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Inside Politics

Clinton Improves Political Environment for Gore; Parties Find Money Buys Happiness; Gore Updates Message for Students and Jittery Democrats

Aired May 26, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton "on the waterfront": Is he trying to improve the political environment for Al Gore.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Many Democrats wish Gore was getting the same reaction from voters he got from these kindergarteners.


WOODRUFF: Jeanne Meserve updates Gore's message for students and for jittery Democrats. Plus...


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider. Money can't buy happiness, but it sure can buy the political "Play of the Week."


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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernie is on assignment.

Heading into the Memorial Day weekend, President Clinton did what many Americans are doing today. He went to the beach.

As CNN's Kelly Wallace reports, Mr. Clinton's trip was about protecting the environment, and some say it was also about election- year politics.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A majestic barrier island off the Maryland and Virginia coasts, the setting for President Clinton's latest environmental announcement.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need to do more with our cities and our coasts. The old idea that we can only grow by putting more pollution into our lakes and rivers and oceans must finally be put to rest.

WALLACE: Mr. Clinton issued an executive order directing his agencies to create a network of marine-protected areas, places like pristine beaches where fishing and offshore oil drilling would be banned. He also ordered permanent protection for the coral reefs in the northwest Hawaiian islands.

These are the latest examples of President Clinton using his executive power to achieve what he hasn't been able to accomplish with Congress. In the past six months, Mr. Clinton by executive order banned mining and logging in the Grand Canyon's watershed and in parts of California's Sequoia National Forest, and issued new proposed regulations slashing emissions from big rigs to automobiles.

While some Republican lawmakers support Mr. Clinton's objectives, they believe he had an obligation to involve Congress.

REP. JIM SAXTON (R), NEW JERSEY: This is an example of certainly an executive fiat. This is a democracy. The people in my position go home every weekend and listen to our constituents, identify problems, identify solutions to those problems.

WALLACE: Some industry representatives, such as offshore oil and gas drilling contractors, think Mr. Clinton's actions are motivated by politics, hoping to give a boost to Al Gore.

BRIAN PETTY, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DRILLING CONTRACTORS: It's a political year, and I think they're reaching out to galvanize the environmental community, which has always been pretty reliably Democratic but not completely so.

WALLACE: The White House brushes aside such criticism saying Mr. Clinton throughout his administration has tried to push new environmental initiatives.

(on camera): Mr. Clinton has used his executive power not just on the environment but on a range of domestic issues from gun control to health care. However, he realizes that the next occupant of the Oval Office could just as easily undo what he has done.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.


WOODRUFF: Now to Vice President Gore. He is sounding upbeat about his presidential prospects and some party officials who were reassured by Gore are echoing his optimism. In a little while, we'll have more on Gore's day on the campaign trail.

Well, Gore may not have to worry about Bill Bradley anymore, but he does face a challenge from the left. There is growing evidence in the polls that Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader could cause trouble for Gore in November.


RALPH NADER, GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't simply stand by idly, and watch our democracy and our government be completely turned over to the craven commercial interests of giant corporation who have forgotten where they came from, which is the USA.

WOODRUFF: Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader may be too the left of the political spectrum, but he saves his harshest condemnation for the Democrats.

NADER: If they don't shape up, this progressive political movement is going to proceed to ship them out in the next few years.


WOODRUFF: Nader says if he had been a senator, he would have voted to impeach President Clinton. He calls Al Gore a coward, as much a pawn of corporate America as Republican George W. Bush.

On Air Force Two last night, Gore played it cool.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say in response to Nader? Do you ignore him or do you have to respond in some way?

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know. It's still early.


WOODRUFF: But the vice president has reason to be concerned. Nader's stated goal is to get 5 percent of the popular vote, guaranteeing the Green Party federal matching funs in 2004. National polls put him close to that mark already.

But in a few key states Nader could have a much greater impact if he takes enough votes from Gore to tip the balance to Bush. In the potential battleground state of Oregon, Nader drew 7 percent in a recent poll. It also showed Bush narrowly ahead of Gore. He could also affect Washington State, Colorado, the all-important battleground belt from Wisconsin to New Jersey, and even California, potentially Nader's best state and one Gore truly must win.


NADER: It must be stated again and again that the existing pollution control laws in this country are shams. There are deception incarnate.


