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Inside Politics

Ventura Leaves Reform Party with a Slam; McCain Pulls Back From Negativity; Bradley Gets Off-Court Assist From Michael Jordan

Aired February 11, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GOV. JESSE VENTURA (I), MINNESOTA: From this day forward, I don't think about the national party. So whatever it is they want do, if they want Pat Buchanan, if they want David Duke, whoever they want in this national party, I could care less.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Doing it his way -- again. Jesse Ventura leaves the Reform Party with a slam.

Also ahead:


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can just hear him now, give them hell and pass the hors d'oeuvres.


WOODRUFF: Another Bush bash at John McCain's fund-raising. Is the senator pulling back from the negativity?



MICHAEL JORDAN, FORMER PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: I'm supporting Bill Bradley for president. Shouldn't you?


WOODRUFF: Michael Jordan's selling power. Can he do for Bradley what he did for sneakers?

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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernie is on assignment.

After more than a year of being a Reform Party figurehead and lightning rod, Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura today broke his ties with the party founded by Ross Perot.

CNN's Tony Clark looks at the sparring behind the split and how the 2000 presidential race figures in.


TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Governor Jesse Ventura is the highest elected official in the Reform Party camp. But the former professional wrestler says he can't take his national party's infighting any more.

VENTURA: There becomes a time when you have to cut bait and go. And I believe very strongly this is the time.

CLARK: In a letter to Reform Party members, Ventura called the National Reform Party "hopelessly dysfunctional" and "unworthy of the support of the American people."

VENTURA: You have a small group of power brokers in this party that won't allow it to grow nationally, and that's not conducive to what we want to do in Minnesota.

CLARK: Ever since last summer's national party convention in Michigan, Ventura's backers have clashed with supporters of the party's founder, Ross Perot. They've disagreed on where to hold their presidential nominating convention and who should be the nominee.

Perot's faction likes former Republican Pat Buchanan. Governor Ventura has been promoting developer Donald Trump.

VENTURA: I don't even think about Pat Buchanan. And at this point, from this day forward, I don't think about the national party. So whatever it is they want to do, if they...

CLARK: Political writer Wy Spano says Ventura is not one to compromise.

WY SPANO, AUTHOR, "MINNESOTA POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT": He came from wrestling and talk radio, where there are good guys and bad guys and winners and losers, and sort of settling things out is not in his nature.

CLARK: The governor's announcement came just a day before the Reform Party's national committee meeting in Nashville to consider ousting the party's chairman, Jack Gargan. Gargan was elected last summer, with Ventura's support, and just took office last month.

Perot's political adviser Russ Verney has called Gargan's leadership a failure and accused the governor of being a bully.


CLARK: Ventura's departure makes it even less likely that Donald Trump will get in to the Reform Party's presidential race, thus clearing the way for Pat Buchanan. As for Ross Perot, he's been strangely quiet throughout the controversy. There are still people in the national Reform Party who would like to see him run again, but after two failed attempts to reach the White House, Perot has given no indication of wanting to try a third time -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Tony, so does this leave the way clear for Buchanan or Trump or what?

CLARK: Well, pretty much for Buchanan, because he is the only person who is really actively out seeking the nomination and working to get on the ballot in the rest of the country. Right now, the Reform Party is only on the ballot -- guaranteed a presidential ballot spot -- in 21 states, and you might remember from 1992, when Ross Perot first got into the presidential fray, it took time and money to get on the ballot in all 50 states. Pat Buchanan has 29 more to get on, and at this point, party officials say if someone else doesn't get in soon, it'll be too late.

WOODRUFF: All right, Tony Clark reporting from St. Paul, Minnesota. Thank you, Tony.

Well, Ventura says he is not ready to endorse any presidential hopeful of any party. But the insurgent-candidate-turned-governor suggests that he already has influenced the race for the White House.


VENTURA: I want to take time to -- here to commend Senator McCain. He's doing a great job studying how to win by the Jesse Ventura and Reform Party of Minnesota method.


He's doing a good job, and it's showing for him.


WOODRUFF: In contrast to Ventura's praise of McCain, George W. Bush continues to take aim at his rival for the GOP presidential nomination. But as of today, McCain says that he will not fight fire with fire, at least when it comes to campaign ads.

Here's CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amidst indications his poll numbers may be slipping and his negatives are going up, John McCain has called a halt to his side of the air wars.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't be involved in this kind of campaign activities, no matter what. We are pulling our response ad off the airwaves. We will put up positive ads. We will run no attack, response or any other kind of negative advertising. CROWLEY: Campaigning in South Carolina's low country, George Bush doesn't buy it.

