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Inside Politics

Poll Shows Bush Widening Lead Over Gore; Giuliani Announces He and His Wife Separating

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

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE & GEORGE W. BUSH (singing): Deep in the heart of Texas.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush presents another campaign theme he hopes will play well with older voters and women of all ages.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore tries to beef up his support among veterans amid new evidence of his weak spots nationwide.

Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: In many ways, we've grown to live independent and separate lives. We should probably strive toward formalizing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: A new chapter in Rudy Giuliani's widely scrutinized marriage.

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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. We begin with George W. Bush, apparently borrowing another page from the Democrats and trying to counter Al Gore's attacks at the same time.

Our Candy Crowley reports from Iowa on Bush's new health care- related proposal and the two key voting groups it targets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE & GEORGE W. BUSH (singing): Deep in the heart of Texas. (LAUGHTER)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A visit to a retirement home visit generally means a politician wants to talk senior issues. George Bush calls them "family security issues," umbrella language for initiatives aimed at seniors and those who care for them, in both cases mostly women.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a special challenge for women: 75 percent of family caregivers are women. Wives caring for husbands, mothers caring for sons, adult daughters looking after aging parents.

CROWLEY: In the first of these family security initiatives to be unveiled over the next 10 days, Bush outlined a $7.4 billion proposal aimed at making long-term health care insurance more affordable.

BUSH: It is time for many Americans to prepare, prepare for peace of mind insurance. It must become a central part of retirement planning in America.

CROWLEY: Taxpayers, those who don't itemize and those who do, could deduct the cost of premiums. And those who care for an elderly relative at home could take an exemption equal to the current deduction for children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) vice president...

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Well, because the vice president is supposed to do what the president asks, and I don't think my mother -- I think the roles would be reversed if I asked my mother.

CROWLEY: Polls show Bush has closed the female gender gap, now running about even with Al Gore among women voters, and a new "L.A. Times" poll shows that seniors are the only age group where Gore currently leads Bush, albeit by a small margin.

But senior issues, in particular Social Security and Medicare, have been a political rat's nest for Republicans in recent elections. Bush will address both Monday and says the problem is Democrats playing politics and trying to scare people into believing things that aren't true.

BUSH: People who are on Social Security today will have a Social Security check. The government will keep its promise. It's a necessary promise. It's a promise that we will keep, and that's a solemn pledge.

CROWLEY: A top administration official says the Clinton-Gore administration has a similar long-term care proposal and argued that Bush can't pay for his because of his tax cut plan.

With an older-than-average population, Iowa was an apt spot for Bush to begin the roll-out of senior issues, but the last Republican presidential candidate to carry Iowa was Ronald Reagan in '84.

(on camera): Still, Bush aides say Iowa is more than a convenient backdrop. They insist, as they must at this point, that the state is in play, which means that for now anyway Iowa is worth the time and effort.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Davenport.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: And now on that "Los Angeles Times" poll Candy mentioned. It shows Bush leading Gore by eight points, 51 percent to 43 percent, among registered voters nationwide. Among men, Bush is 16 points ahead of Gore, but women are divided, favoring Bush by a statistically insignificant margin of two points.

Let's talk more about that survey with Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."

Ron, Bush up eight points. What's he got going for him?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Hi, Bernie.

Well, obviously, it's early in the campaign, and for a lot of the voters, these candidates haven't fully come into focus yet. But what's really working for Bush, what really jumps out of this poll is the breadth of his appeal at this point. He is winning among every age group except seniors. He's winning among virtually every income group. He's winning at every level of education. He's dominating among independents. He's drawing more Democratic crossover defection than Gore is drawing among Republicans.

And what you see to some extent is the beginnings of the reassembling of the kind of coalition that worked for the Republicans when they dominated presidential politics in the quarter century before Clinton. You see a lot of the same kind of patterns in the kind of voters that Bush is attracting.

It is early, but it does suggest that he's having some success at positioning himself in the center even while holding a conservative Republican base.

SHAW: I want to get back to that in just a moment. But tell us how is President Clinton's standing figuring in all this.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, it's a -- it's a -- it's sort of, you know -- it is clearly a cross-cutting notion. The strongest thing that Al Gore has going for him is the general sense of satisfaction with the direction of the country.

We have it at about 46 percent saying the country is on the right track, down a little bit from a year ago, but still high by historic standards, as high as it was, for instance, in the period right before George Bush the father won in 1988.

