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Inside Politics

John McCain Returns to the Senate; General Election Cash Starts Flowing Early; Bush and Gore Battle Over School Reform

Aired March 20, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Feels good, it's nice to be back at work and good -- looking forward to seeing all of my friends in the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: John McCain reconnects with his Senate colleagues hoping he has new power to sway them on campaign finance reform.

How much cash did George W. Bush and Al Gore have to spend as they launch their general election battle? We'll update the numbers.

And...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Education in recent years has been an issue that helped Democrats. Can Bush change that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Bruce Morton on Bush and Gore going tit for tat on school reform.

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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernie is off today.

John McCain knows a thing or two about receiving a true hero's welcome. His return to the Senate wasn't anything close to that, and that apparently is just fine with him. McCain is busy trying to figure out how to use the stature he gained on the presidential trail to pursue his No. 1 issue.

Our Jonathan Karl went to the Hill for McCain's homecoming.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's back.

MCCAIN: Feels good, it's nice to be back at work and good -- looking forward to seeing all of my friends in the Senate.

KARL: With little fanfare, John McCain returned to work, deflecting questions about whether he'll support George W. Bush.

MCCAIN: I am sure we'll have discussions and I'll look forward to those conversations. I'm sure that -- right now I have got to get back to work in the Senate, but my priorities are reform agenda.

KARL: McCain returns as a defeated presidential candidate, but also, his allies say, as a super senator, someone with a national following and more power to shape the Republican agenda than before he ran for president.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Here is a man who has attracted Democrats and independents. Here is a man who has been on the cover of every news magazine in the world, and here's a person who is really, truly redefining American politics.

KARL: Even McCain's leading Senate nemesis is talking nice.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: He ran a great race. We all watched that with admiration, and I think he has a lot to be proud of.

KARL: As McCain returns, the Senate is about to take up his signature issue: campaign finance reform. McCain's allies say his campaign proved the broad appeal of the issue. His Republican foes have a different view.

MCCONNELL: He did not, however, win the primaries, and the position that he had on campaign finance reform, in my opinion, actually hurt him a great deal among Republicans in those primaries.

KARL: McConnell will chair hearings on the subject starting Wednesday. Under consideration is a compromise proposal by Senator Chuck Hagel. The Hagel plan raises the limit on contributions to candidates to $3,000 and puts a cap on the now unregulated soft money contributions to political parties.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Just a short while ago, Senator McCain was again asked if he would support George W. Bush. He did not mention Bush by name in his answer, but he said, "Look, I have always said I will support the Republican nominee and I will support the Republican nominee" -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jon, what about activity on the Hill in supporting Governor Bush from other members of Congress?

KARL: Well, actually, as McCain is returning, there's also something else happening here and that is the Bush campaign manager, Joe Alba, is coming to Capitol Hill for a series of meetings this week. It's Alba's first visit to Capitol Hill this year and what he'll be doing is he'll be talking to congressional leaders both in the House and the Senate trying to coordinate the Bush campaign's agenda with the agenda for the campaigns for the House and Senate on the Republican side -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And, Jon, anything to add about McCain helping congressional candidates?

KARL: Yes, well, it's interesting. McCain's senior people today met with Tom Davis, he's head of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, and Tom Davis has expressed interest in having McCain go out and stump for House Republican candidates in those swing districts. They -- and they believe that McCain will be a very important part of the effort for the Republicans to maintain control of the House by campaigning for moderate Republicans that are under fire this year.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jonathan Karl at the Capitol, thank you.

McCain's presidential bid forced George W. Bush to dramatically spend down his once huge campaign war chest. As Bush now turns his attention to Al Gore, new numbers help us better understand the financial picture for both parties' all-but-certain nominees.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): According to a report filed today by the Bush campaign with the Federal Election Commission, the Texas governor spent $13.1 million in February, bringing his total spending before March to $63.3 million. Take that away from what he had raised by the end of February, $73.9 million, and all Bush had left was $10.6 million. That, of course, was before the expensive March 7th primary.

To replenish his account, Bush has launched a new fund-raising effort, and it may be paying off. In January, Bush raised just $2 million, paltry by his standards. In February, he raised $3.2 million, and the Bush campaign expects to raise an additional $5 to $10 million by May. At the same time, his spending has likely fallen off since he wrapped up the nomination.

