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Inside Politics

Polls Show Gore Has an Elian Gonzalez Problem; Michigan Voters Choose From McCain-less Field; Tony Blair Compromises on Paternity Leave

Aired April 10, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Does Al Gore have an Elian Gonzalez problem? We'll check new poll numbers for signs of political fallout.

Also ahead:


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A slice of suburbia -- time to think about anything but their disappointment at campaign 2000.


WOODRUFF: John King on Michigan voters and the presidential field, now that John McCain is out of the game.

And from Britain, Tony Blair delivers a compromise between the demands of state and his pregnant wife.

Thank you for joining us. Bernie is off today.

Just a week after Al Gore appeared to be closing the gap with George W. Bush, the presidential race has widened again, according to our new CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll. The survey shows Bush now leading Gore by nine points among likely voters nationwide. Bush was just one point ahead last week. Gore's losses come 11 days after he broke with administration policy in the Elian Gonzalez case.

Our Bill Schneider has been going over all these numbers.

Bill, is this shift related to Gore's position on the Gonzalez child?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, that is possible. Americans continue to feel, by 2-1, that it would be in the best interests of the boy to live with his father in Cuba than to remain in the U.S. Now Gore took the position that he should be allowed to stay in the U.S. Here's something surprising. By the same 2-1 margin, Americans disapprove of the way the U.S. government has handled the Elian Gonzalez case, even though the government is taking the position that the boy should go back to his father. Now what's the government doing wrong? It's let the case drag on for four months and it's let the case become too political. Even though Gore has broken with the administration on this issue, those who dislike the way the government has handled it show very little support for the vice president. Gore has broken with the president for the wrong reason. The public wants the boy to go back to his father as quickly as possible. Gore backs legislation to grant Elian and his father permanent residency status.

WOODRUFF: Bill, is there specific evidence of what Gore has said and appeared to shift on, that this has cost him support?

SCHNEIDER: Actually, there is. Let's look at the majority of Americans who support returning the boy to live with his father in Cuba. In February, before Gore broke with the administration, those voters gave him a 13-point lead over Bush. That lead has now vanished. Notice that Gore lost almost 10 points among those who want Elian to go back.

Has Gore made gains among those who want Elian to stay in the U.S.? No. In February, Bush had a 15-point lead among those voters. Now Bush leads by 20. Instead of picking up support, Gore has actually lost a few points among those who feel the boy should stay here. They don't seem very appreciative of the vice president's position.

WOODRUFF: And how about in South Florida? Do we know enough to know what voters there are thinking?

SCHNEIDER: Well, let's see. "The Miami Herald" published a poll of Dade County residents this weekend. It showed a deep and growing split between Cuban-Americans and others over this issue. Over 80 percent of Cuban-Americans favor keeping Elian in the U.S., while growing numbers of non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans favor the boy's return to his father. Three-quarters of South Florida whites and over 90 percent of blacks want him to go back. That split does not apply to the vice president.

No constituency in South Florida approves of the way Gore has handled the issue. Cuban-Americans disapprove of Gore's handling of the situation 47 to 32 percent. A majority of South Florida whites disapprove. Even South Florida blacks disapprove of Gore's position by 2-1. Why? Because South Florida residents do not think Gore is sincere. Two-thirds say Gore's position is an attempt to get votes from South Florida. Almost everyone in South Florida believes that -- two-thirds of Cuban-Americans, two-thirds of whites, more than two- thirds of blacks.

Gore is not getting credit from people on either side of the issue because his position is seen as a political move -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Well, while Gore has been trying to boost his prospects against Bush in Florida, some of the old Rust Belt states are considered to be the key presidential battlegrounds this year. Among them, Michigan, where many voters apparently are on the fence now that John McCain is out of the race.


KING (voice-over): ... time to think about anything but their...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I didn't have those same feelings towards Gore or Bush.

KING: John McCain...


KING: ... of choice for the Morgans and everyone else in this mix of Democrats and independents from the bellwether Kalamazoo area in southwest Michigan.

(on camera): Kalamazoo is at the heart of a reliably Republican congressional district, yet Jimmy Carter won here in 1976, and Bill Clinton narrowly carried the district twice, tapping into a pool of presidential swing voters who have a knack for picking the winners.

