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Inside Politics

Push-Polling Becomes Focus of McCain-Bush Battle; Forbes Explains Decision to Quit Presidential Race; Michael Jordan Endorses Bradley

Aired February 10, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is really terribly disturbing. I call on my good friend George Bush to stop this now.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't accept that kind of phone calling. If anybody in my campaign has done that, they're going to be fired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: An issue Republican hopefuls seem to agree on: a look at the allegations of push-polling in the Palmetto State.

Plus:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE FORBES (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As my father once said when he lost the governor's race in New Jersey, we were nosed out by a landslide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Steve Forbes makes it official and joins us to talk about the race he leaves behind.

And later: Can a former basketball superstar help Bill Bradley pull off a campaign rebound?

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.

SHAW: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off today.

Among the many accusations made in the heat of a political campaign, few carry as much controversy as an allegation of push- polling. That's a practice by which telemarketers posing as non- partisan pollsters are hired to call voters to convey negative or misleading information about a candidate in order to discourage that candidate's support.

It's a practice publicly descried by most campaigns, but this week in the increasingly nasty battle between George W. Bush and John McCain, it's taken center stage.

CNN's John King begins our coverage in Charleston, South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONNA DUREN: The phone rang. My son answered the phone and he was push-polled.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was supposed to be Education Day in the Republican race for president, but Donna Duren changed the subject to controversial campaign tactics.

DUREN: He was so upset when he came upstairs and he said, Mom, someone told me that Senator McCain is a cheat and a liar and a fraud.

KING: McCain stopped to promise Mrs. Duren he would call her 14- year-old son.

DUREN: He's a boy scout.

KING: Then the Arizona senator took the fight outside and set off another angry round of finger-pointing between the McCain and Bush campaigns.

MCCAIN: I am calling on my good friend George bush to stop this now. Stop this now. He comes from a better family. He knows better than this. He should stop it.

KING: The Bush campaign acknowledges making phone calls critical of McCain, raising questions about his tax plan, his ethics, and his new attack ads against the Texas governor. But the Bush camp says none of its scripts come anywhere close to calling McCain a cheat or a liar.

BUSH: I don't accept that kind of phone calling. If anybody in my campaign has done that, they're going to be fired.

KING: Bush also suggested his rival's a hypocrite to complain about negative campaigning.

KING: This is a complaint from a man who's running an ad that's suggesting I'm Bill Clinton, I like Bill Clinton?

KING: The finger-pointing overshadowed what was to have been a day devoted to differences over education.

McCain in Spartanburg:

MCCAIN: Governor Bush believes we should wait three years to liberate children from poor schools. I think we should begin immediately. KING: Bush in Fort Lawn:.

BUSH: I mean, we've got to make sure that we nominate somebody who wants to improve the public education in America.

KING: But tension over attack ads and other tactics once again dominated the day, reflecting both the closeness of the South Carolina primary contest and the widening rift between the Bush and McCain campaigns.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And the finger-pointing continued into the evening here in South Carolina, as both camps continue campaigning. The McCain camp saying, well, then, if the Bush campaign didn't make that phone call to the young boy then it must have been some group affiliated with the Bush campaign. And Bush aides suggesting that perhaps McCain is raising this issue as a tactic himself, trying to divert attention, the Bush campaign says, from a fund-raiser in Washington tonight featuring many of those lobbyist types Senator McCain is so fond of criticizing out here on the campaign trail -- Bernie.

SHAW: John King, thank you, in Charleston.

Well, whatever its definition, push polling has been used in campaigns that are especially close and hard fought. And in the sometimes Machiavellian world of presidential politics, it's a practice that sometimes pays off.

Our Brooks Jackson now with a primer on what push polling is and is not.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It worked for Bob Dole four years ago in New Hampshire. Polling showed Dole headed for a third-place finish and possible political oblivion, so he attacked, with a false TV ad against rival Lamar Alexander.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DOLE CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: He increased the sales tax 85 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON: An untrue charge repeated in telephone calls, attack calls made from this telemarketing company in Illinois to registered Republicans in New Hampshire, thousands and thousands of them.

