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Democratic National Convention Begins in Los Angeles; President Clinton Featured as Keynote SpeakerAired August 14, 2000 - 4:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: From the Staples Center in Los Angeles, site of the Democratic National Convention, this is an expanded edition of INSIDE POLITICS, with Wolf Blitzer.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, site of the 43rd Democratic National Convention.
The gavel drops in 30 minutes. We'll be previewing today's sessions shortly. First, though, there's breaking news from the icy waters of the Barents Sea.
CNN's Natalie Allen is in Atlanta. She has an update on a critical situation involving a crippled submarine -- Natalie.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, that's right. The next 48 hours are critical for the rescue now under way of more than 100 crew members aboard a crippled Russian nuclear submarine. Russian military officials say the Kursk sank during a training exercise yesterday in the Barents Sea, near the Arctic Circle. The Russian navy says the sub was damaged in what is described as a "serious collision."
These are the latest pictures of the Kursk, taken in May. It's believed the crew you're seeing now is the crew inside the ship right now. The Russian Defense Ministry says there are no nuclear weapons aboard and that its two nuclear reactors have been shut down.
At least 10 warships have been sent to the area. One of them has lowered a bell that is supplying air to the crewmembers trapped over 400 feet below. Crewmembers in the sub are trained for emergency evacuations, but experts say the temperature and depth of the water are life threatening.
The Pentagon tells CNN the U.S. has offered the Russians assistance with the rescue.
Joining us by telephone is Bill Owens, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is a retired Navy admiral who is also a commander of the U.S. Navy's largest submarine group.
Admiral, thank you for joining us.
We know that you don't have information on what exactly happened to the submarine, but can you get an idea, considering the circumstances and where this submarine is, on how difficult this rescue is?
BILL OWENS, FORMER VICE CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Well, Natalie, it's nice to be with you.
This is, I suppose, the fear of every submariner and their family. This incident, whatever it was, whether the submarine ran into another ship or whether it ran into a piece of ice or whatever else happened debilitating it and putting it on the bottom of the ocean makes it a very, very serious situation.
I suppose that there are only three or four things they need to continue living down there. One is oxygen, the second is the purifying air. That is, get rid of the contaminants in the air, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide primarily, and to get rescue assistance to them as quickly as possible.
So this is the kind of thing that we all, as submariners, around the world have a lot of sympathy for as we watch them go through this event, and it certainly is going to be a very challenging few days for them.
ALLEN: How might a rescue actually take place? What are the options they might have to get these men off the submarine?
OWENS: Well, you know, just generally, Natalie, the options are to go down and somehow rescue them. The United States Navy has the capability, for example called DSRV, Deep Submarine Rescue Vehicle, which can go down to a depth like this submarine and mate with the submarine and take people off the ship. That kind of capability, I believe, must exists in the Russian submarine force as well.
Secondly, you might be able to push very high pressure air into the submarine and blow air -- blow the air into the compartment that is damaged, blowing the water out and raising the submarine that way, salvaging it, we would say.
And I suppose the third is somehow they are able to simply keep the crew alive, getting the right amount of air, pure air, and ascertaining that the submarine crew can continue to live and somehow, with a combination of the other two issues, approaches that I've mentioned, rescue the people. So we're going to be very interested in seeing how this goes.
I suppose they have an ability here to bring some kind of a deep- diving lung from one of the surface ships in the region...
OWENS: ... down to the submarine.
OWENS: ... That's a third possibility.
ALLEN: Thank you so much, Rear Admiral Bill Owens, for joining us. We'll continue to keep close tabs as this rescue is under way. Now back to Wolf Blitzer in Los Angeles.
BLITZER: Thank you, Natalie.
It all begins about a half hour from now, a convention designed to make the case to voters they'll be better off if Al Gore is promoted to the presidency.
During our coverage of this opening session, we'll tell you what to expect and we'll watch for anything unexpected. We'll talk to delegates on the convention floor, with a special focus on women voters and Al Gore's efforts to win them over.
Plus, my colleagues from "SHOWBIZ TODAY" will join us with a look at some of the star-studded events going on in this convention city.
First, a rundown of the Democrats' agenda today from CNN's Bernard Shaw.
BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Here's a look ahead to the first day of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, August 14th.
Long before the balloons come down, the four-day convention gears up. It begins today at 4:30 Eastern, 1:30 Los Angeles time.
Today's opening session gets under way with an invocation by Cardinal Roger Mahoney, who just two years ago blasted political campaigns as being increasingly anti-life.
The next few hours of this first day will be spent on housecleaning chores, such as committee reports and welcoming remarks.
At 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 local, the program will focus on the economic boom enjoyed during the Clinton-Gore years. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman will introduce talk show-like panels on the economy and issues that affect working families.
The nightly feature, dubbed "American Dialogues," will consist of everyday folks sharing personal stories and party themes. Then the spotlight shifts to the party's female U.S. senators. The group will include Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Blanche Lambert Lincoln of Arkansas.
Then, in the final hour, 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 pacific, a woman vying for a Senate seat: Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver remarks and turn the stage over to her husband.
President Clinton will deliver the final address of the night on this, the first day of the Democratic National Convention.
BLITZER: We have four correspondents covering this convention floor, including Candy Crowley, Frank Sesno, Jeanne Meserve and John King.
Let's begin with John.
John, tell us what we can expect on this first day.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, on the first day, we turn quickly to Al Gore's agenda, and not only his policy agenda but the states he wants to win in the fall.
If you are down here in this part of the floor, you are most likely from a key battleground state. I'm standing in the California delegation. To my left, Illinois and Ohio, to my right Missouri. Win those four states, you're nearly halfway to the 270 electoral votes it takes to win the White House.
So as Al Gore focuses on his policy agenda the next few days, draws a contrast with the Bush-Cheney Republican ticket, he's also trying to turn a spotlight on the key states he must win if he is to be successful in November.
Standing by in another state front and center in this election and at this convention, my colleague Candy Crowley.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, John.
I'm standing here at -- in front of Tennessee, a front row seat of course because of Al Gore. But also nearby, Connecticut and Arkansas. Really, this is where symbolically, at least, the vortex of questions around this campaign will be answered.
In Connecticut, is Joe Lieberman, a centrist, causing any problems with the party's liberal base? Remember that many of those delegates are far more liberal than those out in the countryside.
In Arkansas, will Bill Clinton be able to leave the stage and leave the limelight to Al Gore?
And then. of course, in Tennessee, can Al Gore somehow figure out a way to breed on the successes of the Clinton administration without being tarred by the excesses?
And now to my colleague, Frank Sesno, standing where the delegates from New Jersey will sit.
FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Thanks very much, Candy.
Yes, here in New Jersey a critical state for Al Gore if he's to triumph. And one place where Democrats thinks the selection of Joe Lieberman may well play a helping hand.
Up and down this area here, where we'll be watching very closely again, as we've heard from John and Candy, these other key battleground states down the row a bit. Oregon, Gore very much needs to be competitive in the Northwest, which has been good to Bill Clinton and Al Gore in elections past. Over my shoulder you can see the first of many technicians here, starting to trickle in this evening, making sure the computers work as the delegates arrive, not for any great measure of success but for the coronation of Al Gore and the case that he'll make to the American people.
Now to Jeanne Meserve in Massachusetts.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Frank.
A couple of big battleground states over in this part of the floor, Pennsylvania and Florida. Between them, they control 48 electoral votes, and right now polls show Al Gore behind in both those states. So you can expect him to be reaching out to constituencies that are very important in those states. that would include Catholics and unions, Hispanics, African-Americans and, of course, women.
Also in this part of the floor, a couple of states that went heavily for Bill Bradley in their primaries, Massachusetts and Vermont. A question about how enthusiastically those Bradley delegates, who will be released today by the senator, will embrace the Gore candidacy.
You might ask who the people are who are sitting in these seats. Well they tend to be better educated and more liberal than the average Democrat. And who's the average Democrat? Well, here's a look.
MESERVE (voice-over): African-Americans are the bedrock of the Democratic Party. In 1996, an overwhelming 84 percent of African- Americans voted for Bill Clinton.
GEOFF GARIN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: It's a result partly of what it is Democrats do for African-Americans. It's a result partly of what Republicans do to African-Americans. But clearly, in terms of if you wanted to look at one -- one tried-and-true loyal constituency, it would have to be African-Americans.
MESERVE: The party also wears the union label. Organized labor has consistently given its votes and organizational skills to the Democrats. Al Gore's support for permanent normal trade status with China infuriated some labor organizations, but few observers see lasting harm to his candidacy.
ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: The very same union voters that are most upset over those trade issues are the more liberal union members that are not going to walk away from Al Gore. They're going to stick with Al Gore.
MESERVE: Women are a crucial Democratic constituency. Bill Clinton profited from a 17-point gender gap with women. Al Gore is struggling to hang onto women voters because Republican George W. Bush is fighting fiercely for them, and for two other traditional Democratic constituencies, which have lately been drifting toward the Republicans: Latinos and seniors. Gore is trying to rally those groups and fend off Bush by drawing distinctions between their positions on the federal role in Social Security, education, prescription drug benefits, and gun control.