(voice-over): So who these folks pick now that McCain is gone from the race could be critical to the November outcome.

MICHELLE MARQUARDT, ATTORNEY: I guess I'm looking for some sort of dignity, and I don't see that. I keep waiting for that.

KING: Michele and Jim Marquardt are attorneys. She leans Democratic, he leans Republican.

JIM MARQUARDT, ATTORNEY: I sense that Al Gore has learned well at the knee of his boss, and I've picked up on a number of things that Mr. Gore just has trouble finding the truth. And that bothers me.

KING: But Jim isn't sold yet on Bush. And like many moderates in this part of the country worries the Texas governor tilts too far right.

JOAN VAN ZOEREN, RETIRED LIBRARIAN: The Republicans have frozen out moderates in the last 20 years or so. And it's been extremely difficult for me.

KING: Joan Van Zoeren voted for George Bush the elder back in 1988, then twice for Bill Clinton.

VAN ZOEREN: My problem with the Bushes is that he wanted to be president rather than he wanted to do things. And this is still my problem with the younger generation. And so I'm very undecided.

KING: Most here voiced worry that both major party candidates are sons of privilege.

JERRY POTRATZ, HUMAN RESOURCES SPECIALIST: I head down to Florida on spring break, and I'm heading down though Tennessee on Al Gore Highway -- Al Gore Sr. Highway. And I don't know. That rubs me the wrong way. I think they're out of touch. I think they're both out of touch.

KING: Several on hand voted for Ross Perot at least once, but there was no support for a Pat Buchanan Reform Party candidacy here. These folks viewed McCain as a truth-teller, a leader, a reformer, and didn't mind, in his case, that they didn't see eye-to-eye on every issue.

BOB PETERSON, HUMAN RESOURCES SPECIALIST: He brought something to the race that resonated with me and obviously a lot of other people here. And I'm not sure I see that in the two candidates that are running for president at this point.

KING: All 10 insist they haven't made up their minds for sure, but talk of the issues reveals some leanings.

NORMA CASH, RETIRED: I've been around 80 years. I've worked all my life. And to not be able to have the medicine that I need, I'm not comfortable with that. And I don't think the Republicans are sympathetic at all.

KING: Michele Spencer is African-American, a single mom who would have voted Republican in November if McCain were the nominee. But she sees his defeat as proof the GOP fears diversity.

MICHELE SPENCER, ENGINEER: It really reminded me more of a machine, a system, that you really have to fit in as a candidate for the Republican Party to move ahead.

KING: Physician Tom Melgar is watching how Gore and Bush handle the debate over the HMO patients' bill of rights.

DR. TOM MELGAR, PEDIATRIC PHYSICIAN: There are decisions that are clearly in the best interest of the patient, and we still have to argue with the insurance companies.

KING: The Morgans are a snapshot of middle America -- young daughters raise concerns about schools and crime, an elderly parent a very different set of issues.

KENT MORGAN, SELF-EMPLOYED CONSULTANT: I have an 88-year-old mother who I think about her future. And I look at myself at that age and whether I'll have retirement and pension.

KING: The disappointment that their candidate failed is still fresh and sometimes clouds their reaction to questions about Bush or Gore. But this late dash of snow can't hide for long that it's just spring, and that when it comes to picking a president there's no need to hurry.


WOODRUFF: Well, joining us now, John King, who has now level Michigan for Missouri, where he will continue talking to voters.

John, is it fair to say that the voters who like John McCain are also independent?

KING: It's not an exact match, Judy. There are some independents who, of course, did not support John McCain in the Republican race. But McCain's pollster, Bill McInturff, keeps doing research. He says in a recent national survey he conducted, some 25 percent of the electorate still identifies with the Arizona senator. And in McInturff's view, they will be the pivotal force in year's campaign.


BILL MCINTURFF, GOP POLLSTER: There's roughly about one out of four people in the country who say yes. And those one out of four people are the swing vote in this election. They're tied to the generic congressional ballot. They're tied on the presidential ballot between Bush and Gore. And who are those people? Well, they're 35- 55, they're college graduates, they're upscale, they're suburban. And they are not hard partisans. And they've found a lot of appeal in John McCain, and I don't think they're strongly attached to either Bush or to Gore. And I think they're willing to listen to both sides.