As for Al Gore, the primaries left him in a similar position. By the end of February, Gore had raised $44.2 million and spent $33 million, leaving him with $11.2 million cash on hand before March. The Gore campaign says that as of today that cash on hand figure has gone up to nearly $14 million.

In exchange for federal matching funds, Gore agreed to limit his spending in the primaries, which do not officially end until the summer convention. He is close to that limit now, so he's only expected to raise another $2 million to $3 million.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Gore has four campaign fund raisers scheduled tomorrow in New York and New Jersey. This week he is also expected to attend some events to bring in cash for the Democratic National Committee. Party sources say the DNC hopes to raise $15 million in hard and soft money during the first quarter of the year which ends a week from Friday. Those sources say that the DNC's fund-raising goal for the entire year is $100 million.

CNN's Patty Davis joins us now from Springfield, Illinois, where Gore is campaigning this evening.

Patty, is all this fund raising on the part of the vice president an unmixed blessing?

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An unmixed blessing? Sure it is. He's being criticized. It certainly opens him up to George W. Bush's rally -- his cries that he's talking out of both sides of his mouth. Now, he's expected here in Springfield within the hour to hold a rally. It is, as you said, one of the very few campaign events that he will hold this week anywhere across the country. He's holding this one in advance of tomorrow's Illinois primary, the Democratic primary. He, of course, expected to win that. He's laying groundwork now in this battleground state for the fall election.

More importantly, though, this week for the Democratic coffers, for his own coffers, as you said, raising big money. Tomorrow he has two events. He's raising hard cash for the Gore campaign both in New Jersey and New York City, then the rest of the week he heads on -- four events in three days, Cincinnati, Houston, all over the country. He is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, that is an estimate at this point, for the Democratic National Committee.

Now, those big dollars are the kind that George W. Bush -- the soft money that he's criticizing Al Gore about because Al Gore has said he wants a ban on soft money. He's also called on George W. Bush to do the same. And he says that the Democratic National Committee will not spend its soft money on issue ads if and only if the Republicans don't do that as well. Republicans, of course, don't like that idea very much. So his fund raising now opening him up to charges by Bush campaign this week that he's talking out of both sides of his mouth, sure to hear more about that from the Bush campaign in the days ahead -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Patty Davis reporting from Springfield, Illinois, where Vice President Gore has a fund raiser scheduled this evening.

Pat Buchanan took his battle to be included in the fall presidential debate to the Federal Election Commission today. Buchanan and the Reform Party formally complained to the FEC about a presidential debate commission ruling that only candidates with an average of 15 percent support in national polls may take part in the face-offs. Buchanan, the only announced Reform Party presidential candidate, currently stands in the single digits in the polls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is, if you will, a conspiracy by the two parties to keep third parties out of the presidential debates, and therefore, to maintain a hammer lock on the presidency of the United States, the most powerful office in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The Federal Election Commission has 90 days to respond to the complaint by Buchanan and the Reform Party.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON (voice-over): The first salvo of the fall campaign, negative of course, but about an issue, education. There's a reason for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Bruce Morton on the issue at the heart of the Gore- Bush ad war these days. Plus, a look at how much they are spending with David Peeler.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Tomorrow, Democrats and Republicans in Illinois will go to the polls for their respective presidential primaries. And in that state, presidential hopefuls Al Gore and George W. Bush have chosen to wage a political ad battle over the issue of education.

Our Bruce Morton has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: America's high school students placed almost dead last in international math tests. The achievement gap between poor and nonpoor students remains wide. Gore and Clinton had eight years, but they failed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, GORE CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: George W. Bush, from South Carolina to New York, he used dirty politics to trash John McCain's record. Now he's running attack ads against Al Gore. Al Gore has fought to put 100,000 new teachers in the classroom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON (voice-over): The first salvo of the fall campaign, negative of course, but about an issue, education. There's a reason for that.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: It tops the list of issues that people are most concerned about in this country. There's not a lot of concerns, so the issues are very broadly spread. But over and over again in polls, we've seen education coming to the top, followed closely by moral values, taxes and crime. MORTON: Gore's education plan: $115 billion paid for by 10 percent of the surplus to expand preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, bonuses to help recruit more teachers, a program to wire every classroom to the Internet and more.

Criticism: for one thing, not enough accountability. Schools that perform poorly don't suffer for it.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In order to have an accountability system with any muscle, an accountability system that refuses to leave any children behind, there has to be a consequence.

