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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
President Bush Surveys Florida Hurricane Damage; John Kerry Fights Flip-Flop Label
Aired September 29, 2004 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: John Kerry tries to turn the tables, throwing the flip-flopper charge back at George Bush.
The president returns to Florida for a pre-debate tour of the latest hurricane damage.
What will Americans get out of the Bush-Kerry face-off tomorrow night? As some voters see it, that's debatable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good opportunity to see what they stand for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely nothing.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Why?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think they tell the truth.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
We begin with John Kerry responding to a line of attack he probably expects to face during his debate with George W. Bush tomorrow night.
CNN national correspondent Frank Buckley reports on Kerry's fight against the flip-flop label before his one-on-one with the president. .
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After days of debate up in Wisconsin, Senator Kerry prepared to lead for Florida, but first a parting shot at President Bush during an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Kerry conceding that the president has been successful in portraying him as a flip-flopper.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But it doesn't reflect the truth. Nor does it reflect the truth of George Bush's record, who said he wouldn't go to the U.N. -- then he goes on the U.N. -- who said he didn't support Homeland Security, and then he supports Homeland Security, who said he wasn't going to support the 9/11 Commission, and then he supports it.
And then he says he won't testify and then he goes on testify. I can run down the longest list I've ever seen of switches in George Bush's positions. But that's not -- you see, I think it's more important for the American people to focus on what we're going to do to change their lives. I have a very clear program. And over the course of the next weeks, the American people will see clarity in that.
BUCKLEY: Kerry advisers believe the senator's escalating criticism of the president's Iraq policy is working, despite recent polling that shows voters still believe President Bush is better able to handle the issue. A new ad continues to press the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: Why did George Bush go to war in Iraq? The reason keeps changing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCKLEY: Kerry strategists say Mr. Bush will be on the defensive in the debate, while their candidate convinces voters he can be a stronger commander in chief.
JOE LOCKHART, KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I think he's got to show first and foremost that there's a choice in this election, that George Bush on this night for the first time in a long time will be held accountable for his record. And then John Kerry has got to demonstrate that he's got a better way.
BUCKLEY (on camera): Senator Kerry arrives in Florida tonight, where President Bush has already spent part of the day visiting with hurricane victims. When I asked if that puts Senator Kerry at a disadvantage, a senior aide said it was appropriate for President Bush to tour the hurricane-ravaged state as healer in chief, but he added, Senator Kerry will remain in Florida through Saturday and he will visit many more times in the weeks ahead.
Frank Buckley, CNN, Dodgeville, Wisconsin.
WOODRUFF: And another angle to the flip-flop dispute. Kerry commented today on his line that he voted for $87 billion in funding for U.S. troops in Iraq before he voted against it. Kerry acknowledged that he didn't speak clearly back in March during an appearance in West Virginia, but he said that he spoke -- quote -- "late in the evening" when he was -- quote -- "dead tired."
Well, the Bush camp quickly responded that that primary season event was held around noon, to which the Kerry camp fired back, the Bush campaign would rather debate time of day than policy. There you go. Another high-profile Democrat has joined John Kerry's team. Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson has signed on as a senior adviser to the Kerry campaign and to the Democratic National Committee. The DNC is paying Jackson's salary. This comes just weeks after Jackson accused Kerry of running away from his base and on the heels of a new poll suggesting Kerry's support among African-Americans is slipping.
On the eve of the debate, the Florida Department of Homeland Security and the Miami field office of the FBI are reviewing potential terrorist threats and tactics. Security officials say they do not have any intelligence about any threat to the presidential debates, but they note that the face-offs could be attractive target for terrorists and that Southern Florida, they say, has been used as a base for al Qaeda operatives.
As we've been saying, President Bush is in Florida this hour to get another firsthand look at hurricane damage before his appointment with Senator Kerry tomorrow night.
Our senior White House correspondent, John King, is in Miami -- hi, John.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Judy.
Let's look at that appointment first. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, says the president went fishing this morning in Crawford, Texas, also took a bike ride, says he is rested and ready for tomorrow night's debate.
As you noted, the president the first of the two candidates to arrive here in Florida. He has said nothing about the debate so far, at least since hitting the ground. Instead, he's been inspecting part of the damage caused by Hurricane Jeanne, visiting one orange grove, we are told, where the owners lost half of their crop this year because of three hurricanes that hit it over the past several weeks here in Florida.
The president is to speak to reporters about the federal response effort here. We will see if he has any comments about the debate in that session a bit later today. Instead, Mr. Bush leading it to aides so far. And if you listen to the Bush camp, they say this is a mismatch. They say Senator Kerry was an Ivy League debater. He's been in the Senate for 20 years.
But he is of course this time around the incumbent president, so Mr. Bush's record will very much be an issue tomorrow night. The Bush campaign is trying, though, as it has throughout this campaign, to shift as much focus as possible to Senator Kerry's statements, especially on Iraq. This mock debate briefing book for Senator Kerry released by Bush aides today. And in it, they suggest what they believe to be several shifting positions by Senator Kerry, saying, for example, that he now says the removal of Saddam Hussein has left America less secure, that he voted for what he now calls the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. "Now," the Bush campaign book says, "you say the war you voted for made us less safe." And it goes on to say this of Senator Kerry. It says: "Pretend like no position you have ever taken matters. Nobody knows what you really believe anyway." Look for President Bush to try to sound that theme tomorrow night. Vice President Cheney did it campaigning in Minnesota today, saying the senator has repeatedly shifted his positions depending on his position in the polls.
But, Judy, I will say this. The White House hopes to deflect as much as it can to what they say are Senator Kerry's positions, but they also are being told by their own advisers and by other Republicans that the president must be careful, that he has to spend time defending and explaining his record, especially his decisions and his plan in postwar Iraq. The president comes into this debate with a little bit of a lead and aides believe a little bit of momentum. They believe the first of the three debates is the most critical -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King, thank you very much, traveling with the president today in Miami. Thank you.
Well, the first Bush/Kerry confrontation gives both candidates a prime opportunity to win over voters. What will those elusive undecided voters be looking for and listening for tomorrow night?
CNN's Dan Lothian tried to get a sense of what the voters want.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): As the candidate prepare to face off, voters are speaking out about the value of debates.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a good opportunity to see what they stand for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's their opportunity to answer the questions of the day.
LOTHIAN: Especially important for uncommitted voters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a person who hasn't decided who to vote for, it really helps me just decide who is the best choice.
LOTHIAN: Even those who are pretty sure about their choice, the debate has some appeal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will probably help me understand what he stands for, what he believes in and what he'll do if he's president.