KING: One of the things we hope to do as we find these McCain voters and other independent voters is to keep in touch with them in the weeks and months ahead so we can get a sense of what it is in the end that helps them make up their mind as they choose the next president -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, as you talk to these voters, is there one issue that seems to be dominating the debate out there?

KING: That's what's very striking about the election. There is no dominant issue right now. It's still April. There could be, come October and November. Some mention education, some mention health care, but in the good economic times, in the words of the Democratic pollster Peter Hart, he thinks the voters instead -- especially the independent-minded swing voters, we find in the suburbs and places here like St. Louis -- he thinks they will look at Al Gore and George Bush not on policy matters but look directly at the men and determine if they're leaders.


PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: At this stage of the game, Gore and Bush look like they're small fighters going against one another. They look more like they are more like middleweights than heavyweights. And voters really want to be able to find a heavyweight. I believe that 2000 is a lot more about leadership than is about any single issue. It really has to do with something with stature.


KING: And when we raise that question with the voters, we meet many raised questions about Governor George W. Bush's experience. Many know he has only been governor for five years. In the case of the vice president, they know he's been around a long time. But many feel detached from him as a person. They also view him as very much a tactical politician. And on the issue you opened the show with, asked voters out here in middle America about the Elian Gonzalez case, they feel both the vice president and Governor Bush have been pandering to the Cuban-Americans in Florida -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King, who is now reporting from St. Louis, thanks, John. Good luck on your interviews with these voters.

And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, a pause on the campaign trail as the vice president takes time out to honor his mother.

And we will talk to a professor who says Al Gore has the keys to winning the White House.


WOODRUFF: Vice President Al Gore will be trying to win over a group of undecided voters this evening in Ohio. This afternoon, Gore was in his home state of Tennessee to praise the accomplishments of his mother.

Our Patty Davis is on the trail with the vice president.


PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vice President Al Gore relinquished the political spotlight to his mother, Pauline Gore, Monday in Nashville. Gore was on hand to honor her as she received a Bachelors degree from Union University, the school she attended for only two years before heading on to law school in the early 1930s.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As long as I live, I will be grateful to Union University for starting my mother on her path in life through higher education, and now for granting her the diploma she first worked so hard for 70 years ago.

DAVIS: Gore's late father, Al Sr., presided over Tennessee politics for decades. Son Al Gore won seats in the U.S. House and Senate, and returned home to Tennessee when times got rough for his presidential campaign, moving his campaign office to Nashville.

(on camera): Despite his favorite-son status, Gore faces a fight for his state. A Mason-Dixon poll last month found Gore ahead of Texas Governor George W. Bush by just six points among Tennessee voters.

(voice-over): But political insiders say that's not surprising in a state that is leaning progressively more Republican. The state's governor, two senators and majority of U.S. representatives are Republican.

JOHN SIEGENTHALER, SR., VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: But while he's six points ahead in the polls here, and that, in my judgment, is a landslide, it's not a margin he can take for granted. He really has to fight for everything he gets in Tennessee.

DAVIS: Gore's margin is larger than President Clinton's when he beat Bob Dole in this traditional swing state in 1996 by just two points with Al Gore on the ticket. The Clinton-Gore team beat Bush's father by five points in 1992. Now that Gore's at the top of the ticket, he working to ignite the voters in his home state who, after all, elected him to Congress for 16 straight years, once again turning his favorite-son status into a November election victory.

Patty Davis, CNN, Nashville, Tennessee.


WOODRUFF: Well, whatever the poll numbers are showing these days, history may be on Al Gore's side in his bid for the presidency. Allan Lichtman, dean of history at American University, some years ago, created a system for predicting the outcome of presidential elections. I asked Lichtman to explain the 13 keys to the presidency and what they bode for this year's presidential hopefuls.


ALLAN LICHTMAN, DEAN OF HISTORY, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: It's the magic of history. These are the 13 factors that in every presidential election since 1860, has predicted the winner or at least retrospectively, prospectively since 1984. The basic theory is presidential elections are based on the performance of the party holding the White House. So the key's measure, the performance and unity of the incumbent party. They are things like the long- and short-term economy, foreign policy successes and failures, policy change, social unrest, third-party candidates, and yes, scandal.