MORTON: Will Marshall of the Democratic Progressive Policy Institute agrees on accountability.

WILL MARSHALL, PRES., PROGRESSIVE POLICY INSTITUTE: What the president's framework doesn't do as yet is really define with any specificity the accountability systems that he thinks make sense.

MORTON: Bush's plan does have consequences. Schools that would perform poorly after a three-year testing program would lose funding. The money could go to another public school if a student went there or as a voucher toward tuition in a private or parochial school. Gore opposes vouchers and adds that Bush's big proposed tax cut would leave no money for education.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can't bring improvement to a public schools if you are simultaneously in favor of a $2 trillion risky tax scheme that would lead to an end to our economic prosperity and would drain money away from education and health care and the environment.

MORTON: Education in recent years has been an issue that helped Democrats. Can Bush change that?

HOLLAND: I think that part of Bush's strength in the polls so far is that when we asked people about a whole raft of issues, because they liked Bush and they don't really know where either candidate stands on a number of issues, they're giving him the benefit of the doubt. And that's what I think he's trying to capitalize on right now. Voters are giving him the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that he's got an R in parentheses after his name.

MORTON: Gore, for his part, thinks that he can attack and win on this issue. It will be months before we know who's right.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

Hello, David.

DAVID PEELER, COMPETITIVE MEDIA REPORTING: Hi, Judy.

WOODRUFF: How much, tell us, are Gore and Bush spending on these education ads?

PEELER: Well, Judy, we saw this campaign kick off on Friday of last week. The interesting media tactic here is, as we -- as you recall to the beginning of the show, we talked about how both campaigns are a little depleted on funds right now. Both campaigns kicked off this campaign in downstate Illinois. Downstate Illinois encompasses Springfield, Peoria, Cape Girardeau (ph). Those tend to be very, very small media markets, so you can put a media campaign together that most of us in the press will pick up on, and you don't have to spend a lot of money.

In total, we've seen about $100,000 spent on that campaign so far, but I suspect that between now and as we get through the campaign, given that Illinois will be a -- is likely to be a swing state, you'll see a lot more spending in that state. And I'd go as far as to say -- while I don't make many predictions -- what you will see relatively soon in the April-May time frame is the soft money coming into this campaign to fund advertising campaigns to get the message out. I just can't see that not happening at this point in time.

WOODRUFF: All right, well let me quickly move you on to another issue. This group Handgun Control is now running an ad attacking the credibility of the National Rifle Association. This now comes, of course, after the NRA launched a series of ads with Charlton Heston questioning President Clinton's truthfulness on the issue of gun control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, HANDGUN CONTROL AD)

NARRATOR: The NRA opposes mandatory trigger locks for handguns that would protect America's children. Now the NRA is spending big bucks on ads to lie about their record. But we can't trust the NRA. The National Rifle Association: just too dangerous for America's families.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: David Peeler, how much money are these two groups spending?

PEELER: Well, we saw the NRA last week spend in the Washington, D.C. market alone about $170,000. We reported on that last week.

This week, we see as the counter to that, the Handgun Control group coming in employing pretty much the same tactics. They are anticipated to spend about $100,000, only they've expanded it to two markets. They're spending in the Washington, D.C. market, obviously to influence the debate, but they're also spending some money in Austin, Texas. Kind of interesting that they picked Austin. I do understand that the Bush campaign watches the program, so they'll probably get the message. But they are they're trying to craft the debate. And that's what we've said about these ads before, that really there as much about controlling the debate and getting the news people focused on them as they are to influence voters.

WOODRUFF: All right, we're now shifting gears. Tomorrow, voters in Illinois's 10th Congressional District will narrow their choices in the congressional primary. That is Republican Congressman John Porter's seat, and there are 11 GOP candidates vying for the chance to replace him. Porter has endorsed his former chief of staff, Mark Kirk, who is considered the front-runner. But another candidate, printing heiress and Washington lobbyist Sean Donnelly, is running ads touting her Washington credentials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DONNELLEY CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Sean is a pocketbook conservative, but she has great compassion for people.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Well there's no question she'll get legislation passed. She's already done that.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: She's already had an effect.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: She'll hit the ground running.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Sean's a dynamo.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: She's an impact player. When she arrives, she's varsity and she'll make a difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Still another candidate, businessman Andy Hochberg is using television to get his message to district voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, HOCHBERG CAMPAIGN AD)

ANDY HOCHBERG (R), ILLINOIS CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We must close this loophole that allows individuals to buy guns at gun shows without even a simple background check. As your congressman and as a parent of three children, I will work hard to keep our children and their schools safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: David, how much of these candidates in Illinois's 10th District spending?

