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Inside Politics

Kerrey to Retire from Senate; Gore Holds Edge Among Union Members in Iowa; Bauer Looks to Stay on Target

Aired January 20, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



SEN. ROBERT KERREY (D), NEBRASKA: This term I will leave elected political life with gratitude for the chance to serve the people of Nebraska and the never-ending cause of making this a more perfect Union.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Bob Kerrey follows Bill Bradley's lead, retiring from the Senate while many voters still flip for him.

Also ahead...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a volunteer with Al Gore's campaign for president.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Does labor support matter? There are about 150,000 union members here. They think it does.


WOODRUFF: Bruce Morton on Gore's edge over Bradley among union members in Iowa.

And Gary Bauer trying to stay on target against the bigger Republican guns running for president.

ANNOUNCER: From Des Moines, capital of the state where the first presidential votes of the year will be cast, this is "Election 2000," the Iowa caucuses. A special edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Now, to CNN caucus headquarters and anchors Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.

While the presidential candidates reach out to voters here in Iowa before Monday's caucuses, a one-time White House hopeful managed to upstage them today in the state next door. Bob Kerrey's decision to leave the U.S. Senate is creating some angst among Democrats in Kerrey's home state of Nebraska and in the nation's capital. CNN's Bob Franken has more on Kerrey calling it quits.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bob Kerrey is quitting the U.S. Senate and politics, at least for now.

KERREY: I have decided not to seek re-election to a third term to the United States Senate. I have decided it's time for me to return to private life.

FRANKEN: He says a call he received asking him to be a candidate president of New School University in New York caused him to reassess his future.

KERREY: I think that I would be personally happier as well as feeling the need to replenish a spiritual and interpersonal cistern that seems to me to be a little dry at the moment.

FRANKEN: With the election less than 10 months away, Kerrey's announcement undermines the Democrats and their long shot battle to take control of the Senate. Nebraska is among the most Republican states in the nation. Without Kerrey on the ticket, the Democratic Party will have a big struggle to keep the state and an even bigger struggle to overcome the Senate's five-seat GOP margin.

In his 12 years as senator, Kerrey has built a reputation as a fierce independent, passionate about Social Security and Medicare. He was head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 1998, credited with strong leadership and fund raising. The party held its own that year allowing Republicans no net gain at a time when several Democrats were vulnerable.


KERREY: I am announcing today my candidacy to be the next president of the United States of America.


FRANKEN: Kerrey ran once for the presidency in 1992 with a hot issue, health care, and a plan for a national health insurance system. But he got just 11 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary and dropped out soon after, with a parting shot at Bill Clinton.


KERREY: I think he's going to get opened up, you know, like a soft peanut in November of 1992.


FRANKEN: Kerrey never endorsed him. The two would clash again. In 1993, they reportedly got into a shouting match over Kerrey's initial refusal to vote for Clinton's budget plan. Two years later, Kerrey called Clinton "an unusually good liar." There was talk of another presidential run by Kerrey this year, but he opted out and endorsed Bill Bradley. Today in Omaha, Kerrey reflected on how he'd like to be remembered.

KERREY: Whether you like me or not, we got a lot done. There are people who have a job today that wouldn't have had a job had we not got this economy turned around and headed in the right direction. There are people with higher incomes as a result of increasing the minimum wage and extending the earned-income tax credit. There are people with health insurance. Today, children with health insurance as a result of enacting two or three years ago health insurance expansion.

FRANKEN: And on what he's learned on his political journey.

KERREY: In sudden moments of discovery I have learned how easy our live are compared to those who created this nation and whose blood secured the freedoms we too often take for granted.

FRANKEN: Bob Kerrey too has shed blood for his country. In 1966, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam. Three months later, a grenade blew part of his leg off. Kerrey kept fighting and led his platoon to safety. He was awarded the nation's highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Will he return to politics one day? Kerrey would not rule it out.

Bob Franken, CNN, Des Moines.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: And here in Iowa today, Bill Bradley weighed in on Kerrey's announcement with a certain degree of empathy.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve has details on that and Bradley's day on the campaign trail.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bob Kerrey was one of the few Senate bigwigs to come out and endorse former colleague Bill Bradley. In Iowa, Kerrey, the senator from the state next door, is well known and well liked. In this do-or-die week before the caucuses, he will campaign for Bradley and appear in a television ad.


KERREY: All politicians aren't the same. Bill Bradley is different. If you agree it's time for trust, conviction and leadership in Washington, come to the caucus on January 24 for Bill Bradley.