On the other hand, I think many analysts believe that one of the reasons why Gore is having so much trouble with married women, which was a key target group that Clinton pulled over to the Democratic side in '96 after being part of the Republican coalition in the '80s and '70s, is a sense of anxiety about the nation's moral direction, about the cultural trends in the country. And that is reinforced by the sense that Clinton has not set a good moral example: impeachment, the affair with Monica Lewinsky, and so forth.

SHAW: Is it a fair question to ask, is President Clinton hurting Gore among key swing voters?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think it's going to be really hard to disentangle that. One thing that's striking to me, and this -- you know, you'll have to decide, I think we'll have to decide whether this is more a question of Clinton or Gore; my sense is more the latter -- is that Gore is significantly underperforming among people who think the country is moving in the right direction.

You have a lot of voters out there at the moment who are saying they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country and yet voting they're voting for change, and I think that is partially a reflection of the fact that Gore hasn't established his leadership credentials yet and even more so that he hasn't successfully made Bush a threat to the positive directions that people like about what's going in the '90s.

We had almost half the people in the poll, about 45 percent, said they wanted the next president not to change Clinton's economic policies at all. And yet one-third of those voters were saying they were going to vote for Bush, and I think that's the kind of thing that Gore really has to work on. He has to improve his performance among people who are satisfied with the country's direction.

SHAW: Well, he's been trying to portray Bush as a risk. Is that strategy working?

BROWNSTEIN: Not yet. Clearly not, because, I mean, I think that, as I said, one of the things that really jumps out at you in this poll is that people who are satisfied with the country's direction are still in large numbers -- about 43 percent of them were saying they were going to vote -- were going to vote for Bush.

I think Gore has not successfully made the case. One place where he does have some ammunition and where our poll, like every other poll shows a clear advantage for Gore, is when you ask people what they want to do with the surplus. By 5-to-1, they preferred Social Security and Medicare strengthening and paying down the national debt over a big tax cut. And certainly, that tax cut is going to be one of the things that Bush is going have to defend through November since there really has not been much of a market demonstrated for it in the electorate.

SHAW: You know, as you look at the push and pull of this campaign -- and I'm wondering, and my last question to you, is Governor Bush doing to the Democrats what Bill Clinton did so long to the Republicans, steal their issues? BROWNSTEIN: Yes, and it's more -- it's really building -- I mean, it's not simply stealing their issues. It's building a bridge or synthesis between themes that have long been thought of as incompatible. The "New Democrat" idea was to combine opportunity and responsibility, government activism and fiscal responsibility in the same way that Bush is trying to maintain a sort of limited government conservatism, but attached to that a more activist vision of reaching out to groups that are not -- you know, being left behind in the economy. And that is clearly working, and he is showing a lot more appeal among women, particularly married women, who were the swing group that were Republican in the '80s -- Clinton moved them over, particularly in '96. They are moving back: 15-point lead for Bush among those voters.

I think that a lot of that is his focus on education, and he's doing very well with independents. A lot of the centrist swing groups are -- you know, he is -- he is doing exactly what Clinton did, which is providing a reformulated version of his party's agenda that holds the base but reaches out more broadly to the groups that had defected from his party in the previous elections.

And that's obviously what Republicans have to do. Their last two nominees have not reached 40 percent of the vote.

SHAW: Well, we'll be watching that very, very closely.

Ron Brownstein, "The Los Angeles Times," thank you -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: No doubt mindful of his standing in the latest polls, Al Gore reached out today to a group that doesn't seem to be partial to him, even though he is a member.

CNN's Charles Zewe reports from Arkansas on the vice president's appeal to military veterans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a veterans hall that wreaked of stale beer and cigarettes, Vice President Al Gore, struggling to increase support among veterans, proposed a major increase in G.I. education benefits.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America must do more for those who have risked everything to keep use free.

ZEWE: Gore said he would boost veterans education benefits by 25 percent next year as part of an overall billion-dollar hike in G.I. bill benefits spread over five years.

GORE: ... because we don't give our veterans anything. You have earned what you get with blood, sweat and tears...

(APPLAUSE)

... sacrifice, loyalty and dedication. ZEWE: Along with increasing those education benefits, the vice president promised to raise military pay to ensure no one on active duty ever has to depend on food stamps.

GORE: Our armed forces shouldn't have to use stamps to buy groceries. They should be commemorated on stamps.

