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Inside Politics

Bradley, McCain Hit New Hampshire with a Lot to Prove; Forbes Hopes to Leap Frog to Republican Lead

Aired January 25, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



BILL BRADLEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I need your help. Please help me in the next week. Thank you very much.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A day after Iowa, a week before New Hampshire, Bill Bradley and John McCain try to prove they really can win their party's nominations. A new CNN poll shows where they stand today.

He won a Texas-size victory in Iowa, but George W. Bush is finding much tougher sledding in the Granite State. As for Al Gore...


ALBERT A. GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The polls open here in New Hampshire six days and so many hours from right now, 6:00 a.m. in the morning on next Tuesday.


BLITZER: Mark your calendars. Primary season is upon us, and INSIDE POLITICS starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: From Manchester, New Hampshire, site of the first-in- the-nation primary, this is Election 2000. A special edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Now to CNN primary headquarters.

BLITZER: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. Bernie Shaw and Judy Woodruff tried their best to get here today from Iowa, but the weather had other plans. As you just heard, the Northeast is getting buried, and many of our colleagues are stranded somewhere between here and Providence, Rhode Island. We'll try to carry on without them.

There's never much time to savor or smart from or quibble with the Iowa caucuses because the New Hampshire primary is so close at hand. For several days now, CNN, along with "USA Today" and Gallup, have been tracking likely New Hampshire voters, and here are the latest results.

Among Republicans, Arizona Senator John McCain has opened up a 12 point lead over Texas Governor George W. Bush. Steve Forbes is a distant third with Alan Keyes fourth. The poll sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.

Among Democrats, Al Gore enjoys a six-point lead over Bill Bradley, but given the margin of error, that's a virtual tie. The two candidates who arguably have the most to prove here are Bill Bradley and John McCain. CNN's Bill Delaney is following the McCain mission. But first, CNN's Jeanne Meserve looks at how Bradley is trying to bounce back from Iowa.


QUESTION: How about that weather, senator?

BRADLEY: Not bad.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here in snowy New Hampshire, Bill Bradley is trying to dig himself out from under his loss in Iowa and get some traction for his campaign. But there was no radical surgery to his campaign speech, just a little nip and tuck. Bradley taking some share of the credit for the current prosperity, playing up his Senate voting record on tax reform, world trade, and third-world debt relief.

BRADLEY: ... that I have had a record on the economy of being able to see a little ahead of where we are now, a little ahead of where we are now and have an idea of what we have to do to be ready to build a better future.

MESERVE: And his standard riff about the need for change in politics now contains an oblique reference to Clinton/Gore.

BRADLEY: If you are tired of what you've seen in the last decade in this country, if you are tired of politics as usual, then you can send a message in this campaign. You can send a message in this campaign by supporting my candidacy for president of the United States because I believe that the central question for this country is trust.

MESERVE: In New Hampshire Monday, a new Bradley ad about Cathy Perry (ph). Her story of taking an uninsured child to the doctor choked Bradley up at a New Hampshire appearance last week, giving the candidate new focus and energy, according to aides.

BRADLEY: No child in America should have to apologize because they got sick. Now's the time to think big. Now's the time to guarantee every child in America health care.

MESERVE: The changes are not dramatic, and the inescapable question is: Will they be enough to power up this campaign and propel Bill Bradley past Al Gore in what is a potentially pivotal New Hampshire contest.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Manchester, New Hampshire.



BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the classic New Hampshire political sweepstakes took center stage, classic New Hampshire weather, John McCain's Straight Talk Express pulling out into the biggest snow storm of the season so far, cocooning a candidate not overly impressed by the performance of his main rival, George W. Bush, in Iowa in the caucuses McCain skipped.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Historically, the folks in New Hampshire have not paid a lot of attention to the Iowa caucuses, and so I think the play offs have now begun.

Governor Bush does not agree with this.

DELANEY: The longtime supporter of campaign finance reform pouring over newspaper accounts of the new Supreme Court ruling upholding maximum thousand-dollar political contributions. At every townhall meeting, trumpeting the decision as a great victory.

MCCAIN: Front page of "The New York Times," that well-known, right-wing, fascist periodical, OK. Supreme Court justices. They are from time to time a little bit behind, but they got it right.