GARIN: A lot of the issues which Gore has chosen to create that bright red line are issues that really speak to the gut and the heart of the base of the Democratic Party.
MESERVE: Polling shows a majority of Democrats support stricter gun control, along with abortion rights and environmental protection. They tend to have lower incomes then Republicans do and are more likely to live in urban areas. Interestingly enough, while 30 percent consider themselves liberal, 48 percent say they are moderate, and 22 percent identify themselves as conservative.
Bill Clinton won the White House by pushing the party to the center.
GOEAS: He combined the conservative factions of the Democratic Party along with, really, a lot of conservative independents and conservative Republicans to kind of govern the country over the last six years, and the liberal Democrats had nowhere to go.
MESERVE: In order for Gore to win, analysts say, he must replicate Clinton's formula or devise one of his own that will bring his diverse party together and motivate its members to get up, get out and vote.
MESERVE: Gore will also be reaching out to swing voters, people not wedded to either political party. He needs them to win, and right now he has an uphill battle -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve, thank you so much for joining us.
John King, Frank Sesno, Candy Crowley, we'll be hearing much more from all of you as this -- as our coverage of this Democratic convention continues.
Meanwhile, the gavel will come down on the Democratic convention in about 15 minutes or so. When we come back, though, the fight for the female vote: what the Democrats are doing to try to re-establish the gender gap. Plus, the markets have just closed for the day. We'll go to Wall Street for a recap. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Tomorrow night's convention keynote speaker is Congressman Harold Ford Jr. from Al Gore's home state of Tennessee. He's only 30 years old. He's the youngest member of the House of Representatives. He represents the ninth district around Memphis, Tennessee.
Thank you very much, congressman, for joining us.
REP. HAROLD FORD JR. (D), TENNESSEE: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Why do you think you were asked to deliver the keynote address?
FORD: I can only go by what Al Gore said when he called about a week and a half ago. He wanted to make clear to America that our party is not just about lip service when it comes to allowing young people an opportunity to show some leadership in this party, to play key prominent roles.
I think you'll see me tomorrow night. You'll see Karenna Gore Schiff give an outstanding nominating speech, an introduction speech of her father.
This party's about the future. This party firmly believes that America's best days are ahead us. And what better way to show that, as the vice president said (UNINTELLIGIBLE), then to have someone give the keynote address who, God willing, the majority of his days are in front of him.
It's a huge honor for me, and I look forward to helping to set the tone of this convention.
BLITZER: You're the first member of Congress who was born in the '70s to actually serve. What can you do, what can Democrats do to get younger voters more interested in voting for Al Gore?
FORD: I think two things. One, we're excited that we're allowing members of Congress at our convention to speak. Secondly, with regard to bringing more young people into the system, there's a cynicism that pervades that many young people believe that politics is reserved for older folks who are caught and trapped in the grips of the special interests.
One of the things that our convention will clearly show with not only rhetoric but with a message is that we believe that government ought to be reformed, and one way to go about doing that is to reform our campaign finance laws.
Senator McCain, it was troubling to see at his convention -- I'm a friend of his, an admirer of his -- but it was troubling to see, there he was at center stage, primetime, denied the opportunity to talk about the issue that was at the center of his campaign and the center of his crusade.
You won't see that at our convention. You'll see us talking about the issues that all Americans believe are most important. You'll see us talking about those issues that resonate with young voters, middle-age voters and older voters. And one issue that we will stress at this convention is education. There's no single greater, more important issue than how we educate our kids.
If we can find the money to build prisons in America, we ought to be able to find the money to pay teachers, build schools and hold school systems accountable.
That's what this ticket will talk about, amongst other things, and certainly, that's what I will talk a lot about tomorrow evening.
BLITZER: Tonight, as you know, President Clinton is going to be the featured speaker along with the first lady. But some are saying he not only brings assets to the Gore-Lieberman ticket, but he brings some deficits as well.
What do you hope he will say, what will the American people, what do you want the American people to hear from him tonight that would resonate?
FORD: I hope he says eight years ago college graduates -- I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania -- we looked through newspapers trying to find where we may go work, work, what jobs might be available in this market. The future looked a little bleak. Well, eight years and 22 million jobs later, America's on the right course.
Now's not the time to go back to a past where government worked against us instead of with us, nor is it time to go back to some of the poor economic decision-making of the past.
I think he will make -- set the record straight. I heard Governor Bush at his convention say that America squandered a chance over the last eight years. Well, when he took over, Al Gore and Bill Clinton, this country was in a mess. Bill Clinton is going to tell us about that tonight and talk about what they've been able to do and tell us why Al Gore is best suited to be the next president.
BLITZER: Harold Ford, congressman from Tennessee, friend of Al Gore, although much younger, thanks for joining us. Good luck tomorrow night.
FORD: Thank you -- thanks, CNN, for all that you do for Democrats and Republicans of covering these conventions.
BLITZER: Thank you.
FORD: The American people appreciate it.
BLITZER: We will pass the word along. Thank you very much, Congressman.
We're going to take a few minutes to examine the importance of the women's vote and how the candidates are working to attract their support.
CNN's Chris Black talked with women in a suburban Philadelphia district that voted for Reagan and Bush in the '80s, but went for Clinton in the '90s.
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Megan Phucas works part time as a personal trainer, but her full-time job is mother of two. A registered Republican who voted for Clinton twice, this time Megan is undecided. MEGAN PHUCAS: I believe what Bush says even though I don't agree with everything he does. Al Gore, to me, is the silent one. He's not as outspoken, he's wishy-washy on some of the issues.
BLACK: To become president, Al Gore must convince Megan Phucas and other suburban moms he can deliver for them and their kids. Democrats trailed so badly among male voters in recent elections, they depend heavily on women at the ballot box.
JANET MURGUIA, GORE DEP. CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We believe that women are going to make the winning difference in this campaign and in this election.
BLACK: So Gore's candidacy is largely geared toward women.
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What kind of value do we place on the children of this country? How important are they? I think that they're our future.
BLACK: Yet many suburban women have gnawing doubts about the vice president.
JENNIFER GARINO: I think he's a little bit of a crowd pleaser. He's doing what he has to get the vote. I think Clinton was that way, too. I think he's a yes, yes man -- yes, yes, yes, yes. And that's what concerns me about Al Gore.
BLACK: And George W. Bush has made inroads among women by casting himself as a compassionate conservative and emphasizing issues like education.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The greatness of America really lies in our ability to educate every child.
BLACK: Still, issues may largely be on Gore's side. Many suburban women support abortion rights.
SUSAN RUBIN: I would hate to see my child's, you know, reproductive rights chipped away or compromised in any way.
BLACK: They also favor gun control, an issue Gore has championed during this campaign. School shootings like the tragedy at Columbine High have frightened many mothers.
ANNE HOROWITZ: You could send your kid to school when we were growing up and someone might get beat up was the big deal. Now you think they could go to school and get shot.
DONNA SHILDKROUT: It's everywhere. It doesn't matter where you live or where the kids go to school. It's in the best schools and it's in the worst schools.
BLACK: The coarsening of the culture also troubles older women. Once reliably Democratic, they abandoned the Democratic Party in 1998, repulsed by Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. BETTE BAILEY: I thought it was absolutely appalling. I was terribly embarrassed. I was particularly embarrassed for parents that had little kids that had to explain all of this long before it was necessary for them to even know that.
BLACK: Gore has to win them back.
Linda Fischer is another registered Republican who voted for Clinton twice. She's uneasy about both candidates.
LINDA FISCHER: I don't really feel I know President Bush or Gore either. They seem to be products of their managers and they stick to their script.
BLACK: Many Democrats say Bush is winning points among women because of style, not substance.
CELINDA LAKE, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: It's very much about Bush the candidate, but they don't know very much about Bush the governor, and they don't know very much about the issue positions of Bush the potential president.
BLACK: The Democratic Party has, in many ways, evolved into the women's party, and this year's Democratic agenda mirrors women's concerns. But Gore still has to close the sale with key groups of women -- women who will make or break his candidacy.
Chris Black, CNN, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
BLITZER: We'll continue our analysis of the female factor in election 2000 with CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider. That's straight ahead. Also, we'll go down to the floor to talk with several key women delegates as the opening session draws closer.
ANNOUNCER: Much of Day 1 of the 1992 Democratic convention in New York City was the day of the woman. In what convention organizers called "the year of the woman," the convention chair was Texas Governor Anne Richards. Six women Senate candidates addressed the gathering, including the only incumbent, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: When we walk into the Unites States Senate in 1993, it will never, ever be the same again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Voters would choose five women to walk into the Senate with Mikulski, four of them Democrats.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the 43rd Democratic National Convention here in Los Angeles. We're only minutes away from the start of this afternoon session here in Los Angeles. We want to talk a little bit about the importance of the women vote.
Joining us now is our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
Bill, how important for Al Gore is the female vote?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, women have been a core Democratic constituency ever since 1980 when Ronald Reagan first got elected and the gender gap emerged. Where are the voters? Well, right now, women are going for George W. Bush over Gore by nearly 10 points. If Bush can just break even among Women, Gore doesn't have a prayer.
