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CNN Late Edition

Bush Wins in South Carolina; Bush Victory Bigger Most Expected

Aired February 20, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington; 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles; 5:00 p.m. in London, and 8:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this 90-minute LATE EDITION.

We'll get to our interviews with the three Republican presidential candidates shortly, but first, let's check in with CNN reporters on the campaign trail.

We begin in South Carolina, where the dust is starting to settle after a bruising Republican primary battle between Governor Bush and Arizona Senator John McCain. Last night the Palmetto State gave Governor Bush a critical and decisive victory in his quest for the GOP nomination. CNN's Jonathan Karl is in North Charleston, South Carolina with details --Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was a presidential primary like the state of South Carolina has never seen before. The two candidates, the two front-running candidates dumped more than six times the amount of money into radio and TV ads than was spent by the two front-runners four years ago. The investment certainly paid off for George W. Bush. He scored 53 percent of the vote, John McCain came win 42 percent, Alan Keyes, five percent. More than 560,000 South Carolinas voted, to put that into context, the last time around, only 270,000 voted and that was a record at the time.

Now Bush scored a victory with an especially strong turnout by conservative, especially Christian conservative Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We ignited a record turnout, from Republicans all across the political spectrum. We have reached out to the independents and conservative Democrats who embraced our principles. And we have ignited young voters in the state of South Carolina.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: With his double-digit victory here, George Bush hopes to erase the memories of his devastating loss in New Hampshire three weeks ago. Now as for John McCain, he was hit, battered hard by an unrelenting negative assault, not just by George W. Bush but also by independent groups sympathetic to Bush. Last night, he delivered a speech that was as much a call to arms as it was a concession.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not take the low road to the highest office in this land.

(APPLAUSE).

I want the presidency in the best way, not the worst way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: This was a bitter battle when John McCain called George W. Bush to concede. The call lasted barely a minute, McCain said, congratulations George, see you in Michigan. And then quickly added a question -- can I tell the press this was a cordial call?

Now, McCain believes that Bush won here by pandering to the religious right. And McCain's top aides hope that Bush will pay a price for what he did to win here as the primary battles go on to states where the religious right is less of a political force -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jonathan Karl in South Carolina, thanks for joining us. With the South Carolina primary over, the spotlight now shifts to Arizona and Michigan, which hold their Republican primaries on Tuesday. CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is already in Michigan.

BLITZER: She joins us live from Grand Rapids.

Candy, what's the scene over there?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the candidate was up and out to church this morning where he told reporters that his win in South Carolina lifted his spirits. As for his chances in Michigan, he said he was confident that he would win here. And certainly in the latest poll from the "Detroit Free Press," there is reason for Bush to take heart.

On a poll that was completed on the 17th, it showed a statistical dead heat: John McCain, 40; George Bush, 38. That compares with a February 11th poll where McCain was leading with a wider margin at 43 and 34.

One of the men upon whom George Bush will depend during this Michigan primary is Governor John Engler, who spoke this morning about Democrats making mischief in this primary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CBS' "FACE THE NATION")

GOVERNOR JOHN ENGLER (R-MI), BUSH SUPPORTER: McCain is overwhelmingly winning the Democrat votes, so much so that my opponent of two years ago, Geoffrey Fieger, indicated he's voting for McCain. So he's getting unexpected help from people who are not the least bit interested in ever becoming Republicans. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Geoffrey Fieger was an opponent for John Engler in the gubernatorial race two years ago. He was beaten soundly by Engler.

As for John McCain's remarks last night, Bush was asked about them this morning. He said he hadn't really seen them, but he said John McCain can handle his business his way and I'll handle mine -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, if you're looking at Michigan, which is only 48 hours from now, and you're trying to get a sense of what would happen if Bush were once again to beat McCain in Michigan, what are you hearing? Would that effectively knock McCain out even though he says he will go on till March 7th -- New York, California, and all those other big primaries?

CROWLEY: I don't think that they will consider John McCain out of this race until he actually gets out of it. After New Hampshire they know that he is a quite viable, credible and tough opponent. You know, California -- there is a very tough race, New York is a very tough race. They're not going to count him out nor take him for granted.

I was interested, however, last night in George Bush's speech that he did not mention John McCain other than to congratulate him but went on to tear into Clinton-Gore. It had a definite general campaign feel to it.

BLITZER: Looks like George W. Bush, at least as of the speech last night, beginning to look ahead down the road till after McCain, although that may be premature.

Candy Crowley joining us from Grand Rapids, thanks again.

After the results from last night's South Carolina primary, I had a chance to speak with Governor Bush about his victory there, as well as his plan for staying on a winning track.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Governor Bush, welcome back to LATE EDITION and thank you so much for joining us, and congratulations on your win in South Carolina.

BUSH: Well, Wolf, I'm honored, and thanks. I'm humbled by the outpouring of support. We just scored a big victory tonight, and I can't tell you how grateful I am for the people of this state who heard my message and sent me on my way.

BLITZER: You know, some of the McCain people are already saying you won dirty -- that some of the tactics you employed were dirty. What do you say to those accusations?

BUSH: Well, first of all, I won because my message of compassionate conservatism took hold here. People heard the message.

Secondly, I explained to people clearly that I was a reformer who had gotten positive results in my state of Texas and I intended to take that same attitude of reforming to Washington.

And thirdly, I united our party. I brought the party together and ignited a youth movement in this state that was pretty darn significant. A lot of voters came and supported me here today in South Carolina.

BLITZER: So can we assume the same tactics, the same strategy you employed successfully in South Carolina will now be continued in Michigan, Arizona, California, New York, down the road?

BUSH: Well, the tactics that enabled me to win was the ability to connect with the voters. Evidently I was a little standoffish in earlier primaries. I came into South Carolina ready to battle for the vote. I was able to connect with the voters here with a message that's very hopeful and positive, and a reform agenda that people could clearly understand by the time the campaign is over.

When you look at the exit polls, Wolf, the people said that Governor Bush ran the positive campaign here in South Carolina, and I'm proud of my campaign.

BLITZER: Will the same kind of what some would call negative advertising that your campaign engaged in South Carolina, will that continue, the notion about John McCain and his tax cuts being similar to the Clinton-Gore tax cuts?

BUSH: Wolf, you keep talking about negative ads. I'm telling you why the people of this state responded the way they did. They responded overwhelmingly for me because I ran a positive campaign, a campaign that clearly enunciated what I intend to do. I defended myself, but I stand by the campaign I ran and I'm proud of the campaign I ran, and it was overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of this state.