LOTHIAN: The focus in this first debate will be on foreign policy and national security. While millions will tune in, some have low expectations.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know the issues already. So I don't think there will be anything terribly revealing in the debates, at least for me. I read a lot of stuff.
LOTHIAN: This lady has no expectations.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely nothing.
LOTHIAN (on camera): Why?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think they tell the truth.
LOTHIAN: She's tough.
Now, Judy, so much has been made about this debate agreement between both camps. The moderators have not signed on to it. The debate committee says they will not sign this agreement.
Particular concern to all of the networks is this issue of the camera cutaways. When the camera is on the person who is getting the question and answering the question, you can't show someone else, another candidate listening. The networks have all said that they will be following their editorial procedures. And so the whole this controversy about what will happen now. That is in the agreement, but now the networks won't follow that.
I had a chance to talk to Frank Fahrenkopf, who is on the committee, the debate committee, and he addressed that issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK FAHRENKOPF, DEBATE COMMISSION CO-CHAIRMAN: The candidates don't like the cutaway thing. They wanted of course the commission to try to stop that. Well, of course, it's not within our power to stop that. We don't own the feed and we have no control over what a network like CNN or other networks might do.
So if in fact that happens, there might very well be some unhappiness on some of the campaigns' side, but there's nothing we can do about that as far as the commission's concerned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: I also asked him about the concern from voters that perhaps they will not be getting the entire story, that it will be filtered because of all these agreements. He said that he understands that this current agreement they have is not perfect, but he said at least both of the candidate are debating -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Dan, thanks very much.
It's our understanding that the candidates have tried for many years to prevent those so-called cutaway shots, and the networks have always ignored their wishes and taken them anyway. So we'll see tomorrow night.
Dan, thank you very much.
And now checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," two new showdown state polls find John Kerry running slightly ahead in Michigan, while George W. Bush leads in Arizona. A survey by Arizona State University gives Bush a 10-point lead over Kerry, 52 percent to 42 percent. Bush won Arizona by six points four years ago. A poll by the Marketing Resource Group finds Kerry leading Bush by two points in Michigan, 45 percent to 43 percent. Ralph Nader is on the Michigan ballot. He picked up 1 percent.
The Nader campaign has suffered a few more defeats and a victory in its effort to get Nader's name on as many ballots as possible. The U.S. Supreme Court has turned back Nader's challenge to a ruling that kept him off the Oregon ballot. He also was ruled ineligible in Ohio and Wisconsin, but he says he plans to challenge both decisions. The state Supreme Court, meantime, has ordered that Nader be added to the New Mexico ballot. Ralph Nader in now officially on the ballot in 32 states and the District of Columbia.
He's been rejected on nine state ballots. And he is pursuing legal action in another eight states.
As President Bush and Senator Kerry prepare to go head to head over foreign policy and homeland security, their allies will join us to cover similar ground and respond to the other side's attacks.
Also ahead, inside scoops from the debate site in Miami.
And later, guns and gay marriage, why Republicans keep pushing those wedge issues on Capitol Hill.
With 34 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: We have mentioned John Kerry's comments today on flip- flopping. And you can bet that issue will emerge in tomorrow's debate.
Retired Air Force General Merrill McPeak is a Kerry national security adviser. I talked to him just a short time ago, reminded him that Kerry has said the Bush camp went too far saying there would be a terror attack if Kerry were elected. But now Kerry is saying there will be terrible consequences if Bush is elected.
I asked General McPeak if that is not the same kind of fear- mongering.
RETIRED GEN. MERRILL MCPEAK, U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, there's a difference between lies and truth, Judy. The lies are these charges of treachery concerning Senator Kerry, that he wants a weaker America, that his election would be an invitation to attack. Those are out- and-out lies. And I doubt very seriously if the president will have the stomach to say that to the senator's face in the Thursday night debate. On the other hand, the mess that we're in, in Iraq is not of Senator Kerry's creation. The president gets credit for this himself. He's already responsible for the loss of over 1,000 of our sons and daughters and spending a couple hundred billion daughters. And, by the way, he has not secured the domestic front. Homeland defense has been neglected. So, certainly, we're weaker more vulnerable to attack. And you can make the projections about what will happen to Iraq yourself.
WOODRUFF: Do you think there will be more casualties into Iraq under a Bush second term than a Kerry presidency?
MCPEAK: Yes, I think there is a marginal cost of having Bush in the White House. I don't know how many more people we've lost than if we'd had a different president.
But certainly any other president would have had a robust alliance approach, would have gotten a U.N. mandate, would have made this occupation a lot more easy. It would always have been difficult, but it needn't have been as bad as they have made it. So there is a marginal cost to this president. And I can't put how many lives it's been, 300, 400, but certainly you can project that into a second Bush administration.
WOODRUFF: General McPeak, no matter what the arguments are, the polls are now showing -- our latest poll shows, when you ask people what they think about whether John Kerry has a clear plan for Iraq, 63 percent, almost two-thirds, are saying that they don't think he has. Whose fault is that?
MCPEAK: Well, I don't think anybody has a simple plan for Iraq.
There is no Iraq plan that you can put on a bumper sticker or on a T-shirt. So, look, Will Rogers said plans get you into things, but you have to work your way out. What John Kerry will have to do is work his way, our way, out of this mess that's been created by the Bush administration. It will be complicated. It will be complex and it will take a lot of work and it will take time.
But of the two -- two people have a chance to be president after November 2. And the American people have to decide which one of these guys actually has a chance of working us out of this mess.
WOODRUFF: Joe Lieberman is -- Senator Lieberman is saying that when he looks at John Kerry's proposals and what President Bush is doing, he sees very little difference. Is he right?
MCPEAK: Yes, I think he is, because the president has flip- flopped. He used to say, bring them on. He used to say, you agree with us or you're irrelevant and so forth.
But he's flip-flopped over to where he's standing right next to Kerry on what needs to be done here. I don't see much daylight between them. They both say we have to increase international participation. We have to speed the training of the domestic Iraqi security force and so forth. That's been John Kerry's plan all along. Now, the real question here is, which of these two guys can pull this plan off?
WOODRUFF: Final question, are we going to hear something different from John Kerry on Iraq tomorrow night in this debate from what we've already heard?
MCPEAK: I don't think so. Senator Kerry is calling attention to the fact that this is Bush's mess, his war. The Bush administration has created a let of other messes, but certainly this one is a contender for a world-class mess.
And we simply have to change horses here and get started on a new course.