WOODRUFF: Nader is America's best-known consumer advocate. He has battled the automakers, polluters, "Big Tobacco," and Microsoft. He ran for president in 1996 but only halfheartedly. This time he is attempting to build a broad coalition of environmentalists, anti- corporate activists and disaffected Democrats.

His opposition to the China trade bill was popular with "Big Labor." The United Auto Workers suggested this week that it may endorse Nader over Gore.

The environmental group, Friends of the Earth, is considering endorsing Nader as well. But Nader's campaign organization is still weak. There is little advance planning and his schedule is erratic.

He may, however, be about to hire one big-league talent, political ad man Bill Hillsman, the creator of Jesse Ventura's highly praised 1998 ad campaign.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You can make Jesse battle special interest groups.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I don't want your stupid money.


WOODRUFF: Hillsman says there's no deal yet, but that the talks are progressing and that he and Nader share a strategic vision.


WOODRUFF: Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" is here now to talk some more about Nader, Gore and election 2000.

Ron, how much of a factor could Ralph Nader be?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, I think that his potential is really there in states that have a progressive tradition. All of the states -- almost all of the states you mentioned, you know, if we would have gone back earlier in the century, would have seen the progressive movement having been influential there then, and they have a tradition of sort of a good government voting bloc, an environmental voting bloc.

And as you look at some of those states -- Oregon and Wisconsin are two that you mentioned in your piece -- where recent polls have put Bush slightly ahead in these core Democratic base states, in states Democrats have won each of the last three elections.

So there is the potential there in some of these places, in the same way that Buchanan might cause problems in some of the border South states for Bush, for Nader, if he could sustain himself at 5, 6, 7 percent, to make it tight for Gore.

But I think he is more emblematic in some ways of a broader Gore problem with the base. I mean, Gore is having some problems activating and animating the Democratic base at this point.

WOODRUFF: Why. BROWNSTEIN: Well, there are a variety of problems. One is the trade issue, which creates the problems with organized labor. In the end, it's hard to imagine the United Auto Workers endorsing Ralph Nader given their history over the last 25 years, 30 years. But the fact that they are talking about it reflects the, you know, the antipathy toward, in a big portion of organized labor, toward the Clinton administration's trade policy, which Gore has -- which Gore has continued.

But also, in your own poll today, Al Gore was losing three times as many Democrats as Bush was Republicans, and there is a sense among some on the left that he is not doing enough to sort of animate and activate that part of the party. In his defense, he would say, look, when you look through the agenda that he's putting out, there is actually quite a bit more new spending and new programs that Clinton ran on in '96. But clearly, at this point he's got some work to do in his own -- in his own house.

WOODRUFF: You know, we've seen now for a number of weeks George W. Bush has been out there, moving to the center, holding down his base, as you suggested to a large degree, but also moving to the center. How is he able do both at the same time?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, Bush I think is very definitely doing something similar to what Bill Clinton did in 1992, where he's put out enough core ideas that appeal to the core of the party to hold his base, whether it was the tax cut earlier, school vouchers earlier, Social Security privatization, missile defense. These are all ideas with strong appeal to conservative Republicans, but he is sort of embroidering that with a whole series of measures that are really aimed directly at voters in Senate. Look what he's done in the last year.

He's talked about health care for people without it, he's talked about helping poor people buy homes, he's talked about early literacy programs, and he's also talked about bipartisanship consistently, whether it was on Kosovo, China or in his speech to the RNC fund raiser here. He has really gone out of his way to identify with himself as sort of a different style in Washington, as well as a different agenda, and that clearly is serving him well with centrist voters at this early point.

WOODRUFF: Ron, another school shooting today. We've just reported that. Clearly, this comes after what seems like a wave of these terrible events. Why do you believe Gore hasn't been able to make headway on an issue like that, or conversely, why hasn't Bush been hurt by his position?

BROWNSTEIN: Because the public is deeply conflicted about gun control, Judy. I think the public really has a foot in each camp. If you poll on any specific gun control, measure it's whether registration, trigger locks, three-day waiting periods for purchase at gun shows, you get overwhelming public support. In effect, that's one foot in the gun control camp.