WOODRUFF: Now, and you're saying it's been accurate every time you've applied these keys since 1984?

LICHTMAN: That's correct. Well ahead of time, it has predicted the outcome of every election from 1984 to 1996.

WOODRUFF: And what are they showing this year?

LICHTMAN: This year they are showing by a one-key margin as narrow a margin as you can get, that Al Gore will be the next president of the United States. If the party holding the White House, the Democrats, lose six or more of the 13 magic keys, they're out. They lose. They have lost five.

WOODRUFF: Characterize for us why it is that Al Gore is in a stronger position here?

LICHTMAN: Al Gore is in a stronger position because, on balance, the record of the party in power, the Democrats, and he's the Democratic Party nominee and the legity (ph) of all this, on balance, their record is strong enough so that the American people, who are very pragmatic in their voting, will return that party to power. In particular, we have a strong economy, we have no great foreign threat, no disaster abroad. We have a tranquil domestic scene and we have a united incumbent party. Under those historical conditions, voters return the incumbent party to the White House.

WOODRUFF: But working against him...

LICHTMAN: Working against him, of course, overwhelmingly is: the scandal, which inevitably spreads to the nominee whether the nominee is involved or not; the lack of any major policy change during the second term; the lack of a grand foreign policy triumph like winning the Gulf War or winning World War II; and of course the fact that a sitting president is not at the top of the ticket.

WOODRUFF: But having said that, the pluses for Al Gore, you're saying, far out -- or outweigh the negatives?

LICHTMAN: The pluses narrowly outweigh the negatives. That's why Gore is going to win.

WOODRUFF: Now, scandal has been one of the keys, but why couldn't someone argue that this Monica Lewinsky scandal -- the biggest scandal of its kind that we have seen to affect a presidency is going to have a stronger weight and be much more of a factor than anything like it we've ever seen in a presidential election?

LICHTMAN: Well, I'm not sure this is worse than the Watergate and the pardon by Gerald Ford of Richard Nixon, but be that as it may, the point to the keys is they are evenly weighed because you never know how much any one factor is going to weigh in, but if one factor is that overwhelmingly strong, it will have a trigger effect on other keys.

Many thought, for example, the scandals would trigger big mid- term losses for the Democrats in 1998, and I do have a mid-term election key and it didn't trigger that. Others thought it would trigger major challenges to Al Gore and I do have an incumbent party context key, it didn't trigger that either.

WOODRUFF: All right, Allan Lichtman, it's just April now. The election is not until November. Can this change between now and then?

LICHTMAN: Yes, it can. Here's what could possibly happen -- obviously, we never know what might happen with the economy, the economy is looking strong. Should the economy of course take a major dive, Al Gore would lose. We never know what might happen in foreign policy. Should there be a bolt from the blue and the United States suffer a great disaster in foreign policy, Al Gore will lose. Should some unknown third-party candidate come along and really catch fire in America, that could defeat Al Gore.

But kind of barring those bolts from the blue, which we can't rule out, based on what we know now Al Gore will be the next president of the United States no matter what George W. Bush does.

WOODRUFF: We're always looking for a crystal ball and here's one that is based on history.

LICHTMAN: Exactly.

WOODRUFF: Allan Lichtman, thank you very much.

LICHTMAN: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come, paternity and diplomacy -- a look at a prime minister's struggle to balance fatherhood and matters of state.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KS), CHMN., NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE: What can you say about New York? The biggest Senate race in the history of the world times two.


WOODRUFF: From New York to Nevada, a look at the races that could shift the balance of power on Capitol Hill.

And later, ballot initiatives, politics and money. David Broder on the dangers of the so-called initiative industry.


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

There has been a great deal of action in Miami today in the Elian Gonzalez custody battle. We go now to CNN's Mark Potter who joins us live from Miami with the very latest -- Mark.