DELANEY: McCain downplayed speculation that Bill Bradley's performance in Iowa could raise questions about his electability and draw some of Bradley's independent supporters to McCain.

MCCAIN: Ninety-eight percent of our strategy is aimed at Republicans, because that's the high turnout vote. Obviously, we'd love to have any independent voter who, at this time, is deciding between me and Bill Bradley.

DELANEY: As for McCain's electability, at a townhall meeting, it came up. He answered the question like this:

MCCAIN: New Hampshire next Tuesday will send a message to the country and the world. You win in New Hampshire or in the perception of a win, which is the view of the observers, and you move on to South Carolina, and you have a, quote, "win" there, that's a bounce that's enormous.

DELANEY: And that's John McCain's unwavering strategy for many months now in a nutshell.


DELANEY: More than McCain himself, his staffers will say they were underwhelmed by George W. Bush's performance in Iowa, one staffer pointing out if Alan Keyes hadn't been in the picture and his conservative votes had gone to Forbes, Forbes would have won. Another staffer saying the so-called George W. Bush juggernaut is over.


BLITZER: OK, Bill Delaney reporting from here in Manchester. Clearly, Vice President Al Gore has got so-called momentum on his side, but you'd never know it seeing him campaigning. Our senior White House correspondent John King has seen quite a bit of Al Gore lately. Here's what he saw today.


GORE: Let's get ready to rumble.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iowa's winner hopes New Hampshire delivers a knock out in round two of the Democratic race for president.

GORE: I want to fight for you. I want you to fight for me. Let's fight together for America's future.

KING: A gift from the governor carried Gore's post-Iowa motto.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have just begun to fight.

GORE: Hi. Tell me your name again.

KING: The vice president was up early looking to build on his victory, campaigning the old fashioned way at Connie's Country Kitchen and over the air waves, nine morning television interviews just a few hours after arriving in snowy New Hampshire.

GORE: I'm out here campaigning for every vote I can get. Good to see you.

KING: Bill Bradley says he's in for the long haul, but the Gore camp believes back-to-back defeats would effectively end the former New Jersey senator's challenge.

So a Gore campaign film crew was on hand to prepare a new wave of TV advertising, as the vice president reminded his audience that New Hampshire was in deep economic stress before the Clinton/Gore team took office.

GORE: Senator Bradley asked the question in Iowa: Are you better off today than you were seven years ago? The answer clear is yes.

KING: There were staple Democratic applause lines.

GORE: ... ask you, do you believe that we should defend a woman's right to choose?

KING: And the fresh criticism of Bradley's health care plan suggested Gore was unimpressed by polls suggesting he's now in the lead here and well aware New Hampshire has a history of rejecting Iowa's choice.

GORE: We are not taking a single vote for granted.

KING: That means campaigning here virtually nonstop through next Tuesday's primary.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KING: The only exception will be a quick return to Washington for Thursday night's State of the Union address when Gore will once again find himself in President Clinton's shadow, hoping Americans like what they hear and hoping he gets some of the credit.


BLITZER: John, the president was out in the briefing room today, and he was speaking, of course, very fusively about Al Gore. But there's no indication, as far as you've heard from any of your sources, that we're going to see President Clinton more actively on the so-called campaign trail in the course of this week or any time soon.

KING: No, we don't expect President Clinton out on the campaign trail at all. The Gore campaign does not want that right now. They do think presidents traditionally get a big bounce in public approval out of their State of the Union address. The hope is that President Clinton will this time and the vice president will benefit from that. But no plans to see the president out campaigning right now. There is a possibility as the campaign moves to the South, that you may see the president do more in terms of trying to encourage African-Americans to vote, either campaigning in person or perhaps through some radio advertising.

BLITZER: When the vice president goes to Washington on Thursday for the State of the Union address the president will deliver before a joint session of Congress, John, do Gore's campaign people think that's going to be a net plus or a net minus in the sense that he'll have to take some valuable time away from New Hampshire, but on the other hand, he'll be seen doing his job as vice president?