WOODRUFF: Retired Air Force general, in fact the former chief of Air Force -- Air Force chief of staff, General Merrill McPeak.
So that's the Democrats' side. Coming up, the Republican view, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia with the president's position on national security.
You're watching INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: As we mentioned, the president is spending part of today on a domestic issue, viewing hurricane devastation in Florida. But Mr. Bush will return to matters of war and peace tomorrow night at the debate.
Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia joins me now from Capitol Hill.
Senator Chambliss, let me first ask you about this front-page story today in "The Washington Post" describing a growing number of what it calls career professionals in the national security agencies as believing the situation in Iraq is much worse, the path to success much more tenuous than what is being publicly expressed by administration officials.
Is the president, is his administration leveling with the American people?
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: I think they are, Judy. I think the president has been very forthright all along in saying, No. 1, this was going to be a long war on terrorism. It's proving to be that.
He's been very forthright in saying all along that the violence in Iraq is probably going to escalate. That's exactly what we're seeing. I'm concern about Iraq. The president is concerned about it. Everybody that's involved in this issue is concerned for the right reasons. And if we capitulate, if we change course, then the terrorists win, Judy. And that's what we simply can't let happen. WOODRUFF: So how do you account for these, what the article describes as military officials, officials at the CIA, the State Department, saying the rebellion is deeper, more widespread than is publicly acknowledged? They're saying that it is a disaster.
CHAMBLISS: Well, you have to remember that's "The Post," Judy. And those types of characterizations are what we expect out of "The Post."
But the fact of the matter is, there is an ongoing discussion within the members on Capitol Hill relative to Iraq, within the administration relative to Iraq, because this is very, very serious. It's very dangerous. We continue to lose lives. And it's incumbent upon us as legislators and the administration, as the folks who are more directly involved, to make sure that we're having these positive discussions that get views from every side on this issue, because, at end of the day, we've got to make sure we're doing the right thing. So I'm not surprised about that at all.
WOODRUFF: Well, it's my recollection that "The Post" has editorialized more along the lines of supporting the president's policies in Iraq.
But let me just move on. You've also read about these two classified reports that have been -- have come out in the news lately that two months before the invasion of Iraq, the president was warned the invasion would increase support for hard-line, politicized Iraqis. It would result in a divided society, more violence.
What's going on? I mean, we read the administration had this information. They went ahead anyway.
CHAMBLISS: Well, they went ahead for the right reasons, Judy.
We know now that the report involving weapons of mass destruction was not right. Whether this report was totally right or not can be debated one way or the other. But the fact of the matter is that the decision to go into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power was the right reason. Did he have weapons of mass destruction? Absolutely. We know he did. Did he have them to the extent that we thought he had them? Absolutely not. He apparently didn't.
But the fact is that we went into Iraq to remove a guy from power who had the ability to kill and harm Americans. And if we were are going to win the war on terrorism and, just as significantly, if we are going to ever see peace in the Middle East, which is the heart of terrorism, where terrorism emanates, and which is where most of the violence in the world is taking place today, then, that it was incumbent that we remove a guy like Saddam Hussein.
WOODRUFF: Very quickly, I just interviewed retired Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrill McPeak. As you know, he's advising John Kerry. He said he believed that if President Bush is reelected that there would be more American casualties in Iraq than under a Kerry presidency.
CHAMBLISS: Well, I assume he says that because Kerry would in some fashion cut and run.
Now, he may not do it directly, but it was kind of interesting -- and I have great respect for General McPeak. I worked with him for years on the House Armed Services Committee. He's really a good guy and a great Air Force officer. But the fact of the matter is that I'm not sure what planet he's been on when he says that President Bush flip-flopped on this issue. If anybody has been firm in their convictions relative to Iraq, it's been President Bush.
We know that we're going to have casualties because war is an ugly, ugly thing and unfortunately we have casualties for the sake of freedom.
WOODRUFF: Senator, just very quickly, an op-ed yesterday written by John Eisenhower, the son of the late President Dwight Eisenhower, endorsing John Kerry.
And, among other things he writes, he says, "The Republicans used to be deeply concerned for the middle class and small business." He said, "Today's Republicans, while not solely accountable for the loss of American jobs, encourage it with its tax codes and heads us in the direction of a society of very rich and very poor."
What do you say to that?
CHAMBLISS: Well, obviously, I disagree very strongly with him.
I think, if you talk to any economist today who really has paid attention to what's gone on over the last 15 to 20 years, particularly the last 10 years, they will tell you that, had we not implemented the Bush tax relief package in the last few years that we simply would have been in a much deeper recession than what we are now in the process of coming out of. So certainly I disagree with that.
WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to leave it there, a spirited debate, as it's been all along.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, good to see you.
CHAMBLISS: You, too, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thanks for joining me. We appreciate it.
Forty-five million American, we are told, don't have medical insurance. So what are President Bush and Senator Kerry's prescriptions when it comes to health care? Where they stand when we come back.
Plus, are you on the do-not-call registry? Coming up later, we'll speak with a woman who was instrumental in getting those often unwanted telemarketing calls blocked.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Coming up at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, 90 minutes from now, U.S. and Iraqi forces battled insurgents today, but there are allegations some Iraqi forces are cooperating, actually cooperating with the insurgents. We'll take a closer look.
And experts are monitoring Washington's Mount St. Helens. They're issuing a warning. They say the likelihood of a new eruption has increased.
And the privately-manned rocket SpaceShipOne completed another successful flight today. Just one more is needed to claim the $10 million X Prize.
Those stories, much more coming up today on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Now back to JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: George Bush arrives in Florida. The president is touring hurricane damage before heading to Miami for tomorrow's debate. John Kerry gets ready to fly south, and the senator says that when it comes to Iraq and the war on terror, George Bush is the real flip-flopper.
Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.
George Bush and John Kerry have been preparing for tomorrow night's debate for most of this week. With me now from Miami to preview the big event, our senior political editor, John Mercurio.
All right, John, set the stage for us. What are you hearing and what are both sides telling you?
JOHN MERCURIO, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It's really interesting. If you've been watching this campaign for the past couple of months, you can predict with some degree of certainty, I think, how both of these guys are going to respond on the issues, on the questions of substance. I mean, there's not going to be any new policy ground broken tomorrow.
What you can't predict, and which is much more important, is how these candidates are going to be perceived, I think, by the audience. And that can, of course, for better or worse, be much more important in determining who won or lost the debate.
Now, the challenge for both of these candidates I think is actually quite similar. They both have to prove that there's something so far they haven't proved that they are.
