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Inside Politics

Candidates Make Final Preparations for First Presidential Debate

Aired October 2, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You wait until tomorrow night. Tomorrow night in the debates, you will hear him say, oh, we can't do that. You know why? Because he trusts government, and I trust people.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush uses a traditionally Democratic state as a sounding board for his debate themes.

Al Gore uses the beach as a backdrop to try to show he's calm and cool before tomorrow's face-off.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Bush and Al Gore come into Boston with almost mirror-image problems.


WOODRUFF: Candy Crowley previews the candidates' debate hurdles and hopes.

And are pundits going overboard about the debate's importance? We'll check the hype against history.

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

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

For Al Gore and George W. Bush, this day before their first debate is all about preparation and expectations. En route to the debate host city of Boston, Bush held a rally in West Virginia, where polls show the race is close, despite the state's tradition of voting Democratic.

Gore took a walk on the beach in Florida, but for the most part he stayed out of public view, preparing for tomorrow's showdown by holding mock debates. But perhaps the most important backdrop for the big face off is this: Our daily tracking poll shows Bush and Gore are dead even, after more than a week of being in an actual or a virtual tie.

Our Candy Crowley is at the debate site already in Boston, and she's got with more on the final countdown to tomorrow's face-off.


CROWLEY: The stakes are in the numbers: 36 days until the vote, a 45-45 dead heat race, up to 80 million people watching, an audience the likes of which neither has ever seen. You have to ask what's at stake?

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think there are a lot of important milestones in the camp, but clearly this one, coming five weeks before the election, at a time when many Americans -- the Olympics are behind us, many Americans are now looking at the candidates and trying to make up their mind. It's a very important night.

CROWLEY: Everything's at stake -- or not.

MARK FABIANI, GORE DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Sometimes the debates are pivotal, other times they're not. And you never know until they actually happen. That's what makes them exciting to watch.

CROWLEY: OK, put it this way: Everything's at stake, and nothing might happen.

If history holds true, the evening will be equally as much about policy as about the personalities of those who propose them. George Bush and Al Gore come into Boston with almost mirror-image problems. Bush needs to show that the engaging guy you might like to invite for dinner understands government policy, that a guy who occasionally mangles the English language can handle the workings of Washington. In short, George Bush has to show that he's ready for the job.

HUGHES: He has a comprehensive agenda that he's ready for a better America. And I think he needs to outline that agenda but also show that he's got the judgment and the sense of humor and the convictions that people want to have in their next president.

CROWLEY: Bush strategists hope voters will see a man with, quote, "clarity of vision," with core principles that don't change or bend with the wind. Translation: Bush will try to frame Gore as a political animal ready to change positions at the drop of a poll.

For the vice president, the chore is to show that behind his wonk-like love of policy detail is a human being that can be in command without being condescending, that can be presidential without being remote.


CROWLEY: In short, the Gore campaign says the man people see tomorrow night is the man they saw and liked at the convention, a man who can talk about issues with passion. If history holds true, a candidate does not so much win a debate as his opponent loses it. So rule No. 1 tomorrow night, if you can't win, don't lose.

Back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley. And we're going to come back to you in just a moment, so stay right there.

Our latest polling shows 63 percent of Americans say they are very likely to watch the first Bush-Gore debate. But many of them have already made up their minds.

Our John King reports on the people the candidates will mostly be playing to tomorrow night, the undecideds.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like the candidates, these horses run through a few rehearsals before the big show, a chance to shake the jitters and test a few moves before the big crowd shows up.

Robin Steinmatz keeps things in order around this Ohio horse farm and promises to be watching when the candidates for president stage their first face-to-face showdown this week.

She's undecided: likes Governor Bush's support of private school vouchers, but is more in line with Vice President Gore when it comes to health care.

ROBIN STEINMATZ: My mom's almost 70-years-old, and I know that just the other day we got another letter in the mail that her insurance will no longer carry her prescriptions. So now we have to start paying for that. And that's just taxing on a 70-year-old person on a pension.

KING: Morning fog is a fall trademark in these southern Ohio River towns. With little more than a month to go before Election Day, most have already decided who to root for.

BARB PHILLIPS: I'm going to vote for Bush, and strictly for a very silly reason, I feel like. But it's just because I wasn't happy with all that went on in the Clinton administration. I felt like it was just a joke, and so I really, maybe unfairly to Mr. Gore, but I don't want them back in office.