MESERVE: What did Bradley think of the retirement of a friend and advocate?

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Having made that decision myself, I certainly honor it.

MESERVE: Bradley chose to leave the Senate himself four years ago. Des Moines, Dubuque, Davenport, just a few of the stops Bradley will make this week as he tries to sell his candidacy to Iowa voters. At one stop Wednesday he seemed to disparage the Iowa caucus process.

BRADLEY: We knew all along that Iowa is a state that rewards entrenched power.

MESERVE: He later indicated his resentment was not for the caucuses, but the advantages of his opponent, Vice President Al Gore.

BRADLEY: When somebody has the support of the president of the United States, who's loyal to him because he was loyal to the president, has most of the Democratic National Committee officialdom, has most of the Democratic Party fund raisers, has the backing of the leadership of organized labor, and arrives on Air Force Two, that is entrenched power.

MESERVE: Bradley insists he is connecting with the voters here, making up ground as he racks up mileage, but he has miles to go.


MESERVE: Just a few moments ago, Al Gore stepped off an airplane in Iowa and responded to these charges of entrenched power. He says fighting for people is what the Iowa caucuses are all about, but his campaign has gone further. Members of his campaign have said that Bradley is now diminishing the importance of the Iowa caucuses, because his poll numbers are low. A Bradley spokesman calls that charge laughable, he says they are real tests. That has not changed -- Bernie.

SHAW: Jeanne Meserve in Ottumwa -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, as Jeanne just indicated, Al Gore is also here in Iowa. He did arrive late this afternoon, so both he and Bradley have videotaped speeches to the National Abortion Rights Action League meeting in Washington. NARAL members attending the convention this evening may listen especially closely to Gore's remarks.

Although Gore currently has strong support among abortion rights activists, they rated his Senate voting record on abortion issues as mixed until the mid-1980s, shortly before he first ran for president. By contrast, Bradley's support of abortion rights has been rated as more consistent over the years.

The abortion issue could sway some women voters and that could prove crucial in New Hampshire. A poll shows Gore and Bradley are neck and neck in their battle for support among women who are likely to vote in New Hampshire's Democratic primary. Nationally, our polling shows Gore has a 38-point lead among Democratic women voters.

SHAW: Now to another group of voters likely to be a force in the Democratic presidential contest: organized labor. Here in Iowa in particular, many union members are working overtime in the run-up to caucus day.

CNN's Bruce Morton reports on what is at issue and at stake for labor and the Democratic candidates.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Barb. I am a volunteer with Al Gore's campaign for president. Will you be going to your caucus on Monday night?

MORTON (voice-over): She is a volunteer. She is also a union member. Her union like most organized labor here is backing Gore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We endorsed for the next president of the United States, Vice President Al Gore unanimously with our UAW Iowa cap delegation.

MORTON: The National United Auto Workers hasn't endorsed anyone, but here in Iowa the UAW is for Gore. Bill Bradley has a few union local endorsements like the United Electrical Radio Machine Workers. Bradley visited the Strock (ph) Titan Tire Company here, but the steel workers who work here are for Gore.

DAVID NEIL, IOWA UNITED AUTO WORKERS: Quite frankly, I think both are very good candidates. It just came out that Al Gore just worked out to be just a little bit better and we felt that he had a better chance of actually winning the presidency.

MORTON: Does labor support matter? There are about 150,000 union members here. They think it does.

CARL OLSEN, AFSCME: I think it's probably the most important vote that a Democratic candidate could have. We mobilize not only our membership, but we also mobilize our communities.

HUGH WINEBRENNER, DRAKE UNIV.: The fact that we are already organized helps to get us quickly mobilized behind the candidate that we have endorsed, Al Gore.

MORTON: And so does Drake University's Hugh Winebrenner, who has written a book on the caucuses.

WINEBRENNER: Labor is a very important part of the Democratic Party in Iowa, and in particular in small turnout events like the caucuses or county supervisors or state district races, labor plays a definitive role.

MORTON: So they're working, rolling up posters to take to caucus sites, stuffing envelopes.

MARK SMITH, AFL-CIO: Put out mailings, we have made ID phone calls, and the effort now is to turn out those IDed people to the caucuses. We're doing that with a series of phone banks as well as handbills and stuff like that.

MORTON: Labor support is one more reason most polls show Gore comfortably ahead here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Charles, my name is Dennis. I am a volunteer with the Al Gore campaign for president here in Des Moines. Are you folks planning on attending the caucuses Monday night at 7:00?

MORTON: Bruce Morton, CNN, Des Moines.


