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Inside Politics

General Election Debate Accentuates the Negative; Clinton Fires New Round of Criticism at NRA; Candidates Look to Win the Heart of Dixie

Aired March 13, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is going to be a tough campaign. I agree.



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The lack of a plan put forward by Governor Bush...



BUSH: This guy's going to say anything to get elected.



GORE: I don't buy it.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The presidential race to undermine the other one. We'll have the latest on Bush blasting Gore and vice versa, and consider the fallout from the campaign so far.



CHARLTON HESTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Mr. Clinton, the Bill of Rights is not yours to rewrite, not in America.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: New rounds in a bitter feud between the NRA and the Clinton-Gore administration.

WOODRUFF: And Southern snapshots: What issues are at the heart of the presidential contest in Dixie?

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

SHAW: Thanks for joining us.

Thirty-four weeks until the general election, Al Gore and George W. Bush have plenty of jousting ahead of them. But they're taking it one day at a time.

We begin our coverage with their sharpening lines of attack.

First, CNN's Patty Davis reports on Al Gore in Florida looking beyond tomorrow's primary there.


PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the eve of Tuesday's Southern state primaries, a one-two punch by Vice President Al Gore on Texas Governor George W. Bush and health care.

GORE: He has no plan to expand access to health care, no plan to have a national patients' bill of rights, no plan to give seniors help with prescription drugs, and in the words of John McCain, he does not put one penny into Medicare .

DAVIS: Gore suggested Bush has ties to special interests, and they are to blame for that also to blame, he said, for Bush's reluctance to embrace Gore's new-found religion, campaign finance reform, and a proposal to ban soft money.

GORE: I think there's a connection between a refusal to support campaign finance reform and the advocacy of a risky tax scheme that is rejected by the American people, but supported by the soft money -- money donors.

DAVIS: Bush responded with a punch of his own.

BUSH: Anything to justify keeping money in Washington, D.C. is what the vice president will say. This is a person who will say anything to become elected president, even if it -- even if it clouds the truth as to what I intend to do with the surplus.

DAVIS: The war of words between the two candidates is growing more fierce. With victories in Tuesday's Democratic and Republican primaries in six Southern and border states all but certain, the two candidates are honing in on the battle with one another in the fall.

Gore campaigned in Florida Monday, a Bush stronghold. Bush's brother Jeb is governor. Gore plans a all-out effort in the state and Florida campaign officials say they have told the vice president he can improve his chances even more by choosing Florida's popular Democratic Senator Bob Graham as his running mate.

But so far, both Gore and Graham are noncommittal.


DAVIS: Gore is trying to keep his profile high here in the state of Florida. Although he does plan to head back to the state of Tennessee where he'll vote in the Democratic primary tomorrow morning, he's coming right back here to Florida while he'll watch the returns from that Democratic primary here in Tallahassee -- Judy and Bernie.

SHAW: Patti, a couple of questions: First of all, Bush is using against Gore the gasoline tax per gallon. He wants it repealed. He says the Clinton administration is very slow to act on this, using this as an issue against Gore.

How is this playing with the Gore campaign?

DAVIS: Well, Gore himself did not mention that today. In fact, he did not make himself available to the press and didn't bring it up on his own. But I asked his spokesman, Chris Lehane, about that, and his spokesman said that they're not focusing on repealing that particular gas tax right now, although they realize that the gasoline tax increases are causing a lot of pain for your average American.

What Gore is focusing on right now is working with OPEC nations to bring oil prices down somehow, increase the oil -- increase the supply of oil and hopefully bring those oil prices down.

What he also said, he tried to turn the tables then on the Bush campaign, saying that Governor Bush should consider decreasing the state -- in Texas -- decreasing the gasoline tax there. So trying to turn the tables on this one on Governor Bush -- Bernie.

SHAW: One other quick point, Senate Democrat Bob Graham of Florida, if he were added to the ticket, what would he bring to it?

DAVIS: I think the key here is popularity. The attorney general of the state of Florida, Bob Butterworth, told me today that he believes that that Bob Graham was a very popular governor here in this state, also state senator for the past 13 years, and that he believes that if -- that Graham could help them win the state of Florida. If they won the state of Florida, that Gore could win the general election.

Now I checked out Graham's popularity here in the state, and actually in 1998, he won 63 percent of the vote, in '92, 67 percent of the vote in his runs for the Senate.

So he's pretty popular here. And I think that's what they would be counting on if Gore decided to choose Graham as his running mate -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Patty Davis, in Miami -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, George W. Bush also is campaigning, as you heard, in states which hold primaries tomorrow and using the South as a testing ground for his fall themes. Here is our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Bush is going through his primary paces, six states in 48 hours, but his sights and rhetoric are trained on the general campaign against Al Gore.

