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Inside Politics

Bush Savors Three New Wins, as McCain Presents Steady Demeanor; Bradley Hopes to Rebound and Score Debate Points Tonight

Aired March 1, 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)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You might notice I walked in with a little spring in my step.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush savors three new wins and suggests that, for him, next Tuesday will indeed be super.

John McCain presents a steady as she goes demeanor, despite his losses last night and big hurdles ahead.

Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Zero.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Bill Bradley says that's how many people have asked him to end his presidential bid. Can he rebound from another defeat and score debate points tonight?

ANNOUNCER: From the "L.A. Times" building in Los Angeles, site of tonight's Democratic presidential debate, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernie will be along later as part of our preview of the Democratic debate. He will moderate the face-off, which begins four hours from now in an auditorium here in "The Los Angeles Times" building. We will have extensive coverage of the Democrats and the stakes tonight.

But we begin with the Republicans. George W. Bush worked today to parlay his victories in Virginia, North Dakota and Washington State last night into a winning March 7th performance next week.

Our Candy Crowley is on the road with Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The crunch of primary season is a jumble of geography, calendar and politics, which pundits and politicians read like tea leaves.

BUSH: Now, the state of Washington, they have counted all the votes, I came in first place. It is a sign of what is going to happen in California.

CROWLEY: Speaking of which, California-bound George Bush was pleased to tell reporters that he will actually be in Los Angeles for the California debate, unlike say John McCain, who will debate via satellite from somewhere else.

BUSH: California is an important state, obviously it's not only important for the primary. It's very important for the general election.

CROWLEY: With 13 states, including California, New York and Ohio, holding primaries next Tuesday, there's not much time for Bush to celebrate his triple victory last night. Suffice it to say, he is feeling good, joshing frequently with a crowd of a couple of thousand in suburban Atlanta.

BUSH: He's giving me a suggestion on who my vice presidential candidate ought to be.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: My mother is not available.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: The moment belies what has sometimes been a brutal campaign. Bush was asked twice at a news conference whether he still considers John McCain a friend.

BUSH: I know what the question was. You must think I am getting old or something. And the answer was, I will -- I don't -- I try not to take things personally in politics and I will, of course, assess things once the campaign has ended.

CROWLEY: Fielding a variety of questions, Bush says he thinks mandating the use of trigger locks on all guns is unenforceable, though aides not Bush would sign a bill mandating the sale of trigger locks with gun purchases. But on the shooting death of one 6-year-old at the hands of another, Bush's initial reaction is not about laws, but families.

BUSH: If the child is 6 years old, there has to be an adult in the house somewhere at some point in time. The fundamental question is, how does this child get a hold of a gun and why? And that -- and people need to be held accountable for that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And speaking of the jumble of geography en route to California, the Bush plane has stopped here in Missouri, currently at St. Louis University, home of the second oldest Jesuit Catholic university in the country. Bush will do a one on one here, his term of course for a town hall meeting, then it's off to Springfield, Missouri for a campaign rally at the airport, and then finally off to California, where Bush will spend a good bit of his time between now and next Tuesday -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley on the campaign trail, thanks.

Well, John McCain is stumping here in California again today. He also is trying to put his new losses and his prospects next Tuesday in the best possible light.

CNN's John King is covering the McCain campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain is on the ropes, but says not to worry.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to lighten up here, we have to have fun.

KING: Yet McCain's survival is at stake these next six days, big wins necessary next Tuesday if he is to ever again seize momentum in what has been a seesaw Republican race. Thirteen states with a combined 605 delegates hold Republican contests on Super Tuesday, and McCain's key targets are across New England, New York, Ohio and giant California.

MCCAIN: The way that the people of California vote next Tuesday will have a tremendous impact on who the next president of the United States is.

KING: The Arizona senator's good spirits at a riverside town hall couldn't mask his sense of urgency.

MCCAIN: Governor Bush is a good man from a good family and he will make a good president of the United States. I will be a far better president of the United States is the difference.

KING: The McCain campaign was quick to highlight new criticism of Bush fund-raising tactics, the candidate quick to question his rival's commitment to cleaning up the system.

MCCAIN: I am proud when I am imitated, but don't be fooled by imitations, my friends. The real reformer is standing right in front of you.

KING: Exit polls show McCain struggling among women voters, and when this student asked about potential running mates, McCain said Republicans would be wise to put a woman on the ticket. McCain later told reporters he couldn't promise he would pick a woman.