You know, a man named Sigmund Freud once asked, What do women want? I don't know if you or I are qualified, but let me give this a try. Women care about the safety net, particularly single working women who have just begun to achieve economic independence. They often feel vulnerable in the marketplace and they want government to be there to protect them. Gore has to convince those women that he will protect the safety net and George Bush won't, and that Bush's stress on education, which is a powerful concern for women -- particularly mothers -- is empty and symbolic. So that when Bush talks about his compassionate conservatism, Gore is going to say, where's the beef?
BLITZER: All right, Bill Schneider, stand by. CNN's Candy Crowley is on the convention floor. She has some women there. We want to hear from them as well -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Thanks, Wolf.
I'm here with Angie Graves (ph), a delegate from Arkansas, head of a county Democratic women's group there in Arkansas.
We just heard a piece and heard from Bill Schneider, our analyst, that Al Gore is having trouble with women. In fact, he's down 10 points when you measure women with Bush. What do you think the problem is?
ANGIE GRAVES, ARKANSAS DELEGATE: I don't think that there's necessarily a problem yet.
I think we're still working on making sure the women understood what Gore has done in the past -- Family Medical Leave Act, his focus on the education, the families, equal opportunities, women's right to choose. There's so many issues that women face that Gore has done incredible measures with, and I think it's just a matter of getting that message out and making sure people realize what's actually being done.
CROWLEY: Well, and certainly they hope the convention is the first step in that.
On to my colleague John King in Illinois.
KING: Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: I'm standing by with Barb Brown. She's a delegate from Carbondale. Illinois. That's in the Bible Belt, southern Illinois, as Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman make their way here, one of their appeals to women is that a Democratic ticket would protect a woman's right to choose, protect abortion rights. In your part of Illinois, that might not play too well. Is that the case? And if so, what do they have to do to boost their support among women voters?
BARB BROWN, ILLINOIS DELEGATE: Well, that is true. In southern Illinois, we have Bible Belt, and there are a very large number of women that are very pro-life in southern Illinois. However, those are also women interested in Social Security, Medicare, making sure that children that are uninsured have insurance. So economic issues are very important in southern Illinois, and that is really the -- where they need to go to appeal to our voters.
Now as we talked beforehand, you thought Al Gore's personal story might help as well. What did you mean by that?
BROWN: Well, I think that's true. I think as people learn more about the strong women in his life, his mother, his wife, his daughters, I think that we'll really see women seeing in this man someone that they can respect and who will speak for their issues. And I think this convention's a great beginning of that conversation.
KING: All right, Barb, we thank you for your time.
As you can tell by the music, they're starting to get under way down here on the floor.
Back up to you up in the booth, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, John.
Tonight is being billed as Bill Clinton's last big address to the party faithful as president. When we come back, we'll talk with a key Cabinet member in the Clinton administration, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: The national chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Joe Andrew, has just hit the gavel. This session is now formally under way. He's going to begin his remarks.
In the meantime, several hours from now, President Clinton will be delivering what many are calling his valedictory address to the party faithful here at the Democratic National Convention.
Joining us here in Los Angeles to look ahead to what the president might be saying is someone who's been close to him for several years, the energy secretary, Bill Richardson.
Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.
BILL RICHARDSON, ENERGY SECRETARY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: There's some debate, we understood, going on among the president's advisers. Should he say something as he said last week? Should he make some reference to that Al Gore is not responsible for the personal failures that he may have had?
RICHARDSON: That's being debated. My view is that the president should talk about his accomplishments. This is his valedictory address to the party faithful. And there are a lot of accomplishments, a booming economy, crime and welfare down, an educational system that is improving, a strong foreign policy. I mean, the president is the man that brought us to this dance tonight, eight years of Democratic rule, two national elections, a nation that is centrist, a party that's become centrist.
My view is the president has a lot to talk about. This is his night in the sun. And the next three nights will be the voice presidents, the passing of the torch.
BLITZER: The polls show that as far as his job approval rating, it's high. But his personal approval rating is low. So it's a double-edged sword. Does he help or hurt the Gore-Lieberman ticket?
RICHARDSON: He helps the ticket. First of all, with minority voters, with the cored Democratic base that's here tonight, we need to turn them out. President Clinton is enormously popular with that base, and I'm sure he'll campaign within that base.
But also, that high approval rating on his job performance, there are a lot of people out there that are unpollable, I am convinced, that believe deeply in his leadership. So I think what you're going to see tonight is a manifestation of what he's accomplished.
We're going to talk about specifics. We're going to talk about specific initiatives that what we've done and that we're for. It's not going to be gloss, it's not going to be a lot of balloons. Real people are going to be out there talking about home ownership, a steel worker that's been through troubled times, somebody -- a woman that started a small business. We have woman senators talking. We have elected officials, diversity -- real diversity in the party among the delegates, not bringing them up as the Republicans did for show when they had the podium in Philadelphia.
BLITZER: You know, there's been a lot of discussion of this so- called symbolic handoff tonight from President Clinton to Vice President Gore tomorrow, a formal hand off in Michigan, they'll be meeting together. What does that mean? The president will be handing over what to Al Gore? What do you expect will happen? President Clinton will just disappear for the next few months?
RICHARDSON: No, the president won't disappear. There's six months of very important agendas with the Congress, on the budget, a lot of issues that we still have to deal with that will involve the president's legacy. But what it means, Wolf, is now the president turns over the political leadership of the party to the presidential candidate and to a superb vice presidential candidate. That is the torch that is passed tonight.
The vice president becomes the dominant Democrat, the dominant political figure in our party from today on until the election, especially Labor Day, when Americans will start focusing on the race. That is the symbolism. And it is important, because what we have is almost a unique situation, a president who has successfully served for two terms hands off to his vice president, and it moves on to making the vice president in Joe Lieberman, who has been the best dynamic the ticket has had.
I've noticed terrific reaction nationally and also within the convention for Lieberman, so what is happening today is not a passing to a new generation but a passing of leadership to a new leader in the party. And that's the vice president.
BLITZER: Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, always a pleasure to have you on CNN.
RICHARDSON: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.
No matter if it's the Republicans or the Democrats, it's always an emotional issue: abortion. We'll see how it's affecting this convention when we return.
BLITZER: Moments ago, Cardinal Roger Mahoney of the Los Angeles archdiocese delivered the invocation for the opening session, and the cardinal made reference in his prayer to the issue of abortion. His comments are notable, in part because the delegates here overwhelmingly favor a woman's right to have an abortion.
Here's what Cardinal Mahoney had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARDINAL ROGER MAHONEY, ARCHDIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES: In You, oh God, we trust that you will keep us ever committed to protect the life and well-being of all people, but especially unborn children, the sick and the elderly, those on skid row and those on death row.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining me now to discuss the Democrats and the issue of abortion is CNN senior political analyst -- once again -- Bill Schneider.
How important of an issue is this among women voters, the issue of abortion rights?
SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, the Democratic Party is fully committed to abortion rights. Let's see where are the voters. Well, not surprisingly, they're in the middle. Only 19 percent say abortion should never be legal, which is the position of the Republican platform and the Catholic Church. But the number who believe abortion should always be legal is not much higher: 28 percent.
Half of Americans believe it should be legal only in some circumstances, like rape, incest, or to protect the life or health of the mother.
Most Americans are satisfied the status quo on abortion. The basic right has been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court, but the Court has allowed significant regulations and restrictions.
Will the Supreme Court be an issue in this election, as a lot of Democrats hope? Well, only if abortion rights supporters feel threatened by George W. Bush, and right now they don't.
BLITZER: All right. Let's see what's happening on the floor. Our Frank Sesno is standing by with a guest.
Frank, what's -- what's going on?
SESNO: Well, Wolf, whether it's the Democratic or the Republican conventions, abortion clearly is one of the most emotional and difficult issues there is.
I'm standing with Diane Linn. She's a county commissioner from the state of Oregon, works for Women for Gore there. And you were telling me before we went on the air that you are a practicing Catholic yourself, but you're troubled by what you heard from that podium. Why?
DIANE LINN, OREGON DELEGATION: Well, I think the party profoundly disagrees with the issue of protecting an unborn children, as he mentioned, because we really stand for a woman's right to choose. And this election, that issue hangs in the balance. It's not about Gore and Bush. It's about Roe v. wade.
So we're going to fight very hard to elect Gore to become our next president with Lieberman to protect a woman's right to choose. And that's the job we have ahead of us. And women feel very strong about that issue. It's fundamental to our future.
SESNO: All right, Diane Linn, thanks very much for one perspective. For another one, over to Jeanne Meserve, I think it is, in Utah.
MESERVE: That's right, Frank. An opposing point of view here from Trisha Beck. She's a state legislature from Utah and a member of the delegation.
You describe yourself as opposed to abortion rights. Did you feel hat it was appropriate for this issues to be raised from the podium? TRISHA BECK, UTAH DELEGATE: I have no problem with this issue being raised. I am anti-abortion, and I think that he did a very appropriate job in how he discussed this issues.