BUSH: It's going to be a tough campaign, I agree. This guy is going to say anything to get elected. I read the newspaper yesterday where all of a sudden he's for campaign funding reform.


The guy who went to a Buddhist temple to raise money. He must think America has got amnesia.

CROWLEY: At a high school gym in a New Orleans suburb, Bush fielded questions on everything from Cuba to cocaine. In that mix was the game plan for beating Gore.

BUSH: You know, his attitude is if I haven't lived all of my adult life in Washington I can't be president. The good news is what the people want is something different from Washington, D.C. They want some different attitude from up there.

CROWLEY: From Louisiana to Mississippi, Bush paints Gore as the consummate Washington product afflicted with Washington think.

BUSH: I believe the surplus is not the government's money. I stand in stark contrast with Al Gore on this. The surplus isn't the government's money. The surplus is the people's money.


CROWLEY: Bush preaches the value of sending money and power back to the states, and the beginning of what he calls the responsibility era.

BUSH: It's important for you to understand -- hold on -- it's important for you to understand that you're responsible for the decisions you make in life, that it's you who's responsible for lifting yourself up in America. The best thing government can do is provide opportunity and good education, and you've got to seize the moment.

CROWLEY: Bush gives as good as he gets with his audiences, one student reading a written question, compared Bush's refusal to say whether he's ever used to cocaine with President Clinton's parsing of the word "is" during the Lewinsky scandal. Bush called it an old Washington game: float a rumor and force someone to talk about it.

BUSH: Time for somebody to stand up to it and I'm standing up to it. You can draw any conclusion you want, but what you cannot draw is the conclusion that I have not brought honor and respect when given the highest office of my state. I have, and that's what I'm going to do as president of the United States.


CROWLEY: Candy Crowley, CNN, Jackson, Mississippi.


SHAW: More evidence today Bush versus Gore has become a tighter contest than it once seemed to be: Bush leads Gore by six points in our new poll of likely voters nationwide. Bush's support has dropped three points in the last couple of weeks while Gore has held steady.

This is the first CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll since Gore and Bush all but sealed their nominations last week. Our Bill Schneider joins us now.

Bill, did the primaries change people's perceptions of Gore and Bush?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, Bernie, yes, they did, and they were good for Gore, bad for Bush. We have the evidence.

We've been asking people whether they think various qualities apply to Bush and to Gore. Now let's compare the answers they gave a year ago to the way they see the candidates now.

For instance, strong and decisive leader. A year ago, 60 percent said that applied to Bush while only 35 percent said it applied to Gore. That was a big difference in Bush's favor. But as a result of the primaries, however, Gore's image as a strong and decisive leader has improved markedly: from 35 to 52 percent. Beating Bradley has made Gore look more like his own man. There's also evidence that Bush has been damaged.

A year ago, Bush was way ahead of Gore as someone people said they would be proud to have as president. But the number of people who said they'd be proud to have Bush as president has dropped 10 points. Now the two candidates are basically even.

And for all of his talk about being a compassionate conservative, Bush's image as someone who "cares about the needs of people like you" has deteriorated. Compassion is now a bigger Gore advantage than it was before. The primaries have strengthened Gore's image and weakened Bush's. Not only did Gore win an easier victory, but Bush's weaknesses were exposed: his lack of knowledge and experience, the problems stemming from his visit to Bob Jones University, and his somewhat awkward debating style. And that, Bernie, is why this race is getting closer.

SHAW: But what about the issues?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Gore still has a big lead over Bush on the environment, health care, Social Security, and Medicare. Those are all traditionally Democratic issues. And one more -- education. Bush is trying to claim education as his issue, but voters still give Gore the edge. It's another traditionally Democratic issue. Remember how Republicans in Congress used to talk about shutting down the Department of Education? And voters around the country, you know, do not know very much about Bush's record on education in Texas.

Bush has the lead on some traditionally Republican issues: crime, taxes, improving the moral climate of the country. But the real news is on those issues where voters don't see much of a difference between Bush and Gore. A year ago, Bush was seen as far better than Gore in handling the economy and world affairs. Now people don't see much difference between Bush and Gore on those two core issues. It is really unusual to go into a presidential campaign where the incumbent party and the out party are tied on the economy and world affairs.

Here are two other surprises: neither candidate is considered better on the gun issue, despite Gore's embrace of gun control. He's likely to keep hammering Bush on this issue, but so far there has been no payoff. And what about McCain's big cause, campaign finance reform? Voters don't see much difference between Bush and Gore on this issue either. Gore has the Buddhists, Bush has the big bucks. Both candidates have a credibility problem on campaign finance reform which is exactly what gave John McCain his big opening -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Bill Schneider.

