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Inside Politics

Gore Takes Shot at Bush Over Gun Politics; Bush Accuses Gore of Distortion; California Latinos' Influence on Presidential Politics Grows

Aired May 4, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Bush has convinced the NRA that he wants to take the gun lobbyists out of the lobby and put them right into the Oval Office.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore takes a new shot at George W. Bush, claiming a TV ad as a reinforcement.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's disappointing that someone running for the highest office of the land would continue saying -- and feel free and comfortable about saying things that simply aren't true.


SHAW: George W. Bush firing back after more than a week of being slammed by Gore.

Plus, a reason for California Latinos to celebrate. Their presence on the voter rolls and their influence on the presidential race are growing.

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

SHAW: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off today.

We begin with gun politics and the presidential race. Gore campaign aides are pointing today to what they call the proverbial smoking gun, which proves, they claim, that George W. Bush is in, quote, "the hip holster" of the National Rifle Association. At issue: a new TV ad distributed by Handgun Control, Incorporated, which shows a tape of a top NRA official apparently touting the group's ties to Bush.


ANNOUNCER: George Bush says if you want to know what he'll do as president, take a look at his record.

ANNOUNCER: As governor of Texas, Bush signed the law that allows carrying concealed handguns for the first time in 125 years.

ANNOUNCER: And he signed the law that allows carrying those concealed handguns in church, nursing homes, even amusement parks.

ANNOUNCER: No wonder the NRA says...

KAYNE ROBINSON, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: If we win we'll have a president where we work out of their office.

ANNOUNCER: Tell Governor Bush, the White House is our house...

ANNOUNCER: ... and it shouldn't belong to the NRA.


SHAW: That tape was ammunition for Vice President Gore during a campaign appearance in Chicago today.

Our Candy Crowley joins us from the Windy City -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SRENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, I'm outside Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois -- of course, being a key state this November. The vice president has just finished a speech to health care reporters, the subject of course was supposed to be health care, but Al Gore easily turned the corner noting that gunshot wounds are a health care issue and that of course opened the door to allow him to give George Bush a pop.


GORE: Today, I read in one major newspaper that the National Rifle Association believes that if George W. Bush were elected they would have a president "where we work out of his office." Those are the NRA's words, "a president where we work out of his office." In other words, Governor Bush has convinced the NRA that he wants to take the gun lobbyists out of the lobby and put them right into the Oval Office. Maybe he would pick Charlton Heston as the next surgeon general.


CROWLEY: The Gore campaign clearly thinks the gun issue is a hot one this campaign and that they have found some traction. But in California, George Bush was quick to put his distance between himself and the NRA, noting that neither the NRA nor any other group where a person has automatic entry.


BUSH: Well, I don't want to disappoint the man, but I'll be setting up shop in the White House. It will be my office, I'll make the decisions as to what goes on in the White House, I'll make it clear what my positions are and if people on both sides -- if some people on sides of the issue can't agree with me, so be it. My job is to do what I think is right.


CROWLEY: Now, the Bush campaign in fact does not believe that the gun issue has worked for Gore, they note that he has made several other attacks before. They also note a number of recent polls including one just last Monday which showed that on the gun issue at least 6 percent of voters believe that George Bush is better equipped to handle it than Al Gore -- Bernie.

SHAW: Candy, please stand by. We want to bring you back very shortly.

Now, when that controversial ad was unveiled today by Handgun Control, Incorporated, NRA first vice president Kayne Robinson, who was featured in the spot, showed up at the event to try to put his taped comments in context. Here is some of what he had to say.


ROBINSON: For the past seven years, and it's going to end up being eight years, Handgun Control and the anti-gun people have had literally unlimited access to the White House. You all know that. Press conference after press conference, working right out of the office.


SHAW: And as we heard earlier, Governor Bush also tried today to counter the allegations about his relationship with the NRA, but that wasn't the only charge Bush felt he needed to rebut as he campaigned in California.

Our Jonathan Karl is traveling with Bush.


BUSH: Thanks for teaching, good luck, study hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, guys, now you can give him a hug.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George W. Bush has a simple strategy for responding to Al Gore's attacks: continue his march to the center and appear to be the candidate taking the high ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hope to see you in the White House.

BUSH: Yes, thanks, come and visit me sometime.