BUSH: My reaction is his ads trying to link me to Bill Clinton didn't work. People of this state don't appreciate it and neither do I. He's been campaigning this way for 18 days and he has failed.

CROWLEY: The McCain camp planned to pull the Bush-Clinton ad this weekend anyway. Now McCain promises he'll stay positive the rest of the campaign.

Still, Bush, convinced he was burned in New Hampshire for failing to respond to McCain, is not ready to let up.

BUSH: I noticed that John McCain, Senator McCain, said -- who is -- said he's still running against special interest. But last night, he passed the plate amongst lobbyists and the special interest that he rails against. I can just hear him now, give them hell and pass the hors d'oeuvres.

CROWLEY: It is part of the new Bush routine, mostly town hall- style meetings with questions ranging from why 7th graders can't vote to why his father didn't finish off Saddam Hussein.

Sandwiched in between, Bush holds news conferences to list his grievances against John McCain.

BUSH: He said he wouldn't take political action committee money, then has taken over $300,000 of political action committee money. He says he's opposed to public funding of campaigns, yet he voted for public financing five different times.

CROWLEY: As Bush uncorked in South Carolina, McCain was fund- raising in New York. His mind was also on special interests -- of the sort that are running ads against him.

MCCAIN: All the special interest are now down in South Carolina and across the country attacking us. The tobacco companies are running ads. The national right to life people are running ads.

CROWLEY: McCain also took Bush to task for phone calls the McCain camp says the Bush campaign is running.

MCCAIN: We all know that a very, a very -- really the bottom- feeding of American politics is going on in South Carolina now. They call it "push-polling," where you call up and you insult the opposition candidate in the name of polling.

CROWLEY: Bush has denied the charge.

(on camera): Politics is risky business. And both men are now taking chances in a very tight contest. John McCain knows that unanswered charges have a way of hanging over a campaign. And George Bush fully understands there's a fine line between more aggressive and too negative.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Charleston, South Carolina.


WOODRUFF: In Candy's report, we heard Bush condemn McCain for trying link him to President Clinton. Well, Bush is pressing that complaint in an ad that begins airing on South Carolina television stations today.

Here's a portion of that spot.


BUSH: Politics is tough. But when John McCain compared me to Bill Clinton and said I was untrustworthy, that's over the line. Disagree with me, fine, but don't...


WOODRUFF: Now a closer look at the recent sniping between McCain and Bush and how it may play with South Carolina voters when they cast primary ballots a week from tomorrow.

Now let's go to CNN's John King. He's in the Palmetto State.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to the once- genteel Republican race for president. Point:

BUSH: I believe it's time for Senator McCain to be accountable for the discrepancies between what he says and what he does.


MCCAIN: The Bush campaign is now setting up apparatus to funnel tens of millions of dollars of soft money into this presidential campaign.

KING: And the tough talk is hardly limited to the candidates. This tobacco industry ad echoes the new Bush campaign theme.


ANNOUNCER: Saying one thing and doing another -- that's the real John McCain.


KING: With just a week left before South Carolina votes, the tone isn't so surprising to veterans of the state's rough-and-tumble politics.

PROF. ROBERT STEED, THE CITADEL: In 1996, Buchanan and Dole and Forbes, and -- you know, they had a number of very contentious debates. So I don't know if this is particularly unusual, particularly unique. KING: South Carolina's open primary allows Democrats and independents to vote in the Republican contest. And McCain is banking on a repeat of his winning New Hampshire formula.

SCOTT REED, GOP STRATEGIST: I've seen estimates where upwards to 25 percent of the new vote will be independents and 5 to 10 to 15 percent are going to be Democrats that are crossing over to vote for John McCain.

KING: But McCain advisers worry the nasty tone will turn away those who aren't traditional Republican voters.

PROF. ROBERT STEED, THE CITADEL: There's always the danger that some voters will become frustrated or disillusioned because of the negative tone of the campaign.


ANNOUNCER: It's called courage. In Vietnam, John McCain...


KING: So McCain is switching back to all positive TV ads, suggesting there's virtue in being a target.

MCCAIN: We're just like Luke Skywalker getting out of the Death Star -- they're firing at us from every direction, they're coming in from everywhere.

KING: Bush says he's setting the record straight by pointing out McCain positions that are more in line with the Clinton White House than the Republican Party platform. But it's a strategy not without risk.

SCOTT REED, GOP STRATEGIST: I don't think you can nail John McCain with an ideological arrow like that. I think he is a nonideological candidate.