On the other hand, when you ask if you think that it's more effective to pass new laws or to enforce existing laws, or whether you think new laws will have a big impact on gun violence, you get very split results. In effect, the public has a foot in the other camp as well. And right now, with Bush making the argument for tougher enforcement of existing laws, and Gore talking about new laws, you're seeing that same draw reflecting in the polling on them.

The one thing that Bush has to worry about, though, is clearly among swing voters there is a lot of energy for gun control, particularly along the coast, and if you have incidents like this in the fall, he could be vulnerable.

WOODRUFF: Ron Brownstein, "The Los Angeles Times," thanks very much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, Al Gore and George Bush both on the campaign trail today.

Plus, presidential aspirations: a look back at the men who used the vice presidency as a stepping stone to the nation's highest office.


WOODRUFF: Vice President Gore took his campaign to his home state of Tennessee today.

Our Jeanne Meserve was with him.


MESERVE (voice-over): Al Gore is repeating school, again. This is the sixth time during this campaign that he has spent an entire day in a public school. He has done it so often because it's a magnet for local media coverage, and this stop in suburban Memphis is a triple winner, getting play in three states, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. The theme this day, parental involvement.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's that the principal, and the teachers and the school staff have to consistently send a clear message to all of the parents that you are welcome in this school. We want you to be involved in this school.


MESERVE: It doesn't seem to matter that these events don't make much news. The pictures are almost always charming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you become president, if you ever do, what would you...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would change about America? MESERVE: There was a stroll with eager 7th graders, probably the first nature walk in history with Secret Service protection. But field day gave proof Gore is unlikely to ever be as famous for his pitching for his debating -- he only got two out of three in the beanbag toss.

Many Democrats wish Gore was getting the same reaction from voters he got from these kindergarteners. The latest polls show him still lagging behind George W. Bush.

Talking to reporters on Air Force 2, Gore professed to be unconcerned.

GORE: Look. I feel great about the campaign, and I think that's it's a mistake for anybody to base their entire view of what the American people are thinking in the year 2000 on the basis of these snapshot polls.

MESERVE: Some Democratic state party chairs emerged from a meeting with Gore and his top staffers expressing the same point of view, too early to worry, they said.

PAUL BERENDT, WASHINGTON DEMOCRATIC CHMN.: One of the basic tenets of politics is you don't fight the battle in May that you need to fight in October.

MESERVE: But the chair from Bush's home state couldn't resist from taking a honey-coated, Texas-style jab at her governor.

MOLLY BETH MALCOLM, TEXAS DEMOCRATIC CHAIRWOMAN: It reminds me of when I was in college, and you know, there were a lot of the guys, they were lots of fun to go out with, but when it came time to settle down, he wasn't the one you're looking for.

MESERVE (on camera): Bill Bradley wasn't the one voters wanted to settle down with either, but Gore's staff is talking to Bradley's staff, and Gore says his former foe will speak at the Democratic convention, but there was no indication of a public reconciliation, ala Bush and McCain.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Cordova, Tennessee.


WOODRUFF: For his part, George W. Bush is setting up his team to prepare for debate a appearances with Al Gore. A campaign spokesman confirms that New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg will be part of a small group that will get Bush ready for the debate. "The New York Daily News" reports Greg will play the role of Gore in the practice debates. Another senator, Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, apparently is on the list of possible vice presidential candidates. Hagel supported John McCain in the primaries, but he confirmed that he has talked in the last few days with Dick Cheney, who is leading the Bush campaign search for a runningmate.

The selection of vice president is key for many reasons. Among them, the possibility that the number-two man could one day be in line for the top job.

Bruce Morton opens his campaign journal to see how past vice presidents have fared.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first time was when William Henry Harrison delivered a very long inaugural speech in the rain, caught pneumonia and died a month later without ever really having worked at the job. John Tyler took over, and announced that he was president and would serve his term. Nobody argued.

What was the worst succession? Maybe when John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln, a Republican and a gifted politician. His replacement, Andrew Johnson -- Southern, stubborn, a very bad politician.

PROF. HANS TREFOUSSE, BROOKLYN COLLEGE: Johnson was determined to keep the South a white man's country. He was a bitter racist, there's no questions about that.

MORTON: Lincoln might have been able to work with both sides, rights for Southern blacks, but a place for defeated Southern whites, too -- not Johnson.