KING: Most of the parents at this weekend fair in conservative suburban Cincinnati were Bush backers. The contest in Ohio and across the country is a dead heat. The debates could be the turning point, and Sophie Summers hopes the Texas governor warms to the challenge.

SOPHIE SUMMERS: I think that if he can keep just telling what he plans on doing and what he plans on running in his office, he will be a whole lot better.

KING: Pre-debate polls show just a tiny slice of the electorate still up for grabs.

(on camera): Those who say they are undecided tend to fall into two camps: voters who are just now tuning in, and those who say they've been following the campaign closely but are torn between the vice president and Governor Bush. Almost all say the upcoming series of debates will play a big role in helping them make up their mind.

(voice-over): Undecided voters like Mark Bixler could prove critical in such a close race, if they actually vote. The 36-year-old lumber salesman insists he will.

MARK BIXLER: If I don't cast a vote, I have no reason to -- no reason to complain. And that's a lot of wasted bar time.

KING: Bixler says he's still waiting for that middle-class tax cut Bill Clinton promised in 1992, doesn't think much of either major party candidate this year, and hopes the debates turn attention to issues often ignored in everyday campaigning.

BIXLER: The thing that's going on in Yugoslavia right now, nothing's really been said by Gore or Bush regarding that issue, which I think is very important. I think that's the next powder keg to go up, and it hasn't been addressed by these guys.

KING: Rose Mallory works the counter in a small-town country- western store. She favors Bush on issues like taxes and gun control, but the governor's stock fell when he criticized President Clinton for tapping into the country's emergency oil reserves.

ROSE MALLORY: To me it seemed like a good thing to do, to try to help the people make the gas lower. But he wasn't for that.

ERIC SIEMER: Go ahead and pull the tire off.

KING: Bike shop owner and one-time Perot voter Eric Siemer laments there will be just two candidates on stage.

SIEMER: Nader's got a lot of good things to say. So does Buchanan. So we -- I really don't think it's fair that these guys are not allowed to participate in this presidential debate.

KING: And if he could ask a question?

SIEMER: I would ask them, why don't they keep their promises after the election.

KING: He's guessing the answers would fall flat.


KING: Now, if you looked at the polling, six out of 10 of these late decision-makers are women. These are voters who tend to be under 40, working in hourly jobs. Many of them voted for Ross Perot either in 1992 or 1996. And as important as these debates will be, if you look at 1996 exit polling, one in 10 Americans made up their minds as they entered the polls on Election Day -- Judy. WOODRUFF: All right, John King, and we're going to bring Candy Crowley back in.

Candy, what about those people, the six out of 10 undecided who are women? In particular, what is Governor Bush going to have to say to them? He knows -- they know who the undecideds are?

CROWLEY: They do, and one of the things they will emphasize tomorrow night, as he has, actually, throughout the campaign, is education. They think that is an issue that appeals to that bracket of women.

He also will come out very heavy, as he has in the past couple of weeks, on his tax cut. He believes, despite what the Gore camp thinks, that this is an issue that he can make, put on his side, that he believes saying, look, I want everyone to have a tax cut will have resonance out there and will appeal to those women he believes would like to have the money to spend, rather than, as Bush says, giving it to Gore to spend.

WOODRUFF: And, John, what about the people to the Gore camp, to the woman who said, I'm just not going to vote for Al Gore. It may not be fair, but he was a part of an administration that I thought, because of the president's personal behavior, was a joke. Have the Gore people just given up on those people who pretty much have come to that conclusion?

KING: Not entirely, Judy. They believe some women have made up their mind and will not come back on the values and character issues. But on others -- and the Gore campaign has tested this in very detailed ways in focus group -- they believe the way to get those women is to move away from character straight to policy questions.

So look for the vice president to talk a lot about health care, to challenge Governor Bush's voucher support of private school vouchers, and to try also to get into much more of a policy argument. They believe that is Al Gore's strength, although they do acknowledge they have to be careful. They don't want the vice president to be too aggressive. They want him to come across as somebody likable, and they're using the Democratic convention as their model as they head into these key debates.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King and Candy Crowley, and both of you, of course, will be in Boston tomorrow night. Thank you both.

Chances are you will hear a lot in the next 24 hours or so about how important the presidential debates will be this year.

Well, our Bill Schneider's here to put it all in context -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Judy, do presidential debates make a difference? The answer is yes, sometimes, but not as much as you might think.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The first televised debates were in 1960, and everyone knows they made a difference. John F. Kennedy was widely regarded as a lightweight next to the more experienced Vice President Richard Nixon. By besting Nixon in the debates, Kennedy closed the stature gap and went on to win the narrowest presidential victory in American history.

