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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Final Presidential Debate Winner?; Fact-Checking the Candidates; Election Rules Get Attention; Schwarzenegger Lying Low in Presidential Campaign
Aired October 14, 2004 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Will what happens today in Vegas stay in Vegas?
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: I thought he was superb tonight.
TERESA HEINZ KERRY, WIFE OF JOHN KERRY: I asked my husband to get this third debate and he did.
ANNOUNCER: OK, they're biased but what do you think? Who won last night's debate?
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter who is a lesbian she will tell you that she's being who she was.
LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF DICK CHENEY: This is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick.
ANNOUNCER: Was John Kerry out of line?
Is Lynne Cheney overreacting?
Now live from Los Angeles, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us on this day after the Bush/Kerry final debate in Arizona. We are still out west in Los Angeles and so are the presidential candidates. Both of them made a beeline to Las Vegas to try to improve their odds in the showdown state of Nevada.
We start with the Kerry campaign's jaunt to Las Vegas with an eye toward older voters and hopes of capitalizing on his debate performance. CNN's Ed Henry is traveling with John Kerry. Hi, Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Judy. That's right. John Kerry has not spoken yet. I am here at the AARP conference. We have to keep it down a little because poet Maya Angelou is speaking right now. But while John Kerry is trying to shift the focus to the domestic agenda he's had to deal today with that Lynne Cheney attack back at him over the fact that he invoked Mary Cheney's sexuality last night in a debate. And just a moment ago a statement finally came from Senator Kerry that says, quote, "I love my daughters, they love their daughters, I was trying to say something positive about the way strong families deal with this issue."
That is a statement from John Kerry. Now first lady Laura Bush spoke here first at the AARP convention and she joked to the crowd that her husband is not ready for retirement. John Kerry obviously is trying to end George W. Bush's political career. Just a couple of moments ago I spoke to senior Kerry adviser Mike McCurry, he was beaming. He said, quote, "there is nothing like being 3-0." McCurry added that John Kerry left a strong impression with voters, that he's very presidential, very steady, and McCurry also made the point that Camp Kerry believes that the same John Kerry showed up for all three debates. That George W. Bush, a different Bush showed up for each debate.
So they're trying to issue a little attack there. Now the Kerry camp in general as I mentioned is trying to shift this to the domestic agenda. They think they have been trying to do that for weeks but they now have the momentum to actually do it. They think that a lot of the anti-Bush rhetoric about Iraq has rallied the anti-Bush vote, liberal voters, but they now need to reach out to the middle. They need to talk about the middle class and reach out to undecided voters.
Here's what John Kerry said about that last night at a post- debate rally in Arizona.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight, you saw most of the differences, not all of them. We didn't get enough chance to talk about how many times this president has had an opportunity to be able to work on your behalf and how many times he's chosen the oil companies, the HMOs, the big insurance companies, the drug companies.
And I'm here to tell you that, if you will help make me president, I'm fighting for the middle class in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: We are told that John Kerry, when he speaks in a little while, will continue that theme, telling senior citizens here that he is on the side of seniors in wanting to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and that the president is against that, because he is siding with powerful pharmaceutical companies, also, Kerry trying to reach out, trying to speak a little bit more optimistically, in contrast to what Republicans say was some negativity in the debates about the economy and about some of the state of the economy and of the country right now.
Kerry is going to talk about a -- quote -- "moment of great possibility and hope for the country," Kerry also focusing on the dwindling number of battleground states like Nevada. He's also going to Iowa later this evening. And he will be in Wisconsin tomorrow, talking about jobs and the economy -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Ed Henry, thanks very much.
And when John Kerry does start speaking, we're going to come back and take part of what he has to say live right here on CNN. That will be in just a few moments from now.
Well, for his part, the president is playing down those instant polls which, by and large, show Kerry gave the better performance last night, keeping the Democrat's debate winning streak intact.
Our White House correspondent Dana Bash is traveling with Bush as the campaign heads into the homestretch.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: If there was any doubt about how eager the president and his aides are to regain momentum now that the debates are over going into these last 19 days of the campaign, all you have to do is look at this picture, President Bush coming back to talk to his traveling press corps aboard his plane, Air Force One.
It might not seem that unusual, but the president has really only done this a handful of times, mostly on international trips, talking about his summits and meetings with world leaders. But Bush aides are well aware now of how important it is to try to affect the public perception of how the president has done in his debates.
So, today, Mr. Bush was eager to show that he was upbeat and do his own spinning on his debate performance.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I enjoyed myself last night. The debate phase of the campaign is over. You know, the pundits and the spinners and -- they will all have their opinion. But there's only one opinion that matters and that's the opinion of the American people on November the 2nd. And I feel great about where we are.
BASH: When Mr. Bush got here to Las Vegas, he was joined by his former brethren Republican governors and he reprised some of the themes of all three of his debates, again trying to rally his base by hitting John Kerry on the fact that he says he's a big-government, big-spending liberal with a record to prove it.
BUSH: He calls himself the candidate of conservative values, but he has described the Reagan years as a time of moral darkness.
BUSH: There is a mainstream in American politics and my opponent sits on the left bank.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH: Although Bush aides understand how significant the debates were because of their large audiences, they are now breathing a sigh of relief because the president is now back on the stump, a place where he clearly feels much more comfortable.
And Bush aides understand now that there are 19 days left. It is decision time for just how the president spends his time, how he spends his very important campaign money, how much to compete in traditionally Democratic states. In an indication of what that strategy may be, the president's team announced that he will go to New Jersey next week, a state that has been solidly Kerry, but the polls show the president now gaining ground.
Dana Bash, CNN, Las Vegas.
WOODRUFF: All right, Dana, thank you very much.
Well, it usually takes a day or two after a debate for the political dust to settle and a general consensus to form about the candidates' performances. Upcoming rounds of polls are going to tell a fuller story. But our overnight poll found 52 percent of registered voters who watched the debate thought Kerry did a better job last night; 39 percent thought Bush did better.
If viewers were grading the candidate on accuracy, neither, apparently, would have deserved an A.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve watched the debate and then she checked the facts.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For this one night, at least, Tempe, Arizona, was the home of the whopper. Both candidates got facts wrong.
BUSH: I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations.
MESERVE: Well, he said something awfully close in March of 2002.
BUSH: I repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.
MESERVE: But Kerry got things wrong, too.
KERRY: Let me just share something. This president is the first president ever, I think, not to meet with the NAACP. This is a president who hasn't met with the Black Congressional Caucus.
