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Inside Politics

Gore and Clinton Share Stage to Raise Cash; Values Debate Could Shape Course of Election 2000; Battle for Control of the House Heats Up

Aired April 14, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore prepares to raise campaign cash with the president at his side. But has Mr. Clinton given him some reason to keep his distance again?

Also ahead:


TAMMY HECKMAN, MOTHER: It's out of control. It's absolutely out of -- out of control.


WOODRUFF: A mother's fears and the politically charged debate over values. Will they change the course of election 2000?



BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are few expressions that send chills through Republicans everywhere more than the words Speaker Gephardt.


WOODRUFF: Bob Franken on who and what may decide the battle for control of the House.

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

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

After months of trying to break free from the president's shadow and his political baggage, Al Gore is set to share a campaign stage with Mr. Clinton tomorrow. As it turns out, the timing of the event might have been better for the vice president, given Mr. Clinton's public remarks this week about his impeachment and his possible legal problems ahead.

CNN's Major Garrett has more on tomorrow's big fund raiser and the sensitive Gore-Clinton equation.


MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Politics is about chemistry, and Al Gore and Bill Clinton are about to unveil their new post-primary formula: A for Al plus B for Bill equals C for cash. The president and vice president will campaign together tomorrow for the first time since Mr. Gore dispatched Bill Bradley, treating a Beverly Hills audience of 100 to the opening act of the Bill and Al general election road show. The haul? Two and a half million dollars for the Democratic Party. The next stop on tour? New York on April 24th.

What happened to Clinton fatigue and the president as Al Gore's political albatross? The primaries solved all that, say some political analysts.

THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Al Gore's established his own political identity. He's succeeded in dispatching his primary opposition and pulling roughly even with Governor Bush in the polls, and now has the confidence to take advantage of the ways in which Bill Clinton can actually help him.

GARRETT: There's a bottom line issue as well: Gore and the party need money, and no one raises it faster or in bigger quantities than the president. Gore will need supportive commercials from the Democratic Party, paid for by the kind of money he'll raise with the president. It's called soft money, which Gore says he wants to eliminate.

This sort of contradiction will follow Gore throughout the campaign. But a bigger problem is the way the president's past problems can shadow the Gore campaign, like this week's question: Would Gore pardon Clinton?

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The answer is no, I don't have any interest in that. I don't want one, and I am prepared to stand before any bar of justice I have to stand before.

JAMES THURBER, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: In terms of embarrassment from the president, he needs to move away from the questions of Whitewater, the questions of the impeachment and other issues. And I think he's done it quite well so far, but it may come up again, certainly in a hard-hitting campaign in the fall.


GARRETT: In one respect, not much has changed for Al Gore. Though he proved himself a tough campaigner and more of his own man in the primaries, he still needs the president, with all his pluses and minuses, as fund-raiser-in-chief -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Major Garrett, reporting from the White House, thanks.

And now we are joined now by Bill Kristol of "The Weekly Standard" and E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post" and the Brookings Institute.

E.J., to you first, is the president more of a liability or more of an asset to the vice president?

E.J. DIONNE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You know what's funny, I was thinking this week as this issue was heating up again that as most people would say, you know, lord, Al Gore doesn't need this issue coming up. But the fact is, I think the president already is a drag on Al Gore, you're seeing that in his numbers, and that as this fight has gone on, if it's been Clinton versus Clinton, which is to say no opponent out there, no one trying to bring him down, Clinton has actually gone down some in public esteem.

When Clinton had an enemy to fight, Mr. Starr, Mr. Barr and the Congress, people identified with him at least because he was fighting his opponents. I think the odd thing that may have happened this week, and it's a contrarian view I admit, is that now somebody is saying we want to -- the special prosecutor wants to indict Clinton again, I think the country wants to be over with this thing. And so, oddly, I think if you -- if somebody tries to relive the fight of last year, it could actually help increase Clinton's standing for awhile, because the country is just sick of the fight.

WOODRUFF: Is that your stake on it, Bill?

WILLIAM KRISTOL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Pardon -- the word "pardon" is music to George W. Bush's ears. Every time he picks up the newspaper and sees, will Gore have to -- will Bush accept the pardon -- I'm sorry, will Clinton accept the pardon? Does he want a pardon? Does he need to be pardoned? It's awfully good for George W. Bush. Look...

WOODRUFF: Even if the president's saying, I don't want one, I wouldn't ask for one and all that?

KRISTOL: No, because it reminds everyone of the single-worst blot on the Clinton-Gore administration, which was Bill Clinton's behavior and Bill Clinton's impeachment. One can't get away from that, I think, and it help Republicans an awful lot.

