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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Cheney Vs. Edwards; Schwarzenegger White House?; Were There Enough Troops in Iraq?
Aired October 5, 2004 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: The No. 2s are set to go one-on-one. Will Dick Cheney and John Edwards do their running mates a favor tonight?
John Kerry finds new ammunition on Iraq from a somewhat surprising source.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are a long list of mistakes and I'm glad that Paul Bremer has finally admitted at least two of them.
ANNOUNCER: The former U.S. administrator in Iraq opens up. We'll focus on the fallout.
It's not just about Bush and Kerry. Congress may be setting the stage today for a Schwarzenegger White House.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Cleveland, site of tonight's vice presidential debate, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.
Dick Cheney and John Edwards may not be the headliners of this presidential campaign, but neither side can afford to underestimate the stakes here in Cleveland tonight, particularly after the first Bush-Kerry face-off appeared to tighten the race. We are just down the street from the vice presidential debate site at Case Western Reserve University at the Cleveland Museum of Art. That's where we are. The CNN Election Express is here, too, for our 90-minute debate countdown.
President Bush is off of the campaign trail today, but John Kerry is not entirely ceding the spotlight to his running mate. In Iowa, Kerry took time out from his focus on domestic issues to revisit the subject of Iraq, specifically remarks by the former U.S. administrator there, Paul Bremer. During a speech to insurance agents yesterday, Bremer said that the United States needed more troops on the ground after the invasion and that he had asked for them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Paul Bremer, who was running the Coalition Provisional Authority, has admitted we didn't deploy enough troops to get the job done and, two, we didn't contain the violence after Saddam Hussein was deposed. Now, I hope tonight Mr. Cheney can acknowledge those mistakes. I hope Mr. Cheney can take responsibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: The Bush campaign had this response -- and I'm quoting now -- "Ambassador Bremer differed with commanders in the field. That is his right. But the president has always said that he will listen to his commanders on the ground and give them the support they need for victory. Ambassador Bremer said that we currently have enough troops, that the war in Iraq is integral to the war on terror and that the removal of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do," end quote.
Well, Bremer's comments are likely to come up in tonight's vice presidential debate here in Cleveland. We begin our coverage of the V.P. contenders with Dick Cheney and our White House correspondent Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is this day, these September 11 images the vice president hopes to remind voters of in tonight's debate. He was the one directing response in the president's absence and he's the one you'd want if needed next time, not a one-term senator.
KEN DUBERSTEIN, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: The first measure of a vice president, is he ready to step in and be president today, not tomorrow, not next year, but today? I think Dick Cheney is going to demonstrate that yet again and I think John Edwards has a big uphill climb.
BASH: Cheney aides say his debate strategy mirrors what he does on the stump, defend and promote the president's policies, attack his opponents as liberal on taxes and weak on national defense.
DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it comes to diplomacy, it looks to me like John Kerry should stick to windsurfing.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH: But the vice president, a primary defender of the Iraq war as part of the terrorism fight, will now have to answer fresh statements from his own defense secretary questioning a clear link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and former U.S. Iraqi administrator Paul Bremer that Americans did not send enough troops. A peek at Cheney's defense.
MARY MATALIN, BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Looking backwards is easy. What the troops were doing at the time and the numbers were sufficient to do it was to root Saddam Hussein, and they were obviously successful at that. BASH: Mr. Cheney's unparalleled influence is a target for Democrats. They say he embodies a highly secretive White House. And aides are bracing to hear one name a lot, Halliburton, and the accusation the vice president helped his old firm get lucrative Iraq contracts. But Cheney officials insist he didn't overly prepare a defense, calling it unnecessary.
While aides say 40 years of government experience is his greatest asset, they try to manage expectations by calling Mr. Cheney's liability John Edwards' debating skills.
DUBERSTEIN: This isn't somebody who is going to hit the oratory of a trial lawyer. He isn't somebody who is going to be the charismatic, dynamic figure.
BASH (on camera): The Cheney spin is that John Edwards was picked just for tonight, calling him the man with the golden tongue. And despite the fact that Cheney aides are trying to downplay any heightened significance for this debate, they do hope that Mr. Cheney's appeal with the GOP base could help energize rank-and-file Republicans disappointed about Mr. Bush's debate last week.
Dana Bash, CNN, Cleveland, Ohio.
WOODRUFF: Well, John Edwards says that he and Dick Cheney do not see the world in the same way and that that, he says, is a good thing.
As CNN's Joe Johns report, Edwards hopes to make those differences crystal clear tonight.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a town hall rally in Parma, Ohio, John Edwards said tonight's debate will offer a sharp contrast.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not have the same view of the world as Dick Cheney, and that's a good thing. That's not a bad thing.
JOHNS: Judging by his recent campaign rhetoric, Edwards is expected to be aggressive tonight. In his stump speeches, Edwards has accused Bush and Cheney of living in a fantasy land with their rosy predictions for Iraq and the domestic economy.
EDWARDS: It's one thing to talk about the veterans and talk about the troops and fly into an aircraft carrier for a photo-op. It is a different thing to actually walk the walk.
JOHNS: He has noted that the Iraq war has benefited Cheney's old employer Halliburton, an insinuation of impure motives that has angered Cheney in the past. Edwards was one of North Carolina's most successful trial lawyers, his specialty, boiling down complex issues into language juries could easily understand. Tonight, he'll need all of that skill when he goes up against an opponent well-versed in the issues and a master of the understated attack.
(on camera): Another potential wild card in tonight's debate, whether Edwards will use recent comments by Ambassador Paul Bremer and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, creating serious new questions about the Bush administration's prosecution of the Iraq war.
Joe Johns, CNN, Cleveland.
WOODRUFF: We have more evidence today that the first Bush-Kerry debate helped the senator move closer to the president in the polls. We averaged together five national surveys that were taken after their face-off in Florida. In that poll of polls, Bush now is two points ahead of Kerry, 49 percent to 47 percent. In our last poll of polls before the first presidential debate, Bush led Kerry by five points, 48 percent -- or rather 49 percent to 44 percent.
Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, will take an in- depth look at the poll of polls a little later on INSIDE POLITICS.
But before tonight's Cheney-Edwards debate, we'll get opposing views on the situation in Iraq and Paul Bremer's controversial statement.
Also ahead, the clash in Cleveland, they're calling it, from many different angles. I'll talk with Bush and Kerry campaign insiders and some student debaters. Plus, the role of vice president then and now. The job description isn't what it used to be.
With 28 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: We're in Cleveland, the site of tonight's vice presidential debate. We're at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Joining us, some Kerry-Edwards and Bush-Cheney supporters, many of them from Cleveland, but they also tell me they're from all over the country, some of them from Texas, some of them from Kansas and a few other places.
WOODRUFF: Great to see you. All right. All over.