MESERVE: It is true that Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover not to meet with the NAACP, but he has met with the Congressional Black Caucus at least twice, once last February.
BUSH: He voted to increase taxes 98 times.
MESERVE: But an independent analysis says that counts multiple votes on the same bill.
KERRY: Five hundred thousand kids lost after-school programs because of your budget. MESERVE: Wrong. Bush did propose cutting $400 million in after- school funding in his 2004 budget, but Congress refused to go along. No children lost their program.
BUSH: He's proposed $2.2 trillion of new spending and yet...
MESERVE: Bush was using an old figure from the conservative American Enterprise Institute. An analysis by the nonpartisan Concord Coalition said Kerry's proposals will cost $1.3 trillion. That group put the very same price tag on the proposals of George W. Bush.
KERRY: Five million Americans have lost their health insurance in this country.
MESERVE: Well, the number of uninsured has gone up, but Kerry is incorrect to suggest that all those people lost their health care coverage. In previous debates, Kerry repeatedly got one fact wrong.
KERRY: So, today, we are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the cost, $200 billion.
We could have saved $200 billion and an invasion of Iraq...
MESERVE: Wednesday night, he put it differently.
KERRY: And America now is paying already $120 billion, up to $200 billion before we're finished.
MESERVE: He got it right, finally.
Jean Meserve, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: Well, aside from what was factual and what wasn't, there was a flash point in this final debate. Up next, an angry response from the Cheney family after John Kerry dropped their daughter's name to make a point about gay rights.
Also ahead, the last word about the final debate. We'll hear from three veteran political reporters.
And while we're here in Los Angeles, it seems like a good time to catch up with Governor Schwarzenegger and his role in the race for the White House.
With 19 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: Some fireworks flew last night after the subject of homosexuality came up during the debate, and it continues today. The Kerry campaign minutes ago issued a statement, as you just heard from Ed Henry, in reaction to Kerry's comment about Dick Cheney's daughter Mary. CNN's Bruce Morton shows us how it all went from policy to personal.
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Do you believe homosexuality...
BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started when moderator Bob Schieffer asked John Kerry if homosexuality were a matter of choice?
KERRY: We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice.
MORTON: Kerry went on to say that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, but favors civil contracts for gay couples. Kerry's reference to Mary Cheney, who is open lesbian and who works in her father's campaign, angered her parents.
LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I did have a chance to assess John Kerry once more. And, you know, the only thing I could conclude is, this is not a good man. This is not a good man. And, of course, I am speaking as a mom and a pretty indignant mom. This is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Kerry was out of line to even bring my daughter into it. I thought that was totally inappropriate and frankly I was surprised that he would do something like that.
MORTON: John Edwards first brought up Cheney's daughter during the vice presidential debate after Cheney explained states should regulate marriage, even though the president favors an amendment to the federal Constitution.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can't have anything but respect for the fact that they are willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing.
MORTON: This morning, an explanation from the Kerry campaign.
DEBRA DESHONG, KERRY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: And what John Kerry was doing last night was showing the American people that gay Americans are part of the fabric of our American lives. And in fact it's part of the family of our vice president and his wife. So he was telling the American people that gay Americans are part of our lives, part of our families and they should be respected. And he was talking about that last night. And there's nothing wrong with that.
MORTON: And a statement from Log Cabin Republicans, a gay organization which has not endorsed the president -- quote -- "For Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards, you do not need to talk about the vice president's daughter in order to discuss your positions on gay and lesbian issues. For President Bush and Karl Rove, you have a moral obligation to stop using gay and lesbian families as a political wedge issue. Our country and our party deserve better" -- unquote.
From Elizabeth Edwards on CNN Radio -- quote -- "I was a little surprised by Lynne Cheney's reaction, because I thought implicit in her reaction was that there was some shame associated with this discussion. And that made me sad, frankly" -- unquote.
The last word? Don't bet on it.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: Bruce, thank you very much.
And, as we've been telling you, John Kerry is just about -- in fact, he has just begun his remarks today in Las Vegas, Nevada, to the convention of the association of retired people, the AARP. We are going to take some of his remarks in just a moment.
INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: John Kerry speaking right now in Las Vegas to an association of retired people. This is their national conference and his remarks have just begun.
We're going to listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
KERRY: Now, here today, it's our moment. It's our time to seize and to choose the kind of future that we want for ourselves, but most importantly, as all of you know, for our children, our grandchildren, for our country itself.
Do we want four more years of a president who gives more to those who already have the most and tells the struggling middle class that everything's just fine?
Or do you want a president who is going to honor middle class values and fight for middle class opportunities in America?
KERRY: Do you want a president who fights literally for the privileged few, for the people who have the most at the top, the powerful corporations? Or do you want a president who fights for a stronger America, made stronger by every American having the doors of opportunity open to them?
KERRY: I believe very deeply that we need a fresh start in this great country of ours. I believe we need a president who will fight for the great middle class and for those who are struggling to join it. And if you give me the chance, I am ready to be that president who delivers for America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KERRY: Americans -- Americans deal more than anything with the truth. We're a country founded on the truth. The truth is what makes us strong. And as the Bible tells us, it is the truth that sets us free.
We need a fresh start because the truth is that middle-class families are finding it harder and harder to get by. Prices have gone up. Cost of living has gone up. Cost of prescription drugs is up. But the income of American families in the middle, struggling, has gone down over the last four years.
The fact is, that the take-home pay of Americans today of the average family in America is, as a share of all of our national income, the smallest that it's been since 1928.
And the share of income for the people in the top 0.1 percent of income earners in America is the highest that it's been since 1929.
That's the truth. And that is a truth that tells us that over the last four years of George Bush's presidency, the tax burden of the middle- class -- the share of tax burden of the middle-class has gone up, while the share of the tax burden of the wealthiest people in America has gone down.
That's the great difference between George Bush and me. Both of us are at the top. He believes that you ought to fight to protect the people at the top. I believe I didn't need that tax cut, but there are a lot of folks in the middle of America who did. And we deserve a president who fights for them.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KERRY: The truth is, my fellow Americans, that too many jobs are being shipped overseas. And the ones that replace them often don't pay as much as the job that went overseas.
I was in Arizona last night. Arizona, the jobs that are replacing the ones that are going pay $13,000 less than the ones going overseas. Our economy is losing high-paying middle-class jobs and creating more temporary jobs and part-time jobs without any benefits, health care or pension.