Bush has to prove that he -- that he can be eloquent and articulate in discussing issues, showing he has a command of certain policy issues. I think Kerry, to a large extent, has to come across as direct, concise and offer sort of a simple explanation for his position on Iraq. One aide I talked to earlier said what you're going to see from Kerry is a little bit of leg -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. What about -- you know, we already know and we've seen it, because we've seen it constantly over the last few days, the spin wars. You know, a lot of talk about how that's going to happen after the debate, but it's already under way.
MERCURIO: Oh, it's totally under way. And what I think is so interesting, sort of strange is how openly these guys are talking about their spin.
I mean, it wasn't too long ago, Judy, you remember, when they denied that there was even such a thing as spin. Now they openly talk about it as part of their strategy.
That's particularly true with Democrats, I think, who are sort of obsessed with the idea of winning the spin operation, the spin war. There's this widely-held perception among Democrats that Al Gore won the 2000 debate against George Bush, that he scored better on policy questions, on substance and leadership, but he lost on body language and some style points. So I think you're seeing a lot of Democrats really focus on that.
Mike McCurry acknowledging that there's a team of thousands, a cast of thousands working on their spin operation. I don't know if there's actually a cast of thousands, but we do know that tomorrow night in the Democratic spin operation, we'll see Florida Senators Bob Graham; Florida Senator Bill Nelson; California Congresswoman Jane Harman, who's a big name in the intelligence community; and Wesley Clark.
Now, on the Republican side, we're going to see Rudy Giuliani, a very familiar face; General Tommy Franks; and, of course, the governor's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush -- I'm sorry, the president's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and his son, George P. Bush. All of them working on the Republican -- on the president's side.
WOODRUFF: So, John, though, is there real evidence that this kind of involvement by other people, the spinners and the rest of them, really has an affect on what people think?
MERCURIO: Well, it's certainly better, I think, because it's really the only thing left that justifies us reporters being down here. I mean, we could all sit at home, I think, or in our hotel rooms and watch this debate on television.
That's basically what we're going to be doing from a filing center. But it's our interaction with these -- with these advisers, with these sort of big politicians who attempt to influence opinions that I think really justifies being down here.
What is more interesting, and as you were saying, is the prebuttal (ph). I mean, both campaigns holding press conference -- conference calls earlier today, talking about, you know their spin and their strategy going into this debate. I think the prebuttal (ph) at this point has become almost as important as the rebuttal. WOODRUFF: And finally, John, the next debate, what, is in Cleveland? What are you hearing about what either candidate is doing to prepare?
MERCURIO: Well, the vice presidential debate is in Cleveland. The next presidential debate in St. Louis. And we've heard that John Kerry, who, of course, spent the past week in Wisconsin preparing for the debate, is now going to be traveling from Florida to Colorado to sort of prepare for the debate in St. Louis.
Aides aren't sure exactly what he's going to be doing and when he's going to be leaving for Colorado. What it does indicate, though, is how important the state of Colorado has become to the Kerry campaign.
WOODRUFF: All right. John Mercurio right in the thick of it all down in Miami in Coral Gables. John, thank you very much. I'll see you down there tomorrow.
MERCURIO: See you tomorrow.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.
Former White House hopefuls Al Gore and Bob Dole surely know what it's like to take part in the presidential debates. The two former candidates spoke to students yesterday at Southern Methodist University in Texas. They talked about the major issue in the current race, and Gore commented on the extensive prep raisings each candidate goes through, conjuring memories of his own debate history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a very elaborate preparation process as it has developed. And it's quite interesting. It just makes me sort of want to sigh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: He's able to laugh at himself. Gore, of course, became known for his audible sighs during that debate four years ago against then Governor George W. Bush.
Well, for a lot of people this campaign season, it seems like there are more polls than ever. And at times a number of them seemed to reach conflicting confusion -- conclusions. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, reports that the numbers can be confusing, but there are good reasons for the shifts in public opinion.
Our apologies. We have a little confusion here. We're trying to get the audio, the sound straightened out on Bill Schneider's report. We're sorry. We'll get that to you just as quickly as we can.
Well, plans to assist the millions of Americans with no health insurance we know, but we've heard that from the candidates. But the issue has often been overshadowed this campaign season with the talk of Iraq.
In the latest installment of our series, "They Have Issues," our Bob Franken takes a look at how Bush and Kerry would help Americans cope with the rocketing costs of health care.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Life without health care coverage is life on the edge of disaster. But it's a fact of life for 45 million Americans now. And that includes 20 million who are employed, like Washington waitress Maya Long.
MAYA LONG, WAITRESS: There's always that fear that something would happen, and you would get sick, and you wouldn't be able to take care of yourself.
FRANKEN: But year after year, there have been staggering increases in health insurance premiums, up 36 percent in the last four year. Maya's employer, a small business owner, just can't afford it.
GENE LAWSON, DAVID GREGORY RESTAURANT: It would cost us, assuming everyone that was eligible applied, it would cost us in the neighborhood of an extra $5,000 a month.
FRANKEN: Health care is a national anxiety. The scale of the proposals from each candidate range from massive to more massive. John Kerry claims that his would provide new coverage for 27 million. It would expand eligibility for the same health insurance plans offered to federal employees and provide government assistance to lighten the crushing burden on employers.
KERRY: And if employers are paying in less, the cost of doing business is reduced and American companies become more competitive.
FRANKEN: But critics argue Kerry's plan would break the bank. By his estimate alone, it would cost $650 billion over 10 years. And some suggest it could go over a trillion. The president, meanwhile, proposes tax credits and small business pools called association plans.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got to change the law to allow small firms to pool together so they can purchase insurance at the same discounts that big businesses get.
FRANKEN: The cost, according to the Bush campaign, about $102 billion over a decade. But critics say he's simply nibbling at the edges, providing health insurance for anywhere that the 11 million that the campaign estimates to as few as one million. It's been out there, but health care has not really dominated the campaign.
EDWARD HOWARD, ALLIANCE FOR HEALTH REFORM: People who lack health insurance often are people who, on the one hand, aren't very politically powerful -- they tend to be lower income, they aren't as politically active, and some politicians think they can ignore this as a result.
FRANKEN: But not one the uninsured can ignore.
LONG: To not know if you can go to the doctor, to have friends who get sick and can't get treated because, oh, they don't have insurance and they don't happen to have $400 that it's going to cost them to just go to an office visit.
FRANKEN: Health care and the lack of it has more and more become a crisis. But all agree something should be done. The problem is, Judy, there's little agreement on what?
