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  Transcripts

Inside Politics

GOP Candidates Trade Vitriol Instead of Valentines; Bush Firewall in Danger in Michigan; Bradley Lashes Out at Gore Over Policy Distortions

Aired February 14, 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 kind of savagery is not necessary in an American political campaign. But we're not deterred.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: New vitriol instead of Valentines for McCain and Bush in South Carolina. Will their debate tomorrow night be more of the same?

Also ahead:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... where it was the worst use of scare tactics that I've seen in many years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Bradley versus Gore isn't exactly hearts and flowers, either. We'll tell you what's behind the latest outburst.

Plus:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN ENGLER (R), MICHIGAN: We're on the wall. We've got our water cannons out. We're spraying the foam trying to put the fires out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: An endangered firewall in Michigan, and the governor as rescuer-in-chief.

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

SHAW: Thanks for joining us. We begin with the yin and the yang of the John McCain/George W. Bush contest in South Carolina, five days before the Republican presidential primary there. Bush is staying aggressive. As our new poll shows, he has a seven-point lead over McCain in the Palmetto State. Meantime, McCain, trying to play defense from the high road and emphasize his conservative credentials along the way.

CNN's John King is traveling with the McCain campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain would like to make a point.

MCCAIN: I'm a proud, proud, conservative Republican, and I have a 17-year voting record to prove that.

KING: He'd like to make it again...

MCCAIN: In my view, it's very conservative for us to pay down our debts.

KING: ... and again.

MCCAIN: My record as a conservative is clear. My record as a leader of campaign finance reform is clear.

KING: In case you're still wondering, the Arizona senator is a bit concerned about efforts by George W. Bush and his allies to paint McCain as a liberal. Liberal's a dirty word among South Carolina Republicans, and some polls suggest the Bush attacks are taking a toll. So McCain is enlisting big-name state Republicans to say it isn't so.

Congressman Mark Sanford:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

REP, MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Like Ronald Reagan, John McCain is a conservative reformer. He can win. John McCain has the character and courage to make us proud again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Secretary of State Jim Miles, who until last week was chairman of the Steve Forbes campaign:

JIM MILES, SOUTH CAROLINA SECRETARY OF STATE: So I'm proud to be here supporting a fellow conservative.

KING: On the campaign bus, the Arizona senator shrugged off Christian Coalition President Pat Robertson's threat that his followers would walk away if McCain were the Republican nominee.

MCCAIN: And I think that we can probably have a fairly good chance to succeed without him. KING: McCain says it's his views on campaign finance reform, not abortion, that anger the Christian Coalition and the national right- to-life committee.

MCCAIN: We are threatening what the people who have turned a cause into a business.

KING: These campaign stops are carefully designed so that what the voters see of McCain doesn't match what they hear from the Bush campaign.

Tough talk on law and order:

MCCAIN: Thank you, Sheriff Taylor.

KING: Constant suggestions that Bush is mudslinging out of desperation:

MCCAIN: We won't respond to this kind of trash and garbage that's been coming out, and I won't respond to it.

KING: McCain advisers say their poll numbers dipped a bit last week but took a turn for the better over the weekend, and that victory here is within reach.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Now McCain was quick with a wrestling joke when asked if he'd consider the controversial Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura as his running mate, but the Arizona senator did say he would welcome the Reform Party endorsement if he emerges as the Republican nominee, a quest, of course, that will be heavily influenced by the results here on Saturday -- Bernie.

SHAW: John, very quickly, what are McCain's expectations, if any, for tomorrow night's debate?

KING: Advisers and the senator say he will stress his reform agenda, campaign finance reform, a modest tax cut and putting 26 percent of the federal budget surplus into Social Security. They expect Governor Bush to be harshly critical, looking for any contradictions in the senator's 17-year Senate record. They say he will defend his record, but he will also chastise Governor Bush for what McCain says is an overly negative campaign.

SHAW: John King, Greenwood, South Carolina, thank you -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Now to George W. Bush's day on the trail and his strategy for tomorrow night's debate.

CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is on the road with Bush in South Carolina. She joins us now, also in Greenwood -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, it's almost voting time, as George W. Bush is fond of reminding the crowds that he addresses. We are now into town hall-style meetings, where Bush talks to voters about what's on their mind and then talks about what's on his. and what's on his mind come Saturday is what Democrats will do in this open primary state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: This is a primary for us to search our soul in the Republican party and make up our mind who we're going to have. I heard a -- you know, I'm a little concerned about who's coming into the party. People are welcome to come in the party. That's fine with me to come in and vote. I just don't want Democrats coming in to vote against me because they think my opponent will be easier to beat in November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: As for McCain's complaint that Bush has committed savagery by pointing out that four or five times McCain has voted for public financing of congressional campaigns, Bush repeated the charge and then noted that if this -- if McCain thinks this is tough, imagine what he might think of a general election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I think it's important for us in the Republican Party to understand that our candidate is going to have to weather a savaging attack if Al Gore is the nominee. So the idea of me pointing up a major difference is certainly not savaging. It is a difference of opinion. And I am going to continue talking about differences of opinion in the course of this campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Now about tomorrow night and the days ahead, Bush says he'll continue to delineate differences, and that goes for the debate as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: You know, I'm going to be talking about differences of opinion. I'm going to continue to enunciate differences of opinion. I'll do so in a respectful way. We have differences. And I think it's important to talk about those differences. That's what I look forward to doing in the debate tomorrow night. And I'll be short of savagery, if that's what you're asking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Bush aides say there has been no particular preparation thus far for the debate, though Bush did meet with policy aides over the weekend when he was in Texas. There will be some down time for him to get some rest, but as they say he will be firm and respectful but will point out the differences -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Candy, the McCain decision just before the weekend not to run any more so-called negative ads, what do the Bush people think? Is this having an effect on the race or not?

CROWLEY: Well, let me tell you sort of two parts to that. One is that they believe that one of the reasons McCain took down his ad comparing Bush to Clinton was that it wasn't working. It was, in fact, backfiring. They also believe that Bush's more aggressive attempt to outline what he defines as policy differences is taking effect, so they're going to continue on with that. And Bush makes a very big differentiation between having his character -- that is Bush characters -- compared to Clinton's and having -- doing what Bush does, which is compare John McCain's record to that of Al Gore. So they see a difference there, and you're not going to see them back off on that.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley in South Carolina, thanks -- Bernie.

SHAW: Now, let's compare the latest polls from South Carolina and what they tell us about that Bush-McCain race. For that, we turn, as always, to our CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Bernie, likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina. Three polls in the last three days. What do they show? "Newsweek" poll February 9th to 11th. Result: George W. Bush leading John McCain by three points. That's within the margin of error.

"The Los Angeles Times" poll February 10th to 12th. Result: Bush two points ahead of McCain, within the margin of error.

Our own CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll February 11th to 13th. Result: Bush Leading McCain by seven, also within the margin of error.

Three polls all showing a race that's too close to call, but all showing Bush slightly ahead. While we would be reluctant to say that Bush is ahead from any one of these polls, the three of them together -- our poll of polls -- gives us more confidence that Bush may be in the lead in South Carolina. But it's a very narrow lead, and it depends very much on the mix of Republicans and non-Republicans who turn out to vote in South Carolina's open primary.

All three polls show Bush carrying a majority of partisan Republicans. Republicans average 56 Bush to 32 McCain, a solid 24- point lead. This race is close because around 40 percent of the Republican primary voters in South Carolina do not call themselves Republicans; most of those people are independents and a few are even Democrats. In all three polls, non-Republicans vote for McCain by an average of 52 to 33 percent. That's nearly a 20-point lead.

So South Carolina is really a turnout race between Republicans and non-Republicans. The more non-Republicans who vote, the better McCain will do. And to address the point that Governor Bush just raised, those non-Republicans who are coming in to vote for McCain aren't voting for him because they see him as a weaker candidate who will be easier to beat, they're voting for McCain because they like him -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Bill Schneider -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, traditionally, Republican turnout in South Carolina has been bolstered by the active Christian conservative movement in the state. Members of the religious right are trying to exert their influence in this year's GOP primary race as well.

CNN's Jonathan Karl looks at what is at issue, and to what lengths some politically minded Christians are willing to go.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the battle for the GOP nomination moves to South Carolina, politics has hit the Bible Belt with a vengeance.

REV. STAN CRAIG, CHOICE HILLS BAPTIST CHURCH: These pedophiles, these homosexuals, these perverts paying my taxpayer's money.