Corporate profits, corporate profits are up. About 20 years ago in America, the relationship of CEO pay to worker pay was about 40-1, 40 times -- the CEO would make 40 times what the average worker would make. You know what it is today under George Bush? Five hundred times to one. Corporate profits are up and the family income is down. And the cost of everything is through the roof. Health care is up 64 percent. College tuition is up 35 percent. Medicare premiums are up 56 percent, 1.6 million jobs lost, five million more Americans without health care, and 220,000 students who couldn't afford to go to college and denied the opportunity of the future.
These aren't statistics. These aren't statistics. These are the stories of families that I have met all across our great country over the course of this campaign, the single mother who lies awake at night worrying about whether or not her child is going to get sick and whether her health care for that child might cost her more than she makes in a month, let alone several months, moms and dads who save and save and they still can't get ahead and pay the bill for tuition or they find that the child care is 15,000 bucks a year and they are earning 25, 30 between them. They pile it together, try to pay the mortgage, make ends meet.
How about the factory worker whose job was sent overseas? I have met them. I talked to them. And who tell me about the indignity of putting 28 to 30 years into one particular place where they have worked for a lifetime, thought they were going to retire, thought they would have the pension, and then they watch while not only does their job go overseas, but they have to unbolt the equipment they worked on for 30 years, put it in a crate and ship it to China and sometimes even train their foreign replacement.
Everywhere I go, I hear the same concerns. Will I be able to send my kid to college? Will I be able to pay my wife's medical bill? Will I be able to have Social Security there for me when I retire? Will my job be there tomorrow? Folks tell me how hard it is just to get by, let alone to get ahead. George Bush...
WOODRUFF: We're listening to John Kerry speaking today in Las Vegas to the Association of Retired Persons. This is a group holding their national convention there.
Earlier today, we took a portion of President Bush's speech also in Las Vegas. The president was speaking to a group of Republicans governors.
Well, joining me now from Washington are three reporters we want to hear from today, Dana Milbank from "The Washington Post," John Dickerson from "TIME" magazine, and CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein, who is with "The Los Angeles Times."
Let me begin with you, Dana Milbank. Let's look back at last night's debate. What do you believe the candidates' goals were going in that debate? And did they achieve them?
DANA MILBANK, STAFF WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": A lot of us watching it thought the whole exchange got a bit dry and sounded sort of wonky.
But if you look at the reaction from voters in the immediate polls, he really got a nice boost out of that and similar to what he did in the first debate. And I think what you are seeing here is that George Bush had been so successful at sort of caricaturing John Kerry as vacillating and flip-flopping that when he actually got on the stage there and people saw that actually he was an ordinary human being who could represent his point of view forcefully, it created quite a surprise and really allowed him to jump in the polls. And that's why the combination of the three debates really transformed the race.
WOODRUFF: John Dickerson, how do you see the debate shaking out? Do you think Kerry and Bush accomplished what they were hoping to?
JOHN DICKERSON, "TIME": I think certainly John Kerry accomplished what he was hoping to do. He took this race from where he was down five to seven points and he now is either slightly ahead or in a dead race with the president.
The president is -- does not have the momentum right now. I think, though, that in these last 19 days, I think in some ways, John Kerry wouldn't mind if the election were tomorrow. Voters -- as Dana was talking about, there's a caricature of John Kerry that the Bush people will try to reinflate over the next 19 days. John Kerry was able to break that caricature down in these three debates. And the question is whether he can keep reminding people of the guy who showed up during those three 90-minute sessions or whether the Bush team will be able to recreate this narrative of Kerry as a flip-flopper.
WOODRUFF: So, Ron Brownstein, did John Kerry simply pick up an advantage that's temporal, temporary?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a really good question, I think.
John makes a good point. Certainly, John Kerry thought he had buried many of these concerns at the Democratic Convention in July, where he made significant progress on many of these same dimensions with voters, commander in chief, strength of conviction. And the Republicans were able to bring them back in August and September.
This is probably a little different. The voters have had three debates to look at John Kerry. He probably has crossed some of those thresholds I think perhaps more authoritatively than he did in July. But I agree that this is not over. President Bush is looking at a situation where he's under 50 in most polls. That's a danger sign for an incumbent this close to an election. But, as a Boston Red Sox fan, I can tell you that I think beating Bush is like getting the last six outs against the Yankees. You can do it, but you have to earn it.
And I think they will make John Kerry earn every vote he gets.
WOODRUFF: So, Dana Milbank, if you're George W. Bush, if you are John Kerry, what is it that do you need to do? Obviously, you want to win. So what do you need to do between now and November 2 right now?
MILBANK: Well, because we're done with the debates and sort of that organized part of the campaign, it's really all about driving out your supporters, getting out the vote.
And in truth, the Bush campaign has always believed that this is a base election. It's about bringing your supporters to the polls. If that's true, then what George Bush is going to be doing hopping from airport tarmac to tarmac over the next 19 days may be sufficient. And it is true that John Kerry probably would like the election to occur right now because he does seem to be enjoying the momentum here. He's in a difficult position of trying to keep it. And 19 days can be an eternity.
WOODRUFF: And, John Dickerson, is this a matter of Bush getting out his vote? Is that enough to do the trick for him?
DICKERSON: I think that's right. I think he can do something that helps both with his base and perhaps with some swing voters. And that's essentially to scare voters about John Kerry. The hope is not to turn off swing voters by being too aggressive, but he essentially wants to go back to what's been sort of at the center of their strategy ever since the start, which is that the world is too dangerous to change horses in midstream.
And that's something that certainly animates the Bush base. He comes out of these debates with his base very much intact. But that argument is likely to be the one we'll hear over the next 19 days.
WOODRUFF: Ron Brownstein, I know you're talking to both campaigns, as Dana and John are. What is it that they think that they have got to do in the days to come?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, if you are President Bush, you really -- you have the same sort of two-sided problem that you have had for much of this year. You have to continue to raise doubts about John Kerry and that is where they have put much of their emphasis post the Republican Convention.
But I continue to believe that, in the end, it still is more important to resolve the doubts about himself. His approval rating is back under 50 percent in many polls, 47 percent in your last CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll. His vote is under 50 percent in almost all major polls, perhaps in all major polls, and, in the end, it is hard for an incumbent in that circumstance.
And I think that what John is suggesting is they're counting on convincing even some people uncertain about Bush that change is even riskier. The problem is when people aren't happy with the direction of the country, stability sometimes looks like a greater risk than change.
So I think he does -- in the end, it's more important for him to bolster a little bit -- and he's right there on the edge -- bolster a little bit impressions about his own leadership.
WOODRUFF: If that's the case, Dana, what does John Kerry need to do either to undermine that or to overwhelm it?