Well, this is a case where nothing seems to happen easily. At 1:30 Eastern Time today a meeting was scheduled between health care professionals selected by the Justice Department and lawyers for Elian Gonzalez and his Miami relatives. That was to have occurred at the Jackson Medical Center, but three hours later, the meeting still had not occurred, and then it was rescheduled and moved to another location, another area hospital where Marisleysis Gonzalez was admitted over the weekend. Her father, Lazaro Gonzalez, the boy's great uncle, said he couldn't leave her bedside so the visiting doctors agreed to go to that hospital. Presumably now the meeting is just getting underway, and it's to be about a three-hour meeting.

Tomorrow or Wednesday the Justice Department is expected to file -- to deliver a letter to the family detailing how and where the boy is to be transferred to his father. It's, of course, a move still being opposed by the family. We do not know what the family will do when it gets that letter.

What we do know is that the lawyers for the family today filed an appeal in federal court in Atlanta. They're also asking a Florida state court to grant the boy a custody hearing. The question still remains, though, and it will have to be answered by the judge of whether a state court even has jurisdiction in this case.

It's quiet here at the house today. There are a few protesters here, a relative few, but they're very quiet. Tonight at 8:00 local time a rather large candlelight vigil is expected to begin in this neighborhood. So, as I said, nothing seems to go easily in this case.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: Indeed, Mark Potter reporting from Miami, thanks.

Pentagon sources say investigators are focusing on pilot error in Saturday's crash of a Marine Corps Osprey aircraft. However, the sources say it is too early to rule out mechanical problems. The plane was rotating its propellers to land like a helicopter when it went down in Arizona. Nineteen Marines were killed.

The leaders of North and South Korea will hold a historic first summit in June. The meeting in the North Korean capital will be the first face-to-face contact between Korean leaders since the peninsula was divided in 1945. President Clinton is welcoming the announcement. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will talk about the upcoming summit on CNN's "WORLDVIEW." That's right after INSIDE POLITICS at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 3:00 Pacific.

Despite recent attempts by airlines to improve the quality of their services, things don't appear to have improved very much. An airline quality survey suggests that service is getting worse, not better. Researchers at two Midwest universities found improvement only in baggage handling, and passenger complaints jumped 130 percent last year. The airline industry says that its new computer -- or rather customer first plan should result in more positive findings next year.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, a British view of Prime Minister Tony Blair's very personal dealings with the politics of paternity leave.


WOODRUFF: British Prime Minister Tony Blair has dealt with his share of difficult political problems, but the question of whether to take paternity leave after his and his wife's new baby is born had him stumped.

But now as CNN's Jennifer Michael explains, Blair believes that he has found a way to respond to the majority of Britons who want him to stay on the job and to the wishes of his wife.


JENNIFER MICHAEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Famous for finding a third way between Britain's left and right wings, Prime Minister Tony Blair has finally found a way out of his paternity leave dilemma. In an interview with "The Observer" newspaper, Blair said he will go into "holiday mode" when his wife Cherie gives birth to their fourth child next month, but that's not quite the same as stopping work. For an unspecified amount of time Blair said he'd be a stay-at- home prime minister, juggling nappy changes with matters of state.

Blair told "The Observer," "The important thing is to help Cherie and the baby. I obviously will try as much as possible to cut down in that period what I'm doing. But I have to run the country."

Mrs. Blair put her husband on the spot a month ago when she suggested Blair follow the lead of Finland's prime minister, who took a week of paternity leave to help out with his new daughter. Would Tony Blair do the same? Words failed him in a radio interview.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: To be completely on the spot, I haven't thought about it properly yet. I mean, I know it's something I should think about, but I haven't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really haven't decided?

BLAIR: I haven't. I know I should have and I'm sure I will.

MICHAEL: A sticky wicket indeed. If he stopped work, Blair ran the risk of being perceived as a wimp, or worse still, negligent. If he chose the office, Blair risked alienating British women, not to mention his wife.

Even Bill Clinton sympathized.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to have been a fly on the wall when they first talked about that after it appeared in public. Well, you know, I feel very close to both Tony and Cherie, I don't want to get in the middle of that.

MICHAEL: Blair's solution may not have satisfied everyone, but it apparently worked for his wife. An employment lawyer by profession, she is said to be perfectly happy.

Jennifer Michael, CNN, reporting.


WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk about Mr. Blair's compromise now with Martin Kettle. He is U.S. Bureau chief of the London-based daily newspaper "The Guardian."

Martin Kettle, why is this such a big story in your nation?