KARL: He's talking about Internet pornography at public schools.

Here at Choice Hills Baptist Church in Greenville, Pastor Stan Craig had been a fervent supporter of Steve Forbes.

CRAIG: I think Christian South Carolina is for the candidate that will be honest and not lie to the people.

KARL: But Pastor Craig says he's undecided now that Forbes is out of the race. His parishioners are all over the map.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alan Keyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think McCain would be a better candidate.

KARL: Several say they don't like McCain because of rumors they have heard about his personal life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: McCain for a while, I was thinking he was really down the way we were going, but there's too many things that have popped up lately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read that -- I got a thing across on the Internet the other day.

KARL: Here at Choice Hills, much of the rumor and innuendo is traceable to a four-page e-mail message that purports to give McCain's life story.

"He chose to focus his life then on partying, playing, drinking and womanizing," the message reads -- adding "McCain chose to sire children without marriage."

The top of the message says, "Feel free to copy and/or send it to others." CNN traced the authorship of the e-mail to Richard Hand, a professor at Bob Jones University. Hand now acknowledges he has no evidence for his explosive charges.

(on camera): Professor, with all due respect, you say that this man had children out of wedlock. He did not have children out of wedlock. Now this is being spread...

RICHARD HAND, PROFESSOR, BOB JONES UNIVERSITY: Oh, wait a minute. That's a universal negative. That's a universal negative. Can you prove that, there aren't any?

KARL: You think it's OK to spread rumors that the guy's had children out of wedlock?

HAND: I didn't spread. I responded to people that want to know why do you feel the way you do about the man's character.

KARL (voice-over): Hand says he'll probably vote for Bush but insists his letter was not coordinated with the campaign or with the university.

There is no way to tell how widely his e-mail has been distributed, but it's an example of how nasty the below-the-radar- screen battle for Christian conservatives has gotten.

(on camera): Nearly four out of every 10 voters in the last GOP primary here described themselves as part of the -- quote -- "religious right movement." But even then their vote was split: divided between Bob Dole and Pat Buchanan.

(voice-over): Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson is solidly supporting Bush, as is Ralph Reed, formerly a coalition leader and now a paid Bush adviser. He vows to wage a massive effort to get Christian conservatives to the polls.

RALPH REED, BUSH ADVISER: The Internet, e-mail, phone, mail, getting in touch with people, contacting people by phone and mail primarily. We also have a very strong grassroots network in all 46 counties across South Carolina.

KARL: But in South Carolina, Christian Coalition activists are not united. Dee Benedict is on the state board of the Christian Coalition and a McCain supporter.

DEE BENEDICT, SOUTH CAROLINA CHRISTIAN COALITION: In years past, we've been a very powerful force. In this particular election, we are divided, we make up our own minds, and we support our own candidates.

KARL: And even if they were united, they would not necessarily be a decisive factor. In the last election here, religious right- supported candidates for Senate and governor were beaten decisively.

Advisers to both Bush and McCain say support from the Christian Coalition alone is not enough to win in South Carolina.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Greenville, South Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: Alan Keyes went to Bob Jones University in South Carolina today in hopes of bolstering his support among Christian conservatives in Saturday's primary. Keyes said he also had another motive: to call for an end to religious and racial tolerance at a school which bans interracial dating.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN KEYES (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They said I shouldn't come here because I am a black person and there are these terrible policies about interracial dating. They say I shouldn't come because I am and I say it with pride and certainty, a Roman Catholic Christian, and that I would not be received in this place on that account.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: As you may remember, George W. Bush took some heat for appearing at Bob Jones University despite its interracial dating ban. Today, Bush supporters and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani added to the chorus. The U.S. Senate hopeful called Bush's visit there a -- quote -- "mistake."

He said he doesn't know if that will prove to be an issue in New York's Republican presidential primary on March 7th.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: the Democratic hopefuls. The vice president in New York, reaching out to key voters, and rival Bill Bradley calls a time-out on the issues to take aim at Al Gore.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: On the Democratic side of the ledger, the latest poll from "The New York Daily News" shows Al Gore with a 24-point lead over Bill Bradley in the Empire State. With the New York primary just three weeks away, Gore is rallying his supporters with key endorsements across the state.