WOODRUFF: Well, looking beyond next week's Iowa caucuses, Gore's support around the country appears to be firmer than Bradley's. Our new CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll of Gore supporters nationwide shows more than half of them say they are certain to vote for the vice president, 42 percent say they may vote for Bradley. Among Bradley's supporters only about a third say they are certain to vote for the former senator, and a considerable number, 62 percent, say that they may vote for Gore.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, George W. Bush brings his campaign to Iowa, and faces a controversial social issue.



BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The way George W. Bush tells it, John McCain is planning to raise taxes. McCain says Bush is not telling the truth. So who is telling the truth?


WOODRUFF: Our Brooks Jackson cuts through the rhetoric to weigh the pros and cons of the McCain tax plan.


WOODRUFF: George Bush has been steadily pummeling away at John McCain's tax-cut proposal. Well, today Senator McCain responded to what Governor Bush has been saying.

As the two candidates continue to bicker over the specifics of this campaign issue, our Brooks Jackson takes a look at the nuts and bolts of McCain's tax plan.


BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The way George W. Bush tells it, John McCain is planning to raise taxes.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why would you have a plan that in essence raises taxes on working people by $40 billion?

JACKSON: McCain says Bush is not telling the truth.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course we have just given out a document to anyone who wants it, and distributed it, showing that is not true.

JACKSON: So who is telling the truth? As background, Bush's huge tax cut may be falling flat politically. Even though his Web site allows voters to figure how many dollars they'd save, polls show Republicans strongly favor McCain's plan for a smaller tax cut, leaving more money for Social Security and paying down the national debt.

McCain's cut is half the size of Bush's, and his plan includes $152 billion in increases, closing what McCain calls loopholes for the oil industry, shipbuilders, ethanol, sports stadiums. And this: Tax exemptions for unspecified fringe benefits. But which fringe benefits?

At first, McCain did not specify. He ruled out taxing health care benefits, and ruled out taxing dependent care, too. But McCain did not say what, if anything, he'd do about employer payments for education classes or employer-paid transportation and parking. Bush says McCain would force workers to pay $40 billion in taxes on such benefits over five years. McCain says Bush is wrong.

MCCAIN: He and his people know better, because we've given them the information, and it has been given to them that the benefits that we are depriving are those of corporations from getting tax write-offs for golf memberships, spas and free parking. We have preserved the health care, education, and other, and everybody knows that. I mean, it's a fact.

JACKSON: McCain says his idea is only a $4-billion increase on corporations, not workers. But despite that, Bush keeps running this ad in tax-sensitive New Hampshire.


BUSH: And I darn sure don't agree with, you know, saying that you're going to take $40 billion in employer-related benefits and have the people pay tax on them.


JACKSON: Bush, claiming McCain's tax cut is really a tax increase, despite McCain's strong denial.

(on camera): According to the Bush side, McCain blundered, backed down, and now won't admit it. But according to the McCain side, Bush is desperately falsifying McCain's position because Bush is trailing in several New Hampshire polls.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: Bush is campaigning in several Iowa towns today, catching up after spending part of this week in New Hampshire. Bush is also responding to criticism by Steve Forbes on the issue of abortion.

Our Candy Crowley is on the trail with Bush. She joins us now from Ottumwa, Iowa with more -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: If this is Thursday in Iowa, the Thursday before the Monday caucuses, this must be Ottumwa. We are expecting George Bush here this evening. Prior to this, he has been in Des Moines, Indianola, Apella (ph), Oskaloosa -- the pace, as they say, is quickening. Even a hair cut in a barber shop in Indianola had less to do with grooming -- in fact, very little to do with grooming, and a lot more with remaining people in Iowa that Bush is here and he needs them to get out and vote this Monday in the caucuses. You would think that a guy with a double-digit lead could relax, but Bush knows that the polls are not enough.


BUSH: I am worried that people say that Governor Bush doesn't need my help, the polls are high, and therefore he doesn't need my help. I do worry about that.

And so I think all good campaigns have a sense of urgency to it, and so we're working hard to get out the vote. And I hope people understand that the only vote that really matters is the one that takes place upon caucus night.


CROWLEY: Bush is actually having a battle on two fronts: one in Iowa, and New Hampshire. Here in Iowa, the problem for Bush is Steve Forbes. Forbes is appealing now to the social conservatives in Iowa who make up a large part of caucus-night. Forbes is suggesting that Bush is not a true conservative, that he is a pacifist about abortion. Bush was pressed on this item repeatedly today. He was asked about a litmus test for Supreme Court justices. He just repeated his statement that what he wants is strict constructionists. He was then asked if a strict constructionist -- how a strict constructionist would view Roe v. Wade.