ZEWE: Among veterans, some polls have shown presumptive GOP nominee George W. Bush leading Gore, a Vietnam vet, by almost 2-1. To the mostly middle-aged gathering, Gore said he would strengthen prescription drug coverage for military retirees. He also again slammed Bush's proposal to create Social Security investment accounts.

GORE: That is why I am against raising the retirement age and I am against privatizing Social Security and turning it into a game of stock market roulette with winners and losers. I think it's a mistake.

ZEWE (on camera): Gore also criticized Bush's latest proposal to provide tax incentives to elderly Americans to buy health insurance. "It sounds nice," said a Gore spokesman, "but it's doubtful he can pay for it on top of the more than $2 trillion in tax cuts and other spending increases the Texas governor has proposed."

Charles Zewe, CNN, Jacksonville, Arkansas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: This is something that has developed over some period of time and it's something between Donna and me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani makes a personal decision public and asks the press to respect his privacy. We'll ask Gail Sheehy and Howard Kurtz whether today's news will have any affect on his political career.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani told reporters today he and his wife will seek a legal separation. The announcement came after questions about the mayor's personal life had surfaced in the news media in recent days at a time the mayor is still deciding on a possible New York Senate race.

Our Frank Buckley reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GIULIANI: This is very, very painful. FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A visibly shaken Rudy Giuliani responded to reporters asking about the state of his 16- year marriage to actress and broadcaster Donna Hanover, Giuliani acknowledging for the first time that their lives are on different paths.

GIULIANI: For quite some time it's probably been apparent that Donna and I lead, in many ways, independent and separate lives. It's been a very painful road, and I am hopeful that we will be able to formalize that in an agreement that protects our children, gives them the security and all the protection they deserve, and protects Donna, and that's something we have to work at and we have to strive toward.

BUCKLEY: Giuliani said he was not seeking a divorce, but rather a separation agreement. Giuliani and Hanover, who have two children together, have rarely been seen together during his second term as New York city mayor. His comments today follow numerous published reports of a private relationship between Giuliani and a 45-year-old Manhattan resident, Judith Nathan.

GIULIANI: She's a good friend, a very good friend, and beyond that, you can ask me questions and that's exactly what I'm going to say.

BUCKLEY: Giuliani's response was followed by Hanover's rare comments on her marriage last weekend.

DONNA HANOVER, GIULIANI'S WIFE: The well-being and safety of Andrew and Caroline will be my primary concern in any decisions that have to be made, as has always been the case.

BUCKLEY: Giuliani, who two weeks ago learned he has prostate cancer, says he has not yet decided whether the illness will effect his decision to continue his run for the U.S. Senate, and his disclosures about his marriage are not, he says, related to the race.

GIULIANI: I'm motivated by all of the tremendous invasion of privacy that's taken place in everyone's life, my family's, Judith Nathan's family's. This is something that has developed over some period of time, and it's something between Donna and me.

BUCKLEY: Michael Tomasky, the veteran political writer for "New York" magazine, says some voters may accept Giuliani's relationship with another woman if he is legally separated.

MICHAEL TOMASKY, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: I can't quite see that happening. Partly it's a factor of his constituency or his presumed constituency upstate, which is kind of conservative and kind of Catholic, how they might look at this might be a problem.

BUCKLEY: Late this afternoon, Hanover spoke to reporters.

HANOVER: Today's turn of events brings me great sadness. I had hoped to keep this marriage together. For several years it was difficult to participate in Rudy's public life because of his relationship with one staff member. Beginning last May, I made a major effort to bring us back together, and Rudy and I re-established some of our personal intimacy through the fall. At that point, he chose another path.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCKLEY: The staff member that Hanover referred to in her statement is not Judith Nathan, who does not work for Mr. Giuliani, but is believed to be a former staff member of the mayor's. Hanover also confirmed that she would move forward with discussions of a legal separation. For the moment, however, she says she will continue to live with her children and Giuliani at the city's mayoral residence, Gracie Mansion -- Bernie.

SHAW: Frank, given this very personal announcement this afternoon, where does Giuliani stand as a candidate?

BUCKLEY: Well, as far as voters are concerned, they've been polled on this issue, in a recent "New York Daily News" poll on whether or not his personal life would affect their voting patterns suggested that three quarters of the voters here in the city at least were not affected. They didn't want to know about his personal life, vis-a-vis the election.

We can tell you that within the hour we've also been contacted by a spokeswoman for Giuliani's campaign for Senate. She says that Giuliani met with the campaign staff within the hour and told them for the moment anyway the campaign is still full steam ahead.