Our Chris Black reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Al Gore is covering the bases in the Empire State, from the city to snowy upstate.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to fight for your family, your loved ones, your community. I want to fight for New York.

BLACK: Just months ago, New York's March 7th primary looked like a toss-up between Gore and his opponent, Bill Bradley, the senator from next door and former New York Knicks basketball star. Though Bradley has been trying to shoot holes into Gore's gun-control record, New York's own "Mr. Gun Control," Senator Charles Schumer, Monday endorsed the vice president by long distance after grounded by weather.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Al, I am honored to endorse you.

BLACK: Senator Schumer is paying back a favor. Vice President Gore helped Schumer in his campaign in 1998, and it offsets Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's endorsement of Bradley.

Gore mentions his rival just once, almost in passing.

GORE: My opponent, Senator Bradley, is a good man, but I think that he's a good man with plans that leave out new assistance for families to pay college tuition.

BLACK: At the University of Rochester, the vice president reprises his education proposals from universal pre-school to tax breaks for college tuition, a program being pushed by Schumer and the White House.

GORE: Education is the key to preparing ourselves for this new century.

BLACK: Campaign aides say the vice president is trying to cement his political base by paying particular attention this week to organized labor, his native South and African-Americans.

Floyd Flake, the former congressman who heads a large community church in Queens, publicly embraced him on Sunday while the often controversial Reverend Al Sharpton had a low-key visit with Gore.

(on camera): The last time Al Gore ran in the New York primary in 1988, he fell under the control of New York Mayor Ed Koch and the results were disastrous. This time, the vice president seems to be in better control and hoping the support of traditional Democrats will help him pick up enough delegates to win his party's nomination as soon as next month.

Chris Black, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: Bill Bradley is on his way to New Jersey tonight with a quick stop for a rally in his home state of Missouri. But earlier today, Bradley was campaigning in California, where he accused the vice president of negative campaigning.

Pat Neal has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Visibly angered, Bill Bradley lashed out at Vice President Al Gore for questioning his health care commitment to people with HIV and AIDS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: ... where it was the worst use of scare tactics that I've seen in many years. Where he's asserting that my health care plan will hurt AIDS patients and those who are HIV positive. The opposite is true. All moneys are the same, all benefits are the same, all services are the same.

NEAL: The vice president's comments came during a weekend interview with "The San Francisco Chronicle." According to the newspaper, Gore charged that Bradley's health care plan would hurt people with devastating illnesses like AIDS, because it would eliminate the Medicaid program.

Gore said 50 percent of the people with AIDS are on Medicaid. The paper quoted Gore as saying, "The truth is he just made a catastrophic mistake in the design of his health care plan."

BRADLEY: When I read the front page of "The Chronicle," it made my blood boil.

NEAL: Bradley said this is the latest example of distortion by the vice president, who just this weekend called for an end to divisive campaigning.

The tenor of his remarks are consistent with the kind of negative campaigns he's run from the very beginning. They're consistent with, again, name calling. You can only take it so long.

NEAL: Bradley said he will continue to speak out whenever he says Gore distorts his plans. And in making an environmental speech Monday, Bradley continued to go after the vice president on issues that appeal to core Democrats.

BRADLEY: The vice president is known for his environmental beliefs, but what is the good of belief without action?

NEAL (on camera): After appealing to voters in California, Bradley now heads to New York, another state with a critical primary just three weeks away.

Pat Neal, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And when we return, the presidential bid that wasn't, as Donald Trump says no to the Reform Party.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump has officially ruled out a presidential bid this year. His primary reason? The state of the Reform Party. Trump is calling the party a mess, citing the candidacy of Pat Buchanan and the power struggle that resulted in the departure of Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER: I've made my decision. I'm not going to be running. The party is, as you know, self- destructing. Jesse has left, and that's a problem. And so I will not be running.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Trump said he could only win the presidency with the support of a unified party, and he left open the possibility of a presidential bid in 2004.

WOODRUFF: There's much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once George W. Bush had a huge lead here. Now polls show a tight race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Bruce Morton on the situation in Michigan: Is the George W. Bush firewall collapsing?

Plus:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR FRED THOMPSON (R), TENNESSEE: When he believes in something strongly, it doesn't bother him a bit that the leadership or the majority of his Republican colleagues disagree with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: A look at John McCain the senator and his record on the Hill.