PROF. JOHN PAVIA, QUINNIPIAC COLLEGE: If he had worked with that moderate wing of both parties, he wouldn't have had a problem in 1868. His problem was he would not bend, and as we saw in 1868, the Republicans sought their revenge.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: In the name of the House of Representatives and of all the people of the United States, we do impeach Andrew Johnson, president of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors.


MORTON: That's from the movie "Tennessee Johnson," but the radical Republicans did impeach him. He was barely acquitted by the Senate, served out his term as the lamest of duck. Radical Republicans imposed military reconstruction on the South, which then retaliated with the Ku Klux Klan and legal segregation, which lasted for another hundred years.

It was left to murdered John Kennedy's vice president, Lyndon Johnson of Texas, to bring those segregated walls tumbling down.

ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Lyndon Johnson succeeding John Kennedy. Of course he failed in the Vietnam War, but he was very, very well qualified to be president, as was testified to by the extraordinary burst of domestic-reform legislation that he drove through the Congress.

MORTON: Including the Civil Rights act, 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which enfranchised black Southerners and changed the region and its politics forever. But Johnson couldn't solve Vietnam, and didn't run in 1968.


LYNDON JOHNSON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.


MORTON: Johnson's vice president, Hubert Humphrey ran and lost. Richard Nixon, Eisenhower's vice president, ran and won the office he had loss to Kennedy in 1960.

Nixon's vice president? Former Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew, who made more history. Agnew pleaded no contest to a felony and resigned the vice presidency in 1973. A 1967 constitutional amendment gave the president power to nominate a V.P. to take office if Congress approved. Nixon chose House Republican leader Gerald Ford, Congress approved, then Nixon resigned to escape impeachment over Watergate.


RICHARD NIXON (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall resign the presidency, effective at noon tomorrow.


MORTON: So Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford became an unelected president. "Our long national nightmare is over," he told Americans, and to prove it, he pardoned Nixon, so that the former president, out of office, could not be tried for anything he might have done in office. Many criticized the pardon that may have cost Ford the presidency in 1976 when he lost narrowly to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Vice presidents do succeed to office, sometimes in very strange ways.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


MORTON: And much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS. Still to come, Hillary Clintons New York Senate race with Congressman Rick Lazio, the latest numbers and news from John Zogby and Tish Durkin.

Plus, a New Jersey Senate hopeful who was using his millions to reach out to voters and to attack his opponents.

And later:


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): We witness the complete cycle of political money, record-breaking amounts coming in and record-breaking amounts coming out, all in one day.


WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider on political millions and the "Play of the Week."


WOODRUFF: We'll have more of the day''s political news coming up, but now at look a some other top stories. West Palm Beach Police say 35-year-old Barry Bruno, a language arts teacher at Lake Worth Middle School, was shot in the face by a student. It happened inside a classroom filled with students shortly before dismissal. Apparently the boy ran, but was caught while still on the school grounds. Today was the last day of classes before summer vacation.

A criminal investigation is under way to learn how the water supply in Walkerton, Ontario became contaminated with E.coli bacteria. At least five are dead, hundreds are sick, some critically. Public health officials say the local water company knew about the contamination last week, but did not report it for several days.


MICHAEL HARRIS, ONTARIO PREMIER: There will be, of course, a full investigation. As you know, there are three investigations underway: one by the OPP of a criminal nature, there is one by MOE to see if there have been any environmental legislations or regulations, any contraventions there, and of course health is involved. Those are the two major ones. Health is involved. And of course there's also been an indication from the coroner that there will be a coroners inquest.


WOODRUFF: An experimental drug is being used to treat what is was now the worst outbreak of E.coli contamination in Canadian history.

In the aftermath of a tornado and heavy storms yesterday in Salt Lake City, Utah, boats became the mode of transportation for some. Others drove flew several feet of standing water. Severe storms hit North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Arkansas. In some areas, the weather snatched roofs from buildings, blew out car windows and left hundreds of those of people with no electricity.

An appeals court has let stand a lower court ruling that says President Clinton and other White House officials are guilty of criminal conduct. A lower court ruling -- ruled that Mr. Clinton violated the privacy law be releasing letters from Kathleen Willy after she excused him of fondling her. The Justice Department had argued that the White House is not covered by the Privacy Act.

More than 700 Boeing airplanes need new insulation. The Federal Aviation Administration says the Mylar covered insulation blanket that are currently on the planes pose a fire hazard, the same type of insulation suspected of playing a role in last September's fatal SwissAir crash. The airlines will now have five years to replace the insulation.