SHAW: Is that a quote for the moment, anyway?

BUCKLEY: Well, for the moment anyway is my paraphrasing of what he says. What he...

SHAW: OK.

BUCKLEY: The quote that we got is "full steam ahead."

SHAW: OK, Frank Buckley in New York -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, when asked about the mayor's announcement, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said she had nothing to say, that she remains focused on her Senate bid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), N.Y. SEN. CANDIDATE: This is an important campaign about the future of the children and families of this state, and I'm going to just keep doing what I've been doing as much as I can, reaching out to people and trying to put forth the ideas that I think would help people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: For more now on the mayor's announcement, his wife's response, and the impact of all of this, we turn to Gail Sheehy of "Vanity Fair" magazine and Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES." Gail Sheehy, to you first. Did the press in New York see this coming, both ends of this, both the mayor's comments and his wife's?

GAIL SHEEHY, "VANITY FAIR": Well, I certainly don't think that they knew Donna Hanover's attitude. She has been extremely dignified and close-mouthed for the last three years. In fact, she just now has revealed that she knew about the affair between Mayor Giuliani and former press secretary Christine Latagano, which he hotly denied when it was reveled several years ago. And she's also told us that she's made an effort since May to restore their marriage and their intimacy, which is another way of really undercutting him.

I mean, these two people -- we are now seeing the Giuliani wars fought out in dueling press conferences, and this is not a good thing for a candidate.

WOODRUFF: Howard Kurtz, how should the press be covering this story, which is unfolding before our very eyes?

HOWARD KURTZ, "RELIABLE SOURCES": It's amazing, in the course of two weeks, we've had, you know, the mayor has prostate cancer, the mayor has a girlfriend, the mayor is getting separated, but I don't think the New York tabloids, which fancy themselves to be a pretty tough crowd, have been anything but restrained on this. I mean, this relationship between Mayor Giuliani and Judith Nathan has been going on for a year. There are all the sightings of them in various public place -- restaurants, parties, town hall meetings. But it seems to me that from the reporting I've done that the New York papers didn't try hard to break this and the only reason it really came out when the photograph of Judith Nathan appeared in "The New York Post" about eight or so days ago was because Mayor Giuliani was meeting her in a public place. You almost get the sense that perhaps he felt that it was inevitable that it would come out.

WOODRUFF: Gail Sheehy, any -- can you shed any light on why the press would be restrained, if you agree with Howard that it has been?

SHEEHY: Well, it has been. I mean, I knew about Judith Nathan. And I even put a word in, in a 12,500-word piece in "Vanity Fair," it didn't affect, apparently, his public life.

But I'll tell you, there's a larger picture here. What I found after following his career for three months is that he's really a tormented man, and many top Republican strategists told me he doesn't want to be senator. He's running on a dare -- can you beat her? Can you beat Hillary Clinton. It's not what he wants. He wants to be governor. The job is taken for the time being, but it won't be in another couple of years when he could run. And he couldn't find an honorable way out, and so I think he's been laying mines in his path now for perhaps the last year, and now we see one strike after another, the cancer which he couldn't have predicted certainly, but coming out, he put this affair out in front of people, dangled it in front of the press, even at the Inner Circle Press dinner, and sort of waiting for somebody to out him, almost as if it was a Gary Hart-type dare. WOODRUFF: Well, both of you know New York voters pretty well. Howard Kurtz, is this something -- now that we know, at least from Donna Hanover's telling, that the mayor, according to her, has been unfaithful on at least two occasions, is this something that's going to matter to the voters of New York and therefore have been effect on his campaign?

KURTZ: Well, the initial poll when we only knew of one women, by "The Daily News," found that 77 percent of at least voters in this city, we're not talking statewide here, said it would not have any affect on their view of his Senate candidacy. And you know, it is worth noting that this has been covered differently than, for example, the Clinton's marriage, in part because Giuliani fairly, frankly acknowledged it when confronted with the evidence, and didn't lie, or fudge or obfuscate, and therefore didn't reporters trying to prove what he was saying was untrue.

At the same time, looking at today's "Daily News," before the separation announcement, a big spread on Judith Nathan, and her clothes and people rating her on fashion scale, hard to imagine this could have continued with the mayor and, apparently, his estranged wife living in same government Gracie Mansion while Giuliani conducted, you know, a semipublic affair with this woman.