LARRY SABATO, POLITICAL ANALYST: in New Hampshire, it had a real impact. The Dole campaign has essentially admitted making a quarter of a million negative calls against former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander.

JACKSON: And it worked. Alexander, not Dole, was the one who finished third and soon dropped out. Could such a thing be happening now in South Carolina? John McCain suggests it is.

MCCAIN: This is really terribly disturbing. I call on my good friend George Bush to stop this now.

JACKSON: At a news conference Monday and again Thursday, McCain supporters said they've received some harsh calls vilifying McCain, but as yet, no proof of any truly massive smear.

Bush forces admit to making "advocacy calls" and released a script used by their paid phoners. It's pretty mild. The toughest part says, "The race has turned ugly. John McCain has TV ads comparing Governor Bush to Bill Clinton. Don't be misled by McCain's negative tactics."

Bush aides also concede doing some polling, testing anti-McCain themes, sometimes called push polling. but only a few hundred such calls. If Bush or allied groups are doing massive negative calling, it could backfire, according to one GOP pollster who worked for Dole in '96.

TONY FABRIZIO, GOP POLLSTER: And I think once the story is known, the full story is known, if in fact there was push-polling was engaged in and what they said about McCain, the story may splash back on Bush in a big way.

JACKSON: But for now, the full story is not known. And because no disclosure is required, it may never be known.

SABATO: The odds are overwhelming that we won't know what's happening in South Carolina until well after the primary. The only hope is that someone has a tape recorder hooked up to their telephone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JACKSON: Now the Bush campaign says it made only 300 of those negative polling calls and is currently making more than 200,000 of those mild advocacy calls. What's not clear is whether independent, pro-Bush groups may also be making calls. Under current interpretations of campaign law, anybody, using any amount of money, from any source, can launch a massive telephone smear with no disclosure and no accountability -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Brooks Jackson.

Now turning to another Republican candidate whose quest for the White House this year was, as he put it today, "nosed out by a landslide." Publisher Steve Forbes abandoned his bid for the White House after spending $34 million of his own money on his campaign on top of the $33 million he spent on the 1996 contest.

Steve Forbes is sitting right next to me.

FORBES: How are you, Bernie?

SHAW: Welcome. Better for seeing you.

FORBES: Thank you.

SHAW: Your take on push polling.

FORBES: It's one of the most horrible practices, because, unlike an ad, where you can see it and comment on it, this you have to go -- somebody you know hears about it or records it, it's very, very hard to catch. I was a victim of it in Iowa in 1996 . You mentioned about what happened to Lamar Alexander. It was starting to happen, we thought, in Iowa. I think we nipped it in the bud.

SHAW: Started by whom?

FORBES: Somebody affiliated with Bush. But we caught it right away, so it did no harm. But these things are insidious. You see them in congressional races, you see them in gubernatorial races. And it's a horrible practice. And anyone who practices it and is caught ought to be thoroughly rejected by the voters.

SHAW: Some people from the Bush campaign said that you or your supporters engaged in it in Delaware?

FORBES: Not at all. We release our phone scripts so everyone can see what we're saying.

SHAW: Did you ever sponsor or did someone else sponsor on your behalf, to your knowledge, Steve Forbes, a push poll?

FORBES: A push poll? Not the way they described, no. It's legitimate in terms of a poll-poll to ask a question if you knew somebody raised taxes or somebody did this or that. But that's very different from doing a couple of hundred calls on what ifs to several hundred thousand. And what happened in '96 was literally thens of thousands of those calls from very organized phone banks. We had one employee from one of those phone banks come public in '96 just before the Iowa caucus, who released the script. And others we heard of anecdotally. And in New Hampshire, we had call -- some of our people called at 2:00 in the morning.

SHAW: Let's move on to your hard-fought campaign this campaign 2000 season. Very succinctly, what did you accomplish?

FORBES: I think we got a very positive agenda out there, whether it's the tax issue, both of the other candidates now have tax plans on the table that they wouldn't have had if I wasn't in the race; the life issue, Social Security's now beginning to emerge as the non-third rail of politics; education, you heard tonight. And so I think it's had a very, very good impact.

SHAW: Between the two of us, how deeply did you dig into those very deep pockets? Some people are saying $68 million, $70 million, $80 million. What's the figure?