DIONNE: But I think, as I say, that that is already a drag on Gore. I think Gore's problem is not this pardon issue, I think Gore's problem is that for the last couple of weeks George Bush has been running on essentially Democratic issues. He's been talking a lot about education, some about the environment and now about health care. And Al Gore has been stuck with our all talking about pardons, Elian Gonzalez and his stance on that. And so Bush, by using Democratic issues, has improved his standing in the middle and is talking about the things the country actually cares about.

WOODRUFF: Does that explain why Gore is losing ground in the polls, Bill?

KRISTOL: Well look, I think Al Gore came out and beat Bill Bradley in the primary. He became an alpha male, as Naomi Wolf famously advised him to be. And we all made fun of Naomi Wolf, and I want to say right here, she was right. She told him to split from Clinton, to move the headquarters to Nashville, to dress differently, to be himself. He become a very good candidate against Bradley. He's standing up there with Bill Clinton, he's a beta male again. Bill Clinton, like him or not, is the alpha male of American politics.

And I do think it hurts an incumbent vice president to be in the shadow of the president. Three incumbent vice presidents have run, have gotten their party's nomination to succeed their boss in the last 40 years -- Nixon in 1960, Humphrey in '68, Bush in '88. All of them were behind at this time because they were in their boss's shadow. All of them gained ground over the last six months because they were able to get out from under the president's shadow. Gore needs to get out from Clinton's shadow. He did it. The great irony is he was out from Clinton's shadow two weeks ago, now he's back in.

DIONNE: But you know the intriguing thing? I was talking to a Clinton-Gore person today who made just the point you made, except he said in this point in the other campaigns, all of those vice presidents were running much farther behind than Gore is. And so he was saying -- and so he was saying -- he's under no illusions that it's going to be an easy race -- but this aide was saying, you know, he's actually doing better than Bush did in '88 or Humphrey certainly was doing in 1968.

WOODRUFF: The markets: big drop today in the Dow, big drop in the Nasdaq, the technology stocks. Bill, is this something that has immediate political repercussions? Do we wait and see? What?

KRISTOL: Look, in October, the core argument Al Gore is going to make in the debate with George W. Bush is, American people, are you better off than you were eight years ago? The answer to that is likely to still be yes in October, even if this market downturn continues.

But the second thing to look for is, are Americans confident they'll continue to be better off four or eight years from now? Do people believe the country's going in the right direction? Pollsters will say if you ask them what's the single-best predictor of whether an incumbent party holds the White House, it's whether a majority of Americans think the country's going in the right direction or whether it's on the wrong track. That right-direction number's been above 50 percent for the last six or nine months because, partly because, the economy's been so strong, which in turn is partly because the stock market's been so strong. If Americans lose confidence in the future, it helps Bush tremendously, I think.


DIONNE: I think we're going to see an interesting test here. We know that for most Americans, especially the kind of middle-income Americans who are going to decide this election, even though there's this great interest in the market, they still earn their living on wages and salaries. We're going to find out two things, I think. One is, how invested are these folks in their expectation about the market? I agree with Bill that elections are not only about the past but also about the future. The other thing is how much is this market drop going to affect the so-called "real economy," or what we at least we used to call the real economy? Will it affect wages? Will it affect unemployment rates? People at the bottom of the economy who tend to be Democratic have been doing better because those unemployment rates are so low. They can suffer a pretty big market drop, those folks, because they don't own a lot of stock, as long as unemployment stays in a reasonable range.

WOODRUFF: But if the market...

DIONNE: But we don't...

WOODRUFF: ... if it does have this effect on the rest of the economy, you're saying all bets are off?

DIONNE: Then I think it's -- then I think if there is a long- term decline, if unemployment is creeping up all year, that creates a different climate for the election.

WOODRUFF: All right.

KRISTOL: Yes, and if people lose confidence in the future, that really is the key. Gore has to go to an electorate and say, we've done a great job for the past eight years and you know you want to keep it going. Bush is risky. If people get nervous and things look like they're going a bit downhill, then Bush's case is much easier to make.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Kristol, E.J. Dionne, thank you gentlemen. We appreciate it very much.

In this election year, primary season exit polls have shown voters are most concerned about moral values as they weigh their presidential choices. Those concerns are evident in the industrial heartland, where our John King has been sounding out swing voters. Today, he reports from Michigan on the values issue and its effect on the campaign.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Kalamazoo Museum is a place to remember the past -- times more simple, less hurried. But even here, Tammy Heckman can't escape the pace and pressure of a life that feels crowded and ever more complicated.

Ten-year-old Paul has a question.

HECKMAN: What are the worst drugs? Honey, they are all so bad, I don't even want to say. Any drug you that you use might tempt you to use that next drug that's even worse.

KING: She's 38, separated, mother of three, studying for her master's degree in social work here at Western Michigan University, worried about drugs, guns, violent video games and more.

HECKMAN: I don't have the answers, but it's out of control. It's absolutely out of control.