KING: Yet McCain advisers concede with just a week left here in the South Carolina campaign, if there is any momentum, it belongs Governor Bush, and they are clearly concerned about the Bush campaign trying to paint Senator McCain as someone with too many Democratic friends. Just a minute ago, we spoke to Congressman Mark Sanford, a key McCain supporter here. He said if the liberal label sticks, John McCain will have a very tough time wining in South Carolina -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, John, the people around John McCain acknowledge that they are taking a risk by pulling negative ads at this stage?

KING: They certainly acknowledge they're taking a risk, but they think it is a risk worth taking. All along, the McCain campaign had planned to close with positive message anyway. Although we are told last night, Senator McCain was urged to put up one or two new negative attack ads, one responding to a Bush event last week that questioned Senator McCain's commitment to veterans issue, another one echoing the ad that was just pulled off the air, suggesting that Governor Bush has a problem telling the truth. We are told Senator McCain rejected that advice, and said he wanted to finish on a positive level. now he's hoping to get favorable media coverage based on that decision, and then say it is Governor Bush running a negative campaign,

But we were told earlier in the week that Senator McCain wanted to get back in the final week of the campaign here to the themes that worked so well for him in New Hampshire, that is a smaller tax cut than Governor Bush, setting aside 60 percent of the surplus for Social Security, and more importantly, McCain advisers tell us the idea that he is campaigning against the special interests. Look for that to be the major battle now. Governor Bush saying the senator is a hypocrite on that front. Senator McCain defending his campaign finance reform views in the final week here -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King, with the campaigns, both of them, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Thanks, John.

Well, let's talk more about Bush versus McCain and election 2000 with Bill Kristol of "The Weekly Standard."

Bill, you've been listening to these reports, and you were already telling me before the program what you'd been learning. Is it smart for John McCain at this stage, one week and a day out, to do what he's doing?

BILL KRISTOL, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, we'll know in a week and a day, Judy. I know that Wednesday night, John McCain had the town meeting at Clemson that was televised, that they thought went terrifically well, and a lot of observers thought John McCain did very well. It was all positive, it was all upbeat, 2,000 college students -- those are the people John McCain needs to turn out for him, not traditional Republican primary voters.

McCain went back too his hotel room after the meeting and told his top strategist, Mike Murphy, he wanted to go positive. He wanted Murphy to get a new positive ad up. He didn't like the negative trench warfare they were engaged in. As John reported, they cut the ad Thursday, but they delayed the decision. Last night, they had a couple of potential response attack ads, response ads on Bush, especially on this veterans issue. Governor Bush had stood next to a veteran who really attacked McCain on veterans affairs, and Senator McCain said no, let's just pull the negative ads, and they've already done that. So McCain is now up with a positive message in South Carolina, while Governor Bush is up with a huge negative assault.

I talked to David Brooks from the "Weekly standard," who was in South Carolina today, a couple hours in his hotel room, finishing his a couple of hours finishing his piece for the magazine. He said, you know, every 15 minutes on TV, there's a Bush negative ad by on McCain.

WOODRUFF: But doesn't it also say that some people around McCain and McCain himself were concerned that their image in the last week was getting too negative as well?

KRISTOL: Yes. I mean, they felt they had to respond. They may have made the right decision. It's always hard to second-guess these things. They may have slipped a little. They really want to close in this last week on an upbeat message. It's an insurgency. I think Senator McCain thinks if it's trench warfare, if it's an intra- Republican Party civil war, he loses. Bush just has too many resources, too many assets. If McCain can expand the electorate, if he can restore the sense of insurgency and crusade, he wins.

WOODRUFF: Well, that was going to be my question: How crucial is it that McCain pull in independents, nontraditional Republicans in South Carolina to vote in this primary?

KRISTOL: Well, it's crucial, and one of the things that strikes you when you go to a McCain rally is not just there are fair number of Democrats and independents, though a lot of Republicans too, it's the age composition at the rally. There are a lot of elderly people, a lot of veterans. At every event he does, John McCain asks veterans to stand up, and ask that everyone else recognize them for their service, and it's always kind of a moving moment. And there are a lot of veterans there. There also a lot of young people there, college-age people, kids under 30.

It's odd that they're actually -- it's as if McCain is running with the support of the elderly and young against the Baby Boomers. And if you think about McCain's rhetoric for a minute, it's strikingly, sort of, anti-Baby Boomer, different from the Baby Boomer rhetoric that we've been used to. I mean, who have been the two dominant politicians of this decade? Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. And what does John McCain talk about? He talks about sacrifice. What does his ad talk about? Courage. Those aren't qualities you always associate with Baby Boomers like Clinton and Gingrich. It just strikes me that McCain is running as sort of the anti-Baby Boomer candidate.