WOODRUFF: It's just extraordinary to me, given how huge this problem is, that it's gotten so little attention in this campaign.
FRANKEN: I agree with you. It's one of those issues that's so complicated it can't be covered in a sound bite or a bumper sticker, I think.
WOODRUFF: That doesn't mean we should -- we and the candidates should stay away from it. Bob Franken, thanks for bringing us up to date. We appreciate it. Thank you. We'll see you tomorrow.
Tomorrow, some controversial issues that are in the spotlight. We're going to see where President Bush and Senator Kerry stand on abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research. And for more on the candidates' positions, you may check out our online special. It is all at cnn.com/issues.
Well, as we were saying just a moment ago, for many people in this campaign it seems like there are more polls than ever. At times, a lot of them seem to be conflicting. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, reports the numbers can be confusing, but he says there are good reasons for public opinion shifts.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Recent polls show President Bush with a big lead and a small lead, and almost no lead. What's going on with the polls? Nothing unusual, pollsters say.
FRANK NEWPORT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GALLUP: It's not at all unusual or unexpected that there would be some churn and turmoil out there among voters. After all, there's supposed to be rethinking the race and changing their minds.
SCHNEIDER: With more polls than ever measures the churn, you can expect to see a lot of discrepancies. But some things about 2004 seems to be different.
MARK DICAMILLO, CALIFORNIA POLLSTER: There seems to be higher than normal interest in this election. That might indicate that the actual turnout will increase by maybe five or six or more points. And you might be getting people who are first-time voters, people who don't normally vote. SCHNEIDER: When the Gallup poll estimates who's likely to vote, it takes into account something besides past turnout.
NEWPORT: The other component of our likely voter model is wholly based on current interest in the election.
SCHNEIDER: So newly-energized voters do get polled, even if they've never voted before. Some observers believe the growing number of people who won't talk to poll takers is making the polls unreliable. But pollsters say it isn't a problem precisely because non-cooperation is so widespread.
DICAMILLO: The non-responders are pretty much randomly distributed across the population. It's not any one population group that we're missing.
SCHNEIDER: So what can a poor, befuddled viewer do when he or she sees polls that are all over the place?
DICAMILLO: The recommendation that I give to lay people that I bump into when you have diverging polls is to just wait for a couple of additional polls to come out and then basically average the polls over the course of a week.
SCHNEIDER: And take a deep breath.
NEWPORT: Just hold on for a few days and see what's happening when you look at the polls in a little broader perspective.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): Good advice, which is why as we go into the final month of the campaign, we'll be doing a regular poll of polls to see if we can find out what's really going on underneath all of those churning numbers.
Bill Schneider, CNN, Dallas.
WOODRUFF: I'm going to take his advice. A deep breath, every day.
A self-made billionaire is hitting the road in hopes of influencing voters. George Soros makes his case why he thinks George Bush should lose in November. His last-minute swing state tour ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Billionaire businessman and philanthropist George Soros is spending millions of his own money in an effort to deny President Bush a second term. And he's on a month-long tour of a dozen cities to tell people what he thinks.
Earlier today, I spoke with George Soros here, and began by asking him why he has embarked on this crusade at a time when most people in a similar position as his would have slowed down. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
GEORGE SOROS, CHAIRMAN, THE SOROS FOUNDATION: Well, I have devoted half, exactly half my wealth to promote the principles of a society throughout the world. And that's because of my background and my beliefs.
You know, I grew up in Hungary. I experienced fascism, lived through the holocaust, got a taste of communism. So I learned how important it is, what kind of government prevails.
And when I was rich enough, I set up a foundation. I now spend $450 million a year.
So I am involved in politics. And when I look at world and I think what is the most important thing that I could contribute, I feel that if I could contribute to help repudiate the policies of the Bush administration, that would be my greatest contribution.
WOODRUFF: You have argued vigorously the Iraq war was wrong. John Kerry argues that it was done the wrong way. The Bush campaign, though, comes back and says, you'd rather have a dictator, an awful man like Saddam Hussein still in power?
SOROS: I am all for removing dictators, and it's actually -- what incenses me the most is that the way we went about removing Saddam. We'll make it much more difficult in the future to deal with dictators like Saddam. That's the great unsolved problem of our global world order.
What do you do with people like that? What do you do with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Turkmenistan and so on. And we need -- we need rules, we need international cooperation, we need legitimacy for intervening.
And there is -- there are grounds for intervening, and we must abide by them. Instead of destroying international law, we must strengthen it.
WOODRUFF: Do you think he should have been left in power?
SOROS: We had no particular reason at that time to remove him. We should have removed him earlier.
We should -- when he gassed his people, it would have been -- that was genocide. That was a cause for intervention. But we didn't intervene then.
Now we are intervening arbitrarily and unilaterally. And therefore, we discredit this whole idea of the responsibility to protect and the need to intervene. And what is worse, it really makes us much less safe because every innocent civilian being killed in Iraq, then it enforces the cause for the terrorists.
WOODRUFF: How can you that know that? SOROS: I think the facts show it, because there are many more people willing to risk their lives, killing Americans, than there were September 11.
WOODRUFF: Would you be out making the arguments you're making, George Soros, if John Kerry's campaign were doing better?
SOROS: I would be doing it, because I think it would be very important to have a landslide. You see, we need to repudiate. We have to recognize that we went off the rails, and we have to show the world that there's a change of heart and we want to be accepted as a law-abiding nation.
WOODRUFF: You know the Republicans, the Bush campaign, is coming after you very hard. I mean, yesterday, the statement was what you say conjures up memories that the president -- that you said the president's words conjure up memories of Nazi Germany. You spend millions supporting marijuana legalization, softer penalties for drug dealers doing business around schools, and euthanasia, liberalization. They're saying that's desperation, what you're doing is desperation on the part of the Kerry camp.
SOROS: I think I could throw that back in their face, because to -- to raise such criticisms against me is a desperation, because they don't want to consider the arguments that I'm putting forward. They're attacking me or trying to discredit me, describe me as Satan, and getting drug money and so on.
I think the public can just look at what I'm saying, and I hope that they will listen, hopefully read my book, but at least read my pamphlet. Visit my Web site, georgesoros.com, where they can throw down those items and make up their own mind.
WOODRUFF: Very quickly, one of your friends, not identified, quoted in the "Chicago Tribune" in July, saying, "George has given the Republicans an opportunity to argue that this sinister foreign billionaire's money is funding the Democrat."
What do you say to your friend who says that?