And coming up next, Al Gore hits back at the National Rifle Association's top gun.


GORE: I believe that Mr. LaPierre's comment reveals a kind of sickness at the very heart of the NRA.


SHAW: More ammunition for a heated election year battle.

And, the Lewinsky scandal, still on the radar of Ken Starr's replacement.



WOODRUFF: Political battles over guns and violence have been known to get ugly, particularly in an election year. But a current war of words between the Clinton-Gore administration and the NRA is more bitter than most, and today, as CNN's Major Garrett reports, the White House fired back.


MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President (AUDIO GAP) back at the National Rifle Association. His No. 1 weapon: their leader's own words.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: "I have come to believe that Clinton needs a certain level of violence in this country."

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: He's willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda.

GARRETT: Reckless rhetoric, Mr. Clinton said.

CLINTON: It's quite one thing to say that when you're on national television. It's another thing to look into the eyes of a parent who has lost a 6-year-old and say that.

GARRETT: The shooting death of one 6-year-old, Kayla Rolland, by another 6-year-old, spawned this latest war of words over gun control. Even though White House aides describe LaPierre's words as a sick attack on the president, the president himself was more reserved.

CLINTON: I regret this, and I'm not going to get into a shouting match about it.

GARRETT: Vice President Gore did not.

GORE: I believe that Mr. LaPierre's comment reveals a kind of sickness at the very heart of the NRA.

GARRETT: Campaigning in Mississippi, George W. Bush distanced himself from the NRA.

BUSH: I would hope that we could have a open and honest discussion about gun enforcement without calling names.

GARRETT: Mr. Clinton has called for child-safety locks on all new handguns. He also wants to block imports of high capacity ammunition clips. Congress and the NRA agree. But the White House and Congress can't agree on the length of the background checks for handgun sales at traveling gun shows. The NRA has put all of its lobbying pressure behind a 24-hour waiting period. The White House wants 72 hours.

(on camera): White House officials tell CNN LaPierre's comments will frame the coming gun-control debate in Congress. Said one, this will give voters a clear choice who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

Major Garrett, CNN, Cleveland.


WOODRUFF: The National Rifle Association also is going after the Clinton White House on the airways with new ads featuring Charlton Heston. We'll look at those spots a little later on INSIDE POLITICS.

SHAW: Now to another arena in which President Clinton has been targeted, the independent counsel probe of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and other controversies.

CNN has learned Ken Starr's replacement, Robert Ray, is indeed considering whether to seek an indictment of Mr. Clinton after he leaves office.

That story from CNN's Bob Franken.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sources tell CNN the independent counsel is actively investigating whether to seek an indictment of Mr. Clinton on charges which include the ones for which he was impeached, obstruction of justice and perjury in the Monica Lewinsky matter and for his testimony in a deposition in the Paula Jones case. No comment from Robert Ray, the independent counsel, the White House, or the president's private attorneys.

Although Mr. Clinton was eventually acquitted by the Senate, Ray is debating whether a different standard for conviction would apply once the president becomes a private citizen.

STEVEN BERK, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think that's sort of where the prosecutor wants to come down is to say, look, just because it's the president, just because, you know, we have sort of aired this national nightmare for months and for years, I still have my job, no man is above the law.

FRANKEN: Sources say a decision on an indictment would not be made until shortly after the president leaves office next January. Meanwhile, Ray is expected to submit several reports to a three-judge panel on the other remaining Clinton investigations. All of the reports are submitted under seal, but details of the first one have already leaked out.

The first report expected to be submitted this week on the FBI files case reportedly concludes that low and mid-level staff members were to blame for the file's unwitting misuse. Sources say prosecutors exonerated first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and concluded that no laws were broken. The next report expected in early summer would deal with questions about what role the first lady played in the firings of the travel office staff.

Ray's third report, expected around Labor Day, concentrates on issues stemming from the Whitewater real estate venture and looks at Mrs. Clinton's testimony in the case and the lengthy disappearance of Whitewater billing records from her former law firm.


FRANKEN: Now, that Whitewater report is to be submitted about two months before the election, and depending on the contents, Bernie, it could have a baring on the race Mrs. Clinton is making for the U.S. Senate.

SHAW: Bob, a question, whatever happened to the discussion of possibly indicting Mr. Clinton while he's still in office?

FRANKEN: Well, the argument was whether an indictment versus actually going to trial would be constitutionally permissible, and there was really no conclusion drawn about that, but the conclusion in the independent counsel's office, we're told by sources, was whether or not you could actually do it. To do so would tie things up in lawsuits for years. So it was decided to wait until he was out of office and then decide whether to indict him.

