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Saturday Morning News

Delegates Defeat Delaware Plan

Aired July 29, 2000 - 8:30 a.m. ET

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

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia, where we find Leon Harris.

Leon, take it away.

LEON HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a good place to be, Miles, believe me. There's a lot going on here. Plenty of politics for you here in Philadelphia. In fact, some political effort is doing more than just arranging everything here for the coronation of George W. Bush. There's actually some looking beyond this convention.

Delegates yesterday defeated a plan that could have changed the way the nation chooses its next president. Now, for the first time since the '70s, delegates debated a major change to the primary calendar.

CNN's Kate Snow has some details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BUSH: God bless you all and god bless America.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George W. Bush sealed the deal in just over 40 days from Iowa to the March 7th primaries. By then, everyone knew he would be the Republican nominee.

GORE: Two-thirds of the states did not have an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the nomination for the most powerful person in the world.

SNOW: Delegates on the convention's rules committee agree in principle the current system, where so many states hold early primaries, has got to change. But the question is how? A plan promoted by one of the smallest states in the union, Delaware, went down in flames.

The Delaware plan would have meant radical changes in 2004, 17 states, territories and the District of Columbia would hold primaries in February. Another group of slightly bigger states would vote in March, another in April. And the biggest states would wait until May.

BASIL BATTAGLIA, DELAWARE GOP CHAIRMAN: It's really decided at the end by the larger states. It just gives the smaller states an opportunity to participate with candidates and it gives the candidates an opportunity to go to those states and they don't need a large war chest to go into those states.

SNOW: But the states with the most delegates said that plan would have made their voters worthless.

LEZLEE WESTINE (R), CALIFORNIA DELEGATE: And when you tell a large bloc of them that they really will have no say, that really takes a lot of the energy and the enthusiasm out of the political process.

SNOW: Delegates who are on the fence had some help deciding how to cast their votes. The Bush campaign sent advisers to urge delegates to defeat the primary reform plan.

CHARLIE BLACK, BUSH ADVISER: The biggest problem with it is that the Democrats will not go along. They will keep their current primary calendar, which means their nominee would emerge in March, while the Republicans continue to fight until May or June. We end up with giving them about a three month advantage both to campaign and to raise money.

SNOW (on camera): Democrats say they're willing to discuss changes to the primary system. Like many Republicans, they suggest a plan proposed by state leaders allowing regional groupings.

ED RENDELL, DNC GENERAL CHAIRMAN: Break the country up into regions. Have regional primaries, one a month for five months, and rotate them every four years so that everyone every 20 years could go first. Everyone every 20 years would go last.

SNOW: But that plan has its critics, too, and if the Republican rejection of the Delaware idea is any indication, the 2004 presidential primary season is likely to be as short as it was this year.

Kate Snow, CNN, Philadelphia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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