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CNN Late Edition

Polls Show Democratic and Republican Candidates Engaged in Tight New Hampshire Primary Races

Aired January 30, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: From Manchester, New Hampshire, this is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, my friends, I can beat Al Gore like a drum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But before John McCain can face Al Gore, he has to beat George W. Bush. We'll speak to Senator McCain about Tuesday's New Hampshire primary and his race for the Republican presidential nomination. Then, the Bush campaign responds. We'll be joined by one of Bush's top aides, communications director Karen Hughes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN KEYES (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'll leave it to the American people to judge the convictions of my heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Alan Keyes put his faith in the people of Iowa. We'll ask him if he can ride the wave to a solid finish in New Hampshire. Then the Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you feel like you're on the defensive on the substance of the issues, then change your plan. Don't shoot the messenger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People make misleading statements. And most of them do it because they don't know better. You know better. You know what you're saying is not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Bill Bradley takes off the gloves as his battle with AL Gore gets ugly. We'll have a debate on that Democratic race between Bradley supporter, Senator Bob Kerrey and Gore supporter, Congressman David Bonior. Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable: Steve Roberts, Susan Page and Tucker Carlson. And Bruce Morton has the "Last Word" on the first in the nation, what the New Hampshire primary really means.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Manchester, New Hampshire, this is LATE EDITION with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: It's noon in Washington and here in Manchester, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Rome and 8:00 p.m. in Moscow. Where ever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special LATE EDITION from the site of the first U.S. presidential primary.

Today the seven candidates are spending the day making last minute appeals to the voters of New Hampshire. CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, joins us now from here in Manchester. Candy.

MONICA CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, 48 hours and counting before those notoriously volatile New Hampshire go to the polls. At this point right before the Iowa Caucuses, we pretty much could tell you who would come in first, even who would come in second. We don't know right now here in New Hampshire.

The look at the latest tracking polls and that is the daily snapshot of what is going on in this race shows that Al Gore, the Democratic race, at 48 percent, Bill Bradley, 47 percent. The numbers reflect a couple of good days for Bill Bradley. A solidifying of his base support and the fact that he is scoring on the so-called trust issue. These polls happened before another go round on Bradley's health.

Bradley, of course, told the "New York Times", along with his doctors, that Bradley is in excellent health. But Bradley did concede that as president, he might have to invoke the 25th amendment and transfer power to the vice president should doctors have to shock his heart back into a regular beat.

And in the for what it's worth category, we have yet another endorsement. This time from the conservative "Manchester Union Leader". An almost endorsement, it calls it, for Bill Bradley saying that committed Democrats should vote for him. This, of course, a very Republican paper.

Now a look at the Republican side. This shows that John McCain, leading in the Republican snapshot. McCain at 39 percent. Bush at 34 percent. Forbes, who may have run out of his Iowa bounce, is hovering at 15. Alan Keyes at nine. Inside these numbers we see that McCain scores high on the so-called vision thing and on moral character.

For the day, many of these candidates began Sunday morning with the Sunday morning ritual, the talk shows. They were in and out on a variety of talk shows. This afternoon, many of them will be holding their regular campaign. John McCain doing his town hall meetings. George Bush, of course, doing his talks to people as well.

Now what they all have in common is that this afternoon, many of them will be holding Super Bowl parties as they head into the evening. Wolf.

BLITZER: OK. Candy Crowley. Super Bowl, it's a big day here in the United States and for many people around the world. Thanks for joining us.

And within the hour, Republican presidential candidate John McCain will conduct one of his last Town Hall meetings before the voters of New Hampshire cast their ballots on Tuesday.

Joining us now from the Town Hall in Peterborough, New Hampshire is Arizona Senator John McCain. Senator McCain, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get right to what George Bush said earlier today. He was on Fox News Sunday and he said that your tax cut plan is very much like AL Gore's plan and Bill Clinton's plan. Listen to what George Bush said about you earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I don't believe he comes from the school of thought that says cutting taxes encourages economic growth. I believe he comes from the school of thought that says we better leave money in Washington, D.C. To me that's a frightening thought.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you say about that accusation from Governor Bush, Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: Well I say several things, including I've got feedback in my ear which makes it a little harder. Maybe we can fix that.

But one of the things I'm saying is that my tax cut is double that of President Clinton. Second thing I'm saying is conservative - that when we have additional money that it's time to take care of the obligations that we've incurred in the form of the Social Security Trust Fund, which is $7 trillion, $5 to $7 trillion under funded. A national debt of some trillions of dollars we've accumulated over the years. And giving working families the tax cuts that they need.

First of all, as I say, my tax cut is double that of President Clinton's and Vice President Gore's. President Clinton gave a long laundry list of spending proposals.

But the real question here is - that Governor Bush really isn't addressing. Is, what do you do with this surplus? I want to give it to working families: tax cuts, Social Security, Medicare and pay down the debt. All of his goes to tax cuts. I don't think that's conservative or smart. And I think when you don't have one penny - Governor Bush has not one penny to pay down the national debt, not one penny out of - out of the non Social Security surplus and not one penny for Medicare. I think that the way to approach this situation - and most Republicans agree with my by actual polls, that we should have a very measured and cautious approach, including paying our obligations.

I'll be - I'm about to have my 114th Town Hall in Peterborough. Someone will stand up and say, Senator McCain, don't you think we ought to pay down the debt and relieve our children of this obligation? And I'll say yes.

BLITZER: And so when Governor Bush runs commercials, TV ads, saying that you're basically a mimic, a shadow of Al Gore and Bill Clinton, does that - how does that make you feel?

MCCAIN: It makes me feel that if he's saying that then he's spinning like Bill Clinton. And I don't think the American people like that anymore.

BLITZER: Now as you know, this past week, Governor Bush did pick up several major Republican endorsements. A few, Senator Orrin Hatch, who dropped out of the race, Jack Kemp, as you know, John Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire, John Warner, the senator, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He seems to be aligning the leadership of the Republican Party behind him because they presumably think he has a much better chance of winning than you do.

MCCAIN: Well first of all I note an NBC poll that shows Governor Bush about tied with Al Gore. I'm the guy that can beat Al Gore, to start with. This campaign is about the grass roots versus the establishment. The establishment in Washington knows that I'll break the Iron Triangle of lobbyists, big money and legislation.

But -- and reform is the theme here. And the fact is that, as I told Governor Bush last Wednesday night when he says that campaign finance reform is unilateral disarmament, I say that it's a clear path to victory. Because when I'm in the debate with AL Gore, I'm going to say, you and Bill Clinton debased the institutions of government in 1996 and your conduct was disgraceful.

MCCAIN: You said there was no controlling legal authority. I'm going to give you a controlling legal authority and a controlling ethical authority. And I'm going to make what they did illegal.

When George Bush is in the debate with Al Gore, he's going to have nothing to say, nothing to say because he's defending this system. He's saying that campaign finance reform, getting the special interests and the big money out of Washington will hurt the Republican Party. I'm saying what's good for the country is good for my party.

BLITZER: And even if the specific campaign finance reform that you want could result in some problems for the Republican Party, you say go forward irrespective of the damage to the Republican Party. MCCAIN: I'm saying it has no damage to the Republican Party because we were able to win elections with President Reagan in 1980. We were able to gain control of both Houses of Congress in 1994, when we were at a financial disadvantage. We won the battle of ideas and not the battle of bucks.