KARL: Visiting a public elementary school in Mission Viejo, California, Bush resumed his relentless focus on education, praising charter schools and again making the case for his $3 billion proposal to start 2,000 charter schools nationwide. After, he accused Gore of distorting his record. BUSH: It's disappointing that someone running for the highest office in the land would continue saying -- and feel free and comfortable about saying things that simply aren't true.

KARL: Speaking to reporters, Bush rattled off several of Gore's alleged factual misstatements, including a statement made in a "Washington Post" interview: "The governor of Texas is the weakest chief executive in the country and does not have the responsibility to put together a budget," Gore said. "Bush has never done that."

Bush submitted proposed budgets to the Texas legislature in 1997 and 1999.

BUSH: It's amazing that a person running for president of the United States would look people in the eye and say I've never submitted a budget as governor.

KARL: But the Gore campaign stood by Gore's statement: "He does a little two-page document. It's not a budget," said Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway. "It's a few sheets. It is more like a wish list."

The Bush campaign directed reporters to Bush's 1997 and '99 budget proposals, documents that are both several hundred pages long. Bush also challenged Gore's charge that he has a "secret plan" that would bankrupt Social Security, Bush cited calls from Democrats like Bob Kerrey for a bipartisan approach to the issue.

BUSH: I would hope my opponent would hear that call and we have a civil debate. Social Security shouldn't be used to frighten seniors, which is the way it's been in the past.

KARL: Bush ad man Mark MacKinnon and his camera crew is along for Bush's three-day swing through California, capturing photo-ops like Bush's morning visit to the Mission San Juan Capistrano Catholic Church and his school visit, material likely to find its way to future campaign commercials.


KARL: Bush's senior aides say they have evidence that Gore's attacks will backfire. They point to recent public opinion polls that show -- that they say show that as Gore has gotten more aggressive, he has lost public support -- Bernie.

SHAW: Jonathan, please stay with us, we're going to have Candy Crowley rejoin us from Chicago.

Candy, given what John Karl just reported on the issue about whether Bush submitted budgets and the fact that the two budgets were several hundred pages long, is the Gore campaign at all concerned about the charge that the vice president exaggerates might stick?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, clearly, I'm sure privately they are concerned. This has been sort of an ongoing charge against Al Gore from early on years, even in his Senate campaign. So they are aware that the charges are out there. But I don't sense anything and certainly not anything that they're telling us at this point. They believe that, you know, that they put those things out there.

They say they were in good faith, they note some crime statistics that they put out that they got from various newspaper articles. So right now, I see no outward sign that they are worried about it. But clearly, there is some kind of a Achilles' heel here, some sort of soft point that I think you'll continue to see George Bush hammer at.

SHAW: Jonathan Karl, why did it take so long for Governor Bush to respond to the series of Gore attacks?

KARL: Well, the Bush campaign really believes that Gore will suffer by attacking, they say that Gore's negatives are very high and that every time he attacks he especially hurts himself among independent voters. So in many ways, they want to see Bush not as being dragged into this.

What Bush has been trying to do is moving to the center on a series of issues, especially on education. They want the image of Bush being put out there as somebody who is talking about issues while his opponent Al Gore is out there simply attacking Bush on any number of issues.

SHAW: Candy Crowley, with alleged voter interest not very high in the campaign right now, does the Gore campaign feel these attacks are effective?

OK, we're having audio trouble with our correspondent in Chicago, Candy Crowley and Jonathan Karl, thanks very much.

Now to the Bush-Gore battle for the Hispanic vote. In California today, Governor Bush will meet with Latino leaders and mark the Cinco de Mayo holiday. This amid new evidence that Latinos in the Golden State are enhancing their political clout.

CNN's Jennifer Auther has more from Los Angeles.


JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This Cinco de Mayo celebration in Los Angeles is thriving with the pulse and flavor of Latino life; increasingly, so is California politics with new polls showing the state's Latino voter rolls have increased by about one million over the past decade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my own community, yes, it's noticeable that more Latinos are going to vote.

AUTHER: And pollsters say these new voters are very different in one important respect.

MARK DICAMILLO, DIRECTOR, FIELD POLL: Much younger. Half of these new registrants are under the age of 30, 44 percent are immigrants, first generation immigrants to the United States. Their socioeconomic profile is somewhat lower than other Latinos who were already on the rolls.

AUTHER: Latino registration now runs nearly 3-1 Democratic here, and few would argue a Republican gets the credit.