BUSH: Roe v. Wade was a reach, overstepped the constitutional bounds as far as I am concerned.


CROWLEY: Bush was also asked about the so-called abortion pill. He says he is against federal drug administration approval of having the abortion pill in the U.S., but he sidestepped a question about whether, if he became president, he would then try to reverse that decision.

Now, in New Hampshire, Bush, as we heard from Brooks Jackson, is in a tussle with John McCain over tax cuts. Bush's ad now up in New Hampshire about John McCain's tax cut plan. McCain has asked that Bush bring it down. Bush says right now he's really unclear what that tax plan is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: I'm waiting for my friend to explain what his plan is, and then when I hear his plan, if it's -- if in fact it works, and it's different from what he initially said...


CROWLEY: As for how he expects to do, Bush says that he would like to do about 37. He says that's a high water mark for a Republican with so many opponents. However, he will take whatever a win is. He'd like to come out of here as the leader. And right now, the polls suggest he will -- Bernie.

SHAW: Candy Crowley in Ottumwa, thank you.

And up next: more on the candidates and the battle for Iowa with Jeff Greenfield, David Yepsen and David Broder, all here in Des Moines.


SHAW: ... be a faction in caucus turnout. And after a snowstorm yesterday and bone-chilling cold, the temperatures are expected to warm slightly through the weekend. Here in the Des Moines area, Monday's high is forecast at 30 degrees, though it will be a little colder when the caucuses kick off that evening at 7:00. There is no major storm activity in the forecast -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, Bernie, joining us now in this warm studio in Des Moines with their observations on Monday's vote in Iowa, three veteran political observers, David Yepsen of "The Des Moines Register," David Broder of "The Washington Post," and our own CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield.

Gentlemen, I'm not going to ask you to predict the weather, but I do want to ask you a couple of political questions. David Yepsen, let's talk about the Republicans first. How much should George Bush be worried here about Steve Forbes?

DAVID YEPSEN, "DES MOINES REGISTER": He should be worried. Governor Bush leads in all the polls, but they can be very deceptive, because I'm not sure his organization is going to be able to deliver those people on caucus night. Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes have got the organization, or in Keyes' case, some passion that if there is bad weather and a lot of fair weather George Bush supporters stay home, you could see Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes doing much better.

WOODRUFF: Is there anything Bush can do about it at this stage, David Broder?

DAVID BRODER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, what he has done is what he did before the straw poll in August, which is to work those phone banks, identify who those supporters are. I think the that Bush people have shown us a number of times that they are good at identifying, locating and then voting their supporters.

WOODRUFF: And, Jeff Greenfield, at this point, is it really a two-man, maybe with Keyes, a three-man race here, or is...

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: It probably is, and John McCain has bagged it in Iowa. And except for Keyes, there's no real action. One thing that is sort of interesting about the history of Iowa is its social conservatives, at least on a couple of occasions, have done substantially better, even than late polls indicate. Pat Robertson had a late surge in 1988, and two days before the '96 caucuses, "The Des Moines Register" poll had Buchanan at 11 percent. He came in with twice that number. You can argue whether that means anything down the road, but those ought to be a little cautionary notes for Governor Bush.

BRODER: That's right.

WOODRUFF: David Yepsen, how much warfare is there going on in this state right now among these social conservatives?

YEPSEN: A lot. It's a huge fight, and it's almost an intramural game. I mean, social conservatives have been a force in this state's Republican politics really ever since that Robertson campaign. But they're in a bit of a dilemma now. They like Keyes' passion. Some of them are with Gary Bauer. They think he could go the distance. Steve Forbes has a nice slice of them. He's been working them hard for four years. He got the tax people four days ago. Now he's been working the social conservatives. And Governor Bush has picked up the support of at lot of social conservatives who argue he can go the distance, let's get behind somebody who can win.

So they're divided. And absent being unified, as they were in '88, they may not hold the sway this time they had in the past.

BRODER: Judy, Gary Bauer had a news conference on the west front of the capitol. We almost got blown off the steps this noon. But his whole focus was taking down Steve Forbes in the debates. As you know, he's been pretty tough on Governor Bush, but now it is, as David was saying, very much of an intramural fight among those social conservatives.

WOODRUFF: And these social -- we're using that term. I'm sure there are other terms that we could be using here, Jeff.