SHAW: Thank you, Bob Franken on the Hill.

And there's still much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Still to come, the Southern strategy, a look at the issues and voters that will shape the race in the South in November.






MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So when it comes to politics and the two Spanish-speaking candidates for el nuevo presidente, Latino voters seem to want Latino reporters asking the questions.


SHAW: Maria Hinojosa with a closer look at the dynamics of the Latino community and their importance in the White House race.

And later...


NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Green groups dogging Al Gore on the campaign trail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you support environmental justice, what do you do...


WOODRUFF: Natalie Pawelski looks at the vice president's environmental woes.


WOODRUFF: We'll have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.

Defense Secretary William Cohen says his highest priority is resolving MIA or missing in action cases still lingering after the Vietnam War. Cohen is in Hanoi on a historic mission to normalize relations between the U.S. and Vietnam. He watched as Vietnamese workers sifted through a rice patty for remains of U.S. servicemen. Two-thousand Americans remain missing in Southeast Asia.

In Spain, the ruling conservatives are savoring a resounding victory in general elections. The party of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar won full control of parliament for the first time since democracy was restored 23 years ago.

SHAW: In the United States, a top economist is predicting rising gasoline prices through at least summer. This after a record 12 cents a gallon increase over two weeks.

Our Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno has reaction and some perspective.


FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Tight supplies of crude oil are behind the recent price hikes. Officials say U.S. oil inventories are at their lowest levels in four years. The same is true for the world's other rich countries. The crunch has boosted the average retail price of gasoline to include all grades and taxes to $1.59 a gallon and consumers are feeling the pinch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will cost me an extra $3 or $4 a fill-up I guess, but that'll just be one less day I go to lunch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Luckily, I only commute about five miles to work and back, but I think with the city of Atlanta, with the commute being so long for the majority of the people, I do think it will affect the traffic and the amount of driving, and hopefully people will car pool.

SESNO: Here in the U.S. we have been accustomed to very cheap gas. A year ago, a glut on the world oil market slashed prices to $12 dollars a barrel. In many cases, gasoline was well under a dollar a gallon. But cuts in production worldwide since then pushed prices up to around $30 a barrel.

Elsewhere, prices at the pump are far higher. In Western Europe, they're nearly three times as much as in the U.S. The price of premium is highest in the United Kingdom, the equivalent of $4.61 a gallon, followed by $4.22 a gallon in the Netherlands, $3.94 a gallon in France.

Rising fuel prices are also effecting airfares, with several major carriers matching Continental's weekend price hike of up to $40 for a round trip ticket.

Frank Sesno, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: U.S. Justice Department officials are in Los Angeles interviewing police and city leaders. They are probing the handling of alleged corruption within the Los Angeles Police Department. The case involves allegations that anti-gang officers framed and sometimes shot innocent people. Federal officials are expected to ask why many police reforms recommended after the Rodney King beating have not been implemented.

SHAW: Census forms are signed, sealed and beginning today being delivered to 98 million U.S. households. The questionnaires are being mailed mostly to city and suburban addresses. People who live in rural areas will get their forms delivered by hand. Every 10 years the federal government tries to get an accurate head count.

WOODRUFF: And when INSIDE POLITICS returns, eight states that could essentially decide who wins the White House. We'll talk with analyst Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook.


SHAW: George W. Bush and Al Gore are stopping in the South today. As we reported earlier, their focus is less on tomorrow's Southern primaries than on their all-but-certain faceoff in the fall.

CNN's Mark Potter has been looking at the issues voters care about below the Mason-Dixon line and how they may play into the presidential race.


MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Its visual images, regional charm and unique history help separate the South from the rest of the country, but the overriding political issues here are much the same as everywhere else.

By far, education is the biggest concern in the South. Traditionally, it's been a Democratic Party strong suit, and Al Gore has made it a centerpiece of his campaign, but Republican George W. Bush says he won't cede any ground on the issue. He's made education reform a state priority as governor of Texas and has been willing to consider controversial programs like vouchers to improve schools.

JIM KANE, EDITOR, "THE FLORIDA VOTER": I think what we're seeing is that voters are saying, well, we might not necessarily agree with what they're doing, but at least they're doing something.

POTTER: Throughout the Sun Belt, retirees make health care a critical issue, with Medicare and prescription drug prices topping the list of concerns. In Texas and Florida, immigration has created a host of new issues and large numbers of new voters.

Bush enjoys strong support of the largely Mexican-American community in Texas. In Florida's, the large Cuban-American population is also expected to support Bush, who has argued that Elian Gonzalez should be allowed to remain in the United States.