I personally have been faced by this issue myself. Many of the predominant religions in Utah and across the country believe that abortion should only be used in three instances: if it affects the life of the mother, or in the case of rape or incest, or if the child is severely deformed.
I personally have been affected by this. My life was affected greatly during my sixth pregnancy, and I made the decision to keep the pregnancy. But it was a decision between myself, my family, my doctors and my god, and the last entity I thought of involving in that very personal decision was my government.
MESERVE: Trisha Beck, thanks for your point of view, and now back up to the -- to the booth, and Wolf Blitzer. Hey, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne.
Of course, this is Los Angeles. Not far from Hollywood, our Laurin Sydney and Jim Moret are standing by to tell us about some showbiz news that's going on here in Los Angeles as well.
LAURIN SYDNEY, CO-HOST, CNN "SHOWBIZ TODAY": Not far at all, Wolf. Good afternoon, everybody. I'm Laurin Sydney, along with Jim Moret of "SHOWBIZ TODAY." We are at the Staples Center for day one of the Democratic National Convention, where in addition to serious politicking there is something funny going on.
JIM MORET, CO-HOST, CNN "SHOWBIZ TODAY": In just a few minutes, we'll be talking with political comedian Will Durst, a self-described equal opportunity offender and bipartisan smart-aleck.
SYDNEY: Also, the real "West Wing" staff parties with their TV counterparts. Much more, coming up.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
Jim Moret and Laurin Sydney, once again they're standing by from "SHOWBIZ TODAY" with the latest showbiz news.
MORET: Thank you, Wolf.
While the Democratic Convention officially begins today, Hollywood rolled out the red carpet for some delegates Sunday night.
SYDNEY: The cast of NBC's Emmy-nominated White House-based show "The West Wing" opened its house on the Warner Brothers lot to real- life politicians.
MORET: Cast members Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe were there, as were some familiar faces from the world of politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: This is fantasyland where we are right now. what we do is entertainment. And what the real people do is public service, and they're heroic. And the fact that they would come and honor us by just coming here and saying they -- they are interested in what we're doing and they approve of what we're doing, it's very gratifying for all of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYDNEY: Jim, the candidates must be grateful knowing that they do not have to provide all of the convention entertainment.
MORET: No they don't. Melissa Etheridge, Luther Vandross, and Boyz II Men are just a few of the names on the entertainment ticket.
Lauren Hunter has more.
LAUREN HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was like country with a lot of soul for delegates at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia. The award-winning duo Brooks & Dunn primed the crowd for the main attraction: the nomination of George W. Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's basically a great American event. This is not a sit-down golf clap going on here. These people are fired up and having fun.
HUNTER: That's the role many celebrities play at conventions: warming up the crowd for the political performers. Brian McKnight, Lorrie Morgan, and Bo Derek were among the entertainers at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia.
BEN STEIN, COMEDIAN: The importance of the convention as a media event and as a political event have diminished dramatically, but the importance of it as a source of fun for the people involved in it has increased dramatically. So I see it mainly as a, sort of, giant, Fort Lauderdale weekend for adults.
HUNTER: On the other coast, Melissa Etheridge is one of the entertainers at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles.
GARY SMITH, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, DNC 2000: Melissa Etheridge is performing, and Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Jimmy Smits is on the bill.
HUNTER: Gary Smith is the executive producer of DNC 2000, the same job he's held for the last three Democratic conventions.
SMITH: There's a finale every night. The cast of "Music Man" is flying out here for the opening night to do "76 Trombones." Our job: to kind of make it, frankly, better television when we can, to make it more interesting television and more emotional television. HUNTER: Also on the Democratic entertainment ticket, veteran performers Boyz II Men and Luther Vandross share the spotlight with convention first-timers Plus One (ph). Al Gore saw the budding boy band perform at a fund raiser and asked them to come to L.A.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a cool opportunity to sing for the vice president and be on TV.
HUNTER: That Hollywood magic isn't limited to just the convention floor. Jon Secada worked both the regular and shadow conventions in Philly, while Whoopi Goldberg and Barbra Streisand are among celebrities performing at a private fund raiser in Los Angeles on the closing night of the Democratic Convention.
Hollywood and Washington have long had a cordial convention relationship. And again in 2000, Hollywood faces are putting the stars in the stars and stripes.
Lauren Hunter, CNN, Los Angeles.
SYDNEY: And Barbra Streisand will not be singing tonight, but there is talk that she will definitely be in the Clinton box this evening, when he is speaking.
MORET: I hope we see that.
SYDNEY: Oh, I hope so. I'm sure we will on CNN.
And when we return, our live interview with political funnyman Will Durst.
MORET: He is a man who's convinced if you're not confused, you're not paying attention. Stay tuned.
SYDNEY: This will be good.
MORET: Will Durst is a political humorist that hosts, for the second season, the PBS series called "Livelihood," and like the rest of us, he needs his credentials just to walk around here.
We teased you as saying: "If you're not confused, you're not paying attention.
WILL DURST, POLITICAL HUMORIST: You're not.
MORET: Well, what do you mean by that?
DURST: Well, if you've been watching this, if you watch the Republicans, the Republicans suddenly turn into the Democrats before our very eyes. I mean, it looked like the GOP tent became a four-day audition process for "Showtime at the Apollo". So, I'm expecting the Democrats will respond in kind. I expect to see a bunch of rich, white guys promoting tort reform up there; just a parade of them all week long.
SYDNEY: Well, you're not only going to be here with us. You're going to be speaking tomorrow evening at the Shadow Convention.
DURST: Yes, I will be -- I'll be in my normal guise as a stand- up comedian, where I mock and scoff and taunt, but with taste.
SYDNEY: Of course.
DURST: It's so easy here.
MORET: Give us a sense -- I know this has just begun just moments ago -- give us a sense of the difference in flavor between the two conventions, from your perspective.
DURST: Well, try as they might, the Democrats just can't have the same kind of discipline and control that the Republicans have. And, I don't know if you've ever heard Al Gore speak, but I was in New Hampshire, I actually saw Al Gore put Mike Dukakis to sleep.
DURST: He was in the second row. I'm not making this up. It think that has to be the 12th level black belt of boring.
SYDNEY: We know you don't make up anything.
You were actually the first comic to be invited to perform at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. So, does that mean well that tomorrow evening, when Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, she will be off-limits to you?
DURST: No, there are no sacred cows. There are no sacred rabbits. They're all -- it's easy for me. It's so easy, I don't even have to write material. I get it delivered at 8:00 a.m. every morning. This is perfect. It's like a buffet and they invited me with a big, old spoon.
MORET: And speaking of a buffet, we were talking about the main difference between these two conventions. You noted the food.
DURST: Yes. All the cheese steaks; the cheese steaks in Philly were wonderful.
MORET: So, you're saying that beyond that, the politics, it's basically still a show from your perspective.
DURST: Well, pretty much. They're all going to say the same thing, aren't they? I mean, you will listen to the speeches all week long, and they'll be pretty much the same as we heard in Philadelphia: taxes are bad; families are good; the future is yet to come. Once, I want to see somebody say, I'm going to raise your taxes, mess with your families and live in the past.
SYDNEY: Has there ever been anything that you wished you didn't say? DURST: Yes.
SYDNEY: What was that?
DURST: Well, one time, I was on the "David Letterman Show", and they told me -- it was a semantics problem -- they told me to cool the political material and I thought they said the political material was cool. So, that was...
MORET: Oh, so you just kept going with the political material.
DURST: Yes, yes. It was a silly thing that happened...
MORET: Now, is this seasonal for you, or do you often comment on politics throughout -- not just election time?
DURST: No, next year, I plan on taking a sabbatical. I'm going to move to the south of France and raise sheep, hopefully. My job is over. I mean, it will have been done.
SYDNEY: Your job is over and the interview is over right now. But, Will, have a great time.
DURST: Oh, thanks, you guys. Enjoy L.A.
MORET: Thank you.
SYDNEY: Thank you, thank you. And now for a little bit of sanity, we're going to go to Wolf Blitzer and company -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Laurin and Jim. Bernard Shaw, Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield are standing by to continue our coverage of this Democratic National Convention, but first, there is breaking news.
Let's go to Natalie Allen, in Atlanta, for an update on that situation involving the crippled Russian submarine -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Wolf, it's a story we continue to watch closely here at CNN Center. Efforts are underway now to rescue more than 100 sailors trapped in a Russian nuclear submarine at the bottom of the Barents Sea.
An unexplained collision left the 14,000-ton submarine unable to surface from the sea's arctic waters just of Russia's northern coast. Despite earlier claims that the submarine's crew was not in danger, Russian officials now say rescue prospects are not very high.
The Russian Ministry of Defense says there are no nuclear weapons on the submarine, and radiation levels are said to be normal.
The United States is offering its assistance to Russia and the rescue operation. For more on that, we go to CNN's David Ensor. He's at the Pentagon -- David.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger was on the telephone today earlier on a routine phone call previously scheduled with his counterpart, Sergei (ph) Ivanov. And on that call, officials tell us, Mr. Berger made an offer for the U.S. to try to help the Russians rescue that crew. The offer was not taken up at that time.