KING: Tammy has plenty of company in the values debate shaping campaign 2000.

(on camera): Ask voters across the industrial heartland if the nation faces a moral crisis, and most nod their heads, yes. But they differ when asked why. Some blame crime and guns, others the entertainment industry. And many point a disapproving finger at President Clinton.

Susan Horan thinks history's verdict will be harsh.

SUSAN HORAN: Well, I'm afraid he blew it. I think that's all they're going to remember him for.

KING: The Horans left the house unlocked when they moved to the St. Louis suburbs 40 years ago. Eighteen grandchildren later, they shake their heads at the thought of guns in schools.

JOSEPH HORAN: Well, you get very upset. You just can't understand what's happened.

KING: Yet some of the debate sounds familiar.

S. HORAN: I remember my father, who's been gone 35 years, how he felt the way -- when I was young, he felt the way I'm feeling now. He thought the world was going to hell, so maybe it's just because we are getting old.

KING: Unemployment is at record lows, yet more than four in 10 Americans say the country is off on the wrong track. It's a nagging sense of doubt that complicates Al Gore's hopes of riding a strong economy into the White House.

Doris Jackson is divorced, raised two children on her own. She thinks the root of the stress facing today's parents is close to home.

DORIS JACKSON: I think people just ought to step back and have a look and see how fast they're living, because things seem to be more important than kids.

KING: Attorney Bob Connelly remembers simpler times, turning 18, traveling to New York and Times Square to see an x-rated movie.

BOB CONNELLY: I don't know if I'm proud of that, but by way of comparison, my kids can walk in and turn on a computer and in 10 seconds be hooked up to stuff that is 10 times more graphic than what I saw in the summer of 1976.

KING: A discussion of values today ranges from religion and education to gun control and regulating the Internet. And even among neighbors, a few tense exchanges over race.

JACKSON: It's only been two generations in my family that everybody has graduated from high school. I imagine that you can go back a few generations, more than two generations that people have graduated from high school in your time.

HECKMAN: From high school, but mine was the first generation that graduated...

JACKSON: Doesn't matter.

HECKMAN: ... from college.

KING: Tammy hopes her master's brings a better job, but she's not sure it will. She's also not sure who to vote for, not sure if either Al Gore or George W. Bush understand the pressures on today's parents. But she and son Paul are making plans to keep up with the campaign, even attend Bush and Gore rallies. One more challenge in a life that seems to move faster by the day.

John King, CNN, Kalamazoo, Michigan.


WOODRUFF: And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, we will talk to the Reverend Jerry Falwell about his latest effort to mobilize voters of faith.


WOODRUFF: Today in Washington, the Reverend Jerry Falwell launched what he describes as a new "spiritual movement," called The goal: to register 10 million new religious conservative voters by November.

The Reverend Falwell joins us now from Lynchburg, Virginia.

Mr. Falwell, thank you for being with us.


WOODRUFF: Can you tell us exactly who these voters are you want to register?

FALWELL: Well, Judy, I -- I had no intention of doing this. I, 10 years ago, 11 years ago, disbanded Moral Majority. I'm pastor of a church and a Christian-educated chancellor at Liberty University. But over the last year, I have noticed in both parties certain persons in both parties, leaders, who are saying to religious conservatives and to just people in faith -- of faith in general, that they are persona non grata in the party, in the process.

We're going to be going to 200,000 pastors and churches. We'll be asking them to do voter registration campaigns right in the pews, that is with motor voter registration that's uniform in all 50 states now, unlike when I did Moral Majority, this makes it a great deal easier.

But the hope that we can register ten million people of faith, we're not telling anybody whom to vote, we're not opposing or sanctioning any candidates or parties nor are we even doing voters guides, we're simply registering to vote. And beyond that, we're writing 28 million households letters to get them out and we're doing pledge cards, promise to pray, promise to vote pledge cards, over a hundred million of them. The idea being that -- excuse me.

WOODRUFF: I just want to -- because we have got a limited amount of time. You have endorsed or at least said that you will support George W. Bush. Do you expect most of these people will do the same?

FALWELL: I don't know that. We've just got to take it by faith that as we register people of faith, we're asking them to pray for America, we're asking them to vote November 7. We dissolve on November 8th. And we're simply saying go to the polls, vote and pray for America, and we'll trust the outcome to be OK if people of faith to do that.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about -- if you don't mind, let me ask you about what Senator John McCain, he has said just in the last few days. He stands by what he said back in February, when he said that you and Pat Robertson were, quote, "agents of intolerance."


WOODRUFF: Do you think it's appropriate for Governor Bush to be seeking John McCain's support, planning to meet with him next month when McCain holds this position still?