WOODRUFF: So if you're talking about the kind of voters McCain attracts, what kind of voters is George W. Bush attracting?

KRISTOL: Well, he's going right at the core Republican voters. He's saying he's a better man than Bill Clinton. He's a conservative. He's running a very conventional, orthodox, but you know, hardheaded and sensible enough I suppose conservative Republican, moderately conservative Republican candidate. If this is a same-old Republican campaign, George Bush wins. McCain's bet is that he can expand the electorate, and even tell Republicans, look, we've been down this road before. We've had two presidential campaigns in the '90s -- George -- President Bush ran a conventional Republican campaign in 92, Senator Dole ran a conventional campaign in 96; we lost, we need to make a change.

The last line of Senator McCain's new ad is that John McCain has courage and is a common-sense conservative who will beat Al Gore. And I think he's trying to tell people there, aren't you a little worried about Governor Bush against Al Gore? Aren't you worried it's a repeat of 1992 and 1996? Whereas I, John McCain can really present a contrast that can beat Gore.

WOODRUFF: Bill Kristol, "The Weekly Standard," thank you very much.

KRISTOL: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: Is there a generation gap in the Palmetto State? We'll look at how South Carolina's Republican leadership splits over presidential endorsements.


WOODRUFF: While George W. Bush and John McCain continue to court the voters of South Carolina, they've already divided the state's Republican leadership.

As Jonathan Karl reports, there is a distinct line of demarcation between those who have endorsed Bush and those who have chosen McCain.

Jonathan Karl takes a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Character, leadership and integrity. With that, I introduce a man who has all three: John McCain.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain calls them his "young turks." Wherever McCain goes in South Carolina, there, too, go his Lindsey Graham and Mark Sanford, the two youngest South Carolinians in Congress. They ride the bus. They take questions at the town hall meetings.

By stumping so relentlessly with McCain, Sanford and Graham have made a sharp break with the state's old-guard Republicans, who have solidly backed George W. Bush.

From Strom Thurmond, the eldest of elder statesmen here, to former Governors Caroll Campbell and David Beasley, Bush is supported by a GOP machine renowned for delivering the vote for Bob Dole in 1996 and for George W.'s father in 1988.

BUSH: Yes, well, Carroll Campbell made his view, made his reputation, staked his claim as a great governor of South Carolina. And I not only welcome Governor Campbell's support, I welcome Senator Strom Thurmond's support as well.

MCCAIN: And then you've got Lindsey and Mark, who everyone recognizes are the ones who are moving up, assuming positions of greater leadership. This really is a generational kind of a struggle that's going on here.

KARL: With the ever-present Sanford and Graham, McCain is trying to blunt criticism that he is more liberal than Bush. REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The fact is that there aren't many more conservative members of Congress out there than Lindsey and myself. The fact that you got two homeboys from South Carolina, who grew up in South Carolina, vouching for John matters.

KARL: And Graham, who gained fame as a House manager during last year's impeachment trial, helps McCain tap into anti-Clinton sentiment here. One major reason they've broken ranks to support McCain is his position on tax cuts.

REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Rather than giving you a trillion-dollar tax cut, which is Republican-formula politics, and Al Gore wanting to grow the government, John's charted a new, a responsible, fiscally sound way.

KARL: But it's not just policy. They, too, see themselves as mavericks, willing to fight their own party. Bush's supporters scoff at the idea that Graham and Sanford represent the future in South Carolina.

CARROLL CAMPBELL (R), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: I do not know that either Lindsey Graham or any of rest of them have ever created jobs for anybody before.

KARL: Although both candidates have eagerly sought GOP endorsements here, the battle is not just for Republican support.

(on camera): Voters do not register by party in this state, and that means that any registered voter, whether they be self-described independents or Democrats, can vote in the Republican primary.

(voice-over): Bush's supporters here worry that Democrats will wreak havoc by voting in the GOP primary, but they insist when it comes to getting Republicans to the polls, the old guard will trounce the young turks.

CAMPBELL: I don't care what John McCain says. We'll see after the fact. Then I'll send him a telegram.

KARL: Jonathan Karl, CNN, Rock Hill, South Carolina.


WOODRUFF: We will see.

KARL: INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.



MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK CITY: We're running. We're running very effectively. We're doing much better than anybody thought.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: That was New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, commenting on his role in New York Senate's race today in White Plains. But the manager of Giuliani's exploratory campaign says that was not an official announcement that he is entering the race against first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Coming up: a day of endorsements for the Democratic hopefuls.


BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that he helps across the board, because he's a symbol of excellence.


WOODRUFF: Bill Bradley gets an off-the-court assist from Michael Jordan.

Plus, Al Gore picks up key support for the March contest.

And later:


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You've probably heard some talk that there are no issues in this campaign, right? Well, don't believe it.


WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, on the campaign issue that's worth a political "Play of the Week."


WOODRUFF: We'll have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories. A big setback today for the Northern Ireland peace process. Britain suspended the new power- sharing government after the Irish Republican Army failed to disarm. The coalition government made up of Protestants and Catholics had been in effect only 72 days. London now has direct rule.

More Web site attacks are reported. Excite@home says about 50 percent of users could not access its site last night around 7:00. Meanwhile, Envisioneering Group, a Long Island technology consultant, says that its server was hijacked the last Saturday of January and used in a denial-of-services attack against Yahoo! and America Online. That was more than a week before the major attacks started against several of the world's most popular Web sites.

CNN has learned that the FBI is closing in on sites in Oregon and California. Sources say the computer system at the University of California at Santa Barbara was used in an assault on

The White House press briefing room has a new name. It was officially renamed today, in honor of a former White House aide who serves as an inspiration to Democrats and Republicans alike.

CNN's White House correspondent Kelly Wallace has the story.


JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's a bigger crowd than normal.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A personal tribute to a former White House press secretary, a man whose life was dramatically altered by the 1981 assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan.

CLINTON: Jim Brady is living proof that you can't kill courage, that it takes more than a cheap handgun to destroy a strong spirit.

WALLACE: With press secretaries from four administrations on hand, the president unveiled a plaque naming the place where reporters and administration officials often go head to head the James S. Brady Briefing Room.

BRADY: It's good to be back.

WALLACE: Brady served for just two months as press secretary before the shooting. CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante says he left an indelible mark.

BILL PLANTE, CBS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He liked reporters, believe it or not. And he gave as good as he got. His quick wit served him well, as it does anybody in that job.

WALLACE: Larry Speakes remembers having lunch with Brady just before he headed off with President Reagan.

LARRY SPEAKES, FORMER REAGAN SPOKESMAN: I said, Do you want to go with the president today or you want me to go? He said, I believe I'll go. And I've never, ever forgotten that moment.

MICKEY GARDNER, BRADY FRIEND: We were all stunned. And many of us heard reports that Jim actually had passed away. And I think it goes to his resilience. He would not give up.

WALLACE: Jim and Sarah Brady did not give up. Just about a year and a half after the shooting, they went back to the White House.

BRADY: Today, I still miss some of you.

WALLACE: He took that humor and his trademark thumbs-up to join his wife in a campaign to toughen gun laws. They succeeded with the Brady bill, calling for a waiting period for handgun purchases.

SPEAKES: They've just put the issue on the platter for the American people.

WALLACE: Brady's message Friday was more personal than political, offering this advice to the reporters and press secretaries who will work in the newly named briefing room: Live honestly.

BRADY: Well, you live a short life if you don't down there.

WALLACE: Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.


WOODRUFF: And as a reporter who was there when Jim Brady was shot, I can tell you that is an honor richly deserved.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, catching a fish at a Seattle market wasn't the only thing Bill Bradley had on his plate today. We'll focus on his serious battle with Al Gore for the gay vote.

Stay with us.



BRADLEY: The vice president says he's pro-choice today, and I believe him. But again, the question is consistency.

I think that he shows a lack of respect for women by refraining to explain the evolution of his views. Over the last month, the vice president has tried to twist his record rather than explain his convictions.


WOODRUFF: Bill Bradley in Seattle today, hammering away again at Al Gore's past opposition to using federal funds to pay for abortions. This, one day after Gore said, quoting now, "I do not need a lecture from Senator Bradley about how to protect a woman's right to choose," end quote.

While Bradley is on the stump, he is getting new help today on the airwaves from a man who knows a thing or two about endorsements and salesmanship.

CNN's Pat Neal looks at Bradley's Michael Jordan strategy.


PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Can Bill Bradley score a slam dunk with Michael Jordan on his team?

BRADLEY: I think that he helps across the board because he's a symbol of excellence, and all people look at him as that.

NEAL: Jordan's 30-second television ad endorsing Bradley hit the airways Friday in at least six states with critical primaries just weeks away.

JORDAN: It's time for us to believe in something that will give every American an opportunity to succeed and be viewed equally. That's why I'm supporting Bill Bradley for president. Shouldn't you?

IRA TEINOWITZ, "ADVERTISING AGE": When you have Michael Jordan on TV, people are going to notice. He is one of the most recognized, most well-known sports figures in America today -- in fact, in the world today.

