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Saturday Morning News

Iowa Caucuses: Health Questions Slowing Down Bradley Campaign

Aired January 22, 2000 - 8:04 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

O'BRIEN: The candidates from each party will campaign virtually nonstop this weekend, as we said. For a closer look now at how the races are shaping up, let's go to CNN's Bob Franken. He's also been on the campaign trail and joining us here in the studio this morning. Glad to have you indoors for once, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, for a change.

O'BRIEN: All right, so you were with Bradley pretty much all day yesterday.

FRANKEN: Yes, um-hmm.

O'BRIEN: How is his campaign really handling this thing about his heart? Are they indicating at all, perhaps behind-the-scenes, that they're really concerned about this issue hurting them?

FRANKEN: Well, they are concerned about the issue hurting them and I think the answer to your question how are they handling it, there's a consensus maybe that they've mishandled it, although they won't acknowledge that, of course. The issue is what is described by many as a minor health condition, atrial fibrillation, which is irregular heartbeat, irregular heartbeat rhythms, which occurs every once in a while, a reporter had to, in effect, squeeze it out of the Bradley campaign that he had had four recurrences since the last one he reported.

Bradley adamantly insists he did not do the right thing when he didn't assertively, aggressively tell people about it. But there is a feeling that this is a big issue, something that's a distraction from him, for him at exactly the time when he doesn't need a distraction, which is when he's trying to pull a big upset and overtake Al Gore.

All indications are that Gore's going to win a big battle here.

O'BRIEN: And that he is not overtaking Al Gore, as his campaign had hoped. What are you hearing behind-the-scenes on that?

FRANKEN: Well, the Gore campaign has been successful in neutralizing Bill Bradley. Bradley, of course, was a surprise. He was the underdog for a while. Al Gore was on the ropes for a while. But Gore has shown that he fights well on the ropes and he's used a lot of rope-a-dope. It's gotten a little bit nasty as the campaign has gone on. They always seem to do so. And Gore seems to have pretty much put Bradley aside. Bradley acknowledges that in his speeches, saying in effect let's have a surprise.

O'BRIEN: Well, in the time that you've spent here in the state, have you gotten a feel for whether, for how strong the support for each candidate is at all?

FRANKEN: Well, this is a state that responds to organizing. These caucuses really rely on people getting out on a cold night and going to some place that's sometimes hard to get to and voting. And oftentimes they go because somebody they believe in tells them to go. That somebody can be on the Democratic side, it can be labor, that somebody can be a Christian conservative on the Republican side.

So this is really about organizing and it looks like at this particular point Gore and Bush are the ones with the top organizations.

O'BRIEN: Well, how about on the Republican side, organization wise?

FRANKEN: Well, as I said, Bush has, you know, spent a lot of money here. Here's considered the front runner. The real question in the Republican side is who's going to come in second, who's going to come in third. You have this large field and there's going to have to be a winnowing out process. Is Steve Forbes going to do well? Is John McCain going to even show up in the voting here considering the fact that he didn't campaign? Some interesting questions below the probable winner, George Bush.

O'BRIEN: What do you hear people say about John McCain?

FRANKEN: John McCain, they don't say really very much about him. John McCain has campaigned in New Hampshire because New Hampshire has always favored the quirky kind of candidacy and he's, of course, going very, very big in South Carolina, which is a state with so many veterans, so pro-military. But everybody's watching to see if McCain, in fact, gets any votes whatsoever, which would be considered a victory for him.

O'BRIEN: All right, well, Bob Franken, thank you much for coming in and talking to us about that this morning. We appreciate it. We'll talk to you in a little bit.

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