FORBES: Well, we've got to get all the final bills in, but I think you've got to put it in perspective. As I pointed out, that might buy you, what I invested in this campaign, a few ads in the Super Bowl. And I think with that investment, we, the support of my family, had a very positive impact on the agenda. And I'm going to continue to participate in the public square, obviously not running for president, but pushing these very real principles.

SHAW: And you're not going to answer my question either?

FORBES: Well, we will -- by the end of February, we do have to make a filing. So we'll have the final accounting there.

SHAW: Who among the contenders is worthy of your endorsement on the Republican side, clearly?

FORBES: Well, I think that endorsements, as I have said, has become sort of a debased currency in this race, and so I think voters will make up their own minds. I am going to work on doing what's right, closing down my campaign before making suggestions to voters.

SHAW: Will you campaign for your party's nominee?

FORBES: Absolutely.

SHAW: OK, thank you very much, Steve Forbes...

FORBES: Thank you, Bernie.

SHAW: For sharing your time with us.

Quite welcome.

Jesse Ventura says he has had it with the Reform Party. A Reform Party source is telling CNN the Minnesota governor will announce he is quitting the party at a news conference tomorrow. Minnesota state Reform Party Chairman Rick McCluhan says there is talk of setting up a new party, tentatively called the "Independence Party." There are several possible reasons for Ventura's move, including sharp differences with party boss Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan, who stands a good chance of winning that party's nomination for president.

CNN has also learned that Ventura ally Donald Trump is planning a news conference early next week to reveal his immediate political plans. His political advisers are telling CNN this afternoon that Trump said he is almost certain -- quote -- "not to seek the Reform Party's nomination for president."

Coming up next on INSIDE POLITICS: Are reporters too close for comfort when it comes to their coverage of John McCain. We're going to take you for a ride on this campaign bus to find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(INTERRUPTED BY BREAKING NEWS)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Coming up on INSIDE POLITICS, on the McCain campaign bus and analyst Ron Brownstein on South Carolina primary vibes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: All aboard. If you listen to the Bush campaign, reporters are so mesmerized by John McCain that they've thrown objectivity out the campaign bus window.

Well, to get an inside view of what the fuss is all about, Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" joined the boys and girls on the McCain bus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD KURTZ, CO-HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (voice-over): John McCain is in the media stratosphere. The newsmagazines love him. The morning shows love him. Jay Leno loves him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")

JAY LENO, HOST: Thank you, Senator -- Senator John McCain!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Not since Bobby Kennedy has a presidential candidate received such rave reviews. And not surprisingly, supporters of George W. Bush say journalists have gotten far too cozy with the Arizona senator. So we hitched a ride on the "Straight Talk Express" in South Carolina to test the temperature and check out the doughnuts. It began as a press conference on wheels, with McCain uncorking some of his favorite lines.

MCCAIN: And the Washington establishment is in a panic mode. I mean, they're rolling out all their guns and they're shooting everything they can.

KURTZ: McCain eagerly accepted our invitations to beat up on Bush, but he also wants the press to do some of his dirty work.

MCCAIN: I'm sure that the media is looking into Governor Bush's relatively short record.

KURTZ: Soon the topics were ranging more widely, McCain talking about the Internet.

MCCAIN: I'm a little bit out of my depth here.

KURTZ: As the day wore on, things got a little frivolous. But McCain turned a little testy when a South Carolina reporter pressed him about a darker episode in his past, the Keating Five influence- peddling scandal.

MCCAIN: Sure, I'll try to bring that up at every opportunity. Yes, I'll say: "Hello, dear friends I'm one of the Keating Five, greetings.

KURTZ: And he was downright sarcastic when the reporter asked how he would try to win over Steve Forbes' supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How do you think that you can tempt them over to your side?

MCCAIN: Say I'm a truly great American.

KURTZ: And when McCain got off the bus, he was greeted by crowds and more reporters.

LINDA DOUGLASS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The more open any candidate is, the more forthcoming he is in his answers, the better marks he's going to get from the press. That -- and that's the way it should be.