FALWELL: I think it's a great thing. And I hope they can reconcile. Senator McCain is simply -- has taken bad advice from political mechanics. And he himself is a man of faith. I know people who know him. I have not met him, but they tell me that he's a good man. He's certainly an American hero. And someday I want to sit down with him and we'll get that straightened out. He, himself, would make a good running mate for the governor.

WOODRUFF: What do you say, Mr. Falwell, to people like the Reverend Barry Lynn with the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He is saying that what you are doing is an abuse of a tax- exempt religious minority to push a partisan political agenda.

FALWELL: Well, I would expect him to say that. He heads Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I would expect the ACLU to feel that way. I would expect People for American Way to feel that way. But we're not doing what Jesse Jackson does or Floyd Flake or even Al Gore. We're not endorsing or opposing candidates, we're registering voters. And they simply go to -- that's the address, -- and say, I want to be a part of it. we register them, and come November 7th, hopefully, we can make a decision.

WOODRUFF: And just quickly, is it appropriate for Governor Bush to be courting the gay vote? He met yesterday with gay Republican leaders and is considering having a gay Republican speak at the convention.

FALWELL: Well, Judy, in October, as you know, I met with 200 gays, lesbians, transgendered bisexual people here in Lynchburg. Mel White led them, 200 of our people. We talked about violence and how to bring an end to violence against Christians and against gays and lesbians. The president came out of that meeting -- or the governor -- I'm sorry, that was a Freudian slip -- but the governor came out of that meeting saying he still does not approve same-sex marriage. As long as we don't OK and sanction the immorality of the gay lifestyle, there's nothing wrong with our meeting with people. They're citizens, and if he can get the votes of the Log Cabin people without changing his view on the sinfulness of homosexuality, more power to the governor.

WOODRUFF: Well, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, we thank you very much for joining us.

FALWELL: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

And much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come, the battle for Ohio.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is it, in this Rust Belt state, the economy that matters most? And does that help Gore?


WOODRUFF: Bruce Morton on the state's economic factors and who they may favor in election 2000.

Plus, who will be the majority party in the House next year? A look at the races that could shift the balance of power on Capitol Hill.

And later:


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): What happens if you combine the technological triumph and a political catastrophe? You just might end up with the political "Play of the Week."


WOODRUFF: Our Bill Schneider on a massive, over-budget local project and the political finesse that made it all possible.


WOODRUFF: We'll have more of the day's political news coming up, but now look at some other top stories. Trouble on Wall Street, as the Dow and the Nasdaq both plunge, taking their biggest one-day point losses ever. We'll get the bad news from CNN's Myron Kandel -- Myron. MYRON KANDEL, CNN FINANCIAL EDITOR: Well, Judy, the Dow is down 617 points today, the Nasdaq down 355 points. The real story, though, is the week as a whole. It was the worst week ever for a major average. The Nasdaq composite dropped 25 percent of its value in the last five days. It was carnage on Wall Street, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Mike, what are people saying is the cause of this?

KANDEL: Well, Judy, a number of reasons. The week started with the Microsoft story. We discovered over the last weekend that Microsoft and the government had not been able to reach a settlement on the antitrust case. The market tumbled on that news. And then the judge came out with his ruling at the end of trading on Monday. The market tumbled again Tuesday. Then that selling continued all week, at least for the Nasdaq, and then today we got some bad news on inflation.

The Consumer Price Index came out today, the figures for March. They showed a gain in consumer inflation of seven-tenths of one percent, far more than Wall Street was expecting. And that raised fears that the Federal Reserve was certainly going to continue raising interest rates, and the selling just accelerated. Both in the Dow today and in the Nasdaq composite, it was a very black day on wall street -- Judy?

WOODRUFF: All right, Myron Kandel reporting from Wall Street. Thank you, Mike.

And more developments in the Elian Gonzalez case. The U.S. government asked a federal appeals court today to order the return of the 6-year-old to his father. The government says it will prevent the father from taking the boy to Cuba until legal appeals are completed.

CNN's Mark Potter joins us live from Miami with the latest -- Mark.


It's pretty quiet here in Miami today, certainly nothing like yesterday when hundreds of people are jammed into this area to see if federal agents would come take Elian out of the house. As we know, that did not happen.

Today there's a relatively small crowd outside the house. One reason for this smaller group is that we've had torrential rains all day today in Miami. Another reason is that everything here seems to be on hold, and all eyes are on the courts, particularly the federal appeals court in Atlanta. There, the government has asked the court, the judges, to consider issuing an order that would compel the family here to give Elian to his father. And the government has said that if that happens, it would guarantee that the father would keep Elian in the United States through the length of the appeals process.

Now Miami's Mayor, Joe Carollo, along with many other people in this community, are still very strongly opposed to the idea of an immediate transfer of Elian to his father. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR JOSEPH CAROLLO, MIAMI, FLORIDA: Why do we want to just take this family again from this boy overnight? Take his mother figure in Marisleysis away from him so that he could be given to the Castro security personnel in the interests section? First of all, I think we have to look at their background, the background of the head of the interests section.