But a fight over affirmative action in Florida, led by Governor Jeb Bush, George W.'s brother, is likely to galvanize the traditionally Democratic African-American vote.

MERLE BLACK, EMORY UNIVERSITY: The South is different in a couple of respects. One is a much larger vote cast by African- Americans than any other part of the United States, and that kind of anchors the Democratic Party. At the same time, much larger numbers of Southerners consider themselves to be religious conservatives.

POTTER: For decades now, the South has been Republican territory, and on balance, still is. But in recent elections, Democrats have made some headway, and demographic changes are forcing the Republicans to fight harder.

(on camera): Much has been said recently about the so-called "Old South" versus the "New South." The old is defined as largely rural, and concerned about issues of race, religion and social conservatism.

(voice-over): But Southern states are among the fastest-growing in the United States, and transplants from the Northeast and Midwest have changed the political landscape. Big issues now include urban sprawl, traffic, the economy and the environment.

KANE: This will probably be the last election that we'll see any significant contribution from the Old South. The numbers of new voters who have moved into the South are going to completely swamp those who have lived here most of their lives.

POTTER: Analysts say the South will play a critical role in the November election.

BLACK: It's very hard to imagine how Bush could be elected president without carrying the state of Florida. And Florida is a state that Bill Clinton carried four years ago. So, that's one where the contest appears to be close, where I think we'll see a lot of active campaigning. I think we'll also see one here in Georgia.

POTTER: Two candidates from the South fighting for the Southern vote.

Mark Potter, CNN, Miami.


WOODRUFF: Well, will the South be all that crucial in determining the outcome of the general election? CNN political analysts Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook have been going over the electoral map region by region and state by state.

And gentleman -- let me start with you, Charlie -- where are the battleground states? Which ones are they?

CHARLIE COOK, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Well, I'm not looking South. I'm looking to Midwest and big industrial states. I think the four keys would be Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. Those are absolutely critical states, and in a 50/50 presidential race, they'd be very, very close, and a lot of electoral votes right there.


STU ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Well, Charlie's got those big states with those electoral votes. So he hasn't left me -- you know, I have the scraps of the country now. (LAUGHTER)

I'm looking at indicator states, and I've got four: Missouri, Kentucky, Iowa, and tiny Delaware, which is a really good indicator of which party has an advantage nationally.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's go through the map region by region. But let's start in the South.

Charlie, what does it look like at this point?

COOK: Well, I'm assuming that Bush is going to do extremely well in the South except for Arkansas, which has become -- which is a swing state, used to be heavily Democratic. I'm assuming that Gore is going to do well in Tennessee. Georgia is a pivotal state. But the rest of the South -- Louisiana is a state that Clinton carried twice, but my guess is that Bush will win easily. It's adjacent to Texas, and Gore's environmental stands have hurt a great deal.

So I would say Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee are the three states that Gore can win, and Kentucky.

WOODRUFF: How do you see -- how do you see...

ROTHENBERG: I'd agree. I think that if Gore wins anywhere in the South, he's just cherry picking, picking a state here or there. And Charlie's right. Obviously, Tennessee, he ought to win his own state. I think the states that may be in play are Arkansas and Louisiana. But I'm not even sure. If the Republicans get any kind of traditional ideological campaign going on, I think they -- Bush has a chance of sweeping the region.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's move up the Eastern Seaboard. What about the Atlantic region, the Atlantic coastal region?

COOK: Well, I mean, Maryland always goes Democratic. As Stu said, Delaware is a very good bellwether. New Jersey and Pennsylvania are just right there. And then you start -- once you start moving up from there -- Connecticut actually is a key state, though it's very small. And then you move from there on up and it should be completely Democratic, with the possible -- with exception of New Hampshire, which has now become a swing state.

ROTHENBERG: Yes, the region does not look like a good one for Governor Bush, particularly given the primary campaign where he got Maine. That was about it in New England. I don't even think that New Jersey is a particularly good opportunity.

But you know, the Republicans are faced with a difficult choice here. Can they afford to write off a number of these states in the Northeast, where they may have Senate races, or they have House races that could determine...


ROTHENBERG: ... if they're going to control the House of Representatives. Absolutely. So I don't think they can write them off. But do I really think they're going to waste, invest resources in states like New York or New Jersey? I think for New Jersey they're going have to see poll numbers showing that they're really going to play there or else they won't.

WOODRUFF: All right, Charlie, let's move West. What about the Midwest, the Great Lakes?