GREENFIELD: Faith-based conservatives is a phrase that they've often used.

WOODRUFF: They are a factor in these caucuses.

GREENFIELD: Well, one of the things that's sort of interesting about Iowa is -- at least in the Cold War days, in the Democratic Party, the nuclear freeze movement was much more potent here than it was even nationally, and I don't know if the numbers are right, but the estimates are something like 40 percent of Republican Iowa caucus- goers tend to describe themselves as faith-based conservatives.

And one thing you have to say -- we can look at Alan Keyes, who has a great deal of passion, and Gary Bauer has made a good account of himself in some of these debates, I think better than some of us thought. Steve Forbes, as David Yepsen says, he never stopped running. And the guy who called Pat Robertson a "toothy flake" back a few years ago has spent a great amount of his own money supporting these conservative organizations. I mean, he has put in the spade work here for years.

WOODRUFF: All right. I am going to move to the Democrats very quickly now.

David Yepsen, Bill Bradley trying very hard. You and I saw him this morning, but is it going anywhere for him right now?

YEPSEN: I get the impression that Bradley's campaign is not getting the breakthrough here that it wants. You saw him talking about entrenched power of the Gore campaign. It's, in a sense, they're trying to lower expectations. There was time here when they thought they might actually be able to beat Gore. You don't hear that out of them now. They're hardworking people, but they're newcomers. Al Gore has got the old -- a lot of the old, veteran precinct workers and party people, labor unions, who get their people out on caucus night. And some of these Bradley people are newcomers. They may opt not to show up. They may be fair weather supporters. We don't know.

One thing Senator Bradley is doing, is he's attracting new people, and those are difficult to measure in these polls. That's why these polls are awful predictors, because of new people who show up, and they don't know up on our radar screens.

WOODRUFF: David Broder, why is it so hard for someone like Bradley? I mean, he talked today about, he said I've been here 35, 40 times in this state.

BRODER: It's an organizational test. And the people who have demonstrated the capacity to turn out a vote are labor unions, the teachers, and all of that structure is with Gore.

Judy, I just want to make a quick point. John McCain and Bill Bradley, the two challenger candidates -- McCain said, I can't do anything under -- effectively in Iowa, I am going to put all of my marbles in New Hampshire. Bradley cited he was going to try to play there. At this moment, it looks as if the McCain decision was the smarter decision.

WOODRUFF: And you're suggesting Bradley should have done -- should have thought about doing something similar?

GREENFIELD: It's very hard to argue that Iowa doesn't mean anything, if you have spent enough time here to vote and spent, what is it, a million dollars at least in advertising.

But let me just look down the road even further than you might want me to. One thing we should remember about Bill Bradley, he has enough money to compete more than dollar for dollar with Al Gore down the road. It's not like an insurgent who hoped to win in New Hampshire to gain some money. He has some organizational strength in the big states, and certainly in New England and some others. I think it's entirely possible that if he were to lose Iowa, even if he were to lose New Hampshire, the idea that the race is over is a very premature notion. I think Bill Bradley is going to fight at least through the March primaries no matter what happens.

WOODRUFF: And that's not just wishful thinking?

BRODER: Or days on the road.

GREENFIELD: No, I think it's a matter of several million dollars in the...

YEPSEN: It's pretty hard the deny a nomination to a sitting vice president when he wants it.

GREENFIELD: It almost never happens.

WOODRUFF: We're four days away from these caucuses. Does any one or all three of you want to venture a guess as to what we're going to see here in terms of numbers?

BRODER: That's Yepsen's.

YEPSEN: I think the turnout will probably be good. I mean, as Bernie just mentioned, the weather should not be a factor here. And this campaign has gone on longer than ever before. Candidates have spent more time here than ever before. More money spent here than ever before. We have an incredible number of interest groups working to get their people out, people against land mines, and people for trees in forests, and getting people out to the caucuses. So I think it'll be a big turnout.

How it'll break down, though, Judy, I'm not that crazy. I'm not going to predict that.

WOODRUFF: We may ask you again tomorrow, David.

David Yepsen, David Broder, Jeff Greenfield, thank you, all three -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Judy. There is much more ahead on this special edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Coming up: Gary Bauer pushes on, but are there enough believers in his camp?



MCCAIN: We deserve to be on the ballot. I will insist on it.


SHAW: Will John McCain be an option for New York voters? The latest on his ballot battle.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there's a considerable number of voters who do make their decisions based on television ads.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they are commercials and they're designed to sell something. They're not designed to inform.