NEAL: Bradley's aides say Jordan's endorsement could muster support among African-Americans. Polls show Vice President Al Gore now enjoys a support of a majority of black voters. Likewise, Jordan's endorsement could help energize young Americans who haven't gone to the polls to get out and vote.

(on camera): Marketing experts also say Jordan's endorsement could have pull in cities like here in Seattle that have NBA teams. Plus, Washington state's Democratic contest comes up March 7th.

(voice-over): Jordan has scoring power with advertisers. He's raked in millions of dollars on behalf of Nike shoes, Gatorade and some long-distance carriers. Analysts say Jordan's endorsement could encourage interest in Bradley's candidacy among voters not much interested in the presidential race until now.

But some marketing experts question Jordan's clout in supporting a political candidate.

TEINOWITZ: Michael Jordan just endorsing Bill Bradley is not going to get any voter to do anything that they wouldn't otherwise do. If they were a sports fan and they were interested in Michael and they were interested in Bill, they were probably already supporting Bill Bradley.

NEAL: Nationally, Bradley trails Gore in the polls. But Jordan knows something about turning things around.

BRADLEY: He's a competitor. He's one of the greatest competitors ever, so it's great to have him on the team.

NEAL: Jordan led the Bulls to six national titles. The question is: Can he help another former NBA star win one?

Pat Neal, CNN, Seattle.

WOODRUFF: Now to Vice President Gore and the endorsement he picked up for his team today.

CNN's Mark Potter reports from California on Gore's bid to win the support of gay voters.


ELIZABETH BIRCH, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: We proudly, enthusiastically and unanimously endorse Al Gore for president of the United States.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The endorsement in Los Angeles came from the Human Rights Campaign, the country's biggest gay and lesbian political advocacy group. It claims 350,000 members and is a strong force in California and New York, March 7th primary states.

GORE: I'm honored to have your support, and I'm ready to fight alongside you to create a brighter future for all Americans.

POTTER: Among those supporting Vice President Gore was Judy Shepard, whose gay son Matthew was murdered last year in Wyoming.

JUDY SHEPARD: Sometimes I wake up -- oh, I'm sorry -- and hope it's all a horrible nightmare. And I remember, yes, my son was killed. And yes, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt he was killed because he was gay.

POTTER: Both Al Gore and Bill Bradley have aggressively courted the gay and lesbian vote throughout the campaign. For example, both support allowing gays to serve openly in the military and have criticized the Clinton administration's current "don't ask, don't tell" policy as discriminatory.

Earlier, Mr. Gore ran into controversy when he said he would apply a so-called litmus test to candidates for the Joint Chiefs of Staff requiring them to support gays serving openly. Gore later softened that position.

The Human Rights Campaign had nothing but praise for Bradley for his stand on gay and lesbian issues. But in the end, their endorsement went to the front-runner.

BIRCH: So much of what we cherish and value and have dreamed of will be determined by the next president of the United States.

POTTER: The Gore team was enthusiastic about both the endorsement and its timing.

CHRIS LEHANE, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: This campaign on March 7th is going to be a fight for Democratic voters. And to have the support of this group is just a big, big boost for this campaign.

POTTER (on camera): Here in California, a controversial proposed ban on same-sex marriages is on the March 7th ballot. It's expected to draw lots of gays and lesbians to the polls, likely increasing the significance of Mr. Gore's endorsement even more.

Mark Potter, CNN, Los Angeles.


WOODRUFF: And still ahead, more on the Democratic hopefuls in California, as party leaders there gather to consider the 2000 election.


WOODRUFF: Democratic leaders and elected officials are gathering in San Jose, California, for their annual state convention this weekend. On the agenda: election strategy, candidate endorsements and the state party platform.

Joining us now for more on what this convention means for the presidential hopefuls, Bill Bradley's senior California adviser, Gale Kaufman. She joins us from Sacramento. And the chairman of the California Democratic Party and Al Gore supporter Art Torres in San Jose in the rain, Art Torres.

And we hope you can stay dry.

First of all, tell us, Mr. Torres, who's going to be there this weekend?

ART TORRES, CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN: We have the vice president, obviously, Senator Bradley, Senator Feinstein, who's up for re-election here in California, Carl McCall, the controller of New York, and of course ...

WOODRUFF: And in the audience?

TORRES: ... our own great governor, Gray Davis.

WOODRUFF: And in the audience, who's coming?

TORRES: I'm sorry?

WOODRUFF: In the audience?