And later: Bill Schneider on the candidates, their supporters, and the latest new campaign strategy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: We will have more on this day's political news coming up, but now, a look at some of other top stories.

If you were online today, you could have been chatting with President Clinton. He was online with the -- from the Oval Office at CNN.com at Allpolitics.com this afternoon. People from all over the world participated in this live Internet interview.

Our CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett is here with all the details -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie, at the very tail end of that online interview, the president said for the first time that he will sign a legislation that Congress is intending to send him to abolish the Social Security earnings limit.

Now that's a limit that applies to Social Security recipients age 65 to 69. And the way the current system now works: for every one dollar, any of the recipients earn over a threshold of $17,000, they lose a certain amount of their Social Security benefits.

Republicans have long wanted to abolish that, and the president said today he will support that on one condition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they will send me a bill that -- what we call in Washington speak, a clean bill -- that is not, doesn't have a number of other things unrelated to that littered to it, I will be happen to sign it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: The president for the first time unhinged the idea of doing this for Social Security reform. Republicans were very eager to accept his extended olive branch on this. Representive Clay Shaw, a key player in the House of Representatives on this issue, said today, later on in a press conference, that he was very eager to take up the president's offer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CLAY SHAW (R), FLORIDA: This is a very, very good step forward, and I complement the president for indicating that he is willing to work for -- work with Congress in order to correct this inequity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: This legislation is on a fast-track. Sources tell CNN that the House of Representatives is likely to vote on it the very first week in March.

Senate sources tell CNN that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott is also eager to move a clean bill as the president likes and that legislation could be on his desk as early as the middle of March,

Major Garrett, CNN, reporting live from the White House.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Major.

Georgia turned to neighboring Florida for help today as prisoners and state workers cleared debris from the storm that killed at least 18 people and injured more than a hundred. A series of powerful tornadoes ripped through southwest Georgia just after midnight. Some storm victims were caught off guard when they looked at the damage this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought this morning it would probably look different, and it does. It always looks different in the daylight, that there's more damage than I thought there was really. It's confined to this area mainly, but I was really surprised to see the extent of the damage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The tornadoes are the worst to hit Georgia in almost 50 years.

The Federal Aviation Administration says more than three-quarters of the nation's MD-80 jets have been inspected for stabilizer problems. The Alaska Airlines jet that crashed last month had faulty stabilizer controls, and general inspections were ordered on Friday. Today, the widow of one of the victims filed suit, charging Alaska Airlines with negligence. The suit claims that the pilots bypassed nine landing sites as they tried to troubleshoot the stabilizer.

Convicted killer Dr. Sam Sheppard's been dead nearly 30 years, but his murder case is back in court. Sheppard's son is suing the state of Ohio, claiming his father was wrongfully imprisoned. In opening statements today, a lawyer claimed DNA evidence will clear Sheppard in the beating death of his wife. The Sheppard case inspired the TV series "The Fugitive." Sheppard maintained an intruder had killed his wife.

WOODRUFF: When INSIDE POLITICS returns, David Brooder on the political lay of the land in New York, Ohio and California.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Much of the political focus right now is on Saturday's close and potentially crucial South Carolina primary. But the Republican contest in Michigan is just three days after that, and it also has turned into a horse race. The latest poll of likely GOP primary voters in Michigan shows John McCain nine points ahead of George W. Bush. That is quite a turnaround since January, before New Hampshire victory, when he trailed Bush by 34 points in Michigan.

CNN's Bruce Morton has more now on Michigan as a Republican battlefield.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Basketball night, Waverly -- just outside Lancing -- Warriors host the Holt Rams. And during the warm-up some talk politics. Gary Frank, who leans Republican, likes John McCain.

GARY FRANK, MICHIGAN RESIDENT: He's an alternative to Bush. And I don't care for Bush and I don't like the idea that he thinks he has already won.

MORTON: Once, George W. Bush had a huge lead here. Governor John Engler, Bush's leading backer, said the state would be a firewall for him. Now the polls show a tight race. Firewall?

BILL BALLENGER, EDITOR, "INSIDE MICHIGAN POLITICS": Seems to be crumbling. The firewall is now down into a bed of smoldering embers.

ENGLER: We're on the wall. We have got our water cannons out. We're spraying the foam trying to put the fires out.

