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Inside Politics

George W. Bush Making Inroads in the West; Lazio Touring New York on `The Mainstream Express'

Aired May 31, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: "Go West" is George W. Bush's motto this week. What do his travels say about his strategy?

Speaking of strategy:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIPPER GORE, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: A person who is extremely sympathetic, compassionate, and effective in leadership, Al Gore.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Tipper Gore helps her husband's new push to get personal on the campaign trail.

Plus:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice over): It's spring of election year, and the vice president is the underdog. He's searching for the magic formula that will turn the campaign around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider on the '88 Bush campaign and the lessons for Gore 2000.

ANNOUNCER: This is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff, from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

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

We begin with the political calculations behind the presidential campaign themes of the day. For Al Gore, the public focus was on mental health. But in addition, the Gore camp is hoping to show voters a warmer and more positive side of the vice president, with a little help from his wife.

CNN's Kelly Wallace was with the Gore campaign in Maryland.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to make certain that mental illness is diagnosed, discussed, and treated openly and honestly in America. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma, discrimination and ignorance shame us all.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The vice president and his wife teamed up on the campaign trail to talk about an issue close to home: Tipper Gore's battle with depression years ago.

T. GORE: It certainly touched my life and my family's life, and like many of you, I have turned my private experience into public action on behalf of others in the hopes that there will be more dignity and fairness and justice.

WALLACE: Tipper Gore has acknowledged being treated for clinical depression after her son's near-fatal accident in 1991. She thanked her husband for standing by her, and he saluted her commitment.

A. GORE: Now everything I'm going to tell you this morning, I've learned from Tipper.

WALLACE: Mr. Gore used this opportunity to announce a proposal to guarantee full mental health coverage to every child in the country.

A. GORE: If I am entrusted with the presidency, I will move this country toward the day when mental illness is treated just like any other illness by every health plan in the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

WALLACE (on camera): Gore's proposal is part of what his campaign calls his "family agenda," a series of new initiatives he started unveiling last week. Aides say the plan is to have the vice president talk about issues he cares about, adding his personal experiences along the way.

(voice-over): Tomorrow, Gore will focus on the battle against cancer. His sister died of the disease. Friday, he'll announce a plan to move dads off the welfare rolls so they can pay child support. The hope is a more personal Gore will better connect with voters.

CHRIS LEHANE, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: The American people want to know who Al Gore is, and this is a challenge that vice presidents historically face. It's not unique to Al Gore. It is unique to the office of the vice presidency. You need to break out of the vice presidency and talk to people about your own life, about your own ideas.

WALLACE: The new family agenda roll-out coincides with a new Gore on the stump: no attacks on his Republican rival, for now. It appears Gore is staying positive and going personal. T. GORE: Politics is personal. Get people to vote for the person who represents the viewpoint that you agree with.

WALLACE: The more people know about the vice president, his campaign says, the more they will support him. But the Bush campaign says voters already know Al Gore and that they don't like what they see.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, Chevy Chase, Maryland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Now, to George W. Bush and the strategy behind his latest campaign swing. Our Jonathan Karl has a road map, of sorts, to what the Bush camp is trying to accomplish this week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a western state campaign swing, George W. Bush is hitting what he believes is politically friendly territory.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now is the time for me to put an electoral base in place, with the West being part of the anchor of that base, and I think I'm going to do well out here.

KARL: Bush's four-day swing this week includes Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, states with Republican governors in the heart of the conservative West, but also states that have been carried by Bill Clinton. For as long as these states have been in the Union, no Republican has ever captured the White House without making a clean sweep of all four of them.

Flanked by veterans in Albequerque, Bush told the crowd he is from western Texas and a product of western values.

GEORGE W. BUSH: And I understand the desert, but I understand the good values of the people of New Mexico, too -- good solid, hard- working folks, who value their faith and value their family and value their country.

KARL: To win in November, one Bush aide said, "We've got to bring the West home again," and put states like Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico back in the GOP column.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I am certain to maintain the peace, we better have a military of high morale, and I'm certain that under this administration, morale in the United States Military is dangerously low.

KARL: On issues, Bush is also going back to the base, continuing his recent emphasis on defense policy, in New Mexico highlighting a proposal that would have a direct local impact.