If the U.S. were to offer, if the U.S. were to go ahead and help the Russians, what would be involved would be a particular minisub type of technology. There's a minisub deep submersible rescue vehicle. This is a picture you're seeing of it now, which can be -- which can be taken to the area. It's based in San Diego. There's one called the Avalon that would be available to go now, one of two submarines of its type.
It would, however, have to be airlifted to the area, and that could be done. But then it would need a mother ship, either a submarine, as you're seeing here, or a surface ship that is designed to carry this mini submarine to the exact area where the -- where the damaged Russian ship is underwater, and then they would be able to do their work.
And a retired admiral whom we spoked to earlier said that if all that happened, if a mothership could be got to the area and if this minisub could be flown, within five or six trips they could have that crew up and out.
There is the other issue, though, which is the compatibility of the equipment. At the time that these minisubs were created by the U.S., they sent out a template to all nations that had submarines, saying if you'll -- if you'll make sure your escape hatches match this template in some way, then we would be able to help you and would help you if need be. But officials here say they do not know whether the Russians in fact did try to match their submarines to that template.
So it's -- it's not clear at this point whether even if the Russians asked for help, whether the U.S. technology for rescuing submarines would work -- Natalie.
ALLEN: David Ensor, live at the Pentagon. We'll continue to keep a close watch of this story.
I'm Natalie Allen in Atlanta.
When INSIDE POLITICS returns, excerpts from President Clinton's upcoming speech at the Democratic National Convention. We're live from L.A. again, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: I've come to the home of one of the greatest fighters for working men and women in the history of the United States, Harry S. Truman, Independence, Missouri.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Al Gore tips his hat to a former president as he prepares to declare his political independence in Los Angeles.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: On this opening day of the Democratic convention, President Clinton gets ready to pass the torch. Will his speech tonight help or hinder Gore?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Every vice president who runs for president as the same problem. He has to show voters he's his own man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAW: Our Bill Schneider looks at the parallels between the Republicans in '88 and the Democrats in 2000.
ANNOUNCER: From the Staples Center in Los Angeles, site of the Democratic National Convention, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff, and analysts Jeff Greenfield and Bill Schneider.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. The Democrats are here. Their convention is under way and Al Gore's presidential campaign could turn on what happens in this hall over the next four evenings. As Gore continues to make his way to Los Angeles, he is leaving it to others to sing his praises at the podium; most notably President Clinton, who delivers his convention speech tonight. It is a delicate balancing act the president has to pull off: cutting ties and sharing credit.
CNN's White House correspondent Kelly Wallace joins us now with details of Mr. Clinton's speech -- Kelly.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, a short time ago, the White House released a few excerpts of the speech Mr. Clinton will deliver tonight. In one, Mr. Clinton refers to the argument put forward by Republicans at their convention in Philadelphia. He says, quote, "To those who say the progress of the last eight years was an accident, that we just coasted along, let's be clear: America's success was not a matter of chance, it was a matter of choice."
In another section, he notes and repeats a slogan he used in his 1996 convention address. He says, quote, "My fellow Americans, tonight we say with confidence: We built our bridge to the 21st century, we crossed it together and we're not going back."
And as for his vice president, who will become the new leader of the Democratic Party, he says, quote," More than anybody else I've every known in public life, Al Gore understands the future and how sweeping changes can affect Americans' daily lives."
The president will put the spotlight on the economic and social accomplishments of the Clinton-Gore administration and tell delegates the best way to continue that progress is with Al Gore in the White House.
WALLACE (voice-over): President Clinton emerged from his hotel giving reporters a thumbs-up about tonight's convention speech. The White House canceled Mr. Clinton's meetings with Hispanic and African- American Democrats so he could run through what will be part farewell address, part rallying call for the party faithful. The president's aides say he will rebut Texas Governor George W. Bush's argument, that the Clinton-Gore administration has coasted over the past eight years and had nothing to do with the nation's prosperity.
JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The premise that Governor Bush asserted at the convention that somehow an unprecedented economic prosperity and good times in this country happened by accident will be challenged vigorously.
WALLACE: The president won't mention Bush by name and won't mention the impeachment scandal, but he will talk specifically and personally about Al Gore's role in bringing about what the president calls a remarkable moment of progress and prosperity.
LOCKHART: The president understands fully that it's not his role to tell the American public who to vote for. It's no secret who he supports, but I think he'll try to put some things that he knows about Al Gore and Joe Lieberman in perspective and talk to the American public about things that are -- that should be important in this election and what some of the stakes are.
WALLACE: The president will also salute the first lady and the contributions he believes she would make as a United States senator.
WALLACE: Lockhart said the president does not view this speech as a forum for waxing nostalgic. And as for the length, all the president's spokesman will say is the White House hopes it will be shorter than Ronald Reagan's 50-plus-minute address in 1988 -- Bernie.
SHAW: Thank you, Kelly.
Now to Al Gore on the road and trying to put some distance between himself and the president.
Our Jonathan Karl is with Gore in Missouri.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With his boss about to take center stage at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles, Vice President Gore took a more modest stage in the heartland, avoiding any mention of President Clinton.
GORE: I've come to the home of one of the greatest fighters for working men and women in the history of the United States, Harry S. Truman, Independence, Missouri.
KARL: By invoking Truman, Gore was talking about someone who, as Franklin Roosevelt's number-two, knew something about the shadow presidents cast over their vice presidents. Gore's advisers are downplaying talk of tension between Clinton and Gore, although one adviser compared Clinton's dominance of the convention's first day to a lunar eclipse, completely blocking the light from the vice president, but only temporarily.
When Clinton leaves Los Angeles, the aide said, he's gone, and the light shines on Gore as the new leader of the Democratic Party.
As that happens, Gore's campaign manager is predicting a huge payoff.
DONNA BRAZILE, GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The polls are just a snapshot of where the electorate is today. I think five days from now those polls will surge, and Al Gore will take a commanding lead that will never turn back.
KARL: As the Gore campaign raises expectations, the Bush campaign is lowering them. Bush's aides have long predicted Gore would get a big convention bounce, a bounce they now say will make this a very close race going into the fall campaign.
GORE: Now when I talk at the Democratic convention on Thursday night, I'm going to be talking about some specifics.
KARL: Speaking to seniors and independents, Gore said he will offer details about his plans to shore up Social Security and provide a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients.
GORE: The people on the other ticket are good men. I'll never attack them personally. But I do think the American people deserve to know the specifics.
KARL (on camera): Clinton and Gore will take the stage together at a symbolic passing of the torch in Michigan on Tuesday. Clinton will speak first, touting Gore's role in the successes of the past eight years. Then it's up to Gore to speak and present his vision for the future.
Jonathan Karl, CNN, Independence, Missouri.
WOODRUFF: And now a look ahead at some of the other things that will and will not happen at this convention today. Let's go for that to one of our floor correspondents, Jeanne Meserve -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Judy, well the delegates are filing in. They're finally starting to outnumber the reporters who are down here on the floor. We're already hearing from the podium the theme of the night, which is progress and prosperity. You're going to be hearing a lot about the 22 million new jobs that have been created in the last eight years and about the fact that unemployment is lower than it's been in more than 20 years.
The economy, just one of the issues the Democrats want to underline at this convention. They're going to be talking about Social Security, they're going to be talking about health care, they're going to be talking about education, all issues that they think will work for them. They want this election to be fought on the issues rather than the personalities of Al Gore and George Bush.
A difference between this convention and the Republican convention, you are going to see a stream of officeholders going to the stage. Tonight we're going to be hearing from the Democratic women senators. They'll all be up there tonight.
But of course, the headliners are Bill and Hillary Clinton, the president and first lady, well-loved by many people in this hall. I will tell you that one delegate said to me: "Al Gore should be overshadowed by the president. He's the vice president." Not, I'm sure, music to the Gore campaign -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And Jeanne, one of the people who had been expected to speak tonight won't. What happened?
MESERVE: Congressman Loretta Sanchez, considered one of the big rising stars in the party, a big Hispanic voice within the party, decided not to speak, much to the shock of Democratic Party officials. There had been a big kerfuffel (ph) earlier in the week when she had scheduled a fund-raiser at the "Playboy" mansion. The party was not happy with that. They yanked her speaking position here unless she moved it.
She did eventually move it. Her speaking spot was restored. But then this morning, she said: Forget it; I don't want to speak. She said she harbors no bitterness and that she is committed to getting Al Gore elected.
WOODRUFF: And Jeanne, a little bit of news about Al Gore's primary rival?
MESERVE: That's right. Bill Bradley is meeting with the delegates this afternoon. He is expected to release all of them. He will encourage them to support Al Gore as will Bill Daley, the Gore campaign chairman, who will also talk to the Bradley delegates today.
We know there is at least one delegate from the state of Vermont who has said he will vote for Bradley nonetheless. It's unclear whether others will follow. Bradley, of course, will address this convention tomorrow night.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jeanne Meserve down on the floor, thanks -- Bernie.
SHAW: And we're joined now by White House chief of staff John Podesta.
Kelly Wallace -- hi. Good to have you on INSIDE POLITICS. Kelly Wallace alluded to the president's speech, saying that he would talk specifically.