MORTON: McCain's state chairman here, state Senator John Schwarz, a Vietnam vet like McCain, originally endorsed Bush. But...

JOHN SCHWARZ, MCCAIN MICHIGAN CO-CHAIR: My conscience started to bother me a little bit. And finally I went to John Engler, who's a good friend and a close friend, and I said, Governor, you know, I've got go with McCain. That was back in mid-November. I feel better about it, and it's been quite a ride since then.

MORTON: Engler has the organization. Does that matter?

SCHWARZ: I think organization probably matters a lot. I mean, if the war is organization, we've lost.

ENGLER: I don't think it's worth very much at all.

MORTON: He may be right because of people -- back to the basketball game -- like Democrat Mike Williamson, who will vote for McCain.

MIKE WILLIAMSON, MICHIGAN RESIDENT: I would have to say that the main candidate this year I hope that wins it -- and he'll have my vote. For the first time I'll vote Republican for the first time -- is Mr. McCain.

MORTON: He can do that because this is a completely open primely.

BALLENGER: You do not register by party here in Michigan. There is no Democratic primary on February 22nd, really, so anybody, independents, Democrats, can vote in this primary just the way Republicans -- no questions asked.

MORTON: This primary is so open that at Detroit's New Bethel Baptist Church Democratic state Representative Lamar Lemons is urging fellow Democrats to vote for McCain just to embarrass Engler, with whom Lemons disagrees on a long list of local issues.

LAMAR LEMONS (D), MICHIGAN STATE REPRESENTATIVE: We're not voting necessarily for John McCain when you vote, you're voting against John Engler. We've got to get out, and we're asking Democrats to go out and get even with Governor Engler.

MORTON: Polls show Bush comfortably ahead among Republicans.

ENGLER: I'm stressing to Republican voters, look, if you want to make the decision as Republican voters about who our nominee ought to be then you've got to participate on the 22nd of February.

MORTON: Most campaign headquarters are modest, three paid staffers for Bush but many volunteers since New Hampshire, they say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm calling with Governor Bush's campaign. I just wanted to call and remind you to get out the vote on February 22nd.

MORTON: Fewer computers and just two paid staffers at McCain headquarters. Many volunteers since New Hampshire they also say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, it's going to be a close election. We need every vote this year.

MORTON: Back at the game, Waverly rallies the to win. Star Marcus Taylor scores 32.

No negative ads on the court, Bush's are on TV. The score? It isn't over yet.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Lansing, Michigan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, as Bruce mentioned, non-Republicans are permitted to vote in Michigan's GOP primary, as they are in South Carolina, which means that independents and even Democrats van influence the outcome. A number of states that hold their contests in the coming weeks have similar rules: Virginia, North Dakota, Washington state, Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Minnesota, Maryland, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont. But independents, who have proven so important to John McCain's campaign, will not be a factor in California and New York, the two biggest prizes on the biggest primary day, March the 7th. Only Republican votes will count toward choosing the GOP presidential nominee in those states.

Let's talk more about the contests ahead and the stakes with David Broder of "The Washington Post." He joins us from the "Post" newsroom.

David, I was going to ask you about Michigan, but let's just move right on to those March 7th states and talk about what is at stake on the Republican side.

DAVID BRODER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, Judy, it's a day like we've never seen in any previous nomination fight. Sixteen states all the way across the country from Maine to Washington and out to American Samoa, three-fifths of the delegates that you need to be nominated in either party convention, all of them at stake that day.

WOODRUFF: And what shape at this point -- and we realize, of course, the you have South Carolina coming up this weekend. Right after that you've Michigan and Arizona. But at this point, what shape are Bush and McCain in those states?

BRODER: At this point, Bush leads in the most recent polls in all three of those states. But as Bruce Morton pointed out about Michigan, those numbers turned around for McCain and Bush as soon as the Michigan voters found out who was winning in New Hampshire. So it's clearly a volatile situation, and I would say particularly so in California, where most of the elected officials are in Bush's camp. But even those elected officials will tell you, they are so desperate to find somebody who will give them some strength at the top of the ticket after the bad experiences they had with Bob Dole in '96 and their gubernatorial candidate in '98, they're looking for a winner. And if it looks to them like John McCain is that person, then those numbers can change around very quickly.