BLITZER: The Christian Coalition seems to have come through for you in South Carolina. Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, they went all out, they brought out the vote. And you must be grateful to them at this point, right?

BUSH: Wolf, I united the Republican Party. There's factions of the Republican Party here in South Carolina. I brought everybody together. And the reason the vote was so big is because people were excited about my message and were positive about my message.

And the people of America are as well. They want somebody to go to Washington, D.C., not only to bring honor and dignity to the office, but somebody to reform our taxes, strengthen the military and make sure all children get educated in America.

BLITZER: The Republican electorate, those who will vote in Michigan and Arizona down the road, is not the same necessarily as it was in South Carolina. Christian conservatives don't necessarily have that same influence up north as they had in South Carolina. Will Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed and that message that was heard loud and clear in South Carolina continue to be showcased by you in these northern states?

BUSH: Wolf, I brought the Republicans together. There are people from all across the spectrum in South Carolina, and they're looking for somebody to unite our party and I did so. I'm not going to change my message and I haven't changed my message. The same message I talk about in Texas and New Hampshire and Delaware and Iowa and South Carolina, I'm going to take the same message up to Michigan.

The people in Michigan are looking for somebody who can lead our country with a reform package that's going to make a difference in people's lives, and that's what I'm going to continue talking about.

BLITZER: A lot of Catholic voters in Michigan, some of who may have been concerned by your appearance at Bob Jones University because of the suggestion -- Bob Jones University officials suggesting that the Catholic religion is like a cult. What do you do to reassure those Catholics in Michigan, New York, California?

BUSH: Hey, Wolf, Bob Jones, the man who runs the university's son went to Notre Dame. Ronald Reagan went to Bob Jones University, and he went up to Michigan with a positive message, just like mine, that speaks to the hearts and minds of the people all across the country.

I went to probably six or seven universities here in South Carolina, and I'm going to win in Michigan because people know I've got a positive message.

BLITZER: You know, there's an issue that you will be addressing this week as governor of Texas that you're familiar with, the scheduled execution of Betty Lou Beets. She's scheduled for lethal injection on February 24th, which would be next Thursday. She would be only the second woman executed in Texas since the Civil War. Are you reviewing that case right now? As you know, Texas Catholic bishops are asking you to stop all of the executions, at least for the time being.

BUSH: Wolf, my job is to uphold the laws of my state. And we ask two questions in Texas: Did you do the crime? Are you guilty of the crime committed? And were you given full access to the courts of law?

In my state of Texas, the case must first be reviewed by a board of pardons and parole. They have yet to do that, and I'm waiting for their recommendation.

BLITZER: So there's no -- you haven't even studied the merits, pros and cons, yet of this particular case?

BUSH: I'm aware of the facts, but I just told you that the Board of Pardons and Parole must first look at the case and make a recommendation to me. BLITZER: We only have a minute left, Governor. John McCain and you exchanged some angry words at that "LARRY KING" debate the other night. How bitter personally, how angry are you towards John McCain right now?

BUSH: Well, first of all, I think you mischaracterized my words. I didn't utter angry words. That's not the way I speak. I defended myself, but I'm not angry. As a matter of fact, the reason people voted for me is because I'm optimistic, I'm a hopeful person.

And I respect John McCain. He is a good man. But I'm going to continue running the kind of campaign I ran, which is positive and optimistic, with an agenda that people can hear. And it paid off here in South Carolina.

BLITZER: You know, when your mom was on this program a couple of weeks ago, she was pretty angry at John McCain for making that initial comparison between you and Bill Clinton on the issue of tax cuts. Your mom was not happy about that.

BUSH: It wasn't on the issue of tax cuts, Wolf. Senator McCain questioned my trustworthiness and compared me to Bill Clinton, which may be OK in a Democrat primary, but in a Republican primary that's about as low as you can go.

BLITZER: OK, Governor Bush, once again, congratulations on your win in South Carolina.

On to Michigan and Arizona and the rest of the country. Thank you so much for once again joining us on LATE EDITION.

BUSH: Thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And when we return: Governor Bush's chief rival for the Republican nomination. We'll ask Arizona Senator John McCain about his next primary battle this Tuesday in Michigan and Arizona.

BLITZER: LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: You don't have to win every skirmish to win a war or a crusade. And although we fell a little short tonight, our crusade grows stronger.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Arizona Senator John McCain last night promising supporters he'll fight on for the Republican nomination despite his defeat in the South Carolina primary.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Like his other GOP presidential rivals, Senator McCain has turned his attention to Michigan, which holds its Republican primary on Tuesday. Earlier this morning, I spoke with Senator McCain. He joined us from Detroit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Senator McCain, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Always good to have you on this program.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We just heard from Governor Bush. He insists that by his win in South Carolina yesterday he has united and strengthened the Republican Party, has he?

MCCAIN: I think that he won a primary. We won one in New Hampshire. He got a pretty good win yesterday and we're going to have one in Michigan and Arizona, and then it's going to be followed by a few other states, and then we're going to end up in California with a bunch of other states.

I think he won round two and we're ready to go into the round three.

BLITZER: You really thought you were going to win South Carolina, didn't you?

MCCAIN: Oh, I thought we had a very good shot there. I probably didn't anticipate some of the things that happened. But, yes, we thought we had a pretty good shot at it. And I'm very proud of the campaign that we ran. I'm very proud of the positive campaign we ran.

And, look, I've crashed a few airplanes in my time. I spent some time in a hotel where they don't put men on the pillow, and I've been fighting the special interests and the iron triangle in Washington.

And so, look, we're going to move on with this. And we're very proud of the campaign we've run.

BLITZER: Since 1980, South Carolina has predicted every Republican nominee. It would be a first if you still managed to go ahead and capture the Republican nomination, but you're committed you still think you have that good chance.

MCCAIN: Oh, sure, I think we're -- look, in Michigan right now we are either even or up a couple of points. We've won the majority of the vote except for the Christian right yesterday which turned out in huge numbers.

And I'm very optimistic. We've got the message of reform, we've got the campaign I think that has ignited young people across America, and that's what really what it was all about. BLITZER: All right, just quickly, as far as Arizona is concerned, your home state, you're convinced you will win Arizona on Tuesday. Michigan, you think you have a very strong chance or you will win Michigan?

MCCAIN: Well, I think we'll do very well here. As I say, you don't know what the impact of South Carolina has on the people of Michigan, but as soon as I leave this program, we're getting on the Straight Talk Express, we're going to be in every major city in Michigan in the next 48 hours, and we're going to get the message out of reform, we're going to get the message out that I'm going inspire a generation of young Americans, and I think we can win.