We're glad to have them here. Somewhere else not too far from here, at the airport, Vice President Cheney just having landed here in Cleveland with several hours to go before tonight's face-off at 9:00 Eastern, Vice President Cheney arriving in Cleveland the afternoon of tonight's debate. Well, as we just reported, new questions are being raised about whether the United States had enough troops in Iraq to maintain order after the invasion. And later, L. Paul Bremer, who served as civilian administration in Iraq until July, says an atmosphere of lawlessness was created because, quote, "We never had enough troops on the ground."
Joining us now is Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. He's the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, we've already heard from the Bush-Cheney campaign. They're saying it doesn't really matter what Mr. Bremer had to say, because the president was listening to the commanders on the ground, who were telling him they had enough troops.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: They didn't have enough troops, Judy. The commanders knew they didn't have enough troops. Paul Bremer has finally come forward and acknowledge they didn't have enough troops. It's self-evident we didn't have enough troops. I don't know why they keep sticking to this fiction.
WOODRUFF: Well, separately from this question of whether there were enough troops then and in the early months of the war, right now, we have...
BIDEN: Or now.
WOODRUFF: Well, right now, you have an effort by U.S.-led coalition forces to go into Samarra to root out the insurgents there. You have the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr saying he's thinking of disbanding his militia, maybe running for office. Aren't there some good signs as well right now in Iraq?
BIDEN: Oh, sure there are, Judy. The question is whether or not we squandered all these opportunities. Look, these guys cut back the orders for the 1st Cavalry to fully come in some time in March after we had -- it was clear we were going to win before Saddam's statue came down.
The 4th I.D. did not come down through the north. There would be no Sunni Triangle if we had shown a little more patience and a little better diplomacy to convince the Turks to allow the 4th Infantry Division to come down. And what has happened, Judy, is, even though things are getting better, if you listened to Allawi's speech today that he made in Baghdad, a very sobering speech. He's telling the truth.
The truth is, we don't have trained police officers, because, again, this administration did not make the effort to train police officers immediately, as Senator Lugar, myself, the RAND Corporation, everyone else, everybody else telling them it was necessary. They hung and clung to this notion that we would be greeted somehow as liberators, that there were plenty of Iraqi police who would step up to the fore, that we'd be able to have this process move on, which was totally, completely wrong. And for 10 months, for 10 months, we have squandered the $18 billion we haven't spent to do this. We've also not provided for 17 months a real live training program. I'll conclude, Judy, by saying, just two weeks ago, before my committee -- our committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the undersecretary of state in charge of training, when telling us about my comment and Rumsfeld's comment that we have 92,000 trained troops, I said, I have no evidence of that. And Rumsfeld says there's 32,000 trained cops.
I said, to the best of my knowledge, just having been there, there's not one single solitary Iraqi policeman who's fully completed the training that was set out for them. And the undersecretary of state said, that's correct, Senator, not one. And so, it's about time we get truthful here. This is crazy.
WOODRUFF: But Senator, if so many mistakes were made, as you laid out and as other Democrats have laid out, how do you explain the fact that, in poll after poll, more Americans say they think George Bush would do a better job leading the war in Iraq than John Kerry?
BIDEN: I can't explain it, except to say that this administration's spin machine and the president's comments, which get much more coverage than anyone else's comments, are ones that were prepared to be believed by the American people. And he said, everything's going fine. We're really making progress. We've really trained all these people.
People want to believe that. I wanted to believe that. But I've been back there three times Judy. I went to the training facility just the last time I was there, and now I guess it's seven weeks ago, in Baghdad, along with Lindsey Graham, a Republican. Ask him how much training had taken place. We met with the commander of the 1st Cavalry, an incredibly proud division that can shoot straight and kill people and do tough things.
They have Sadr City. They pointed out they haven't had money to spend on the reconstruction projects. And where they were able to spend, there is no difficulty. They are able to have peace and tranquility. This has been, as Dick Lugar said a couple of weeks ago on one of your sister shows, this -- when asked by one of your colleagues, well, how do you explain it, he said incompetence. It's been incompetent the way we have pursued the peace.
But the public doesn't know that yet, but it's starting to come through. And the reason to make it come through now, Judy, is not to win or lose. This is so much bigger than John Kerry or George Bush. This is about whether or not we secure the peace and are going to do the things that need to be done now -- now -- and level with the American people, so they don't leave us when they find out the truth.
I don't want to be around, Judy, in January and then say, whoa, whoa, whoa, I didn't know it was this bad. We want out.
WOODRUFF: We hear you, Senator Joe Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
BIDEN: Yes. It's frustrating. I apologize. I'm frustrated. Thank you.
WOODRUFF: That's coming through loud and clear.
Senator, we thank you for your time. We appreciate it. It's always good to talk to you.
And coming up in a minute, we're going to hear the other side of the story from a senator we just heard Senator Biden name, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
We'll be right back.
WOODRUFF: Back here in Cleveland, the site of tonight's vice presidential debate.
Just a moment ago, we heard from Democratic Senator and Foreign Relations Committee member Senator Joe Biden.
Now, for a different perspective, we are joined by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Senator Graham, we just heard from a very frustrated Senator Biden, saying what could be clearer? We now hear from Paul Bremer, the civilian administrator in Iraq, that there should have been more U.S. troops on the ground in the beginning and throughout, that he made that argument, and he wishes he'd made it more. Senator Biden's point is, what more evidence do we need that the situation in Iraq is different from what we've been hearing from President Bush?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think the argument that we could have had more troops up front I think is probably true.
But the truth, Judy, is that we are doing better now. We're going after the terrorists in Samarra. We're accelerating our training program. NATO is now involved. So, what I see is a more aggressive response to the January elections that will be forthcoming. The terrorists are killing Iraqi children in droves. And I think the population is fed up with it, so I'm right encouraged right now.
WOODRUFF: Well, Senator, Senator Biden reported his -- I guess, the testimony yesterday or a day or so ago from the defense secretary and from others in the administration acknowledging that there are no fully, fully trained Iraqi police, police who have been through the full range of training that one would need to deal with the situation on the ground.
The course in Jordan -- I've been to it -- is an eight-week course. They've had several classes go through, but they have follow- on training. You have got to remember, the police force that we're talking about training is replacing a police force that protected a dictator. There's never been a police force in Iraq for decades to investigate and prosecute crime and protect people. The police force that was in place for Saddam Hussein was there to protect him.
So, we're starting from scratch. It is going to take a while. And people need to know that.
WOODRUFF: Back on what Ambassador Paul Bremer had to say, though, a number of people are saying, if this was the case, if this is what he was asking for and the president was saying no and yet the administration has never formally acknowledged that they didn't have enough troops, the question people are saying, is, is the administration leveling with the American people?
GRAHAM: Well, I don't know what Ambassador Bremer recommended to the commanders of the forces in Iraq, but I've never known a commander to make a force request that was turned down.