GEORGE W. BUSH: As the president, I will urge the United States Congress to increase defense research and development by $20 billion over the next five years.

KARL: A chunk of that money would likely go to New Mexico's military research labs, Los Alamos and Sandia.

(on camera): New Mexico has only five electoral votes, but local party activists like to call the state the ultimate presidential bellwether. In fact, with just one exception, New Mexico has voted for the winning presidential candidate in every election since the state first voted in 1912.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Albequerque.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Since Jonathan filed that report, Governor Bush has indicated that he may, for the first time, grant a 30-day reprieve in a death penalty case. Ricky Nolen McGinn is scheduled to be executed in Texas tomorrow for the 1993 rape and killing of his 12-year-old stepdaughter. McGinn's supporters today asked Bush to intervene after a state appeals court denied new DNA testing in the case.

During a taping of CNBC's "Hardball," Bush was asked whether he might grant one 30-day reprieve, which is the most that he can do under Texas law. And he said -- quote -- "I am inclined to, because I want the man to have a full day in court, and if there is any doubt, any outstanding evidence that could exonerate him from the rape, we ought to look at it."

Bush's remarks come just days after he advocated DNA testing to erase doubts from death penalty cases, even though Bush has said that he is convinced that no innocent person has been executed in Texas during his years as governor.

Now to matters that are not life and death, but they do have political significance for Vice President Gore.

Our Bill Schneider joins us now with some history lessons on conventions and campaign comebacks -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Judy, it's spring of election year and the vice president is the underdog. He's searching for the magic formula to turn the campaign around. Vice President George Bush found it in 1988. Will the same formula work for Vice President Al Gore in 2000?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): When was it exactly in 1988 that Bush turned things around? In May and June, Democrat Michael Dukakis had a solid lead over Bush. After the Democratic convention, Dukakis widened his lead to 17 points. Then in August, the Republicans held their convention in New Orleans. Remember this moment?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)

GEORGE BUSH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My choice for the vice presidency is Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana. (APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: At the time, the convention was widely regarded as a disaster for Bush and the GOP. The Quayle frenzy had stepped on the party's message.

But guess what? The press missed the story. It was during that so-called "disastrous convention" that Bush started to pull ahead for the first time, and he stayed ahead for the rest of the campaign. What exactly did the Republicans do at that convention to change the dynamic of the campaign?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)

AUDIENCE: Bush! Bush! Bush!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: The voters wanted two things in 1988: continuity of policy and change of leadership, the same two things they want this year. In 1988, Republicans brought President Reagan in on the first night of the convention to make a call for continuity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But, George, just one personal request: Go out there and "win one for the Gipper."

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNIEDER: And quickly got him off the stage. Clinton, too, is a damaged president. Advice to Gore: Get him in and out fast.

In 1988, Dukakis pretended to offer continuity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)

GOV. MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because this election is not about ideology; it's about competence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: The Republicans made short work of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: There are those who say there isn't much of a difference this year, but America, don't let 'em fool you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: They used the convention to accelerate a relentless attack on Dukakis' ideology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Should public school teachers be required to lead our children in "The Pledge of Allegiance"? My opponent says no, and I say yes.

(APPLAUSE)

Should society be allowed to impose the death penalty on those who commit crimes of extraordinary cruelty and violence? My opponent says no, but I say yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Advice to Gore: Expose the ideological agenda behind "compassionate conservatism."

In 1988, Bush used his convention speech to send a message: I'm my own man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)

GEORGE H.B. BUSH: And I don't hate government. I want a kinder, gentler nation -- like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Advice to Gore: Make this the defining speech of your career where you show you're your own man.

In 1988, voters had trouble seeing the vice president as a strong leader. Bush turned that perception around at the convention. He stood by his man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)

GEORGE H.B. BUSH: ... listened to his peers and the accolades from the senators with whom he serves speak eloquently of Dan Quayle's standing to be one heartbeat away from the presidency.

Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: And he sounded like a leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988)

GEORGE H.B. BUSH: ... the Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I'll say no. And they'll push, and I'll say no. And they'll push again, and I'll say to them, "Read my lips, no new taxes!"