Right now, organizations are being set up by both Democrats and Republicans to funnel undisclosed, huge amounts of money into the presidential campaign. It's got to stop. The American people are sick of this corruption that is bred by it.

And that's - and how - how Governor Bush can defend a system that led to millions of dollars of Chinese money coming into the last presidential campaign and the compromise of American national security is something I simply can't comprehend.

BLITZER: Senator McCain, you've said, including on this program about a month and a half or so ago, that you have to win New Hampshire in order to be a viable candidate. Is that still your position?

MCCAIN: Sure. I think we've already won, Wolf, in this respect. In July I was at 3 percent and Governor Bush was at 61. Now the polls bounce up and down. I think it's going to be a very close race. I think we may be up late on Tuesday night. But we've won because we've put giving the country back to the people and out of the hands of the special interests as a major theme. We've made the Town Hall meeting a technique that has been incredibly powerful. And the message of reform is what's resonating here and will resonate throughout the country.

But yes, in order to do well, we have to have a quote, "win". But I think I've already won by where we are. But I'd sure love to see a couple of point victory on Tuesday night.

BLITZER: One of the controversial issues that has come up, not only on the Republican side, the Democratic side as well know, is the whole issue of abortion. Very clear differences between the Republican candidates who oppose abortion as opposed to the Democratic candidates who support a woman's right to have an abortion.

I want to try to be as specific as possible with your position on abortion since it's become such a controversial issue in these primaries - in this primary here in New Hampshire, before that the Caucus in Iowa. Do you believe that the 1984 Republican Party platform should be in the 2000 Republican Party platform as stipulated in 1984, meaning no exemptions for an abortion?

MCCAIN: No. I would like to see an exemption for rape, incest and the life of the mother. I believe that's the generally held opinion. Our leader in the House of Representatives, and perhaps nationally, Henry Hyde, the Hyde, so-called Hyde Amendment has that provision. And I would like to see that provision in our platform.

BLITZER: I know also you've - you speak about the need for alternatives for abortion and you also promote parental notification. But what if there is a case - and this is an argument that's made by those who oppose parental notification. What if there's a case where there's an abusive father? And if he is told that his young daughter got pregnant, he might take very, very stern, if not very forceful, violent action against that girl. What would you do in a case like that?

MCCAIN: I would make sure that the young women has the recourse of going to court and a restraining order from a judge. But obviously that is a hypothetical - probably never happen or almost never happen. What I'm more concerned about than that is the fact that any daughter who has any medical procedure performed that it requires the permission and notification of parents. Except for one procedure in America, and that's the taking of a human life. I don't get that.

And that's really what the overwhelming majority of the cases are about. And this is why it is - it is inconceivable to me that I as a parent, and other parents in America shouldn't be notified when - and give their consent, when something of this nature is about to take place. Particularly since it's an issue that would be very, very - I would want to have an incredible negotiate - discussion in a very private way on this issue. And I think parents deserve that right.

BLITZER: All right. Senator McCain, correct me if I'm wrong. You believe the Republican Party should be a big tent, inclusive party. And that Republicans who disagree with you on abortion should be leaders in the Republican Party. And you're not ruling out inviting some of those Republicans who support abortion rights to be, not only members of your cabinet, but perhaps even being judges and a running mate.

MCCAIN: I'm saying that I would use no litmus test for any of those positions you talked about. And of course I welcome pro-choice Americans into our party. That's the party of Abraham Lincoln. Let's have a dialogue. Let's work together to improve adoption in America and make it easier. There's thousands of children without parents and vice versa. Let's work together on foster care.

Overwhelming majority of Americans want to ban partial birth abortions. So do I. I think it's a gruesome procedure. There are areas that we can work together on and not be driven by the two polarized ends of the spectrum on this issue. Both ends of this issue are - have turned the cause into a business. They're not interested in us working together on issues that could help children. They're interested in polarizing issues and making more money. And that's an unfortunate part of his debate.

BLITZER: All right, Senator McCain. We have to take a quick commercial break. But we have more to talk about, including your phone calls for the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain.

LATE EDITION from New Hampshire will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: AL Gore would have written your plan, Mr. Senator. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor...

MCCAIN: If you're saying that I'm like Al Gore, then you're spinning like Bill Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate John McCain and George Bush skirmishing in last Wednesday's televised debate.

Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION from New Hampshire. We're continuing our conversation with Senator McCain. He joins us from Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Senator McCain, let's take a quick caller from New York state. Please go ahead with your question for John McCain.

CALLER: How do you do Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: Fine, thank you.

CALLER: My name is Max Vanimberogen (ph) and I'm from New York. And I would like to know whether of not you would make it mandatory for your Supreme Court Justice appointees to be pro-life?

MCCAIN: I would not - I would not impose a litmus test on any Supreme Court Justice nominee. I would insist that they adhere closest to the concepts of our founding fathers and to the Constitution of the United States.

And by the way, from New York, I hope you'll call up Governor Pataki and the party boss, Mr. Powers, and tell them to let me on the ballot. And call Governor Bush, tell Governor Bush to tell Mr. Pataki and Powers to let me on the ballot in New York. Stalinism is dead. And they - I'm a viable candidate and they should not block me from being on the ballot in your state so that Republicans in your state can choose whether they want me to be the nominee for the presidency of the United States.

BLITZER: Senator McCain, Governor Bush addressed that issue earlier today, whether or not you should have that access on the New York state ballot. Listen to what he specifically said. And I'd love to get your reaction.

MCCAIN: Sure.

BUSH: All the candidates knew exactly what the rules were. And so I worked hard to get - and my team worked hard to get on the ballot, as did another candidate. And now here we are getting ready to have the primary and evidently John couldn't get on some of the ballots and he wants to change the system.

BLITZER: Senator McCain.

MCCAIN: The system - the system died when the Berlin Wall came down. The fact is that everybody knows that I'm a viable candidate. Even Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York, Alfonse D'Amato, former senator, Congressman Peter King, who are all Bush supporters, said that I should be on the ballot.

All Governor Bush has to do is acknowledge that I am a viable candidate. And I think everybody knows that. He's finding that out here in New Hampshire. Let me on the ballot and let the people who are Republicans in New York make a choice. And that isn't too hard.

The system is rigged. Everybody knows it and everybody has known that for years. We're going to be in court. We're in federal court and if not, we're going to go to the floor of the convention because this is wrong. And I'm curious why Governor Bush might convey the impression that he doesn't want me on the ballot?

BLITZER: All right. Well let's take a caller from the home of the Super Bowl later today. Atlanta, Georgia, please go ahead with your question for Senator McCain.

CALLER: Senator McCain, good afternoon. The reason most people on both sides of the aisle are so excited about your election - your candidacy is because we believe you're a man of principle. Now to watch you dance around the issue of the flag in South Carolina is so shattering to some of us. How can you ever again position yourself as a principled candidate in this election?

MCCAIN: Sir, I am very clear on my positions on all the issues, including the flag. And I will allow the American people to make their judgments beginning here on Tuesday night. And I thank you for your call and I thank you for your view.

BLITZER: Senator McCain, President Clinton, in his State of the Union address proposed having gun licensing. Arguing that if you need a license to drive a car, why shouldn't you need a license to shoot a handgun. Do you think that's a good idea?