Why a specificity on the issues important for your boss tonight? JOHN PODESTA, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I think it's a great contrast to the Republican convention of a couple weeks ago. I think the president and Al Gore in 1992 laid out a very specific plan to the American people. They told them what they were going to do. And that plan, they pursued that plan: It's paid enormous dividends for the American people both in economic terms, in terms of prosperity, the longest expansion in history. And the president will go through some of that.
But he'll also talk about the social progress we've made in cutting welfare, the welfare rolls in half, improving test scores in education, and in reducing crime for every year for eight years.
So I think it's important. I think the president thought that was a winning formula in 1992, and I think he'll kind of set the tone perhaps with -- for this convention where specifics will count.
There -- there -- well...
SHAW: Well, is it important for Mr. Clinton tonight from this podium behind us tonight not to attack Governor Bush and Dick Cheney by name?
PODESTA: Well, I think what's important is to answer the charge that we sort of got here by accident. We did this -- we got all this economic prosperity, the progress that's been made socially was as a result of a lot of tough choices, not as a result of chance. And I think the president is quite frankly looking forward to talking to the American people, talking about what he said to them back in 1992, how he's pursued that strategy. And the results -- the results are in, clearly.
SHAW: But he won't do it by name? He won't mention those two by name?
PODESTA: I don't anticipate that he'll mention them by name, but I think he'll probably ask that question "Are you better off than you were eight years ago?"
SHAW: Has Al Gore effectively embraced President Clinton's issues and not his problems?
PODESTA: I think he has laid out a specific program to build on the progress and prosperity that he was a partner in building with Bill Clinton in building this substantial progress over the last eight years. He's laid out some specific proposals in health care, in tax cuts, and in other important areas, and that he wants to lay those out before the American people, including Social Security, Medicare, providing a prescription drug right in Medicare. So he's going to lay that out on Thursday night, and I think the American people are going to tune in and listen, and they want to hear that.
SHAW: One more quick question, because Jeff Greenfield has a question for you. To folks who say President Clinton is hogging Al Gore's convention, you say? PODESTA: He's got an important role to play here. He's going to be here Monday night. I think the vice president looks forward to his appearance here so that he can go back in, and as I said, lay out those specifics, get them down on the record, answer that underpinning of the Republican charge really that we just sort of happened into this, reduced the deficit, et cetera. And I think that's a very important role for the president to play. And I'd add that it's important for him to say a few things that he knows specifically and personally about Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, and he's going to do that, too.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: You know, voters in democracies can be notoriously ungrateful, if that's the word. They threw Churchill out about eight weeks after he won World War II. They gave the Republicans no credit in '92 for having presided over the end of the Cold War.
With the length of this economic expansion, aren't you a little bit worried that the voters are going to say, well, OK, that's a permanent fact of nature, and as your campaign often says, this is about the future, not the past. We're not going to look back on what happened. We want to -- you know, fine, but we're going to move on?
PODESTA: Sure, ad absolutely. And I think that's what Joe Lieberman and Al Gore will be doing this week. They present very stark differences with the Republican Party, with the way that George W. Bush wants to lead this country: stark differences on Medicare, stark differences on Social Security, stark differences on education and the other important issue. And I think what they need to do is lay that case out to the American people and have the American people judge: Do they want to continue down this path, and build on progress and prosperity, or do they want to take a different path and veer back to the late 1980s and early 1990s.
GREENFIELD: An unrelated question about Mrs. Clinton. After the health care failure, she kind of made it a point to say, no, I'm going to take a somewhat more traditional role. And that was very much put up front and center, put our front and center. Now, in her Senate campaign, she's saying, actually, I had a very big role to play in the White House decision-making, but for fear of a backlash we didn't talk about it.
You were there. Sort this out for us.
PODESTA: Sure. I think she's been a tremendous advocate for women and children, working women in this country, around the world. But she's, I think first and foremost, been an advocate for children, and I think she'll have a chance to talk about that tonight. That's a lifelong commitment. She's done it in the White House. She's been there on Family Medical Leave and the Children Health Insurance Program.
So I think that she does have a record there, and I think she'll lay it out before the people of America and the voters of New York. GREENFIELD: Bernie.
SHAW: The White House chief of staff before he gets even busier later on in this convention tonight. Thanks for joining us.
PODESTA: Thanks, Bernie.
SHAW: You're welcome.
And now that we're done talking with John Podesta, you can chat with him online. Just log onto our Web site at CNN.com/chat.
WOODRUFF: And now, we turn to our Jeff Greenfield on the tone of this convention and the tone of the presidential campaign, Jeff.
GREENFIELD: Thank you. You know, of all the sins a modern politician can commit, none apparently is worse than "going negative." The word itself has a "negative" connotation. It's kind of like "polluter" or "child molester." And it provides a very handy response to criticism, whether accurate or not. Don't explain yourself. Just recoil in distaste at a "negative attack."
So, two questions: First, is politics more negative today than in days past? And second, what exactly is wrong with negative campaigning?
The answer to the first question is easy: Compared to days past, we're at a tea party.
GREENFIELD (voice-over): Would anyone today say of Thomas Jefferson as the president of Yale University did in 1804 that his re- election would make our wives and daughters the victims of legalized prostitution? In 1824, opponents charged that John Quincy Adams while envoy to Russia procured women for the czar. His opponent, Andrew Jackson, was accused of bigamy and murder.
When Lincoln ran for re-election in 1864, he was accused of joking about the Civil War dead.
Does 1884 sound like a more genteel time? Really? Grover Cleveland had to acknowledge that he fathered a child out of wedlock. His opponent, James G. Blane, was dubbed "the continental liar from the state of Maine." It's a lot tougher than "risky tax scheme," isn't it?
The rawest sort of anti-Catholic charges were hurled at Al Smith in 1928, and 20 years later Harry Truman compared Wall Street tycoons to the fascists recently defeated in World War II.
GREENFIELD: And we haven't even touched on the use of blatant racial fear-mongering in southern politics and elsewhere in at least the first two-thirds of the 20th century. I'm sorry, but compared to the good old days, terms like "restore integrity to the White House" or "the people, not the powerful," do not even move the needle on negativity. If anything, they're too mealy-mouthed to mean much of anything.
And there's one last point to make: What's wrong with negativity? I don't mean personal assaults or distorting a record or vicious whispering campaigns, I mean looking at an opponent's public life, financial behavior, voting record, decision-making, and telling voters what's wrong with it and letting the other guy do the same. I know all elections are about the future, not the past, but the past is a pretty good way to figure out what somebody's likely to do in the future. And answering attacks is a pretty fair test of leadership, as well.
FDR once said, "I'm an old campaigner and I love a good fight." So as the refs say in the boxing ring, no low blows, no rabbit punches, but come out fighting.
WOODRUFF: Indeed. And we'll keep that in mind until the election day.
GREENFIELD: Oh, you're positive, not negative?
WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much.
GREENFIELD: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, George W. Bush in the public opinion polls. Our Bill Schneider on why pollsters don't agree on the size of Bush's lead.
SHAW: Beneath this Hollywood sign known around the world, and not too far away from it, much is happening at the Democratic National Convention. And as this convention begins in the hall, Vice President Al Gore lags behind his Republican opponent in the polls. But the size of that gap varies from one poll to the next.
Joining us now, Bill Schneider.
What do the latest polls show?
SCHNEIDER: Well, Bernie, the polls are all over the place. They are bouncing off the walls. Take a look: CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, Bush leads by 16; CNN/"Time", 14; "NEWSWEEK," Bush by 10; Fox News, Bush by 6; and NBC News/"Wall Street Journal," Bush leading by just 3.
What is going on here? All those polls show Bush ahead, but is it a 16-point blowout or is it a 3-point squeaker. This, of course, is a volatile time. Each candidate has just named his running mate and we're right in the middle of the conventions. Can we make some sense of this mess? Well, yes, we can. The polls differ, really, in two important way. One, do they report results for all registered voters or do they screen for the people most likely to vote? That makes a difference. Two, is the vote question the first thing people are asked, or is it asked after questions about President Clinton's record, like, Do you approve of the way he's doing his job? How do you think things are going in the country? That's what poll takers call "question order effect," and it makes a difference.
SHAW: Why are these polls different?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I can answer that: Polls that screen for likely voters show a larger lead for Bush. The higher the turnout, the closer the race gets. If turnout is what we usually expect, which is about half of all voting-age Americans, then Bush does have a double-digit lead right now. Also, people's first instinct is to vote for Bush. Remind them of Clinton's record and how things are going in the country and you'll get more people to vote for Al Gore, which is what this convention is all about.
So where does the race stand right now? Bush is leading if turnout is what we usually expect and if people vote their first instinct, which is what we expect. Democrats have to use this convention to remind voters of the Clinton-Gore administration record and to get them to change that first instinct -- Bernie.
SHAW: OK, Bill Schneider -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And joining us now, Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times."
You have talked with both Governor George W. Bush and President Clinton just in the past two days. Done a lot of flying over the...
RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Done a lot of flying, yes.