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Advice to Gore: The convention is your best, perhaps your only opportunity to show you're a leader. Don't wimp out like you did on Elian Gonzalez. Show the voters who the real son of a Bush is in this campaign -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider. Always eloquent. Thank you.

And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, more echoes from 1988. We'll talk about the similarities with the 2000 election with members of the Bush and Dukakis campaigns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Joining us now to talk more about the lessons of the 1988 election: Ron Kaufman, former White House political director for President George Bush, and Steve Akey, who served as the deputy press secretary for the Michael Dukakis campaign.

Gentlemen, thank you, both.

We just heard Bill Schneider talk about the similarities between 1988 and the year 2000.

Ron Kaufman, we know there are similarities. We know there are differences. Which do you think are going to be more determinative?

RON KAUFMAN, FORMER POLITICAL DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: Well, I think the difference is Judy -- this is a mirror image really of 1988 when you had a liberal challenger against the lieutenant -- the vice president, who was a conservative. This time you have a conservative challenger against a liberal vice president.

In the end, Judy, it's about the men that are running. It's not about the White House, it's not about the economy, it's not about the president. It's about the people running.

And in the end, this country will vote for the conservative again, as it did in '88.

WOODRUFF: Steve Akey, do you agree with that assessment: that the differences are going to outweigh the similarities here?

STEVE AKEY, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR MICHAEL DUKAKIS: Well, I don't think that these labels work and Al Gore as a liberal. I think May to November is a very long time, and I look back at '88. Dukakis was up around this time. Bush was down. And then thanks to the skillful work of people like Ron and Andy Card (ph) and others, we got beat up. We didn't define ourselves.

But Al Gore, that's not going to happen to him. He's aggressive, he's a fighter, and he's laying out an agenda that I think is connecting with most Americans. WOODRUFF: Ron Kaufman, Steve Akey calls it beating up as what happened to Dukakis in 1988. In fact, there was an effort on the part of the George Bush campaign that year to drive up the negatives, if you will, of then-Governor Dukakis. Is that sort of thing likely to work this year on either side?

KAUFMAN: Judy, what really works is when you're talking about your opponent in real terms that he really is. Michael Dukakis in 1988 was one thing: He was an honest liberal. And the campaign did a good job of portraying what life for four years under an honest liberal would be.

In my opinion, in this election, the same thing is going to happen. You have a very distinct difference between George Bush of Texas and Al Gore of Washington, D.C. One man is an honest liberal who believes that government should tax more, spend more, and take more decisions away from states, here in Washington.

Governor Bush believes that this -- the government should be smaller, tax less, spend less, and give more to citizens to do back home.

That's a very clear difference between these two men and how they view the country in the next four years. And I think under that scenario, the governor will do very well.

WOODRUFF: Steve Akey, go ahead.

AKEY: I think it is -- I think it's very different. When you look back at '88 and you look at the issues terrain, I think it's very different. '88 you have the Cold War, crime and welfare at center stage. I think this year you have Social Security, education, Medicare, issues where Al Gore is connecting with the American people far better than Governor Bush is and I think far better than he will.

So as you look at the issues terrain, it's changed dramatically, and I think Al Gore is going -- is going to win because of that terrain and his connection with this agenda.

WOODRUFF: But Steve Akey, what about the point that Ron Kaufman keeps hammering at here, and that is that you have a classic liberal against a classic conservative just as you did 12 years ago?

AKEY: Well, I think they're vastly different candidates, and you look at the candidates and their vision for where they want to take America. I don't think the liberal label works here. And you know, Ron and others will try to make that stick: It's not going to stick. I mean, people are going to look at the records and decide for themselves, and Al Gore is going to come out on top.

WOODRUFF: Ron Kaufman, we heard Bill Schneider say the conventions can be critical. How critical will they be this year?

KAUFMAN: Well, I think both conventions will be critical, Judy. Obviously, if you go back and look at history, every convention has a bump. How big that bump is makes a difference. But in the end, it's not going to be about the conventions. In the end, it's going to be about both men, how well they connect with voters, and what they talk about between the conventions and November. And I just hope that Al Gore keeps connecting as well as he's doing now.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying...

AKEY: I think it's a great -- I think it's a great message to connect on. I mean, here we are in a time of peace and prosperity. The economy is stronger than it's ever been before. And this is something that Al Gore played a central role in helping create this economy and unprecedented job growth. And as people look at during a time of peace and prosperity what they want in a leader of the United States of America, I think they're going to look to Al Gore.