WOODRUFF: So, David, even Bush's superior organization could end up not making that much difference if McCain were to do well in South Carolina?

BRODER: I think the organization, and particularly the alliance with Governor Pataki, will probably be most significant for Bush in New York. As you remember, Judy, Pataki tried his best to keep John McCain's delegates off the ballot in many of those New York congressional districts, finally had to bow to the pressure and the court rulings to let McCain on. But it's still an organization state, and as you pointed out earlier, that is a state where only Republicans can vote.

WOODRUFF: And I also think, David, that many people are surprised to see that, you know, I ticked off all those states where independents, people who are not registered Republicans can vote. I think people would be surprised to know that they can have an affect in so many contests.

BRODER: Well, it's an interesting history, because back 20 years ago when the Republicans weren't doing all that well in national politics, before Ronald Reagan came along, many of those state Republican parties decided that the thing that they should do is to open their doors to independents, that, that would be a way to build up the Republican parties. In fact, in Minnesota at that point they renamed the party the Independent Republicans, and so what we have here is a legacy, if -- almost of the bad times from Barry Goldwater's days, when those Republican parties opened their doors in hopes of attracting independents.

WOODRUFF: David, let me switch you quickly over to the Democrats. How much is Bill Bradley handicapped by the fact that there hasn't been, won't be a contest on the Democratic side until March 7?

BRODER: It's a huge problem for him, because he tends to fall off of the news and doesn't get much attention even in the states where he's campaigning.

Some of the Bradley people tell me that they think there will be an opening for him immediately after this next three, or four days of Republican voting in South Carolina and Michigan, when the reporters will say, oh, and by the way, folks, there's still a contest going on, on the Democratic side. But since New Hampshire, Bradley has really fallen out of the news, which means he's had no opportunity to try to turn around the odds against Vice President Gore.

WOODRUFF: Is he ahead at this point, David, in any of these 16 states?

BRODER: No. His manager told me on Friday that, we are behind in every state where we've been able to get a measurement, so they have an awful lot of work to do. Again, for them, the big test will be New York where, as you know, he played his pro basketball, and California, where he lived for a year after leaving the Senate. If he can't make it in those two states it's probably -- Senator Bradley is not going to make it anywhere.

WOODRUFF: All right, David Broder joining us from "The Washington Post" news room. Thanks, David.

Up next, Charles Bierbauer on what John McCain's Senate record says about the GOP hopeful.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: George W. Bush is now campaigning as the "reformer with results," a slogan that is meant to draw attention to John McCain's Senate record. The charge from the Bush camp: McCain has not been effective as a member of Congress.

Our Charles Bierbauer takes a look at the Arizona senator and his impact on the Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCCAIN: There is a pernicious effect of money on the legislative process.

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain's 17 years in Congress stand out more for what he's tried to do than what he may have accomplished.

MCCAIN: It is a system that has violated the process and has therefore caused the American people to lose confidence.

BIERBAUER: McCain has authored campaign finance reform bills with Democrat Russ Feingold, but failed to break a Republican filibuster to get a final vote. McCain was put in charge of turning the national tobacco settlement into federal law, raised its cost from $368 billion to $516 billion, then saw it stubbed out by the Republican leadership. The Bush campaign says it's not much of a Senate career.

RALPH REED, BUSH ADVISER: Senator McCain is a reformer who talks a lot, but really hasn't been able to get anything done in Washington in any significant way.

BIERBAUER: There is another explanation for McCain's frustration.

THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: He has taken positions that cut across the grain of party philosophy a number of times, and that has put him at loggerheads with his own party colleagues.

BIERBAUER: That's McCain's nature in and out of Congress.

SEN. FRED THOMPSON (R-TN), MCCAIN SUPPORTER: When he believes in something strongly, it doesn't bother him a bit that the leadership or the majority of his Republican colleagues disagree with him. He still perseveres.

BIERBAUER: He tilts at windmills. McCain's fury at pork-laden budgets fueled the effort to give presidents a line-item veto to strike individual budget items. McCain calls it his most important legislative achievement, but the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional.

McCain has chaired two Senate committees -- Commerce now and Indian Affairs earlier -- producing bills in bunches: to help Native Americans; to ensure Internet privacy; to end Vietnam's economic isolation; to aid veterans; to clean up professional boxing; to prepare for a deluge of Y2K lawsuits. Like the Y2K anti-climax, the McCain effort adds up but may not overwhelm.