PEELER: Well, enough to make this the most expensive congressional race ever in the state of Illinois so far. What's interesting here is Hochberg spent about $600,000. Donnelly has spent $1.3 million. This is for the primary now.

Mark Kirk just started his campaign, a more traditional campaign, as you've already noted, he's kind of the party's choice. He went up on air last week. So we expect him to weigh in.

This is an interesting race. It's one we're going to watch. Remember, it doesn't end at the end of this primary. This is an open seat, it's one that's contested, it's one that both parties are going to fight for to win. So I think you'll see a tremendous amount of spending between now and the general election in this campaign.

WOODRUFF: All right, David Peeler joining us from New York, thanks.

PEELER: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And we'll have more on that Illinois House race as well as a few other key races later in this hour with Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook.

Also ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK CITY: I'm the New Yorker. She's not. I have held public office. She hasn't. I have held public office in New York. She hasn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: A look at the issues in the New York mayor's campaign for upstate support.

Plus, is the EPA fueling a political issue? A look at a gasoline additive and its implications for the environment of campaign 2000.

And later, questions about Internet voting -- is online balloting unfair?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

President Clinton says that he will travel to Switzerland and meet Sunday with Syria's president Hafez al-Assad. Mr. Clinton will attempt to revive the Syrian-Israeli peace talks. Today, the president begins an official visit to India, where he is trying to help mend hostilities between that country and Pakistan.

Pope John Paul II is on his own peace mission in the Middle East. He began a religious pilgrimage in Jordan near the spot where Moses is said to have died. Later, the pontiff met with Jordan's King Abdullah.

A shot rang out today inside the house where a murder suspect is believed to be holding three people hostage near Baltimore, Maryland. Police say they do not know if anyone was hurt. They have identified the hostage taker as Joseph Palczynski, who is wanted in four killings. The standoff began last Friday night. Alaska Airlines' CEO John Kelly says that the FAA plans a white glove audit of the airline. He says that he will hire a vice president of safety. A hotline is being established so that employees can report safety concerns directly to his office, and he is bringing in outside experts to review operations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, CEO, ALASKA AIRLINES: Because of the intense scrutiny that we're under and because people perhaps say, well, you're investigating yourselves, we're saying, fine. We'll ask an outside entity to come in. I will be interviewing those individuals and establishing that team this week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: No criminal wrongdoing has been established in connection with the January crash that killed 88 people.

More and more often, very young children are being given drugs like Ritalin and Prozac. Today, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton announced a government effort to find out why.

CNN's medical correspondent Eileen O'Connor reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first lady decided to call a meeting of administration officials, physicians, parenting groups, teachers and counselors to discuss the use of psychiatric medications to treat young children.

A recent study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" showed the use of anti-depressants has increased 220 percent in the last five years in children under 7. The use of Ritalin among children 2 to 4 to treat attention deficit disorder has doubled in the same period. The first lady wants to know: are these drugs being used appropriately, and should more research into alternative therapies be done?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FIRST LADY: Some of them need a parent to love them or a person simply to listen to them talk about their pain, and yet some do have severe emotional and behavioral problems that can be greatly helped by prescription drugs.

O'CONNOR: The administration announced an initiative to conduct research and develop better labeling of these drugs for proper pediatric doses, dedicate $5 million to research on attention deficit disorder and the use of Ritalin, particularly among preschoolers, distribute a fact sheet for parents on the diagnosis and treatments available for children with emotional and behavioral conditions.

(on camera): A conference this fall is planned to review the results of this research and to look at alternative or complimentary therapies that can be used.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Two suspects are in custody in the theft of 55 Oscar statuettes which were found last night in a trash bin near Los Angeles. Police say the two men were employees of Roadway Express, the shipping company delivering the Oscars. They were arrested Saturday and are being held under $100,000 bond. We're glad those were found.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, Congress as an election year battleground. An update on some of the hot races.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In the New York Senate race, Hillary Clinton's campaign took new shots today at GOP rival Rudy Giuliani, saying the mayor should break his ties to NRA President Charlton Heston and his friends in the gun industry, this as Giuliani deals with a new police shooting controversy that complicated his busy weekend on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): By the time he marched in Buffalo's St. Patrick's Day parade this weekend, Rudy Giuliani had visited five upstate counties in two days.