KING: He will campaign here throughout the day, return only for the evening speech. In the context of the Democratic primaries, they see it as a net plus. They expect Mr. Clinton on several occasions to give credit to the vice president for leading administration initiatives in areas like hooking up schools to the Internet, bringing the so-called digital divide -- bridging the so-called digital divide in lower income communities in a general election context. Still obviously some concern that moderate Republicans and independents have grown tired of President Clinton. But in the short term, the president still quite popular among Democratic primary voters. That's Gore's challenge right now as he tries to fend off Senator Bradley.

BLITZER: And is there anything special, John, that they're doing to avoid over confidence going into the primary here one week from today?

KING: On the morning conference call today, the Gore organizers, once again, as they did the last few days in Iowa, urged everyone to work as if they were five points behind. They believe they're actually about five points ahead right now, but they will bring in more labor activists here. They will bring in more volunteers. Many of the volunteers we saw in Iowa, many of them veterans of the 1992 and 1996 Clinton/Gore election campaigns on their way to New Hampshire now. Many of them hope to be here today, of course, but the snow delaying their arrival.

BLITZER: OK, John King, our senior White House correspondent, reporting live from here in Manchester.

George W. Bush has more opponents to worry about, but he, too, has the luxury of an impressive victory under his belt. CNN's Candy Crowley is traveling with the Texas governor. She joins us now from the New Hampshire hamlet of Merrimack.

Candy, what's happening there?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, not only did George Bush win in Iowa, but he beat the snow here in New Hampshire. He arrived at an airport rally last night in a hangar. His final words to his 2:15 a.m. rally were, "OK, let's go get some sleep." He did that, and this morning, of course, woke up to this winter wonderland.

There is no change in schedule here at the Bush campaign. Although this is very good for skiers, sometimes snow can slow politicians. Still, Bush is game for whatever events he had this day. There were two of them, rallies and tours.

In the warmer climes inside a hotel, Bush did talk to the Bush campaign -- did talk to Bush campaign reporters. He talked about the race behind Iowa. He said it was a lot better to come in a strong first than a second, a reference, of course, to Steve Forbes.

As for New Hampshire, what the Bush campaign really fears is that Forbes will do an ad blitz, what Bush called the scorched earth policy from Forbes similar to what he did to Bob Dole in the '96 campaign. Bush maintains that that sort of negative advertising hurt Dole all the way into the general campaign.


GOV. GEORGE BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would hope that he would hear the voices of many responsible Republicans that this kind of campaigning will hurt either me, or if he were to turn his sights on John McCain, would hurt John McCain equally as well.


CROWLEY: On a second New Hampshire battle front, there is, of course, John McCain, who has spent virtually all his campaign time here in New Hampshire. And McCain could win. But Bush, as he talked about the McCain challenge, seemed to indicate that while it is a possibility McCain could win here in New Hampshire, neither McCain nor Forbes can match the Bush organization or his poll power in the states ahead.


BUSH: There's no question about it, he's a tough candidate to beat. And then, you know, we'll see beyond New Hampshire, how these other -- what they choose to do and where they choose -- if they pick and choose the different states after New Hampshire or if we're all going to, you know, compete in every state.


CROWLEY: What will happen here in New Hampshire that is slightly different from Iowa for the Bush campaign is they will try to keep the focus on his tax cut plan despite the fact that there are some polls indicating voters favor the McCain plan. The Bush campaign believes if he can get out there and articulate precisely the differences, reassure voters that Social Security will be protected under the Bush plan, he can make some headway here.


BLITZER: OK, Candy Crowley covering George Bush's campaign in Merrimack here in New Hampshire, thanks for joining us.

And one Republican hopeful who gave up hope after Iowa is Utah senator, Orrin Hatch. After finishing the Iowa caucuses in dead last place with one percent of the vote, Hatch flew straight back to Washington and scheduled a news conference for tomorrow. Actually, he scheduled it for today, but rescheduled it because of the weather. Aides say he'll formally drop out of the race.

A little later on INSIDE POLITICS, we'll look at some of the lighter moments in Hatch's brief, little-noted candidacy.

And when INSIDE POLITICS returns, how the number two Republican in Iowa hopes to become number one in New Hampshire. An in-depth talk with Steve Forbes, next.


BLITZER: Fresh off his strong second place showing in Iowa, Steve Forbes hopes to leap frog into the Republican lead in New Hampshire. It may be quite a jump for the social conservative.