MCCAIN: Perhaps we Republicans don't express enough pride in having people like Christie Todd Whitman and so many other highly successful and highly placed individuals.

KING: Just the hypothetical mention of Whitman underscores McCain's daunting challenge. The tax-cutting New Jersey governor is popular with moderates critical to McCain's chances in California and across the Northeast, but she is reviled by many Christian conservatives for supporting abortion rights, and Tuesday's results in Virginia and Washington State once again showed these social conservatives are flocking to Bush.

But McCain says he has no regrets about attacking Christian right leaders like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

MCCAIN: I will not do anything differently than what we are doing, because I am very pleased and happy with the campaign we have.

KING: Not so happy that he's willing to make predictions about a week that will determine if his campaign continues.

MCCAIN: The one thing I can assure you about the election next Tuesday, it will not be what you predict, and I say that really in a very kind of optimistic way, because every prediction so far has been wrong, including mine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: As a sign of the stakes here in California, the McCain campaign says it will spend about $3 million on television advertising, a figure they believe will be higher than that spent by the Bush campaign. Still, if you need any evidence that the senator is adamant about having some fun while he's at it, he took time off the campaign trail today to tape an appearance on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King with the McCain campaign, thank you, John.

Well, a new poll suggests that McCain has a lot of work to do here in California. He trails George W. Bush by 21 points in "The Los Angeles Times" survey of Republicans likely to vote in next week's California primary.

Let's talk more about that poll and more with Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" and CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield. Gentlemen, how much of a setback was -- were yesterday's outcomes for John McCain, Ron?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, as Jeff pointed out himself yesterday, I mean, this has been an incredibly seesaw primary, back and forth, and I don't think that any one particular event was that surprising yesterday. The Virginia result was pretty close to the South Carolina result in the overall number.

And what's really striking, Judy, is the way the exit polls are following each other from state to state. George Bush is winning 67 to 70 percent of Republicans state after state. McCain is winning two-thirds of independents and 80 percent of Democrats, and what you can basically do is you can almost imprint this on the grid of each state and figure out where McCain can compete, especially if you move the states toward a little more moderate Republican base he may be able to compete.

But right now, I think that for McCain the challenge remains what it was really a month ago, which is he's got to get more mainstream Republicans to vote for him because it's very hard to win the party's nomination if two-thirds of your party is voting against you.

WOODRUFF: Why isn't McCain doing any better at this point? I mean, you can say, well, he's doing well clearly with independents and Democrats. Why isn't he doing better, Jeff, with Republicans?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, by his own -- it's not admission. By his own statement, he is an insurgent candidate challenging some of the fundamental premises of the party not just on campaign finance reform, not just on the tobacco tax, but when he says, I am not going to give an across-the-board big tax cut, that's Republican dogma for the last 20 years.

And so, what you wind up with is a situation where he's facing a challenge not just from a month ago, but six months ago when one of McCain's top strategists said to me, we have to run the table before March 7th, because once we get to these states where it's winner take all and where only Republicans vote, if we haven't knocked Bush out of the box, we're in trouble.

WOODRUFF: But, Ron, they haven't done that.

BROWNSTEIN: And they have not. And California really looms as one turning point, I think, along with New York. The problem McCain has here in California is you have a very moderate electorate in the general election, but the California Republican primary looks an awful lot like South Carolina. Two-thirds of the Republicans in our poll describe themselves as conservative. That's slightly higher than South Carolina.

WOODRUFF: Most people don't realize that.

BROWNSTEIN: And that -- exactly. And so, it's a very difficult kind of electorate for him. Those kind of voters are going seven, eight to one for Bush in other states. And if he loses California, he really needs New York on the 7th to remain viable and try to forge on, although it will be difficult from that point forward.

WOODRUFF: And in fact, there is a poll we're going to report in a few minutes that shows McCain is up ahead of Bush at this point.

GREENFIELD: Well, you just have actually.

WOODRUFF: We've just reported it.

GREENFIELD: You tipped your hand.

WOODRUFF: We just tipped on it. GREENFIELD: But the problem is not having done what the McCain folks thought they had to do when they were this big long shot, New York is not even going to be enough. I mean, if you assume that California in the delegate count has to go to Bush or was likely to, you run up against these numbers. Three big Sun Belt states, Florida, Texas, California, may turn out to decide this whole shooting match.

WOODRUFF: But Ron, the people around McCain, aren't they still saying that he could win the popular vote in California.