PROF. LOUIS NEGRETE, CALIF. STATE UNIV. OF LOS ANGELES: Governor Wilson was the most hated politician among Latino voters in California, because of his anti-immigrant, anti-affirmative action and anti-bilingual education postures.

AUTHER: Longtime GOP Governor Pete Wilson pushed for Proposition 187, that would have denied numerous state services to illegal immigrants. The measure passed in 1994, but courts have its blocked enforcement. Half the 2.35 million Latinos registered after prop 187 passed in 1994. It's a problem not lost on the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, George W. Bush. The Texas Governor is to meet with Latino leaders in California this week, in part to observe Cinco de Mayo. A popular figure among Latinos in his own state, he's running TV ads to introduce himself here.


AUTHER: For his part, Democratic Vice President Al Gore brought a bilingual message to a three-week long janitor's strike in L.A. a few weeks ago.


AUTHER: "La Opinion" is the largest Spanish-language daily newspaper in the U.S. Pillar Marrero is columnist and editor of "Cambio," its political section. This election year, as Bush and Gore attempt to reach out, Marrero says landing interviews is no problem.

PILAR MARRERO, POLITICAL EDITOR, "LA OPINION": Definitely different. Very hard for us to get access to anything before, let alone a presidential candidate. Bush has the bigger challenge ahead of him.

AUTHER: On the issues, Latinos, like most other Americans, say they care most about education, affordable health care and jobs. And polls also show that many Latinos consider themselves politically independent.

ABEL CORREA, CALIFORNIA: Just because they come in and say "Oh, buenos dias," like, oh well, let's vote for him, he's the man for the job, so they have to do their homework.

AUTHER: That includes an awareness of issues of special concern to Latino voters, like the Elian Gonzalez case in Florida. Observers say California Latinos were watching.

NEGRETE: I think Gore moved too fast on the Elian Gonzalez case, because in the Latino community, family unity is very, very important.

AUTHER (on camera): One thing Latino activists say is clear: Unless they build a permanent, independent base of an organized Latino electorate, all the attention this constituency now enjoys could easily become a passing fancy.

Jennifer Auther, CNN, Los Angeles. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: When INSIDE POLITICS continues, more on the Bush-Gore battle over Social Security. We'll hear from a leading Democrat who wants Gore to keep an open mind, Senator Bob Kerrey.


SHAW: Even as Social Security becomes a flashpoint in this presidential race, a bipartisan commission was formed today to address the issue in the Senate. Teaming up to form the commission, former Republican presidential candidate John McCain and two of his Democratic colleagues, Daniel Moynihan of New York and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska. I spoke earlier today with Senator Kerrey and asked him why the commission was created.


SEN. ROBERT KERREY (D), NEBRASKA: Well, Bernie, the biggest reason is it's a problem that's getting worse, not getting better. And though, the solutions are relatively simple to figure out, with all the talk about needing to fix Social Security, there's only 30 members of the 535 members of Congress that have proposed specific solutions, indicating there is real political barriers to enacting the changes that everybody knows is necessary. So what's needed is some special process, and we tried to design a commission to achieve that objective.

SHAW: Is one of your aims making this issue politics-proof?

KERREY: No, I don't think you can make it politics-proof. There is nothing that can separate a man and women who has to go to the floor of the House or Senate and cast a vote. And in this environment, any vote that requires somebody to give up something or pay a little more is always going to be difficult. And frankly, I think you're going to need a little bit of both of those things if you get this thing fixes, and I think that's one of the reasons we're not seeing any answers. What we're seeing is that our $22 billion over 10 years spent, get rid of the earnings test, which is an important thing to do, but unfortunately, should have been done inside the context of Social Security reform. That's the sort of sweetener that you need in order to be able to take some of the more difficult changes that are required in order to be able to keep the promise to 270 million beneficiaries.

SHAW: How important do you think it is to voters this year?

KERREY: Well, I hope it's very important. They seem to indicate that it's important, although I'm not certain that we've done a very good job of educating them what the problem is. And the problem is that we've got about 150 million Americans to whom we can't keep a promise that we've got on the table. They'll have a 25 to 33 percent cut in their benefits when they become eligible. And the second problem is that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and we're not doing enough to address the need to help people who are earning relatively small amounts of money accumulate wealth. And so I think that those two problems are front and center in most of the proposals that have been offered, but unfortunately, we just don't have a political process that enables us to get there.