TORRES: In the audience we're going to have close to 3,000 -- we're going to have close to 3,000 delegates -- we'll do anything for Gore. We'll have about 3,000 delegates, and also we're going to have about a total of 5,000 people here in the convention hall.

WOODRUFF: And are these -- we hope you can stay dry -- are these people who are already committed to one candidate or another?

TORRES: Your camera man is laughing too much.

WOODRUFF: Let me turn...

TORRES: I didn't hear the question.

WOODRUFF: I'm asking, Art Torres, whether these are people who are already committed to one candidate or another?

TORRES: Yes, I think they are, and I think they reflect the California Field poll, which had the vice president ahead by 41 points this week.

WOODRUFF: Gale Kaufman, does this mean Bill Bradley is like Daniel walking into the lion's den?

GALE KAUFMAN, BRADLEY SENIOR ADVISER: Well, I think this is certainly not our crowd and we know that. The delegates who ran throughout the state of California for Senator Bradley are going to be at a rally ahead of time, and hopefully will be allowed into the convention so they can participate when the senator speaks. But this is pretty much the party regulars. The fact that you've got the state party chair already endorsed for Gore says that we know what we're walk into. And we're prepared, and we're happy to talk about core Democratic issues at the Democratic convention in California.


TORRES: Believe me, the chairman doesn't tell delegates to a convention how to vote. They pretty well came to their decision on their own.

WOODRUFF: Art Torres, how much of a contest is this right now in California?

TORRES: Not much, and I thought it would be more but it's not. In the last few weeks, the vice president's support has increased dramatically in this state. And I think it's because he's focused more clearly on the issues that affect Californians, on a woman's right to choose, on anti-assault weapons, and clearly on access to health care and the HMO bill of rights.

WOODRUFF: Gale Kaufman, why has it been so difficult for Bill Bradley in that state, given the fact that he even lived there for a while, spent time in the state after he left the Senate? Why has it been so difficult for him?

KAUFMAN: Well, I don't really think it has been difficult at all. I think the polls you are referring to -- and that was one poll taken the day after the New Hampshire primary -- show what we've seen consistently. And that is, this is an open primary on March 7th. It's the first time we've had such a primary. And more than anything else, it's still name identification.

The senator has tremendous support throughout the state. And I know that our support doesn't necessarily show up on the polls, but you go to any college campus in California, you go anywhere where we've had our huge rallies and the huge turnouts for his appearances, and you know that he's really appealing to people on core Democratic issues and on California issues, like off-shore oil drilling and some of the issues that Art was talk about, where he has much stronger positions, I believe, than the vice president. So we'll do just fine.

WOODRUFF: What about, Art Torres, some of those core -- so- called core Democratic issues, gun registration. Bill Bradley says every gun should be registered, and he's talked about -- I mean, he's made the comparison. He said that if the attitude Al Gore had, if Franklin Roosevelt had that attitude, where would we be?

TORRES: I've known the vice president for over...

WOODRUFF: How do you and other...

TORRES: I've known the vice president for over 20 years, and I've never doubted his integrity or his commitment to the issues he's taken on. And quite frankly I want leadership that's going to be seasoned, leadership that's going to be mature, and leadership that knows what it means and knows what it takes to be a president of the United States.

WOODRUFF: Gale Kaufman, Bill Bradley's leadership is not mature, which is, I gather, what Art Torres was getting at here?

KAUFMAN: Well, I wouldn't argue that point at all. I think he's plenty mature. But I think on the issue you asked him about, for instance on gun control, I think today we saw his spokesman say that the vice president's position on gun control has evolved, and, in fact, it's changed as the nation has changed. Well, I'm sorry. Senator Bradley has consistently and continually been for stronger gun control and he didn't need to change his position. And I think people in California, once they hear that, will start to sit up and go, who's more electable in November? And they'll know that it's Senator Bradley.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Gale Kaufman...

TORRES: California...

WOODRUFF: Go ahead. Go ahead, Art Torres.

TORRES: California knows Al Gore. This is almost his 60th trip here. He's been when it's been raining here, he's been when the earth has been shaking here, he's been when we needed help in the Central Valley. Al Gore knows California and he's in the hearts of Californians. It's very clear you can't buy that kind of relationship.

WOODRUFF: And just quickly, Gale Kaufman...


WOODRUFF: ... the surge in interest in John McCain...


WOODRUFF: ... has that hurt Bradley?

KAUFMAN: I don't think so at all. If you look at the kind of state voters in this state, they're pro-choice, they're pro-gun control, and they're pro-universal health care. So I think we were right on track, and that's what we're seeing at our rallies and in all the people who have signed on to our program through the e-mail and through our grassroots campaign.