BROWNSTEIN: Right, and in fact, and in fact if the Democratic race -- interest declines in the Democratic race over the next week, McCain will have a better shot, because in our poll it was very clear that his biggest problem in winning, in coming ahead of Bush in the popular vote was not so much Bush, as it is Gore at this point. Because, you know, in these other primaries in Michigan and South Carolina, he's gotten an enormous crossover vote because there's no Democratic primary on the same day.

And now, not only in California, but when you get to the seventh, when you get to Ohio, Missouri, Georgia, the next week in Tennessee, these are open primaries, Democrats can vote, but there's a Democratic primary on the same day and it's going to be hard for McCain to generate the same level of Democratic and moderate, independent turnout in those states when some of those voters are clearly going to take the chance to vote for Gore or Bradley.

WOODRUFF: So, what's John McCain to do, Jeff?

GREENFIELD: Well, since he did make an interesting point in that package we heard that, you know, predictions, especially about the future, are tricky, he has to hope that the next six days and several million dollars of advertising and maybe the debate tomorrow night is going to change the minds of Republicans. Even in California, to where they're going to see him as the guy who can most likely beat an Al Gore and a guy that they can vote for even if he is a dissenting Republican. It's a very tough fight, but then, it has been tough from the beginning.

BROWNSTEIN: They describe it as an inside straight if they lose California. You basically have to run the table from that point forward...

WOODRUFF: They being the McCain people...

BROWNSTEIN: The McCain campaign. And especially north of the Mason-Dixon line, you have to win all of the contested states: Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and even then, as Jeff points out, the numbers get very difficult. But there is that window, and if he can win New York and perform credibly here, even if he gets wiped out on the 14th, I do believe that Illinois gives him a chance, the week after on the 21st, to try the turn it around again and at least to stay in this race into April with unpredictable results.

WOODRUFF: We heard in the John King report that McCain, knowing that he is not doing well among Republican women, is doing things like talking about a woman as a possible Republican running mate. Does this sort of thing help?

GREENFIELD: Well, I go back to 1976, when Ronald Reagan, trailing Jerry Ford, decided he would name his vice president several weeks in advance, and he didn't...

WOODRUFF: Some of us actually remember that.

GREENFIELD: Yes, some of us do, indeed. But we don't have to get into that right now, do we?

Look, this is a fellow who has done more with less in terms of resources than anybody thought he would. There's one other small problem about what Ron laid out, which is he will hit the spending cap. Unlike Bush, who can spend what he wants, because he didn't take matching funds, John McCain, even if he gets to these later big states, may have to do it on a soap box, because he won't have any money.

BROWNSTEIN: Here's the irony, California's effort to open up its primary to all voters, to independents and moderates, produces the result of getting back to a closed primary, which may be the absolute pivot in the Republican race, especially if McCain comes in ahead in the popular vote here. You may see them trying to make some kind of argument that they deserve at least some share of the delegates, because it's very hard to make the math add up without California, although they can construct at least a theoretical scenario that would allow them to go forward.

WOODRUFF: All right, gentlemen. Ron Brownstein, Jeff Greenfield, we're going to see you all in about three hours and 45 minutes right here in this building at the Democratic debate, moderated by our own Bernie Shaw, featuring the vice president and former Senator Bill Bradley. Thank you both.

BROWNSTEIN: See you then.

GREENFIELD: See you then.

WOODRUFF: And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, counting down to the next primary battleground day. Our Bill Schneider on the strategic states and voters in play on March 7.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: At the "Los Angeles Times" building and this story just in to CNN, the former presidential candidate Gary Bauer late this afternoon issued a statement calling on John McCain to retract his recent statements and to apologize to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. And again, I am quoting a statement from Gary Bauer, as well as apologize to all men and women of faith. And again, this is Gary Bauer's statement.

"Senator McCain must not allow his personal differences with any individual to cloud his judgment. The comparison of these respected conservative leaders to demagogic race-baiting" -- again this is his quote -- "Al Sharpton and the anti-Semitic leader Louis Farrakhan was unfounded and unwise." Again, this is a statement just issued by Gary Bauer, who just two days ago on INSIDE POLITICS defended the statements of John McCain.

So, again, this item just into CNN, and it's something that we're going to want to continue to pursue on this program.

The Republican presidential race has taken on the air you might say of a military battle. Each candidate gains and then loses ground, each mounting new strategies and offensives as the battle progresses.

Joining us now, our resident political military strategist, Bill Schneider. Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, March 7, that is beginning to look like D-Day for the Republicans. Well, make that, R-Day.