WOODRUFF: Gail Sheehy, what's your sense? And I do want to acknowledge you've written, as you've mentioned, this lengthy, thorough comprehensive piece on the mayor and the first lady for "Vanity Fair." Looking at the voters of New York, is this turn of events likely to be something that matters to them?

SHEEHY: Of course, this is grand opera. The problem with the Senate race always been from the beginning about the two personalities and their, you know, blighted marriages now. And I think the biggest affect on Giuliani is on his psychological stability, which is questioned by a number of top Republican people in my article. He always has had volatile personality, very authoritarian and has to grind his enemies into the dirt, but it's been more bizarre behavior in the last year, and it may very well be because of this torment he feels of running, because he feels he has to beat Hillary Clinton, but really wanting what he's running for.

WOODRUFF: Howard Kurtz, how do you describe the relationship that the mayor has with the press of New York?

KURTZ: Well, it's a contentious relationship to be sure. The city hall regulars not only used to doing combat with the mayor. He's not a shy and retiring wallflower. I mean, it's not unusual for him to denounce their questions are stupid and treat them with contempt, and he has gotten away with it because he's been a pretty good mayor and he's a pretty popular mayor. But I must say, Judy, that if you'd asked me six months ago, which of these two candidates marriages would have, you know, been a subtext of this race, I very much would have picked the Clintons' marriage, and now of course Giuliani's marriage is front and center, and I don't think we should lose sight in talking about this extraordinary turn of events, that this is a man who still has to be treated for prostate cancer, and that, beyond all of this, may end up being the determining factor on whether in fact he decides to press forward with his Senate candidacy.

WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to have to leave it there.

Gail Sheehy, "Vanity Fair" magazine, and Howard Kurtz, CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Thank you both. We appreciate it

SHAW: And there is still much more ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Still to come:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Campaigning in Cajun French, campaigning in English, he was one of a kind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Our Bruce Morton takes a post-conviction look at the colorful political mayor of Louisiana's Edwin Edwards.

Plus:

SHAW: Is gun control shaping up to be a key issue in 2000? Our Bill Schneider on the politics and the public opinion.

And later:

WOODRUFF: Is George W. Bush on a roll? Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson on the latest poll numbers and the endorsement of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Today, Microsoft formally responded to the federal government's plan to split the company into two, asking a federal judge to throw it out. The company says the penalty far exceeds the antitrust violations the judge says the company committed.

In its written response, Microsoft says it will stop displaying the desktop icon for Internet Explorer in its Windows operating system. The software giant says it would allow computer makers to feature any software on the Windows desktop.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in New Orleans today -- and I'm quoting here -- "Our company will not be broken up. It will not happen."

WOODRUFF: CNN has learned that investigators believe pilot error is responsible for last month's crash of an experimental U.S. Marine Corps aircraft in the Arizona desert. Pentagon sources tell CNN that the pilot brought the V-22 Osprey down too quickly without enough forward motion. Yesterday, officials ruled out mechanical failure of the tilt-rotor aircraft as the cause. All 19 people on board died.

The V-22 Osprey is a hybrid aircraft, which can land and take off like a helicopter and fly like an airplane.

SHAW: United Nations peacekeeping troops reportedly are taking up positions around Sierra Leone's capital. U.N. troops are said to be digging in amid reports rebel forces in the West African nation are advancing toward Freetown.

Thousands of refugees have fled the fighting between rebels and government-backed troops. U.N. forces have been trying to implement a power-sharing agreement. Rebels have been holding nearly 500 United Nations soldiers hostage since the weekend.

A new report bolsters longstanding claims by the FBI that its agents did not shoot during the 1993 fire at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. Independent experts analyzed infrared tapes taken at Waco that night and examined videotape of a recent re- enactment. They say there is no evidence of FBI gunfire during the last day of the siege. A Texas judge has also ruled the re-enactment tapes can be used during an upcoming wrongful death lawsuit.

WOODRUFF: The price of a recorded compact disc could soon drop. The Federal Trade Commission and five music companies today announced settlement designed to open up competition.

Five manufacturers, including Time Warner, parent company of this network, will end a system called MAP, or minimum advertising price. The system prevented retailers from setting their own prices.

FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky says the program cost consumers about a half-billion dollars over the last few years. The settlement could drive CD prices down by several dollars.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, Bruce Morton looks at the storied past of former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards awaits sentencing in Baton Rouge after a jury convicted him yesterday of 17 criminal counts. Edwards and four co-defendants were convicted in a connection with a scheme to extort money from applicants for state riverboat casino licenses.