BLITZER: Do you have to win Michigan?

MCCAIN: Oh, no. This campaign, thanks to so much contributions over the Internet -- that's mccain2000.com -- we now have enough money to buy the media and organizations -- set up the organization that's necessary to go through to March 7.

But obviously it's very important that we do well here.

BLITZER: You're a straight talker of the Straight Talk Express, give us some straight talk: What mistakes did you and your campaign make in South Carolina?

MCCAIN: I think we ran a very good campaign. I think we ran an honorable campaign. We had a response ad up. We saw that the campaign was spiraling down. Look, you couldn't answer a phone or turn a radio or turn on television in South Carolina without a negative attack on John McCain.

My wife was on a talk-show program and the talk show host said: Anybody who has seen a positive ad from George Bush, I'll give them $100,000 if they call in the next 10 minutes. Nobody called in.

I'm proud that we ran a positive campaign, and of course we not only had the Bush people but we had the tobacco companies and all the special interests.

Look, I'm fighting against the iron triangle, and the iron triangle fought back. And we accept the verdict and we're also ready to move on.

BLITZER: For those of our viewers around the world who may not know what the iron triangle is, define the iron triangle.

MCCAIN: It's lobbyists, big money and legislation, and that's what's ruling Washington, and that's why we Republicans have lost the last two presidential campaigns, the last two congressional campaigns. And things aren't looking great for the next one, because we're in the grip of this iron triangle which gives us these huge amounts of -- millions of dollars in so-called soft money.

Right now the Bush campaign is setting up the apparatus to funnel millions and millions of dollars into the presidential campaign. I've said I won't have anything to do with that, I don't have to pass campaign finance reform to do that, I won't do that because, according to the United States Supreme Court a couple of weeks ago, too much money corrupts and it causes an alienation of the voters and the citizenry. And so I'm going to continue that crusade.

Governor Bush, in his five and a half years as governor, never proposed a single campaign finance reform until it was just the day of the debate we had and then it had a billion-dollar loophole. It was a fraud and a joke.

So I'm the reformer. We'll continue that message, and I'm very pleased -- believe that the people of Michigan and across the country will respond to it.

BLITZER: Yet at one point during the campaign in South Carolina, your campaign did release a couple of negative ads going after Governor Bush.

MCCAIN: One.

BLITZER: Let's listen to a couple of these snippets, these excerpts, because it did play a pivotal role in your eventual decision to move in the other direction. But listen to those.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: His ad twists the truth like Clinton. We're all pretty tired of that. ANNOUNCER: Do we really want another politician in the White House America can't trust?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Was it a mistake to go negative at that point?

MCCAIN: I don't think so. I think we were responding to a barrage -- a strange epiphany took place with Governor Bush after he lost New Hampshire. All of a sudden there was this barrage of negative attacks from everywhere and all the special interests. We were called Clinton; we were called Gore; we were called hypocrite. I mean, you know.

And we took down the response ad and went positive. And that was a great idea and I asked Governor Bush to do the same. Instead, he ran negative ads in five additional states. I guess we had a pretty lousy plan.

Right now in Michigan, voters are only seeing two ads, both negative attack ads from him and they are seeing two positive ads from me. Well, maybe that works but I would rather be known for a campaign that was based on positive -- positive view and vision for the future, than attacking my opponent.

BLITZER: But you're a fighter and...

MCCAIN: Yes. BLITZER: ... and if you're in a fight, don't you think you want to respond as fiercely as you possibly can? The accusation, of course, being that you became like Michael Dukakis and you were turning the other cheek in the midst of that kind of an assault.

MCCAIN: No, you've got to know what honorable behavior is all about. You -- look, I want my kids and young people to look back on this campaign and say, He conducted an honorable campaign. That is really what this is all about. I'm not going to get into mud slinging. Look at the stuff that is in Governor Bush's ads now.

But I'll tell you what, I'm going to work a lot harder at pointing out that Governor Bush is -- if he's a reformer, I'm an astronaut. That spending -- Governor Bush said he would have signed and supported the biggest pork barrel spending bill in history last November. I said I would veto it. Governor Bush is governor of Texas where spending has increased by 35 percent. Under Clinton it's only increased by 20 percent. And of course, the surplus, he puts it all into tax cuts and none into Social Security, Medicare or paying down the debt. We're going to define that a lot more.

BLITZER: Don't you think that Governor Bush could come away from -- the lesson he might learn from South Carolina, is that negative ads do in fact work?

MCCAIN: Yes, but then what do you win? I mean, that's you know -- look, in life you have to do what you think is the honorable and correct thing to do. And we put up a response ad. We had some very sad things happen -- people getting phone calls calling me a liar and a cheat and a thief. I mean that permeated through out South Carolina. And look, we just can't be part of that.

But we can define who we are; we can define my vision for the future of the country. The whole purpose of this campaign is to reconnect young people again; to inspire them to causes greater than their self-interest. We're doing that.

Look, when I started this campaign, George Bush was at 61 and I was at four, I said, Look, there's going to be reform in this campaign. You never heard a word from Governor Bush about reform then. Now he's gone from compassionate conservative to reformer with results. Maybe it's going to be Texan with tenacity for all I know. But the fact is now reform is the key element of this campaign. So we've changed the dynamic; we've changed the message. And maybe the Republicans in the Senate and the House will get the message as well. I think so.

BLITZER: You know, if you do get the Republican nomination, I'm sure you agree that the battle you would face against Al Gore let's say or Bill Bradley would be child's play compared to the fight that's going on between you and Governor Bush right now. Will you be taking that same position against, let's say, Al Gore, that you're not going to respond negatively if he barrages you with a bunch of negative ads?

MCCAIN: I don't know, Wolf, but you know, I've only won one primary. Let me win Michigan or California or one of those places and then we can contemplate it. What I'm saying now is I'm proud of the campaign we've run, I'm proud of my record and my experience and my ability to lead and I'll contrast that with Governor Bush's record at any, any time and I'll let the American people decide.

BLITZER: You know, last night you said you're not going to take the low road to the highest office in the land. I just want to nail down that one point, if you get the nomination you won't do that in the general campaign -- general election against Al Gore either.