MILBANK: Well, there's beginning to be less that either candidate can do right now. The impressions of the voters are getting rather fixed. In our latest "Washington Post" poll, John Kerry's favorability rating is at 48 and George Bush's is at 49.
Bush used to be able to say, well, look, I'm sort of stuck. Voters have an opinion of me that's polarized in the polls, but I can redefine Kerry. Bush can't redefine Kerry so much anymore, and Kerry can't redefine Bush.
So, really, to a large extent, they're at the mercy of events right now.
WOODRUFF: John Dickerson, is that how you see it?
DICKERSON: Well, I think that the -- it's not clear. We -- it will depend how sustainable the new image of John Kerry, successful after these three debates -- how much that sticks.
I think both candidates will certainly be trying to define the others, but -- and it's very much up in the air. The voters in the middle have been moving around, and we just don't know whether they'll stick or not.
WOODRUFF: Go ahead. Yes?
BROWNSTEIN: I was going to say quickly that there really are two big wild cards.
Dana put his finger on one, which is events, which have shown a tremendous capacity to influence this race, particularly in Iraq all year. Opinion on that has been very sensitive to events, and opinion about Iraq has had a lot of influence about how people feel about Bush overall.
The other wild card, though, is how many people vote. You have very different, I think, visions on the two sides of how many people they expect to turn out. The Republicans expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of maybe 112 million. The Democrats, a big turn out, 117 million, 118 million, perhaps that high.
If a lot of people do turn out -- and there's a lot of indications there is significant interest in this race -- you do raise the question of whether either side could get an advantage not fully measured in these polls, if, in fact, the turnout is higher than the likely voter models usually assume.
WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to leave it there. Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times," John Dickerson with "TIME" magazine, Dana Milbank with "The Washington Post" looking at this race one day after the last debate.
Gentlemen, thank you all three. We appreciate it.
DICKERSON: Thank you.
MILBANK: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: And now checking the headlines in our campaign news daily, the Kerry campaign is ramping up its volunteer operations in crucial states around the country. The Kerry team says it plans to deploy about 13,000 people across 21 states in the coming days to assist with voter turn-out, what we were just talking about. The AP, Associated Press, reports another 400 supporters are heading out to speak on Kerry's behalf.
The Christian Coalition is once again distributing tens of millions of its voter guides. The group says it plans to hand out 30 million guides between now and Election Day at churches, malls and other sites. The Bush campaign answered a questionnaire for the guide. The Kerry campaign declined. A Kerry adviser said the Christian Coalition is trying to "do the bidding of the Bush campaign."
A new poll finds the presidential race has tightened in Arkansas. The latest survey taken for "The Arkansas Democrat Gazette" shows Bush with 46 percent, Kerry with 45 percent, Ralph Nader picking up 2 percent. That's a lot tighter than it was.
Ralph Nader has suffered, by the way, a new legal defeat, this time in Pennsylvania. A state court judge removed Nader from the Pennsylvania ballot yesterday, citing thousands of forged and phony signatures on Nader's ballot petitions. Nader says he plans to appeal the ruling. He remains on the ballot in 34 states, though, plus the District of Columbia.
Also in Pennsylvania, Democratic Governor Ed Rendell says he plans to send handpicked state officials to various polling places in an effort to avoid Election Day problems. Some state Republicans, however, question the idea of sending top-ranking Democrats to watch over the polls.
Well, legal battles over election rules are moving through the courts all around this country.
In Nevada, a judge has denied an attempt by a former state GOP chairman to purge the names of 17,000 inactive Democrats from voter registration rolls. And, in Ohio, a judge has ruled that people who show up to vote at the wrong precinct can still cast ballots, as long as they are in the county where they are registered.
CNN's Dan Lothian reports the rules that govern elections are getting a lot of attention as Election Day approaches.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): As the clock winds down in the race for the White House, there's growing concern over what the accuracy will be of the final count.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: David thinks he's registered to vote.
LOTHIAN: In Nevada, Eric Russell (ph), a former part-time worker for the Republican-backed group Voter's Outreach of America, alleges supervisors destroyed forms filled out by Democrats, threw out registration receipts and put pressure on workers to only sign up Republicans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you brought in Democrats, you weren't getting paid. I mean, our -- bottom line. LOTHIAN: He says he kept discarded paperwork as evidence. A Republican consultant with ties to the group says Russell (ph) is a disgruntled ex-employee trying to get even.
In a statement, the Republican National Committee said, "Anyone who engages in fraudulent voter registration activities should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
In Colorado, CNN affiliate KUSA found signs of fraud on registration forms: bogus names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth, and forged signatures.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm 100 percent that this is not her signature.
LOTHIAN: They spoke with this woman who claims she not only registered to vote 25 times, but also signed up three of her friends 40 times, all to help her boyfriend who was making $2 for every application, working for Acorn, a group aligned with the Democratic Party.
KIM CASON, GIRLFRIEND: You know, I was just helping the people out downtown. You know, everybody needs an extra dollar here and now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did have incidents where there were people who were attempting to defraud us.
LOTHIAN: And across the country in key battleground states, like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, some worry new voting technology may result in mistakes and fraud and, where there is no paper trail, an impossible task to recount.
Already in Florida, a problem. Power failure during Hurricane Jeanne may have damaged computer equipment, causing a server to crash. A test of Palm Beach County's electronic voting system had to be postponed.
(on camera): All of these concerns have led to lawsuits and investigations. Various groups and officials working very hard to lower the odds of irregularities with less than three weeks to go.
Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Dan.
Well, a follow-up now to reports about the planned airing of a documentary about John Kerry that is scheduled to air two weeks before the election. The Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell said today that his commission does not have the power to prevent the broadcast of the program by TV stations owned by Sinclair Communications.
Eighteen Democratic senators recently sent a letter to Powell asking him to investigate Sinclair's decision to air the program, which chronicles John Kerry's anti-war activities and includes interviews with Vietnam POWs.
From star performer to invisible ally, Arnold Schwarzenegger looks for some distance from President Bush in the final sprint of the election. We'll see why in a moment.
And has Mr. Bush failed to deliver on a promise to unite the country? Our Bill Schneider will join us with some insight ahead.
This is INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Out here in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has pulled off what some might call a disappearing act just weeks before the presidential election. Instead of campaigning for Republican George Bush, Schwarzenegger is choosing to stay well behind the scenes.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: You have the ultimate power, and I want to make sure that you know I'm going to make you officially right now the terminators.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): An atypical message from an atypical governor with an atypical election year M.O. With less than three weeks to go, Arnold Schwarzenegger's spending lots of time pitching propositions...