WOODRUFF: Ron Kaufman, you're suggesting that in the case of at least this year for Al Gore, he can't count on that convention pulling him out and ahead, which is obviously where he would like to be, going into Labor Day?

KAUFMAN: I'm sure, Judy, he will get a bump, but I don't think in the end that's what's it's going to be about. Listen, as Steve said, this is a great economy and we're at peace. Al Gore should be 40 points ahead of George Bush, and he's not. That is a bad place to be in as, quite frankly, the incumbent.

WOODRUFF: Steve Akey?

AKEY: Well, I like the lesson between the '88 and 2000 campaign, because I like how the incumbent vice president won, as much as I wanted Mike Dukakis to win. I think the incumbent vice president is going to win, because he's a fighter and he's laying out the case for change, and that's a case that's going to win and strike with the American people.

WOODRUFF: In just a few seconds, Ron Kaufman, advice for George W. Bush or for Al Gore?

KAUFMAN: I think Al Gore has got lots of problems out there, and I think Al Gore has got's lot of problems out there, and I think that he's got to decide what color his suit's going to be for the next three or four months, whether it be gray, blue or green. But Governor Bush doesn't need my advice, he is doing what he should be doing, Judy: getting out, talking to voters, connecting to voters, and making sure that this election is framed right where it should be.

WOODRUFF: Steve Akey, advice for the vice president?

AKEY: I think he's going to stay the course. He has been a tremendous leader, and I think he's just got to continue to meet with the American people, continue these town hall meetings, the school days, where he's getting out in communities and really connecting with Americans.

WOODRUFF: All right, Steve Akey, Ron Kaufman, thinking about the comparison, the contrasts between 1988 and 2000.

Thank you both.

Still much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Still to come:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), SENATE CANDIDATE: Talking to people from the stump, it's as close to the people as you could get.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Senate hopeful Rick Lazio takes a cue from the McCain handbook, as his campaign for Senate rolls across the Empire State.

Plus, Stu Rothenberg on a few key races that could tip the balance of power in the Senate.

And later, our Bruce Morton remembers the career of former Pennsylvania governor Robert Casey.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We'll have more of this day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories. First to Western Europe and Luxembourg, where a man continues to hold between 29 children hostage, along with three teachers at a preschool the German border.

CNN correspondent Patricia Kelly is on the telephone. She joins us by telephone -- Patricia.

PATRICIA KELLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, the police have just told us that the -- earlier today, there were eight children released by the hostage taker, and they showed these children pictures and photographs of arms, and they were able to ascertain that the hostage taker, who's described as a Luxembourg nationalist, Chunisian (ph) origin, 40, with a history of psychological problems. They were able to ascertain that he is armed with a hand grenade, a handgun and a knife.

Nobody is quite aware yet of exactly what's -- why he has taken these children hostage, why he's gone along this route, but there are about 50 police surrounding the school which has been cordoned off. A crisis center has been set up about 300 meter away, so the parents of the children, who are receiving counseling, and the Luxembourg Police say that they're in permanent contact with German police, who have more experience this kind of situation.

They have spoken to the hostage-taker. So far, he's demanded a plane. He's demanded a car, but the situation is still going on. The 29 children and three adult female teachers, that, say police, is their best guess, and there could indeed be more children inside, but that is their best guess at the numbers inside this school -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Patricia Kelly reporting from Luxembourg. And of course, we will continue to follow this story. President Clinton apparently has been unable to resolve trade disputes with European leaders meeting in Lisbon, Portugal. A four- hour summit produced little agreement on issues that include export taxes and hormone-enhanced beef. Tomorrow, Mr. Clinton meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to discuss Mideast peace.

Some of the new midsize luxury cars appear to be a safe bet where accidents are concerned. The insurance industry put five cars through a 40-mile-per-hour angled crash test. The BMW 328i rated highest, followed by the Volvo S80 and Cadillac Catera. All three got a good rating. The Saab 9-5 and the Audi A6 got acceptable ratings.