I know Shinseki said that we needed more troops, but I don't know of that have made a request that have been turned down. But I've been saying for a year and a half I think more troops would allow us to accelerate training and would be a good thing. But the truth is, the model to win this war, Judy, is Iraqi forces engaging with American forces to take places like Samarra and Fallujah.
And we're making a more aggressive attempt to do that. The terrorists are getting desperate. They're killing children. I really do think time is on our side, if we'll stay the course. And Senator Kerry is sending the worst message possible, talking about getting out in six months. So, I'd much rather adjust what President Bush is doing, rather than going the way of Senator Kerry, which is a message that we're going to leave.
WOODRUFF: Well, I think his message has been the troops. There should be a process to begin to get the troops out in four years.
GRAHAM: Well, no. He said he was going to -- he hoped to get a process that we'd start leaving in six months. There's no way we're going to be able to leave in six months, I don't think.
WOODRUFF: All right.
Well, we appreciate your being with us. Senator Lindsey Graham, thank you very much.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Dick Cheney and John Edwards do square off in their first and only debate tonight. Coming up, our Bruce Morton takes a look at how the office of vice president has evolved over the
WOODRUFF: If you didn't think there was a lot of interest in tonight's debate, there's your evidence. We've got a crowd. We're here at the Cleveland Museum of Art. And there is high interest where we are. Well, let's take a look now at the vice presidency. It is the vice presidential debate tonight. We know the No. 2 office is one that has changed dramatically over the years.
Bruce Morton has our report.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Harry Truman was Franklin Roosevelt's vice president, he was so out of it, he didn't even know the United States was working on a new weapon, the atom bomb. That's changed.
ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Since the Cold War and since Richard Nixon's vice presidency, the office has become much more important, not strictly in terms of the duties that the vice president carries during his four or eight years in office, but in terms of his visibility, in terms of his consultations with the president, and most of all with his potential for being a presidential candidate.
MORTON: Richard Nixon was Dwight Eisenhower's V.P., and while he didn't have much influence on policy, Ike's illnesses meant Nixon traveled, met foreign leaders, got on TV. That's been true for his successors, too.
DALLEK: I think part of it has to do with the fact that the United States is now a superpower. And vice presidents do a lot of travel abroad and become much more acquainted with international affairs and international problems. They become a kind of envoy for the president to both hostile and friendly regimes.
MORTON: And some have domestic areas of expertise, Al Gore on the environment, for instance, and shrinking the federal bureaucracy. And as Dallek mentioned, nowadays, they almost always run for president, Eisenhower's Nixon, Kennedy's Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford's unsuccessful running mate, Bob Dole, Jimmy Carter's Walter Mondale, Ronald Reagan's George Bush, that Bush's Dan Quayle and, of course, Bill Clinton's Gore.
That's something Dick Cheney won't do, too old, too many heart attacks. He is a very powerful vice president because, like Gore and unlike, say, Lyndon Johnson, his boss listens when he speaks. He is the classic Washington insider, White House chief of staff, secretary of defense, congressional leader, serving a president who had never worked here.
DALLEK: He's much more experienced in international affairs than George Bush was. And I think his opinions have carried a lot of weight with this president.
MORTON: And four years ago, he looked very much at ease debating Joe Lieberman. Will he again?
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington. .
(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: Thank you, Bruce.
Well, the vice presidential candidates are tonight's top story, but John Kerry grabbed the political spotlight earlier today. Coming up, we'll tell you what he had to say about Iraq and President Bush.
And stay with CNN throughout the evening, as we close in on the vice presidential debate. Our prime-time coverage kicks off at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
I'll be back with more INSIDE POLITICS in a moment.
WOODRUFF: Tonight, very close to where we are, Dick Cheney and John Edwards face off in the vice presidential debate, the one and only of this campaign. Cheney landed here in Cleveland about an hour ago. The vice president has been through this before. He debated Joe Lieberman four years ago.
Senator John Edwards is a busy man, too, today. He held a rally a few hours ago. And we're told he plans to fit in a long jog this afternoon before tonight's debate.
Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff, live from the Cleveland Museum of Art, very close to tonight's debate site.
Well, with John Edwards and Dick Cheney occupying much of the political spotlight today, George W. Bush is off the campaign trail. He's spending the day at the White House.
John Kerry campaigned in Iowa, where he spoke out about Iraq and the comments by the former U.S. administrator in Baghdad. CNN's Frank Buckley is traveling with the Kerry campaign. He joins us from Tipton, Iowa.
Hello there, Frank.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Judy.
Senator Kerry making those comments at a rare press availability, the first one he's had with reporters in a couple of weeks, wanting to get that item in the news, along with the other item regarding Secretary Rumsfeld and his comments regarding the lack of a connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Senator Kerry using those items to try to put Vice President Dick Cheney on the defensive leading up to the debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Behind the scenes in all of these discussions and presentations is Dick Cheney. And it's time for the vice president to be accountable and to answer the questions that have arisen.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BUCKLEY: And to remind the viewers, Paul Bremer saying he was referring to the troops on the ground, the troop levels that he found on the ground in May of 2003, and the need for more troops to deal with the looting that was taking place. He says that he support President Bush's strategy in Iraq and, in fact, endorses his campaign. Secretary Rumsfeld saying that he was simply misunderstood.
Still, in terms of raw politics, this fits in very nicely with Senator Kerry's script in his campaign right now, this idea that President Bush can't fix problems if he won't acknowledge them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Saddam Hussein was not connected to al Qaeda, not connected to Osama bin Laden. Saddam Hussein was a diversion from the real war on terror. And that has made America less safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCKLEY: And advisers saying the timing of this press avail driven by a couple of things. Of course, the fact that these news items took place, but also the debate prep, a chance to rattle Dick Cheney, put him on the defensive leading up to the debate tonight.
A senior adviser also telling me that this was an opportunity for Senator Kerry to try and get in front and dominate the news cycle during the next 24 hours. It's going to be a period in which the Kerry campaign is down, the Bush campaign is down, as both sides prepare for their debate coming up, Judy, on Friday. Senator Kerry on his way right now to Colorado, where he's going to be doing his debate prep -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Frank Buckley, following John Kerry today. Frank, thank you very much.
Well, with me here right now in Cleveland to talk more about tonight's debate is Ken Mehlman. He is the chairman of the Bush- Cheney campaign.
Ken Mehlman, here you have the number one man, the administration, Bush administration, sent to run the program in Iraq, saying he tried to tell the administration there weren't enough troops. They didn't listen. His argument really supports John Kerry, doesn't it?
KEN MEHLMAN, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don't think it does, Judy. The president from the beginning made very clear that the decision about the number of troops wasn't going to be his decision or wasn't going to be anyone's decision except for the troops on the battlefield, and the commanders on the battlefield.
And the president provided the commanders on the battlefield as many troops as they asked for. That was the right thing to do. We don't need Washington politicians second-guessing what the troops in the theater and their commanders say they need. WOODRUFF: But Paul Bremer is somebody with extensive national security experience. He wasn't just plucked out of nowhere. He spent years studying...