POTTER: The federal appeals court has given the lawyers for the Miami family here until 9:00 tonight to respond to that government request for an order compelling the transfer of Elian to his father.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right, Mark Potter in Miami, thank you.

And we want to report, CNN has just learned that Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, has just written a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno saying that he would agree to keep his son Elian in the United States until any appeals process is exhausted. That news just in to CNN.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, a new conflict of sorts between Gore and Bush over taxes.


WOODRUFF: Three days before the IRS filing deadline, President and Mrs. Clinton report an adjusted gross income of more than $416,000 last year. They paid more than $92,000 in federal income taxes and contributed more than $39,000 to charity, about half from royalties from Mrs. Clinton's book, "It Takes a Village."

Vice President and Mrs. Gore reported income of more than $240,000 last year. They paid more than $59,000 to the IRS and donated $15,000 to charity. Aides say that George W. Bush will, as usual, seek an extension for filing his federal tax return, while he waits for information from a blind trust that manages his assets. Bush is expected to make an estimated tax payment on Monday and to make public how much money he has contributed to charity. The Gore campaign is jumping on that, saying that, as a presidential candidate, Bush has an obligation to release more tax information.

Now we turn to a key battleground in the 2000 presidential race: Ohio, as Bruce Morton looks at the economic and political factors at play in a state that could help tip the balance on Election Day.


MORTON (voice-over): In 1969, Cleveland's Cuyahoga River caught fire and burned for 20 minutes, flames five stories high. All quiet now. You couldn't fish in the lake. Restaurants serve Lake Erie perch now. In 1978, the city went into default. Bustling traffic now. A new ballpark. The Browns are here again. Cleveland is rolling.

In fact, Cleveland is rock'n'rolling. The Rock'N'Roll Hall of Fame, building by I.M. Pei, half-a-million visitors a year. And there's a science center and a neighborhood called "The Flats" full of restaurants and clubs, old warehouses turning into loft apartments. Nobody calls it the "mistake by the lake" anymore.

Former mayor, governor, now Senator George Voinovich credits government and the private sector.

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: Two years ago, the Harvard Business School wrote up the Cleveland public-private partnership as the model for America, and so it was. "Together we can do it" was my motto. Together we are doing it.

MORTON: And the rest of the state? Let the good times roll.

GOV. BOB TAFT (R), OHIO: The Ohio economy is extremely strong almost everywhere in Ohio, except maybe in the southeastern part of the state, the Appalachian area. But elsewhere else across Ohio, the unemployment rate is so low that we're having a challenge just trying to fill the jobs that are available.

Ohio still has its old industries: steel, auto parts, auto assembly. Politically, it's voted with the winner in 23 of the last 25 presidential elections. To win, a Democrat has to get at least 60 percent in the northeast, here in Cleveland. Republicans dominate statewide.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: While there's still a very big Democratic vote up north. The Republicans have had great success in Ohio, and the state legislature and all the top offices in the state.

MORTON: They own Columbus, the capitol. But which party will get credit for the good times?

TAFT: I think it's a good state for Governor Bush to run in, but it is a very competitive state. You've got Democratic cities. You've got large suburban developments. You've got a lot of small towns in Ohio. And then the rural areas of the state. It really is a microcosm of the nation.

But I see this race could be a very close race in Ohio.

MAYOR MICHAEL WHITE (D), CLEVELAND, OHIO: It's going to be a lot easier for Vice President Gore in 2000 than it was for then-Governor Clinton in 1991. First of all, the Clinton-Gore team have now won twice in Ohio. Second of all, Ohio has been a major beneficiary of Clinton-Gore policies.

ROBERT VICKERS, POLITICAL REPORTER: George W. Bush will be more of a challenge for him in Ohio, although it is a very Republican state, and the Republican establishment here has come out for him a long time ago. The moderate image of this state and the moderate voting history of this state, I think, doesn't work in his favor.

KUCINICH: Given the strength the Republicans have had, I think Mr. Bush may have an edge.

MORTON: Experts, as you can see, disagree. How will the people who live in the streets vote, the people who work in these factories? Does character matter?

VOINOVICH: I think there is a lot of Americans that want to close the door on Clinton-Gore, I really do. I think they want to close the door on that chapter, and I think that's the greatest thing, right now, that George Bush has going for him.

MORTON: Democrats disagree, of course.

WHITE: I think he's grown from being a vice president to being a presidential candidate, as he should, as you or I should have, and I think as we get to the end of this campaign, he'll bloom as a real presidential prospect.

MORTON: Is it, in this Rust Belt state, the economy that matters most, and does that help Gore?