SCHWARZENEGGER: We have to terminate Proposition 68 and 70.
WOODRUFF: ... and very little pitching presidents. Where he once spoke glowingly of...
SCHWARZENEGGER: My dear friend, President George W. Bush.
WOODRUFF: ... earlier this week, he confessed he's friends with John Kerry and not hanging-out pals with the man in the White House.
The Bush-Schwarzenegger dance has always been laced with caution.
BUSH: He would be a good governor, as would others running for governor of California.
WOODRUFF: Each declaring himself a strong supporter of the other.
SCHWARZENEGGER: America is safer with George W. Bush as president!
WOODRUFF: With neither making much effort to stump as a twosome. Unlike the other two megastars in the Republican sky, Schwarzenegger's rarely campaigned with the president, and he hasn't starred in any Bush campaign commercials.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: He has not flinched from the hard choices.
WOODRUFF: He did, of course, make a big splash at his party's convention.
SCHWARZENEGGER: And to those critics who are pessimistic about our economy, I say don't be economic girlymen.
WOODRUFF: And from a Bush perspective, maybe that's enough.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Did you ever believe when you were growing up that you would be known as the uncle-in-law of an Austrian bodybuilder Republican governor of the State of California?
WOODRUFF: With his Kennedy pedigree and moderate social views, the governor is more of a reach-the-masses advocate than a rally-the- base cheerleader, and in Democrat-leaning California, appearing too cozy with a Republican president may be hazardous to one's political health, especially for a governor with a foot firmly planted...
SCHWARZENEGGER: Ask not what your country can do for you.
WOODRUFF: ... in each party.
WOODRUFF: A little bit on Governor Schwarzenegger.
We're checking some other stories from the campaign trail.
Former President George H.W. Bush says he's having a tough time listening to the criticism, as his son runs for reelection. In an interview with Maine's WCSH television, the former president also did little to conceal his disgust of filmmaker Michael Moore, the man behind the movie "Fahrenheit 9/11."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Total ass, slime ball and outrageous in his lies about my family. When I saw him sitting at the Democratic Convention with Jimmy Carter and then on a thing with Ron Reagan, I'm saying what in -- what depths will they go to to dishonor the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Former President Bush.
Former presidential candidate Al Gore meantime has authored an e- mail asking Kerry supporters to give some last-minute money. Gore mentions the cash crunch that his own campaign faced in the final days of the 2000 race. He also writes, "With your help, this time, the Supreme Court will not pick the next president, and the current president will not pick the Supreme Court."
Georgia's Democratic Senator Zell Miller, a prominent backer of President Bush, is backing a fellow Democrat for reelecting to the House of Representatives. "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" reports that Miller has given $1,000 to fellow Georgian Jim Marshall who faces a tough Republican challenger. Miller tells the paper that Marshall is "the kind of Democrat we need in Washington."
The National Rifle Association has switched sides in the South Dakota House race and is now supporting Democratic incumbent Stephanie Herseth. The NRA endorsed Herseth's GOP opponent Larry Diedrick in a special election earlier this year. The switch is based on a House vote by Herseth to lift a gun ownership ban in Washington, D.C.
Talk about winning women voters. President Bush and Senator Kerry got a little personal during last night's debate. Which candidate made the better case? That story.
Plus the take from the left and the right with Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan when we come back.
WOODRUFF: The final question in last night's debate was about women. It was a fitting end, you might say, since women voters were key supporters of Al Gore four years ago, but the odds of a political gender gap this November have been harder to predict.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love the strong women around me. I can't tell you how much I love my wife and our daughters.
SEN. JOHN K. KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And my daughters and my wife are people who just are filled with that sense of what's right, what's wrong.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): Asked about the strong women in their lives, both Bush and Kerry got a chance to show their softer sides and appeal to the half of the electorate that could very well decide the winner November 2.
When it comes to the women's vote, polls suggest Kerry has the edge right now. Before the first debate, female voters were evenly divided in their support for Bush and Kerry. After the second debate, Kerry had a 9 point edge over Bush among women, with the senator climbing above the 50 percent mark for the first time since July.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: He's got to speak directly to women's issues and see if he can't solidify that. That's going to be the key to the election for him eventually, I think.
WOODRUFF: Did Kerry do that last night? Our overnight polling showed both men and women rated Kerry the winner, but a CNN focus group of undecided voters in Ohio found women gave Kerry higher marks overall throughout the third and final debate. Men generally responded better to Bush. The gender gap was especially evident on certain issues. For instance, when Kerry talked about ordinary American health care being as important as any politicians, watch the yellow line representing women spike. On guns, both men and women responded to Bush when he spoke about prosecuting violators of existing gun laws. When Kerry talked about that theme, women liked what they heard more than men.
That's a look at the -- at last night's debate, and, with me now to talk more about the debate and the campaign that lies ahead, two of our regular contributors, Donna Brazile -- she's a Democratic strategist. She's in Washington -- Bay Buchanan is president of American Cause. She is today in Columbus, Ohio.
Very good to see both of you.
Donna, I'm going to start with you. Where is this election? We're going to get to the women question in just a moment. But where do you see this election right now after last night's final debate?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Judy, there's no question that John Kerry has momentum going into the final stretch of the campaign. He's in a good position not only as a challenger, but having crossed that threshold on commander in chief, he's reduced the gaps out there.
He now leads in the stature gap. He's leading in the information gap. And, you know, in that all important likability gap -- and Bay will also have to echo this -- John Kerry is also leading in the personality gap.
WOODRUFF: All right. Bay, where is this race?
BAY BUCHANAN, AMERICAN CAUSE: Oh, that's very funny, Donna. You know as well as I do when it comes to the president, he did a terrific job last night, very warm and personable, and, indeed, John Kerry was cold, he was impersonal, a policy wonk type of fellow and humorless. Absolutely humorless.
But where is this race? It's in a dead heat. John Kerry had his best couple of weeks, no question about it. He's a good debater. And that's his strength. But now the president is a very strong candidate and a campaigner, and I believe it's going to start coming back towards him.
It's a dead heat, and we could just have the last couple of days with the two of them in the ring just fighting it out.
BRAZILE: Well, you know, Bay, it's hard to find humor when you're talking about millions of Americans unemployed, millions of Americans losing their health insurance. So, if the president found something funny about discussing that last night, it just goes to show you how out of touch he is.