MEHLMAN: No question.
WOODRUFF: ... national security, terrorism issues. If he was -- if he was telling this to the administration, why weren't they listening?
MEHLMAN: The administration was listening to the commanders in the field. And Paul Bremer does have a lot of experience, which is why he also said -- and he's right to say -- that removing Saddam Hussein made us safer, that Saddam Hussein had connections to terrorists, that Saddam Hussein was -- removing him was part of the war on terror.
He was right on all of those things. But as to the logistical questions, the number of troops, this president believes that you listen to the commanders in the field. And that's what he did.
WOODRUFF: What about the comments yesterday from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying that he has seen no concrete, clear evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein? Again, doesn't that undercut so much of what we've heard from the administration over and over again?
MEHLMAN: I don't think it does, because I think Secretary Rumsfeld clarified those comments. Look, you don't need to take it from Donald Rumsfeld or George W. Bush or me or anyone else that removing Saddam Hussein was part of the war on terror. Take it from John Kerry.
In December of '01, John Kerry said, if you want to have a war on terror that's complete, it's got to include Saddam Hussein. That's why he voted for the war in Iraq.
The problem here is this, Judy: John Kerry has approached this war on terror and has approached this central battleground in Iraq not by what's in the national security interest, but why -- what's in his short-term political interest. That's why he voted for the war, and that's why he then voted against funding the war.
That's why he then said he was for the battle. Now he says it's the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time. We need a commander in chief who is committed to victory regardless of the politics.
WOODRUFF: Talk about tonight's vice presidential debate. Is this about these presidential candidates, the vice president and John Edwards, or is it more about the guys at the top of the ticket?
MEHLMAN: I think this vice presidential debate, like the presidential debate, is a cheer choice the American people have of two very different visions. It's a choice between what the president wants to do, which is to take the battle to the terrorists, to be resolute to victory, and between the Kerry-Edwards approach, which is, depending on the day, either for the war or against the war.
It's between the president that thinks that a commander in chief ought to defend the American people, and John Kerry, who said there ought to be some kind of a global test before America defends itself. On domestic issues, you're going to have a big debate.
The president believes that the way the economy here in Ohio grows is by less taxes, less regulations and fewer lawsuits. John Kerry in his first 100 days would increase taxes, increase red tape and increase lawsuits. That's the last thing we need to lead in our economy.
WOODRUFF: But specifically, the vice president tonight, the Kerry people are saying John Edwards is going to present someone young and energetic against someone who is older, even somebody's who's had health problems in the past. Is this something you're worried about, the image of a vice president?
MEHLMAN: If you -- no question, John Edwards is committed to image. That's why he was chosen.
He wasn't chosen because of his experience. He wasn't chosen because he was a good legislator. He wasn't chosen because he understands how government works.
They chose him because he's a great presenter, because he provides a good image. But I don't think the American people want to vote on this election on image.
They want to vote on the basis of who will keep our country safe, who will keep our economy strong. And you're going to hear tonight from Dick Cheney talking about the Bush-Cheney strategy to accomplish that. That's the difference.
It's going to be style against substance. And I believe that in these challenging times the American people want to elect substance.
WOODRUFF: A vigorous comment from Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign.
MEHLMAN: Thanks a lot.
WOODRUFF: Good to see you.
MEHLMAN: Good to see you.
WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. And I know you're going to be with us tonight at 10:30 after the debate.
MEHLMAN: I look forward to it. I'm glad you have that heater for tonight.
WOODRUFF: Yes, we're going to need it tonight. Thanks very much.
Well, we did just hear the Bush team's point of view. We're going to hear from the Kerry side a little later in the program when I'm joined by Iowa's Democratic governor, Tom Vilsack.
And right now, checking headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," there are new poll results in several showdown states and a tighter- than-expected race in California. Among likely Nevada voters, George Bush leading John Kerry 48 percent to 44 percent in a survey by the "Las Vegas Sun," KLAS and Nevada Public Radio. Ralph Nader getting 2 percent.
Bush has taken the lead over Kerry in New Hampshire. In the latest WMUR Granite State Poll, 50 percent say they are backing Bush, while 45 percent say they support Kerry.
In California, two new polls find the races a little closer than many would have expected. In a Field Poll, Kerry leads Bush by nine points, 49 percent to 40 percent. Kerry's lead has narrowed to six points, however, in a poll by the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State. Four years ago, George Bush lost California by almost 12 points.
In Florida, however, the race remains very close. A new Insider Advantage Survey gives Bush 47 percent, Kerry, 45 percent and Ralph Nader, 2 percent.
Voter registration ended at midnight in Florida, and already there's a dust-up over registration guideline. Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meeks, who is also John Kerry's state campaign chairman, wants applications approved, even if applicants fail to check a box confirming citizenship. Meeks says the box is redundant because an oath above the signature line contains a citizenship clause. The counsel for Florida's GOP secretary of state says the box must be checked and the oath must be signed, both.
Well, coming up, college students for both Bush and Kerry take a stand for their candidates. We're going to hear from four of them.
Also, the inside scoop on tonight's showdown. Our political editor, John Mercurio, adds his insight to the race at Case next.
WOODRUFF: We're going to take you quickly back to Washington, where the secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, talking to reporters about the flu vaccine. This is Secretary Thompson.
(BEGIN LIVE NEWS EVENT -- JOINED IN PROGRESS)
TOMMY THOMPSON, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: ... contingency plans to make sure that our existing vaccine supply is used for those who need it most. We heard that there was some difficulty with Chiron, so we had already placed in position a contingency plan. And we're in the process of implementing that today.
This news leaves us with a supply of about 54 million doses of influenza vaccine which is being manufactured by Aventis, and about one to two million doses of FluMist nasal spray. The Aventis vaccine is being distributed now, and we anticipate having all of its doses in the supply chain by the end of this month.
So, we do have vaccine, though much less than the 100 million doses that we had hoped to, and which we had purchased. It is important, however, to note that the Chiron news does not affect the vaccine supply for the major CDC-recommended pediatric group, those children between the ages of six months and 23 months. This supply is being provided by Aventis and will be delivered, and is in the process of being delivered.
Our immediate focus will be on making sure that the supply of vaccine we do have reaches those who are the most vulnerable. And we have already taken steps today, as well as prior to today, to realize this goal.
While we were surprised by the announcement that Chiron's license was suspended, we did anticipate that there may be and could be a shortage of vaccine. If something went wrong in the production process, for example -- and we are prepared for that possibility -- for whatever reason, we are now able to move ahead. Chiron or another manufacturer would not be able to deliver their allotment of vaccine.
Particularly, CDC had prepared a plan for prioritizing its recommendations on who should get this influenza vaccine this season if we did have a shortage. Late this morning, we called a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to review the CDC plan and make a recommendation based on this new vaccine supply information.