Sixteen years later, the stature gap was once again an issue between incumbent President Gerald Ford and the largely unknown and inexperienced Jimmy Carter. But this time, it was the incumbent who closed the stature gap. President Ford shocked the pundits with his premature liberation of Poland.


GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union.


SCHNEIDER: Ford lost that debate big time and went on to lose the election small time.

In 1980, voters knew they did not want to rehire President Carter, but many of them were nervous about electing Ronald Reagan: too old, too extreme. Reagan used his one debate with the president to reassure voters that he wasn't dangerous.


RONALD REAGAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you better off than you were four years ago?


SCHNEIDER: Voters saw the reasonable, reassuring Reagan, and the floodgates burst, swamping Carter at the polls.

In 1960, 1976 and 1980, debates were crucial. Since then, debates haven't mattered as much. That's because forces in the election tended to favor one side, like 1984, when it was morning in America. The debates almost mattered when President Reagan's performance in his first debate with Walter Mondale raised concerns about the president's sharpness.


REAGAN: No, I might as well just go with...

QUESTION: You want to go with your -- OK. You want to wait?

REAGAN: I don't think so. I'm all confused now.


SCHNEIDER: Viewers thought Mondale won that debate, but when they met again two weeks later, Reagan recovered with a quip.


REAGAN: I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.



SCHNEIDER: And Mondale lost his opportunity.

In 1988, the forces still favored the incumbents. Vice President Bush painted Michael Dukakis as outside the mainstream, and the debates confirmed that picture.


GOV. MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life.


SCHNEIDER: In 1992, the economy was terrible. Forces favored the challenger. But which challenger? The debates raised Ross Perot's credibility...


ROSS PEROT (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll be down in the trenches, under the hood, working on fixing the old car to get it back on the road.


SCHNEIDER: ... and lowered President Bush's. Clinton ended up winning, but he had to share the anti-incumbent vote with Perot.

By 1996, the economy had recovered. Bob Dole tried to make an issue of President Clinton's character, but it was hard to do that in a town hall forum with Clinton staring right at you. The debates confirmed it: Dole couldn't get into the game.


SCHNEIDER: So when do debates matter? When the forces are not one-sided, either for or against the incumbent party, and when the challenger faces a stature gap with the president or the vice president. And that hasn't happened since 1980. Well, guess what? It's happening this year -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

And still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, the issues in the presidential race: from the make-up of the Supreme Court to suburban voters and the impact of sprawl. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In Washington today, the Supreme Court opened its fall session. Outside, demonstrators from abortion rights groups voiced their concerns over the future of the court under a George W. Bush administration.

Pat Neal takes a closer look at the court, the election, and the politics at issue.


PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Late last term, by a slim 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court struck down a state law prohibiting so-called "partial birth abortion." Abortion rights advocates say that proves a women's right to choose an abortion is fragile and will be determined the day a new president is elected.

PAUL BUTLER, LAW PROFESSOR: There are likely to be a number of vacancies on the Supreme Court in the next four years. So either Al Gore or George Bush will get to appoint the men and women who are going to profoundly change the course of law.

NEAL: Activists point out two of the three eldest justices are part of a slim abortion rights majority on the court. Liberal John Paul Stevens is 80, while moderate Sandra Day O'Connor is 70. That's why Gore often brings up the future of the court as a critical reason to vote.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Who we are as a country will be profoundly shaped. Rights that are now taken for granted could be taken away.

NEAL: George W. Bush, on the other hand, rarely mentions the high court. In order to reach out to women and independent voters while not losing his base of support among conservatives, he couches his discussion in careful terms.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There will be no litmus test except for whether or not the judges will strictly interpret the Constitution.

SCOTT REED, GOP STRATEGIST: Nobody expects everybody to have a litmus test on anything. Those are people that are rigid, and what Bush is attempting to do is to reach out to the middle.

NEAL: But there are clues to Bush's thinking. He has said his favorite justices are the two most conservative: Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. But beyond abortion, analysts point to the hot issues facing the court this term to illustrate how broadly the court's rulings affect the lives of Americans.

The court may set limits on the scope of two major environmental laws, the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. It will assess a South Carolina law as to whether the results of pregnant women's drug tests can be handed over to police. And it will address both privacy and search questions by deciding if roadblocks for random drug searches are constitutional.

PROTESTERS: They that labor, labor in vain.