Words like ennui, Damoclean and ephedrine were some of the easier words that tripped up national spelling bee contestants today. Fifty- six of 124 contestants will advance to tomorrow's final rounds. Another group of contestants starts the competition late this afternoon.

I'm glad I'm not there, because I would have dropped out long ago.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, a misty-eyed moment on the road with Senate hopeful Rick Lazio.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: A day after his formal Republican nomination, Rick Lazio's Senate campaign in New York is quite literally rolling along.

CNN's Frank Buckley has been traveling with Lazio aboard the so- called "Mainstream Express" on a journey that has a familiar ring to it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rick Lazio's campaign bus tour hit the road in upstate New York, borrowing a page from John McCain's campaign strategy book, giving reporters access to the candidate in rotation. In an interview with CNN, Lazio became emotional.

(on camera): Your father is not here to see this. What do you think he would have said about this run?

LAZIO: Well, I think he would have been very proud of it.

BUCKLEY: You seemed moved at the thought of that.

LAZIO: Oh, yes.

BUCKLEY: You were very close with your father.

LAZIO: Yes, I was, yes. His values are the values that we're going to carry through this campaign. He believed in this sense of responsibility, of working hard, of making sure that you preserved your family, of giving to your community. And I think he'd be very proud of what we're doing here.

BUCKLEY (voice-over): Campaign aides say Lazio has refereed to his father, who died in 1985, as his hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Lazio country.

BUCKLEY: Lazio also spent his first day after accepting his party's nomination for a U.S. Senate seat on the stump and making a case with reporters covering him that he was more accessible to them than first lady Hillary Clinton, whom the congressman has criticized for being too scripted.

LAZIO: Answering questions and allowing myself to get pummeled by people like you...

(LAUGHTER)

... which is, you know -- I hope my opponent does the same thing. I hope she is as available to questions, as held as accountable as I'm being held. I think it's the right thing to do. I believe in this.

BUCKLEY: But a Clinton aide pointed to a passage from Lazio's acceptance speech at his party's nominating convention as evidence that Lazio is scripted.

LAZIO: I have never forgotten the lesson of my dad. He taught me about work. As a child, I would go to him, dad -- say, I'd to get a new baseball mitt. He'd say, I'm not going to give you a dime, son, but I'll tell you how you can earn it. So he put me to work in his store at some pretty low wages, as I recall...

BUCKLEY: The prepared text of this speech released to reporters indicating that at the end of this line he should smile.

LAZIO: I just think, you know, that's more smokescreen and them trying to avoid the real issues in this campaign.

You know, she's been in this campaign for about a year. I don't think she's been on one Sunday talk show answering the hard questions that get fired at you. I did all that the first day I was out.

So I don't have to put her down to move ahead. If that camp feels like they to divide and destroy people, I'm going to turn the other cheek.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCKLEY: Lazio calls his bus The Mainstream Express. He says that's how -- that's what best describes his record in Congress and him as a congressman and how he would be as a senator if he's elected. The Mainstream Express will continue on and will appear tomorrow in New York City and will end Friday. This particular bus tour will end Friday in Suffolk County, where Rick Lazio grew up -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Frank Buckley in Elmira, and yes, it did look a little bit like the McCain bus, some of the same people onboard there. Thank you, Frank.

Congressional Democrats have high hopes this election for winning back the House of Representatives. But so far, the Senate has appeared to be a little out of reach for them. Well, that may be changing. The Democrats need six seats to gain the majority. Five seats will give them effective control if they retain the White House, since the vice president can break any tie.

According to CNN analyst Stu Rothenberg's latest Senate ratings, their prospects are improving slightly. Democrats are vulnerable, he says, in five states, especially Nevada and Virginia. To win the Senate, they would need to keep losses to a minimum. According to Rothenberg, Republicans are vulnerable in nine states, especially Minnesota, Michigan, Delaware, and Florida.

Joining me now to talk about some of those key races in this new calculation, Stu Rothenberg of "The Rothenberg Political Report."

Hi, Stu.

STU ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Hi, Judy.

WOODRUFF: First of all, let's talk about the Democrats. How many seats can they afford to lose?

ROTHENBERG: Well, they can certainly -- they will certainly lose a seat in Nevada. I think that's -- that's almost a given. They really have to keep all of their losses down to a minimum. Maybe they can accept one more loss. That's about it. And there are a number of vulnerabilities.