As we told you at the top of the hour, a new CNN-USA Today Gallup Poll shows Forbes a distant third behind Arizona senator, John McCain, and George W. Bush among those expected to vote in next week's New Hampshire primary. Still, with 30 percent of Iowa's GOP vote in his pocket, Forbes energetically attacked the New Hampshire campaign trail today. CNN's Jonathan Karl caught up with the candidate.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You called your 30 percent showing in Iowa a triumph, but you've really got your work cut out for you here in New Hampshire, don't you?

STEVE FORBES (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, going against the establishment, your work is always cut out for you when you're an independent outsider. And I think our very strong showing in Iowa shows that the American people want true conservative principles, they want an authentic conservative, they want an independent outsider.

And our second victory last night, I think, underscores that in Alaska, where the whole establishment came out for George Bush and we had a dead heat.

KARL: And much of your support in Iowa came from the religious right, from social conservatives. New Hampshire is a very different state, though, isn't it? A little more socially liberal?

FORBES: Well, I had a broad base of support in Iowa, and I've got a good broad base of support here in New Hampshire and elsewhere. I can unite conservatives, I can unite this party. I think the American people want real action in health care, education, Social Security, tax issue, plan of action on the life issue, rebuilding our military.

KARL: Now I notice you mentioned health care, taxes, Social Security, education. Are we going to hear more emphasis on those issues and some of the bread-and-butter economic issues? And abortion, you talked a lot about abortion in the final days in Iowa.

FORBES: I think I've got the strongest pro-life anti-tax position of just about any candidate. I think that people see that it ties together from what Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg when he said -- talked about a new birth of freedom. I have that strong broad-base conservative message.

KARL: Is your emphasis going to be a little bit different here in New Hampshire? Are we going to start hearing more about where you stand on education, health care, Social Security?

FORBES: I think I'm going to continue to emphasize this broad- base message, which obviously includes taxes. I pioneered that issue four years ago. I think that people can see now that only an outsider is going to make that happen.

KARL: Now, on the abortion question, you spoke about a step-by- step process to ending abortion. What do you mean by that?

FORBES: Well, many Americans don't agree with the goals of a life amendment, and therefore, you try to move people, persuade people towards the goal step by step. And that's the significance of the partial birth abortion debate. It got people to look at it. Many of those who consider themselves pro choice realize this is a form of infanticide, and therefore, it ought to be banned. So what you do is you work to create a consensus.

KARL: Well, how long does this take? How long until we get to this ban on abortion?

FORBES: There's no way to predict how quickly hearts and minds and consciences can be changed, but we've had great shifts before in America. I believe we're beginning to have a shift again.

KARL: So your position on abortion doesn't seem to be all that different from George W. Bush. George W. Bush talks about how the American people are not ready yet for a ban on abortion. It seems to me that's the same thing you're saying when you talk about a step-by- step approach. FORBES: Actually, I think the fundamental difference is I take an active approach, he takes a passive approach. I've said I'll pick a pro-life running mate. I will preserve the pro-life plank in the platform. I will appoint, select pro-life judges and justices.

KARL: This has been an expensive process running for president twice. Is there any limit to the resources you'll devote to this?

FORBES: I think that if you add up, and we'll get reports fairly soon on what's being spent in campaigns, you're going to find that George Bush has spent as much or more than I have. But we do have a strong message. That's where the real gap is.

KARL: Much of your comparative advertising has taken on George W. Bush and his record. Will you also be taking on McCain?

FORBES: I think both represent, even though the rhetoric may be different, when you look at their actual proposals of taxes, health care, education, Social Security, and other issues, it is more the same old same old.

KARL: The complaint was that you really hurt Bob Dole, and Bob Dole never fully recovered, hence he lost in 1996. Are we going to see an aggressive advertising campaign from you? Will you really take on Governor Bush and his record?

FORBES: We're going to have -- are having open, honest and vigorous debate. And George Bush said himself we ought to have a debate on honest differences, on differences over policies and principles. And that's what I want. So he can't say he wants a discussion on differences, and then when you have that discussion, he cries that it's not fair to point out the differences. That's what voters want. It goes back to Lincoln and Douglas.


BLITZER: And now joining us is Jonathan Karl. You spent some time with Steve Forbes. One of the great advantages, Jonathan, that Steve Forbes has is money, and he's going to start translating that money into some action this week.