KURTZ: But Bush backers are crying foul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE EDITION")

HALEY BARBOUR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The real establishment campaign here is how John McCain is the candidate of the liberal media establishment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: As the bus rolled on from Charleston to Columbia to Greenville, the assembled reporters, including me, finally ran out of questions. So McCain, with his ever-present cup of coffee, chatted about everything, from American Indians to his kids. And that, many reporters say, shows they can both grill a candidate and see him as a human being.

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's been a huge amount of whining on the -- from the Bush people about how McCain has bought the press with doughnuts, et cetera, et cetera. It's ludicrous. The fact is McCain ran a better, more interesting campaign. So they have no reason to be angry if it was covered thoroughly.

DOUGLASS: When reporters and candidates and staffs are all together for a long time on a campaign, whether you're all on the bus or not all on the bus, a relationship just has to develop over time because you're living together.

KURTZ: As if McCain hadn't had enough of the press, he spent the evening working the cable circuit with MSNBC's Chris Matthews and CNN's Larry King. All told, 15 hours of on-the-record gabbing.

(on camera): There's plenty of friendly banter here on the "straight talk express," along with hours of serious questions. And the candidate, given his recent success, is a little more cautious. But McCain is still offering something no modern presidential candidate ever has: all access, all the time. So far, at least, it's still paying off.

In South Carolina, this is Howard Kurtz of CNN's Reliable Sources.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SHAW: We don't eat doughnuts around here. If reporters are keeping a professional distance from McCain, the same cannot be said about a young South Carolina state trooper. The trooper stopped one of the press buses traveling with McCain today in South Carolina. Now, no law was broken. The former Marine thought McCain was on the bus and he just wanted to meet him.

With the battle between McCain and Bush already at fevered pitch, a new poll is showing the Texas governor has regained the lead over McCain in South Carolina.

According to the American Research Group poll, Bush was favored by 46 percent of likely voters in the Republican primary to 39 percent for McCain. Last week, McCain was on top with 45 percent to Bush's 42 percent.

Joining us now with more on the Bush-McCain battle: Ron Brownstein of The Los Angeles Times, just back from two days on the trail in South Carolina.

What's the temperature out there?

RON BROWNSTEIN, LOS ANGELES TIMES: The temperature is hot. It is an electric atmosphere, I think, in the political community in South Carolina. The feeling I had, after spending some time with both Governor Bush and Senator McCain, that this really feels, Bernie, like it's reached the point of being a heavyweight title fight. I mean, it's sort of like Ali-Frazier.

You have two guys at the top of their games really slugging it out, not only in a negative way that we're talking about before with the push polling and negative advertising, which is very intense, especially from the Bush camp. That ad is just running relentlessly. But in an affirmative sense, of making their case to the voters, offering a, kind of, a reform agenda, contrasting ideas of what reform is.

Bush has very much retooled and reenergized himself, and McCain is striking a cord as you saw us at that meeting this morning in Spartanburg, where the woman got up and talked about her son. Those are very genuine emotional expressions that you're seeing out there.

SHAW: At this snapshot in time along the campaign trail, does South Carolinians themselves realize they've got the greatest political show unfolding in their state right now?

BROWNSTEIN: I think a lot of people do. I was struck -- I was in a restaurant last night, and there were two guys in the bar who were talking about the impact that this election could have on the Republican race. I mean, they were not only talking about the candidates, they were aware of their potential for being the pivot in this contest.

SHAW: Where does this contest stand now? Especially, what are these candidates doing that they haven't done before? BROWNSTEIN: Well, they're almost speaking to different constituencies at this point. It reminds me a little bit of when we had an air war and ground war going on in parallel in Kosovo that never really intersected that much. John McCain is trying to expand the electorate. He is reaching out to less partisan Republicans, less partisan Democrats, and independents.

And George Bush is really, especially in his advertising, pounding away at McCain among core Republicans. You have a very divergent profile of who is supporting which candidate. Bush is very strong with core Republicans, much stronger, I think, than he was in New Hampshire.

And McCain continues to have a lot of appeal for people who simply aren't as partisan or ideological, maybe drawn to him both on -- more on character and personality than anything else. But he is still reaching a lot of those voters and generating a lot of excitement as well. They both are, I think, at this point.