SHAW: Iowa viewers on the Hawkeye state's bumper crop of political ads that Jeff Greenfield alluded to.


GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Gene Randall in Washington. More of the day's political news coming up, but first a look at some other top stories.

There are developments today in the case of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez. A delegation from the National Council of Churches is expected to land soon in Havana. The group plans to talk with the boy's two grandmothers about coming to the United States.

Sources tell CNN, both women have been issued visas by the State Department, meaning they could travel here,

CNN's Martin Savidge joins us with the latest from Havana -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, we are at the airport in Havana, Cuba awaiting the arrival of the charter aircraft that is believed to have taken off from New York City and headed this way. There are now reports that that aircraft may have been delayed.

On board, as you mentioned, is expected to be a delegation from the National Council of Churches, including outgoing Council President Joan Brown Campbell. Now, the National Council of Churches has offered to facilitate the return of Elian Gonzalez. This is something that they have talked about for some time.

We understand that, according to U.S. officials, there had been communication between the U.S. and Cuba on the issue of the grandmothers and the involvement of the National Council of Churches as recently as last Monday. Now, as you mentioned, the State Department is confirming that visa requests were made by Elian's two grandmothers and that those visas have been granted. That is the process that if the paperwork is in order it can be conducted in a matter of minutes.

There are also reports that the grandmothers were coming to the United States to state their case. Now those reporting were coming out of Washington, and they are in strong conflict to what the previous reports had been from the Cuban government involving the grandmother. They had maintained that if the grandmothers did travel to the United States, it was for one reason and one reason only, and that was to go and retrieve the boy and escort him back to Cuba, not to make a case, not to check his welfare, purely for the effort of bringing him back here.

So exactly what this visit is all about is unclear until Joan Brown Campbell steps off the aircraft herself. And that could still be sometime away.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Havana.

RANDALL: Republican Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina gained a place in history today. He became the first U.S. senator to speak to the U.N. Security Council. Long a harsh U.N. critic, Helms said Congress is ready to pay back dues to the world body, but not until previously agreed-upon reforms are put in place.

President Clinton says neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis will get all they want from a peace agreement. The president met today with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

While Mr. Clinton says he's committed to helping hammer out a compromise, he predicted the process will be difficult.

Mr. Clinton today unveiled a $30 billion plan he says will make higher education more affordable. He calls it the College Opportunity Tax Cut. It gives families the option of claiming a $10,000 tax deduction or credit for tuition and fees. It includes an added billion dollars for Pell grants and work study programs. Costs would be spread over a 10-year period.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These steps will provide families with the college relief they need, students with the support they need, our economy with the skilled workforce we need, and our communities and our nations with the better citizens we all need.


RANDALL: The White House says the plan could allow families making up to $120,000 a year to save as much as $2800.

I'm Gene Randall in Washington. Back to INSIDE POLITICS in a moment.


SHAW: Heading into the first caucuses and primaries, more than half of George W. Bush supporters nationwide now say they are certain to vote for the Texas governor. Our CNN/"Usa Today"/Gallup poll shows Bush's support has strengthened since September, when 41 percent said they were certain to vote for him.

And that certainly doesn't bode well for Bush's Republican rivals. Gary Bauer, for one, is hoping the Bush bandwagon won't decimate him in Monday's caucuses here in Iowa or in the New Hampshire primary the following week.

CNN's Bill Delaney has been with Bauer on the trail in the granite state.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A placid back road, the postcard-perfect, 1771 Congregational Church in Candia, New Hampshire, where, among the true believers one wintry afternoon, Gary Bauer, Republican candidate for president, Christian, social conservative, faced a flock of fairly fidgety Christian high school students keeping the faith.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Columbine tragedy -- when all of those students were killed -- gun control?

GARY BAUER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think why things happen like Columbine is not guns. I don't think that's the problem. We've got a court system that tolerates the Nazi salute, but doesn't tolerate the 10 Commandments, and we've cheapened the sanctity of human life. And I think all of those things together are combining for the sort of headlines that we see.

DELANEY: And combining, Bauer says, to keep him, the former aide to Ronald Reagan, who founded the conservative Family Research Council, running seven days a week, despite poll numbers on a par with the temperatures outside just a couple of degrees above zero, and despite some views well outside the secular mainstream.

BAUER: Evolution, at its basis, denies a divine hand -- if -- some of my liberal friends in Washington want to think that they're descended from apes. I might be willing to concede that to them, but I don't think I was.

DELANEY: Gary Bauer staying the course, calling for, among other things, overturning Roe v. Wade on abortion, a 16 percent flat tax, amid his fundamental plea for moral renewal in complacent times.