CROWD: Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

WOODRUFF: The mayor in his first full-fledged campaign trip of the year tried to convince voters he would make a good U.S. senator.

GIULIANI: And I would do for the people in central New York with the same dedication and the same commitment the kind of thing I'm doing for the people in New York City.

WOODRUFF: The city has twice elected Giuliani mayor, but in a statewide race, the Republican base is to the north.

GIULIANI: First time I came to Syracuse was in 1970, not today to run for the Senate.

WOODRUFF: Giuliani tells New Yorkers who don't know him that well, the main differences between him and Hillary Clinton are his roots and his resume.

GIULIANI: In this particular race, I'm the person with the record. First of all, I'm the New Yorker; she's not. I've held public office; she hasn't. I've held public office in New York; she hasn't.

WOODRUFF: Mrs. Clinton has traveled to central and upstate New York more than a dozen times since last summer.

Despite his new focus on this region, problems of the city followed Giuliani upstate, namely the shooting last Thursday of an unarmed black man by police, the third such incident in 13 months.

Patrick Dorismond, a 26-year-old security guard, was killed by an undercover officer during a scuffle. Giuliani questioned the victim's behavior and made his police record public.

GIULIANI: I'll tell you his record: attempted robbery, robbery, assault, disorderly conduct, sale of drugs.

WOODRUFF: Some New York leaders were outraged.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: The idea that the police chief would demonize the victim by putting out information is tantamount of calling a rape victim a whore without having any evidence to support it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: In her only comment on Dorismond's death, Mrs. Clinton said Friday that she is concerned about another police shooting and she is waiting to see the results of the investigation.

More now on the New York Senate race and other key congressional contests. We are joined by Stuart Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report" and Charlie Cook of "The National Journal."

WOODRUFF: Charlie, to you first on this New York Senate race: How is it shaping up?

CHARLIE COOK, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Well, it's funny. Mrs. Clinton has not had a very good year. She's underperforming where Democrats ought to be. But depending upon the polls, she's one to six points behind.

This is going to be a very, very close race. I think you can expect some Democrats to sort of come home. She's doing worse than she should in the suburbs. She's doing a little better than Democrats normally do upstate. And obviously, Giuliani is doing much better than Republicans normally do in the city. But it adds up to a very close race.

WOODRUFF: Why isn't a typical Democrat-Republican face-off?

STUART ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": : Well, I think more or less it is. The fact of the matter is for all of this talk about Giuliani being the New Yorker, he's going to get hammered in the city. And if he wins the election, it's on Long Island, people who left New York City for Nassau and Suffolk or Westchester. And he'll do better in upstate New York.

You know, the Democrats think Mrs. Clinton can exceed expectations up there, and maybe she can. I think there is a built-in resistance to a New York City candidate. On the other hand, a New York City Republican is a little unusual.

I think the people upstate can probably swallow the mayor before they'll swallow Mrs. Clinton. COOK: I don't know. But for Giuliani, though, he does better in the city than Republicans normally do, and so he picks up some there. He picks up a lot of ground in the suburbs. But you know, the polls so far show that she actually does better than Democrats normally do upstate.

WOODRUFF: So she has to make up for that (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Well, look, I mean, what's the difference? Arkansas, Illinois, New York City, they don't like any of them.

ROTHENBERG: You know, I think the key is -- the key is not Charlie Rangel. I mean, he can get on there and we can focus on his complaints about how the mayor's behavior or insensitivity. But the key here is white Democrats, white women: to what extent are they turned off by events like this and the mayor's apparent insensitivity, what they would say is insensitivity. That's the question. It's not Charlie Rangel that's at issue here.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let me turn you to a neighboring state. In the New Jersey Senate race, aides to Democrat John Corzine say that he is spending more than $800,000 a week on ads in his primary battle with former Governor Jim Florio. Now, here's a sample of one of those spots running all across New Jersey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CORZINE CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: Universal access to quality education, from pre-school to a college degree, an end to racial profiling, the beginning of real investment in our inner cities.

The special interests can't buy him. The old politics won't hold him back.

Bold ideas, new answers. John Corzine, Democrat for Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: All right, Charlie, are those ads going to make a difference?