SHAW: I'm curious about something, a phenomenon I experienced here on INSIDE POLITICS earlier this week. We had the campaign managers from both Bush and McCain's camps. These guys were so visceral in their remarks and their reaction to each other's statements and positions, that they were talking over each other.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

SHAW: Is there that same intensity on the ground in South Carolina between the Bush and McCain campaigns?

BROWNSTEIN: Not only intensity, but anxiety. I think both sides are very -- well, first of all, both sides are totally aware of the stakes in this race. South Carolina is the high wall, not only the firewall, it's the high wall. It's the state that's supposed to take the wave of the insurgent and break it.

If McCain gets over the top there, the possibility of rolling through Arizona and Michigan on through March 7th is enormous. And both sides understand the stakes, and both sides, I think are -- neither is entirely confident of the outcome.

The Bush people have to worry about a surge of turnout among nontraditional Republicans. McCain has to worry about the impact of all of the force that is coming down on him, not only in terms of the negative advertising from Bush, but other groups that are getting involved in the race: Christian conservatives that are very dubious talking to local talk radio. This really is the moment of truth for both of these campaigns after a long time planning to get to this point.

SHAW: It parallels life or death, politically.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, you can't say that any single event will decide the race, but certainly this is the pivot. If John McCain loses here, it may be hard to get the momentum going again. And if he wins, it's very hard to see -- given where the polls are going -- Bush is going to have to really dig down deep to find another place to make the stand.

SHAW: Indeed, Ron Brownstein, thanks very much.

That primary in South Carolina is on a Saturday night, and CNN is the network to be at, to be on top of everything that happens.

BROWNSTEIN: We'll all be up late, I bet.

SHAW: Very late. And it'll be worth the while.

INSIDE POLITICS, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: In the New York senate race, Hillary Rodham Clinton and her likely Republican opponent, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, traded challenges today. At the root of it all, a charge of negative campaigning.

CNN's Frank Buckley reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SEN. CANDIDATE: Everybody registered to vote?

CROWD: Yeah!

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hillary Clinton campaigned in upstate New York while issuing a new challenge to her presumed opponent downstate, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

CLINTON: What I would like to ask is that the mayor release all of the fund-raising letters that he has sent over the last two years so that the people of New York can see what is in those fund-raising letters.

BUCKLEY: The challenge coming the day after Clinton complained about a fund-raising letter sent by Giuliani to potential donors; Giuliani pointing to what he described as "her hostility toward America's religious traditions."

CLINTON: I would like the people of New York to know that there's a big difference between the kinds of campaigns we're running. I intend to run a campaign based on issues and ideas, not on insults.

MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK CITY: When they do that and they make out the check for $300,000 for the money they took from the taxpayers, then, you know, we will release some or all of the letters,. If they pay all of the money, we'll release all of the letters, if they pay half the money, we'll release half of the letters.

BUCKLEY: Giuliani referring to Mrs. Clinton's travel aboard U.S. government aircraft for political trips, the Giuliani campaign charging that Clinton has not properly reimbursed the government, $34,000 for numerous flights to New York last year. Giuliani's comments came at a presentation of the annual Mayor's Management Report. The final slide, a surprise.

GIULIANI: Well, this is part of the vast right-wing conspiracy, I think.

BUCKLEY: Giuliani then defending his position that teachers in public schools should be allowed to post the 10 Commandments in their classrooms. Clinton, an observant Methodist, said she did not think it was appropriate.

CLINTON: I try to live by my tradition, but I also have a great deal of respect for the United States Constitution. And the Supreme Court has said that that is not constitutional.

BUCKLEY: Clinton's intended message of the day, strengthening families, at the end of the day obscured by the back-and-forth between the candidates.

(on camera): A pattern that occurred throughout Mrs. Clinton's trip to upstate New York, veteran political observers here astounded by the intensity of the campaign during the first week of the campaign. Many people wondering if this pace can continue for the next nine months.

Frank Buckley, CNN, Albany, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: There is much more ahead here in this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Coming up:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lurking from one end of the United States to the other these days are Democrats, dyed in the wool, with a deep dark dirty little secret.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Bill Delaney on one thing some voters are reluctant to admit.