MCCAIN: No, but you know, in the case of Al Gore what he's done to Bradley accusing him of betraying minorities and all that kind of stuff, you know, it's really unconscionable. I would have to point out some of those things, both what he's done to Bradley in previous campaigns. It's really been a record of his, and clearly we would have to think of ways that we wouldn't let such things go unchallenged, because, you know, I mean, for example, we all know that Al Gore invented the Internet. I'd tell him I invented television.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We have to take a quick break. When we return, more of my interview with Republican presidential candidate, John McCain. I'll ask the senator about his battle with the religious right.

LATE EDITION continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: The Republican Party has lost its way. They have selected an establishment candidate. I don't blame them for doing that. But they lost the last two presidential elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Arizona Senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain in last Tuesday's presidential debate in Columbia, South Carolina.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Now more of my conversation earlier today with Senator McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the religious right and the role that they played in the South Carolina primary. Our exit polls shows that among the religious right George W. Bush got 68 percent, you captured 24 percent.

Last Sunday on this program, on LATE EDITION, Pat Robertson was one of our guests. I want you to listen to what Pat Robertson said only one week ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAT ROBERTSON, CHRISTIAN COALITION: I think that this man is regarded as a maverick. He doesn't work well with his colleagues. And there's a deep concern about what seems to be a specious issue in relation to campaign finance. And so, we're looking at a situation that could be devastating to the Republican Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He was referring, of course, Senator, to the possibility that you would win the Republican nomination, devastating to the Republican Party.

MCCAIN: Actually it would be devastating to Mr. Robertson's money-raising machine. He's already had a few problems with the IRS.

But look, look, Mr. Robertson and Mr. Falwell and all the others, I have respect for them and they will continue to have my respect, but let's really figure what this is all about.

It's all about whether their campaign financing will be -- whether they'll be able to pump millions of dollars into campaigns -- political campaigns again. I want to get rid of the soft money whether it be from labor union bosses and trial lawyers, or people like Mr. Robertson.

So that's really what this is all about and -- so I have 234 pieces of legislation with my name on it, almost as much or more than other senators at least with my tenure. I'm proud of my legislative record. I'm proud of my record of reform: gift ban, lobbying ban, line item veto, Y2K product liability, Internet tax moratorium. I've got a long list of legislative accomplishments and I'd also work both sides of the aisle because there are times when we have to work with Democrats as well as Republicans.

BLITZER: You know Pat Robertson does acknowledge that one of the reasons he's so strongly opposed to you is because the campaign finance reform legislation you support, McCain-Feingold, would in effect undermine the ability of the Christian Coalition and other like minded groups to go out and raise money that they want to raise for political purposes.

In fact, others on the Christian right have a similar position, James Dobson, for example, of Focus On The Family. He released a statement last week, right near the end of the South Carolina primary, very bitterly attacking you. Listen to what he said. "The senator is being touted by the media as a man of principle, yet he was implicated in the so-called Keating scandal with four other senators. The senator reportedly has a violent temper and can be extremely confrontational and profane when angry. These red flags about Senator McCain's character are reminiscent of the man who now occupies the White House" -- James Dobson, Focus On The Family.

Those are strong words from Pat Robertson and from James Dobson. Will you be able to unite the Republican party, bring that important segment of the party in if you were to get the Republican nomination? MCCAIN: Of course and, you know, I've never met Mr. Dobson. I've always respected him and his Focus On The Family but, you know, it's really almost incomprehensible to me that someone would say things like that who's never met me, who's never even picked up the phone and said, hey Senator McCain, this is what some people are saying about you, what have you got to say? I'm not sure that's very Christian to tell you the truth. But look, this is what happens when you take on the special interests. They've become part of the iron triangle and by taking them on the iron triangle is fighting back. I'm Luke Skywalker trying to get out of the death star. We just took a hit, we can feel but I think we can still get out.

BLITZER: Would your campaign finance reform legislation undermine the Christian Coalition's ability to raise money?

MCCAIN: Of course not, nor would it -- and it specifically allows for their score cards -- of course it wouldn't. What they've done is they've set up businesses in Washington, D.C. They raise these huge amounts of money, which are undisclosed, which is fine. But the fact is when they put it into a political campaign then it should be disclosed, the source. The smokers, the tobacco companies are running ads against me under the names of the smokers alliance and they're all tobacco company ads.

Look, it doesn't impede them in the slightest, and it might force them to go back to grassroots organizing and the kind of campaigning that they were so successful in 1980 when we elected Ronald Reagan and reelected him in 1984.

They haven't been too successful lately. They've lost two presidential elections and two congressional elections in a row, and I think maybe they ought to think about maybe it's a time for a change.

And all this pernicious soft money, whether it be from trial lawyers or union bosses or these people, are not good for America or the system.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at some of the specific results we got in our exit polls. Choice among voters, among Republicans, for example, Bush got 69 percent, you got 26 percent.

But look at this: Democrats, you got 79 percent of those Democrats who voted yesterday, and 60 percent of the independents who showed up and voted yesterday. What do those numbers say to you?

MCCAIN: Well, they say there's dramatic change for New Hampshire when we got the majority of the Republican vote as well as in independents and had a incredible victory, and that's round two.

But it also tells me that all of that campaigning had an effect. I mean, it was enormous. We were outspent about seven or eight, 10 to one. If you count in all the special interests and their attacks, then it was even more than that.

But, look, I'm not complaining. We fought the good fight, we fought an honorable battle, and I'm proud of what we did, and I'm proud of the people like Lindsey Graham and Mark Sanford and Terry Haskins and others, and Gary Bauer, who came to our defense -- an incredible act of political courage when you look at what these other people have said about me.

BLITZER: And one other number I'll show you, a little bit surprising I thought, choice among veteran voters: McCain, 48 percent; George W. Bush, 47 percent. Given you're a veteran, your record, POW, and obviously you're involved in the military issues, presumably we might have thought that among South Carolina veterans you would have done better.

MCCAIN: Well, again, it was attributed both to the lopsided size of the victory. But also, you know, the adjutant general of South Carolina sent out a letter to all the people in the Guard saying that -- touting Bush, which was an interesting use of his office.

But probably the thing that was really hurtful was that Governor Bush stood next to a guy named Birch (ph) -- and this guy Birch had attacked President Bush, I mean, his own father -- and he stood there at a campaign event that he paid for, and Birch said that I had abandoned the veterans. And Governor Bush stood there and never repudiated that statement.