A grand reopening for a giant landmark -- the 130-year-old Cape Hatteras lighthouse opened its doors today to the public. It was moved about half a mile from the ocean last summer in order to escape beach erosion. Some 10,000 people are expected to visit the lighthouse this Memorial Day weekend.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, the New York Senate race -- neck and neck again?


WOODRUFF: In the New York Senate race, a new Zogby poll shows Hillary Rodham Clinton just two points ahead of her new GOP rival, Rick Lazio, which, given the four-point margin of error, is a statistical dead heat. A Zogby poll had Mrs. Clinton leading by 14 points on Saturday, when Congressman Lazio formally started campaigning after Mayor Rudy Giuliani bowed out of the race.

Right now, we are joined by pollster John Zogby and Tish Durkin of "The New York Observer."

John Zogby to you first. How can it be this congressman who is barely known in New York state until a few week ago, I guess you could say, already even with the first lady of the land?

JOHN ZOGBY, POLLSTER: There's a fundamental anti-Hillary vote out there. She is a lightning rod for discontent with some people. And, you know, interestingly, the chemistry between Hillary and Rudy was as much that they had each other and each other's negatives propping them up. With Rudy gone, the anti-Hillary people just needed to know that there was an acceptable alternative. And Rick Lazio had a good week last week. He was out everywhere, and he seemed to have caught on.

WOODRUFF: How do you explain this, Tish Durkin?

TISH DURKIN, "NEW YORK OBSERVER": I agree with what Mr. Zogby has said, although as much as I would like to believe this is a statistical dead heat for purely selfish reasons of having to spectate for the next several months, I think that the first lady still has a shot at sort of raising the ceiling of her vote, as it were. She received yesterday the very strong endorsement of the National Abortion Rights Action League, for instance, and the press conference felt very much like a series of sound bites that would be very good for a commercial aimed at opening up the gender gap and so on.

And so I think it will be a very tight, tight and tough race, and I think on issues it's going to be in some ways an even cleaner and more interesting contrast. But I'm not so sure that Mr. Giuliani's getting out is not good news for Mrs. Clinton, despite these numbers.

WOODRUFF: John Zogby, what are the strengths that Rick Lazio has going into this campaign? ZOGBY: Well, he's an ethnic name, number one, and this is a state that likes to elect Cuomos and Moynihans and Patakis and D'Amatos.

He's from the right area. There are more votes in New York's suburbs than there are in New York City, and he is from Suffolk County, right in the heart of the suburbs.

Thirdly, he really doesn't have the baggage, at least not that we know of yet, that Rudy had.

And finally, it's very hard to pigeonhole Rick Lazio. The Clinton people tried to paint him into right-wing corner as a supporter of Newt Gingrich, but we find that his voting record over the years is really dead-center. In fact, in some years, more times he voted with the Clinton administration than not.

And so I think he's a Boy Scout. He's kind of like the anti- Hillary candidate from central casting, at least so far.

WOODRUFF: Tish Durkin, do you accept that characterization?

DURKIN: Well, I think -- I'm sort of withholding judgment yet on whether or not the Clinton campaign is able to successfully make some hay with some of the congressman's voting record and so on and so forth. But I think another thing that's absolutely true is so much of any political contest, and certainly this one, has to do with these intangibles. I mean, Rick Lazio does look like your Boy Scout or your prom date or something like that. So he's not exactly the easiest figure to demonize, strictly on that basis.

Another factor is simply the degree to which he seems to really want to run. He seems to be enjoying the fact that he's been cast out into the spotlight and that he has to sort of throw a campaign together. So that may work with voters.

On the other hand, he never has endured anything like the scrutiny that the first lady has been under, of course, for a number of years and certainly in the past several months since she's made her foray into New York state. So he may stumble quite a bit yet. We just don't know. That's what's part of the reason I'm in a good mood.

WOODRUFF: All right, Tish Durkin, somebody who wants to see this race stay tight, and John Zogby, whose polls suggest that it is tight right now, thank you, both. We appreciate your being with us.

ZOGBY: Thank you.

DURKIN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And now we move over one state to the Senate race in New Jersey. There, Democrat Jon Corzine has overcome his lack of name recognition by spending a record amount of money, most of it his own, in his bid to win the June 6th primary.