And later:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Much has changed: the 24-hour news cycle, the blurring of the line between news and gossip. Much has not.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHAW: Our Bruce Morton looking back at a century of presidential campaigning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Bill Bradley took his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination to California today. But overshadowing what the president -- what the candidate had to say was the superstar who is now endorsing him.

CNN's Pat Neal reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A major player joined Bill Bradley's team. Former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan is endorsing Bradley in a television spot that starts airing Friday.

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he'll be a big help.

NEAL: Jordan's ad was filmed two months ago and his endorsement of Bradley, a former NBA star himself, is not a total surprise. Previously, Jordan has donated money to Bradley's campaign.

The campaign says in the ad Jordan claims Bradley is the best candidate because of his positions on health care and curbing gun violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stand up if you know someone who has been injured or killed by gun violence.

NEAL: It was his gun control agenda that brought Bradley to Los Angeles. He came to a school in East L.A., where students, fed up with the violence, supported a gun buy-back by selling candy.

BRADLEY: It's sometimes important to have real life break through in a political campaign.

NEAL: Bradley reiterated one of his major proposals: He wants all handguns registered and all gun owners licensed.

(on camera): Bradley lags behind Gore both here in California and nationally, but he hopes by highlighting his differences on issues like gun control that he can sway voters before the critical California primary.

(voice-over): Bradley's campaign says they also hope to score with Michael Jordan's endorsement. Both Bradley and Jordan will attend this weekend's NBA All-Star Game in Oakland, though Bradley's advisers say as of now the two don't plan to meet.

Pat Neal, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SHAW: Vice President Al Gore on the stop in California, driving home his plans for health care reform. And he picked up more endorsements for his White House bid.

Mark Potter joins us from Los Angeles with the latest -- Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Bernie.

It's a rainy and cold day here in Los Angeles, and the vice president once again is talking about health care, a major theme of his campaign.

He arrived here from Washington about 2 1/2 hours ago. He's now inside the Los Angeles County USC Medical Center talking to a couple of hundred doctors, nurses and other health care workers. The endorsements that you talked about, 55 health care professionals, the vice president said, have now endorsed his campaign.

In his remarks, the vice president repeated his pledge to fight for a gradual implementation of universal health care in America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank all of the different organizations, professional societies and groups that have representatives here and who are supporting my candidacy and helping to move us rapidly in the direction of universal health care step by step for all Americans, children first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: Now the vice president enjoys a sizable and apparently expanding lead over Bill Bradley here in California. This delegate- rich state, which, along with New York, will be a major battleground in the March 7th primary. According to a local poll released this week, Mr. Gore leads Mr. Bradley 54 percent to 13 percent, which is up form last month.

Now later today, we may get actually get some well-deserved comedic relief. The vice president is scheduled to tape an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," and then after that, later this evening, it's back to work, another meeting in a private residence with the party faithful.

Bernie, back to you.

SHAW: Thank you, Mark Potter in Los Angeles.

And up next, this question: Are Americans tuning into the presidential campaign or are they tuning out the White House race? The answer when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Well, the Democratic primary may be a two-man race, but some Democratic voters are considering another candidate. And as Bill Delaney reports, it may be a growing trend.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DELANEY (voice-over): Lurking from one end of the United States to the other these days are Democrats, dyed in the wool, with a deep, dark, dirty little secret: John McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a Democrat, life-long.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to register as an independent, you know, in my town, and I'm going to vote for McCain in the primary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see that he has very often been on the opposite side of the fence from his own party, and I guess I like someone who's prepared to, you know, take the heat and do that.

DELANEY: In Massachusetts, election officials say they've never seen anything like it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, I can send you a registration form.

DELANEY: At the office of the secretary of state, thousands of phone calls from Democrats who want to register Republican or independent to vote for John McCain March 7.

WILLIAM GALVIN, MASS. SECY. OF STATE: We've had thousands of people, starting last Wednesday, the day after the New Hampshire primary. In addition to the office lines here, that are in the elections division, I had to go up to my citizen's information service with surplus calls, and then put an answering service on over the weekend.