SHAW: Political process -- the two presidential candidate, Al Gore for the Democrats, George Bush for the Republicans, are they helping or exacerbating the issue?

KERREY: Well, I think they're both helping. They both indicated that they intend to make it a central part of their campaign. My guess is that neither one of them are going to have proposals that will bring in the line of promise we made, what the numbers show that we're able to do. I guess, as the needs demand, we will propose something so detailed and specific it solves what's called the 75-year problem. In other words, right now, 150 million people are going to find a cut in their benefits, and we need to solve that 75-year problem, and my guess is that neither one will get that specific. But I think that just indicates again that we need some kind of special process.

And again, I would answer that the debate about Social Security is likely to increase the chances that next year or soon after that Congress will take action.

SHAW: Senator, switching subjects, this day, the 30th anniversary of the shootings of those students at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, four dead, nine wounded -- your thoughts?

KERREY: Well, I remember it quite well. I came to Washington to receive an award for service in Vietnam, and I remember that the protests as a consequence of the invasion of Cambodia, or our decision to conduct military operations in Cambodia. And not only do I think we need to grieve the loss of life in America, but one of the things that happened after we left in 1975 was the rise to power of Pol Pot, and over a million people killed in Cambodia.

And Americans have come back. And I think we are getting over the War. We've normalized relations with Vietnam. We have an ambassador who was a former prisoner, John McCain, just came back from the trip with his wife and with his son, something that was probably unimaginable 20 years ago. So I do think America is coming back. We had good policy toward Cambodia in the Bush administration to bring all the refugees back from Thailand. We've had that rough resemblance of democracy there, and Senator John Kerry was successful in getting them to agree to a regional trial.

So I think we should grieve, we should feels some sense of shame, in fact, for lots of things that went on at that time. But once we've acknowledged that, we also ought to feel good about the things in the last few years that we've accomplished.

SHAW: Senator Kerrey, thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS."

KERREY: You're welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SHAW: And there is much more ahead. The latest from New York as the first lady achieves a goal and calls attention to some of the New York mayor's positions.



CHRIS BLACK, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rick Santorum marched into the Senate six years ago, a beneficiary of Newt Gingrich's anti-government revolution. But the Gingrich revolution is over.


SHAW: Our Chris Black on the challenges and challenger now facing one Pennsylvania Republican.

And later, a step-by-step look at the vice president's plan for the future of health care.

Plus, medicine and the ad wars: David Peeler monitors the ad spending on this election-year issue.


SHAW: We're going to have more on this day's political news coming up, but now, a look at some other top stories.

The FBI says it is investigating the fast-spreading "I Love You" virus, which one expert says is the most damaging and costliest ever. Hundreds of millions of e-mail users have received the virus, which can destroy files.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First thing to is delete it. That's the only real thing you need to do, delete the message and delete your deleted items on it as well, empty that. Then the message is gone, it can't affect you.


SHAW: Several U.S. government agencies received the e-mail, including the State Department, which shut down its servers to eradicate the messages. No agencies reported any problems. A U.S. company that tracks computer viruses says the perpetrator appears to be a teenager based in the Philippines.

Armed U.S. agents began removing protesters from the Navy's bomb training range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques today. The U.S. Coast Guard said that they have removed more than 200 demonstrators. The government had said no charges would be filed against the group, which included U.S. lawmakers and priests, unless they were violent or tried to re-enter the base. But a lawmaker in Washington was arrested as he protested the evictions in Vieques. Police said Congressman Jose Serrano of New York had been demonstrating in a restricted zone near the White House.

Rocket salvos from Lebanese guerrillas fell on Northern Israel today, damaging property and injuring at least six people. The Israeli army had earlier sent thousands of nearby residents into bomb shelters, fearing renewed tensions at the border. Overnight, two Lebanese women were killed in Southern Lebanon by a shell explosion, which military sources say may have been fired by Israeli allies. This latest border flare-up comes as Israel prepares to pull its troops from the so-called security zone by early July.

And when INSIDE POLITICS returns, Hillary Clinton keeps a promise and takes aim at Rudy Giuliani along the way.


SHAW: In the New York Senate race today, it's back to usual, as Hillary Clinton returned to criticizing Rudy Giuliani a week after he disclosed he had prostate cancer. Mr. Clinton took aim as she made good on a promise to New York voters.