NEAL: That's why extensive lobbying of both campaigns by special interest groups is in full force.

(on camera): Most Americans can't name or identify their Supreme Court justices, but they hold incredible power. Whereas the next president may only be in office for four years, his appointments could last a lifetime.

Pat Neal, CNN, the Supreme Court.


WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, as the candidates vie for the support of women and suburban voters, one group is taking a key environmental issue and tying it to immigration. The result: an ad campaign about urban sprawl that some are calling deceptive and even offensive.

Kate Snow now on the ads and the group behind them.



NARRATOR: Welcome to Loudoun County.


KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Loudoun County, Virginia is at ground zero in the war against sprawl. So when these ads started airing on local television last month, it was no surprise.


NARRATOR: Ten virgin acres, a freshwater stream, dozens of old- growth trees. What a great place to build a parking lot for the new highrise.


SNOW: But some were surprised by who paid for the ads -- FAIR -- the Federation for American Immigration Reform.


NARRATOR: Ask your elected officials if they think one million immigrants a year are too many.


SNOW: It's a new tactic for FAIR and three other groups that favor restrictions on immigration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NEGATIVE POPULATION GROWTH AD) NARRATOR: How would you feel about paving over the amber waves of grain?


SNOW: Together, they've spent about $1 million on newspaper, radio and TV ads in the Washington, D.C. market. Immigrant advocacy groups are outraged. They say the ads are meant to confuse voters by disguising anti-immigrant views.

FRANK SHARRY, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM: I think the ads are soft-peddling an extremist agenda. And what they're trying to do is draw people in with a soft pitch. But if you take a look at what their real agenda is, it is hard, it is ugly, and, quite frankly, it's very extreme.

SNOW: But FAIR argues there's a link between immigration and urban sprawl.

DAN STEIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FAIR: Controlling sprawl means controlling building. Population growth makes that more difficult. What causes population growth? Immigration.

SNOW: It's a statement many groups studying urban growth dispute. Despite the anti-sprawl message, the Sierra Club, Scenic America and others say they don't want help from immigration-reform groups.

DON CHEN, SMART GROWTH AMERICA: Identifying the real causes of sprawl is our top priority. And to distract the public-policy world away from the real issue is, I think, a mistake.

SNOW: FAIR admits it has seized on a politically hot issue.

STEIN: The issue resonates because this is an issue people care about. Immigration is directly related to it. We can't sit like ostriches with our heads in the sand any longer.

SNOW (on camera): The controversy over the ads in Washington may be a preview for a broader debate. FAIR says they're raising money to expand the sprawl ad campaign nationwide.

Kate Snow, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come:


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even a walk on the beach can get rough. Perhaps a metaphor for the debate?


WOODRUFF: Jonathan Karl on Al Gore. And our Jeanne Meserve is with George W. Bush on the eve of their first face-to-face debate.



KING: It's a question being asked across the South, especially in the states of Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.


WOODRUFF: John King on Al Gore's regional performance and the impact on his party's fight for control of Capitol Hill.

And later:


RONALD REAGAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you better off than you were four years ago?


WOODRUFF: Bruce Morton checks the highlight reel of televised debates gone by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: We will have more of this day's political news coming up. But now a look at some other top stories.

The United States is about to make a new push to stop the violence that has racked the Middle East for the past five days.

CNN's White House correspondent Major Garrett joins us with the very latest -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, significant development on the Middle East front: a senior U.S. official telling CNN that on Wednesday of this week, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, most likely in Paris, to discuss the situation in the region. And it is hoped -- at least this U.S. official told CNN -- that this offers a prospect to the end of the violence that has racked the region since Friday.

This has been topic No. 1 here at the White House today: all the president's top international-policy advisers working the phones furiously contacting all of their sources and all of their contacts, throughout the Palestinian Authority and with the Israeli government, in hopes of bringing an end to the violence, and also rebuilding a sense of trust, both between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and reasserting the U.S. role as a mediator, it is hoped -- at least, this U.S. official said -- in restarting the peace process there -- Judy. WOODRUFF: All right, Major Garrett at the White House, thanks very much.

And this footnote: Ariel Sharon, the Likud Party leader, whose visit to a sacred site in East Jerusalem touched off the latest round of violence: He will be a guest on CNN's "EARLY EDITION." That's at 7:00 a.m. Eastern, tomorrow.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns: reports on Bush and Gore preparing to go head-to-head tomorrow night.