And this afternoon, we are announcing ACIP's recommendations on who should get priority in receiving the flu vaccine. Dr. Julie Gerberding will elaborate on those recommendations in a moment. I'm very pleased that she is here, along with Tony Fauci from NIH.
The ACIP recommendations give us a map for determining how best to prioritize our vaccine supply to make sure it is reaching the most vulnerable people. We need to follow their advice, and by doing so we give ourselves the best chance to deal with this flu season without serious consequences or complications. We will need the help of the public. The public Health Department and the public health professionals are the ones who we're calling upon to implement this particular procedure.
We also are calling upon...
WOODRUFF: Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson talking to reporters in Washington about the news. We are learning today that the nation's supply of flu vaccine is gong to be less plentiful, maybe significantly less plentiful because of the movement by the government of Great Britain to shut town one of the major suppliers in the world.
Because of that, you're hearing Secretary Thompson talking about directing what supply of flu vaccine there is to the most needy parts of the population: very young children, the elderly and other people who are vulnerable.
This is a story CNN has been following all day. And we'll continue to bring you updates as we have them.
Well, back here in Cleveland, and focusing on tonight's debate, the stage is nearly set for the debate coming up. But when Dick Cheney and John Edwards take the stage, things are going to be a little different from what they were in last Thursday night's presidential face-off.
Instead of standing at lecterns, both men will be seated at a table with their chairs, we are told, at equal height. There will be 16 questions split between foreign and domestic policy. Each candidate will have two minutes per answer and 90 seconds for rebuttal.
With me now, CNN political editor John Mercurio.
All right. So, John, you've been talking to people in both campaigns. What are their expectations, what are they putting out there? What are they saying?
JOHN MERCURIO, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, you know, it's funny. Fortunately, for us reporters, no one is being subtle about their strategy or their spin today.
I mean, for Republican, this is about Cheney, a trusted and steady hand, versus John Edwards, the career trial attorney who has little to no experience to be commander in chief. For Democrats, this is about Cheney, the hand maiden to the rich and powerful, former CEO of Halliburton, versus John Edwards, this youthful son of a mill worker who spent his entire life working on behalf of the poor and the underprivileged.
Now, Democrats are really pushing hard on this young thing. I mean, Edwards was out today at this town hall meeting in the Cleveland suburbs. He's going for an hour-long run this afternoon. And when you talk to the Edwards campaign, they don't even really deny it. They say, look, it's good to have a candidate who can hold more than one event on the same day, and we're happy that John Edwards has the youthfulness to do this.
Now, the Republicans, for their part, are pushing really hard on the trial attorney aspect of Kerry's -- of Edwards' record. There's a new TV ad out today, but it doesn't actually mention Edwards by name. But it talks about medical malpractice, and John Kerry's record. The real target, though, is the man who's going to be on stage tonight, is John Edwards.
WOODRUFF: John, we know the Kerry camp has invited a special guest. Tell us who that is and what that's all about.
MERCURIO: This is great. As most -- I think most of our viewers remember earlier this year Dick Cheney had a certain skirmish on the Senate floor with a certain Democratic senator, who he told to go do something to himself, using an "F" word. It wasn't flip-flop. And he -- the Kerry campaign is having a little fun this afternoon, this evening.
They've invited that senator, Pat Leahy, from Vermont, to the debate tonight. He'll be sitting in the second row, I'm told, which is clearly within line of sight of Dick Cheney.
Now, the Bush campaign crying foul, saying, look, they did the same thing in Miami last week. You had Terry McAuliffe sitting right behind Laura Bush. And the Kerry campaign is not even really denying it.
I asked Joe Lockhart earlier today why -- what the thinking was behind this decision. They said, look, we know these debates can be extremely stressful situations, and we wanted to make sure there was a friendly face there for Dick Cheney.
WOODRUFF: They've got a sense of humor.
WOODRUFF: Very quick, John, we know they try to manage the spin. What are they already doing to manage what the press tries -- or says about this at 10:30, when this debate ends?
MERCURIO: They're talking to the supporters. They're talking to millions of supporters.
They're e-mailing everybody, saying, look, be involved in the post-debate spin, e-mail -- e-mail the media, e-mail your Web logs, e- mail Web sites. We know tomorrow the president is going to be giving a major speech in Pennsylvania, and later this week obviously he has his own debate. So, this is part of a week-long strategy -- a week- long strategy for the Bush campaign.
And for Kerry's part, or for Edwards' part, I don't know if this is part of their spin, but he's going to be doing Regis and Kelly, reaching out to women voters, I think, on Thursday, also doing an interview on "The View." Next week, he's going to be on Jay Leno. So, that's all part of, I think, their attempt to sort of -- to win the post-debate spin.
WOODRUFF: We wouldn't want the press just to simply cover this and move on.
WOODRUFF: OK. John Mercurio, our political editor, thanks very much.
MERCURIO: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Well, you know, a national student debate was held here last night. A student debate under the same conditions of the vice presidential debate.
Eight students representing eight universities participated. Half of them played John Edwards, responding from the Democratic perspective, the other half answered on behalf of Dick Cheney and the Republicans. Just ahead, some of those students are going to join me here to talk about why they care so much about this election.
WOODRUFF: Last night I was a lucky person. I presided over a national student debate mirroring tonight's vice presidential contest.
It was right here at Case Western Reserve, and I'm joined now by four of the participants. They are Republicans: Fitzgerald Heslop of Fisk University; Shaan Ghandi, of Case Western -- you're in your home turf right here -- and Democrats LaToya Edwards, of the University of Florida; and Adam Hosmer-Henner, of Duke University.
Let's start with you first, Shaan Ghandi. And it's a question I want to ask all of you. Why is it so important for you to see George W. Bush reelected? You're a Republican.
SHAAN GHANDI, CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY: I feel that George W. Bush has a good plan for America. What he's been doing in the past four years has been great. Our country is prosperous, our country is strong. I think we need to reelect him right now so that we can continue this prosperity and strength.
WOODRUFF: LaToya Edwards, you feel differently. You're a Democrat representing the University of Florida. Why do you think John Kerry should take the president's place?
LATOYA EDWARDS, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: John Kerry has a greater vision for our future, implementing more domestic policies and ensuring that things like health care and our educational system are reformed, things that the Bush administration has left behind. He also has a more liberal stance on social issues, and the only way for our nation to progress is to learn to be more accepting of its citizens.
WOODRUFF: So, when you hear that argument, Fitzgerald Heslop, what do you say?
FITZGERALD HESLOP, FISK UNIVERSITY: I think that President Bush has the passion, the conviction and everything that we need in order to move us into the future. And I think that that passion is best exemplified with consistency. He's turned many corners, and he's not turning back.