MARTIN KETTLE, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, because -- firstly because I think the British like a kind of royal baby, even if Tony Blair isn't officially king. But secondly, because the -- he's the leader of the Labor Party and Labor Party is the progressive party in British politics, a lot of women support it, a lot of feminists support it. Labor has always introduced such laws as maternity leave and parental- leave laws and pay and so forth. So Labor is the party of progress on these areas and so now here's Tony Blair having to decide whether he's going to represent the official Labor Party position or the position of traditional political leaders who tend to not like relinquishing office.

WOODRUFF: So this is not -- this is more than just curiosity about how he and his wife are going to handle something, there are serious issues involved, you're saying?

KETTLE: Well, I think there is one very serious political issue at stake, which is the timing. I don't suppose when the baby was conceived, though any thought was given to this, but the baby is due on May 24th, and May 22nd is the deadline set under the Good Friday agreement for the decommissioning of arms by paramilitary groups, including the Irish Republican Army. So...

WOODRUFF: In Northern Ireland.

KETTLE: In Northern Ireland. And so very clearly, the British government will be in the midst of what's very likely going to be another very tough round over Northern Ireland just at the time when the Blairs are in the delivery room.

WOODRUFF: Well, do you think people in Great Britain think there's ever a good time for a prime minister to take some time off?

KETTLE: Well, I don't think they have really thought about that really, because although we have had a woman prime minister, Mrs. Thatcher had her children long before she ever got to Downing Street. We did have a prime minister who had -- who was the father of a child when he was prime minister. That was Lord John Russell, but that was in the 1860s. So not many people can remember how that was handled, and I don't suppose he faced quite the pressures that Tony Blair faces.

WOODRUFF: But are there real pressures? I mean, after all, they can certainly afford good child care help. He lives very close to where he works. Is there really a problem here, or is this mostly for appearances?

KETTLE: A lot of it -- I mean, a lot of everything that any politician does and certainly Tony Blair is very much -- very much has appearances taken into very strict consideration. Tony Blair as a father of his previous three children was a very involved father. I know that he looked after them. I know that he, you know, changed diapers, that he put them to bed, that he read them stories, and, you know, that he cooked them meals. So...

WOODRUFF: And that warms the hearts of mothers everywhere.

KETTLE: And people like to know that.



KETTLE: And...

WOODRUFF: I was just going to say, is it possible do you think that he and Cherie Blair didn't discuss this before he was -- before she made a speech and said she wished he'd do it, and then he was asked about it?

KETTLE: I honestly think that was not spun, and I think Cherie said exactly what she wanted to say, which was that she thought he should take some paternity leave. It's clear that he's not going to do that, and doubtless because he's having a pretty bad political year in some respects at home. This will be another of the charges that are added to the indictment against him.

WOODRUFF: One more reason to keep an eye on your side of the pond. Martin Kettle, thank you very much for being with us, we appreciate it.

KETTLE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And up next, sizing up the battleground U.S. Senate races of 2000. A look at what's at stake, when we return.



MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: We've moved more people out of poverty, we've helped to provide jobs for more people than has been the case in a very, very long time. That's the difference between doing something real for people and a bunch of irrelevant, silly slogans that rhyme but don't really accomplish anything in people's lives.


WOODRUFF: New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaking to women supporters in Manhattan today about his likely Senate race with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. The New York seat is one of several that may affect the balance of power in the Senate this election year.

Our Chris Black takes a closer look at the battleground races and what's at stake.


CHRIS BLACK, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Virginia Democratic Senator Chuck Robb announcing his plans to seek a third term in the U.S. Senate.

SEN. CHARLES ROBB (D), VIRGINIA: Make no mistake, this election is going to be tough. And I'm ready to fight.

BLACK: Robb faces the fight of his political life this year against popular former GOP governor George Allen.

GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Why don't you reed to me what you're going to do, Brandon?

BLACK: Allen leads Robb in most polls, making this one of the most hotly contested Senate races of the year. Despite Robb's problems, both parties agree the arithmetic favors the Democrats.

SEN, ROBERT TORRICELLI (D-NJ), CHMN., SENATORIAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: The math this year is very much in our favor.