Well, now, let's take a tour of the battlefield and see where each side faces favorable and unfavorable terrain. A good general reviews what happened in the last battle so he knows what to expect next time. Eleven primaries on March 7, 10 in states that had GOP primaries four years ago.

Now, let's do some intelligence work on these 10 states. Two things appear to be especially important for next week's battles. One, how important is the religious right in each primary? The more important the religious right, the worse the outlook for McCain. Two, how much is each primary likely to be dominated by partisan Republicans? The more Republican the vote, the better Bush does.

Religious conservatives become a big problem for McCain when they comprise more than a quarter of the GOP voters. That was true in five of the 10 states in 1996. When Republicans make up at least two- thirds of the primary voters, it looks pretty good for Bush. That was the case in six states last time.

OK, we have our intelligence. Now let's tour the battlefields. Where's my pointed stick? Here's the Bush base, four March 7 primary states where the religious right is strong and where Republicans dominate the vote: California and Ohio, big states, conservative Republicans'; Maryland, southern influence; and Maine, lots of rural Yankee Protestant fundamentalists. Total, 276 delegates, likely to go for Bush.

The McCain muster? All in New England. Low religious right, heavy representation of independents in the primaries: liberal Vermont, heavily catholic Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Total, 63 delegates. Not even a quarter of the Bush base.

Now the real March 7 battlegrounds. Battleground north, two states with closed primaries heavily dominated by Republicans, but where the religious right is weak: New York and Connecticut. That's where McCain's got to hope his attack on the religious right will pay off.

At stake in the Northern battlegrounds: 118 delegates. Battleground South: one state, Georgia, with an open primary where the GOP presence is relatively weak, but the religious right is very strong. McCain's got to draw a lot of Democrats and independents into the Georgia primary, 54 delegates. Add together, all the battleground delegates at stake next week, North and South, and you get total 172.

Now suppose McCain holds his base and wins all the battleground states. He'd win 235 delegates next Tuesday, still behind Bush's total of 276, just from his base.

You know, Judy, a good general would have to conclude that next week's terrain just doesn't look very encouraging for Senator McCain, unless he's got a secret weapon we have not heard about yet -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: That's right, Bill. And we'll find out soon enough. Thanks a lot.

SCHNEIDER: Yes we will.

WOODRUFF: INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In New York State, a new poll released today shows John McCain ahead of George Bush for the first time in that big March 7 primary state. The Marist College poll shows McCain with a seven point lead among likely Republican voters. Bush led McCain by three points last week.

Well, if you think the competition is rugged in New York State, wait until you see the battle for laughs tonight in the late night television wars. Bush is scheduled to be a guest on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman," while McCain is slated to appear on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

Well, still much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Still to come:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS BLACK, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: After a lopsided victory in the Washington State beauty contest, Al Gore is keeping up his winning streak, but he is still running hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Chris Black on Al Gore's plan to plow ahead right into the general election. And preparing for tonight's showdown in Los Angeles, a look at the candidate strategies as the predebate clock winds down. Plus, are things fading away for Bill Bradley?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Gene Randall in Washington. We'll have more of the day's political news coming up, but first, a look at other stories we're following. Two people are dead and the suspect is in custody after a shooting spree in Pennsylvania today. It happened this morning in Wilkinsburg near Pittsburgh. Police say the gunman shot one person at an apartment building, then opened fire at two fast food restaurants wounding four others.

Authorities say he then went into an office building where several people were trapped with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERALD BREWER, WILKINSBURG POLICE CHIEF: The actor entered the Penn West office building on Penn avenue and West Street. Our officers immediately sealed off the building. We made contact with the actor and initiated a dialogue with him while calling out a SWAT team from Pittsburgh and the county to assist along with our negotiators. Our other officers immediately preceded in harm's way to evacuate people in that building.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RANDALL: The gunman, identified as Robert Taylor, surrendered, and no one in the office building was hurt. The three surviving shooting victims are in critical condition.

In Michigan, prosecutors are focusing on who left a loaded gun where a 6-year-old boy could get it, and once they find out, whether to file a manslaughter charge. Police say the first-grader used the gun yesterday to kill a 6-year-old classmate in Mount Morris township near Flint. They say the weapon was stolen, and they have arrested two men who share what investigators call a "flophouse" with the boy and his mother. The victim. Kayla Rolland, was remembered today with flowers and a teddy bear outside her elementary school.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker has had his Major League suspension cut in half, from 14 -- from 28 rather to 14 days. The ruling came from an independent arbitrator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN SHUERHOLZ, BRAVES EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT & GENERAL MANAGER: I believe that our players are prepared to welcome John back for another chance with them. And I think they will make it clear to him that they're willing to give him that welcome, with the understanding that he realizes what the obligations and the responsibilities of being an Atlanta Brave happen to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RANDALL: Rocker was suspended for disparaging remarks he made about gays and minorities. His fine was also cut from $20,000 to $500. With today's ruling, the 25-year-old Rocker will be allowed to pitch as early as April 18.