MCCAIN: I don't think that's a good idea. I don't think it's necessary. I wish President Clinton would have said, I and my Justice Department are going to enforce existing laws, which they have utterly and miserably failed to do, before we take additional action. Although I would certainly support some additional action such as safety locks, instant background checks and development of technology that allows only the owner of a gun to fire a gun.

But as usual, the president has avoided the responsibilities which he's not carried out and that is to enforce the existing laws of the country. And then maybe he - he has the right to propose other measures.

BLITZER: He - well, we won't get into an argument over whether the president's enforcing the existing laws.

MCCAIN: I think the facts is clear.

BLITZER: He does have a proposal in there to increase funding to enforce some of those laws. But let's move on to ...

MCCAIN: Well that's seven years later I - seven years later I welcome that.

BLITZER: On the minimum wage, do you believe there should be an increase in the minimum wage as he's proposing?

MCCAIN: As long as we allow small business people the kinds of tax incentives and breaks that it doesn't cause them to go out of business, yes.

BLITZER: So you would vote for that. And as far as a potential debate that would be in the presidential contest between Vice President AL Gore, assuming he's the Democratic nominee, and Governor Bush as the Republican nominee. Would you feel comfortable as a Republican with Bush going into that kind of debate with Al Gore?

MCCAIN: Sure. But I feel that he'll be at a great disadvantage because he will be standing mute over the issue of the great scandal of 1996 with the debasement of every institution of government by the Clinton-Gore campaign, which was devastating. Including the possible compromise of American national security. Because Governor Bush is defending the system that bred that kind of corruption, which is really still a dark stain on American political history.

BLITZER: OK. Senator John McCain, unfortunately we are all out of time. I know you have to go to a Town Hall meeting in Peterborough. But it's always good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thank you so much for joining us.

MCCAIN: Thank you very much, Wolf. It's great to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

And just ahead. The Bush response, what's the Texas governor's game plan for winning Tuesday's primary? We'll talk with Bush communications director, Karen Hughes, when LATE EDITION from New Hampshire continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush (AUDIO GAP) New Hampshire snow yesterday. While he may not cruise to an easy victory in Tuesday's primary (GAP IN TAPE) counting on a win. Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION from New Hampshire.

Joining us now is Karen Hughes, the communications director for the Bush campaign. Thank you so much for joining us.

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Wolf, it's nice to be here.

BLITZER: Well you heard Senator McCain respond very angrily to a lot of the charges, counter charges that have been going on. Specifically let's go through some of them to give you a chance to hear your side of the story.

HUGHES: I'd like to because I heard some misstatements of the governor's position. I'd like - I welcome the chance to correct the record.

BLITZER: Well if the record - you'll obviously correct it. On the taxes, he denies that what he's trying to do is mimic or repeat what Bill Clinton and Al Gore say. He's saying he wants to save Social Security, Medicare, cut down the national debt and not just give big taxes to rich people.

HUGHES: Well the difference is that there is $4 trillion of surplus available, Wolf, over the next ten years. We've got - we're running a surplus right now. Governor Bush believes we ought to take half ...

BLITZER: That includes the Social Security Trust Fund.

HUGHES: We ought to take half of that, $2 trillion.

BLITZER: Half of that is non Social Security.

HUGHES: And lockbox that for Social Security. And that also pays down debt. Of the remainder, he would take a trillion and give it back to people. The American people are right now paying higher taxes than they have in any time since World War II when we had a lot of men and women in the uniform across the world.

So he believes that we ought to give people more of their money back. The best way to control special interest spending in Washington is not to let the politicians have the money to spend in the first place; it's to send it back to the working men and women of America. And that's why Governor Bush has proposed a tax cut for every single taxpayer.

Senator McCain's tax cut is paltry by comparison. And he himself admitted in a debate with Governor Bush here this week in New Hampshire that his plan is more similar to President Clinton's. And we think that's valid.

The Republican presidential nominee needs to be able to debate the Democrats in this fall's general election, not mimic them.

BLITZER: All right. Is there a difference, a substantive difference, as far as you can tell, between Bush and McCain on abortion?

HUGHES: I don't believe so. I think that Governor Bush has the same position. Governor Bush is a pro-life governor. He supports exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. Governor Bush has ...

BLITZER: Although there is a new one up there because Senator McCain just said on this program that he would support changing the party platform language to include exceptions for life - for life - for the life of the mother, rape and incest. Whereas, I understand that Governor Bush ...

HUGHES: Governor Bush supports keeping the platform as it is. It does not stipulate as to exactly what a human life amendment should say. The Republican Party platform is a statement of principle for life. And Governor Bush believes the Republican Party should retain its pro-life position and encourage respect for life. And that's what he'll do as president.

BLITZER: As far as you're concerned, is John McCain a conservative?

HUGHES: On some issues he is a conservative. On some issues he is not. For example, there's a reason that the vast majority of Democrats agree with Senator McCain on his campaign finance reform plan and the vast majority of Republicans do not. It's a plan that is unfair to Republicans and unfair to conservatives. It leaves a huge labor loophole.

I heard Senator McCain repeatedly say, and misstate, that Governor Bush is not for campaign finance reform. That's not true. Governor Bush is for campaign finance reform. He believes we ought to ban both corporate and labor union contributions in the political process. And he has proposed that.

However, Senator McCain's plan leaves a huge labor loophole that allows the union bosses to collect money from their members' dues and spend it on politics without their permission.

BLITZER: So how ...

HUGHES: And he doesn't think that's right. So he thinks campaign finance reform ought to be fair to both political parties.

BLITZER: So how important is this New Hampshire primary on Tuesday from the Bush campaign's perspective.

HUGHES: It's very important. Governor Bush ...

BLITZER: Is it critical? If Bush does not win, what happens?

HUGHES: Well Governor Bush is in this for the long haul. He's running a national campaign. He is competing in every state. He won Iowa. His vision and his message and tax cuts and education reforms has been endorsed by the people of Iowa. Senator McCain chose not to campaign there. He has focused his time here in New Hampshire.

So we're in quite a battle here. But we sense that momentum's with us. We feel that in the final days the debate was a defining moment in which Governor Bush was able to very clearly articulate his message of tax cuts and education reforms. Senator McCain acknowledged that his position on tax cuts is similar to Bill Clinton's. And the Republicans don't want that.

BLITZER: You also heard Senator McCain lash out at the governor for not stepping into New York State to insist that the Republicans allow Senator McCain on all of the ballots. At one point he called them Stalinist practices in New York State. Listen though to what The New York Times in an editorial on Saturday had to say on this sensitive issue. BLITZER: "Mr. Bush has said New York's ballot controversy is best handled by New York's Republican leaders. This is not leadership; it's ducking the issue. It's time for Governor Bush to call off his ballot gladiators."

HUGHES: Well, The New York Times editorial page does not frequently agree with Republican candidates. In this case though, Wolf, what the Republican Party in New York has said is that to ensure a minimum level of grass roots support for a presidential candidate, those candidates must get signatures of people who are Republicans and who live in that congressional district.

Now that doesn't seem too - too difficult. That you have to be a Republican; that you have to be a registered voter and you have to live in that district. About ten other states have similar rules. And I think Senator McCain has a little bit of a credibility problem on this issue because he used ballot rules like this in the state of Arizona to knock off his - one of his challengers in the 1998 Senate race.