BUCHANAN: It wasn't that he thought it was funny. He's a warm person. When he answered that question about his wife and about religion, he showed he had a huge heart. He's a very emotional man, a passionate man, believes in his religious code and committed and proud of it, not running from it, not trying to explain it like he does -- like poor John Kerry has to do with every vote. Now he also has to do it about his religion.
WOODRUFF: Bay, let's talk about women voters for just a minute. As we were mentioning just before we came to both of you, the polls are showing John Kerry picking up over the last month among women voters. Is this a problem for George Bush?
BUCHANAN: You know, it's clearly -- what's interesting here is Gore won women in, you know, close to double digits -- if it wasn't double digits, a huge gap -- and yet it was a dead heat and President Bush won. So the key here is if the president can hold with women, just stay close -- he'll be very strong with men. All the polls show that -- he's going to win this thing. Donna knows as well as I do and you know, Judy, if the Democrats don't win the women running away, there's going to be a real problem on Election Day for them.
BRAZILE: Well, there's no question that John Kerry will win the women's vote, and I think right now he's performing very well with women.
Look, what women want more than anything, safety, security, but they want someone who understands the economic times that they are faced with, someone who understands that they feel the economic crunch first in the family when they have to go to a grocery store and make -- you know, make groceries.
So there's no question that John Kerry is in touch with their lives, knows how to address their concerns and will bring them along with him in the closing week weeks of the campaign.
BUCHANAN: You know when the...
WOODRUFF: Bay, I just want to quickly ask you about the John Kerry comment last night. He brought up -- in answering the question about whether homosexuality is a choice or not, he brought up the name of Vice President and Mrs. Cheney's daughter.
The Cheney campaign came back -- in fact, Mrs. Cheney, Lynne Cheney, said, "John Kerry's not a good man. It was a cheap and tawdry political trick." Of course, the Kerry campaign is saying that it was appropriate. Which is it?
BUCHANAN: It's clear it was politically exploiting the daughter of the vice president. That's outrageous. The daughter of your opponent, you politically exploit. There's no excuse. It was absolutely tasteless. And he, indeed, owes Mary Cheney and the Cheneys an apology. It's the second time they've done that. I noted it both times in the vice-presidential debate and then last night. There's no excuse. It shows there's no class in John Kerry or his running mate.
BRAZILE: Well, Bay, you may have perceived it as being tasteless, but what -- most Americans who know John Kerry know that he spent his entire life fighting for equality for gays and lesbians. You know, I think it's, you know, important to point out the double standard here that conservatives are leveling against John Kerry today.
Here's his -- the conservatives out there with this right-wing mean agenda on gay marriage, using it as a wedge issue in all these battleground states, and, for whatever reason, they're outraged today, but they should be outraged at the fact that they have used this issue, used gays and lesbians as political pawns in their campaign literature.
So I can tell you this: I'll defend John Kerry's right to talk about gays and lesbians because he stood by gays and lesbians and he will stand and fight for their equality.
BUCHANAN: You know, this...
WOODRUFF: We're going to have...
BUCHANAN: OK. Go ahead. Go ahead, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. You know, I'd always love to talk to you guys for the whole hour and a half.
BUCHANAN: Any time, Judy. Any time.
BRAZILE: I'll let Bay talk next week.
WOODRUFF: Bay Buchanan, Donna Brazile.
We'll see you next Thursday, if not sooner. We appreciate it.
And very quickly, we want to correct something that we reported earlier. We said a few minutes ago that Pennsylvania's governor Ed Rendell was planning to send state officials to polling places on Election Day. In fact, we are told the plan is to send the workers to county election offices, not polling places. The intention is to be on the look-out for potential problems.
The presidential debates are over. How what do Bush and Kerry do for an encore? Coming up, we will game out -- or try to game out the race from here with our correspondents and our partisan pollsters.
Plus, the debate tie. It's not about who did better, but who came dressed for success. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WOODRUFF: We have a story to tell you about -- having to do with golfer Tiger Woods and a little mishap with the Coast Guard.
You may remember that Tiger Woods was married over the weekend. His new bride -- her name Elin Nordegren -- well, they were on a yacht, the name of the Yacht, Privacy, and, apparently, the yacht notified authorities that it was entering the waters around San Juan, Puerto Rico, but it did not give the requisite advance warning. Something like 96 hours typically required.
Instead, it gave something like just a few hours notice. Coast Guard officials are now saying that they want to question people on board the yacht on the ship, and they will escort them out of the San Juan area as soon as the questioning is completed.
Well, you know, with these celebrities, sometimes these stories pop up.
INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: It is 4:00 Eastern and as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Lou Dobbs in New York for another installment of "The Dobbs Report." Hi, Lou.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Hey, Judy. Bad news the order of the day on Wall Street today. Disappointing economic news. Another record high for oil prices all combining to send stock prices sharply lower. As the final trades are now being tallied, the Dow Jones Industrials are down more than 106 points, well below 10,000. The big loser of today AIG. It tumbled nearly $7 that on a lawsuit alleging bid rigging in the insurance industry. The Nasdaq composite down right now 17 points. These are not final figures quite yet.
Another big jump in crude oil prices today. These are final figures. $54.76 a barrel. A new all-time record high. Prices spiked after the Department of Energy reported inventories of heating oil fell for a fourth straight week raising new concerns about supplies shortages heading into winter. And it pushed heating oil futures to a record high of more than $1.54 a gallon. Investors all but ignored a rise in crude oil inventories posted last week.
The recent surging oil prices, a principal factor driving the U.S. trade deficit to its second highest level in history. The U.S. trade deficit widened by 7 percent to more than $54 billion in August. Much worse than economists had been expecting. The worsening deficit will also of course at some point hurt the overall economy because import and export levels have a direct effect on gross domestic product.
Bad news on the government's budget deficit, as well. The federal budget deficit expanded to more than 412 billion in the fiscal year that just ended. The second straight record federal budget deficit. Also on the economy, 352,000 people filed for first-time jobless claims last week. That was up 15,000 from the previous week.
Treasury Secretary John Snow today sent a letter to Congress. He asked that the national debt limit of $7.4 trillion be raised. The treasury secretary said the government is using various accounting procedures to avoid hitting that ceiling but that all legal means of staying below the debt ceiling will be exhausted by mid November.
Congress is expected to be back for a special session after the November 2 elections to deal with that problem and a few others including passing a massive spending bill to keep the government running.