VICKERS: He is the "good times" guy. He has been the guy that's helped bring those things in. And though the governor can say we are experiencing some of the best of times, some of those best times have come as a result of Democratic initiatives.

MORTON: In this swing state, you can't get any more swing than Geneva on the Lake, winter population, 1,620, about, the mayor says; summer weekends, 15,000 or 20,000; Republican state representative, Democratic state senator. It's been a cold spring -- snow last weekend -- and Geneva on the Lake is getting ready for the visitors, not the campaign.

MAYOR GEORGETTE ALLISON (D), GENEVA ON THE LAKE, OHIO: Unfortunately, at this time of the year, as you know, we're right on the shores of Lake Erie, and it's pretty cold, and there aren't many places where people gather, so I don't really hear too much talk yet about the presidential election.

MORTON: A lot of Ohioans might agree. It's important. Their state matters, but the season hasn't really started yet.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Geneva on the Lake, Ohio.


WOODRUFF: And up next, the battle for the house -- can the GOP hold on to its majority status? Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook on the races that could tip the scales.


WOODRUFF: Even as Republicans dream of taking the White House, they are waging a battle to retain control of another house, this one on Capitol Hill.

Our Bob Franken sizes up the parties and the fight in election 2000.


FRANKEN (voice-over): There are few expressions that send chills through Republicans everywhere more than the words Speaker Gephardt.

Gephardt and his fellow Democrats are given a fighting chance of taking back the House of Representatives, wrenched from their control in 1994 by Newt Gingrich and his band of GOP revolutionaries.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: We lost 52 seats net in 1994, we won nine seats back in '96, five seats back in '98. We need six seats now to win a majority back. It is possible, very possible, to do that.

FRANKEN: But those Democratic gains came when Gingrich was the speaker, antagonizing many voters with his confrontational style.


GEPHARDT: Gentleman from Illinois, Dennis Hastert.


FRANKEN: Newt Gingrich is gone now, and Speaker Dennis Hastert avoids confrontation like the plague.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: It seemed like we were always looking for the Hail Mary pass, the big win to get us through. My philosophy is a little bit different.

CHARLES COOK, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": There's no dominant issue. Both parties are sort of hugging the center ground. Neither party is behaving in a suicidal fashion.

FRANKEN: It all comes down to the numbers: six, that's the Republican advantage, the narrowest margin in the House since 1958. There are about 50 seriously contested races, about 20 of them considered absolute toss-ups. Among those, half are incumbents struggling for political survival.

Possibly the hottest race is the fight for Republican Jim Rogan's seat in Southern California. Rogan and his Democratic opponent, Adam Schiff, both have amassed millions. Rogan was already considered vulnerable, but now this is a grudge match.

REP. JAMES ROGAN (R), CALIFORNIA: The concept that holding a president who has committed perjury in a criminal grand jury proceeding...

FRANKEN: Rogan was one of the leaders in the congressional Republican effort to remove President Clinton from office, and Democrats would love nothing better than making him pay the price. The GOP would take special delight in defeating Michael Forbes of New York, who was elected as a Republican but switched parties last year. And there are 30 open seats where the incumbent is stepping down, 23 Republican and seven Democrat. Ten of those are in the toss-up column.

In Michigan, the House seat left behind by Democrat Senate candidate Debbie Stabenow is up for grabs. It's a swing district, and both candidates vying for the seat are popular state senators.

On top of all else is the effect the presidential race could have on these contests. Al Gore has met with House Democrats to coordinate their message, while George W. Bush and his aides stay in contact with House Republicans. Still, GOP House members steered clear of promoting Bush's huge tax cut proposal, having gained no political advantage in passing a much smaller tax cut last year. But neither party is counting on coattails to make much difference.

REP. TOM DAVIS (R-VA), NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE: Last time, our presidential candidate lost the presidency by eight points and we still held the House.

FRANKEN: Ironically, about 40 House GOP candidates are clamoring for help from a man who lost his party's nomination. John McCain has fielded dozens of requests from House Republicans to campaign with them. He's met with the leadership of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee to decide which candidates would benefit most from a McCain visit.

Democrats discount McCain's clout.

REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D-CT), CHMN., DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: I think it's a great thing that John McCain's out there highlighting an issue that really contrasts Republicans from Democrats. McCain is an orphan in his own party.

FRANKEN: With the battle for control of the House too close to call, experts are withholding predictions.

COOK: It's almost random the outcome. I mean, it's just, you know, who runs the best ad in the last three weeks before the election? Who makes a mistake?

FRANKEN (on camera): The GOP has controlled the House for five years. The Democrats held it for 40 years before that. As tight as this race is, it's fair to say that for the remainder of this session nearly every move, every action, will be about who's in charge next session.

Bob Franken, CNN, Capitol Hill.


WOODRUFF: A few days ago, I sat down with Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report" and Charlie Cook of "The National Journal" and asked about the Democrats' chances of taking control of the House.