SOROS: Well, if I am, in fact, a sinister foreign billionaire, I am an American citizen. I have chosen this country. I love this country, and everything I do is up in the open. And I'm sitting here standing up for what I believe in.
WOODRUFF: George Soros, who says he decided to undertake this tour after he saw the Swift Boat attack ads on John Kerry.
And coming up, government workers going beyond the call of normal duty. Meet the FTC employee who thought a nationwide do not call registry would be a good idea. Now she has a Service to a America Award, appreciation of her and her colleagues' efforts. That's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Every day in this country, 1.6 million civilian federal workers go about the task of making government work. Many of them come up with ways to make government work better.
Last night, officials here in Washington hand out Service to America medals to some bureaucrats who have done heroic or helpful things. One of those heroes is Eileen Harrington of the Federal Trade Commission. She came up with the idea of the national did not call list.
Eileen Harrington, I should say you're director of marketing practices. What you did may be singularly the most popular thing the federal government has ever done. What, 62 million Americans have signed up for this do not call?
EILEEN HARRINGTON, FTC EMPLOYEE: Over 64 million.
WOODRUFF: Sixty-four million.
HARRINGTON: But who's counting?
WOODRUFF: But who's counting? How did you come up with -- where did the idea come from?
HARRINGTON: Well, the idea didn't come from me. It was such an obvious idea.
Many states had set up their own lists. Our challenge was to find both the legal underpinnings to make sure that we could do this without it being declared unconstitutional, because telemarketers argue that this is a horrible abridgment of their first amendment rights. We've won on those arguments. And the other thing that really was needed here was some political courage.
The arguments against doing this on a national scale went like this: it's going to cost millions and millions of jobs, you know, it's anti-business, it's too hands on, people, you know, benefit from receiving these calls, they want to receive them. And so it was a combination of legal skill, technological know-how. We needed a system that wouldn't crash when the whole country tried to sign up, which is what we correctly anticipated would happen. And then we needed some political will.
WOODRUFF: You know, last night, Eileen Harrington, I was at the dinner last night where you and others were recognized with the so- called SAMI (ph) Award, Service to America. And all of us were inspired by the, you know, creative, determined, courageous effort of a lot of them.
HARRINGTON: Oh, yes. Really inspiring.
WOODRUFF: How did it feel, I mean, to be working for the federal government and getting this kind of recognition?
HARRINGTON: Well, actually, my team -- and it was a whole team of people who made this happen -- and I thought that there were many nominees who were actually far more deserving than we. In our category was a physician who walked away from an incredibly lucrative private practice to set up the first organ transplant program and the only organ transplant program in the Veterans Administration health system.
There are people working in the federal service who are doing incredible things, inspiring, brave, heroic. We think what we did is a really good service to the public. And it took a lot of heart and creative work, and we're proud of that.
But we're really proud to be federal civil servants and to serve the public. There is much good being done.
WOODRUFF: And people honored who are in Iraq, people that worked 9/11, drug enforcement agents who found cocaine being smuggled in baby formula. What do you think, last question, when you hear people talk about those bureaucrats? Because some politicians have been known to run against Washington bureaucrats.
HARRINGTON: I'd say shame on them. I think that there is an enormous commitment to the public good that comes out of federal service. And when people hear politicians talking like that, I think that it reflects very badly, and I wish that they would think.
But that reflects badly on the politicians. It shouldn't reflect poorly on the quality of people who are serving the public, who are -- these are incredibly compassionate, caring, hard-working, really inspiring people. And I count myself really fortunate to be one of those 1.6 million.
WOODRUFF: You were certainly inspiring last night. Eileen Harrington, one of a number who received awards for coming up with very good ideas and serving our government very, very well. Thank you for being with us today.
HARRINGTON: Thanks, Judy.
HARRINGTON: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: Getting ready for the showdown in Miami. We'll go live to both campaigns to see if President Bush and Senator Kerry are all set for tomorrow night's debate.
Ohio is a crucial battleground in the race for the White House. This hour, we've got new poll numbers out from the Buckeye State.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once again, we're engaged in the Congress of delay, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and do damage.
ANNOUNCER: To gay marriage...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nation needs to have this debate and there's no better way to have a debate than bringing a bill to the floor of the House.
ANNOUNCER: We've got our eye on some serious party fights on Capitol Hill.
Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back. For the first time in recent weeks, Florida is getting lots of media attention for something other than a hurricane. But even as George W. Bush landed in the state that is hosting tomorrow night's lead-off presidential debate, he was thinking about those devastating storms as well as his opponent. White House correspondent Dana Bash joins us live from Miami. Hi there, Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. The president just finished touring an orange grove that was damaged by three of the hurricanes that have devastated this state. And he's going to tour another tomorrow before the debate. All signs are pointing to the fact that the president intends to sharpen his attack line tomorrow night on the fact that they say that Senator Kerry is a flip-flopper on Iraq. And here's some specifics, some closer looks at a couple of those charges.
BASH (voice-over): It's the Republican rallying cry. One the president hopes the debate will cement.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My opponent's had seven or eight different positions on Iraq.
BASH: Here's a closer look at two key charges. First, John Kerry has flip-flopped on supporting the Iraq war.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will vote because I believe it is the best way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable.
BASH: In 2002, Senator Kerry voted to authorize force in Iraq. Seven months later, in a primary debate...
KERRY: I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity. But I think it's the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein.
BASH: Fast forward to last month. As the president points out he did borrow a phrase from anti-war candidate Howard Dean.
KERRY: It's the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. BASH: That after responding to a Bush challenge by saying, even knowing what he knows now...
KERRY: Yes, I would have voted for the authority.
BASH: The reality? Even Kerry aides privately concede his statements do sound all over the map but insist Kerry's always tried to explain the president misused the authority he voted for by not letting diplomacy play out.
Second, perhaps the most devastating flip-flop fodder, Kerry appearing to contradict himself, explaining his vote against a bill funding troops in Iraq.
KERRY: I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.
BASH: It's standard Bush material.
BUSH: I don't know here on the town square of St. Cloud whether many people talk that way.
There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat.
BASH: The reality? The senator did vote for an amendment approving Iraq funds only if paid for by repealing tax cuts. When that measure failed, he voted against the bill to protest what he called a flawed and costly war plan. Now in some pre-debate damage control, Kerry admits his "voting for it then against it" line was an inarticulate moment.
BOB DOLE (R), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was senator straddled in 1998.
BASH: To Bob Dole, this is all eerily familiar. He calls it the curse of senators running for presidents.