WOODRUFF: So -- and Adam Hosmer-Henner, we know John Kerry has been accused of not being consistent. What do you say when people -- when you get into a discussion with your friends or family about this? What do you say to defend John Kerry?
ADAM HOSMER-HENNER, DUKE UNIVERSITY: He's consistent on every single issue that we care about. And for the last 50 years, what liberals have been fighting for, the environment, a woman's right to choose, all of these issues are slowly being turned back, and that's why we just think John Kerry is the only person to do it.
WOODRUFF: Is this an election that matters, Shaan Ghandi?
GHANDI: Yes, it has. I mean, in the past -- in the past four years, a lot of things have changed in America. And I think whoever gets elected in this November election can drastically alter the course of our country.
WOODRUFF: I mean, name -- how?
GHANDI: I mean, for example, Supreme Court justices. Many of our Supreme Court justices are nearing retirement age. And over the past years there hasn't been many justices that have retired.
So, whoever gets elected this November will have -- will have the chance to nominate new justices. That could potentially alter the course of our legal -- legal system in our country.
WOODRUFF: LaToya Edwards, University of Florida, is that the main reason why this election matters, the Supreme Court?
L. EDWARDS: That plays a very large role, with things such as same-sex marriage and abortion constantly being at the forefront of this election year. The Supreme Court justices in the end are going to be the ones who will shape that policy. Because the president gets to choose those justices, it's essential that we have a president that will protect our civil liberties.
WOODRUFF: A lot of people, Fitzgerald Heslop, say it's Iraq that's on more people's minds. Clearly, half the people -- or almost half the people in the country think things are going badly. Others say, well, it's to be expected. What do you think?
HESLOP: I think that what's on a lot of people's minds is Iraq. I think that when we look at the situation that we find ourselves in Iraq, it really begs us to ask some very serious questions about why we're there, why we're not there.
I think that President Bush has told us as best he can why we find ourselves over there. And we must continue to support the troops. We cannot send mixed messages as to why we're there.
WOODRUFF: I'm getting back to the same question I asked you before, Adam Hosmer-Henner. But is that what John Kerry's done? He's sent mixed messages on Iraq?
HOSMER-HENNER: No. I think the whole issue of consistency is really dangerous. Because he talked about the important questions that we need to ask ourselves about Iraq. And by President Bush cutting off this discussion and blindly saying we must support our troops, he really cuts off our ability to answer those questions and to decide what's the right policy to choose.
WOODRUFF: Very quickly to all of you, when you are back at school -- in your case, Shaan Ghandi, here at Case Western -- how many of your friends are really interested in this election? You all are among the most active, most interested of your student bodies. How many young people your age really are involved in this election? GHANDI: I think this election is amazing about how many young people are truly involved in this election. There are thousands of kids that are just actively campaigning for candidates and just really getting to know all of the issues.
WOODRUFF: LaToya Edwards?
L. EDWARDS: The youth is really underestimated in this election year. Colleges are energized and excited to get out the vote, especially after 2000. Coming from Palm Beach County, I know how each vote can make a difference.
WOODRUFF: You're not having a hard time getting your friends interested?
HESLOP: Oh, no not having a hard time. At Fisk University, one of the things I know is that, while we may be on the Democrat or Republican side, we remain united on one thing, this is a generation that cares.
WOODRUFF: Last quick word?
HOSMER-HENNER: It will rewrite the political science textbooks. The youth are going to turn out this time.
WOODRUFF: All right. All four of you, thank you very much. It was great to be with you last night, and thanks for joining us today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: We'll be right back.
(STOCK MARKET REPORT)
KERRY: Tonight, John Edwards' is going to square off with Dick Cheney, and I'll tell you where my money is.
ANNOUNCER: We know who John Kerry's betting on, but who do you think has the edge tonight? We'll size up the vice presidential debate.
From a Bush lead to a dead heat: We'll break down the latest presidential horse race numbers in our poll of polls.
Now, live from Cleveland, site of tonight's vice presidential debate, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS. WOODRUFF: Well, there's still much more to say about tonight's vice presidential debate. In our final half hour of INSIDE POLITICS ,we'll take a look at all of the hoopla before the main event here in Cleveland as supporters of the two campaigns collide, figuratively speaking.
And it never hurts to think ahead. Will Congress give a green light to a Schwarzenegger presidency some day? We'll have more INSIDE POLITICS ahead.
And I think we're reading the wrong script.
Stay with CNN tonight. Anderson Cooper -- my mistake and my apology. Here we go. Now we're on the right page.
Welcome back to Cleveland. With just five hours to go before the vice presidential candidates go head to head at Case Western Reserve University, both John Edwards and Dick Cheney are here in Ohio. Senator Edwards held a town hall event in Parma, Ohio, before holing up for some final debate prep time.
Vice President Cheney landed in Cleveland about an hour ago, and he's gearing up for his 90 minutes on the stage tonight. The campaigns head into tonight's face-off very much aware of the way the first Bush-Kerry debate affected this race. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider has been poring over the latest poll numbers.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Where does the race stand? Time for a poll of polls. Three news organizations polled debate watchers the night of the first debate. In all three polls, viewers thought John Kerry did a better job than George W. Bush. Here's the average. A 13-point margin for Kerry over Bush. A lot of people find out who won by following the media coverage which was highly favorable to Kerry.
DAVID GERGEN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: It was clear to everybody watching the debate that Bush had a sluggish night.
SCHNEIDER: The Kerry campaign was buoyant.
TERRY HOLT, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: I think anyone who saw the debate certainly -- over 60 million American people, Americans stayed in their homes all across this country knows that John Kerry had a great night last week.
SCHNEIDER: The Bush campaign grudgingly acknowledged...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kerry is a pretty slick debater.
SCHNEIDER: So, look at what happened when five organizations polled people over the weekend and asked them who won the debate. The consensus got reinforced. Now, by a whopping 38-point margin the public said Kerry was the winner. Did Kerry's debate victory have any impact on the race? Five organizations sampled likely voters before the debate and afterwards. Before the debate an average of the five polls shows Bush leading Kerry by six points, 49-43 percent. After the debate, Bush's support went down one point on the average and Kerry gained three points.
So, the average shows Bush now two points ahead of Kerry among likely voters. 48 percent to 46 percent. Very close. All together, seven organizations polled likely voters after the debate including two that did not poll voters beforehand. The average of all seven is still 48 Bush, 46 Kerry. Four polls show Bush slightly ahead while three show a dead heat.
The race gets even closer if you look at all registered voters as six polling organizations do. Bush 47, Kerry 46. Virtually tied which suggests that the higher the turnout, the closer the race is likely to get.
SCHNEIDER: No poll of likely voters shows Kerry leading. But only one of the seven polls shows Bush with over 50 percent of the vote which is where an incumbent needs to be to begin to feel secure -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Bill, we're hearing a lot about higher voter registration around the country, that in some states people are literally surging to registration places to make sure that...