STUART ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": I'd say they're darn close to 50-50. My last count had the Democrats picking up from two to five seats. They need six seats. The difference between five and six at this point, Judy, is frankly irrelevant. It's 50-50.

COOK: Yes, I agree with Stu. I think it's just maybe a hair under 50-50, but it's just teetering on the edge. And...

WOODRUFF: Under 50?

COOK: Yes, but right at -- right under a little bit. It's going back and forth. I mean, Republicans have had a couple good breaks last couple months. Before that, Democrats were on top maybe by a little bit. But it's teetering -- it's going to go either way. This is very close.

WOODRUFF: All right, let's talk about some of the important contests that both of you, I think, would agree are going to shape the results. All right, California 27, now this is the seat -- Bob Franken just referred to it -- this the seat held now by Jim Rogan, fighting hard to hold on -- Stu.

ROTHENBERG: I see him as one of two incumbents who are possibly behind at the moment who are maybe underdogs. It's hard to say an incumbent is an underdog, but in this case he was actually beaten in the open primary by Adam Schiff, his Democratic opponent. The district's turning against him, his opponent is very well-funded. It could be a very competitive race, but I think this is probably the single most vulnerable Republican incumbent.

WOODRUFF: Charlie?

COOK: I don't disagree at all. I think they've met two times before, though, and Rogan won each time -- in a special election in a state legislative election and then in a regular general election. Stu's right. The district is trending Democrat, but, you know, I would never count Jim Rogan or for that matter any unindicted House incumbent out. They have a way of surviving. There's something to this incumbency thing so that -- you know, while a lot of people are counting Rogan out, I wouldn't do it at all. I think it's going to be extremely close.

WOODRUFF: All right, another California seat, 15. Now this is an open seat currently held by Republican Tom Campbell who's running for the Senate -- Stu.

ROTHENBERG: Yes, this is a terrific race because it's a race that contrasts the personalities and styles. The Democrat is Mike Honda, the Republican Jim Cunneen. Cunneen: younger, more aggressive, a very moderate to liberal Republican. Honda: closer to organized labor, older, a very decent man. But does he have the fight, does he have the energy, does he have the toughness to combat the younger guy? I think it will be a terrific race. It's a Democratic-leaning district.

COOK: One way to look at this is it's a district that a Democrat ought to win but that Republicans came up with the best candidate they could possibly come up with, while Democrats came up with maybe their third or fourth best candidate. And so that sort of evens the odds out. This is going to be a real close race.

WOODRUFF: All right, let's move all the way across the country, New Jersey 12th District, held by a Democrat, Rush Holt, his first term -- Stu.

ROTHENBERG: Well, this is a prime Republican target, but the problem for the Republicans is that they have a nasty primary. Two former congressmen, Dick Zimmer and Mike Pappas, very ideological. Republicans are taking -- are splitting along ideological lines, abortion and the like. I think if the Republicans can somehow avoid a civil war, they can win this seat. It's a very good seat for the Republicans. Personally, I believe Dick Zimmer can win the seat. I have great doubts about Pappas.

COOK: You know, Zimmer represented this district for 10 years or so before he ran for the Senate and lost to Bob Torricelli. I think he's much more of a known quantity. I think voters in a general election would be much more comfortable with him than with Mike Pappas. There's been a real split among Republicans down here, with conservatives going with Pappas and the more moderates, pragmatists, more going with Zimmer because they think he has a better chance of winning. But the organization Republicans back in the district are lining up more with Zimmer. I agree, I think he would be a more formidable general election candidate and would be a real problem. But Pappas, I think -- I think Pappas would be an underdog to Rush Holt.

ROTHENBERG: I would think so, too. And Zimmer has a financial advantage as well. But you know, Judy, in these primaries, sometimes ideology can trump money.

WOODRUFF: All right, neighboring state New York, 1st District held by Michael Forbes who switched parties. He was elected as the Republican, now he's a Democrat.

ROTHENBERG: Well this is the other Republican I think is in big trouble. I know the Democrats are pushing heavily on this one, saying that John McCain won the primary out there in Suffolk County, that Felix Grucci, the Republican nominee is vulnerable, the Republicans in Suffolk County have ethics problems. All that is true. Yes, Forbes is an incumbent, but Democrats are divided here. Pro-lifers, which have been an important part of his constituency, are now turned off. I think he has an awful tough race.

COOK: This is basically eastern Long Island, Brookhaven, and Felix Grucci, the Republican, is a Brookhaven town supervisor. He's from the family -- one of the top pyrotechnics, the fireworks, you know, the Mall and all like that, their family produces those things. He's a very, very, very good candidate, and Forbes has alienated a lot of folks. This is, you know, if you had to say who was the single most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, I think I'd put Forbes over even Rush Holt.