And, you know, that kind of thing -- look, I'm going to be proud of my campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We have to take another quick break. When we return, some say John McCain's concession speech last night was mean spirited. I'll ask him to respond.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I'm going to fight with every ounce of strength I have, but I'm going to keep fighting clean, I'm going to keep fighting fair, and I'm going to keep fighting the battle of ideas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator John McCain addressing supporters last night after the South Carolina primary.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We return now to my interview with Senator McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's take a look at a little bit of the politics of where this goes from here. Your home-state newspaper, "The Arizona Republic," has an editorial that is just out today. I want to read you a little excerpt. I know this newspaper...

(CROSSTALK)

... has endorsed George W. Bush, even though it's in Arizona, but I'll read you what it says and get your reaction: "It appears Texas Governor George W. Bush has forced McCain's Straight Talk Express off the road. What McCain dreaded most has occurred. George Bush has new energy and momentum. Dismissed as spiritless and confused 20 days ago, Bush has at last demonstrated some grit."

That's from "The Arizona Republic" today.

MCCAIN: Well, I mean, it's well known -- "The Arizona Republic's" attitude towards me and their relationship. What I'm most proud of is that every other newspaper in Arizona has been strongly supportive of my candidacy, and I'm grateful for it.

I can assure you, we will win and win overwhelmingly in Arizona, in about 48 hours, and the people of Arizona who I have been privileged to represent for a long time will be strongly in support, despite the fact that the Bush campaign has spent a couple of million dollars in attack ads on me in my own home state.

But we welcome the economic input, and we're having fun.

BLITZER: But the point they make about Bush getting some new momentum out of South Carolina, that's fundamentally true.

MCCAIN: Well, we'll see. We still have a lot of momentum. We'll see. Every state is a different state, every battle is a different round. We won the first round, lost the second, and now we're headed into a third, and we'll have a more -- and after that -- this is a 12- round fight, I think.

BLITZER: When you speak about the special interests in Washington, give us some examples. Which specific special interests are most pernicious in having a grip on members of Congress?

MCCAIN: Oh, it's hard to say, but I can tell you an example: The 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act, every major player in this incredibly wealthy technology played a role and they got the legislation passed that has caused an increase in the cost of every telecommunications service to the consumer. Cable rates have gone up 23, 28 percent. They've become an unregulated monopoly.

Every -- according to the Consumers' Union and the Consumers Federation, every telecommunications cost has gone up. And the profits of these companies and corporations have gone up. That's an example of what happens when you have huge amounts of money washing around and the effects of it.

And again, this is all this soft money -- this is huge amounts of money to both parties. And the average citizen is not represented. The United States Supreme Court two weeks ago said too much -- when they upheld the $1,000 contribution limit, which I am adhering to, they said too much money corrupts the process and alienates the voters.

BLITZER: But the First Amendment -- and you've heard this argument, I'm sure -- the First Amendment does give every American, individually or collectively, the right to petition the government for grievances to complain, to shout, to scream. What's wrong with all sorts of individuals and special interests petitioning the government and trying to get their point of view across?

MCCAIN: There's nothing wrong with that except, as the Supreme Court just stated, that too much money corrupts the process and alienates the voters. And that's what's happened with this proliferation of this so-called soft money. The millions of dollars from China that we will never know about. These huge amounts of money.

That's why they upheld -- the Supreme Court upheld the $1,000 contribution limit, because if money is free speech -- and by the way, one of the justices said, money is property not free speech -- but if money is free speech, then the people with all the money are sitting in front of the room before Congress with megaphones and average citizens that don't have -- contribute all this money, are whispering. Ask any ex-senator -- ask any ex-senator what they think of this present process where this soft money leads to access which then leads to influence. They'll tell you, it's terrible.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about an issue that was fiercely debated -- hotly contested in South Carolina: abortion. In 1984 the Republican party abortion plank opposing abortion -- are you saying if you get the nomination, you'd like to re-open that plank and include specific exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother?

MCCAIN: I'd like to see the platform back to 1984 where we say we are an inclusionary party. We hold fast to our pro-life position, our belief in protecting the rights of the unborn. That's my 17-year clear pro-life voting record. And clearly, we need to look at whether the so-called Hyde Amendment, which is what's passed through Congress at all times, should be incorporated as well. If that is indeed the majority view of Republicans, which is indeed the case.

BLITZER: So do you think there should be specific exceptions written into the plank? Right now there are no exceptions specifically written into the plank.

MCCAIN: Well, I think we should look at the whole plank and see how we can send a message, which we did not do in California in the last election when we got trounced, and other parts of the country, to say to people who are pro-choice, Look this is our position. We respect the rights of the unborn. We'll fight for partial-birth abortion; we'll fight for parental notification, parental consent, and we will say to you, please join us in this effort to reduce and eliminate abortion because that's what we believe as a moral -- fundamental moral belief.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of the commentators are already saying that your concession speech last night was, in some of the words that we've heard, mean-spirited, almost unprecedented. How would you characterize the words you gave last night in terms of - you weren't gracious in other words, they are saying, to Governor Bush as he was following his defeat in New Hampshire.

MCCAIN: Following his defeat in New Hampshire, he began by calling me a hypocrite and hanging around with lobbyists, and you know, incredible that I wasn't walking the walk and talking the talk. Look, some of the most fiercest rhetoric came out of his and his supporters that I've ever heard in the history of politics.

Observers of the last primary, what just happened in South Carolina say it's the nastiest they have ever observed in history. All I'm saying is that we will draw differences.

Governor Bush is no more a reformer than I am an astronaut. He was governor for five and a half years in the state of Texas where there's unlimited contributions and never proposed a campaign finance reform proposal. He wants -- spending while he was governor went up 35 percent. Under Clinton in Washington spending has only gone up 20 percent in the same time. I would have vetoed a bill that was the biggest pork barrel bill in history that passed last November. He said he would support it and sign it.

Those are all legitimate differences including what you do with the surplus. He doesn't have one penny for -- new penny for Social Security, paying down the debt or Medicare. I want to give working Americans a tax cut and I want to work on Social Security, Medicare and paying down the debt.

So these are legitimate differences. That's what I'm talking about and that's what we'll be talking about all over Michigan. Look, if you can't stand the heat, -- don't get in -- get out of the kitchen.

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds, Senator McCain. Are you still having fun in this campaign?

MCCAIN: Oh, yes, we're having a great time. It's wonderful. I can't tell you what a wonderful opportunity it's been for us. We're having a wonderful time. We're Luke Skywalker coming out of the Death Star, took a hit, leaking fuel. We're going to make it. And nobody -- nobody expected us to do as well as we did. And I'm so pleased that we've changed the frame of the debate. Now everybody is a reformer. It's wonderful.