Today, the jury recommended that the defendants forfeit more than $2 million in money they received.

Now, a page from Bruce Morton's journal on this colorful Democrat who won the support of Louisiana voters so many times.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) EDWIN EDWARDS (D), FORMER LOUISIANA GOVERNOR: (SPEAKING IN FRENCH)

MORTON (voice-over): Campaigning in Cajun French, campaigning in English, he was one of a kind. Got a reputation as a womanizer? Run on it.

EDWARDS: All right, darling. Come on here. Don't you tell your boyfriend about this now. Merci beaucoup.

MORTON: He was a populist, like the Longs. Government did things for folks.

EDWARDS: Who paved the parking lot at the football stadium? Who's four-laning the highway (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

(APPLAUSE)

MORTON: But he was Cajun, too. Let the good times roll: women, gambling.

"The only way I can lose," he said more than once, "is if they catch me with a dead girl or a live boy." He mostly won.

Hear him on the increased role women play in his state's politics.

EDWARDS: This new commitment we have to the involvement of women in the political process -- certainly they said it very well. The motto (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is "up with skirts and down with pants."

(LAUGHTER)

MORTON: After he won in 1983, his third term, he took hundreds of lobbyists and backers on a partying and gambling trip to Paris and Monte Carlo. Price: $10,000 a head.

EDWARDS: Vive La France and vive La Louisiana.

MORTON: They knew about the women, the gambling. He never lied about it. Why did they keep electing him? Well, one minister said, he doesn't drink or smoke.

EDWARDS: I don't have any skeletons in my closet. They're all out front. My closets have been raided so many times that there's nothing new, different, bad, or worse that can be said about me.

MORTON: And Louisiana is a state where politics is supposed to be fun, kind of like a Mardi Gras, only with more money, and at the end of the party, you vote. He last ran in 1991, against former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: I hope that after they take a look at us, some of them may have to hold their nose, but they may determine that I'm the best choice.

DAVID DUKE, LOUISIANA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: For business to vote for you, they'd have to hold their nose, close their eyes, and cover their ears. And business, you have either been opposed...

EDWARDS: And as opposed to you, they'd have to get out from under their sheets. But nevertheless...

DUKE: There you go...

EDWARDS: ... they have to make that decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: He won. A bumper sticker that year read: "Vote for the crook. It's important."

EDWARDS: If you get lucky, then you've got to ride the tide. If you get unlucky, then the smart thing to do is retreat and wait for another tide.

MORTON: He is not lucky now, and another tide may not come, but he leaves many memories.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Who's the greatest politician you've seen in Louisiana during your lifetime?

EDWARDS: My lifetime? It would have to be every time I shave and look in the mirror I see him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: He's probably right about that.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: And our thanks to the Center for New America Media, which produced the documentary "Louisiana Boys -- Raised on Politics."

WOODRUFF: Former Reform Party chairman Russ Verney tells CNN today that he is considering urging the party not to name a presidential nominee at its August convention rather than choose Pat Buchanan. And a Reform Party source confirms to CNN that party founder Ross Perot is expected to stay away from the convention if it appears Buchanan is going to be nominated.

Buchanan's conservative stands on social issues and his statements that he is molding the party in his image have angered some longtime Reform Party members in recent weeks.

In Massachusetts today, controversial GOP Senate candidate Jack E. Robinson said he is confident he will be on the November ballot and challenged Democratic incumbent Ted Kennedy. Robinson says he's submitted 13,000 signatures to local town clerks before yesterday's deadline, but the Massachusetts secretary of state says Robinson faces an uphill battle to get 10,000 of those signatures certified, the number needed to get on the ballot.

Some top state Republicans withdrew their endorsement of Robinson after he detailed his personal history, including a relationship with a girlfriend who took out a restraining order against him.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, an update on American views on gun control, before this Sunday's Million Mom March.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Some women across the country may be starting their trek to Washington for the big Mother's Day protest against gun violence. Four days before the Million Mom March, our Bill Schneider joins us now with new poll numbers on gun control.

Bill, where does the gun issue stand right now?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, the big surprise on that issue is what has not happened. Columbine and other gun tragedies are not having the effect that a lot of people predicted. Take a look at the number of Americans who have favored stricter gun laws over the past ten years. In 1990, it was almost 80 percent. It dropped to 70 in 1993, and 62 in '95.