CNN's Frank Buckley has the latest from The Empire State.


FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Picturesque Plattsburgh: lightly populated and so far north that its nearest neighbor is Burlington, Vermont.

But Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton made a promise to visit all of New York's counties. And this one's name made it the perfect: number 62.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clinton finally comes to Clinton.

BUCKLEY: The first lady appearing at the state university and at a chamber of commerce breakfast.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: It's a great joy for me having now visited all 62 counties in New York, which I have absolutely relished, to end here in Clinton County.

BUCKLEY: Mrs. Clinton was recently on a roll, enjoying an uptick in the polls, aggressively criticizing her opponent, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. But Giuliani's announcement last week that he was diagnosed with cancer changed the dynamic, Mrs. Clinton pulling back from her criticisms, until now -- the first lady criticizing the mayor's support for Congressional hearings on the Elian Gonzalez case.

H. CLINTON: You know, I'm very disappointed that the mayor would continue to politicize this little boy's future in this case, which is properly in the courts, and we're awaiting a decision. I do not believe that further hearings in the Congress are called for.

BUCKLEY: The mayor saying hearings were in order during an appearance in a nationally televised town hall meeting. Mrs. Clinton also pointed to this exchange. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, NBC'S "HARDBALL": Would you vote, particularly for a guy like Jesse Helms, to be chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee?

MYR. RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK CITY: Yes. I believe in a broad political party. If you want the Republican Party to be broader, and I do, then the whole endeavor has to be a big tent.


CLINTON: I am, you know, hoping that every New Yorker heard the mayor say that he not only would vote for Senator Helms to continue as the chairman of this critically important committee, but that is something I would not do.

BUCKLEY: Giuliani did not have any campaign appearances, but aides said a new commercial will start running Friday.


GIULIANI: You won't have to guess what I'm going to do when I'm sitting in Washington...


BUCKLEY: Part of the campaign's biggest media buy to date, authorized the day after the cancer diagnosis, as his campaign scrambled to reassure Republicans he was still in the race.

One possible replacement has removed himself from consideration: New York Governor George Pataki.

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: If he doesn't -- I don't like speculation -- but I do not intend to run for the Senate. I love the job of governor. I intend to stay in the job of governor and hope that I can continue working to make this a better state.


BUCKLEY: It is a state that Mrs. Clinton has now canvassed from end to end, 62 counties, compared to about a third of those counties for Giuliani. But a Giuliani campaign spokeswoman says, "It doesn't matter how many counties that Mrs. Clinton she visits -- there is only one New Yorker in this race that's has a record in this state, and that's Giuliani.

Frank Buckley, CNN, reporting live from Plattsburgh, New York.

SHAW: Thank you frank. Now, the Senate race in Pennsylvania, where Republican incumbent Rick Santorum is fighting to hold onto his seat. In the process, apparently, he is using George W. Bush as a role model.

CNN's Chris Black has an inside view of the contest in The Keystone State.


BLACK (voice-over): Rick Santorum marched into the Senate six years ago, a beneficiary of Newt Gingrich's anti-government revolution, and once in the Senate, led fights to cut back welfare and outlaw a controversial abortion procedure.


SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: At least give this baby some chance, some chance of living. Why?


BLACK: But the newt Gingrich revolution is over, and Santorum's Democratic challenger, Congressman Ron Klink said Santorum is not addressing the needs and concerns of Pennsylvania voters.

REP. RON KLINK (D-PA), PENNSYLVANIA SEN. CANDIDATE: I held the first hearings in the country, 60 hours worth of hearings, that led to what is now know as the patient' bill of rights. Senator Santorum has voted against every meaningful patient's bill of rights idea that's ever come out.

BLACK: Democrats accuse Santorum of bending with the prevailing political winds, trying to soften his brash, conservative image. He voted to increase the minimum wage, and dropped his controversial position in favor of raising the Social Security-eligibility age to 70.

And Santorum has borrowed a page from George W. Bush's playbook: He says he is a conservative.

SANTORUM: All of those things which sounded moderate are a continuation on what I believe is the conservative philosophy.

BLACK: But he says he is also compassionate.

SANTORUM: So is it compassionate, as caring, as moderate, maybe, but it's certainly within the principles that I've outlined since I've been in Congress.

BLACK: Klink says a compassionate conservative is an oxymoron, and bets Pennsylvania will not buy the new Santorum.