DOLE: You vote for bills, you vote for this. And, you know, I can be attacked if it's there. So if you can explain it, if Kerry can explain it, he's a better man than I was. I couldn't explain it.
BASH: Now, Senator Dole said he tried to use his debates to try to hit back at the Clinton campaign, what they tried to use against him in terms of his Senate votes. But he said even with the time he had in the debates, it was very hard to change the public perception. That's something that the Bush campaign is banking on tomorrow night.
WOODRUFF: Dana Bash, following both candidates today in her report. Dana, thank you very much.
Well, John Kerry did reject charges of flip-flopping again today. But in a televised interview, he acknowledged the Bush camp's attempts to peg him as inconsistent have been effective. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: I think their advertising and their effort over these last months, to use that word, have been particularly successful. I give them credit for it. But it doesn't reflect the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Kerry went on to accuse President Bush of waffling, especially about his reasons for invading Iraq. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is with us now. She's in Bell Harbor, Florida. Candy, tell us about how Kerry does plan to deal with his flip-flopping charge tomorrow.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you saw part of it. And that is to take that issue, flip-flopping, and say, yes, but the president did this and then did this, to sort of throw it back at the president. But at the same time, we're going to see what we've seen on the campaign trail for the past couple of weeks, which is to say look, I've had one position, I've had one position. You know that. You heard just in that one little byte where he says, well, this is all about their advertising. Because I've had one steady position.
There is no doubt among anybody in the Kerry campaign that the single most harmful phrase that he uttered was about that $87 billion. And in poll after poll after poll they have seen proof that the American people do view John Kerry as a flip-flopper, as someone who does not stick with his convictions. They, of course, and the Kerry campaign blame that all on George Bush's advertising. But it's worrisome, and they know that there's really two tasks tomorrow night. One is to, first of all, show George Bush in the same kind of light, and the other is to dissuade people who for months have seen John Kerry as a flip-flopper by saying, look, here is my one plan.
In some ways it's just a condensed debate and a more personal debate than we've seen over the last few months with the two candidates in different states talking at and past each other.
WOODRUFF: Candy, very quickly, behind the public spin, what are they saying in the Kerry camp about their expectations tomorrow night?
CROWLEY: Well, they feel really good about it. As you know, John Kerry is a skilled debater, he's an award-winning debater. He's done it all of his life. They feel very good. What's interesting to me is that his senior advisers are kind of trying to draw the sting from what they know is one of George Bush's strong points. And that is, that he is a likable person. People tend to appreciate and be attracted to the kind of personality he is.
So right off the bat, they're saying, OK, George Bush is a really nice and likable guy. But you know what, the American people don't care about that. They care about the substance. These are very serious times. The pre-debate spin is to take it off, how do they do, how do they come across to, yes, but this is a serious time. Who has the better case. WOODRUFF: Candy Crowley, in Florida. See you there tomorrow. Thanks very much, Candy.
Separately, John Kerry is delivering a preemptive strike on a topic that may come up tomorrow night, U.S. dependence on Middle East oil. His campaign is launching a new ad outlining Kerry's plan to make America energy independent, and alluding to the Bush administration's ties to the Saudi royal family. This ad comes as gas prices are on the rise again.
Kerry's running mate John Edwards has been bringing up gas prices and pointing a finger at the Bush White House as he campaigns in showdown states. Edwards appeared in West Virginia today. His seventh trip to that state to stump for votes.
Meantime, Vice President Cheney is campaigning in Minnesota. He questioned whether Kerry would have the commitment or the judgment to make tough presidential decisions. But his wife Lynne got in an even more personal dig. She alluded to the newly noticed change in Senator Kerry's skin coloring bouncing off some comments made by her husband.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got proctors in the audience with microphones. You'll note they're the people in the orange shirts.
LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF DICK CHENEY: Dick, what do those orange shirts remind you of? I'll say it, how about John Kerry's suntan?
D. CHENEY: Oh, I may have to disassociate myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: We asked the Kerry camp for a response, and they decided to take a pass on that one.
Well, now let's take a sharp turn to topics many Republicans and Democrats take seriously, guns and gay marriage, as our Congressional correspondent Ed Henry explains why those issues front and center again on Capitol Hill.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The House is voting on guns and gay marriage, two issues that generate plenty of political heat in an election year.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Once again, we're engaged in the Congress of delay, do little and do damage.
HENRY: Pelosi charges Republicans are pushing bills that have no chance of becoming law because they're embarrassed by their record on other issues, like the economy and healthcare.
PELOSI: So what do they do but divert the public's attention to social issues that they know are wrong but have a political weight for them. They're their wedge issues.
HENRY: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay counters it's important to get everyone on the record about the Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. DeLay believes Democrats should stop whining about casting politically difficult votes.
REP. TOM DELAY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: There's no better way to have a debate than bringing a bill to the floor of the House. And the American people, these people, need to know where their representatives stand on fighting the courts and protecting marriage.
HENRY: Republicans aren't sure if they have the votes to pass the gay marriage ban on Thursday. Even if the Constitutional amendment passes, it's unlikely to move forward because the Senate already voted it down. Likewise, the House voted today to overturn the ban on gun possession in Washington, D.C. But the Senate probably won't consider the measure, so it will not become law.
REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: I cannot believe that the Republican leadership would promote this kind of a bill just to give the NRA the kind of vote that asserts its dominance over this House.
REP. MARK SOUDER (R), INDIANA: This bill has 45 Democratic co- sponsors in addition to the majority of the Republican party. When we talk about bipartisan legislation, this is bipartisan legislation.
HENRY (on camera): Nancy Pelosi charged that Republicans are also trying to turn the 9/11 Intelligence Reform Bill into a wedge issue that Republicans are loading the bill down with all kinds of poison pills, just daring the Democrats to vote against the overall legislation on the eve of the election.
Republicans say that's nonsense. They insist that some of these provisions, like a national ID standard, are critical and now's the time to add those provisions when there's a must-pass bill moving through Congress. Judy?
WOODRUFF: Add them, whether they have final prospects for passage or not, I guess?
HENRY: That's right. They're still working on it. They're hoping to get it done before the election.
WOODRUFF: OK. Ed Henry at the Capitol. Thanks very much.
In an election year, most of the really important campaign action happens outside the Washington Beltway. Up next, a new snapshot from the showdown State of Ohio. Paula Zahn will unveil our new poll numbers.
The CNN Election Express has pulled into Miami for tomorrow's debate, and so have our own boys on the bus, Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala.
And later, something long missing from the nation's capital seems set to return.