BLACK: Of the 33 Senate seats at stake, 19 are held by Republicans, only 14 by Democrats. And Robb is the only Democratic incumbent who looks vulnerable.

MCCONNELL: The best we can hope for is to stay where we are. We have a lot of exposure this year.

BLACK: The GOP is most exposed in states where Republicans were elected in the Republican sweep of 1994. On that list, Democrats see Spencer Abraham of Michigan and Rod Grams of Minnesota as two prime targets.

And Democrats are also optimistic about picking up seats in states where popular Democratic governors are challenging established GOP incumbents. That list includes Missouri's Governor Mel Carnahan, who is challenging Senator John Ashcroft. And in Delaware, Tom Carper leads 30-year Senate veteran Bill Roth in most polls.

But retirements have made some Democratic seats vulnerable. That means Democratic seats in Nevada, New Jersey, Nebraska are all in play -- not to mention the mother of all Senate face-offs this year, New York.

Here, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are in a slugfest of empire proportions. Observers predict some $70 to $80 million will be spent on this seat alone.

MCCONNELL: What can you say about New York? The biggest Senate race in the history of the world times two.

BLACK: Republicans have only one Senate retiree, Connie Mack of Florida. Democrats say they are well-positioned to win there if front-runner Bill Nelson, the state insurance commissioner, captures the party nomination in June. The GOP candidate will likely be Congressman Bill McCollum, who gained national visibility as one of the impeachment managers.

Republicans say their best shot at picking up a Democratic seat is Nevada, where former Republican Congressman John Ensign came within 400 votes of knocking off Democratic Senator Harry Reid in 1998.

On top of all else, there's one major X factor: the presidential contest. Issues debated by Al Gore and George W. Bush, like education reform, drug coverage for seniors and patient rights, will also be pivotal in the Senate races. But on the issue of how the candidates themselves will affect those races, the parties disagree.

TORRICELLI: I think we are very dependent on Al Gore, not only that he win but that he articulate this message.

MCCONNELL: I think sweep elections are pretty unusual. This looks like an election in which voters are going to be picking and choosing.


BLACK: The Senate majority has shifted three times in the last 18 years, and each time the winning party has picked up more than the six victories the Democrats need to retake control of the Senate this year. So right now, both sides are saying it's not probable but it's far from impossible -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Chris, you're saying that there is one Democratic seat clearly vulnerable. But I gather you think there may be other obstacles for Democrats out there.

BLACK: Well, one other Democratic disadvantage this year, Judy, is late primaries in five key states, including Florida and Rhode Island, where there are vulnerable Republican incumbents. A late primary in September means that the Democratic challenger has a lot less time to replenish his or her treasury and also to shift gears for a general election campaign.

WOODRUFF: All right, Chris Black reporting from the Capitol, thank you.

Well, joining us now, Elizabeth Drew, journalist and author of the book "The Corruption of American Politics: What Went Wrong and Why."

Elizabeth Drew, thank you for being with us.


WOODRUFF: Before we get to the book, you had a column, a piece you wrote for "The Washington Post" just before the weekend, in which you expressed -- reported on some of the concerns of people close to George W. Bush, including his father, concerned about the state of his campaign. What was that all about?

DREW: There's a lot of concern in some Republican circles on Capitol Hill, friends of the Bush family and Bush's father, that the very small group of Texans who have been with George W. Bush for a long time and took him through the primaries is really not experienced enough for the national contest that is now under way and will become pretty brutal by November. It's -- they really don't have national experience, and they made a number of mistakes in the primaries. Yes, they won, but they had -- they had a number of advantages. And so there's a lot of concern that they need to bring in some more experienced people who know more about national politics.

WOODRUFF: Polls today were reporting Bush nine points ahead of Gore, but is it your sense that there will be changes in the Bush campaign? DREW: This is not without precedent that the people who got their guy nominated think, you know, we're so smart, we don't really need anybody else, and we've been with him a long time. But there's an awful lot of pressure on George W. And his father is reluctant to put too much direct pressure on, because he doesn't want to be seen as hovering over the campaign. But he's talking to key Republicans and expressing real and deep concern about the experience and wisdom of the small campaign group.

WOODRUFF: Let me shift gears now to your book, "The Corruption of American Politics." This first came out a year ago, when you laid out your many concerns at that time. Twelve months later, is the situation better, worse, the same?