WOODRUFF: So if the Democrats were to lose those two states, what would happen in some of these other races where they -- it's a tight contest for them?

ROTHENBERG: Well, Judy, right off the bat, after Nevada, certainly Virginia is the next-most vulnerable. It seems to me that they have to hold both New York and New Jersey. Those states are up for grabs at the moment. The Democrats still have a competitive primary -- both parties have competitive primaries in New Jersey and New York is question mark.

But the Democrats have to hold there before they can turn their fire and look at those vulnerable Republican seats.

WOODRUFF: And those -- those are the states you consider most -- most to be toss-ups?

ROTHENBERG: Yes, I would say so. The New Jersey race may start to become clear after we get a nominee. When we talk to Republican insiders here in Washington, they're very concerned about the financial deep pockets of John Corzine, working to win the Democratic primary in New Jersey. He's probably favored narrowly. It would be very tough for Republican to raise the money, no matter who their nominee is against him. Against Jim Florio, the Republicans feel like they have a better chance to compete in that state. WOODRUFF: All right. Now switching to the Republicans, Stu, you have three states that you say are in real trouble for them.

ROTHENBERG: Well, I mean, right off the bat, you have three incumbents: in Michigan, Spence Abraham; in Minnesota, Rod Grams; and in Delaware, Senator Roth. Major problems: either running even or behind their Democratic challengers. And then you have the open seat in Florida, where you have a Republican primary. It's a late primary in September. The winner there may be out of money, and the Democratic candidate, Bill Nelson, doesn't have a primary. He's going to be very tough to beat.

So right off the bat, those four could well be, if not gone, certainly in deep trouble.

WOODRUFF: So to win control, the Democrats would have to win all those, plus they would have to take some of those where the Republicans are less vulnerable.

ROTHENBERG: Right, in the next tier. I would include Missouri John Ashcroft in the next tier. Many people would put it in the top tier. I think Ashcroft is a very strong candidate though he has a strong opponent, the governor, Governor Carnahan.

It's really the next group of seats where the Democrats would have to surprise. And that's Pennsylvania, Montana and Washington State.

Rick Santorum is a Republican senator in Pennsylvania. Montana is Conrad Burns. In Washington, Slade Gorton. The Democrats have a primary in Washington State. They'll have a late candidate. They virtually have candidates in Pennsylvania and Montana.

That's where -- that's where they really need to win, and I think it's kind of interesting. If you look at the whole range of these races, you say, gosh, the Democrats have to win virtually everywhere, that seems impossible. If you look race by race, it's far less daunting a task for the Democrats. It's still tough. I'm not saying it's easy, I'm not saying it's likely, but it's at least theoretically doable.

So really it's the question of what's your focus.

WOODRUFF: Stu, what was -- what has changed in this picture, because the last time you and some others were looking at the Senate it looked much harder for the Democrats? Did something specific change here?

ROTHENBERG: No, I don't think there's been some dramatic shift or sea change here, Judy. I think it's, when you kind of step back dispassionately and say, what might happen in Montana now that the Democrats appear to have a good candidate, a likely candidate -- Schweitzer, who's been able to get free media. You look at Washington State, and you see Maria Cantwell has entered the race. She may not win the primary, but if she does, she has very deep pockets, and she could compete even after a costly primary. And in Pennsylvania, one thing that's changed my outlook here -- I think Rick Santorum begins very well-positioned. But Judy, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee has a significant financial advantage and cash on hand over the Republicans. If the Senate looks like it's coming into play, you can't tell me that Ron (UNINTELLIGIBLE) won't get significant Democratic spending.

His own personal resources are very shallow. He took out a mortgage on his home. He doesn't have much cash on hand. But if the Senate starts to come into play, I think you'll see lots of outside Democratic money coming in there.

So these second-tier seats, which seemed unlikely and still seem unlikely, I think if you think about it at least you can put together a reasonable scenario where the Democrats can compete.

WOODRUFF: OK. So just in a couple of seconds, what's your bottom-line prediction? What do you think will happen?

ROTHENBERG: Well, I think the most likely outcome is a Democratic pick-up in the Senate of two to four seats. That's even if George Bush wins the presidency. I think it's very possible, likely that you'll have a Democratic gain in the Senate even if the Republicans win the White House.