WOODRUFF: You're looking at live pictures of the Historic Fanueil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, the site of tomorrow night's first face-off between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

It's 36 days until the election, but the Bush and Gore campaigns are engrossed today in a much more immediate concern: that debate, now less than 28 hours away. George W. Bush took some time out from his debate preparations to make a campaign stop designed to send Gore a message.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve traveled with Bush to West Virginia.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The rally began with a team of parachutists diving from the sky, and then George W. Bush dove into his opponent, Al Gore.

BUSH: We're five weeks away from changing Washington, D.C.

MESERVE: Bush is, figuratively speaking, putting a thumb in the eye of Al Gore by coming to West Virginia. It has voted Republican in a presidential contest only three times since the 1920s, but current polls here show a tight race.

BUSH: The people of West Virginia do not want four more years of Clinton-Gore.

MESERVE: West Virginia produces 17 percent of the country's coal, and Bush stood on a coal barge on the banks of the Ohio River to underline his plan to spend $2 billion over the next 10 years on research into cleaner coal technology.

BUSH: This is an administration that fears coal. They see coal as a threat. I see it as an opportunity to make us less dependent on big foreign oil.

MESERVE: Bush stressed the same themes he will in Tuesday's debate: tax cuts, education, prescription drug coverage, and Social Security. He offered one prediction about the debate: Gore's likely reaction to Bush's plan to create private Social Security investment accounts. BUSH: You wait until tomorrow night. Tomorrow night in the debates, you will hear him say, oh, we can't do that. You know why? Because he trusts government and I trust people. I want people to trust.

MESERVE (on camera): Bush won't head to Boston for the debate until Tuesday, but efforts to manipulate perceptions going into the debate have been going on for weeks. Monday, Bush's spokeswoman declared Al Gore the best debater in contemporary American politics. But in the same breath, she criticized his style as robotic, memorized and scripted.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Huntington, West Virginia.


WOODRUFF: Well, for his part, Al Gore lingered in Florida today to get in more debate practice time and a photo opportunity of his own.

Our Jonathan Karl is with Gore in Florida.


KARL (voice-over): Taking a break from his practice sessions with highly paid political professionals, Al Gore took a stroll with some of the amateurs the campaign brought to Florida. These Gore supporters from around the country, real people, as aides call them, have offered some advice as well.

WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Somebody else said he should smile more in the practice session, and I know on his walk on the beach this morning with a number of them, they have specific ideas on issues that they think their counterparts in their communities would respond to.

KARL: For most of the practice sessions, Gore has been sequestered solely with the political pros. They've advised him to keep positive, to use the debates as a chance to get his message out to the largest audience, by far, of the campaign.

But the campaign chairman says Gore is prepared to go on attack if hit first.

DALEY: This is not just a, you know, kind of a love-fest that's intended for people to sit down and say we agree on everything. The American people want to know where they differ, how they differ, and what the results of their programs will be affecting them.

So this is -- this is serious, important stuff. This isn't just kind of a walk on the beach here, no matter how beautiful it is.

KARL: And even a walk on the beach can get rough. As Gore took a stroll with his special advisers, attention temporarily turned to a battle between a seagull and a crab. Perhaps a metaphor for the debate? Gore saw part of the scene, but had not comment. Perhaps the vice president's most trusted adviser on hand is his daughter, Karenna.

KARENNA GORE SCHIFF, AL GORE'S DAUGHTER: He's really looking into all these policy options and details, and he's also just obviously getting comfortable with the format of having to say something in two minutes that you could really write a 100 pages on. So he's -- he's getting used to that and comfortable, and he's very confident.

KARL: Gore's aides are aware the debate may come down to one or two moments, a quip or a mistake or a gimmick. In past debates, Gore has tried to create such moments using props. Against Bill Bradley, for example, Gore pointed to an Iowa farmer to illustrate a point about flood relief.

Gore's advisers hint he may try something similar on Tuesday.

DALEY: He obviously has a tremendous number of stories of people that he's met along the way, and the fellow in Iowa was just one of them. But I'm sure there may be a moment like that.


KARL: Gore is right now over at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Marine Laboratory, engaged in his final practice session. Those real people, special advisers are not there. This is one strictly with the political pros. But Gore will have one more meeting with his special advisers later tonight before heading up to Boston for the debate tomorrow -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jonathan, is Gore getting any particular political mileage out of doing all of these debate preparations in the battleground state of Florida?

KARL: Well, absolutely. Gore's advisers have said if they can win here in Florida, that they can win the entire election. The race is locked in a statistical tie here in most polls. The Gore campaign says their internal polls actually shows them with a couple of point lead here in Florida.