KARL: I tried to press him on how far would he go, how much would he spend, and he seemed to say there was no limit to how far he'd go, how much money he'd spend. And, in fact, coming out of Iowa, he's already going to have an ad on the air talking about his victory in Iowa airing here in New Hampshire tonight. And he bought a full- page in the "Manchester Union Leader" perhaps a little bit optimistically, that was already on the presses before the results were in out in Iowa.

BLITZER: But Alan Keyes, also a social conservative, did relatively well in Iowa, he's going to be running, of course, here in New Hampshire. That's going to take away votes, together with Gary Bauer, from Steve Forbes.

KARL: Well, what the Forbes people are saying is that Alan Keyes has got strictly a social conservative message, and the social conservatives dominate in Iowa, but they don't dominate in New Hampshire. That in New Hampshire, you need to also have an economic, strong economic message, which is what Steve Forbes says they have.

But Alan Keyes is excited about this victory, although, in fact, he is snowed in, stuck in Detroit right now trying to work his way back to New Hampshire. But he points out that he had this strong third-place finish going against the two most well-financed presidential candidates in history and two candidates that were going without any limits on their spending.

BLITZER: And so when Steve Forbes and Bill Dalcall (ph), his campaign manager, when they publicly predict that George W. Bush will be coming in third next Tuesday here in New Hampshire, do they really believe that, or is that just more politicking?

KARL: Well, you notice whenever Forbes talks about that, he always pins it on his campaign manager, Bill DalCall. They are clearly hoping for something like that, but I think that making that prediction was really part of trying to raise some expectations and get some excitement coming out of Iowa, because as you know, they've been languishing in the polls here in New Hampshire. They spent a lot of money here already and they're still quite a distant third. I don't know if they quite believe that they're actually going to beat out George W. Bush and that George W. Bush will come in third, but they're clearly hoping to create some kind of excitement coming out of their second place finish in Iowa.

BLITZER: All right, Jonathan Karl covering the Forbes campaign for INSIDE POLITICS, thanks for joining us.

And coming up next, some media insight on the New Hampshire races. "Boston Globe" political reporter, Jill Zuckman, and WMUR news director Karen Brown will join us.

And the Eastern seaboard wondered where winter was. Millions wonder no longer. Coping with a major storm system when INSIDE POLITICS continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Joining us now to discuss the significance of next Tuesday's first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary are Karen Brown, news director with WMUR TV here in Manchester, and Jill Zuckman, political reporter with the "Boston Globe."

Karen, when you look at what happened in Iowa and try to get a sense of what, if any impact, that will have on voters here in New Hampshire, what's your nutshell -- what's your sense tell you?

KAREN BROWN, WMUR NEWS DIRECTOR: Well, despite the snowy cold we have here in New Hampshire today, there is a red hot energy on the campaign trail, and it comes directly out of Iowa. You could sense among the campaign staffers, and indeed the candidates themselves today, there is a renewed energy. Iowa has given momentum to a number of these candidates: George Bush, Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes, who you alluded to earlier is stuck in Detroit because of the weather, but also, Al Gore. There is an energy here, and New Hampshire now becomes a brand new ballgame for these candidates.

BLITZER: Jill, do you agree with that assessment?

JILL ZUCKMAN, "BOSTON GLOBE": Well, I think that New Hampshire is a clean slate. I mean, I think that what happened in Iowa was Iowa. And I do agree that the candidates brought a lot of energy with them early this morning. But I think that the results there don't necessarily have to have an impact on what's going to happen here in New Hampshire.

BLITZER: Karen, Bill Bradley needs a win badly in New Hampshire. He's close in the polls, and some polls show it sort of neck and neck, others show Al Gore slightly ahead. But a lot of experts, a lot of people think he really has to get much more aggressive this week, these final days in order to win in New Hampshire. Do you get any sense he's about to do that?

BROWN: Well, I think it's an internal tussle for this particular candidate. I think he really does, you know, want to take the high road, but I think he also knows he has to do something dramatic in order to engage the voters here in New Hampshire. It's all about the independents for Bill Bradley. And so I think he's having a little bit of an internal tussle on that one, and it will be interesting to see how he performs in tomorrow night's debate.