CNN's Frank Buckley has more on Corzine's cash and his race against former Governor Jim Florio.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next senator from the state of New Jersey, Jon Corzine.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jon who?, you might be saying. If so, chances are you don't live in New Jersey...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no doubt in my mind that Jon Corzine is the best choice for New Jersey.


BUCKLEY: ... where Corzine appears on TV -- a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see you every day.



BUCKLEY: Corzine is a political neophyte and was a relative unknown to voters until he started saturating the airwaves with ads bought mostly with his own money. Corzine is a former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs & Company, who is largely self-financing his campaign. And he's doing it at record levels, so far spending $25 million in his race against former New Jersey Governor Jim Florio. And this is just the primary election.

JIM FLORIO (D), NEW JERSEY SENATE CANDIDATE: This is the most blatant effort to try to buy an election that anyone has ever seen.

BUCKLEY: Former Governor Florio has only spent about $2 million in the race to represent New Jersey Democrats against a Republican opponent. Corzine's $25 million is three times the next largest Senate primary expenditure in history, by New York Senator Charles Schumer, who spent $8 million during his primary battle in 1998.

FLORIO: This is supposed to be an election, it is not an auction. And Mr. Corzine seems like a pleasant man, but he is a walking ATM machine. I mean, he just writes checks and is spending in unprecedented amounts.

BUCKLEY: Corzine says the expenditure, all but $3 million of it, coming from his own personal wealth, was necessary in a fight against a well-known former politician.

CORZINE: I have not been in politics and spent $30 million-plus over 30 years building name recognition and establishing the perspectives that people might have. I needed to communicate with that public, and that's what we're trying to do.

BUCKLEY: Florio has been out of politics since 1993, after he pushed through a $2.8 billion tax increase and was voted out of office. Corzine has been critical of the tax increase, but Florio has made his government experience and his opponent's lack of it a central issue in the campaign, along with Corzine's campaign expenditures. But the political newcomer says his approaches to issues like Social Security, another difference between the candidates, is more appealing to more voters.

CORZINE: The governor has not been talking about issues that make a difference in people's lives. I think he's been trying to talk about defining Jon Corzine in people's minds as opposed to defining in voters' minds what he's going to do for them.

BUCKLEY: The most recent polling in the race shows Corzine leading Florio among likely Democratic voters by a wide margin, with 14 percent undecided. But some note that the recent political history of self-financed candidates, like Michael Huffington, Al Checchi, Steve Forbes and others, suggests money alone does not win elections.

SHEILA KRUMHOLZ, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: The lesson I think is that they're still going to run, but they're still going to lose -- often.

BUCKLEY: The former governor of New Jersey hoping history will repeat itself.

Frank Buckley, CNN, New York.


WOODRUFF: And just ahead, does money grow on trees in Washington? Our Bill Schneider on why it certainly looks that way this week.


WOODRUFF: From the ad spending in the New Jersey Senate race to the fund raising by the political parties, big money and politics seem inseparable this week.

Our Bill Schneider joins us now with more on the millions of dollars at play -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Judy, it was the late Jesse Unruh who said money is the mother's milk of politics. Well if that's the case, American politics was very well nourished this week. We witnessed the complete cycle of political money -- record-breaking amounts coming in and record-breaking amounts going out -- all in one day. Maybe money can't buy happiness, but it sure can buy the political "Play of the Week."


(voice-over): Want to see where the money comes from? On Wednesday, Democrats held a fund raiser in tribute to President Clinton that broke all records. TERRY MCAULIFFE, DEMOCRATIC FUNDRAISER: Folks, right now the Republicans right now are watching this on TV, and they're scratching their heads. How did they put 13,645 people in a room, and then how did they raise $26.5 million for tonight?

SCHNEIDER: Actually, they weren't. The same night, Republicans were raising $14 million in tribute to President George Bush. A paltry sum, you say? Well, that's on top of the $21 million the GOP Raised last month in tribute to Governor George Bush.

GEORGE BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's another record-breaking performance.

SCHNEIDER: Oh sure, everybody was a little defensive about the big-money grab. Hecklers at the Democratic affair shouted "stop the corruption!"

CLINTON: I don't believe that it's corruption to take money to pass the Brady bill instead of defeat it.