Coming up tonight at 6:00 Eastern Time on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT", "Driven To Run," our week-long look at ordinary Americans who have become so frustrated with Washington they are running for office themselves. Tonight we meet a man running for the U.S. Congress in Kansas. Kris Kobach, and as the number of illegal aliens crossing our borders climbs as high as three million this year alone, he's making border security a priority in his campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRIS KOBACH (R), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm willing to take a stand. So many people avoid immigration in politics. They think it's the third rail of politics just like Social Security, you don't want to talk about it. I think we need to talk about it. I think Americans are waking up to the fact that we need to talk it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Also tonight, new evidence of major flaws in our nation's cargo inspections process. We'll be taking a special look at a disturbing report from the Department of Homeland Security.
Also "Exporting America." Our nation's flu shot shortage a result of overseas contamination of the vaccine? Tonight, we investigate why we are outsourcing so much of our health care in this country and the price we're paying for doing so.
And I'll be joined by former political adviser, presidential adviser David Gergen. He takes a look at what's ahead for these candidates in the final days leading up to the election.
Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: Lou, very quickly yesterday before the debate I asked you what issues you thought the candidates should address. You said trade and immigration. So how did they do on those?
DOBBS: I think on the issue of trade in this day in which we have posted the second worst monthly trade deficit in history, on our way to $600 billion in trade deficit, I thought both candidates were absolutely perfectly miserable on the issue. On immigration, I think the president talked rather directly about his opposition to amnesty. Senator Kerry, I thought, talked more forcefully than he has on the need to improve security at the borders. So at least they began perhaps a tepid first effort but at least they began the discussion on a critical issue facing the nation.
WOODRUFF: So we'll see if those issues come up during the next 2 1/2 weeks of this campaign. Because we know that's all that's left. Lou, thank you very much. INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.
ANNOUNCER: The debates are over. And there are just 19 days left until the presidential election.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel great about where we are.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's all on the line.
ANNOUNCER: We'll check in with the campaigns.
Now that we're in the homestretch it's the ground war. Have President Bush and Senator Kerry secured their bases? And what groups do they need to target?
Now live from Los Angeles, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back. With the debates behind them, George W. Bush and John Kerry are now engaged in the sprint to the finish as the president calls it. The Bush camp contends that any bounce that Kerry got from the series of debates will prove fleeting. The president is campaigning in Nevada today and our Elaine Quijano joins us live from the White House with more. Hi, Elaine.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Judy. President Bush earlier today along with Arizona Senator John McCain engaged in post debate spin on board Air Force One. In a rare moment before the cameras in a media section of the plane, the president told reporters that he's looking forward to the homestretch of the campaign and the president was also asked about the instant poll showing John Kerry won last night's debate. Here is some of what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The pundits and these banters and they all have their opinion but there's only one opinion that matters. And that's the opinion of the American people on November 2. I feel great about where we are. There's a lot of enthusiasm for my candidacy. People have seen me lead and they also know that I have plans for the next four years. As you'll hear me today, I am optimistic about the future of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: And the president in Las Vegas earlier today visibly energized by the friendly crowd of Republican governors there. He launched more vigorous attacks against Senator John Kerry on a number of issues including terrorism and health care. The president continued trying to paint Kerry as a tax and spend liberal who favors big government using a line from last night when he said the senator was out of the mainstream of America and on the left bank. And Mr. Bush once again called into question Kerry's record in the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: On issue after issue, from Medicare without choices to schools with less accountability to higher taxes, he takes the side of more centralized control and more bureaucracy. There's a word for that attitude. It's called liberalism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: And the president set to speak just a short time from now at a rally in Reno, Nevada. The president then moves onto Oregon for another event there. Aides say the president is planning strategic visits to battleground states in these final days and weeks leading up to election day. Places in particular where the campaign may have lost back in 2000 but where they feel they have made significant inroads since then. Those states include Wisconsin, New Mexico and Iowa -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: We'll be seeing the candidates in those battleground states again and again. Elaine, thank you very much. As you saw live right here on INSIDE POLITICS a short time ago, John Kerry has been addressing AARP, American Association of Retired Persons members in Las Vegas. The Democrat spoke about issues of concern to older Americans including prescription drugs and Medicare reform. And he appealed to middle class voters, as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Now here today it's our moment. It's our time to seize and to choose the kind of future that we want for ourselves but most importantly as all of you know for our children, our grandchildren, for our country itself. Do we want four more years of a president who gives more to those who already have the most and tells the struggling middle class that everything is just fine? Or do you want a president who is going to honor middle class values and fight for middle class opportunities in America?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: John Kerry speaking just a short time ago in Las Vegas. And as we reported earlier, the Kerry camp has issued a statement just a short while ago defending the senator's reference last night to Vice President Cheney's daughter, Mary. Kerry says he cited Mary Cheney and the fact that she's a lesbian as a way to say something positive about the way strong families deal with this issue. Second lady Lynne Cheney called Kerry's remark, quote, "a cheap and tawdry political trick."
Senator Kerry meets up with his running mate in Iowa later today. John Edwards has been stomping by himself in the Hawkeye State and blaming President Bush for higher drug prices and the growing ranks of Americans without health insurance.
We can tell you now how many people watched last night's debate on television. The Nielsen's company has issued its ratings of the combined number of people who watched on all the different television channels. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX NEWS Channel and MSNBC. The total 51 million. This compares to 62.5 million who watched the first debate and 46.7 million who watched the second debate in St. Louis. Again 51 million people watching last night's last presidential face- off in Tempe, Arizona.
Well, Americans clearly are divided this election year if you believe the polls but whose fault is that? Up next, how the idea of bringing the fractured country together is playing in the race for the White House.
Also ahead what can pollsters tell us about the presidential debates and the race ahead.
And Kerry finds three times is the charm at least when it comes to his choice of neck wear.
WOODRUFF: One issue in last night's presidential debate focused on whether the president has been a uniter or a divider when it comes to politics. Some insights now from our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): In 2000 when the country was bitterly divided over Bill Clinton, George W. Bush made this pitch.
BUSH: If you're tired of this business about pitting one group of people against another, why don't we have a uniter not a divider as the leader.
SCHNEIDER: A lot of voters believe Bush has failed to deliver on that promise. A poll taken last month asked people, do you think President Bush has done more to unite the country or divide the country? The public was split. Republicans said Bush has done more to unite the country. Democrats said he's divided the country.
Americans are divided over whether Bush divided the country. John Kerry has been trying to take advantage of Bush's problem which may be why he shied away from personal attacks on Bush at the Democratic convention in July.
KERRY: I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush. In the weeks ahead, in the weeks ahead, let's be optimists not just opponents. Let's build unity in the American family not angry division.
SCHNEIDER: In Wednesday's debate Kerry played tribute to President Bush's brief moment as a unifier. KERRY: I think in those days after 9/11 I thought the president did a terrific job.