So every day he's been here, he's been getting quite a bit of coverage in the local Florida media markets: free advertising the Gore campaign views that.

Also, by the way, those special advisers, those dozen people he has down here, all come from battleground states. And what the campaign has been doing is turning each one of them into media celebrities in their home towns, getting free media coverage back in those battleground states as well.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jonathan Karl, thanks very much.

And now we are joined by Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times." Ron, we just heard Bill Daley say this is not a love-fest, there are real differences here, they're going to focus on those differences. In fact, for all the talk about these guys are in the center, there are serious differences there.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": There are serious differences. They become sharper as the campaign goes on.

You saw on the spot when George Bush was talking in West Virginia, he was saying, I trust the people, my opponent trusts big government. Bush increasingly since Labor Day has tried to frame this as a traditional kind of conservative-liberal framework of Gore is the candidate of big government, I am the candidate moving power out of Washington toward people. Gore from his convention on, and indeed all year, has been trying to frame it in a very -- in a populist framework of Bush is for the rich and the powerful, I am with the people. In each case, sort of -- some people have called it a dueling populism here.

But the reality is that for all of the commonality they have on some issues, they do diverge importantly on key areas, and that's one of the thing the debate is going to remind people tomorrow night: There are real differences here.

WOODRUFF: Ron, help us. Let's take the candidates one by one. On George Bush's part, George W. Bush's part, what issues is it to his advantage to stress the differences between himself and Gore?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, Bush clearly wants to -- has to sell his tax cut. That is at the center of the domestic policy that he has put forward. It is the one that the polls he's had the most trouble winning support for. All year, even in the Republican primaries and the exit polls, in every major primary, a majority of Republican primary voters said they would prefer to use the money to pay down the debt.

So you have Bush talking about, about 60 percent of the anticipated operating budget surplus of the federal government going to a tax cut depending on whose estimate you use of the surplus. Gore is about 25 percent. It is a real key difference, perhaps the largest difference on the -- on sort of domestic policy, and one that I think Gore -- Bush has to do a better job of selling.

Also Social Security, which he mentioned there today, that is one where the debate seems to be much more evenly fought, surprisingly so. I think many people are surprised by how well Bush's proposal to partially privatize the system by diverting part of the payroll tax into individual accounts has held up in the polls. And that's another one where Gore, I think, is going to try very hard to raise concerns, especially with older voters.

WOODRUFF: And what about on Gore's part? What are the issues that it's to his advantage to stress and to say, I'm really in a different place here than Bush?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, judging by the polls, I mean, the core issue is the allocation of the surplus, you know. As I said, Bush's plan would put about 60 percent of the overall anticipated surplus into a tax cut. Now, that leaves Gore a lot more money to spend on things like education, providing health care for the uninsured, the size of the prescription drug benefit.

And I think that on issue after issue Bush is likely to make the argument that Bush is squandering this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that the surplus represents for a tax cut for the most affluent, and say, look, I have a plan that will benefit more people.

WOODRUFF: What does Gore say when Bush brings up, as one would assume he's bound to, this argument about, here we go again, another Democrat who want to spend your money?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, this is really -- this is the most interesting, I think, development over the last month, because so much of the whole new Democratic appeal that President Clinton devised and Gore is following was designed precisely to insulate Democrats from that charge.

I think what Gore is going to say is that he is trying to -- he's really trying to go at Bush from the left and the right simultaneously. On the one hand, not as big a tax cut and more spending. On the other hand, because the tax cut is so much smaller, Gore can say that he will pay off the national debt before Bush can say he will pay off the national debt. And traditionally, paying off the national debt has been something that appeals quite a bit to fiscal conservatives.

So the idea, I think, you know, Gore is to basically have a fiscal discipline shield. I mean, their calculation is that if you promise to balance the budget every year and pay down the debt, that the country will accept this new spending. Now, we'll see that proposition tested.

WOODRUFF: Well, conversely, how does Bush come back on that, assuming Gore makes the argument?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think what Bush is going to say is that the cost of Gore's spending is significantly higher than Gore has estimated, and as a result, he will not be able to fulfill his promise to pay down the debt.

The other thing that Bush, I think, is going to make an argument, one of his strongest arguments, whether in education, Medicare or Social Security. It's like Gore wants to put money into all systems without reforming them, because he's afraid of taking on Democratic constituencies. That clearly is another dividing line, especially on Social Security and Medicare, not so much on education.