SCHNEIDER: Democratic Chairman Ed Rendell said, cough up the dough now so we won't have to ask you any more.

ED RENDELL, DNC GENERAL CHAIRMAN: When we win this election this November, we are committed to getting rid of soft money.

SCHNEIDER: Even the entertainment sounded a little defensive.

ROBIN WILLIAMS, ENTERTAINER: Yes, sir, you're raising some cash because, Uncle Al, you have got to beat the shrub. There is no bad thing about it.

SCHNEIDER: The Republicans defended themselves by saying, look at the Democrats.

BUSH: They expect to collect $23 million from 12,000 donors in attendance. To that, I would say, 12,000 donors? They better get some extra cots for the Lincoln Bedroom.

SCHNEIDER: Want to see where the money goes?

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: This bill is passed...

SCHNEIDER: That same day, the House of Representatives approved the China trade bill, after business groups spent record amounts on contributions, lobbying and ads.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can help bring more religious freedom to my people by asking your Congress to vote for trade with China.


SCHNEIDER: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $4 million and the Business Roundtable $10 million, including an extensive grassroots lobbying campaign in targeted congressional districts.

Opponents of the trade deal knew what was going on.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), NEW YORK: Congress responded with a cash register. And that, my friends, is the unfortunate story of today.

SCHNEIDER: It was all about money.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: Is the almighty dollar more important than American jobs? I think not. Is the almighty dollar more important than human rights? I think not.

SCHNEIDER: Well, OK, why don't we ask the almighty dollar?




SCHNEIDER: Yes it is. And so the political "Play of the Week" goes to the almighty dollar. Congratulations, you look marvelous.


KEATON: Besides, I still look good on paper.



SCHNEIDER: Yes, indeed, our money has a brand new look. But, you know, when it comes to money in politics, everything looks just about the same -- Judy?

WOODRUFF: Yes, it does. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.


WOODRUFF: And when we return, how did the presidential hopefuls fare this week? We'll ask Bill Kristol and E.J. Dionne.


WOODRUFF: Joining us now, Bill Kristol of "The Weekly Standard" and E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post."

Let's talk about the vice president. E.J., so much talk about his campaign being down in the dumps, feeling tired, sluggish, there is something wrong. Is there something wrong with his campaign?

E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think the talk has been going on now for about a month and a half, and if media cycles are anything like I think they are, that's going to change, if only because people get rid of that story. I think it's very clear that Gore let Bush have most of the running room since the primaries ended. I think it's clear Gore got into trouble with the -- his statement on Elian Gonzalez, regardless of what you think of it, because it kind of buried whatever else he might have been doing. And I think they've had a lot of trouble in the Gore campaign figuring out what to do since the primaries.

The one advantage Bush had is he had two clear priorities coming out of the primaries. One, he needed John McCain's endorsement. However tepid it was going to be, he had to get it. And two, he had to move back toward the center, especially after the South Carolina primary.

I think the Gore people didn't quite know what they had to execute and so they didn't execute very much.

WOODRUFF: What did they need to execute, Bill Kristol?

BILL KRISTOL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, what is the vice president running on? I mean, that's the question. Governor Bush, like him or not, has made various proposals over the last few weeks, last couple of months really: Social Security reform. He gave a major speech this week on missile defense, which he combined with a proposal to cut our nuclear arsenal.

Gore is responding to Bush. What is the theme of the Gore campaign? What's he for?

DIONNE: Right, and I think what you're seeing this week is the beginning of a Gore effort to answer that question, because they know they have to. Everybody in town and all around the country has told him they have to, and he started out talking about after-school programs. I think he's going to do a lot on education and the family.

I think the idea is he's got to use this period to be positive. He probably -- he is going to be very tough on Bush at the end of the campaign. If he doesn't use this period to create a sense of optimism, he's going to have lost the best opportunity he has.

WOODRUFF: What do you mean by this period?

DIONNE: This period meaning between now and the conventions, where I think he has to be more than reactive to Bush. There are some issues, such as Social Security, where being reactive is probably a good idea. There's a good argument to be had on Social Security. But I think to the extent that he lets Bush set the agenda -- and I agree with Bill; I think in large part he has in this period -- he's losing his chance to change this image he has, which a lot of the Gore image is about himself.