SCHNEIDER: I'm sorry, my audio is not working. I can not hear you.
WOODRUFF: OK. Bill Schneider, sorry about that. He can't hear me. Is that right, Bill? You can't hear me. All right. Our apologies. I'll save that question for next time. Thanks a lot, Bill Schneider.
The tightened horse race is coloring tonight's vice presidential debate as you would expect. And so is a remark by former Iraq administrator Paul Bremer who said yesterday that the U.S. did not have enough troops on the ground in Iraq after the invasion -- and later.
Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent John King and our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. To both of you -- and John, let's start with you -- how do Paul Bremer's comments set the stage for the debate tonight?
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, it is a new question about the strategy for the war in Iraq. This new question and it is a very pointed one comes not from a Democrat, not from John Edwards, not from John Kerry but from a Bush administration colleague, Paul Bremer.
The White House has quickly tried to explain this away by saying, sure, Ambassador Bremer thought he needed more troops and the president respects that opinion but the president relied on the judgment of his military commanders on the ground and they said they had enough troops.
That's the answer the White House gives. That's the answer the vice president will give tonight. It is yet another opening for the Democrats and we have already heard it today who say that this president ignored advice, did not send enough troops to Iraq and that's why you have the violent insurgency we see today.
WOODRUFF: So, Candy, is this something that John Kerry and John Edwards tonight are going to try to take advantage of or is that too obvious a question?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, they have already taken advantage of it. We saw John Kerry have a news conference. Something he doesn't do all that often. The main purpose and the first things out of his mouth were about Paul Bremer and also about Don Rumsfeld.
They have been going around the country saying a couple of things, one that this administration has miscalculated on nearly everything that has to do with the Iraq war. Also, that George Bush never admits a mistake.
So, you have Paul Bremer coming out and saying these things. So, what do you get from John Kerry? You get at least somebody's admitting mistakes. Let's see if Dick Cheney can do that tonight.
So, it teed them up very well for this evening.
WOODRUFF: John King, what is the Bush-Cheney camp saying they need out of this debate tonight?
KING: Two things. They need the vice president to give a better explanation in defense of the president's decisions and his policy in Iraq than the president himself gave at the debate last week. Republicans privately concede the president did not meet the test if you will in explaining and defending his Iraq policy.
Number two, they need the vice president to reenergize the Republican base. There's a bit of a case of the jitters among Republicans. The Bush campaign believes that is exaggerated, unnecessary, and overstated but they also acknowledge it exists to a degree.
So, they are looking for him to explain and defend the Iraq policy, calm many Republican jitters and take the case to Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards that they simply have offered conflicting positions on the war in Iraq and are not ready to lead the war on terrorism. We should know, Judy, the president called the vice president earlier today to wish him well tonight.
WOODRUFF: And Candy, if that's what the Bush-Cheney folks say they need to get tonight, what about the Kerry-Edwards folks?
CROWLEY: Well, they very freely admit, here is John Edwards, he hasn't even completed his first term as a U.S. senator. He needs to show the American people he's ready for the number two job. So, they think that's the primary criteria that he has to meet tonight. And that is to say, yes, if something should happen to the number one on the ticket this is man who is ready to do it.
WOODRUFF: John, given the relative inexperience tonight of John Edwards versus the vice president, are the Bush-Cheney people feeling confident going into this debate?
KING: On the substance, they are feeling confident. Now, traditionally vice presidential choices don't mean much in the end. The voters vote for the man at the top of the ticket. There's some thought in the Bush campaign in such a close race if maybe it means half a point here and there, the people will look.
Because this is a unique election. The first election since the 9-11 attacks. The first election in some time where America is at war during the presidential election that perhaps it might matter a bit more this time who is the number two so look for the vice president to remind the American people not only of President Bush's leadership in the days and hours and minutes after the 9/11 attacks, but of his personal role in directing the initial response back at the White House when the president was in Florida and, of course, unable to have the full reins of government at his disposal.
They think the experience gap is a giant one. They think that should help them. Does it help them come November 2nd? History says it won't. They think it might help just a little bit this time, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Conversely, Candy, are the Kerry-Edwards people nervous about the idea that this is John Edwards' first event in the big time, if you will?
CROWLEY: Well, you know, they say they are. And you hear the usual -- this is the first time he's ever had a one-on-one debate. But let's face it, this is a very experienced personal injury trial lawyer. He's had a lot of experience talking to groups of people, of persuading people. I mean, that's what trial lawyers do is persuade a jury. This is simply a larger jury.
The other thing that they're doing here is they want to obviously continue the conversation that they believe John Kerry started in his debate. So, you know, they are not shying away from Dick Cheney's experience. In fact, they're sort of embracing it, saying, oh, here's the most powerful vice president ever, so you're also responsible for this record.
So, they want to bring up the Bush administration record so it's not just about Dick Cheney's experience, it's about this administration and the experience he has had in it advising the president. So, Dick Cheney's, you know, three, four decades in Washington are not something that you can run away from. So, they are running right into it and saying, look, this is the face of the old way of doing things. The face of the new way of doing things is John Edwards. And of course, Judy, as you'll recall, one of the main reasons many Democrats wanted to have John Edwards on the ticket was because he was a fresh face. He did represent kind of the future to a lot of Democrats, and they think that'll come into play tonight in just the visuals.
WOODRUFF: All right. Candy Crowley following the Kerry-Edwards camp, John King following Bush-Cheney -- we'll see you both, a lot of you, tonight. Thanks very much.
Well, we heard Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman try to set some expectations for tonight's vice presidential debate and the race ahead. Up next, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack weighs in on behalf of the Kerry camp.
Also ahead, some of the color here in Cleveland as the debate proves to be a magnet for political activists and members of the news media. Surprise!
And later, if anyone could draw attention away from the current race for the White House, it's Arnold Schwarzenegger.
WOODRUFF: Pictures of our favorite form of transportation: the CNN Election Express. It's a bus that's been all over the country, the primaries, now in the general election. Today, we find ourselves in Cleveland, Ohio, the site of tonight's vice presidential debate.
Well, a little bit earlier on the program, I spoke with Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman With me now to offer the perspective of the Kerry-Edwards campaign is Iowa's Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack. Governor, good to see you again.
GOV. TOM VILSACK (D), IOWA: It's nice to see you.
WOODRUFF: Ken Mehlman and the Republicans essentially say that they believe that Dick Cheney's years of experience in Washington is going to vastly overshadow John Edwards', what, less than one full term in the U.S. Senate.
VILSACK: Well, certainly Vice President Cheney has an edge here in terms of his experience in one-on-one debates and the format. But I will tell you that we're talking about a fresh start in Iraq. There's nothing better than a fresh face to support that argument.
I have all of the confidence in the world that John Edwards will be able to sit at that table and talk about kitchen table issues that matter to people watching.
What are we going to do about jobs? How can this administration explain the fact that they are the first administration in 72 years to have actually had a net loss of jobs?