BLITZER: He has to give -- Jill, he has to give voters, Democratic voters in New Hampshire a reason not to vote for Al Gore, as opposed to just telling his own life story. He has to go out there and say, "Don't vote for Al Gore." But will he do it in a way that will generate some sort of bitter negative reaction?

ZUCKMAN: He can't quite bring himself to say the sharp words. His aides are saying, you know, voters should not settle for second best, and they specifically are referring to Al Gore. But Bill Bradley can't quite bring himself to do that all by himself. And he's trying to hold himself out as someone who is better and purer and, you know, someone that the voters can trust, and by contrast, suggesting that Al Gore can't be trusted, but he can't quite say those words. And so I think that Karen is right, that there is a bit of a struggle going on with Bill Bradley.

BLITZER: We'll so who wins that struggle.

Karen, on the Republican side, John McCain skipped Iowa, of course. He needs to win New Hampshire to show that he's a viable candidate for the Republican nomination. Is he poised to win New Hampshire at this point?

BROWN: Well, that is probably the closest race going at this point in time. George Bush and John McCain really neck and neck in most polls. Again, I go back to -- The independents here are really going to play a major role. George W. Bush does well with conservative Republicans, although Steve Forbes will try to eke away at that -- eat away at that. But if John McCain can continue to win over these independents and then deliver them to the polls next Tuesday, that's going to be a really interesting race to watch as the results come in.

BLITZER: What will you be looking for, Jill, as you watch the John McCain battle with George W. Bush and Steve Forbes, for that matter, Alan Keyes, the other Republicans?

ZUCKMAN: Well, I mean, I'd like to know what they're all going to be talking about. If there's anything new that they have to say at this point. I think that Bush has had some problems finding the right areas to mark his differences with John McCain. He's trying with their tax cut plans, and he's had a couple of issues. But I'm not sure at this point that that's really giving him any traction. And Karen is right, that they're both -- Bush is trying to go for the Republican hard core voters, McCain is trying to get those independents, but McCain needs Republican voters, too, if he's going to beat George W. Bush.

BLITZER: Karen, tomorrow night, you and Bernie Shaw are going to be co-hosting, co-moderating the Republican, the 90-minute Republican debate here in Manchester. This could sway some last-minute, undecided voters. Is that the sense you're getting.

BROWN: I really do think that the debate tomorrow night could be a pivotal moment for, not only these candidates, but for voters who truly are undecided. And in New Hampshire, many people do not make up their minds until the waning days of the campaign here. So if a candidate says something that a voter likes or says something that a voter dislikes, that could be a turning point for that individual. So I do think performance is going to be very important for both George Bush and John McCain and Steve Forbes tomorrow night.

BLITZER: OK, two of the best political reporters covering the New Hampshire primary, Karen Brown and Jill Zuckman. Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

And ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, flying fiscal calendar pages. The president moves up a timetable for a balanced budget spending.


CLINTON: The budget I will submit for 2001 accelerates the date that we will be able to pay off our debt to 2013, two years earlier than we had originally planned.


BLITZER: Also, will next week's New Hampshire vote shrink the Republican field? One of the questions we'll put to the state's GOP leader. And along those lines...


ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And, frankly, I really believe that you need more experience before you become president of the United States. That's why I'm thinking of you as a presidential candidate.


BLITZER: Why Orrin Hatch may be the one reversing roles.


BLITZER: It's a wintry night in New Hampshire, but the men who would be president scarcely have time to notice. The nation's first presidential primary is only one week away, and the Granite State is filled tonight with candidates, staffs and volunteers who are campaigning like there's no tomorrow.

Bill Bradley, by his own admission, got a big dose of humility in the Iowa caucuses, and today, he bluntly told New Hampshire voters, "I need your help." But that same message, if not those exact words, came today from Al Gore, who won big in Iowa, but who's running neck and neck with Bradley in New Hampshire.

On the Republican side, Iowa victor, George W. Bush, is also fighting hard in New Hampshire and airing a new TV spot in Delaware and South Carolina.


ANNOUNCER: George W. Bush's tax plan is called an economic agenda worthy of a new president. The Bush plan reserves $2 trillion of the surplus to protect and strengthen Social Security and pay down the national debt. The rest is dedicated to priorities: education, rebuilding our military, and providing a real tax cut for every taxpayer.