There was a small uptick in support for stricter gun laws right after Columbine in 1999. But our latest poll shows the number back down to 61 percent. Support for stricter gun laws has dropped nearly 20 points in 10 years. But, at 61 percent, you know, it's still a substantial majority.

WOODRUFF: Why do you think it's been dropping?

SCHNEIDER: Well, because the National Rifle Association has been making an argument that a lot of Americans find reasonable: that the country doesn't need new gun laws; it needs to do a better job enforcing the laws that are already on the books. By 51-44 percent, the public says we should enforce existing gun laws rather than pass new gun laws.

Now, that doesn't mean the public opposes new gun laws. Huge majorities favor a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases and trigger locks on all new handguns. Three-quarters of Americans favor the registration of all handguns. Two-thirds want to license gun owners. And almost 60 percent want to limit the number of handguns an individual can purchase to one per month. But the urgency behind these measures has really diminished.

WOODRUFF: So then, is the gun issue having any effect on the presidential campaign?

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's another big surprise. We are not seeing any evidence that the gun issue is paying off for Democrats. For example, we asked people twice this year which candidate would do a better job handling the gun issue and the answer was Bush, by a small margin. The gun issue does have a powerful impact on the presidential vote. Those who say we should enforce existing gun laws rather than pass new ones favor Bush over Gore by more than 3-1. People who want to pass new gun laws favor Gore by about the same margin.

But as I just noted, more people say we should enforce existing laws and that is why the issue is not helping Gore. The anti-gun side has the numbers, but what they lack is the intensity and the commitment and the organization. Politicians know that they will pay a price at the polls from gun owners if they vote for new gun laws. The march this weekend is an effort to convince politicians that they will pay a price at the polls if they do not vote for new gun laws.

WOODRUFF: Pressure from both sides.

SCHNEIDER: Exactly.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

WOODRUFF: Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you.

Up next, will the endorsement of John McCain help Texas Governor George Bush? Well, we're going to ask Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Joining us now, Margaret Carlson of "Time" magazine -- we'll get to you in just a second -- and Tucker Carlson of "The Weekly Standard."

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani announcing today a formal separation from his wife.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, now we are flabbergasted and can't speak, but you know, I think he has been laying the groundwork for this, he's been out in public with this woman. It was a badly kept secret that he was involved with a staff member. Donna Hanover changed her name, wouldn't say whether she voted for him or not, never appeared with him, and was going to be in a very -- in a play of questionable taste for someone who's married to the mayor of New York. So they've been estranged and it's been a cold marriage for a long, long time, so it's not terribly surprising.

What's surprising is Donna Hanover's statement about it, which is what could cause the problem with it, because she is the Hillary Clinton of the piece. She's the wronged woman. And it doesn't sound like she's going to be quiet about it.

TUCKER CARLSON, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, she may make a better candidate against Mrs. Clinton, sort of the match of the wronged women. I mean, it was no secret. When your wife won't admit she voted for you, that's a sign of there's a problem.

I'm just amazed that the mayor of New York has run around and has a girlfriend openly, and nobody says anything about it until he makes the formal announcement that the marriage is over. I think his wife was pretty restrained in her statement the other day in the cathedral when she said, you know, she felt bad that he prostate cancer, rather than saying, you know, it's particularly fitting a reward for his behavior. You know, she sort of, you know, bore up under it. It seems to me like he didn't tell her today that he planned to announce their separation, which seems an odd thing not to tell the person from whom you're separating.

M. CARLSON: Well, they don't seem to communicate very well. I think there's another wrinkle possible, which is that given that he has the cancer, the timing of this doesn't seem particularly good, but maybe when you glimpse your mortality, you just can't picture being that sick alone, and you don't to...

T. CARLSON: You are so forgiving. That's awfully nice.

M. CARLSON: No, but there is something about getting down to basics and what matters when you face up to your own death, and this may have spurred it along.

SHAW: Well, one of the basics in this campaign is the coverage by the news media. Here on INSIDE POLITICS today, Judy did an interview with Gale Sheehy and Howard Kurtz of "The Washington Post. Gail Sheehy, you know, has this long takeout in "Vanity Fair" about Giuliani and Hillary in this race. They said that the New York press corps has been restrained in covering the story, although many in the press corps were aware of some of the things you just said.