BAUER: I think the country's in trouble, and that's what keeps me going. I think that would be tragic if people, you know, turned off because polls, or money counts, or whatever, indicated that somebody had the inside track.

DELANEY: Read George W. Bush, whose own up-front Christianity Bauer considers absolutely for real, if also a gauge of the continuing importance of social conservatism, whatever some pundits say about its decline.

BAUER: I doubt if Governor Bush or some of the other candidates would be spending so much time in churches on Sunday or talking about their faith if it wasn't for the clout of these voters.

DELANEY: Still, only a sprinkling of press showed up at Portsmouth Navy Yard when Bauer again presented his most distinctive position among Republicans: opposition to most-favored nation trade status for China. (on camera): What's kept Gary Bauer going is conviction against the odds, but also money. He's raised about $11 million, nearly all of it, he says, from grassroots contributions through the mail, averaging about $65 a piece. Enough, he says, for a strong media buy this weekend in Iowa and here in New Hampshire after that.

(voice-over): As for after that:

BAUER: Politics is full of surprises.

DELANEY: Including, says Gary Bauer, that a janitor's son from Kentucky would have even gotten this far.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Candia, New Hampshire.


WOODRUFF: Here in Iowa, Bauer and some other Republicans are reaching out to religious conservatives on the radio. Bauer, Bush, Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes all are currently running ads on Christian radio stations.

Here is a sample on topics ranging from school choice to abortion.


BAUER: I'll end the tragedy of abortion. I won't stop until all of God's children are welcomed into our world and protected by the law.



ANNOUNCER: His leadership helped reduce the number of abortions and doubled adoptions in Texas. That's why the National Right to Life Committee called him one of the most pro-life governors in America.



ANNOUNCER: Governor Bush has said that school choice should only be offered to students in the worst school districts, but what about all the others, what about your children? Our families are too important to let this issue slip away.



KEYES: There is no choice for silence.

ANNOUNCER: He's been called the moral conscious of our nation, Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes will speak in West Des Moines this Sunday afternoon.


WOODRUFF: Well, as you're hearing Alan Keyes's spot was an appeal for Iowans to show up for a rally and hear his conservative views in person. Christian radio would seem to be an effective tool for conservative candidates, particularly in Iowa. A religious broadcasters' association says that one out of 10 radio stations in this state targets Christian listeners.

Up next on INSIDE POLITICS: John McCain's candidacy is at risk, apparently, in the Empire State. A look at his fight to put his name on the primary ballot.



LAURA BUSH: It's not a symbol of racism to me. I grew up in the South, like everyone else here in Texas. And it's just a symbol of the time in our history that we can't erase really: the Civil War and, you know, it's just -- that's the symbol of the Civil War, I think.


WOODRUFF: The wife of presidential hopeful George W. Bush weighing in on the Confederate flag controversy in South Carolina. In Columbia today, Mrs. Bush agreed with her husband's position that the flag over the state capital should remain a local issue. She says she trusts the people of South Carolina to make a good decision.

In his state of the state address last night, South Carolina's Democratic governor, Jim Hodges, called for the flag's removal. Hodges has suggested placing the flag with a monument of historical significance elsewhere on the statehouse grounds.

SHAW: Now to New York, where Republican hopeful John McCain is dealing with ballot access, not flags. McCain is in the Empire State, as a part of a multimillion-dollar fund-raising push through Northeast states, three of them. But in New York, McCain is also fighting for a spot on the primary ballot.


MCCAIN: I am a credible candidate for president of United States and everyone knows that.

SHAW (voice-over): John McCain is in a fight to stay on New York's presidential primary ballot. There's a lot at stake: 102 delegates to the GOP Convention, the third-largest prize of the primary season. The problem: New York's strict ballot access rules that require a candidate to get 5,000 registered Republicans to sign a petition, including one half of one percent of registered Republicans in each congressional district.

MCCAIN: I expect to be fighting in New York State for the nomination.

SHAW: McCain submitted enough signatures and seemed to qualify in most of the state's 31 districts, but the state Republican Party is challenging the validity of his petitions.

TOM OGNIBENE, REPUBLICAN LEADER, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: Either Democrats have been named on the petition, have signed the petition for him, or Democrats went out and obtained the signatures. And we think that that's an affront and a fraud on the Republican voters in this state.

SHAW: New York's Republican leader, Governor George Pataki, endorsed Bush and put his troops to work to get him on the ballot. McCain says, the Republican establishment is unfairly blocking him and it hurts his party's image.