BLITZER: The nation's finances were also on the mind of President Clinton today, and CNN White House correspondent, Chris Black, has that.


CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even a major snow storm could not stop the president and Senate Republicans from competing for credit on reducing the national debt and safeguarding Social Security. First, the president.

CLINTON: The budget I will submit for 2001 accelerates the date that we will be able to pay off our debt to 2013, two years earlier than we had originally planned.

BLACK: At their end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Senate Republicans cheered a congressional budget office report rejecting increases in the surplus.

SEN. SPENCER ABRAHAM (R), MICHIGAN: This fiscal year will end with us balancing the budget and not touching one penny of Social Security. BLACK: Mr. Clinton is reviving last year's unsuccessful proposal to pay down the national debt with the Social Security surplus. The Senate Budget Committee chairman was skeptical.

SEN. PETE DOMENICI (R), FINANCE CHAIRMAN: We're going to be very interested in trying to find out what he's doing with the money in the meantime. We don't understand how you can do that and spend the money at the same time. Seems rather -- If you're spiritual, seems kind of miraculous. If you're not, it seems like some kind of magic.

BLACK: The president responded to criticism of his handling of the economy by GOP front-runner George W. Bush with a dig at Bush's own proposed tax cut.

CLINTON: It is an unusual claim that we ought to somehow reject and approach it as giving us the longest economic expansion in history and the lowest unemployment welfare and crime rolls in 30 years. And I agree that the tax program he's proposed might well undo a lot of that.


BLACK: White House officials say they did not time Mr. Clinton's announcement on debt to help Vice President Al Gore, but the president also decided on this very frigid day to release emergency fuel assistance for low-income families in the Northeast, including New Hampshire.


BLITZER: OK, Chris, before you go, the congressional budget office, in projecting a new surplus now of nearly $2 trillion over the next decade, almost twice as much as they earlier projected, politically, that's going to give politicians a lot of opportunity to either call for greater tax cuts, reduce the national debt. How is that going to play out in the immediate future on the campaign trail?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, here we go again. I mean, it's very interesting that this is the debate that happens every year between the Democratic White House and the Republicans on the Hill, particularly in the last few years, as you know. And there will be battling over tax cuts. But the theme that we're hearing here at the White House that we expect to hear a lot more of from Vice President Al Gore is that fiscal discipline got us here, better stay with it.

BLITZER: OK, Chris Black reporting from inside the West Wing of the White House, thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

And when INSIDE POLITICS continues, New Hampshire's GOP chairman joins me to discuss the Republican field of presidential candidates and whether next Tuesday's vote may thin the competition. Steve Duprey is next. Stay with us.


BLITZER: This reminder: The candidates from both parties are to meet tomorrow night in separate debates. You can see both live here on CNN. It's the Republicans first for 90 minutes at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 Pacific. After a break, it's the Democrats' turn at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific. The debates are co-sponsored by CNN and New Hampshire WMUR.

And one week from today, voters here in the Granite State will weigh in on the presidential race. Joining me now to assess the first-in-the-nation primary is the GOP chairman New Hampshire, Steve Duprey.

Mr. Duprey, thanks for joining us.

STEVE DUPREY, N.H. GOP CHAIRMAN: Pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: All right, size up the Republican field. What's your sense? What's going to happen?

DUPREY: Well, Governor Bush came out of Iowa with a very strong win. You know, he's got four other candidates at least in Iowa who are going after him. And, obviously, Steve Forbes had a great day as did Alan Keyes. And New Hampshire's the first state where the field is joined. John McCain's working hard, the polls are very close, and they know it's an important contest. So I think New Hampshire could be determinative, particularly if Bush scores a knock out punch with John McCain, or if McCain beats Bush, that could mean that he has to work harder, and it could be a battle.

BLITZER: So you think it's do or die for John McCain in New Hampshire. If he doesn't win, he's in trouble?

DUPREY: If he doesn't win or come very close, he's in trouble. He's been very clear. New Hampshire, South Carolina, one-two strategy trying to put chinks in the Bush armor.

Steve Forbes, a lot of people a month ago in New Hampshire said, no, he was out of it. He's moved from five to 15 percent in the New Hampshire polls. He gets a big boost coming out of Iowa. My sense is there are three tickets out of New Hampshire. Two of them may end up in steerage class if they don't very well.