COOK: Again, Michigan, Ohio, huge, and then you got to Indiana, always Republican, Wisconsin is swing -- or more lean Dem really. You get to Iowa, that's a state that Democrats usually do very, very well. You know, it's a region that really, if you had to say, this is the region, it's the Midwest.

ROTHENBERG: Oh, I agree. I mean, this election is about from Pennsylvania across to Michigan and Illinois, and I'd include Wisconsin. This is where the election is going to be won or lost, I believe.

And if it's not, Judy, if it's going to be won or lost in California or Florida or New Jersey, it tells you something about how the entire election is going.

WOODRUFF: Charlie, all the way West, what about the Rocky Mountain states and the Pacific?

COOK: Really, the Rocky Mountain states, President Clinton carried Nevada once, but I don't think it's really in play. Colorado is less Republican than the rest of the region.

ROTHENBERG: But Dole carried it last time.

COOK: But Dole did carry it last time. Montana, Clinton carried it once, but it's going to be there for Gore. That's a write-off, generally speaking, in the other direction.

WOODRUFF: And the Pacific?

COOK: Pacific would be all Gore. I mean...

WOODRUFF: Democrats?

ROTHENBERG: I think, look, the Republicans will look at the numbers in Washington and Oregon. California they might as well write off now. I have as much chance of carrying it as George Bush.

So -- but Charlie's right. The Rockies will go Republican. The West Coast has the advantage for the Democrats.

WOODRUFF: Don't be so modest, Stuart.

All right. The battle -- the states that you identify as battleground states, what are the issues that are likely to matter to people in these states, or are they the same as the ones we're talking about all over the country?

COOK: They're the same that are everywhere.

WOODRUFF: Education and health?

COOK: Exactly. We're talking about a big chunk of the country. A big portion of the American electorate is in these states, and it pretty much reflects the rest of the country. There aren't really any unique issues, issues there.

But when you sort of total all that up, you know, I come up with like 209 electoral votes for Republicans, 207 electoral votes for Democrats, and 122 right on the -- right on the bubble.

ROTHENBERG: I think the election comes down to two questions: Is the election about ethics, character, integrity? Or is it about health care, Social Security, education, campaign finance reform?

If it's about questions of leadership and integrity, the Republican probably wins. If it's questions about issues, it means that Al Gore has succeeded in focusing the public's attention on these issues that Democrats have a big advantage.

WOODRUFF: Two quick questions: Reform Party and running mate. Charlie, does it matter what the Reform Party does here, whether it's Pat Buchanan or someone else?

COOK: Well, if the race is as close as these polls look -- I mean, I took an average of the last five polls, and I think Gore has -- Gore is ahead in three and Bush is ahead in two, and you average them together and Gore's up by one. This is going to be really close.

So obviously, Pat Buchanan pulling four or five points with, say, three or four out of the Republican column, one or two out of the Democratic column, that can make a difference. I don't think Buchanan's going to do well, but if it's that close, it could make a difference.

ROTHENBERG: I agree. I can't figure out what's going to happen with the Reform Party, and a point or two here could matter. And running mates: I think it could matter, particularly if the Republicans pick the right candidate in the right state, and then to see how the Democrats counter.

Look, we're only talking about delivering a state or two, but if the election's as close as Charlie and I think it may be, one state could make the difference.

WOODRUFF: Sounds like it could be a geographic decision.

ROTHENBERG: I think that would be a...

WOODRUFF: Huge consideration.

ROTHENBERG: ... significant consideration for the Republicans.

COOK: There's a big argument for Tom Ridge or someone like that, because it's hard to see Democrats... WOODRUFF: Governor of Pennsylvania.

COOK: ... getting 270 electoral votes without 27 from Pennsylvania.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to keep looking at this as the year goes by. Charlie Cook, Stu Rothenberg, thank you both.

COOK: Thank you, Judy.

ROTHENBERG: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And if you want to assess the electoral map for yourself, here's a Web site that will help you out. The U.S. electoral college calculator let's you click on a state and which party you think will win there. Then the computer does the math for you. It also shows you the electoral votes in previous elections. And you just go to the lengthy Web address that, hopefully, is spelled out right now at the bottom of your television screen.

Still ahead, David Peeler on the vanishing presidential ad spending.

Plus, appealing to Latino voters: A look at the campaign emphasis on this key voters group and their issues and what it means for the Latino media.


SHAW: Tomorrow, voters in six states will cast their ballots in presidential primaries, though the outcome is all but inevitable.

Joining us now from New York, David Peeler of Competitive Media Reporting.

David, how much are Al Gore and George W. Bush spending in advance of tomorrow's primaries?