What about health care costs? In my state, so many people's wage increases have been offset by premium increases. What has the administration done about that in the last four years?
And what about energy? What about the fact that gas costs so much more than it did just a couple of years ago?
So, I'm confident that John Edwards is going to give the vice president a very spirited debate, even though the format and the experience in debating probably favors the vice president.
WOODRUFF: But half of the questions are about foreign policy -- we know national security, Iraq, the war on terror on the minds of many voters. John Edwards just simply doesn't have the amount of experience of the vice president.
Why -- how is he going to, do you think, reassure people that he can do what you said on the national security side?
VILSACK: Is this the same Republican party that's suggesting we ought to change the Constitution to allow Arnold Schwarzenegger, who's been governor for less than a couple of years, to be president?
WOODRUFF: Is that your answer?
VILSACK: Well, no, the point is -- the point is that John Edwards is absolutely qualified, with his experience in the Senate and also his life experiences in working for regular, ordinary folks. He knows the hopes and dreams and aspirations of regular Americans. And that's what this debate is going to focus on.
It is true that there's going to be a lot of discussion about foreign policy, but John Edwards has been on the Intelligence Committee. He understands those issues. He understands the complexities. And after all, exactly what did the Cheney experience get us? A mess in Iraq that they haven't been able to fix, a plan for war but not a plan to win the peace.
So, tell me what experience means. I think that John Edwards is going to be able to hold his own tonight.
WOODRUFF: Governor, the Bush-Cheney camp, I think it's no coincidence, is out with two new television ads today going after the subject of tort reform, medical malpractice. How vulnerable is John Edwards because of his background representing individuals against companies in personal injury?
VILSACK: You know, I'll tell you, there are a lot of people in America that are upset with Enron and Halliburton and the companies that have been taking advantage of our country for so long. I think John Edwards -- again, because of his experience -- is going to be able to talk about what really affects people.
When you lose your job, when health care insurance costs you so much that you haven't had a raise in a couple of years, when you can't afford to fill the tank, you can't afford to take your son or daughter to a college of their choice because it's too expensive, those are issues that John Edwards understand because he's been representing people. Not big interests, not the big guy -- he's been representing people. And he's going to be able to convey that tonight.
And I think, you know, what he does tonight is he's sitting at that table not as John Edwards the vice presidential candidate, but as a representative of the middle class of America who have a lot of questions for this administration.
WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there. Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, it's very good to see you.
VILSACK: Nice to see you.
WOODRUFF: And we'll see you tonight.
VILSACK: You bet.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
Well, you just heard Governor Vilsack mention it -- called "Operation Arnold." A California group is pushing for a Constitutional amendment that would permit Arnold Schwarzenegger, a naturalized citizen, to be president. But is that an idea that lawmakers would take seriously? Well, we're going to go to Capitol Hill when we come back.
WOODRUFF: ... pretty vocal crowd here at Cleveland's Museum of Art. We're glad to have them with us.
Well, some of calling it "Arnold's Law," a proposed change to the Constitution would make California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other naturalized citizens eligible to be elected president. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the matter today.
Our Ed Henry has details.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: ... economic girlie men.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President "Ah-nuld"? a California group is running "Operation Arnold" to help Governor Schwarzenegger win the White House in 2008. They have launched a quixotic bid to amend the Constitution, which currently says only people born in America can be elected president.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Now this restriction has become an anachronism that is decidedly un-American.
HENRY: Senator Orrin Hatch has drafted a constitutional amendment allowing naturalized Americans, like the Austrian-born Schwarzenegger, to run for president after 20 years of U.S. citizenship.
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: This hearing would not be complete unless the name of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was not mentioned at least once. But of course, he's just one famous example.
Prominent Democrats like Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, a rising star in her party, could also be affected.
HATCH: Jennifer Granholm, who was born in Canada, also supports this amendment. She explained you can't choose where you're born, but you can choose where you live and where you swear your allegiance.
HENRY: Many lawmakers said it's ridiculous to suggest that a foreign-born person would exert undo influence as president a la the movie "The Manchurian Candidate."
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The notion that people who come here and become naturalized are any less entitled to be here and to exercise privileges and rights and responsibilities than anybody else is offensive.
HENRY: Senator Dianne Feinstein, one of the only dissenters, said being born in America is a major qualification for the presidency.
SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: It may not be a bad thing. It may be a strengthening thing.
HENRY: But advocates of change say there is so much ambiguity that even Senator John McCain could get tripped up if he ran for president again. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone when it was part of the United States. But it is no longer is part of America.
One congressman testified that if McCain had been elected in 2000, he could have faced a court challenge.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Who's to say that the Supreme Court wouldn't have been faced with two questions, one question about whether or not he won the election, and a second one about whether he was eligible to be president.
HENRY: The constitutional amendment has no chance of passing this year. Even if it made its way through Congress next year, it would likely take seven to 10 years to get through the states, not in time to get Arnold Schwarzenegger elected president in 2008 -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Ed, very quickly, has Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would like to run for president?
HENRY: That's a good point. He hasn't even said he wants to run. But all of a sudden, Republicans on the Hill are talking about maybe trying to draft him -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: OK. Ed Henry, reporting from the Hill. Thanks very much.
Well, still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, you can feel the energy building here in Cleveland as tonight's vice presidential debate draws closer. We're going to take a closer look ourselves at the scene here when we come back.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): For political junkies, you know, there's nothing like being in the middle of all the action as Dick Cheney and John Edwards get ready for their one and only faceoff. And as the vice presidential debate gets closer, the scene here in Cleveland is politically charged.
With hours to go, they are already colliding at Case.
GROUP: Four more years. Four more years.
WOODRUFF: The Bush brigade is here including good old Flip and Flop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been wearing for maybe 45 minutes now. So they're not easy to wear. So as long as we can...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, pretty tough, it's pretty tough.
WOODRUFF: Flip is a wannabe politician, Flop a future rocket scientist. We're not kidding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just plugged into electricity.
WOODRUFF: Reporters are filtering into the cavernous media center. Rows the phones ready to dial. TV cameras ready to roll. And in the middle of it all, a student volunteer is killing time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm studying for my inorganic exam on Friday.
WOODRUFF: She's excited about tonight but she can't really talk about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They ask all of the volunteers to be nonpartisan while they're wearing the official volunteer shirts.
WOODRUFF: But tomorrow it will be all over. We'll be gone. Things will return to normal. And the case will be closed.
WOODRUFF: Well, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Tuesday, the day of the debate. I'm Judy Woodruff. And one final reminder, I'll be back tonight along with Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and CNN's entire election team to bring you complete coverage of the vice presidential debate. Our coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. "CROSSFIRE," my friend Paul Begala has a friend. They'll be along right now.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Thanks, Judy.
WOODRUFF: I'm letting him introduce you.
BEGALA: Well, thanks.
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