WOODRUFF: ... western part of the United States. Ron, they have fairly different views of the last eight years, right?
BROWNSTEIN: Boy, when John Podesta said before that they want to ask, Are you better off than you were eight years ago? that's a debate that both of these men seem really eager to begin. When I interviewed Governor Bush, he went much further even than he did at the Republican convention, which went further than they did in the primaries in basically arguing, not only were the last eight years an ethical failure, but, in effect, that the Clinton administration had coasted through prosperity and had not solved a whole series of major problems facing the country.
He -- you know, he went on to say that, you know, that people will ask -- people will say, well, the economy is better, yes, but prosperity hasn't spread through all parts of the country. The education system isn't better, they didn't deal with Social Security and Medicare, they didn't deal with the military.
The president, when I spoke with him, is more than eager to pick up this debate, as I think most Democrats are. They are very eager to have a debate about whether the country is better off now than it was when Governor Bush's father left the White House, because, right now, Al Gore is not getting credit among voters satisfied with the country's direction. That's one of the preeminent dynamics of this election, Judy, that people who are happy with the way things are going are still voting for change.
WOODRUFF: But you're saying Bush didn't go -- went further with you...
WOODRUFF: ... and we can expect the Republicans to go further in their criticism in the coming campaign.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, it's striking. I mean, I think it is striking that he is arguing that, in effect, you know, as I said, the country is not really better off because all of these other problems have not been addressed. And, you know, Clinton wants to say -- you know, Clinton's argument -- and I'm sure we'll hear it tonight -- is that the Republicans are saying, in effect, that all of this happened by accident, and he wants to make the case that not only about the past, but about the future. Because what he wants to argue is that the choices that the Democrats made, that he made, have been key to this prosperity and other positive social trends, and that Bush would represent, I think, changing those choices and thus risking going back to some of the earlier developments.
WOODRUFF: So that being the case, how persuasive are the president's defenses of own administration?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think, you know, in a lot of these areas -- I mean, this is ultimately what the American people are going to have to decide -- did these decisions matter? Did the crime bill of '94 and the funds to hire more police officers help reduce the crime rate, as Clinton would argue? Did the economic plan, in particular, in '93, the deficit reduction plan, how critical was that in the economic gains of the '90s?
As I said, I mean, if you look out in the polling, one of the central dynamics is that people are satisfied with the economy, satisfied with the way the country is going more generally. They're not voting for Gore in nearly the numbers that we've seen in the past, and clearly the administration, Clinton, has to -- and Gore, both -- have to try to get more credit from voters, not only for what's happened but, again, making the case that their direction will continue those positive trends in the future.
WOODRUFF: You were asking President Clinton to respond to the criticisms from the Republicans at their convention, Ron. But it's not going to be President Clinton for the next two and a half months...
WOODRUFF: ... who's speaking out, right? Or did the president sound to you as if he's expecting to be part of the...
BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know it's funny...
WOODRUFF: ... debate?
BROWNSTEIN: ... because he said over and again that he understood he had to cede the limelight to Al Gore, and that process begins this week. And I'm sure he will do that. But it was also clear that he does see this election largely as referendum on both the good and the bad of the last eight years.
And I think he's very much hoping for a verdict from the American people that the positive accomplishments, the achievements, the positive trends, outweigh the scandal and the personal questions about him.
I think he's very committed and very incredibly engaged in this election. When I spoke with him, he sort of systematically rebutted every major argument the Republicans made even more emphatically, I thought, than I've heard Gore do.
WOODRUFF: Now, so what does that leave for Gore to do in this campaign? I mean, because, as you just said, we're going to only hear more of the same.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think -- I mean, that Gore ultimately -- I mean, I think what Clinton is doing is what Gore ultimately has to do. He has to make this consequential. He has to make the American people believe that their decisions produced what everybody acknowledged are basically good times in the country, and that the choice in 2000 will affect whether or not those good times continue.
I mean, right now, if you ask people what you want to do in the surplus, in polling -- and our poll, for example, is coming out tomorrow -- most people prefer Gore's approach over Bush's. But I don't think they see it as ultimately that consequential as really going down either of these roads might really endanger the economy.
The stakes don't seem that high. Raising the stakes in the election was a principal argument for Clinton in the interview, and certainly for the was important for Clinton in the interview and certainly for the Democrats here all week.
WOODRUFF: All right. Ron Brownstein, "The Los Angeles Times." Thanks very much.
BROWNSTEIN: Sure, thank you.
WOODRUFF: Great to see you, thanks.
And much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.
SHAW: Still ahead: overcoming the vice presidential obstacle.
SCHNEIDER: Vice President George Bush did it in 1988. Can Bush be a model for Al Gore? SHAW: Bill Schneider on Gore's task and how it compares to 1988.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: It's been an experience and a privilege of a lifetime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: The first lady thanks supporters as she looks ahead to tonight's speech and her New York campaign.
SHAW: Jeff Greenfield on "the comeback kid" and his detractors, as the president prepares to take the stage.
SHAW: At this Democratic National Convention, Al Gore and his party are planning to put great emphasis on the future. But, for Gore, there are some lessons to be learned from the not-so distant past.
We're rejoined now by Bill Schneider -- Bill.
SCHNEIDER: Bernie, every vice president who runs for president has exactly the same problem: he has to show voters he's his own man because the job of a vice president is to be somebody else's man. Vice president George Bush did it in 1998. Can Bush be a model for Al Gore?
SCHNEIDER: After eight years, the voters are always ready for change. President Reagan knew that in 1988.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now we hear talk that it's time for a change. Well, ladies and gentlemen, another friendly reminder: we are the change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Gore knows that too.
VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm presenting an agenda that's as different as the one that Bill Clinton and I presented in 1993, as the year 2001 will be from that time, eight years earlier.
SCHNEIDER: But Gore faces a bigger problem than Bush faced in 1988. Look at the personal favorability ratings of the two presidents. The Republicans intend to make that an issue this year.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: If Vice President Gore wants to say "I'm different from president Clinton," let him explain how.
SCHNEIDER: You've heard of the Texas two-step? Gore has to do the Tennessee two-step: embrace the Clinton record and distance himself from Clinton's values. The de-Clintonization of the Democratic Party is already underway. That's why Gore picked Joe Lieberman as his running mate and why President Clinton is making a point of sayings like this.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And surely no fair-minded person would blame him for any mistake that I made.
SCHNEIDER: It even explains why Democratic leaders reacted so hysterically to representative Loretta Sanchez's plan to hold a fund raiser at the Playboy mansion, because the image of Democrats partying at the Playboy mansion didn't fit the de-Clintonization plan at all. But in the end, it is the responsibility of the vice president to make the case for himself. In 1988, Bush argued for continuity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE BUSH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you have to change horses in midstream, doesn't it make sense to switch to one who's going the same way?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Not a bad argument, say the Democrats this year.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), VICE PRES. CANDIDATE: If you have to change horses in midstream, doesn't it make sense to get on the one that's going in the right direction?
SCHNEIDER: In 1988, Bush defined his own agenda, one slightly different from Reagan's.
G. BUSH: I want a kinder and gentler nation.
SCHNEIDER: Gore intends to do that.
GORE: And I'm putting forward my own vision of the future.
In 1988, Bush showed he was a tough guy.
G. BUSH: And I'll say to them: read my lips, no new taxes.
SCHNEIDER: Gore can do that too.
GORE: I'd like to have your support, because I want to fight for you.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: And in 1988, Bush was tested under fire. He had to defend his pick for vice president against a howling press mob. Gore would very much like to do that too, but he hasn't gotten the chance. A crisis that tests his leadership could help him finally step away from Clinton, but you know, it's kind of hard to order up a crisis in a campaign -- Bernie.
SHAW: Bill Schneider, press mob -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Well, Al Gore's effort to separate himself from the president may be further complicated by a certain Democratic senate candidate from New York. Hillary Rodham Clinton will be in the spotlight at this convention tonight. And for a preview of her remarks, here is CNN's Frank Buckley, who's covering Mrs. Clinton's senate campaign.
H. CLINTON: ... so much, good morning!
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An energetic Hillary Clinton was up for a speech at the New York delegation breakfast meeting, hours before her prime-time speech before the Democratic National Convention.
H. CLINTON: And I will have a chance to thank the American people for the extraordinary eight years that my husband, my daughter and I have enjoyed. It's been an experience and a privilege of a lifetime.
BUCKLEY: Aides say Mrs. Clinton will also speak about the successes of the Clinton administration.
H. CLINTON: If America liked the Clinton-Gore administration, they'll love the Gore-Lieberman administration.
BUCKLEY: Mrs. Clinton has been making the rounds of Democratic Party caucuses and Empire State events: some New York Democrats saying Mrs. Clinton should use her speech to outline a vision for the future.
SHELDON SILVER (D), NEW YORK ASSEMBLY SPEAKER: This is a chance for her to step out on her own, and say: "I am here, I am proud to have been the first lady. I am running to be a member of the United States Senate from New York. I will call the shots the way I see them."
BUCKLEY: Firing a shot at Mrs. Clinton today, her Republican opponent, Rick Lazio, appearing before a Planet Hollywood in New York, challenging her to a ban on soft money.
REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: That's the reason why she's out there. She's raising soft money, big, fat-cat donors out in Hollywood.
She may have something in common with those people. I don't know. I'd rather have things in common with New Yorkers. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome our first lady.
BUCKLEY: Tonight, Mrs. Clinton will be focused on firing up Democrats wherever they may be, but especially those who are New Yorkers.
H. CLINTON: And the right choice is to keep going forward together, and I thank you for your help and look forward to winning with you in November. Thank you all very much.
BUCKLEY (on camera): The first lady's speech comes as the president transitions out of office, passing the baton to his vice president and to his wife, who hopes someday to be called Senator Clinton.
Frank Buckley, CNN, Los Angeles.
WOODRUFF: Mrs. Clinton will deliver her convention speech after a tribute to Democratic women already serving in the U.S. Senate and shortly before her husband steps up to the podium. We'll carry Mrs. Clinton's remarks live on CNN. She is scheduled to speak tonight at around 10:05 Eastern, 7:05 Pacific.
And just ahead, Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook take a look at the presidential match-up and the electoral college outlook.
WOODRUFF: The Democratic National Convention under way behind us for a little more than our an hour and 15 minutes now. Our Frank Sesno is down on the floor with some thoughts from a delegate who, I guess, watched the Republican convention and what they said about diversity -- Frank.
SESNO: Well, Judy, of course in Philadelphia, the Republican convention, there was a great deal of talk from the podium about inclusion. On the floor, however, about 4 percent, just under 4 percent African-American. Here at the Democratic convention, 20 percent.
But we're standing with Big C. Mason now. He is from Atlanta, Georgia. This is your fourth convention.
BIG C. MASON, GEORGIA DELEGATE: Right.
SESNO: And I want to ask you very directly, sir, whether tat Republican convention, those appeals from the podium for that party to be more inclusive, to include more African-Americans and others is persuasive to you and causes you some thoughts that is going to become more competitive.
MASON: Well, yes. I mean it will. But the proof is in the pudding to see what the Republicans already done. All the bill that you see have come through for working people, they have never voted for them. They always turn them down. And now just overnight, you want to get them converted now and say you're going to do all these things and everything will look good.
It looked like a smokescreen. It's a smokescreen to fool the people that -- say, come on and vote, African-Americans. We need you, we need you, we need you.
But education, we have had education, to educate kids, to feed families, Social Security started under Democrats, better jobs started under Democrats for blacks. And also, they could buy more homes...
SESNO: So you didn't find it persuasive?
SESNO: Did not find it persuasive.
MASON: I didn't find it persuasive.
SESNO: All right.
MASON: I found it was a smokescreen.
SESNO: Big C. Mason, thanks very much. One view from the floor -- Bernie.
SHAW: Thank you, Frank, and before this day and the week are over we'll be getting lots of views from that floor.
Al Gore, of course, hoping to use his nominating convention here in Los Angeles to improve his prospects nationwide and especially in important swing states.
For an update on the race for electoral votes, we're joined by CNN political analyst Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook.
Stu, Charlie, 84 days until November 7th election day. How stands the electoral map?
STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Bernie, I think that we have to remember -- and we've heard all about these national polls from Bill and from other people -- that this is really a race state by state. And when you look at presidential performance over the past few elections, you see that the Republican base is simply bigger than the Democratic base. Al Gore has a tougher mountain to climb.
I went back and I looked at the '92 and '96 results, and there are a couple of ways to cut them. If you look at which states went Republican in both elections, you get 136 electoral votes. If you look at the worst showing of the two years was 159. The Republican electoral base is between 135 and 160 electoral votes not counting -- not counting states like Colorado, Georgia and Florida so that the Republicans begin with a lot more. The Democratic base is about maybe 110 electoral votes. CHARLIE COOK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Stu is right that it's very instructive to look at past voting patterns, because right now, When you have a week when the polls are showing Bush ahead by anywhere -- by as few as three points or as many as 16 points, the national polls are so volatile. They're dancing around. People would be better off waiting until after Labor Day, until both parties have had their conventions, their bounces and everything's kind of settled down.
But when you look at the states on an individual basis, you know, some real patterns do emerge, combining the state level polls with past election results.
SHAW: Well, that 130 to 160 Republican spread, is that for Al Gore surmountable?
ROTHENBERG: Oh, sure, sure, because, look, that -- the Republicans are only still halfway to their goal of 270 electoral votes. So the Republicans still have to win a lot of key state like Ohio, and this year certainly either Michigan or Pennsylvania.
But just -- just remember that there is a bias in the electoral college. Years ago, we used to talk about a lock, a Republican lock on the electoral college. Clearly that fell away when the Democrats won two-straight presidential. But that shouldn't obscure the fact that the Republicans have an advantage going into any election.
COOK: What typically happens is that Republican win a lot of very small Western states by very, very big margins. And so they're just locked into the Republican column while Democrats tend to win bigger states by somewhat smaller margins. And so the Democratic edge, even when they win, tends to be more fragile than a Republican edge -- advantage is when they win.
SHAW: Looking at the races out across the country, will President Clinton have any affect on congressional races or Senate races?
COOK: I don't think so. I think this race, the presidential race is going to be so close, down to two or three, four percentage points, that I don't think there's going to be a lot of coattails either direction.
I mean, I'm not a big coattail believer, that theory anyway. But what -- some -- what can happen is if one presidential candidate just starts running away with the race, what can happen is the other party's voters become disillusioned, they don't see a reason to vote, and so they just stay home, which hurts the ticket all up and down. But I don't think you're going to see that this time.
ROTHENBERG: Generally, I'm with Charlie on this one, but I would add this: that if the party bases do firm up, if we see that Bush is just driving the Republican vote, you might see some districts that are held by Democrats but are basically Republican, Republican- leaning, they come under heavy pressure. And you might find some rural conservative voters who voted Democratic earlier who might swing back to the Republican column this time.
On the other hand, if the Democrats get their base vote out to a couple of districts where Republicans are sitting, well, they might be vulnerable.
SHAW: Very quickly, Stu, Charlie, starting with you, Stu, give us a snapshot. Where is this race, in your judgment, right now?
ROTHENBERG: Oh, I think that Bush has a narrow lead. When we come out of this Democratic convention, he'll have a narrow lead. And the Democrats tell me that they need the race to be even come Labor Day. They don't expect it to be even the end of this weekend, but they need it to close soon. I would look at states like West Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin right on because these are Democratic states where, in the most recent polling, Bush is ahead. Gore needs to catch up and start to lead in those states before we can really believe that he's going to win the White House.
COOK: My hunch is that Gore gets a big bounce out of this convention, it pulls him up to almost even, and then as things settle down approaching Labor Day, Bush sort of nudges up by, say, 3, 4, 5 points, something like that, so that we go into September and go into the debates on October 3 probably with Bush up by 4, 5, 6 points, which is basically where this race has been, for the most part, since April.
SHAW: And that is almost within the margin of error.
SHAW: OK, Charlie Cook, Stu Rothenberg, political analysts, thanks very much.
SHAW: You're welcome.
And when we return, Jeff Greenfield's thoughts as we approach this first evening's session of these Democratic delegates at their convention here in Los Angeles.
WOODRUFF: And joining us once again with some final thoughts, our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield.
GREENFIELD: So, what does Bill Clinton have in common with FDR and Ronald Reagan? They all drove their opponents absolutely nuts -- FDR and that phony smile, that actor Ronald Reagan. With Clinton, it's like Wile E. Coyote: Every time his opponents think they've got him, they find themselves sailing right off the cliff. I mean, think what Clinton's adversaries have gone through for seven and a half years.
In '92, after Gennifer Flowers and the draft, they thought he'd be finished by New Hampshire. Less than a week after his inaugural, "CROSSFIRE" co-host Pat Buchanan proclaimed him a "one-termer." Even some Democrats thought that after the party lost the Congress in '94. And the day the Monica story broke, they -- and a fair number of journalists -- were backing the moving van up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Who lost his job? Newt Gingrich.
Then tonight, President Clinton will stand bathed in the adoring cheers of the delegates with a thumping job approval rating and a chance that, by November, his protege, Al Gore, will be in the White House and his wife will be in the Senate.
So, tonight, if you know someone who spent eight years waiting for Bill Clinton to self-destruct, send them a really good bottle of Maalox. They'll need it.
WOODRUFF: Did you bring the Maalox?
GREENFIELD: No, we're objective journalists. We just -- we may need it by Thursday just from the sheer amount of stuff we're doing.
WOODRUFF: Or even by Wednesday. All right.
SHAW: With a chaser on the side.
WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield, thanks, thanks. All right.
SHAW: Or a chaser.
SHAW: I'm supposed to say that's all for this edition -- this convention edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But, of course, you can go online for convention news all the time at cnn.com/election 2000.
WOODRUFF: And Bernie and I and the rest of the CNN convention team will be back in one hour with live coverage of the evening session.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
SHAW: And I'm Bernard Shaw. A special edition of "WORLD TODAY" is next with White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart among the guests.
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