COOK: $800,000 a week is a lot of television, and this is -- you know, I think the question -- I mean, can you -- does John Corzine make a mistake between now and then? I mean, up against Jim Florio. Florio is still fairly popular within the Democratic Party, but carrying a lot of baggage from raising taxes when he was governor. Corzine spending a lot of money. If Corzine doesn't trip up, I think he wins the nomination. But most importantly, this will be a test of the Stu Rothenberg theory of facial hair.

WOODRUFF: Which is?

COOK: That you can't win -- you can't win election to the U.S. Senate if you have facial hair. So this will test Stu's theory.

WOODRUFF: None of the 100 has...

ROTHENBERG: There may be an exception to every rule. I don't know, Charlie, we'll see.

This is a really interesting race. Charlie is actually right about the rule. We'll see whether it's a law of politics or not.

COOK: You can grow it once you're already in.

(LAUGHTER)

ROTHENBERG: Talking about Jim Florio as focused only understates the extent to which he is an obsessive politician. I say that complimentary, in a complimentary way.

His problem he is still -- he's bunkered down in southern New Jersey. Corzine with the support in the northern part of the state, that is with county leaders in the northern part of the state and all this money.

Initially, I thought Florio was going to withstand the assault, but I'm doubtful right now. ] COOK: The other interesting test here is that Corzine is very -- I mean, for a guy that made a gazillion dollars on Wall Street, he is really liberal. And this will be the test -- this is the first candidate in a really competitive race I know of where the candidate came out for a living wage, you know, 8 bucks something an hour, saying that anybody that works 40 hours a week ought to be out of -- off the poverty roles and above the poverty level.

And you know, heretofore, people had thought that was suicidal. We'll have to see.

WOODRUFF: All right, quickly, the whole Senate. Look at -- take a quick look at the whole picture. What does it look like?

ROTHENBERG: I think the Democrats are more likely than not to win seats. I would say right now to net maybe one to three, but there are a lot of seats on both sides that are up for grabs.

I think the focus is two things: One on the Democratic side, their open seats, open seats in New York and New Jersey, and of course, Nebraska, as well as Nevada, that many people have -- are starting to concede to the Republicans. And in the other side is the Republican incumbents: Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania. Can the Republican incumbents hold on?

COOK: I agree. I think Democrats are likely to get one or two seats. If it's not one or two, they're more likely to get three than to break even. But we're looking for Republicans with 54, 53 seats when all is said and done.

WOODRUFF: The House, the big picture. Stu, what does it look like over there?

ROTHENBERG: Well, I regard it as a jump ball. I think both Charlie and I believe that January, since January, the Republicans have gotten a break here or there. The Democrats need six seats, but they really need more than that to take over the House, because they're going -- they may well lose an open seat in Pennsylvania, they may well lose an incumbent in New York.

I think it's -- it's hand-to-hand combat. I think they have a decent chance, certainly.

COOK: You know, since the last election and from now until the next election, it's going to be really too close to call. I think certainly Democrats did seem to have a little bit of an edge last fall. Right now, I would give Republicans a bit of an edge.

When we go through the House, we don't come up with any net change at all right now.

But this thing is really to close to call. And it's going stay that way.

WOODRUFF: Now, what about this focus on some of the Republican moderates in the House by more conservative groups? Marge Roukema, others perhaps too? Charlie.

COOK: Well, you -- Republicans more recently have had the Pol Pots of their party, the people who just kill their own. And I mean, when you've 50.5 percent of the House, you can't afford to have people doing this. But these are freelancers that are causing problems. They would rather be right than hold on to the House of Representatives.

ROTHENBERG: I agree. And the New Jersey seat you're talking about is a good case and point, where Marge Roukema will have another tough challenge from Scott Garrett (ph). He challenged her last time. He did extremely well, somewhere in the mid to upper 40s.

You know, it is conceivable that the Republicans, conservatives could knock off a couple of moderates and actually lose the seats and actually lose the House.

COOK: See, in a lot of cases, these moderates -- Republicans have a choice. They could have a moderate in that district or they could have a Democrat. And it comes down to that. And a lot of them would rather have a Democrat than have their party, you know, sullied by...

ROTHENBURG: But, Charlie, most of the time they wouldn't accept that that was the choice. They would think that a good conservative would win. The conservatives who are supporting Papas in New Jersey believe that he can beat Russ Holt just as Dick Zimmer -- maybe you and I don't think that's as likely, but they do.