BLITZER: All right, Senator McCain, always good to have you on LATE EDITION.

MCCAIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Forty-eight hours from now, Michigan and Arizona; we'll be covering it every step of the way.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And up next, the other candidate battling for the Republican nomination. Despite his third-place finish in South Carolina, former Ambassador Alan Keyes is pressing on with his campaign. We'll ask him how he plans to change his political fortunes when LATE EDITION continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes joins us live straight ahead and will be taking your phone calls. LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Despite getting only five percent of yesterday's vote in South Carolina, Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes says he's staying in the race, at least for now. He joins us live from Detroit.

Ambassador Keyes, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

A lot of people are asking you, Mr. Ambassador why are you staying in this race?

ALAN KEYES (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I guess they don't listen to the answer I've repeatedly given. My campaign is about grassroots. There are people who have worked very hard over the course of the last several months here in Michigan to prepare for the time when I'd be able to come and work with them in order to carry a message of integrity to the voters that actually stands some chance for winning for Republicans in the fall.

I think -- I was reading today in the paper, a lady was asked why she voted for Bush and she said because she knew his father. I'm beginning more and more to feel like the guy who goes in, has the strong resume, does really well in the interview, better than anybody else, is adjudged to be the best candidate for the job, and then it's given to somebody else because the boss knows his father. That's great for nepotism. But when it comes to the companies that really succeed, the people who get the big market share are the ones who hire for talent, not for nepotism.

And the Republican Party in going down this road right now of trying to choose somebody not because of what he really offers in the way of ability, but because people knew his father. That is not going to win the election in the fall, particularly when we need someone who can address the moral challenge is such a way as to overcome the advantage that the Democrats will get from the strong economy.

BLITZER: But at what point do you say to yourself, I'm not going to get the Republican nomination, I might as well follow in the footsteps of Elizabeth Dole or Lamar Alexander or Dan Quayle or Steve Forbes and say, I might as well let the other two fight it out?

KEYES: Well, those folks were in it for the sake of their ambition, I guess. I'm in it because that what I represent is best for this country and offers the only real prospect of victory for Republicans in the fall. We have got to address the truth. This nation is in the midst of the greatest moral crisis we have ever faced as a people. It has affected every area of our lives, undermining the confidence that we need to oppose the liberal agenda of government expansion that is destroying our liberties.

In every area, control of our money, control of our schools, the assault on Second Amendment rights, the surrender of our national sovereignty -- all these things are rooted in the end and our loss of moral self-confidence. That is the issue that has to be placed before the American people in the fall, to drive home the failure of moral stewardship by the Democrats in the course of the years of the Clinton administration.

G.W. Bush is a decent guy, but he cannot carry that ball.

BLITZER: Are you in the race, therefore, until August, until the Republican convention?

KEYES: I'm in the race as long as there are grassroots people putting together effective campaigns. I came into the state yesterday, they had put together a rally, 800 people turned out to hear what I have to say and will go out to work hard in order to get this message out. And I'll continue to work with those good-hearted people as long as they're willing to help me raise a standard of integrity in this political election.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of people are trying to organize a debate between Bush and McCain that would exclude you. If that were to happen -- four years ago you went to a hunger strike -- what would you do to try to counter that if you were excluded from an upcoming debate?

KEYES: Well, a lot of people -- a lot of people are not trying to do that. Racists in the media are trying do that, the same racists who left me me out of the picture in "The New York Times," the same racist who'd have refused to invite me on the broadcast media in this country while giving the others hour-long infomercials to spread their word.

They do it because the broadcast media is the media that is watched by most black folks in America. They don't get a lot of the cable channels. And as a result, these racists don't want black people to know that the most capable candidate in this race has a black skin, because that might excite some folks in the black community, as I know it does, when people hear about it.

So I think that we see evidently who is planning that, Wolf, and I think we know what their motives are.

And it's not "some people." It's folks in the media who are acting as the censors of this process and doing it on a basis that is replete with racial stereotyping in such a way as to demean my capabilities in order to follow through on a judgment that's really based on their racial stereotypes.

BLITZER: All right, Ambassador Keyes.

We have to take a quick break. For our international viewers, "WORLD NEWS" is next. Coming up for our North American audience, there's still another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION, including more of our conversation with Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes, including your phone calls.

Plus, a look at the hour's top stories with Gene Randall, our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's Last Word.

It's all ahead when LATE EDITION continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll get to your phone calls for Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes in just a moment. But first, here's Gene Randall with the hour's top stories -- Gene?

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Thanks, Gene. Now, back to our conversation with Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes. He joins us from Detroit. Mr. Ambassador, we have a caller from Houston, Texas. Let's take his call. Go ahead with your call, please.

QUESTION: Yes, Ambassador Keyes, it's an honor and privilege to speak with you. I know you get a lot of questions about race and I apologize, this will be one. Whites can either be liberal or conservative and no one questions that they don't know who they are. But black conservatives get a lot of heat, especially from the black community and liberals. What can we do in America that a black man can not only be proud to be conservative but be respected in the black community?

KEYES: I think conservatism is respected. I don't think the problem is in the black community.

I am finding as we went into South Carolina, I was here arriving in Detroit yesterday visiting Focus Hope, talking to folks. There's no lack of willingness to listen to what I have to say. Good-hearted decent people are willing to evaluate what I say on the merits in the black community. And I am very pleased with that and very happy about it.

The problem I think, now, is with the racist media that refuses to allow black and conservative to come together. They have their stereotypes, it's not in the community that this is happening. It's in the minds of the racist media that refuses to take off their blinders, stop applying their stereotypes and just let people be what they are. That's why I didn't appear on "Good Morning America" before the South Carolina primary but John McCain did. I have never been invited for an hour-long interview with "Meet the Press" and Tim Russert, but G. W. Bush got it. They get all the free-earned media, plus all the money they have and so forth, have all the advantages and yet still can do nothing with their time but bicker when they get an opportunity before the American people.

BLITZER: Let's take another caller from Scottsdale, Arizona. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Yes, Ambassador Keyes, what character and personality you think our president should have to deal effectively with the political leadership in China and Russia?

KEYES: I think the most important characteristic for dealing with the Chinese, in particular, is a real sense of our own interests, an unwillingness in some patronizing way to expect that we're going to have influence over them because they want to be like us and all this sort of stuff because I think that's not true, that leads to a lot of self-delusion.