I am Gene Randall in Washington. Next INSIDE POLITICS from Los Angeles sets the stage for tonight's Democratic presidential debate.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS, coming to you from "The Los Angeles Times" building, where the Democratic presidential candidates will debate tonight.

Here in California, a new "L.A. Times" poll shows Al Gore is leading Bill Bradley by nearly five to one among Democrats likely to vote in the state's presidential primary next week. That is just one of the reasons Bradley's future as a candidate was being questioned today.

CNN's Bob Franken begins our coverage of the Democrats before the debate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even before his walk-through, Bill Bradley was dealing with questions about whether this debate was even necessary. Speculation that he's poised to drop out of the race has become almost a campaign cliche. Bradley responded with a cliche of his own.

BRADLEY: Let me begin by saying that Mark Twain put it best when he said "The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated."

` FRANKEN: What is not exaggerated is the drubbing Bradley took in Washington State. For days, he raised expectations, calling Washington's non-binding beauty contest a springboard for a campaign turnaround. Still, he insists he's in through Super Tuesday on the 7th and maybe until the 14th before there's any reassessment.

And what of the widespread reports that some key supporters have recommended he reassess now? How many have urged him to drop out?

BRADLEY: Zero, zero have come to me to said they think I ought to drop out.

QUESTION: And that message has not been communicated by a second party?

BRADLEY: No. Nobody has come to me. Nobody has sent an emissary to me at all. Zero.

FRANKEN: In fact, his campaign has now placed a bundle of ads throughout the Super Tuesday territory. But now, tonight's debate has taken on enormous significance. A top aide tells CNN that his performance must make such a strong impact that "People have to take a second look at Bill Bradley." Does he need to hit a home run? "At least an extra base hit," said the aide, "a triple." But Bradley has yet to score.

BRADLEY: I've said all along March 7 is the takeoff time. That's when we have to win some primaries, and I think that's when we're going to surprise some people.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FRANKEN: But even some supporters are saying, they'd not only be surprised by any Bradley win, they'd be amazed. Now after the debate is finished this evening, Bradley takes an overnight trip back to New Jersey, back home to New Jersey, to see if the East coast is any friendlier territory, Judy, than the West has been.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Franken, traveling with the Bradley campaign, thanks.

Well, now to Al Gore, who took the day off from the campaign trail as he geared up for tonight's debate.

CNN's Chris Black has an update on the Gore camp's successes and its strategy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLACK (voice-over): After a lopsided victory in the Washington State beauty contest, Al Gore is keeping up his winning streak, but he is still running hard.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not taking anything for granted. I'm not taking a single vote for granted. I'm just going to continue working hard to convince the voters in the March 7 contests to vote for the message that was endorsed by the people of Washington.

BLACK: The debate tonight between Gore and Bill Bradley will mark their final meeting before the March 7 multistate primaries. Advisers say the vice president will deflect Bradley's attacks, just as he did last week at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

GORE: I'm campaigning here in California. I'm talking to voters here.

BLACK: But with the Bradley threat fading, Gore is already training most of his fire on the Republicans.

BOB SHRUM, GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: All along, Al Gore has been laying the groundwork for the general election. I mean, This vigorous kind of primary campaign that he's been engaged in, the challenge by Senator Bradley and his response to it, has actually seen him move into a virtual tie with Governor Bush and steadily make more and more progress.

BLACK: Gore continues to point out differences with the Republicans, on health care, education, abortion, the environment and economic policy.

SHRUM: He's going to set forth a positive vision of where the country ought to go, what we ought to do with the remarkable prosperity that has been built up over the last seven years.

BLACK: California is not only the biggest prize next Tuesday, but also a must-win state for any Democratic presidential candidate. Polls show Gore holding the lead. A three-time presidential candidate and former governor says the campaign has shown Gore has what it takes to beat the Republicans.

MAYOR JERRY BROWN (D), OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA: Just through this campaign, he's demonstrated he has the fortitude and the toughness to operate in the kind of environment that presidents have to operate in.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACK: This debate has the potential to inject an element of unpredictability into what has been a disciplined Gore campaign. So Gore advisers say that the vice president has to stay focused tonight and not let Bill Bradley distract him -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Chris Black, here in Los Angeles, thanks.