So this appears to be a case where Senator McCain has not been able to get a minimum level of grass roots support in the state of New York and still wants on the ballot anyway.

BLITZER: OK. Karen Hughes, the communications director for the Bush campaign defending her boss, George W. Bush, the governor of Texas.

HUGHES: Wolf, thanks very much for the opportunity.

BLITZER: And maybe, who knows, the next president of the United States. Do you think he will be?

HUGHES: I think he will be. I think he's got a message that's optimistic. He's a - he's a leader. And he's the leader that America needs to take us into the next century.

BLITZER: Well we heard it right here.

HUGHES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Again, thanks for joining us.

And up next, he had a surprisingly strong finish in Iowa. Can he maintain the momentum in New Hampshire? We'll ask Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes when LATE EDITION from New Hampshire continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEYES: We were fighting against all kinds of odds, a lack of attention in the media, all kinds of presumptions that were out there. I think some of that is overcome by the good work that has been done by the grace of God and the people of Iowa. I think we will build on that in New Hampshire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes speaking after his solid third place finish in the Iowa Caucuses.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION from New Hampshire. Joining us now is Alan Keyes. Ambassador Keyes good to have you back on LATE EDITION.

KEYES: It's good to be here.

BLITZER: John - John McCain was on this program earlier. Do you think he would be someone you could support for president, if in fact he gets the Republican nomination?

KEYES: To tell you quite honestly, I don't know anymore. I think that this whole thing that came up about the position he expressed on abortion raises for me the serious possibility that whatever his record he is actually pro-choice.

BLITZER: You mean the exceptions for rape, incest?

KEYES: No, no, no. I mean what he said on that bus when he was asked about his daughter. In which he basically indicated, yes, we think abortion is wrong, we'd counsel her and so forth. But that ultimately the choice was hers or the choice was up to the family or something like this.

That is not a pro-life position. It's a pro-choice position. It is the classic pro-choice position, in fact, taken by many. And that is inconsistent with the declaration, with the principles of justice involved. If that in fact reflects John McCain's real heart, he is not pro-life, he's pro-choice.

BLITZER: Well you also just heard Karen Hughes say that there's no substantive difference between Governor Bush and John McCain on the abortion issue.

KEYES: That could be that neither - and I've often said this that these people advocate a position because they think they're going to get votes for it, but the actually don't understand the principle that's involved, which is very simple.

The question of the life of that child in the womb cannot be a human choice. Because according to our moral principles as stated in the Declaration, our right to life is God's choice. A choice already made before we appear in the womb. So this whole question is obviated - and insofar as they take this position that somehow or another we have a choice about whether to respect that life, they are taking a pro-choice position incompatible with pro-life principles or American principles.

BLITZER: So are you saying on LATE EDITION right now that you don't believe you could support either George Bush or John McCain? KEYES: I will not speak to George Bush. He didn't make this error. The person who made this error, who revealed, I think, his true heart, was John McCain. And that raises serious questions for me. I will not cast a vote for a pro-abortion person. And if I reach the conclusion, as I think I must based on what's on the record, that John McCain is in fact a pro-abortion person, I will not support him.

And he can stand on his record all that he wants. We're not talking here about records, what you did to get votes in Arizona. We're talking about where you stand in principle and whether you can carry the standard of those principles into the general election. He cannot. He does not understand the principle or apparently support it, and therefore he could not defend it.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Palestine, Texas. Please go ahead with your question for Alan Keyes.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. Keyes. I have a question concerning Medicare, Medicaid. When you have these young girls that are going out here getting pregnant, this federally funded, state-funded Medicaid being used to give to those children so they could have repeated children after children -- that's my money being used for that. What are your views on that?

BLITZER: Did you hear that question?

KEYES: No, I - could you repeat it?

BLITZER: The question was on Medicare, Medicaid funding that would enable young women who get pregnant to go out and get pregnant again and get pregnant again and again. What would you do about that?

KEYES: Well, I think that the answer to those kind of problems is to return in this country to an understanding of sexual responsibility that ceases to play games with the issue of sexual relationships and marriage.

I think we have encouraged in this country an idea about sexual relations that has divorced it from the responsibility that parents have toward their children, from the responsibility we all have to the possibilities of pregnancy.

BLITZER: All right.

KEYES: And if we get back to that kind of moral education, that is the root of the problem. And that's the right way to deal with this issue.

BLITZER: Our latest CNN/"USA Today" tracking poll has you at 9 percent, Steve Forbes at 15 percent fighting it out for third place. What, if any, differences are there on the abortion issue between you and Steve Forbes that someone who opposes abortion would vote for you as opposed to Steve Forbes?

KEYES: Well, I guess my major problem there with Steve Forbes is that he came from a very strongly pro-abortion position. That was his background. He had been part of those who had supported even a political action committee that was aimed at getting support for pro- abortion candidates.

He has obviously changed his stated position on this issue. I've never heard an account of that conversion that I find at all compelling. Matter of fact, I don't think I've heard one at all.

After the last election where he took no stand or was indifferent to this question, he has now taken the stand that he says is strongly pro-life under pressure. His pronouncements have been increasingly clear about this.

But again I say we're not looking for somebody to just take a stand. We need someone who will go out there, and against Democratic opponents who are going to come at us on this issue all the time can defend that stand effectively and articulately to persuade the American people that the pro-life position is the position of American principle. He cannot do that as effectively as I.

BLITZER: Ambassador Keyes, we have to take a quick commercial break. More question for Alan Keyes and your phone calls when this special LATE EDITION from New Hampshire continues. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION from New Hampshire. We're continuing our conversation with Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes.

There was an incident between you and Gary Bauer, another conservative presidential candidate, at that debate this week. He cited your willingness to go into that mosh pit at that rock concert in which you were lifted up and carried around, and there was a band. And he said basically this was inappropriate.

I want you to listen to what Gary Bauer said, because briefly I'd like to talk a little bit about this.

KEYES: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY BAUER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is a dignity that ought to go with the presidency. And my friend Alan Keyes is a great guy, but I think it's inappropriate for any of us to act like we're guests on the "Jerry Springer Show."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, when Gary Bauer attacks Alan Keyes or Alan Keyes attacks Steve Forbes, Governor Bush and John McCain are probably sitting back saying: "That's great. The three most socially conservative candidates are going after each other." You sense that they must be happy about that.

KEYES: Well, I would have to take exception to one thing. I don't attack other candidates. I will sometimes press them on their positions on the issues in order to make clear where they stand, as I did to Steve Forbes that night asking him about his position on the World Trade Organization.

BLITZER: And as you did on this program.

KEYES: And as I did on the program about John McCain. Those are issue things.

What Gary was raising was a different kind of issue, where I guess he was somehow questioning my sense of the dignity of office or maybe even my own dignity. I don't really know.

I did have a temptation at the time -- I didn't do it during the debate, because I resist flippant answers, I guess. But really, what ran across my mind as he was going through it, when I realized he was serious, which at first I didn't believe, was just kind of get a life, Gary. What's your problem? It was seriously that, because I think that nobody who saw that or watched it that I've seen saw any problem with my dignity in that circumstance.