WOODRUFF: Keeping our focus now on those all-important showdown states. CNN's Paula Zahn is with me from New York, and she has the results of a new CNN poll in Ohio to talk about.
Paula, what are the numbers saying?
PAULA ZAHN, HOST, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": We're releasing those numbers just for you, Judy. Thanks.
Well, the Kerry campaign has got to be pretty pleased with these numbers. Kerry now leads Bush 50 percent to 46 percent among registered voters. Now, that compares to, what you're going to see here on the screen, three weeks ago when our polls showed Kerry down by a point.
Our poll also shows Kerry making similar gains among likely voters. Bush has a narrow two-point lead among those voters. But this is down from an eight-point lead he had just three weeks ago.
So, as you can see from both of these comparisons, Kerry has been doing better among the group of all registered voters than he has among the smaller pool of voters deemed most likely to vote. All this indicates, I guess, at this point, is that the Bush voters right now are more motivated to go out and vote, and Kerry's real challenge may be to motivate his base.
WOODRUFF: Now Paula, I know there were also questions in this poll trying to find out what's on the minds of Ohio voters. What did you discover?
ZAHN: Well, the president still has significant leads over Kerry on the issues of Iraq and terror. But when voters are asked who would do a better job on the economy, Kerry leads that group 52 to 43 percent.
We spent time in Ohio in mid-August for a town hall meeting, and the economy, of course, is an extremely important issue in that state. In fact, two in five Ohio voters say it is the most important issue facing the country, which kind of contrasts with some of these other states where terrorism clearly is the number one concern.
WOODRUFF: Now, I know you have some more poll results that you're going to be putting out tonight. Tell us which states you're going to be looking at tonight.
ZAHN: Well, the other two huge battleground states, of course, are Pennsylvania -- which was in a dead-even heat the last time we polled there just three weeks ago -- and then, of course, the all- important win of Florida, the site of tomorrow night's presidential debate. And we will share those numbers for the first time tonight at 8:00.
And I guess I'll be seeing you in Miami tomorrow night. WOODRUFF: We'll both be in Miami. All right, Paula Zahn -- but tonight, 8:00, don't miss it: more poll numbers. Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.
Well, no doubt you've heard a lot about the presidential debate tomorrow night. That's all we're talking about. But you probably haven't heard the "CROSSFIRE" take on the big faceoff. Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson are in Miami already waiting for the showdown. Hear from them, just ahead.
WOODRUFF: The CNN Election Express has come to a stop in Miami, the site of the first presidential debate tomorrow night. The bus lovers, the folks who love the buses most, Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala are with me now to talk about what the candidates are going to be saying. All right, we can't see the bus, but we know it's near you.
Paul, to you first. What are we going to be saying on Friday about this debate? Will it have changed the dynamics of this race, do you think?
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": You know, it can. There was a survey that said as many as 20 percent of voters are open to changing their opinions. That's certainly something the Kerry campaign is happy to hear, since they're behind in the polls.
Yeah, I think both candidates have their challenges laid out for them. I think for the president, he's got to show people that he's in touch with reality in Iraq. And I think Senator Kerry needs to show that he is strong enough to deal with Iraq. So, they've both got their own strategic challenges tomorrow night.
WOODRUFF: Paul, I'm going to interrupt because I'm told we have some pictures of President Bush in Florida near Lake Wales in the orange groves. Here's some video of President Bush just a short time ago.
My mistake, we don't have that video yet. All right. Back to you, Tucker.
BEGALA: I think it's a right-wing conspiracy, Judy.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE: But we wish we had the video.
BEGALA: Bush is always trying to knock me off the air, Judy. That's all it is.
WOODRUFF: That's what -- it was a conspiracy to knock Tucker off the air. But Tucker, we'll give you a chance. Is the dynamic of this race going to change? And then Paul, I want to hear your take on it again.
CARLSON: Yeah, sure, it absolutely could. I mean, the interesting thing is the dynamic between the candidates. I mean, each candidate's had a chance to make his case solo for, you know, two years.
WOODRUFF: OK, my apologies. I really do have to interrupt, now, Tucker. My apologies.
CARLSON: Interrupt away, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We honestly do have the video.
WOODRUFF: President Bush -- President Bush commenting a short time ago in Florida where he toured some orange groves, as you heard, talking to some of the people and commenting on the efforts in the wake of four hurricanes that have hit that state.
Our apologies, again, to our "CROSSFIRE" friends, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson. You're going to hear from them in just about two minutes from now when "CROSSFIRE" gets underway.
Meantime, we have confirmed that the mayor of Washington, D.C. has scheduled a news conference at the top of the hour, 5:00 Eastern, where he is expected to announce that baseball's Montreal Expos will be moving here to the nation's capital. The city has been home to baseball before, but CNN's Bruce Morton reports the team's fortunes then were often mixed.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been a long time coming. The original Senators won only years ago in the 1920s and '30s thanks to a star pitcher, Walter Johnson. Franklin Roosevelt wrote him a letter.
But then, their fortunes waned -- bad play, fewer fans -- and baseball gave Washington's team a slogan: First in war, first in peace, last in the American League.
Those Senators left after the 1960 season, went to Minnesota and found some happiness as the Twins. Washington got new Senators, an expansion team, but they lacked talent. Fans didn't love them, and they left after the 1971 season as fans trampled the field after their last game looking for souvenirs.
Those Senators became the Texas Rangers, and their managing general partner from 1989 to '94 was George W. Bush. Some remember him for trading away Sammy Sosa, who hit a lot of home runs after he left.
So, now there'll be a new team and not everyone is happy about that. The city will pay to build a stadium -- $400 million, they say, and you know it'll be more -- and some citizens wonder if baseball is worth that much in a city with bad schools, troubled services in areas like foster care, and streets that are full of potholes.
Three newcomers who almost certainly won council seats in the recent primary all opposed a city-funded stadium.
And there's another thing: Cities like New York supports sports in general -- baseball, football, hoops, the lot. Washington loves, passionately, its football team, the Redskins, who sell out even when they lose. Other teams have struggled here.
(on camera); So, it's uncertain. you have to love baseball -- I do, anyway. Hard to beat a sunny Sunday afternoon at the park. But there's a nice little AA franchise just about 20 minutes from here, and nobody in Washington paid a single tax dollar to build their park. Then, too, Montreal is in the other league. First in war, first in peace, last in the National League? Just doesn't sound right somehow.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: You'd better believe we're excited here in Washington to be getting our own baseball team again.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thanks for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.
"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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