But clearly on the entitlements, Bush is willing to countenance much bigger structural changes in these programs, some of which are not really clear to the public and may be more so after tomorrow.

WOODRUFF: Does Gore have a comeback on it? BROWNSTEIN: Well, Gore would basically argue that what Bush is really doing is shifting risk from government to individuals, and that if we use the surplus correctly we can shore up Medicare and Social Security without king structural changes.

The risk in Gore's approach is that it's obligating future presidents to put very large amounts of general revenue particularly into Social Security. And the question is whether those obligations can really be met in the future. And if not, what would have to happen? Benefit cuts or a payroll tax hike? That would be the Bush argument.

WOODRUFF: All right, well we're going to see it tomorrow night. I hope they explain it as well as you did.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, thanks.

WOODRUFF: Ron Brownstein, thanks very much. We'll see you tomorrow.

In Boston today, a demonstration against the exclusion of third- party candidates from the presidential debates had some historic flavor. In a scene reminiscent of the Boston Tea Party, protesters dumped television sets into the Boston Harbor. They charged that Americans will not get the whole story about the presidential race since Green Party candidate Ralph Nader and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan have been barred from the debates because of their low poll numbers.

But both Nader and Buchanan will appear tonight on CNN on "LARRY KING LIVE." That's at 9:00 Eastern.

Still ahead, struggling in the South: John King on the Gore campaign, south of the Mason-Dixon Line.


WOODRUFF: As Al Gore prepares for this first presidential debate, his campaign faces major challenges in his native South.

Our John King takes a closer look at the vice president's campaign and how it is affecting other races in the region.


KING (voice-over): Bluegrass is the beat of choice in Kentucky farm country. And it's not at all unusual to find a local Democrat a little out of step with the national party's dance card. Scotty Baesler, for example, isn't shy about talking up tobacco as he makes the rounds at the Lion's hall or chats with voters at chili suppers.


KING: Baesler owns a tobacco farm and doesn't think much of a federal aid program that is part of the government's crackdown on smoking.

BAESLER: It's like giving me a Band-Aid for my arm getting cut off. You know, we're hurting right here in Clark County and all around.

KING: Baesler held Kentucky's 6th District congressional seat for six years before running unsuccessfully for the Senate two years ago. Now he's running to win his old House seat back, and a big question is how the dynamics of the presidential campaign will affect a race critical to the fight for control of Congress. It's a question being asked across the South, especially in the states of Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.

(on camera): President Clinton carried all five of those states in 1992 for a combined 47 electoral votes and won all but Georgia again as he swept to re-election in 1996. But now, with little more than a month to go before this year's election, the only southern or border state where the vice president holds a lead, and a narrow one at that, is his native Tennessee.

(voice-over): Some recent polls even show Gore trailing at home, and the Republicans relish the thought of an embarrassing upset. With the vice president off campaigning elsewhere, it falls to Jeff Clark to play two roles in campaign 2000: long-shot challenger to Republican Senator Bill Frist and stand-in for the man atop the Democratic ticket.

JEFF CLARK (D), TENNESSEE SENATE CANDIDATE: I'd appreciate your consideration.

KING: Over breakfast with a local reporter:

CLARK: We want, "we" meaning Jeff Clark and Al Gore, want to provide prescription care through Medicare. Bill Frist and George Bush want to turn it over to the private-oriented HMOs.

KING: And again before a tiny morning crowd.

CLARK: The vice president asked us today to talk with you a little bit about their commitment in Medicare.

KING: In Georgia, it's rare to hear Democratic Senator Zell Miller say much about Gore, but Republican challenger Mack Mattingly isn't so shy.

MACK MATTINGLY (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: George Bush is leading. He's beating the socks off of Al Gore in this state.

KING: This alliance of Arkansas and Tennessee was supposed to blunt the Republican boom in the South. But it hasn't worked out that way.

WHIT AYRES, GOP POLLSTER: Part of the reason is that Al Gore was raised in Washington, D.C., rather than Tennessee. But a larger part of the explanation is that Al Gore has not run as a new Democrat, he's run much more as an old Democrat. One of the most important things Bill Clinton ever said politically was, I want to end welfare as we know it. You haven't heard Al Gore say anything like that in this race.

KING: Some Democrats also worry the vice president doesn't come close to Mr. Clinton when it comes to generating enthusiasm among African-American voters critical to the Democrats' chances across the South. But Baesler works a quick plug for the vice president into his stump speech these days, and says things are suddenly looking up.