DAVID PEELER, COMPETITIVE MEDIA REPORTING: Well, Bernie, in the media campaign, the primary is all but over. What we've seen over the last few days is that both Governor Bush and Vice President Gore have pulled their media campaigns from those states that come up tomorrow. There is no significant media spending going on at this time. The candidates are relying upon flying into the marketplace and having the local news media picking them up on the evening news.

SHAW: Well, given the overwhelming sense that this race is now in the general election stage, let's take a moment to look back at the primary spending.

PEELER: Well, Bernie, you've hit it. That's where all the spending was. It was all associated with Super Tuesday. As we look to the Republicans first, let's take a look at the numbers.

George Bush spent almost $6 million on the states in Super Tuesday, John McCain spent $4.5 million. The Republicans really focused their spending in about five states on Super Tuesday.

In total campaign to date, George Bush has spent almost $20 million in total, John McCain spent $11 million. If you look in comparison what McCain spent on his total campaign versus what he spent on Tuesday, he spent almost half of his dollars on media spending on Tuesday.

As we turn to the Democratic side of the equation, it's a slightly different story. Look at the Democratic numbers. Bill Bradley outspent Al Gore last Tuesday. He spent $9 million versus Gore's $6 million, and obviously the outcome was greatly different.

However, in the total spending, Bill Bradley even spent more than Al Gore, $13 million to Gore's $10 million. What you see there is that Al Gore had the incumbent's advantage. He didn't have to spend as much money to get his name out there. And I think the second thing that affected Bill Bradley's campaign was obviously that John McCain tended to wipe Bill Bradley off of the front pages, as his candidacy really kind of took over the news media's attention.

So Bill Bradley had a long, uphill struggle. He spent a lot of money in the last closing days in order to close the race, but he just couldn't get to the goal line.

SHAW: OK, now let's go from the candidates to the incumbent president, who is the target of an ad campaign by the National Rifle Association. As we reported earlier this hour, the ads feature Charlton Heston directly addressing President Clinton on the issue of gun control.


CHARLTON HESTON, PRESIDENT, NRA: He wants criminals turned away. We want criminals turned in. Mr. Clinton, when what you say is wrong, that's a mistake. When you know it's wrong, that's a lie.


SHAW: Now, David Peeler, how much is the NRA spending on this ad campaign?

PEELER: Bernie, this is another example of what we've coined, the phrase, "pundit advertising." You know, advertising in the campaign process now is being used as much to focus or to change the debate as it is to change the voter's point of view.

So far, this campaign, which has 10 creatives behind it, has only spent $39,000 -- all in the Washington, D.C. area, both on local broadcasts and on local cable networks. So what they're trying to do is get this message out. And it's been successful. You saw Vice President Gore pick up on the issue, and I think it will have legs. You saw President Clinton directly address the issue in a national address.

So, you know, pundit advertising, which gets the news media focused on this issue, is something that we're going to see an awful lot of, particularly between now and the conventions in the summer, where people are trying to keep issues out there and keep debate alive.

SHAW: Well, we're certainly focusing on it. Witness we just ran it.

Tomorrow, moving on, voters in the 7th Congressional District of Texas will vote on the nine Republican candidates vying for the seat of retiring Republican Bill Archer.

Now what's unusual about the ad spending in this race?

PEELER: Well, this is a first example that I've seen where for a congressional primary we see one of the candidates spending close to $700,000 for the primary seat. You know, let's remember, you know, we often say that people don't want to run for Congress anymore. This is a seat that pays $135,000. Mr. Wareing has already spent almost $700,000 to win that seat. The front-runner, Culberson, has spent what you expect to see in this kind of race, about $50,000. And Pastor Henley's come in with about $34,000. So, you know, in the Houston area this is a tremendous amount of money to be spent on a congressional district, particularly paid media. So I can't wait to see what the general election turns out to be like.

SHAW: Well, you'll have company on that one. David Peeler, thanks very much.

PEELER: Thank you, Bernie.

SHAW: You're welcome -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: George W. Bush and Al Gore have both made efforts to court the Hispanic population in states like Texas, California and Florida.

As Maria Hinojosa reports, the new focus on Latino voters and issues also means a new importance for the growing Latino media.


HINOJOSA (voice-over): If it's not the music, it's the food. Whether they've been here two years or two generations, Miami's million-plus Latinos like the flavor of home.




HINOJOSA: So when it comes to politics and the two Spanish- speaking candidates for el nuevo presidente, Latino voters seem to want Latino reporters asking the questions.

QUESTION: One of the most serious problems, as you well know, of the Hispanic community is the incredible high drop-out rate of its students.

