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Saturday Morning News

Reporter's Notebook: Concessions, Issues Could Keep Presidential Campaign Hot Through Summer

Aired March 11, 2000 - 9:36 a.m. ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now that Bill Bradley and John McCain have ceased actively campaigning for their respective presidential nominations, the outcome of the political conventions this summer may seem a foregone conclusion.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Ah, yes, but nevertheless we will be sending at least 500 people there to cover them. Among them, Bob Franken, of course, who happens to be on Capitol Hill right now to answer some of your political questions. That phone number once again is 404-221-1855. The e-mail box is full, and besides I can't get to it right now, so don't bother with that.

Good to see you, sir.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's nice to see everything is working.

O'BRIEN: Everything is going well so far.

PHILLIPS: As usual.

FRANKEN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: All things are nominal, as they say at NASA.

Let's go to the e-mail, shall we? And this one comes from New Jersey. And of course you ask immediately, what exit? Sea Bright, New Jersey, Michael Aho offers this query"

"The establishment rules. On Fat Tuesday, they were partying on Tuesday where the special interests hold court. Forget reform. Aren't voters left with more of the same? Which candidate do I dislike least? Won't turnout fall again?"

FRANKEN: You know, I hate people who hold their emotions in check, don't you?

Well, you know, the people who believed in John McCain and Bill Bradley are probably saying those very words right now. The establishment candidates won, no question about it. And people will be analyzing that for months and years to come. But now it's time to move on. We actually end up after all this fight with the result that everybody expected in the first place, and the campaign goes into a bit of hibernation, as each side tries to hammer at the other. Now they know who to hammer to.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's continue on now with another e-mail, shall we? We'll continue on with Jeff Cope from South Carolina -- and actually I have a pair of them I'm going to give you:

"Does John McCain plan to endorse G.W. Bush as the Republican nominee? If so, when does he plan to do this? What does McCain need to hear from G.W. Bush before he gives his endorsement?"

And then this one from C. Witherington-Fraser -- that's a name, C. Witherington-Fraser.

FRANKEN: Hello, C. Witherington.

O'BRIEN: "After all the mud slinging between Bush and McCain, do you think that Bush will ask McCain to be his running mate? If he did, do you think that they could ever work together as a team?"

So, the question of endorsement, and then Mr. Fraser going further with the possibility of a ticket.

FRANKEN: Well, in answer to the two-parter, the last one, no and no. I don't see that happening. I don't think they could possibly, in fact, run as a team after the kind of campaign they had. And the truth of the matter is that right now John McCain is very, very upset with George W. Bush, and the Bush people are returning the favor.

That was a really brutal campaign, but what is going on behind the scenes, we are told, is that surrogates for each of them, people like Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, people like that, are having phone conversations with the Bush surrogates. At some point next week, we're told, they're going to get together and see if they can smooth the way for some sort of face to face.

The next thing to watch for is John McCain returning to the Senate and making amends with all his fellow senators. There have been years and years and years of hard feelings here -- talking about Republican senators. So the next big event for John McCain will be his campaign to return to the Senate. That will come on March 20th.

PHILLIPS: Bob, here's a hot topic: minimum wage. And our...

FRANKEN: Minimum wage.

PHILLIPS: Yes, our favorite...

FRANKEN: Would that we got it at CNN.

PHILLIPS: Oh, boy, we're not going to go there. But we will go to Joe, our famous Joe from Georgia, who's always got a good question for us.

Go ahead, Joe.

FRANKEN: Hello, Joe. JOE: Thank you very much. Bob, you do a great job. And my question is, what will be the impact of the minimum wage legislation and the higher oil prices on the 2000 congressional and presidential elections, please?

FRANKEN: Joe, the minimum wage legislation is an issue the Democrats hope to exploit and the Republicans are trying to neutralize. Oil prices: interesting question. I think it brings up the point that has to be made that we really don't know what the conditions are going to be when we get to Election Day, particularly economic questions. There are a whole lot of question marks out there, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of belief that the economy is headed for some sort of a fall, some sort of surprise perhaps like oil prices, that type of thing, which could totally change the climate when we get to the general elections. Stay tuned. That's a very, very interesting possibility.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's go back to the e-mail, shall we, Mr. Franken? This one comes from Josie Hulme in Augusta, Georgia:

"With McCain out of the picture and a possible move toward the middle by Bush, how will Pat Buchanan and the Reform Party impact the GOP's race for president?"

Remember Pat Buchanan? Remember the Reform Party?

FRANKEN: Oh, Pat Buchanan, that's right. Pat Buchanan, Reform Party. Well, you're making an assumption that he will be the nominee for the Reform Party, which is perhaps an assumption that is very premature. But where are the conservatives going to go? If Pat Buchanan is a factor in this race, the consensus is that that might hurt the Republicans because it will take away some of the conservative support that George W. Bush had to rely on to beat John McCain.

There's a lot of turmoil here. we really don't know how the election is going to bear out. On the Democratic side, you have all the questions that are being re-raise about campaign finance and any role by the nominee, Al Gore, the vice president. Lots of questions yet. What's good about this story is we really don't know a lot of the parts that are going to go into this plot.

PHILLIPS: Perfect timing, Bob. I think you had ESP there. Campaign finance, David from Maryland has a question for you.

DAVID: Yes, my question is if the mainstream or just any media is going to give the administration or anybody in power a pass the way we kind of have with the campaign scandals that have gone on. What's the point -- and I'm following up on the Bruce Morton piece that was right before this program -- what's the point of writing new laws if the existing laws that were broken are not enforced?

FRANKEN: Well, the point might be that they want to make laws that are more realistic in today's day and age, because some of the laws they relied on dated back to the Civil War. But I think it's going to surprise a lot of us that have covered campaign finance to death and the various other scandals that we've given anybody a pass. Vice President Gore, of course, has come under intense questioning, and now it looks like he'll be coming under some more. And, of course, there are the questions about exactly where did all the money that George W. Bush got, where did that come from?

So I think that is going to be an issue in the campaign. John McCain made the point and so did Bill Bradley that they would have been the ones that would have been stronger candidates in this area, but now we're going to see exactly how Governor Bush and Vice President Gore fare.

O'BRIEN: All right, back to the e-mail box one more time. This one comes from Joe Stevens, parts unknown. Joe has this query:

"I've heard it mentioned lately that Bush could easily win the election if Colin Powell was his running mate. I believe that ticket would draw veterans who supported John McCain, like myself, as well as minorities back to the Republican Party. I see that as an unbeatable ticket."

FRANKEN: Well, a lot of people, in fact, have always felt that Colin Powell would be unbeatable, no matter what position he ran for on a national ticket. I've had any number of conversations with him, as have so many other people in Washington, where I was a little bit skeptical, feeling that he really would at some point decide to run. And you come away from those conversations with the unmistakable belief he has no intention of doing it.

He believes that is a very unsavory process, too hard on the family, and at least for now has absolutely no intentions of getting into the race. Of course, remember the key words here -- at least for now.

O'BRIEN: That word unsavory, I wonder where he got that impression. All right...

FRANKEN: From people like us probably.

O'BRIEN: Mr. Bob Franken, always a pleasure to have you drop by.

PHILLIPS: Bye, Bob.

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