KLINK: He's had many election-year conversions, but I will you that the people of the Pennsylvania are not to be fooled.

BLACK: Klink says he is culturally in tune with Pennsylvania's voters. He opposes abortion, though Klink also says his position is more moderate than his rivals.

KLINK: I do vote for the exceptions of life of the mother, rape or incest. I don't believe if a woman gets pregnant, she should continue to be victimized. BLACK: On guns, a key issue in rural Pennsylvania, Klink is searching for a more moderate position. He voted against the Brady Bill background checks for handgun buyers. He now supports a three- day waiting period for gun purchases and background checks at gun shows.

BLACK: Klink also favors a more activist role for government on health care and education.

KLINK: It is my record verses his record. We have voted the opposite on issues like Social Security, and Medicare and Pell Grants, and school lunches, and Wick, and Head Start and nursing home standards.

BLACK: Santorum says his record speak for itself.

SANTORUM: I think we have a great record to talk about, real accomplishments in the area of welfare reform and Social Security, and we have a real vision for where we need to take this country.

BLACK: Topping the agenda? Tax cuts.

SANTORUM: First and foremost, I think the issue of taxes is about one word, and that's freedom. The more you give to Washington D.C., the less free you are and the more dependent you become on Washington.

BLACK: A recent Democratic poll shows Santorum in the lead, and Santorum holds a huge $3.7 million money advantage over Klink, who took out a $300,000 second mortgage on his home for his primary campaign.

But Klink's advisers say he can overcome those obstacles, because the four-term congressman is more popular in the Western Pennsylvania base he shares with Santorum, and stands to benefit from higher voter turnout in Democratic Philadelphia in a presidential year.

AL NERI, "PENNSYLVANIA REPORT": This is the election which is going to tell us whether Rick Santorum was elected on his own merit, or whether he was a one-time fluke as a conservative in Pennsylvania.

BLACK (on camera): Pennsylvania has not elected a Democrat to the Senate for a full six-year term since the Kennedy administration. While Democrats say they hope to end that Republican trend this year, Republicans say Senator Santorum still holds the advantage.

Chris Black, CNN, Capitol Hill.


SHAW: And still ahead, the New Jersey Senate race takes a negative turn. David Peeler takes a look at how the spending is stacking up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SHAW: Now, the race to fill the Senate seat of retiring New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg. Former Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine says he will spend what it takes to win the Democratic primary. Last week, he released his first attack ad against his Democratic opponent, former Governor Jim Florio.


ANNOUNCER: Remember when Jim Florio was governor, a $2.8 billion tax increase, 280,000 lost jobs, 200,000 more people without health insurance, auto insurance rates out of control, New Jersey's economy left in shambles -- do we want to go back to that?


SHAW: That ad is part of Corzine's 12-week ad blitz leading up the June 6th primary.

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

David, how much is Jon Corzine spending in this race?

DAVID PEELER, COMPETITIVE MEDIA REPORTING: Well, Bernie, let's first set the stage for running up a campaign in the state of New Jersey. You know, it's a very, very expense state. You have to buy two media markets: Philadelphia and New York. So far, Jon Corzine he has spend over $8 million in kind of "get to know me" bio ads. He's now taking a tactic of going after Jim Florio and taking the attack to him.

Florio has been unable to respond at this point. He's probably been trying to saving his money until he gets a little closer to the primary. But here's the risk: If Jim Florio lets Jon Corzine get out there and shape the message and doesn't respond quick enough, the impression will be made with the voters. So it's kind of a chicken- and-the-egg kind of strategy here, and it's going to be a very expensive, probably a very nasty race.

SHAW: Corzine has made an issue of prescription drugs, but not to the degree that a Montana Senate candidate has. Democrat Brian Schweitzer has sponsored bus trips to Canada and Mexico, where seniors can buy cheaper prescription medications. Citizens for Better Medicare, a group backed by the pharmaceutical industry, targeted Schweitzer's efforts in a recent ad. Now, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is running this ad on behalf of Schweitzer in his race against Republican incumbent Conrad Burns.


ANNOUNCER: Now a bus route for the big drug companies is trying to run Brian Schweitzer off the road, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads "The Missoulian" calls "distorted" and "not true" and "The Billings Gazette" says are scare tactics aimed at Montana's elderly.