WOODRUFF: Very, very interesting. You heard it here first.

Stu Rothenberg, thanks very much.

And Stu Rothenberg has also been focusing on a couple of key House races. On our companion Web site, get the lowdown on the Virginia seventh and Kentucky first districts. That's at allpolitics.com.

Just ahead, former Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey: a look at his politics and his life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Former Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey died last night, after a long battle with a rare liver disease. Casey, a Democrat and two-term governor, made political waves when he broke with party officials over a single, controversial issue.

Our Bruce Morton remembers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Robert Casey was determined, a man who didn't give up. He ran and lost in three Democratic primaries for governor, finally won in 1986 and went on to beat a better-known Republican, William Scranton. In a party which mostly favors abortion rights, Casey was fiercely anti-abortion, signed a law imposing a 24-hour waiting period for abortions in his state. Planned Parenthood sued, and in 1992, the supreme court ruled the waiting period constitutional, while also upholding the basic right to an abortion. Party leaders wouldn't let Casey speak about abortion at the 1992 Democratic convention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1992)

ROBERT CASEY (D), FMR. PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: The national Democratic Party has embraced abortion on demand. I believe this position is wrong in principle, and out of the mainstream of our party's historic commitment to protecting the powerless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: Republicans jumped on the Democrats' refusal to let Casey speak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1992)

PAT BUCHANAN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the Irish Catholic governor of Pennsylvania, Robert Casey, asked to say a few words on behalf of the 25 million unborn children destroyed since Roe v. Wade, Bob Casey was told there was no room for him at the podium at Bill Clinton's convention, and no room at the inn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: Casey's personal life was a determined struggle, too, against illness and death. 1987: heart bypass surgery. 1991: word that he had amloidosis -- his liver was producing an abnormal protein that was weakening his heart. 1993: He received a heart and liver transplant, an operation that took fifteen hours. Confounding many, he went back to work.

Not surprisingly, he became an advocate for organ donor programs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 18, 1995)

CASEY: In fact, their gift can save literally, you at least several lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: Robert Casey fought determinedly for a clean environment, for children's programs, against abortion, and for his own life. He was 68 when he died.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Two of Governor Casey's sons are carrying on the legacy. Robert Casey Jr. was elected Pennsylvania auditor general in 1998 and has been mentioned as a future candidate for governor. His younger brother, Pat Casey, lost a close race for the U.S. House in 1998 and is running again this year.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GARY JOHNSON (R), NEW MEXICO: At one of these governor conferences, George turns to me and he said, "What are they talking about?" I said, "I don't know." And he said, "You don't know a thing do you?" I said, "Not one thing." And he said, "Neither do I," and we sort of high-fived.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: A somewhat surprising introduction for George W. Bush today, given critics' efforts to peg him as an intellectual lightweight. New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who was speaking, says that he was just trying to make the point that Bush is willing to admit when he doesn't know something. Bush happened to be off stage during Johnson's remarks and didn't mention the high-five story when he took the podium.

Well, joining us now, Margaret Carlson of "Time" magazine and Tucker Carlson of "The Weekly Standard."

Hello to you both.

MARGARET CALSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Hi, Judy.

TUCKER CARLSON, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Hi.

WOODRUFF: Rather than the Gary Johnson story, I want to ask you about a more serious turn of events in Texas. Governor Bush has announced that he is going to pardon a man who's been on death row. He is now suggesting in an interview today on CNBC that he is considering granting a 30-day reprieve to another man convicted and sentenced to death. Is this an issue that could have political repercussions for Governor Bush, Margaret?

M. CARLSON: Well, he was about to set a record this week for executions, five in one week. And since the beginning of the year, he -- more people are being executed in Texas than anywhere else, like an assembly line. And it is becoming an issue, because in other states, there are governors who have put a moratorium on it. There's the bill in the House, Congressman Delahunt and in the Senate, Senator Leahy. There's Pat Robertson coming out, and saying listen, we may be executing the wrong people here. So the smartest thing Bush has done on the issue is to this week, this very day, say that he is going to give a 30-day reprieve, because there's a prisoner for whom DNA evidence could exonerate him. And these tests cost nothing, they take no time. It's not an extraordinary measure to take to protect someone in case it's the wrong person.