DREW: Well, it's better in the sense that, as you know, Judy, I've been saying for some time that I think the public is much more interested in this subject and concerned about the role of money in politics than a number of wise heads around Washington have been saying. Of course, opponents of reform said then and continue to say nobody's interested. I think the primaries proved otherwise. And now for the first time in our history we have two presidential all-but- nominees describing themselves and offering themselves up as champions of campaign finance reform. That's two more than we've ever had.

WOODRUFF: But the two candidates who were most vocal about campaign finance reform, John McCain and Bill Bradley, lost. What does that say about this whole effort?

DREW: I don't think they lost because of that. They were up against an awful lot. They were up against entrenched power, they were up against a lot of money. Look, the two incumbents in the two parties won. The establishments of both parties prevailed. But I don't think there's any question that the following John McCain developed, the fact that new people turned out because he said he was going to shake up Washington -- shake up Washington means to throw some power against the special interests and try to get a fairer system. And so I don't think -- I think that's why you have these two candidates whose passion for this issue was not terribly apparent before January presenting themselves as reformers.

WOODRUFF: So bottom line, there's hope on in this issue?

DREW: Oh, I think there is.

WOODRUFF: All right, Elizabeth Drew, author of "The Corruption of American Politics." It's now out in paperback. Thank you very much.

Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right.

And just ahead, we'll talk with David Broder about politics, ballot issues and his book, "Democracy Derailed."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Joining us now from Phoenix, David Broder of The Washington Post, author a new book, "Democracy Derailed."

David, at one point in this book, where you're talking about initiatives and referenda, you say, "Despite its popular appeal, it is alien to the spirit of the U.S. Constitution."

What do you mean by that?

DAVID BRODER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I can barely remember high-school civics, but I can remember that there was stuff in there about checks and balances, and more seriously, about all of the procedural safeguards that the founders put in place so that the majority of the moment would have to pause and reflect before it turned its sentiment into law.

And most of those checks and balances are missing from the initiative process, where 51 percent majority is as good as 80 percent agreement that something should become law or become part of the state constitution.

WOODRUFF: David, the folks who like the referendum and initiative idea argue that if anything it's closer to a pure democracy, because it brings the voters, it puts them in a position to implement exactly what they want?

BRODER: It is closer to a pure democracy, and we need to remind ourselves that what Benjamin Franklin and the other wise men in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia said, "We are giving you a republic in which we would govern ourselves through elected representatives who would be responsible to us at election time."

But they were very aware of the dangers of simple majority rule, dangers to individual freedom and dangers to the legitimate considerations of groups or people in a society who might be less than a majority at the moment but still had some real claim on the consideration before something became law.

WOODRUFF: So more democracy is not necessarily better?

BRODER: I think more representation and more effective representation is better. But I think that the idea that we put everything up to a majority vote is really a distortion of what the people who created this country had in mind and a distortion of the system that has given us the blessings of liberty for 230 years now.

WOODRUFF: What prompted you to write this book? How widespread are these initiatives around the country now?

BRODER: Initiative process is in half the country, 24 states, District of Columbia, hundreds of cities from New York to Honolulu. And what prompted me to get interested in it was that every election cycle for the last 20 years there have been more initiatives on the ballot and more sweeping initiatives. Fundamental law is being written every year in this country now without the processes and without the safeguards that were built in to our constitution. WOODRUFF: And are we going to see more in the future?

BRODER: I think it's clearly likely to increase. I was just in Oregon, where they now have 65 initiatives circulating for the November ballot. And California, in last month's primary, there were 20 initiatives on the ballot.

I think it is -- it is becoming increasingly the preferred method for wealthy individuals or interest groups to put their proposition before the voters. And if they can get it passed, as happens about two out of five times, they have got their mission accomplished.

WOODRUFF: All right, David Broder of The Washington Post, author of a new book, "Democracy Derailed: The Initiative Movement and the Power of Money."

David Broder, thanks very much.

BRODER: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And that is all for this Edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's

This programming note, Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida and Marty Meehan of Massachusetts will be discussing the Elian Gonzalez case tonight on "CROSSFIRE." That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

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



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