MANN: It's very eclectic and it tends not to deal with the main bread-and-butter issues of education, and health care, and Social Security, and Medicare, and tax policy. He tends to be off either on national security issues or on regulatory matters.

BIERBAUER: Actually, McCain has weighed in on Social Security issues. There are plenty of retirees in Arizona.

(on camera): There may not be a piece of landmark legislation bearing the name McCain, but he's not alone. Most senators -- and Al Gore and Bill Bradley may be among them -- never leave that big an imprint.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Still ahead, using supporters as a campaign issue? Our Bill Schneider explains.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Bill Bradley, John McCain, they are courting independent voters across the United States. While that strategy could be a key to victory, it may also be a campaign liability.

Our Bill Schneider joins us once again to explain.

SCHNEIDER: Well, Bernie, some unusual charges are being heard this year in both parties, charges aimed at discrediting a candidate not because of who he is but because of who his supporters are.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): This weekend, Bill Bradley warned Democrats that the party has to open up in order to attract new voters. BRADLEY: I believe the Democratic Party...

(APPLAUSE)

... the Democratic Party should be more than a fund-raising vehicle and a job-placement bureau.

SCHNEIDER: Al Gore's countercharge? Bradley's not a real Democrat.

GORE: Real Democrats don't aid and abet the Republicans.

SCHNEIDER: George W. Bush is laying the same charge on John McCain. This guy's not a real Republican.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He calls my plan risky and says it's a tax cut for the rich. And if you were to close your eyes and listen to those words, it sounds exactly like Al Gore.

SCHNEIDER: What makes those charges stick is what happened in New Hampshire two weeks ago. In the Democratic primary, registered Democrats voted for Al Gore. But independents, who could vote in the Democratic primary and who made up 30 percent of the primary voters, went for Bill Bradley.

Registered Republicans gave John McCain an eight-point margin over George W. Bush. But independents, who made up over 30 percent of the GOP voters, went for McCain by better than three to one. Independents gave McCain his landslide.

McCain and Bradley both say their support among independents is a good thing because a party has to expand its base in order to win.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's the coalition we're reassembling -- we're the reform party, a party that preserves our core conservative philosophy but attracts the banner of independents and Republicans. That's the way you govern in this country.

SCHNEIDER: Their opponents say it's bad because it allows aliens to come in and weaken the party.

BUSH: The only thing I'm concerned about is that Democrats flock into the Republican primary to decide who the Republican nominee is and then head back for the Democrats in the general election.

SCHNEIDER: So to win, Bush and Gore are appealing to core partisans, who are reliable primary voters. McCain and Bradley are hoping to attract new voters in states that have open primaries.

Does that make sense? Let's take a look at delegates who will be selected in primaries over the next three weeks.

On the Democratic side, a lot more delegates will be selected in closed primaries -- open only to registered Democrats -- than in open primaries where non-Democrats can vote. Advantage Gore.

On the GOP side, however, more delegates will be selected in open primaries like New Hampshire and South Carolina. Advantage McCain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: The California primary on March 7th could produce the most controversial outcome. Candidates of both parties will all be on one big ballot, and voters can choose among any of them. But there's a hitch: Only the votes of registered members of each party will count toward allocating each party's delegates. So while Democrats and independents can vote for John McCain, their votes won't really count. The candidate with the most votes from registered Republicans wins all the GOP delegates.

So we could see a California split: McCain wins more of the popular vote than Bush, but he loses registered Republicans to Bush. And that means McCain wouldn't get a single delegate in the nation's largest state.

That wouldn't be a California split; that would be a California earthquake.

SHAW: Bill Schneider. And that's because California is a winner take all state.

SCHNEIDER: It is -- on the Republican side.

SHAW: On the Republican side.

WOODRUFF: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) shutout.

SCHNEIDER: There would be a lot of noise.

SHAW: Boy, 54 electoral votes...

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

SHAW: ... awfully hefty. Thank you, Bill Schneider.

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

WOODRUFF: We'll see you again tomorrow when we'll have a preview of the big Republican presidential debate in Columbia, South Carolina. Larry King will moderate the 90-minute debate with our live coverage beginning at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. And our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, will host a post-debate election special starting at 10:30 Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

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

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