BLITZER: How important is this debate that's going to be here tomorrow night?

DUPREY: Well, people have gotten to know the candidates pretty well; we've now had a lot of debates. Unless somebody scores a real knockout punch or really stumbles, I don't think it'll have a big impact on the polls. But you have to be mindful that in 1988, for example, and we had a snow storm, then President Bush was a candidate, and he put a new ad on the air that did a very good job of going after Bob Dole. So the last week, you really kind of guard against any last-minute surprise that could sink you.

BLITZER: You think that the rhetoric is going to heat up dramatically in these final days before the primary, the negative advertising, the tough talk tomorrow night? Is that going to get ugly? DUPREY: I don't think so. I mean, we had three or four days where Senator McCain felt that Governor Bush was unfairly attacking his plan. Governor Bush said, "You haven't given the details," when he did. Governor Bush stood down as did John McCain, and I think that's become more civil. I think they're going to be pointed policy debates, but for the most part, they've stayed well above the fray. And you don't see any of the jabbing like you do in Gore/Bradley over campaign finance, and some of the past excesses. So I think it'll be a pointed by polite debate and probably a tough fought but an issue- oriented week.

BLITZER: All right, you're the leader of the Republican Party in this state. Size up the Democratic field. Is Gore -- His big win in Iowa, is that going to be repeated here in New Hampshire?

DUPREY: Well, I'm probably not the most accurate, but my sense is the Bradley people are full of the insurgence, the new people who are tired of eight years of Clinton/Gore, and they've done a very good job. Bill Bradley's run a great campaign here in New Hampshire, and I think an open primary is much more conducive to success for him. Gore has got more of the establishment. I think he's trying to hang on here. My sense is people in New Hampshire tend to be tired of the Clinton/Gore and he's still wearing that I'm-tied-to-the-president label and it's been hard for him to shake. I think Bradley could win this here very easily.

BLITZER: All right, Steve Duprey, the GOP chairman here in New Hampshire, thanks for joining us...

DUPREY: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: ... plus for the hospitality of your state for all of us who are not from New Hampshire.

DUPREY: You're welcome.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And next, when we come back, no one home at Hatch campaign headquarters here in New Hampshire today. We'll tell you what Iowa may have had to do with that when INSIDE POLITICS returns.


BLITZER: After finishing dead last in Iowa last night, Senator Orrin Hatch's campaign offices in New Hampshire were closed today. For him, the trail has ended, the official announcement due tomorrow. Only days earlier, the Utah Republican had promised a big surprise in the heartland. In a crowded presidential field, a few days can derail a dream.


HATCH: My only problem with you, governor, is that you've only had forum going into your fifth year in governorship and a constitutional weak governorship. And frankly, I really believe that you need more experience before you become president of the United States. That's why I'm thinking of you as a vice presidential candidate. Because if you had -- if you had -- Just think, just think, Ronald Reagan picked your father because he had foreign policy experience. Somebody suggested the other day you should pick me because I have foreign policy experience. They got it all wrong. I should be president, you should have eight years with me, and boy, you'll make a heck of a president after eight years.

Now let me ask Steve a question, and I'm going to give you a home run ball, Steve. Look...

FORBES: That usually means hold your wallet.

HATCH: Steve, I couldn't even lift your wallet is all I can say.

FORBES: Senator, with...

HATCH: I'm running a skinny-cap campaign, Go there and help me out.

TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: Senator Hatch, why not have means testing for Medicare? Why should someone who earns my kind of income, for example, pay and get the same kind of coverage as a school teacher or someone who works on a farm here in Iowa?

HATCH: First of all, I don't think you're going to ask for Medicare with the amount of money you make. In fact, I think you could take care of all of us right up here on the dais with what you make and maybe everybody in the audience as well.


BLITZER: Orrin Hatch. That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Tomorrow, we'll bring you a 90-minute special edition of INSIDE POLITICS leading up to tomorrow night's presidential debates. Those start at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. And you can go online all the time at CNN's

This programming note: Former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour and Democratic strategist Frank Greer are the guests tonight on CNN's "CROSSFIRE." That starts at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

For now, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Manchester, New Hampshire. "WORLDVIEW" is next.


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