stance, then the economic issues and all that will fall right in line. I don't even have to look at those.
WOODRUFF: And don't ask her to consider pro-choice John Kerry.
ROMBERGER: I don't like his values. The man is pro-abortion. I can't possibly vote for someone who is pro-abortion.
WOODRUFF: Her church neighbors are equally resolute.
RICKY BUGG, SR., CHURCH MEMBER: The primary issue, pro-life versus pro-choice. We can have lean times, tough times and recover, but once life is taken, it's taken.
WOODRUFF: And on the issues that matter to them, there is clear daylight between the presidential candidates.
BUGG, SR.: If I have to take a stand based on what God says and what his word says, so again that would be a value base, then President Bush leans more toward that than the other candidate, Kerry.
WOODRUFF: President Bush, a self-proclaimed born-again Christian, speaks openly of his faith.
BUSH: In this world of change, some things do not change: the values we try to live by; the institutions that give our lives meaning and purpose.
WOODRUFF: And that's music to the ears of evangelicals.
Patsy Zehring says that, for Christians, Bush is the only real choice, and that evangelicals have erred by staying home on past Election Days.
PATSY ZEHRING, CHURCH MEMBER: I believe that a lot of Christians had the conception, the idea that, you know, we just let things to God, but I do believe we need to get involved politically.
LANDIS: We, as Christians, should be involved with our voice and being light. The bible calls us light, and we are to bring some illumination to situations. WOODRUFF: And so, for the next six Sundays, Pastor Landis will encourage his flock to...
LANDIS: Vote prayerfully, and if you don't know who to vote for, come see me, I'll help you out.
WOODRUFF: Pastor Landis' congregation in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, area.
Whistle-stops, political rallies, conventions, and talk shows: taking a look at the latest campaign stop when INSIDE POLITICS continues.
WOODRUFF: Talk shows have long been considered the launching pads for comics, actors, and singers. Well, now presidential candidates show up, trying to demonstrate a common touch and a sense of humor.
Bruce Morton tuned in to John Kerry's latest appearances.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here's the candidate in the spotlight on David Letterman. Some laughs: Would they sit or stand in the debates?
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": And they compromised, and now they're going to squat? Is that what I heard?
KERRY: No, now what's going to happen is -- no. No, we compromised, and George Bush is going to sit on Dick Cheney's lap.
MORTON: Talk about issues? Maybe.
LETTERMAN: How do you -- how does anybody go about restoring America's reputation in the world? Explain that to me. That seems unlikely.
KERRY: Has he done that much damage?
LETTERMAN: Well, let's just see.
MORTON: The candidate on "Regis and Kelly." Regis, talking Boston Red Sox.
REGIS PHILBIN, CO-HOST, "LIVE WITH REGIS & KELLY": Had a good weekend. I'm expecting a better weekend up at Fenway. You going to stop by and wish your team good luck?
KERRY: It's like my campaign: up and down, up and down. MORTON: Of course, while he's doing that, the other candidate is doing this. Which picture do you think looks more presidential? But Kerry has booked still more talk shows.
Molly Ivins, columnist and Democrat, knows why.
MOLLY IVINS, AUTHOR: He's looking for votes, Bruce. That's what he's doing on all these shows.
MORTON: But some suspect Kerry's also trying to look more like a regular guy, less standoffish, good sense of humor and all that. Can he do funny?
IVINS: Trying to be funny? Yes, when we are talking only vestigial humor here. If you give him a really funny line, he won't kill it.
MORTON: And the president? Ivins, a Kerry partisan, is critical.
IVINS: The worst is when W. laughs -- the president, that is -- at his own jokes. Oh, please, please don't do that. You're the president.
But the inadvertently funny moments with Bush, of course, are fabulous, and the opportunity for humor with both of them never flags. This is -- if you look at it right, folks -- a laugh riot.
MORTON: Hmm, maybe I'm not looking right. I don't know. Kerry did do a 10 best on Letterman.
KERRY: Eliminate all income taxes: Just ask Teresa to cover the whole damn thing.
Cheney can claim Bush as a dependent.
MORTON: Hey, if the White House thing doesn't work, do you thing he could try show business?
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: Moving along, radio host Al Franken has said that he may make a run for the Senate. Up next, a look at how Franken fares in an early poll against his possible GOP opponent.
(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)
WOODRUFF: Liberal radio talk show host Al Franken has plenty of work to do if he wants to go forward with a potential run for the Senate from Minnesota in 2008. A new poll shows Franken trails his would-be opponent, Republican Senator Norm Coleman, by a whopping 28 points. The matchup, of course, is far from a done deal. Franken told the "St. Paul Pioneer Press" yesterday, quote, "I'm not panicked, I still have four years and 43 days."
Well, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Tuesday. Thanks for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.
Tomorrow, I'd be live from the showdown State of Florida. We'll hope to talk with both candidates in the tight Senate race, as well as take a look at what the presidential candidates are trying not to do to have a repeat of four years ago.
Please be sure to join us at our new time, 3:00 Eastern, noon Pacific, right here on CNN.
"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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