BAESLER: I think he will carry this district, but if some two years -- two months ago, I wouldn't know whether he would have any coattails or not. I'm not so sure he's not going to have some coattails.

KING: Whether Kentucky considers Gore a good neighbor will be clear in just a few weeks.

In the meantime, Kentucky pride doesn't stop folks here from enjoying a little music from the state next door.

John King, CNN, Owingsville, Kentucky.


WOODRUFF: Not surprisingly, the bush campaign is touting a new poll that John King mentioned, which suggests the governor has erased Gore's lead in Tennessee. Bush is ahead by three points in the new Mason-Dixon survey.

In the battleground state of Pennsylvania, Gore has a four-point advantage in a new Mason-Dixon survey. Gore had a double-digit lead in a poll early last month.

In Colorado, where Bush appears to have regained momentum, he now leads Gore by nine points in the latest Tiruli Associates poll.

In New Hampshire, Bush is up by five points in the latest Research 2000 poll, having lost some ground in the state, where he notably lost the GOP primary.

And from Minnesota, more evidence that Gore has the advantage in that traditionally Democratic state. He's up by six points in a new "Star Tribune" Minnesota poll.

And one more footnote on that apparently close rate in Tennessee, the national -- rather, the Republican National Convention says that it plans to spend several hundred thousand dollars airing ads in Gore's home state starting tomorrow. An RNC spokesman said that the ads, which criticize Gore's prescription drug plan and the so-called "education recession" are a response to Gore's soft support in Tennessee.

The Gore campaign's response, and we quote, "If they want to squander money in Tennessee like they squandered in California and elsewhere, they can be our guests," end quote.

And just ahead, the debate lines that stick, with our Bruce Morton.


WOODRUFF: In Richmond, Kentucky, Senator Joe Lieberman arrived today to begin four days of preparation before the vice presidential debate. Lieberman is practicing his debate skills with Washington attorney, Bob Barnett, who has been involved in Democratic presidential debate preparations since 1976. Republican candidate, Dick Cheney, has been practicing for the debate near his home in Wyoming.

Our own Bernard Shaw will moderate Thursday night's debate in Danville, Kentucky.

With the first of three presidential debates coming up tomorrow night, our Bruce Morton has taken a look back to debates past and the moments that stand out in his political memory.



SEN. JOHN F. KENNEDY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have been in the Congress for 14 years.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In that first debate in 1960, John Kennedy's high moment was that he showed up, looking calm, cool, every bit the equal of his more experienced rival. Richard Nixon looked like what he was: a tired man, who'd been ill, and was using a product called Lazy Shave to hide his five o'clock shadow -- looks and maybe something more.

ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Kennedy spoke to the country. He spoke about issues, and spoke to the country, and essentially looked past Nixon. And Nixon was a debater. He went after Kennedy. And he seemed abrasive and harsh.

MORTON: Other high points? Well, Ronald Reagan, the challenger, had no trouble looking like a man who could take President Jimmy Carter's job in 1980. Instead of arguing about Carter's attacks on his record, Reagan simply chided the president.


REAGAN: There you go again.


MORTON: And then asked some questions which summed up voter discontent with the Carter years.


REAGAN: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago?


MORTON: And, of course, the economy was a mess. And Carter couldn't free the American hostages Iran held captive. And that, you could say, was the election. Four years later, President Reagan, over-rehearsed, he said later, looked really old and out of touch against challenger Walter Mondale. But in round two, Reagan, the veteran showman, turned it all around with one more one-liner.


REAGAN: I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.


MORTON: We remember the zingers, the one-liners. Do they matter?

STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The nuggets, you remember fondly. But you know that they were an artifacts, that they were created by people who get paid a lot of money to create these sorts of things.

MORTON: If he's right, maybe it is the general impressions we remember: John Kennedy looking like Richard Nixon's equal; Governor Bill Clinton looking like George Bush's, even though Bush had had all those Washington jobs, in their 1992 meetings.

They are on TV. Voters look at them and judge them: Is he honest? Can I trust him? Maybe the medium, in that sense, is the message.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Maybe it is.

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

These programming notes: CNN's "CROSSFIRE" will focus on campaign 2000 this week, with a series of programs live from George Washington University. Tonight at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, the guests will be Congressmen Robert Wexler and John Kasich. And tomorrow, we will have a special 90-minute INSIDE POLITICS, with an extensive preview of tomorrow night's presidential debate in Boston.

I'm Judy Woodruff.



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