ROTHENBERG: No doubt about it. WOODRUFF: All right, Pennsylvania, 4th, this is an open seat currently held by Ron Klink, a Democrat. He's running for the Senate.

COOK: Yes, this is a problem area for Democrats. First, Ron Klink had this seat. This is a labor-oriented Pittsburgh-area district. It's a seat that Democrats shouldn't have to worry about, but Ron Klink decided to run for the Senate. Democrats looked around, they couldn't -- they had a hard time coming up with a candidate. They though they found a good one, a local prosecutor named Matt Mangiono. The Democratic Party went in and backed him in the primary, and he lost to a state representative, Terry Van Horne -- Terry Horne.


COOK: Van Horne, yes, I'm sorry, Van Horne. They -- and everybody's been wondering in the primary, why did Democrats get into this primary? And then it turns out that Van Horne had had some problems, that he had gone on the House floor, the state legislature in Pennsylvania, and made some fairly racist remarks. And it's created real problem. And while there's not a real significant African-American population in the district, it's going to make it very hard for Democrats to do all they can for him. And it was already a bad situation for Democrats. It's just gotten worse.

ROTHENBERG: Charlie is absolutely right. This is a tough one for the Democrats. It shouldn't be. The fact that it's in play gives Republicans an opportunity, not only to hold the seat, but again, they're worrying about holding the House; one or two seats might make a difference.

WOODRUFF: All right, fascinating.

Thank you both, Stu Rothenberg, Charlie Cook, appreciate it.

And when we return, a massive project gets even bigger, big enough to earn someone a political "Play of the Week."


WOODRUFF: With much of the country focused on the Elian Gonzalez case in Miami, it would have been easy to miss the developments concerning a certain highway project in Boston this week.

But our Bill Schneider noticed, and he joins us now -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: I certainly did. What happens if you combine a technological triumph and a political catastrophe? Well, you just might end up with the political "Play of the Week."


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): There's a lot of history connected to Boston Harbor -- the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's Ride, Bunker Hill, the USS Constitution. But in the 1950s, in the frenzy of highway construction that consumed the country, Massachusetts built an elevated highway that cut the city off from its historic harbor. It became an eyesore and an aerial traffic jam. A bold solution was proposed in the 1970s: Bury the highway underground and cover it with parkland, bike paths and electric buses -- a model of ecological correctness.

ROBERT CARV, ENGINEER: I think it ranks as one of the, you know -- the eight wonder of the world. It's such a serious engineering undertaking to keep the city fully functional while you drive a tunnel underneath the city wall.

SCHNEIDER: It was also very expensive, more expensive than the Panama Canal and the Hoover Dam. Where was the money going to come from? Seventy percent of it from the federal government, thanks to two powerful Massachusetts lawmakers. Speaker Tip O'Neill pushed the project through the House. And when President Reagan vetoed the project in 1987, Ted Kennedy saved it by engineering a Senate override.

FRED SALVUCCI, FORMER. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: It was a scary day, and we won by one vote. And if it weren't for Senator Kennedy, we would have missed that vote.

SCHNEIDER: So the big dig began, and the cost estimates started to rise.

REP. FRANK WOLF (R), VIRGINIA: When it was enacted, it was $2.6 billion. Then it went to $10.4 billion, and now we have it at $12 billion, and now we have some people talking about $13 billion and some people talking about even going higher.

SCHNEIDER: Higher? That could make it the most expensive public-works project in the history of the world. So this week, Governor Paul Celluci fired the project manager, James Kerasiotes, after a federal task force investigating the rising costs published a report accusing project managers of intentionally concealing the project's true cost. The feds called it "one of the most flagrant breaches of the integrity of the federal-state partnership in the history of the nearly 86-year-old highway program.

Kerasiotes had his own explanation.

JAMES KERASIOTES, FORMER CHAIRMAN, MASS TURNPIKE AUTHORITY: To the extent that people think that we've misled them, I can understand that, because all of a sudden, anyone who's ever remodeled a kitchen says, well, it's going to cost more.

SCHNEIDER: After all, you've got to figure in unions, consultants, insurers, out-of-town conferences. You know what happens when you remodel the kitchen. But in this case, taxpayers are footing the bill. In the big dig, the new technology meets the old politics. You know, all politics is local -- tax, tax, spend, spend, elect, elect. To Tip and Ted, the masterful practitioners of the old politics, the big dig is your triumph and, the political "Play of the Week" is your prize.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: In the short run, heads will roll, they already are. But in the long run, people may the cost. Ten years from now they could just be delighted from the result. You see, Americans love technology and they hate politics. Boston's big dig shows why. The big dig stands as a marvel of technological wonder and political incompetence -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, quite a report. Thanks.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Next, "WORLDVIEW."

Thanks for joining us.



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