Coming up, more on the state of Bill Bradley's bid for the White House, with his campaign spokesman Eric Hauser.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The latest Marist poll shows Al Gore leading Bill Bradley by better than two to one among New York's likely Democratic primary voters. Just 29 percent picked the former New York Knick as their choice in the March 7 contest.

As Bob Franken reported earlier, Bill Bradley has faced questions about the future of his presidential campaign. Lagging poll numbers and primary losses dampened early expectations that Bradley could give Al Gore a real fight for the Democratic nomination.

Our Beth Fouhy takes a closer look at Bradley's bid and his missteps along the way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BETH FOUHY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Last fall, when his campaign was hot, Bill Bradley had a line he used frequently to play down expectations:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 1999)

BRADLEY: Some people said I have momentum. but I say we have traction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOUHY: Today, after losing badly in Washington State, he has neither. His campaign is on the brink.

MARTIN PLISSNER, POLITICAL ANALYST: There are two-to-one margins for Gore nationally in almost every state you can pick, and I think, for all practical purposes, this campaign is dead.

FOUHY: Bradley's campaign began with great promise. He successfully positioned himself as the candidate with big ideas, vision and integrity, while Al Gore was still trying to shed his wooden image and his boss' baggage. By the end of 1999, Bradley had raised as much money as the incumbent vice president. For a while, thousands would turnout to sheer him on. He was trailed by dozens of networks cameras and everyone wanted his signature.

Then came Iowa, and Gore attacked him relentlessly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: Let me introduce a friend of mine to you. Chris Peterson is here. Could you stand up Chris? Chris is a farmer with 400 acres. Why did you vote against the disaster relief for Chris Peterson?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOUHY: Bradley's counter-attacks were late in coming and ineffective.

MARTIN LISSNER, FMR. CBS NEWS POLITICAL DIR.: He spent so much time trying to improve the quality of the campaign that he did very little of what he had to do to win the election and to beat Al Gore.

FOUHY: On caucus day, the Gore machine, powered by the unions, and pumped up by a newly energized candidate, rolled over Bradley.

Unlike John McCain, who wisely skipped Iowa to concentrate on New Hampshire, Bradley took a gamble.

LISSNER: Iowa is helpless. I don't know who advised him to do that, but that is certainly one of the all-time blunders in presidential politics.

FOUHY: The magnitude of the blunder became apparent the next week. Bradley lost New Hampshire by just four points. If he had focused exclusively on New Hampshire, he might have won. Then the media's attention shifted to John McCain surprising insurgency on the Republican side, taking coverage away from Bradley.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY: We would like you to have it now, Al.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOUHY: Bradley has tried to revive his candidacy by being more aggressive in the debates. But so far, nothing has stopped the slide. In basketball, there is a shot call the fade away. As you fall back from your opponent, you shoot and score. It usually doesn't work in politics.

Beth Fouhy, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, joining us now here in Los Angeles, Bradley campaign spokesman Eric Hauser. Eric, thank you for being with us.

ERIC HAUSER, BRADLEY CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Good afternoon, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Your candidate sent six days in Washington State just recently, lost to Al Gore better than two to one. What happened?

HAUSER: Well, five days actually, but we are a little disappointed. But I also know that in the ballots that were cast yesterday, not the absentee ballots in King County, the largest by far in Washington, we nearly won. I think we did some very good things in Washington. And we do have six days now to come out of that and make a very strong case on March 7. I think we will. I think we will have a great debate tonight. We have got some new, very creative ads going up at the end of this week. We are going back east. We will be in New York tomorrow. Taking a red-eye tonight to go back and campaign very hard in New York. And I think we have got a, you know, fighting chance, and we are going to fight for every vote we can.

WOODRUFF: Speaking of New York, people like Senator Moynihan in New York has questioned Bill Bradley's decision to spend so much time in Washington State and to wait so long to get to New York.

HAUSER: Well, when we went to Washington State, we had come out of three days in New York. So we had spent a good deal of time in New York already, and obviously back. And we, you know, we wanted to build some enthusiasm coming out of Washington. You know, I think we fell a little bit short there, but we also had some enormous crowds. We had crowds of thousands in Washington. In Bellingham, Washington, 4000 people. At UCLA last night, 3,000 people. There is a lot of juice here.