DELANEY: The Arizona senator surged other places, too, California, Michigan, momentum where in Michigan like in the upcoming South Carolina primary, voters can choose a party right on Election Day. While in California, election officials say they've rarely seen so much shifting of parties.

LOU DINATALE, UNIV. OF MASSACHUSETTS: This is about enormous volatility. This is about realignment. I think that there is a post- impeachment effect. I think that there is a bias against the Democrats in the White House, and I think there is a bias, a public bias against the Congress run by the Republicans.

DELANEY: Playing right into John McCain's hands, with some Democrats.

(on camera): Another factor in all this, if difficult to track precisely, is that some Democrats with independent leanings may see the campaign of Bill Bradley as faltering and may be drawn to John McCain, because he looks like an anti-establishment winner.

(voice-over): The trap door for McCain, that as soon as you look like a winner, you get a harder look. McCain's conservatism, particularly his strong opposition to abortion, may yet scare away Democrats. DINATALE: And when you move, suddenly, to "I actually might become the president of the United States," the rules change a little, the scrutiny becomes greater.

DELANEY: Still, the scrutiny that matters most now is in South Carolina, and in that open primary, experts now estimate a cross-over vote as high as 30 percent.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: A new poll by the Vanishing Voter Project shows just how much attention Americans are paying to the presidential campaign. More than 75 percent of Americans say they are paying at least a little attention to the race, but when asked which candidate won the New Hampshire primary, 49 percent did not know, 47 percent of Americans came up with the correct answer: John McCain. Four percent said George Bush won. By comparison, 70 percent of Americans could name the St. Louis Rams as the team that won the Super Bowl.

Joining us now to talk more about public interest in the campaign, Thomas Patterson of Harvard University and the Vanishing Voter Project. What is this project?

THOMAS PATTERSON, VANISHING VOTER PROJECT: Well, what we're trying to do, Bernie, is look at Americans involvement in the campaign, how closely they're following it, whether they're talking about it with others, are they reading about it in the news, and then tracking that through the campaign to find out what pulls people into the campaign process and what keeps them away, and from that we hope to, you know, maybe think harder about how this campaign could be structured to encourage voter participation.

SHAW: What accounts for the current level of interest?

PATTERSON: Well, New Hampshire really gave it a boost. You know, when we were out in early December asking people if they were paying attention to the campaign, you know, we had some weeks out there where less than 10 percent were paying close attention and it didn't change very much with Iowa. Iowa gave it a temporary boost, but within two or three days it had settled back to where it had been before that.

But I think the New Hampshire campaign was exciting enough on both sides, and you know, the headlines were interesting and people got into the campaign, and currently, you know, about a third are paying quite close attention to the campaign, and another third are paying some attention.

SHAW: And how knowledgeable are they?

PATTERSON: Well, you know, that's a relative consideration, I think. You know, we found that less than half of Americans could name John McCain as the Republican primary winner in New Hampshire, and 70 percent could name the St. Louis Rams as the Super Bowl winner. But you know, when you look at older people, you know, the awareness of McCain's victory goes up quite a bit.

The real laggards in the system are the young people, those under 35, only 30 percent were able to identify John McCain as the winner, 75 percent knew the Rams had won the Super Bowl. And I think the real challenge of this campaign is to try to figure out how to bring young people more fully into it.

SHAW: Any limits to voters' attention spans?

PATTERSON: Well, I think there are pretty substantial limits. You know, we have a very long campaign, and in the early going the one factor that stood out again and again in our interviews as the reason why people were not paying attention was the thought that the campaign was too long, that the November election was far away and you know, they couldn't imagine that they would be able to pay attention for this long period of time.

And if you go back to 1996, after the key primaries were over, the electorate more or less took a hike. You know, between March and July, attention to the campaign was very low, people weren't picking up a lot of information about the candidates and they didn't pick up again until the conventions kicked in. So, you know, I think we'll see some of that again in 2000.

And one of the things we need to think about in terms of the structure of this campaign is whether we should subject the American public to a year-long campaign, particularly one that has a lot of dips in terms of what's going on and the kind of information that's being communicated to the public.

SHAW: Thomas Patterson, is the Internet sparking interest in the campaign?