WOODRUFF: All right, Gale Kaufman staying dry in Sacramento and Art Torres. We know you have the sense to come out of the rain, so we're going to let you do that right now.

TORRES: And I will. But I -- we'll do anything for Gore out here in California.

WOODRUFF: All right. Thank you, and thank you Gale Kaufman. Thank you, both.

TORRES: Take care. KAUFMAN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Up next, the political beat goes on, but can the candidates step to the rhythm of the "Play of the Week"?


WOODRUFF: As the candidates of 2000 reach out to voters and portray themselves as reformers or problem solvers or even fighters, there is one key issue that comes up time and time again.

Our Bill Schneider joins us now to explain -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Well, Judy, you've probably heard some talk that there are no issues in this campaign, right? Well, don't believe it, because we've found this year's big issue. It's already surfaced in the presidential race. And this week, it broke into the New York Senate contest. It's hot, it's cool and it's the political "Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): What's the defining issue of politics 2000? Musical Political Values, MPV. As Dire Straits once said: money for nothin.'

Richard Nixon had his MPV. He even shared it with Elvis. Al Gore may not have rhythm...

BUSH: The Al Gore version of the Macarena.

SCHNEIDER: ... but he's got his MPV. It wasn't until the 2000 campaign that Musical Political Values became a big issue. It all started when John McCain took his daughter to the MTV music awards.

MCCAIN: That was the greatest assault on my senses since I was in prison, I can tell you.

SCHNEIDER: His rival, Alan Keyes, saw an opening. He threw down a direct challenge to Senator McCain's MPVs.

ALAN KEYES (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not long ago, Senator McCain, you were on a television program. You were asked what your favorite rock group was, and you said "Nine Inch Nails." They then embarrassed you by putting up the "Nine Inch Nails" lyrics, and it was filled with the "F" word and other kinds of vulgarities.

SCHNEIDER: McCain was dumbfounded.

MCCAIN: Can I get a lifeline?

SCHNEIDER: Then Keyes found himself defending his own Musical Political Values after this onslaught from Gary Bauer.

GARY BAUER (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In view that I was a little surprised this week to see you fall into a mosh pit, while a band called "The Machine Rages On," or "Rage Against the Machine" played. That band is anti-family.

SCHNEIDER: Keyes protested his innocence. How dare you compare his MPVs with John McCain's!

KEYES: And until you told me this fact, I had no idea what that music was. Contrary to our friend, John McCain, who expressed the view that this was his favorite rock group.

SCHNEIDER: Keyes even turned his Musical Political Values into a noble thing.

KEYES: Admittedly, I was willing to fall into the mosh pit. But I'll tell you something, you know why I did that? Because I think that exemplifies the kind of trust in people that is the heart and soul of the Keyes campaign.

SCHNEIDER: You'll notice Bauer is out and Keyes is still in. Well, this week, none other than first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton found her Musical Political Values under assault. It all started when she announced her candidacy last Sunday. Her likely opponent, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, pounced.

GIULIANI: Right before Hillary Clinton was announced as a senatorial candidate, the following lyrics were sung on national television:

"Captain Jack will get you high tonight and take you to your special island. Captain Jack will get you by tonight, just a little push and you'll be smiling."

SCHNEIDER: Mrs. Clinton wasn't even on stage when the song played. And her campaign spokesman tried to shrug off the attack, saying, quote, "the sound guys stuck the tape in. It wasn't our tape. We didn't hear it. We weren't aware of it."

Ha, said the mayor, there are no mistakes.

GIULIANI: And the message that got out -- they say by mistake, which sometimes, if you read Freud, can be the most powerful message -- the message that got out by mistake was, "let's say yes to drugs."

SCHNEIDER: The message that's getting out to the candidates is, you'd better be prepared to put your Musical Political Values on the line.

The voters are saying, I want my MPV! And the right MPV gets you the political "Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER: Well, like the song says, "money for nothin' and chicks for free." I think that's what they call politics as usual.

WOODRUFF: And where does Beethoven fit into all of this?

SCHNEIDER: Oh, he doesn't. WOODRUFF: He doesn't at all. Bill Schneider, you certainly do, thanks a lot, appreciate it.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, but you can go online all the time at CNN's

These programming notes: Former first lady Barbara Bush will be talking about her son's presidential campaign on "LATE EDITION" at Noon Eastern Sunday. Wolf Blitzer's guests also will include the Reverend Pat Robertson, a Bush supporter, and Senator Fred Thompson, who backs John McCain.

I'm Judy Woodruff. "WORLDVIEW" is next.


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