And of course, the real understanding of dignity, as I tried to point out to him, has to do with what you are inside. I think especially as a Christian person he ought to understand that.

The most humiliating thing that could happen to you in the Roman Empire, the one that was considered most undignified, was to be crucified. Christ on the cross, however, is in the eyes of the Christian the most dignified figure perhaps in human history.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a quick caller from Macon, Georgia. Go ahead with your question, please.

CALLER: Hi, Dr. Keyes. It's an honor to speak with you.

KEYES: My pleasure.

CALLER: What I would like to know is if for some reason you don't get the nomination, if you would accept the vice presidency or if you would take a Cabinet position in any of the three front contenders' administrations?

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds.

KEYES: Well, I -- I don't think people should focus on that question. Right now, we have to choose the most effective standard- bearer for Republican principles. And I think in the debates and otherwise, I've demonstrated that on the moral front, that will be the decisive one for this election, I am the most effective spokesman for the Republican Party's principles and views.

BLITZER: OK, Alan Keyes, always good to have you on LATE EDITION. I know you're going to go back out to the campaign trail.

Will you take a break for the Super Bowl?

KEYES: Well, I think there's no point not taking a break. Everybody else is.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right. Thanks for joining us.

And just ahead, we'll turn to the Democrats: Bradley versus Gore. Who's poised to win on Tuesday? We'll ask Nebraska Senator and Bill Bradley supporter Bob Kerrey, and Michigan Congressman and Al Gore supporter David Bonior.

LATE EDITION live from New Hampshire will continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why should we believe that you will tell the truth as president if you don't tell the truth as a candidate?

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's not a negative attack?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Vice President Al Gore and former Senator Bill Bradley going toe to toe in last Wednesday's Democratic presidential debate here in New Hampshire.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now to talk about the Gore-Bradley race are two leading Democrats in Congress. Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey is a Bradley supporter. Senator Kerrey recently announced this will be his final term in the Senate. And Michigan Congressman David Bonior -- he's a Gore supporter and the No. 2 Democrat in the House.

Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.

I want you to listen to what Senator Bradley said earlier today on ABC on this whole issue of the heart, the question of his health, and whether he would ever have to hand over power under the 25th Amendment if he had what's called this cardio-version (ph) treatment to deal with the heart fluctuations.

Listen to Senator Bradley.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: President Bush had this same condition, and they talked about what they would do in that circumstance and concluded that it would be appropriate if a cardio-version was to take place that there would be a transfer. I've looked at it. I think that's probably appropriate. I'll make the decision at the time. But I think that it would be an appropriate thing if I decided to do a cardio-version.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Senator Kerrey, this must be the last issue that a candidate only with two days before an election wants to have to discuss, handing over power to a vice president before a critical election like this.

SEN. BOB KERREY (D), NEBRASKA: I think it's probably true that you'd rather not have to talk about it, but I admire the way he's talking about it. He's saying in an honest way and in a very calm fashion that if it happens, this is likely the sort of thing that I would think about having to do.

He's not denying it. He doesn't panic in the face of the question. And I very much admire both his honesty and the serenity in which he makes this kind of evaluation, because it's exactly what a president is going to have to do to be commander and chief to lead the free world and do lots of other things that a president is called upon to do.

BLITZER: Congressman Bonior, is this an issue -- should this be an issue in this campaign? Should voters be concerned about Senator Bradley's health?

REP. DAVID BONIOR (D-MI), MINORITY WHIP: Well, voters are generally concerned about the health of the candidates, but I don't think this fibrillation ought to be a major issue in this campaign. I think the senator has indicated that what he would do, and his doctor said that he would go forward.

The senator did say, though, I might add a little earlier that he wished he would have revealed this a little bit earlier in the campaign. But in terms of it being an issue, I don't believe it should be.

BLITZER: Well, one issue that Senator Bradley is now making, says he's making against Al Gore is the whole issue of abortion. And I know, David Bonior, you're one of the few Democrats in Congress who opposes abortion rights for women for whatever reason.

But do you think that Senator Bradley should be making these charges against Al Gore right now, that Gore has effectively flip- flopped his own position on abortion, unlike you, for example?

BONIOR: Well, their positions are very similar. I mean, they both believe in a woman's right to choose. They both believe in Roe versus Wade. And they've had that belief (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for a decade. So it shouldn't be an issue in this campaign.

The vice president has admitted that he struggled with this issue earlier on in his career. But to suggest that the vice president hasn't been honest about this is not fair.

As you probably know, 300 women, led by Governor Shaheen, endorsed governor -- excuse me -- Vice President Gore based on his record for women including the right to choose. And we've had a number of House and Senate members just recently endorse the vice president based on his right to choose, his position on the right for a woman to choose.

So I think, you know, it shouldn't be. We should move to the issues that there are some disagreements on. There are some disagreements on education. There are some disagreements on Medicaid and those things.

BLITZER: Well, let's stick with abortion for a second, Senator Kerrey. Having heard now what David Bonior has just said, I want you to listen to this ad that the Bill Bradley campaign is now releasing, has now released here in New Hampshire. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BRADLEY CAMPAIGN AD)

BRADLEY: This is the kind of issue that you can't straddle. You can't be on both sides. You have to decide which side are you on. Are you anti-abortion or are you pro-choice? And I decided a long time ago that I'm pro-choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Sensitive word "straddle." It's a tough ad. Is this a fair ad?

KERREY: I think it's completely fair. I mean, the vice president in the debate on Wednesday stood and said, "I have never said anything untrue in this campaign." He made that statement. Bill Bradley didn't make that statement. He made that statement.

Well, as it turns out, something in that debate that he had said was not true. And he said, "I've always been pro-choice." That's not true. And a couple of days later he explained what he really meant.

Well, what he really meant was "When I said, `I've never said anything untrue in this campaign,' that itself was not true." And that's a big issue for voters in this campaign, and it will matter to them that you've got a candidate that has chosen, for whatever the reason, to not distort just the opponent's record but to misrepresent their own.

BLITZER: And Senator Bradley also said, David Bonior, that if Al Gore is not telling the truth as a candidate, how could anyone ever believe that he would tell the truth as president?

BONIOR: Well, let me put it in this context, if I could, for you. We're at the end of a campaign here. Bob and I have been through a lot of campaigns in our careers. Their forces are behind. You're desperate at the end of the campaign and you're trying to elicit votes.

So I think they've way overplayed this and overstretched this issue. Of course, the vice president has not misrepresented himself. He said in that debate very clearly that he was for a woman's right to choose, that he supported Roe v. Wade and that he struggled with the issue earlier on.

KERREY: But David, he said that he has always been pro-choice and that the only problem that he had was Medicaid funding, and that's not true. And he several days later said it wasn't true.

Bill Bradley is not desperate. He did not do well in Iowa. And one of the reasons he did poorly in Iowa is that in the debate the vice president said: "I fought for an amendment on disaster assistance on the fourth of August, two days before the budget vote was cast. I fought for Iowa farmers." It turns out there's no evidence of a fight at all.

The ad had an enormous impact, and Bill's message is "I promise a new politics and a new beginning."

BONIOR: Well, that's not true.

KERREY: That's -- that is based upon -- that is based upon telling you the truth.

BONIOR: But Bob, that's not accurate either, because I remember that debate on the disaster assistance for Iowa farmers and the vice president was involved in that, and it affected literally millions of lives: people's farms, people's businesses, people's homes.