SCHNEIDER: Before moving in for the kill.
KERRY: I regret to say that the president who called himself a uniter not a divider is now presiding over the most divided America in the recent memory of our country.
SCHNEIDER: Bush's response? Me a divider? What about Bill Clinton?
BUSH: My opponent said this is a bitterly divided time, pretty divided in the 2000 election. So in other words it is pretty divided during the 1990s as well.
SCHNEIDER: Now Bush has a dilemma. To regain momentum in this race he has to fire up his conservative base which requires him to attack Kerry.
BUSH: My opponent is a tax and spend liberal. I'm a compassionate conservative.
SCHNEIDER: And keep drawing the line between us and them.
BUSH: Senator Kerry is proposing policies and doctrines that would weaken America and make the world more dangerous.
SCHNEIDER: That turns off a lot of swing voters who don't like harsh partisan attacks especially by the president of the United States who many voters feel should be above that sort of thing -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And Bill, is there anything John Kerry can say either to diffuse this or to exploit it, whichever?
SCHNEIDER: John Kerry can say? John Kerry is trying to exploit it by presenting himself as a unifier and saying Bush is dividing the country which a lot of Americans are very sensitive to. In fact what they are both trying to do is claim their kinship with John McCain. Both of them are saying I'm going to work with John McCain. Bush says John McCain supports me. John McCain has become the very symbol, the embodiment of bipartisanship of unity in this country. A very strange role.
WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thanks very much. We appreciate it. Breaking down the vote. When we come back two pollsters will crunch the latest numbers and talk about which candidate appears to be winning the women's vote and more.
WOODRUFF: President Bush was asked today what he thought of those polls showing John Kerry the winner of last night's debate. Bush said the voters will decide. That is true. But what do the polls tell us about how the vote could break down on election day? From Washington I'm joined by Democratic pollster Geoff Garin and Republican pollster Linda Divall. It is true, to you, Linda Divall first, that the polls are showing that John Kerry came out on top in those overnight instant polls of debate watchers. Including last night CNN as you just heard, CNN showing by 52 percent to 39 percent Kerry ahead. How do you think that is going to translate in the national polls that come out in the days to come?
LINDA DIVALL, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: We really don't pay that much attention to the overnights on the debates. What's more important is to look at the national polls early next week. And if you look at them on Tuesday and Wednesday this week there were four national polls released on Tuesday, two of them showed a race dead even. Two of them showed a slight advantage for President Bush. At the same time I think both Jeff and I will concur that we pay very little attention looking at the national surveys and what is more critical is the state by state key battleground surveys and I think the president did what he needed to do last night to rally in those states.
WOODRUFF: Geoff, do you think we're going to see this translate into any boost for Kerry in the national polls or is it impossible to say?
GEOFF GARIN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: It already has starting with the first debate. I think it's important to think of these as a series and how they fit into the voter's decision making process. At the start of the series frankly voters had a lot of concerns about John Kerry and whether he was up to the job. They also had questions about President Bush and the three debates collectively including last night's were reassuring for those that had questions about John Kerry and the first debate in particular exarcebated all the questions that people had about President Bush and I don't think he improved in his performance but the die was cast.
We asked in our polls has what you have heard lately made you more or less favorable to each candidate. President Bush has been on the negative side of that now after each debate in the swing states with swing voters and John Kerry has been on the positive side. So I think he's really gained in a structural way from these debates.
WOODRUFF: Linda, I don't want to do this artificially if it doesn't make sense to you but let's talk about the groups of voters that each candidate might have appealed to. We talked earlier in the program about women versus men but what about in terms of age groups, women, men, what groups of voters would you say President Bush and Senator Kerry helped themselves with over the series of debates?
DIVALL: Well, obviously both candidates had their base locked in. I think last night's debate focused on what was perceived to be John Kerry's strength of domestic affairs. But I think the president helped himself enormously. He talked aggressively about taxes. He talked passionately about education. He was very knowledgeable about health care and drawing the distinctions between the two candidates' plans and he touched to women, homemakers, security moms, Medicare moms who are concerned about security overall, keeping this country safe and making certain we're doing everything we can to prosecute the war on terrorism. I think the president was both reassuring. He was calm. He clearly demonstrated again why he was commander-in-chief. And I think that was the key thing that these undecided voters and women in particular are looking for and I think he provided them that reassurance once again.
WOODRUFF: Geoff, is that how you see it?
GARIN: I'm not sure the undecided voters for better or for worse are exactly the people who were riveted to the debate. The election has been breaking down by untraditional lines more among educational lines. John Kerry has been doing well with college educated voters. Better than Democrats have done in the past and a little less well with non college educated voters. Especially among women, that vote is coming together for Senator Kerry. I think what is important is the audience for the debate tends to be older and tends to be better educated and Senator Kerry after each debate has been doing well with those particular groups and is now outperforming Al Gore with those groups.
WOODRUFF: So Linda, if this is -- depending on which version you're talking about, what work does George W. Bush need to do between now and election day? Which group or groups should he focus on?
DIVALL: The key thing that has happened so far in this campaign is that the president has continued to overperform with men while doing well with women. He's been able to tell stories that talk about how his programs and policies have advantaged women. Whether it is female small business owners, whether it's Medicare grandmothers, whether it's middle class moms concerned about terrorism or quality of education, health care for their families, the real groups that he has to break out to and reach in the close of the campaign would be married women in these battleground states. Women over 60 he needs to provide reassurance on the Medicare program and on Social Security and the overall arching umbrella of security.
WOODRUFF: Very quick. We're almost out of time. Geoff Garin, what groups does John Kerry need to focus on?
GARIN: I think the most important group out there would be noncollege educated women and those who both candidates really have to go after. You heard Senator Kerry speaking directly to the concerns and interests of women last night and talking about the differences with President Bush. I don't think at this stage we're looking at big changes anymore. This is a battle of inches and not of yards and turnout will become very important from here on out.
WOODRUFF: Geoff Garin, Linda Divall. Very good to see you both. Thanks very much. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: George W. Bush likes to accuse John Kerry of being inconsistent when it comes to public policy. But it is clear that Kerry is very consistent in his choice of neck wear. Kerry chose a favorite dark red neck tie for his first debate with Bush. He chose the same tie for their second showdown last week. The tie made a third appearance at last night's final debate. According to Kerry adviser Mike McCurry Kerry was so happy with his debate performances he wants to have the tie framed. We'll have to find out whether President Bush wore cufflinks or something on all three debates.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Thursday in Los Angeles. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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