PATTERSON: Well, some, I think. You know, what we find when we look at young people, obviously this is an avenue into the campaign for young Americans. You know, they're about half as likely to -- half again as likely to have Internet access and when they use the Internet they make more use of it than older adults. But you know, what our findings show is that they are not anymore likely to use it to tap into the presidential campaign.

I think there's a lesson there, you have to have an interest in this process, if you're going to sort of get into it. Good information about the campaign doesn't come first. What comes first is some interest in the process, some sense that it's important, if you have those ingredients in place, then people are going to go after the information, and for a lot of young people today, they don't think they have a major stake in campaign politics, and they don't have much interest generally in politics, I think in part because there's been a real sharp drop-off in the amount of attention that young Americans pay to news, and traditionally that's been a way for people to learn about politics, get interested in politics. But with readership down, news viewership down among young people particularly we've kind of lost, you know, that sense and that source of bringing people into the political arena. SHAW: Well, that's not good and let's hope that, that changes. Professor Thomas Patterson, Harvard University, and the Vanishing Voter Project, thanks so much for your time.

PATTERSON: Thank you.

SHAW: Quite welcome.

Still ahead, the road to the White House, then and now -- a look back at the last 100 years out there on the campaign trail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: On the auction block in time for Valentines Day: this doodle drawn by John Fitzgerald Kennedy before he became president. Kennedy wrote it on his Senate stationery while talking on the telephone to his soon-to-be wife, Jackie. The valentine will be auctioned tonight in New York City, with proceeds to benefit the Seeds of Peace, that's a group that sends children from neighboring enemy countries to summer camp together.

Photographs and mementos of other 20th century presidents went on display at the Newseum today in Arlington, Virginia. They are a part of the "Every Four Years" exhibit, which looks at how campaigning and political reporting have changed over the years.

Now, our Bruce Morton takes a look at what's changed and what hasn't.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): The Newseum's exhibit shows how it's changed. William McKinley sat on his front porch and won. William Jennings Bryan traveled cross country and lost. But, the campaign trail was the future. Candidate and reporters on trains. Newspapers first, then radio. Franklin Roosevelt was the master of that medium.

Then newsreels. Pictures always matter. Three-hundred-and- fifty-pound William Howard Taft on a horse? Don't ride, Theodore Roosevelt advised; it will look like cruelty to the horse. Edmund Muskie turning emotional in front of the "Manchester Union Leader." It was snowing. Could we say he had cried? Choked up, certainly.

Michael Dukakis in the tank. He'd made a major global policy speech earlier. Everyone led with the tank. Techniques change. Portable manual typewriters were the tool of our trade for years. Cameras -- you don't see this model anymore.

Slowly, television became the dominant medium. Richard Nixon, accused of diverting political funds to personal use when he was Dwight Eisenhower's running mate in 1952, bought TV time to proclaim innocence and talk about a dog named Checkers his family had been given.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD NIXON, EISENHOWER'S RUNNING MATE: And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog. And I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're going to keep him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: Letters poured in. Nixon stayed on the ticket. Eight years later, he debated John F. Kennedy, who may have been the ideal TV candidate, as Roosevelt was radio's.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN F. KENNEDY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question really is, which candidate and which party can meet the problems that the United States is going to face in the '60s.

NIXON: My experience is there for the people to consider. Senator Kennedy is there for the people to consider.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: Much has changed. The 24-hour news cycle, the blurring of the line between news and gossip. Much has not.

ERIC NEWTON, NEWS HISTORIAN: Money has always been a huge issue. Whether or not to use negative campaigning has always been a huge issue. How deeply do you get into the private lives of the candidates, that's always been an issue.

MORTON (on camera): Now television's age may be passing and the Internet emerging as the place we go to for news. Are we better informed?

NEWTON: You have the capability of being the best informed voter in the history of the republic if you have the time to sort it all out. You also could easily be ill-informed or misinformed.

MORTON (voice-over): The truth is available. Now, or 100 years ago, you have to work some to get it.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow, when our Jonathan Karl will report on the split between the old and new-guard politicians in South Carolina when it comes to the Bush-McCain race. And of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.

I'm Bernard Shaw. "WORLDVIEW" is next.

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