KERREY: That's correct.

BONIOR: And the vice president's position was very clear on that and the senator's wasn't.

KERREY: No. No, you're talking about two different thing. Bradley voted for the final passage of the disaster relief.

BONIOR: He didn't vote for the amendment.

KERREY: No, but there is no record...

BONIOR: To give additional assistance.

KERREY: There is nothing in the Congressional Record that demonstrates that the vice president -- indeed, Senator Wellstone was very much part a part of this effort -- and it wasn't until the last minute that they got the administration not to oppose that amendment. That's the record.

BLITZER: All right. We're not going to be able to resolve the record right now.

You know, earlier today, the Democratic leadership appears to be -- I don't know if you want to use "ganging up" on Bill Bradley, but stipulating that he's going too far. I want you to listen to a statement just released by the House Democratic leader, Richard Gephardt, and the Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle.

They said this: "We are concerned that in the closing days of the Iowa-New Hampshire contest Bradley's campaign has taken a sharp negative turn and veered into the kind of negative personal attacks he has repeatedly denounced. We urged Senator Bradley not to end his New Hampshire with personal negative attacks on a fellow Democrat." KERREY: Well, that's unfortunate. Both Tom and Dick are good friends of mine, but they've also endorsed Al Gore. So they've endorsed the vice president previously and they're adopting his message, which is that Bradley's turning negative.

Bill fought in the Iowa campaign, and his message is that this is a new beginning and a new politics and he's trying to, I think quite correctly, say -- and we're going to have trouble in a general election, I'll guarantee whoever the Republican nominee is, they're not going to be shy about saying: "Mr. Vice president, you said in New Hampshire that you've never told anything untrue. What about Love Canal, what about `Love Story'? You know, what about the Internet? What about the statements that you made in that very debate about your previous abortion..."

BLITZER: All right, David Bonior, hold that thought. I know you want in on this. We have much more to talk about, but we have to take another break.

For our international viewers, "WORLD NEWS" is next. For our North American audience, stay tuned for another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION. We'll check the hour's top stories, then Senator Bob Kerrey and Congressman David Bonior will also be taking your phone calls.

Also our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's "Last Word." It's all ahead when this special LATE EDITION from New Hampshire continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We'll get to your phone calls for Senator Bob Kerrey and Congressman David Bonior in just a moment, but first let's go to Charles Bierbauer in Washington for a check of the hour's top stories.

Charles?

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf.

Elian Gonzalez's grandmothers are due to leave the United States for Cuba at this hour. After spending about 10 days in the U.S., their departure from Dulles Airport in suburban Washington is imminent. The women said they believe they had done all they could to secure their grandson's return to Cuba. Six-year-old Elian remains with relatives in Miami.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are meeting today in Jerusalem, hoping to meet a February 13th deadline for a framework that would lead to a permanent peace agreement. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Switzerland today, also trying to help push those talks forward. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak got together today in Cairo in advance of high-level talks set to begin Tuesday in Moscow. In Florida, the launch of the space shuttle Endeavor is penciled in for tomorrow, weather permitting. An approaching cold front could force a delay. NASA scientists are also coming the shuttle fleet for inferior parts. A defective seal was found in the engine of another shuttle, the Discovery, following its flight last month.

And the Georgia Dome is all spiffed up for today's Super Bowl No. 34, kick-off between the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans about five hours from now. This is the first appearance at the Super Bowl for each team since it relocated. A winter storm put a damper on some game-related events around Atlanta, but ticket-holders should have no trouble getting to the Dome.

And that's a quick look at the headlines. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Charles.

We now continue our conversation with Senator Bob Kerrey and Congressman David Bonior.

Congressman Bonior, I want you to have a chance to respond to what...

BONIOR: Yeah.

BLITZER: ... what Bob Kerrey said just before the break, but also I want you to factor in this in your response. The "Manchester Union Leader," conservative newspaper, the only statewide daily newspaper...

BONIOR: That's an understatement.

BLITZER: ... in New Hampshire, today sort of endorsed Bill Bradley, saying this: "Gore has defined himself as dishonest, the same as the man for whom he works. The Clinton presidency has mortally infected him, and he is ethically damaged beyond repair."

BONIOR: Well, that's -- that's a line that's unfortunate, and you would expect it out of the "Manchester Union" newspaper, a very conservative newspaper, a paper that's really behind the most conservative candidate in the Republican race. They don't want to face Gore, is what they don't want to face in the general election.

But let me just touch this question of honesty and openness and fairness in this campaign. We need to get beyond this. I mean, this -- this city that we're in now, Manchester, is full of young people who are having a great time involved in this campaign. You see them on street corners. You see them knocking on doors, making phone calls. I was calling people up yesterday. People are enthused about debating issues. They're not interested in getting into the mud and talking about who's more honest than the other person. They want us to talk about the issues.

And you know, Bill Bradley and Al Gore are decent, good people, and we need to get back to that level of discourse. And that's why -- if I could for just one second -- that's why Al Gore wanted to set aside these 30-second commercials and have a debate twice a week, where you could just talk issues, and we could get all these pieces out that we talked about, the differences...

(CROSSTALK)

BONIOR: I understand why. They've got more money.

KERREY: No, it's a political ploy!

BONIOR: It's not a ploy.

KERREY: I mean, Al -- it is, David! I mean, I appreciate that you're -- you're for it, but here's the facts. If Al -- if Al -- if Bill Bradley says "Yes, I won't do 30-second ads," the campaign's over because Al Gore has 99 percent name recognition and Bill Bradley does not. It's a very attractive offer because Bradley gets in trouble either way. If he says yes, he's out of the race. If he says no, the vice president keeps up the attack. But that's what people are tired of!

BLITZER: All right, let's...

KERREY: People are tired of that kind of (INAUDIBLE)

BLITZER: Let's take a caller from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: This is for Mr. Kerrey.

BLITZER: Hurry up, please.

CALLER: I was wondering why he's being such a mud-slinger, you know, against Al Gore. He doesn't sound much of a Democrat to me.

BLITZER: All right.

KERREY: Well, I've got bad news for you. I am a Democrat, and I've been a Democrat in a Republican state for quite some time. This is not slinging mud, ma'am. I mean, the vice president has said "I have said nothing untrue in this campaign." And in fact, just the opposite is the case. And Bill Bradley is saying "I do promise a new beginning." He senses that the country is tired of the old kind of politics, that people are turned off. I mean, for gosh sakes, the fund-raising scandals of the '96 campaign did a lot of bad things, including Hubert Humphrey's son lost an election in Minnesota as a result of people being turned off to the old way of doing things.

BLITZER: David Bonior, if it's a close race -- and by all accounts, it's going to be a close race -- between Gore and Bradley, you don't think Bradley should drop out after New Hampshire, even if he comes in a close second, do you?

BONIOR: That's a personal decision that he'll have to make. He obviously has...

BLITZER: But what I'm reading from this statement from Gephardt and Daschle...

BONIOR: Well, this is going to go on...

BLITZER: The leadership of the Democratic Party seems to be putting the -- you know, "Let's save the money for the Republicans and make this a one-man race."