COOK: Well we know they can. But anyway...

WOODRUFF: Just quickly, last question, the Illinois House, this John Porter seat in Illinois, what does that looking like? They've got 11 candidates on the Republican side?

COOK: I think there's one -- I mean, the question is, do Republicans nominate somebody that can't hold the seat in November? It's a moderate district. It's a very moderate -- just what we were just talking about. John Cox is a conservative businessman. I think he would have a very hard time winning the general election. The rest of them, I think, would have an edge.

ROTHENBURG: Yes, and I think whoever's coming out -- it's starting to look like a number of moderates in front of the pack: Hochberg, Sean Donnelley you mentioned, Kirk (ph). It's going to depend on how, then, the race flows between now and November.

The Democrats have a good candidate, Warren Bethgash (ph). Does the Republican who comes out, can he or she unite the party? If it's a case of Sean Donnelley, who's relatively young, can she show some maturity? I think it will be a competitive general election.

WOODRUFF: Nobody knows these races better than the two of you. Stu Rothenberg, Charlie Cook, thank you both.

And when we return, cleaning up the environment or improving campaign chances? A look at the potential political implications of gasoline additives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Today, the Clinton administration announced a plan to phase out a gasoline additive which was intended to reduce smog and improve air quality.

"At Issue": the additive's detrimental effect on water and the effect this announcement will have on Al Gore's bid for the White House.

Natalie Pawelski reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Drivers in cities with severe air pollution problems pump something extra along with their gasoline: MTBE, an additive designed to help clean the air but blamed for fouling water supplies.

State lawmakers from New York to Alaska have moved to ban the chemical. Now the EPA says it's time for Congress to take the ban national.

CAROL BROWNER, ADMINISTRATOR, EPA: It is imperative that we eliminate or significantly reduce the fuel additive MTBE from gasoline and boost the use of safe alternatives like Ethanol in order to protect U.S water supplies and to preserve our air quality gains.

PAWELSKI: Getting rid of MTBE would mean reversing a portion of the 1990 Clean Air Act, which made the gasoline additive mandatory in several states.

MTBE could end up proving a powerful political additive. Banning it could hurt the administration and Al Gore's presidential run in Texas and Oklahoma, where MTBE is made, two states where George W. Bush is expected to prevail anyway.

But the issue could give an octane boost to Gore in the Corn Belt because of Ethanol, the corn-based additive that is the leading substitute for MTBE.

TERRY WIGGLESWORTH, MTBE INDUSTRY SOPESWOMAN: Right now, Ethanol is a very powerful lobby in Washington and around the country.

PAWELSKI: Ethanol proved a winning issue for candidates in the Iowa caucuses, even for a Texas governor with an oil industry background.

GOV.GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I support the tax credit on ethanol, you don't.

GORE: We know you voted against ethanol.

PAWELSKI: When it gets into water supplies, MTBE disperses easily, spreading a foul smell and taste. And it's a suspected carcinogen.

On Capitol Hill, a Republican congressman from Iowa has already introduced legislation to ban MTBE and replace it with Ethanol, and the EPA says it may take regulatory action as well. It's unclear whether changing additives could fuel another hot political issue by adding to rising prices at the pump.

Natalie Pawelski, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And up next: Arizona's online primary. Is the high- tech approach fair? Opposing views from our guests when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In our "Political Bytes" segment, a look at the issues involved in online balloting.

On Saturday, Arizona Democrats made history by giving voters the option of ballots via computer in the party's primary election. But now the Justice Department is investigating whether the process is fair and a federal lawsuit is pending.

Joining us now to talk more about this issue, Miller Baker, lead counsel for the Voting Integrity Party, the group that initiated the lawsuit, and Mark Fleisher, who is chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party.

Miller Baker, to you first. Why a lawsuit?

MILLER BAKER, LEAD COUNSEL, VOTER INTEGRITY PARTY: Well, we think that Internet voting is a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act. It's simply unfair to people without Internet access, without remote Internet access. We certainly don't oppose Internet voting at the polls. If it's at the polls it's just a substitution for a voting machine. But in the case of remote Internet access, persons who have Internet access have a substantially greater advantage. It's an unfair advantage over those who don't have Internet access either at home or at their place of employment. So we think it's unfair and a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Fleisher, unfair? And especially for those that would be in a remote location?