T. CARLSON: That's absolutely right. I mean, I traveled with a guy yesterday from one of the New York tabloids who said, you know, we had pictures, evidence that this affair was going on for weeks, and just to sort of put in a plug for New York tabs, they're always attacked for, you know, being paparazzi and everything, but in this case, they really did hold themselves back.

M. CARLSON: Well, New York is Paris, and perhaps closer to Paris than anyplace else in this regard, which is, if it doesn't interfere with your public duties, people will look the other way.

SHAW: One of the thing they said was that because Giuliani was so up front with this, he did not criticized in the press. The question is, how so all thing going to play on this race?

T. CARLSON: Yes, I mean, I don't know, New York may be Paris. I say it's probably sub-Paris actually. But the whole state is no Paris. And I think that there is a small, but maybe considerable percentage of voters who are going to be offended by this, and those are voters that Giuliani needs. I mean, there conservatives who won't like this. And so that's, let's say 15 percent of the voting population in New York State, and they're turned off by this, they either go to one of the third party candidates or they stay home, that's a huge problem for Giuliani. M. CARLSON: What helps is that he hasn't been Newt Gingrich, or Tom DeLay or somebody who's hammering on Clinton for his failings or can be accused of being hypocritical, because he's out there pushing family values above all else. He has more of an attitude, which I talk about public matters. I don't...

T. CARLSON: He turns out to be more liberal Republican than we even knew.

SHAW: One more question before we go to the presidential race. Does today's developments change your view about whether Giuliani is going to run against Hillary Clinton?

T. CARLSON: I must say, you know, one of the problems with Mrs. Clinton has always been this suspicion on the part of a lot of the voters that she has this kind of unsavory, or creepy private life, and et cetera, et cetera, and that kind of -- this defangs this issue, and I think it gives Giuliani much better cover to leave. I mean, I'm sure Rick Lazio is pretty excited as well.

M. CARLSON: I mean, maybe this is on that road he's been traveling since he found out about cancer. Maybe you don't want to spend your, you know, your remaining time on this Earth in the United States Senate. Maybe you don't want to spend it in a bad marriage. And maybe this is a signal that he isn't going to run at all.

T. CARLSON: You are so nice, Margaret.

M. CARLSON: Well, you know, I have a heart. I'm not the Tin Man.

T. CARLSON: I don't.

M. CARLSON: I know.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAW: To the national campaign. Polling showing Governor Bush of Texas eight points ahead of the vice president. What do you make of that?

M. CARLSON: It's a lot of points, and it's interesting that -- and this has been said a lot, but it's still interesting that Gore and the gender gap has essentially been erased. Women appear to like Bush. Men certainly do -- 38 percent of men say they're voting for Gore. I mean, that's amazing, but it's amazing that 15 percent say they're voting for Bush, huge change.

SHAW: And he's leading in every group except for people 65 and older.

M. CARLSON: All right, well, he came out of the primaries so strong, taking every issue that the Democrats had, which by the way appeal to women -- education, environment, health care, and now he's doing long-term care. And Gore has essentially counterpunched, but not been all that aggressive with his own programs. So Bush just stole the thunder. The thing is that Bush is a more likable guy than Gore, and things being equal, you want to vote for the likable guy. Gore has been his snarly self lately, and he was a bit snarly in the primary, as we know, and you don't want to vote for the class snitch. He just comes across as the guy that would have been turning Bush into the teacher.

T. CARLSON: You know, it's a dog food problem, there's no question. The dogs just aren't going to eat it, you know.

M. CARLSON: They may eventually, but at the moment, when you can be a little more casual about it...

T. CARLSON: They got to be pretty hungry, yes.

SHAW: I mean, clearly Gore has the better issues, I think, all things said, but he's just a tough sell.

M. CARLSON: If he can just likable about them, he's got a chance to win.

SHAW: Do you think so?

Do you think so?

T. CARLSON: Oh, of course he does.

M. CARLSON: There is a long time yet, and the hunger does not hit until after the conventions, and we'll see how it goes then.

SHAW: All right, Margaret Carlson, Tucker Carlson, thanks so much. A lot of thunder and lightning here in Washington outside our CNN building.

WOODRUFF:: Safe and dry indoors.

SHAW: Ooh, that was a biggie.

(CROSSTALK)

SHAW: That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow, we hope, when our John King will report on organized labor's effort to get out the vote this year.

WOODRUFF: And of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com. This programming note: The latest developments in the New York Senate race will be the topic tonight on "CROSSFIRE" tonight. That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: I'm Bernard Shaw.

"WORLDVIEW" is next.

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