BONIOR: Well, obviously, the sooner we can come together as a party around one candidate, the better off we're going to do. But we're not so naive to think that this might just be the end of the Bradley campaign if Gore beats him here. Bradley has more money than Gore does. He outspent him 2 to 1 on television in Iowa. He'll probably outspend him here in New Hampshire. And we expect that he probably will go on. But we want this debate to be, you know, above the level of mud-slinging, accusing people of being dishonest. We can talk about the issues that are important to the people -- Medicare, health care, education, those kinds of issues.

BLITZER: All right, we're all out of time, but it's always good to have two of you, two of the best Democrats in the U.S. Congress, on LATE EDITION. Thanks for...

BONIOR: We'll have to get you to grow a beard next time.

BLITZER: ... joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... Bob Kerrey surrounded by two guys with beards. Thanks for joining us, Bob Kerrey, David Bonior.

And when we return: It's crunch time for Bill Bradley. We'll go 'round the table with Roberts, Page and Carlson here on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BONIOR: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me here in New Hampshire, Susan Page, White House bureau chief for "USA Today," Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report," and Tucker Carlson, political writer for "The Weekly Standard."

All right, Steve, let's get -- talk about the Democrats first. Then we'll talk about the Republicans later. The whole issue of the heart, the heart of Bill Bradley, medical problem -- is this an issue in the final days -- final hours, really -- of this campaign?

STEVE ROBERTS, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": It shouldn't be, but it is. It is for two reasons. I think it casts a slight shadow over his candidacy, as a lot of other people have said. I think also there's a question of candor here. He has not been particularly candid on this issue, Wolf. He had to -- it had to be dragged out of him, and in that sense, I think it casts a second shadow. So I don't think it's really very fair, but it's there.

BLITZER: Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I don't know. I disagree with that. I think it is a legitimate issue. I mean, in his interview with "The New York Times," Bradley talks about, well, who would be in control of the executive branch when he's, you know, under anesthesia receiving treatment for this heart problem that supposedly is so insignificant that all of us should ignore it. I don't know. I mean, it sounds like a legitimate medical issue to me. Clearly, his doctors think so. He's been under anesthesia three times already for it.

BLITZER: Well, just when the Bradley campaign seemed to have Gore a little bit on the defensive in issues like the Buddhist temple fund-raising, abortion, all of a sudden once again the heart issue comes up. So it's terrible political timing.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, I think -- I think Senator Bradley has made some inroads against Vice President Gore's lead here, though. I think you've seen some improvement in his position. But it's a hard thing to do, what Senator Bradley's tried to do, which is to go negative at the end. You know, really, you want to do -- beat up your opponent a little earlier and be positive at the end. And I think it's raised some problems in terms of kind of the negative tone of a candidate who was supposed to be a different kind of politician with a fresh start toward politics. It's been tough for Senator Bradley.

BLITZER: Is it too little, too late, though, for Senator Bradley, in terms of going on the offensive against Al Gore? He has really come on the offensive only this past week.

ROBERTS: I think it is a little too little, too late. He got badly beaten in Iowa in part because he didn't fight back. But I don't think it's going to matter that much one way or another. I think the basic bedrock political facts are there. Three quarters of Americans think they're better off than they were eight years ago. Here in New Hampshire, when all of us were covering...

BLITZER: And they're going to give Al Gore credit for that?

ROBERTS: I think that there's a sense of well-being. You know, you can't point to anything Al Gore did to make their lives better, but there is a sense of "Why change horses? Why jump ship?" And I think that's the strongest thing Gore has going for him. Clearly, he's been reading that in the polls because he's identifying himself much more closely with Bill Clinton in the last couple of weeks than he was in the past.

BLITZER: On the abortion issue, the charge from Bradley that Al Gore has flip-flopped and he's really not consistent -- is that going to hurt Al Gore among Democratic and independent voters here in New Hampshire?

CARLSON: I don't think it's going to hurt him. I mean, of course, Gore has used the issue against Bradley, as he always does. Every time Bradley make one of these sort of weak attempts to beat up on Gore, Gore turns around and accuses him of negative campaigning. So I don't think it's going to help Bradley, but I think it is a legitimate issue. And the interesting thing is that this came up in '96, Gore's past long pro-life voting record. He signed the Siljane (ph) amendment, et cetera, et cetera.

Tim Russert asked him -- I think I counted once -- 11 times on "Meet the Press" in '96 about this inconsistency, and Gore never moved from the phrase "I support a woman's right to choose." And yet the other day he finally crumbled and admitted, "Well, yes, there is this inconsistency." That says something about the heat he felt from it.

PAGE: You know, I think that's -- I think Vice President Gore is in a pretty good position to get the nomination, but I think some questions have been raised about his ability in a debate -- you know, he's really known as a fierce debater, but he's made two big errors in debates, I think. One was when he said he'd have a litmus test for the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the issue of gays in the military.

But the second one was I think he did not handle this abortion issue well in the debate. He let -- he answered in a way that let him open to a charge that he was misrepresenting his position. He now has spent a couple days trying to fix that. I think that's been an interesting thing to notice about this process.

ROBERTS: But on the other hand, you ran a clip from Bill Bradley this morning from one his ads, saying "This is an issue you can't straddle. You got to be one thing and" -- that's wrong. As a matter of fact, most Americans are in the middle. Most Americans do believe in the basic legal right to choose, but also admit that there could and should be restrictions in terms of parental notification. This notion that you can only be one thing or another on abortion is not in sync with the American people, and I do think it's legitimate, as Gore does, to say "Well, I have some doubts. I have some considerations."

PAGE: You know, the other thing is I think Americans could understand that someone could have an evolution of a position on this issue, believe one thing at one time, think about and change their mind. I think that's happened to a lot of Americans.

BLITZER: But why didn't Gore, Tucker, just immediately say, "Yeah, when I was a congressman in the '80s, I did have a different position. But you know what? Over the years, I changed my position, and this is what I firmly believe today"? Wouldn't that have been a more consistent kind of statement to make?

CARLSON: Well, I mean, clearly, it would have been, but it would have contradicted his previous denials of that. I mean, Gore had opportunities years ago to make that statement. I don't think it helps either one when you have both candidates having this -- this kind of contest, you know, "Who's more in favor of abortion?" I mean, it's sort of ghoulish, and it detracts from the issues that they want to stress, in the first place. Gore feels like he has to do it because, of course, he's leading among women, and he feels like that's a key constituency and that will respond to this. I'm not sure they will. ROBERTS: But all candidates go through this evolution of being from local to national candidates. And he represented Tennessee, a fairly conservative state, Southern state, was not out of his -- his muddled position on abortion not out of keeping with the people in Tennessee. And now he's evolving into a national politician, running nationally, and he's got to take a somewhat different tack. Same with George Bush. You know, he signed a gun control law in Texas on concealed weapons. It's difficult to defend when you become a national candidate.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on. We have to take a quick break.

Just ahead: Can John McCain beat George Bush here in the Granite State? The roundtable weighs in on the Republican race when LATE EDITION from New Hampshire continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.

Susan, our latest tracking poll, as Candy Crowley reported early in the program, right here today at this minute, McCain at 39 percent among Republicans and likely voters, Bush at 34 percent, Forbes 15, Alan Keyes 9. Gary Bauer doesn't show up.