We have got a ways to go, we know that, but we are going to make every effort, and I think have a good day on March 7.

WOODRUFF: But of the four contests so far, Bill Bradley has yet to win one. What is it about the message, Eric Hauser, that is not getting across? What is it?

HAUSER: I don't think it is the message. I think that is has always been hard to fight against entrenched power and to fight an incumbent vice president who plays the old politics, and he has done that very well. I think, we are certainly going to focus tonight on why Bill Bradley is a better candidate. He is better on health care, he is better on guns, he is better on choice. He is better on education. Both his record in the Senate and his agenda for the future.

Moreover, the country clearly is crying out for cleaning up Washington. John McCain's candidacy proves that. Bill Bradley is not only equal to John McCain in reform, he is actually better because he has proposed public financing, which John McCain has not.

WOODRUFF: But it's John McCain who has gotten all the attention in that regard. HAUSER: Well, but I think Bill Bradley offers for Democratic voters really reform plus. Campaign finance and new start, plus health care, which McCain does not; choice, which McCain does not; environment record and so forth, that I think if we, over the last week, when people are really paying attention to their final choice, we make that case, I think it will be a case that can bring us into March 7 pretty strong.

WOODRUFF: Bill Bradley said today zero people have talked to him about getting out of this campaign? Has there been -- can you tell us, there has been no discussion of that inside the campaign?

HAUSER: Yes, I can. There is bad reporting going around. Everyone should be careful of bad reporting. But, no, there is no discussion. We are unified in going forward. We got into this for very good reasons. We are going to fight for those reasons every step of the way, through March 7 and beyond.

WOODRUFF: In just a few second, Eric Hauser, what is it that we are going to hear different from Bill Bradley, compelling reason for people to vote for him that we haven't heard?

HAUSER: Well, I think what you will hear is a very clear enunciation of what he stands for, and potential we have as Democrats to take the country to a place we have never gotten to, and I think there will be contrasts with that position to Al Gore's much more sort of timid, incremental approach. And I think that, you know, that is what we have heard, and we will keep hearing it. But I think as people really make their final choices going into March 7, that contrast will be something that will help us out.

WOODRUFF: Eric Hauser with the Bill Bradley campaign, thanks very much.

HAUSER: You welcome.

WOODRUFF: And up next, the presidential hopefuls: Could the primary battles leave one party divided for the general election? We'll ask Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Joining us now from Washington, Margaret Carlson of "Time" magazine, and in our Los Angeles bureau, Tucker Carlson of "The Weekly Standard."

I think both of you were listening just now to Bill Bradley's spokesman Eric Hauser.

Margaret, what he said about the senator, the former senator making another try tonight to make the rationale clear for his candidacy, what do you think?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, he was very valiant. There is not much else he can say. It is a bit of a last chance for Bradley. But I think he has missed so many. The going to Washington for five days or six days, whose counting, just looks like a terrible waste of time now. While Bradley took Washington too seriously, McCain did not take it seriously enough, but it got Bradley nothing except a really big drubbing to go into Super Tuesday.

WOODRUFF: Tucker, from you're perspective is tonight likely to change things on the Democratic side?

TUCKER CARLSON, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I think if Bill Bradley produced during the debates, say, a picture of Gore killing someone, it could move the numbers a bit. Short of something like that, no. Bradley, I think, in the debate -- coming out of Iowa -- actually, I think he had a chance to turn it around.

I think if he had done something dramatic there or really -- he's offered again and again rationales for his campaign. He's been pretty articulate, actually, explaining why he wants to be president, ushering in this new politics, et cetera, et cetera. But people haven't bought it. It's failed the dog food test, so it's hard to see that it's going to work tonight.

WOODRUFF: And what...

M. CARLSON: You have another problem, which after New Hampshire, he's fighting both Gore and McCain. And McCain took all of the oxygen out of the race for the other insurgent. So everyone was paying attention to him. One thing that could happen tonight, which may not happen because Gore may not be this gracious, is that he could step back a bit and be more statesman like, and let Bradley have his moment.

It's not going to hurt Gore. He can give Bradley depth with dignity and not be quite as aggressive and sparring and disagreeable, as he sometimes can be in these debates.

WOODRUFF: Tucker, let me turn you both now to the Republicans. We've seen the statement, just a little while ago, from Gary Bauer, calling on John McCain to apologize and to retract what he said about Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Does this -- is this going to have any bearing on what John McCain is able to do in the next few days?