HINOJOSA: United States estimated 30 million Latinos are plentiful in several important vote-getting states, like California, New York, Texas and, of course, Florida, where this weekend's Calle Ocho festival drew potential voters more focused on Cuba than on campaign finance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They normally focus more on the cultural issues. They talk a lot more about Cuba. And, you know, the people that are Hispanic are looking at -- to things that have to do with our country.

HINOJOSA: That means the presidential candidates are talking often to Jorge Ramos, the anchor for Spanish-language Univision, the fifth-largest network in the United States.

RAMOS: Eight years ago, we didn't have the access to almost any presidential candidate. Nowadays, we have the two most important candidates speak Spanish. We have almost continuous access to them.

HINOJOSA: "El Nuevo Herald," which reaches more than 79,000 readers in South Florida, has tripled its number of national political reporters.

JEANETTE RIVERA, "EL NUEVO HERALD" POLITICAL REPORTER: I think for the longest we were ignored. Phone calls were never returned or we would get a message in our machine three days after the fact.

HINOJOSA: This time it's the other way around.

GORE: Oh, I'm the one worried about getting more access now, not the -- not Univision or Telemundo or the others. I'm seeking them out because...

HINOJOSA: Now, the Spanish-language media say not only are they getting more attention from the candidates, but so are Latino issues.

RIVERA: Readers wants to see more stories about immigration issues, about health-care issues, about education.

HINOJOSA (on camera): If the Spanish-language media helps the candidates reach the nation's 6.5 million Latino voters, the payoff can be big. In the last presidential election, Latinos helped Bill Clinton become the first Democrat to win the state of Florida in two decades.

Maria Hinojosa, CNN, Miami.


SHAW: Up next, is Al Gore a friend of the environment? Not according to these activists. A look at his record and the complaints.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Vice President Al Gore has made the environment a priority over the course of his political career. But Gore has come under fire of late with his environmental record "At Issue."

CNN's environmental correspondent Natalie Pawelski reports.


PAWELSKI (voice-over): Green groups dogging Al Gore on the campaign trail, heckling him at debates and attacking him in print. Unexpected bumps on the campaign trail, for a man who wrote the book on the environment. Al Gore is used to taking heat for his green leanings from opponents on the right, including the last George Bush to run for the White House.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENTIAL OF THE UNITED STATES: You know why I call him Ozone Man? This guy is so far off in the environmental extreme, we'll be up to our neck in owls and out of work for every American.


PAWELSKI: Now Gore is finding some of his harshest critics attacking his environmental record from the left instead. Some environmental groups say Vice President Gore's deeds haven't matched his words.

RICK HIND, GREENPEACE: Al Gore's rhetoric on the environment is great. Too bad, you know, after listening to the advertising he doesn't have anything to sell, at least when it comes to real world decisions.

PAWELSKI: Case in point: At a 1992 campaign stop, Gore pledged support for community groups opposed to a massive toxic waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio.

GORE: We'll be on your side for a change instead of on the side of the garbage generators.

PAWELSKI: Despite the rhetoric, the incinerator is still in operation.

Environmentalists are steamed at what they see as a broken promise.

HIND: Now's the time to honor that campaign promise and also protect East Liverpool.

PAWELSKI: Environmental groups are also questioning Gore's personal investments, including over a quarter of a million dollars worth of Occidental Petroleum stock inherited from his father. Occidental wants to drill for oil on the ancestral lands of the native Uwa people of Colombia. Security forces there have been accused of human rights violations. ATOSSA SOLTANI, AMAZON WATCH: What we're asking Gore to do is to divest his interest in Occidental Petroleum immediately. We want him to use his influence and make a difference in this issue.

PAWELSKI: Gore also faces criticism closer to home. A growing number of clear-cuts in the southeastern forests of the United States has environmentalists upset.

DOUG SLOANE, SOUTHEAST FOREST PROJECT: He says that the environment is an important issue to him. He really could step forward and make quite a difference in a region where he's from.

PAWELSKI: Despite the criticism, nobody's looking for the green vote to go Republican in November.

DEB CALLAHAN, LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS: There's probably no candidate who's ever run for the presidency who's been as informed and educated about these environmental issues as the vice president. So we believe that we'd have someone there who'd be an ally, someone we could work with, someone we'd sometimes have to push.

PAWELSKI (on camera): As it has on the campaign trail, Gore's environment record could prove a mixed blessing if he is elected president. By talking about these issues, he has raised expectations, and environmentalists will keep pushing for him to deliver.

Natalie Pawelski, CNN.


WOODRUFF: In an upcoming segment here on INSIDE POLITICS, we will take an in-depth look at the environmental record of GOP hopeful George W. Bush.

SHAW: That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Bernard Shaw.

WOODRUFF: And I'm Judy Woodruff. "WORLDVIEW" is next.


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