PAGE: Well, you know, McCain is still ahead, and that's a good thing for him. But Bush has made some inroads against McCain, and this has become a very important state on the Republican side. If McCain manages to win, he'll be able to go to South Carolina with its February 19th primary with a real head of steam and able to make a case that Bush is not the inevitable nominee.

But Governor Bush said this morning that he expects to win in New Hampshire, and if that happens, I think it's going to be hard for Senator McCain to do what he needs to do in South Carolina.

BLITZER: If he doesn't win. But if he comes in second...

PAGE: If he doesn't win.

BLITZER: ... he can still go on, though.

PAGE: Second is second. First is first.

BLITZER: Yeah, but if it's a close second...

PAGE: A win is a win.

BLITZER: If it's a close second...

PAGE: And he was ahead here. This is one -- this is a very good state for him. The electorate kind of lines up in a helpful way for his kind of candidacy. I think this is a critical state for Senator McCain.

BLITZER: Tucker, if Gary Bauer finishes fifth, a distant fifth, what happens?

CARLSON: Well, I mean, who knows? I mean, he was beaten by Alan Keyes in Iowa, and that indicates an imperative to get out of the race, as far as I'm concerned.

BLITZER: Do you think he'll get out of the race this week if he does really badly?

CARLSON: No, I think he could potentially go on forever. We could -- our children could be saying, "Didn't he start running in 2000?"

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: No, I mean, I don't necessarily think so. Bauer -- it's interesting. At the last debate, you really got this kind of kamikaze feel from him. You know, "I'm going down, but I'm bringing other people with me!" I mean, he just -- he wasn't so much a protest candidate trying to make ideological points as he was sort of an attacker trying to bring down the other people on the stage. It was a very weird dynamic.

ROBERTS: This is dangerous for Bush, I think. In Iowa, the religious conservatives got more than 50 percent of the vote. They won't do that well here, but if he is -- continues to have to answer -- the Gary Bauers, the Alan Keyeses, the Steve Forbeses push him over to the right -- the Democrats are loving this. They are -- one of their best hopes here is that Bush says things that they can throw back in his face in the fall.

BLITZER: And if you take a look at what some of the comments that Bob Kerrey said about Al Gore today, those comments could be thrown back by a Republican, of course, as well.

PAGE: Almost certainly will.

BLITZER: If Al Gore gets the nomination.

PAGE: And whatever happens with Senator Bradley's campaign -- and I do think it looks like he's headed for a disappointing showing here in New Hampshire -- he has laid out a case against Al Gore that we're going to hear a lot in the coming months. It's going to be the case Republicans will make about Al Gore -- not honest, not trustworthy, campaign finance, Buddhist temple. These are all things that we're going to hear over and over again.

BLITZER: But I think what's clear, Tucker -- and just -- I just want you to make sure it's clear with you -- is that this contest is not going to be over with in New Hampshire. It's going to go on, on the Republican side to South Carolina, and on the Democratic side to New York and California in early March. Is that...

CARLSON: I'm not so sure about that at all.

BLITZER: Really? CARLSON: No, I really am not. I have trouble seeing the McCain campaign plane take off for South Carolina Tuesday night if there's not a win here. Let me just say one thing, though. I just don't think the Democrats at any stage are going to be able to make a credible case that either Bush or McCain is some sort of right-wing maniac. It just -- it just -- people -- people aren't going to buy it. They're not. I just don't believe that.

ROBERTS: Well, "right-wing maniac" -- but if you -- as Bush has done, you endorse the Republican plank that calls for a constitutional amendment banning all abortions with no exceptions -- 12 percent of the American people believe that, Tucker!

CARLSON: But this is a temperament election, and neither of these people have temperaments that are frightening, and I think that's the key.

ROBERTS: I agree with that.

BLITZER: We have to leave it right there in New Hampshire. We'll all be back in Washington next week. Thanks for joining us, our roundtable, as always.

And when we return, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Also, Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on the New Hampshire primary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "First in the Nation" is the title of a book about this primary. Does New Hampshire deserve a book? Does the primary matter? Only sometimes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Bruce Morton's "Last Word" when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on the nation's first presidential primary and its impact on the fall election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): "First in the Nation" is the title of a book about this primary. Does New Hampshire deserve a book? Does the primary matter? Only sometimes.

Not in 1952, when Democratic Senator Estes Kefauver won it. Adlai Stevenson, the Democrats' eventual nominee, wasn't even a candidate. Yes, in 1968, when sitting President Lyndon Johnson beat anti-Vietnam war Eugene McCarthy by about 4,000 votes. It was close enough that Johnson decided not to seek reelection. Yes in 1972, when Democratic front-runner Edmund Muskie of next-door Maine won only narrowly over George McGovern, the eventual nominee. Muskie broke down, choked, maybe cried -- it was snowing and hard to tell -- while denouncing a local newspaper publisher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDMUND MUSKIE (D-ME), 1972 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By attacking me, by attacking my wife, he's proved himself to be a gutless coward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: That didn't help. Mattered in '76, when Georgian Jimmy Carter beat Arizona Congressman Morris Udall and went on to win. Mattered in 1992, when Bill Clinton, despite stories about draft- dodging and dope and Gennifer Flowers, finished second to Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas and christened himself "the Comeback Kid."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BILL CLINTON (D-AR), 1992 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... that New Hampshire tonight has made Bill Clinton the Comeback Kid!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: Republicans -- mattered in 1952, when war hero Dwight Eisenhower beat Ohio conservative Robert Taft. Ike won, though the fight went all the way to the convention floor. Didn't matter in 1964, when Henry Cabot Lodge, who'd been ambassador to South Vietnam, beat Barry Goldwater. Goldwater won the nomination and changed the whole course of the Republican Party. Go south. Go west.

Mattered in 1976, when unelected President Gerald Ford beat Ronald Reagan and kept winning until he was the nominee. Mattered in 1980, when Reagan, who lost Iowa, beat George Bush and the rest of a crowded field and became the nominee. Mattered in 1988, when Bush, third in Iowa, won here and went on to win the nomination. Didn't matter in 1996, when Pat Buchanan won here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT BUCHANAN (R), 1996 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do not wait for orders from headquarters! Mount up, everybody, and ride to the sound of the guns!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: He lost the nomination to Bob Dole. South Carolina was Dole's New Hampshire.

(on camera): This time? Well, if Al Gore beats Bill Bradley here, Bradley says he'll continue, but what will he say in New York or California, "Vote for me. I'm 0 and 2"? If George W. Bush beats John McCain here, the Republican nomination is probably his. McCain would need wins in New Hampshire and in South Carolina. And it's hard to imagine Steve Forbes or Alan Keyes coming out of the pack to challenge Bush.

So New Hampshire matters, some years, doesn't matter others. The question is, what kind of a year is this?

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.

Time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. "TIME" explains "Who Gets Hurt" on the cover, with a special investigation into "Big Money and Politics." "Chyna and `The Rock'" are on the cover of "Newsweek." "Newsweek" takes a look "Inside Wrestling, Inc." And on the cover of "U.S. News & World Report," it's biology, not romance, with a report on "Why We Fall in Love."

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, January 30th. Be sure to catch a special edition of Crossfire live from New Hampshire tonight at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

CNN's primetime coverage of the New Hampshire primary begins Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, and I'll see you tomorrow night on "THE WORLD TODAY" at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Manchester.

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