WOODRUFF: Tucker, is this politically significant?

T. CARLSON: I mean, I think it's probably a smart thing for Bush to do, but I think there are two things that cut against the death penalty as a political issue this year anyway. One is it's not a partisan issue anymore; it's confusing. You noticed that a couple of weeks ago in New Hampshire, the Republican-controlled legislature voted to eliminate and the Democratic governor, Jeanne Shaheen, vetoed it. So I mean, it's clear. It's not as it was 10 years ago, where you could say, I am a conservative Republican, I am for the death penalty; I am a liberal Democrat, I am against it. It's just not that clear. The second thing I think is that while people who maybe think about it a lot are upset about the death penalty, most people aren't. Actually, polls show that the vast majority of Americans like the death penalty. And they say they're turned off by violence, but I mean, they watch professional wrestling and support abortion rights, whatever.

I mean, people like the death penalty, and so it's hard to believe that George W. Bush is going to lose a lot of votes because he supports it, even in a pretty vigorous way.

M. CARLSON: But this is not about whether you're in favor of capital punishment or not. It is about whether you think the legal system is sufficient protection to people who are on death row. And in Texas, it is a particularly bad system. There is not a network of public defenders, and there are these horrendous stories about lawyers falling asleep while defending, or not defending, their clients. And in New Hampshire, it is a symbolic issue, in that nobody has been executed in New Hampshire since the reinstitution of the death penalty.

WOODRUFF: I want to quickly turn you all to the question of a runningmate. A new name surfaced this week, former Missouri Senator John Danforth, Republican, somebody maybe George Bush may be looking at.

Tucker, how serious is this?

T. CARLSON: Well, I mean, it's hard to tell. Clearly, the Bush people -- and one hates to be cynical -- but they want the word to go forth that he's being considered seriously. Now the fact that he's pro-life is obviously significant. And it may be -- again, this is a cynical explanation -- but sort of a freeway to placate conservative Republicans who've been grousing about Bush's flirtation with of governor of Pennsylvania, who's obviously pro-choice, and it may be a way to say, you know, have no fear, in the end, I'll pick a pro-life running mate.

WOODRUFF: Is that what it is, Margaret?

M. CARLSON: If you want serious, you can't get more serious than former Senator Danforth. And while he brings along the pro-lifers, he also resurrects -- and I think his book is called "Resurrection" -- the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill controversy, where he was the most ardent supporter of Clarence Thomas. I don't know that Bush having moved to the center and having grabbed women from Al Gore wants to have that be an issue. I am almost sure it's not going to be Senator Danforth. I think it's too big of a downside.

WOODRUFF: Tucker, moving onto Al Gore now. An effort on his part to appear, as his campaign is saying, to show the more personal side of the vice president. Is this going to help him? T. CARLSON: I'm not sure that Al Gore showing personal side helps necessarily. In fact, you know, polls show that the personal side is part of the problem, but clearly, it's not a good idea to carry on the primary strategy of hard attacks. That appeals to primary voters. This is pretty elemental politics. And it's not a good idea to carry that into the general election. Ordinary people don't like that. You don't want to be perceived as grouchy, or mean, or lashing out, as Gore has been. So I think it's inevitable that he becomes kinder, gentler.

WOODRUFF: Is this smart what they're doing, Margaret?

M. CARLSON: Bush so quickly moved into a general election strategy. It's mystifying that Gore stayed stuck in his Bradley fighting mode. You know, he has been so late out of the gate, because, you know, what tucker Said is absolutely right. You're supposed to put on your smiling face at this point.

And I disagree with Tucker on one thing. Actually, Gore's personal side, when he's in a small room, he is very good, so he could find a way to translate that into the larger events that he has to be able to do. It would be very good for him.

WOODRUFF: Two people we know who's personal sides we like are Margaret and Tucker. Thank you both.

M. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.

T. CARLSON: Thanks.

WOODRUFF: Appreciate it. Thank you.

That is all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you again tomorrow, when our Kelly Wallace will be covering Vice President Gore as he visits young cancer patients and gives a speech on cancer here in Atlanta. And of course you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

"WORLDVIEW" coming up next.

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