Call the big drug companies and tell them to get out of the way of Brian Schweitzer's fair-prices drug plan.


SHAW: The issue of prescription drug cost and coverage is cropping up in races across the country. David Peeler, how much money are the campaigns and the drug industry spending on this issue?

PEELER: Well, Bernie, here's the interesting fact. The industry itself has spent about $9 million against this prescription drug issue. You know, if you remember back to '96, the issue was tobacco, and in '97 there was tobacco legislation. In '98, it was about HMOs, and in '99 you got legislation. So what's different here is you see the industry getting out in front of the issue and trying to craft the debate as we get through the campaign.

As you move on to the campaigns, the campaigns are also taking the initiative here. It's been so far the hot topic. We've seen about $7.1 million in total spending across many campaigns. And remember back to the Gore-Bradley primary fight. Both of those two candidates spend over $3.6 million on this issue.

Interestingly enough, it's not just a Democratic-Republican issue. Both sides, if you go on into the Senate, in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, they spent $2 million. Moving on to governors' races, in the states of North Carolina, they spent almost a million dollars, in Indiana. These are -- this has been the hot topic so far. I think you'll see it in House races. We've seen $350,000 so far.

So far, this is the topic. Both sides, Republican and Democrats, who's is not for some form of prescription drugs, one side of the issue or the other.

SHAW: David Peeler of Competitive Media Reporting, thanks very much.

PEELER: Thank you, Bernie.

SHAW: You're welcome.

In his presidential campaign, Vice President Gore has made an issue of the high cost of prescription drugs as part of his larger proposals for health-care reform.

Eileen O'Connor takes a closer look at Gore's plan and his ultimate goal.


EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He came in as vice president on a flat form promising health insurance for every American.

GORE: Put the American people first and support real health care reform.

Affordable quality health care coverage for every American. O'CONNOR: But eight years later Al Gore is a veteran of the calamitous failure of that plan. And the number of uninsured Americans has risen by five million, Now, as a presidential candidate, Gore has scaled back his goals. He says he wants to extend health coverage to those without it but incrementally, using existing government programs.

RON POLLACK, FAMILIES USA: He's learned from the many lessons we've had on health reform that you can't do everything all at once.

O'CONNOR: Instead, Gore's proposed a 10-year, $146 billion program whose major focus is reducing the number on uninsured children. Gore wants to expand both Medicaid and the CHIP, the government-sponsored Children's Health Insurance Program, to kids in families that earn up to 250 percent of the poverty level, or $41,000 for a family of four. That's up from 200 percent of poverty.

Gore would allow parents of all enrolled program to buy into the CHIPs program, as well. All told, some 700 million adults would receive coverage and an additional 7.5 million children.

Some clinics already allow parents to enroll. At the Unity Clinic in Washington, D.C., mothers like Kerry Ann Charles say the insurance has allowed them to rely less on expensive emergency room care.

KERRY ANN CHARLES: Now all I have to do is -- excuse me -- make a doctor appointment instead of, you know, going there.

O'CONNOR: But Unity's director says expanding the program does nothing to solve another problem for the working poor: access. Clinics like Unity, located in urban and rural areas, serve a disproportionate amount of the poor. With cutbacks in Medicaid, many are struggling financially and are threatened with closure.

VINCENT KEANE, UNITY HEALTHCARE CLINIC: As you know, having a card doesn't guarantee access. What's really important is being sure as well as the coverage that they're able to get the care.

Like Kerry Ann Charles, 17 percent of the uninsured work full- time. Gore proposes a 25 percent tax cut for people with no employer- paid coverage to go toward the cost of private insurance. And like his GOP rival, George W. Bush, Gore would encourage small businesses to ban together to negotiate lower insurance rates.

PAUL FRONSTEIN, EMPLOYEE BENEFIT RESEARCH INSTITUTE: If you want to make a major dent on the uninsured population, the focus needs to be on children, who represents 25 percent of the uninsured, and workers in small firms and their families, who represents about 60 percent of the uninsured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The grand total is $506.34 for a month's supply.

GORE: Wow. O'CONNOR: Gore's program also addresses the needs of older Americans, struggling to meet the high prices of their medications, extending a $5,000 prescription drug insurance plan to Medicare recipients and allowing people age 55 to 65 to buy into the Medicare program.

(on camera): Whether it's how to provide more health insurance or a prescription drug benefit for seniors, the Gore plan relies more heavily on taxpayer money to provide more relief to a broader population.