MARK FLEISHER, CHAIRMAN, ARIZONA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, we don't think that's the case at all. We made lots of efforts to make sure this election really was inclusive. It was about expanding opportunities to participate. It was our goal to get more people involved and more to participate than ever before and we achieved that goal. And we think we did it with a lot of participation by minorities.

We had Indian tribes, for instance, having early voting on their tribal lands. We had people from the Dogonna (ph) village coming to the African-American areas and going house to house and also to senior centers, people voting on laptops. We feel the results will show there's a lot of precipitation from minorities in this last election.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Baker, if that's the case, how would it have been unfair?

BAKER: Well, you didn't get the full picture there. What happened here is that if you had Internet access you had 96 hours to vote from the convenience of your home or your place of employment prior to the day of the election. If you didn't have Internet access, you had to send in a ballot, a request for a ballot to vote by mail, or you could drive to a polling place, maybe 50 miles. Arizona's a very big state. There were less than 50 polling place, whereas in a normal election there would be over 2,000 polling places. So it gave an very substantial advantage to those people who had Internet in their homes or place of employment.

WOODRUFF: Well doesn't that, Mr. Fleisher, doesn't that, now that you hear it put that way, doesn't that provide an unfair advantage to those with computers? With Internet access?

FLEISHER: Well, over half the people that voted remotely -- and 80 percent of the people did not vote at the me polling site -- about half the people voted on Internet and about half voted by mail on early ballots. So we thought we gave a lot of opportunities to vote by mail, to vote on the Internet and to vote on a polling site so that everybody had a chance to participate.

But we had 86,000 vote versus 12,000 in 1996. So we think that it shows that a lot more people did chose to vote than have in the past.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Baker, are you saying that under no circumstances right now you could see it possible to conduct voting online, voting via the Internet in a fair way?

BAKER: At the present time, that's correct. It is remote Internet voting from a person's home or place of employment. That may well change in 10 or 15 years, when Internet access is universal. And when we arrive at that state of affairs, where Internet access is actually universal, I suspect then that there won't be a Voting Rights Act problem.

But the problem we have today is that Internet access is not universal, and many groups, particularly Native Americans, Hispanics and African-Americans don't have the same level of access to the Internet that whites have. And so right now, it's a real problem. It's a violation of the Voting Rights Act. And essentially what the other side is saying here, the Democratic Party of Arizona is arguing is that separate but equal is all right in voting. I don't think that's the case. I think the law requires that there be equality of access in voting.

WOODRUFF: Is that what you're saying, Mr. Fleisher, separate but equal?

FLEISHER: No, not at all.

First of all, the Justice Department gave us pre-clearance to have this election. Second, they went to court, the Voter Integrity Project, and they lost in federal court to try and get an injunction to stop this election. So -- and they're -- the Justice Department is not investigating this election. They're continuing their continuation of pre-clearance to make sure we do what we said we were going to do. But there's no investigation going on. The election was held the way we said it was going to be held, and I think it was very effective.

And they talk about digital divide, I believe, is much more between age than it is between races. When you look at a student on the Navajo reservation, a 20-year-old student, he's more likely to have, or just as likely to have, Internet access as perhaps a 70-year- old wealthy white individual in Phoenix. So it's not necessarily strictly race. It is also age. And we want to get young people to participate. It's an additional way to vote. It's not replacing any of the other options.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Baker, just quickly, would you at least concede that point?

BAKER: I'm sorry, what point?

WOODRUFF: The point that it's an age divide rather than an ethnic divide or...

FLEISHER: Not at all, not at all. Even when you hold all the other factors constant, age, income and so forth, whites still have a substantially greater access to the Internet than non-whites. So I don't concede the point.

WOODRUFF: All right.

BAKER: Clearly every month that gap is closing. The largest percentage of new... WOODRUFF: All right...

BAKER: ... people online are the African-American community, more so than the whites as a percentage of the population. So that gap...

WOODRUFF: All right...

BAKER: ... is closing every month.

WOODRUFF: Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there. Mark Fleisher, who heads the Arizona Democratic Party, and Miller Baker, who's the counsel for the Voting Integrity Party, thank you both.

BAKER: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. You can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.

This programming note: "CROSSFIRE" guests Bob McManus of "The New York Post" and Wayne Barrett of "The Village Voice" zero in on the question: Does Hillary Clinton have a White House advantage in the New York Senate race? Catch the action starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

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

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