It's not that he's a bad -- nobody thinks he's a bad or a stupid person. Voters right now just seem to like Bush a little better, and he's got to present a different picture of himself.

WOODRUFF: Bill Kristol, is any of Gore's problem having to do with President Clinton still being so active out there? KRISTOL: Well, I think so, and I talked to one leading Democrat this week who thinks so. I mean, here is the tradition of vice presidents having trouble getting out of their boss' shadow until their own convention. That was Vice President Bush's problem in '88. He got a huge bump out of the convention, where Reagan handed the baton off to Bush. Bush moved ahead of Dukakis at that point.

That is the Gore's campaign scenario. Wait until mid-August. Wait until Clinton finally yields the stage.

I don't know if it will be that easy, and I do think there remains this lurking problem, the fact that Bill Clinton was impeached, and people don't want to give Clinton a third term. And whenever you elect a vice president to succeed a two-term president, you're really kind of giving that president a third term. You're ratifying his presidency. And people are ambivalent about the Clinton presidency.

DIONNE: I mean, we said it before. I think that Gore suffers in both ways. He inherits Clinton's enemies, then he gets compared unfavorably to Clinton because he doesn't have his political skills. That's about the worst of both worlds.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's talk about this China trade vote this week.

Bill, is this something that's going to have a lingering effect on this campaign, one way or another?

KRISTOL: I don't know. I mean, Gore and Bush agreed on it, you know. They hurried the vote through Wednesday so they could both get to their huge fund-raising dinners that Bill Schneider described so they could collect all the soft money as a reward for voting to help the Chinese tyrants and all the American businesses that want to do business with them. I don't think China becomes a big issue in this campaign because Bush and Gore agree basically on China policy.

DIONNE: I agree with that, although I think it may become an issue to some degree in the congressional campaign. I thought it was very striking that when John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, allied with Bill against the PNTR, held a news conference, he didn't attack Clinton-Gore. He attacked Clinton-DeLay. He talked about it as the Clinton-DeLay bill, DeLay being the House Republican whip.

Tom DeLay, very conservative, very closely allied with Clinton. And I think in congressional races, the Democrats did vote overwhelmingly against this treaty. I think it will -- labor will be in there for Democrats in the House races, and that's the way they're going to kind of back their way into supporting Al Gore.

And I think the other thing that you saw is the weakness...

WOODRUFF: But not -- and not hold it against him.

DIONNE: Right. Well, that's -- and I think Sweeney's sentiment -- statement about Gore-DeLay was about that, saying we're letting Gore off the hook here.

I think the striking thing was how few Republicans voted on human rights issues or foreign policy concerns about China's threat to Taiwan or about religious rights concerns. In the end, the party went much more with the business side.

I think in the Senate it's going to be more interesting than people think. Fred Thompson wants to raise issues relating to the stuff China is selling to rogue states. Paul Wellstone and Jesse Helms at the two ends of the Senate are not going to make it easy. I think it could be an interesting battle.

WOODRUFF: All right. Just quickly, less than a minute, New York Senate race. Have to ask you about it. Rick Lazio has been out there a little more than a week.

Bill Kristol, he's already even with the first lady in one poll.

KRISTOL: Mrs. Clinton seems unable to get more than 46 percent of New Yorkers to be for her. Lazio had a very good first week. His top consultant, Mike Murphy, said you've got to go on all the weekend shows, tell Republicans, independents, moderates who are open to voting against Hillary Clinton that you're the opponent, that you're presentable, that you're not a lightweight. He had a very good week.

DIONNE: I think a lot of voters out there were waiting, a lot of the anti-Clinton voters: What is the name of that person running against Mrs. Clinton? And as soon as they got the name, they said, that's who I'm for. And that's why -- I have thought it was always better for the Republicans to nominate someone other than Mayor Giuliani, because there were a lot of people upstate who didn't want to vote for a New York City mayor.

He had a big -- a big African-American vote against him in New York City, and I think these numbers just confirm that Lazio starts out exactly where Giuliani is within one week.

WOODRUFF: Not a bad place to begin.

DIONNE: Not at all.

WOODRUFF: We'll come back to that one maybe again.

E.J. Dionne, Bill Kristol, thank you both. Appreciate it.

DIONNE: Thank you.

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

This weekend programming note: Senator John McCain will be the guest tomorrow on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS." That's at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.



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