(voice-over): For the prescription drug proposal, the pricetag is $118 billion. Bush supporters say overall the Gore plan is too costly and that private insurers could be encouraged to do more for less.

ROBERT HELMS, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Basically, I think they'd be better off if they'd put more effort into the tax credit rather than trying to expand these state programs.

O'CONNOR: Then there are the critics who say that Gore's plan is too timid, like his former rival Bill Bradley, who called for using the country's unprecedented economic prosperity to provide health care for all. Gore's plan may be incremental, even cautious, but his supporters say it's realistic.

POLLACK: Is Vice President Gore's proposal a proposal for universal coverage? No, it's not, although he's committed to that. What he's trying to do is a step-by-step approach that gets more people covered.

O'CONNOR: After all, for Gore, universal coverage is still the goal.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: And when we return, a look back at the life and politics of New York's John Cardinal O'Connor.


SHAW: Tomorrow, the body of New York's Cardinal John O'Connor will be placed in St. Patrick's Cathedral for public viewing throughout the weekend. A funeral mass is scheduled for Monday. The 80-year-old Catholic leader died yesterday after a long illness related to a brain tumor. During his tenure, the religious leader was no stranger to politics.

Joining us to talk about Cardinal O'Connor's impact on the political scene, our own Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Bernie, you know, the Catholic vote, which trended Republican in the 1980s and Democratic in the '90s, is very much up for grabs this year. And the figure who embodied the conflicting impulses of Catholic voters was not a politician at all. It was Cardinal John O'Connor of New York, the most politically influential member of the church hierarchy in America.


(voice-over): Economically liberal and socially conservative; that more or less sums up the Catholic vote. It's also a precise characterization of the late Cardinal O'Connor's views. O'Connor was an ardent defender of the rights of labor and the needs of the poor. But the cardinal was best known as a forceful advocate of church teachings on abortion, homosexuality and women's rights.


CARDINAL JOHN O'CONNOR, ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK: We try not to innovate where we believe innovation is in violation of the mind of Christ.


SCHNEIDER: That made O'Connor a hero to conservatives, and a target of criticism from liberals. O'Connor did not shy away from controversy, perhaps most famously when he took on Democratic vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 for saying there was "a diversity of Catholic opinion" about abortion.


CARDINAL O'CONNOR: The issue is that the teaching of the Catholic Church is monolithic on the subject of abortion and it is stated in a letter signed by Mrs. Ferraro that it is not monolithic. Now, to me, that is pretty basic disagreement.

We will not be intimidated.


SCHNEIDER: O'Connor maintained that no Catholic could in good conscience vote for a candidate who favored abortion rights. That got him into a long running feud with New York governor Mario Cuomo.


CARDINAL O'CONNOR: I want to ask a question, not to put you on...


SCHNEIDER: Political figures from Ronald Reagan, to Bob Dole, to Al Gore paid homage to Cardinal O'Connor's spiritual authority. No candidate with national aspirations could afford to miss the annual Al Smith dinner in New York.


CARDINAL O'CONNOR: What do we ask? What do we ask of the candidate?


SCHNEIDER: O'Connor was blunt and outspoken. Like a good New Yorker, the cardinal had a taste for irony, like when he found good news in the Lewinsky scandal.

CARDINAL O'CONNOR: Thank God it is news that the president of the United States is being accused, correctly or incorrectly, of such things. When it's no longer news, then maybe we will have completely declined.

SCHNEIDER: When George W. Bush was criticized for visiting Bob Jones University this year, he wrote a letter of apology to Cardinal O'Connor, saying he missed an opportunity to condemn bigotry. Bush knew who wielded moral and political clout with Catholic voters.


SCHNEIDER: It is widely believed that Pope John Paul II was chosen pope because he combined two philosophies church leaders were looking for: political liberalism and theological conservatism. When the pope elevated O'Connor, he is reported to have said, I want a man like me in New York. He got one -- Bernie.

SHAW: He surely did. Thank you, Bill Schneider.

And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow, when Bill will have his political "Play of the Week."

And, of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's

And this programming note: The controversy over the missing White House e-mails will be the topic tonight on "CROSSFIRE" at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The guests will be two members of the House Government Reform Committee: Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Paul Kanjorski.

I'm Bernard Shaw. "WORLDVIEW" is next.



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