We need to know who we are, be clear about our values and interests. We need to understand that they know who they are, and are clear about their interests and in that clear tough-minded way that we need to sit down and make it clear that we're not going the base relationships on delusions and wishful thinking. We're going to base them on real performance, respect if our values and a sense that there is a mutual interest, not an effort to take advantage of us to get our secrets and our capital without, in exchange, seeing real change in accommodation from the communist Chinese.

The Russians are a little different. I think there we have openings, obviously. The old regime is gone. We need to be working effectively with Russian society at all levels, especially building the non-government ties between non-governmental entities in Russia and those outside of Russia so we can develop a strong social infrastructure rather than just work government to government with what has essentially become a kleptocracy over there.

BLITZER: Ambassador Alan Keyes, unfortunately we're out of time for this segment. Always good to have you on LATE EDITION. You've been on several times in this program. Thank you so much for joining us and good luck out there on the campaign trail.

KEYES: Appreciate it.

BLITZER: Thank you. And when we return, how pivotal was yesterday's primary? We'll hash out the results and look ahead, when we go round the table with Roberts, Page, and Carlson. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. With me here in Washington: Susan Page, White House bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News and World Report"; and on the campaign trail in Detroit, Tucker Carlson, political writer for "The Weekly Standard."

All right, Steve, looking back, what happened in South Carolina?

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, John McCain said to you, the iron triangle fought back, and that was clearly true. The Republican establishment had an enormous amount invested in George Bush, their prestige, their money. And they did fight back, not only in terms of pouring money into his campaign -- a lot of special interest groups did as well -- but I think also that Bush was able to bounce back, and while McCain had a right to be angry, a lot of things that Bush said were unfair, Bush showed a lot of resilience and a lot more toughness than I think a lot Democrats thought he was capable of.

BLITZER: Tucker, you were -- you were there. You had some extraordinary access to what was going on. Give us your take. What happened in South Carolina? What's the story?

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think two things happened. One, Bush ran the, sort of, an invasion-of-the-body-snatchers campaign where he became John McCain, I mean, down to the mannerisms. It was just remarkable. Attempted in the baldest -- boldest possible way to, sort of, steal his platform. He was the reformer all of a sudden.

And then of course the moment he won, he began talking again about compassionate conservatism, a phrase you didn't hear a lot about. And you didn't hear a lot about it because he ran one of the nastiest campaigns I've seen, that's for sure. I mean, you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing ads that's were really nasty.

I mean, there were push-polls. The Bush campaign says they had nothing to do with him, but they were anti-McCain push-polls that attacked McCain for adopting a child from another country, interracial adoption. There were people passing out fliers attacking Mrs. McCain for her drug addiction.

I mean, it was just so low and horrible. Again, the Bush people said they had nothing to do with a lot of this, but the fact is it hurt McCain -- not the only reason he lost, but a big part of it.

BLITZER: Can the Bush campaign be blamed for these kinds of ugly tactics, Susan, that Tucker talks about?

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, they happen in campaigns and sometimes it's hard to determine responsibility for them. I don't think that that was the fundamental thing at work here, though, I mean, because they're under- cover, out-of-sight attacks.

I think basically the Republican establishment wants to elect George Bush. They settled on him as their candidate a long time ago. Republicans, you know, traditionally choose the Republican nominee, that's what's happened here.

ROBERTS: But, you know, I do think McCain, while his campaign -- his concession speech last night was bitter and angry, he had a right to be angry. I mean, George Bush said a number of things that were flat out not true: that McCain somehow was a tool of the lobbyists, when George Bush took five times more money from the lobbyists; that McCain had broken the campaign finance limits, when George Bush spent far more money, was not living within the limits because he was not taking federal money -- over and over -- that McCain was the tool of the -- you know, was an insider in Washington.

Here's George Bush, son of a president, trying to say he's the outsider. You know, I can understand why McCain was angry because Bush just painted a picture of McCain that was very unfair, I think.

PAGE: You know, the trouble is with an insurgency campaign like McCain's, he needs every domino to fall right in place. He's got no backup plan. He needed to win in New Hampshire and he did. He needed to win in South Carolina and he didn't. And I think we're going to see the repercussions of that Tuesday in Michigan. I think he's likely to lose in Michigan, and I think then he heads into a very difficult set of primaries on March 7th.

BLITZER: Tucker, go ahead.

CARLSON: But I think there may be ramifications for Bush. I mean, how is Bush going to stand up and say, I'm an uniter, not a divider, et cetera, et cetera, I want to run a new sort of campaign after the kind of campaign he waged in South Carolina?

I mean, the exit polls showed that most South Carolina voters believe that it was McCain who was running the negative campaign. I mean, it really was Orwellian. I mean, it was, you know, war is peace. I mean, after -- the success that the Bush people had in South Carolina is remarkable in getting this fundamentally dishonest message across: John McCain is the one being negative.

I just don't think, though, a month from now people are going to feel the same way. I think this is -- it's going to be very hard for Bush to define himself the way he did at the beginning of the campaign as this, sort of, positive, upbeat, you know, new politics -- you know, new politics, sort of, person. He ran a campaign very much of old politics in South Carolina.

BLITZER: Well, looking ahead to Michigan, Steve, John Engler, the Republican governor of Michigan, the establishment, if you will -- he's fully of course on board George W. Bush's band wagon.

BLITZER: Listen to what he's already saying, in fact he said it this morning on "This Week", we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ENGLER: This marathon is going well in Michigan. We've had a lot of people organize at the grassroots level. They like George Bush's character, they look at him as the kind of leader, fresh ideas, the idea he really is a reformer with results to show for it as a result of his two terms in Texas. And so, that's what's making a difference here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is that making a difference there?

ROBERTS: I don't think so. I mean John McCain said if George Bush is a reformer, I'm an astronaut when you were talking to and I think there's a lot of truth to his jive.

But you got to remember in South Carolina, Bush made a very conscious decision to go right, to appeal to the Christian right, it obviously worked. But he appeared at Bob Jones University, for instance. The president of Bob Jones University has called Catholics a cult. Now, if you don't think there are a lot of Catholics, including a lot of Republican Catholics, and possible cross-over voters in a state like Michigan take umbridge (ph) at that, so I think that Bush is going to pay a price for the appeal that he made.

PAGE: I think what we've seen -- we've seen the same thing happen in both parties, we've seen the front-runner nominee face stronger insurgency than they expected, have to beat them back by sharpening their complaints including some attacks, and they've been forced to go back to their party's core.

Gore's been forced to go back to labor in a way that may give him problems in the fall. Bush has been forced to go back to the religious right and the most conservative element of the Republican party. They're going to come into this general election in roughly the same position that way.