T. CARLSON: It's not helpful, I don't think, by any measure. And I don't think it'll be the last such statement. I think you'll probably see other conservative leaders who've either supported McCain overtly or flirted with him, come out and tell him, you know, that he ought to apologize.

The striking thing about this, seems to me, is that McCain hasn't actually said much that is different from what he said in his Monday speech at Virginia, which, of course, Gary Bauer was at, and endorsed everything he said. This "New York Times" headline today, I think, has hurt McCain. This idea that he's calling, you know, leaders of the Christian right evil.

McCain is a very, sort of, good and evil kind of guy. I think he sees, to some extent, the world in those terms. I don't know if this was a slip up or not. But certainly, the way it's been characterized makes McCain seem edgy in a way that's unattractive, that he's, sort of, lashing out. I've spoken to reporters who were sitting right across from him who didn't get that impression. But in any case, I think -- maybe voters are in that -- that is a problem.

WOODRUFF: Margaret, has McCain crossed some, sort of, invisible line here?

M. CARLSON: Well the word "evil" ratchets it way up from his speech. And given the fear about McCain is maybe he lacks a little modulation. This plays into what people worry about -- the, you know -- the Bush people have introduced the notion of temperament. And this plays into: well, maybe he doesn't have the ability to monitor himself because he was doing fine with the one speech and then this just takes it to another level.

Gary Bauer, on the other hand, was standing there beside him for the speech...

WOODRUFF: Right.

M. CARLSON: Then wrote an op-ed piece in which he supported McCain that...

WOODRUFF: And appeared here on INSIDE...

M. CARLSON: ... appeared in the "New York Times" yesterday. And now today, and the thing that's happened in between are the results in Virginia. So, you know, part of it may Gary Bauer has to live with these people and he needs to build his bridge, you know -- his own bridge to the 21st century of, you know, going back to the Family Research Council, which if funded by the religious right.

T. CARLSON: Oh, I don't know. I think his -- Bauer's bridge may have blown up and exploded and fallen into the river. I don't think he's going to be going back to the Family Research Council.

WOORUFF: Yes.

T. CARLSON: But I do think this has failed -- I mean, at this point anyway -- the attacking the religious right business doesn't seem to have worked in California. We won't know, of course, for a couple more days, I think a lot of conservatives and a lot of Christians find, you know, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell annoying. Whether they want to see them -- when they're attacked, however, maybe some conservatives see that as, you know, as their symbols being attacked and maybe it hasn't worked as well.

WOODRUFF: All right. Tucker Carlson and Margaret Carlson in Washington, thank you both.

M. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We'll see you soon.

Well, as we have been reporting, the Democratic hopefuls will meet on stage about three hours from now. And joining us now, my colleague and tonight's moderator, Bernard Shaw.

SHAW: Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bernie, to what extent is tonight a kind of a showdown?

SHAW: It's a showdown because this is the 9th and final time for these two men to appear in a debate before the big primaries and caucuses next Tuesday, Super Tuesday and the March 14 primaries.

WOODRUFF: You were talking to me a little bit earlier about the tone tonight. Does tone matter here to a great degree?

SHAW: I think so. Tone will be very important. First, to Vice President Gore. He knows he's ahead here in California, ahead in New York, and elsewhere. But he knows he cannot appear to be savaging his opponent tonight on the 5th floor in the auditorium, upstairs here in the "L.A. Times" building.

Conversely, Senator Bradley knows that party unity is very important. Both of these Democrats know that because paramount to them, the Democrats is retaining control of the White House. They want to project party unity, notwithstanding their differences.

One thing overlooked, Judy, last Monday night, what Bradley did on the stage of the Apollo Theater. At one point, you recall, he said that if Gore got the party's nomination he, Bradley, would support Gore.

WOODRUFF: That's exactly right. And you moderated that debate in New York as well. All right, Bernie. Well, I know everybody around here is going to be watching and lots of people around the country.

SHAW: It'll be a very fast 90 minutes; questions from the audience; and also questions from the Internet; questions from Jeff Greenfield, Ron Brownstein, and myself.

WOODRUFF: I can't wait.

SHAW: Nor can we.

WOODRUFF: Bernie Shaw, we'll see you then.

SHAW: OK.

WOODRUFF: All right. And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, but you can go online all the time at CNN's Allpolitics.com.

Stay with CNN tonight, of course we'll say it again, for complete coverage of the Democratic debate, starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Then Vice President Gore and Bill Bradley will be one of the guests on a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.

And tomorrow night, I will be the moderator of the Republican presidential debate. That's also at 9:00 Eastern.

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

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