MCCAIN: The Republican voters of the state of New York deserve to make the choice, not have that choice made for them by party apparatchiks.

BUSH: The chairman of the Republican Party is enforcing the rules in place. And people must get grassroots support to get on the ballot of New York. It's been this way for every single campaign. And the party can deal with this issue. They're plenty capable when making a decision where they ought to enforce the rules.

SHAW: New York Republicans say, the fault lies squarely with the Arizona senator.

OGNIBENE: They didn't make a genuine effort to do it, and now they're raising the specter of a difficult process as an excuse for their own failures.

SHAW: McCain has filed suit in federal court to get on the ballot. New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican who also supports Bush, says McCain deserves better treatment.

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: They should open it up. They should allow Senator McCain to contest.

SHAW: The New York ballot dispute comes every presidential year. In 1996, party favorite Bob Dole easily won ballot access, but challenger Steve Forbes had to sue to soften the rules and secure his spot.

MCCAIN: We deserve to be on the ballot. I will insist on it. We will fight in the courts. We will fight in public opinion. And I will fight at the Republican National Convention, if necessary.


SHAW: While in New York, McCain stood outside the Russian Consulate and he told reporters that Republican Party leaders have made New York less democratic than the former communist nation. McCain said: Moscow, voters there, would have a wider choice at the polls than voters in the Bronx. Still ahead, political ads on every channel. Are Iowa viewers getting the message?


WOODRUFF: A look at downtown Des Moines, Iowa. The Soldiers and Sailor's Monument there surrounded by snow.

With the Iowa caucuses just a few days away, candidates are relying, of course, on political ads to reach the voters they have missed. That means the average television viewer here in Iowa is bombarded by campaign slogans and candidates' images as they surf the channels.

Our Patty Davis went out to the field to see how viewers and voters are reacting.


PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the evening ritual at Al and Felicia Miedema's home in west Des Moines. Starting dinner, watching the evening news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How well are the presidential candidates getting their messages across to Iowa voters?

DAVIS: Another ritual in this election season: A deluge of candidate television ads intended to influence voters -- two from Republican Gary Bauer in a half hour, another from Vice President Al Gore.

These registered Republicans question the effectiveness of the ads.

FELICIA MIEDEMA, REPUBLICAN VOTER: I don't think they influence me, because I'm very skeptical about the accuracy or the thoroughness of the ad.

AL MIEDEMA, REPUBLICAN VOTER: Well, I think the candidates should spell out in more detail, even though they only have a 30- second or 60-second spot, because a lot of them are just talking about themes that every candidate talks about in every election.

DAVIS (on camera): Whether they're attack ads, ads that address Iowa issues, or simply introduce the candidate, the goal is to get into Iowan's living rooms and onto their radar screens, and the candidates are spending big money to do it.

DAVID PEELER, COMPETITIVE MEDIA REPORTING: What we've seen in Iowa in the last couple of weeks is that the candidates are spending between $80,000 to $200,000 per candidate in those markets.

DAVIS (voice-over): That translates to about 75 minutes of political ads every day, too much for Mike Huppert, a registered Democrat across town.

MIKE HUPPERT, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: It is almost like a white noise for all of them at this point.

DAVIS: At the Huppert household, New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is making this pitch for Bill Bradley,


SEN. DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN (D), NEW YORK: ... was to see Americans begin to lose faith in government.


DAVIS: But the ad strikes a chord with Mike's wife, a Democratic activist who's still undecided.

PEGGY HUPPERT, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: Someone I respect, and he's talking about some issues that are important to me.

DAVIS: Although some Iowans are tiring of the ads, it's reactions like Peggy's that the candidates are hoping for, voters who are open to their message. And the reason, analysts say, Iowans should expect even more ads in the days ahead.

Patty Davis, CNN, Des Moines, Iowa.


SHAW: Well, that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, and before we go, we want to say congratulations to our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley for winning the prestigious Dupont Award Silver Baton for her work covering the impeachment and trial of President Clinton.

WOODRUFF: Richly deserved. Congratulations, Candy.

And we will see you again tomorrow, when our Jonathan Karl reports on the unique nature of campaigning in Iowa, where contact with a candidate is commonplace. And of course you can go online all the time at CNN's

And this programming note: New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman will be the guest tonight on "CROSSFIRE." That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: And I'm Bernard Shaw. "WORLDVIEW" is next. And as we tip-toe away, this view of the state capitol of the great state of Iowa, here in Des Moines.


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