BLITZER: All right, stand by. We have to take a quick break, when we return what impact will South Carolina have on the other race -- Gore versus Bradley? We'll ask the round table when LATE EDITION continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our LATE EDITION roundtable.

Tucker, you know, we haven't paid a lot of attention these last few weeks to the other race, the Democratic contest, Al Gore versus Bill Bradley. But Bill Bradley was on ABC's "This Week" earlier today. He's going on the offensive big time once again against Al Gore. Listen to this excerpt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think that I'm a better candidate. I think that I'm a better candidate. I think that I will not have the problems that he will have in a general election against a Republican. We know what's coming, with regard to the fund-raising scandals of 1996; we know that we're going to see the Buddhist Temple and the Buddhist monks; we know that we're going to see his finger saying "no controlling legal authority" on fund-raising in the White House. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Sounds like there's going to be a tough campaign down the road.

CARLSON: Bradley's making the case, as he has before, that Gore is unelectable. The problem is that not many people believe that anymore. Gore seems electable.

But the bigger problem is that nobody is paying attention to the Bradley campaign. I heard this morning from another reporter that recently he's had two or three reporters only on the bus, about the same number as Alan Keyes. So that's a problem.

But I think the larger problem is that it looks likely now that we will have a race in the fall between Bush and Gore, between two, sort of, party-hack establishment guys running very conventional, old- fashioned campaigns built on endorsements and fire walls and negative attack ads, and it's looking like it could be a pretty uninspiring election that actually doesn't get much coverage or interest.

ROBERTS: Well, certainly Bill Bradley is a victim of the McCain phenomenon, McCain just burned up all the oxygen, got all the attention, Bradley has not been able to get any traction. But Bradley's talking about the past. Now he's talking about the Buddhist monks, accusing Gore of making bad votes on abortion 15, 20 years ago.

BLITZER: And guns.

ROBERTS: You know on guns. I don't think those kinds of arguments work. I do think, however, he's giving the Republicans some good sound bites that can be used against Gore, that's one of the reasons why Democrats are very anxious to get Bill Bradley out of this race.

PAGE: Let me disagree with you, I do not think Bill Bradley is a victim of John McCain, he's a victim of his own failure to win the New Hampshire primary. That was his best state, he put enormous resources of time and money in there. If he had won New Hampshire, as John McCain won New Hampshire, we with would have been paying attention to him during this time period. But he lost New Hampshire, and now he's running into a set of states on March 7th that once looked pretty good for him, but no longer looks so good.

I think it's entirely possible that on March 7th, Bill Bradley will win none of the contest, the dozen or so contests on the Democratic side and then there's a general perception of growing conventional wisdom that he'll be out of this race on March 8th.

BLITZER: All right, Tucker, we only a few seconds, but get back to where you are now right now, Michigan and the McCain phenomenon. Forty-eight hours from now, what's going to happen in Michigan?

CARLSON: Well, it's about even now, but I mean there's the sense that, you know, McCain is in trouble. I was with him this morning at 8:00, the day after what I think is his first electoral defeat in politics, and he was, of course, coffee cup and doughnut and chipper like he always is. I think there was a since of fatalism. Obviously he has to win here, he's probably going to go to March 7th because he has the money and the staff, etc. But we're in sudden death overtime and I think McCain has no illusions about it.

BLITZER: All right, and you'll be there, Tucker Carlson, in Michigan, Susan Page right here in Washington with Steve Roberts and me, we'll be manning the fort here in the nation's capital. Thanks again for joining us.

And just ahead, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines, plus Bruce Morton's Last Word on the changing role of Presidents' Day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Most of us probably don't know enough about Filmore to know whether he should be honored or not, same as for Chester Alan Arthur and a bunch of others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It started with honoring George Washington's birthday, but Bruce Morton asks if most Americans just see Presidents' Day as another three-day weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of the Jefferson Memorial on this Presidents' Day weekend. But does Presidents' Day really celebrate Thomas Jefferson and all other presidents equally with Washington and Lincoln. In his word today, Bruce Morton looks at Presidents' Day and asks if it may have lost its way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): I owe a debt to "The Weekly Standard" for reminding us of a worrisome American trend, the habit of muddling holidays in order to make three-day weekends that merchants and vacationers enjoy.

The trouble is, you lose sight of what the holiday was originally about. We used to have Armistice Day November 11. It honored the end of World War II.

Now we have, I think, Veterans Day, which is about all veterans and therefore no veterans in particular.

This week's culprit is Presidents' Day. We used to have Washington's birthday, cherry pies and all that, and at least in the north, Lincoln's birthday, rail splitters and so on.

Now Presidents' Day, which isn't on anybody's birthday and which presumably honors Warren Harding, a notorious womanizer, and Millard Filmore as much as Washington or anybody else. Most of us probably don't know enough about Filmore to know whether he should be honored or not, same as for Chester Alan Arthur and a bunch of others. I don't want to honor Harding. And William Henry Harrison, who made a very long inaugural speech in bad weather, got sick and died, never working a day on the job, probably isn't high on anybody's list either.

And then there's Mr. Clinton, prowling Washington in search of his legacy, insisting to anyone who'll listen -- and there are fewer of those as your lame-duckness gets worse -- that he'll be busy until his last day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I asked the Republican majority in Congress to put politics aside and join me. We've got so much work to do in the weeks ahead to make sure that we seize this historic opportunity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: He has big plans for America. Never mind those Republicans in Congress who giggle every time he proposes one.

The truth is, most demonstrations run on nearly empty their last year.

Maybe we should junk Presidents' Day and adopt Legacy Day. That way we could all contemplate our legacies as presidents, computer hackers, insurance salesman, reporters, all take pride in what we've done to save civilization, restore family values in America, or just keep up with the children's college bills.

And we could have it on a Monday so that all those people who don't have legacies yet could go to the beach. Well, in February, maybe head for the fireplace.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And happy Presidents' Day, Bruce.

Time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.

"Time" looks at what drives Bush, how Governor George W. Bush won South Carolina, on the cover.

"Newsweek" plays hardball with the inside story of Bush's comeback, on the cover.

And there's an Antarctic meltdown on the cover of "U.S. News and World Report," search for answers to the global warming crisis.

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, February 20. Be sure to catch us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. I'll be back tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, of course, on "THE WORLD TODAY."

And following "THE WORLD TODAY," at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, a CNN election 2000 special: the "Time" magazine/CNN Democratic presidential debate with Al Gore and Bill Bradley from New York's Apollo Theater.

For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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