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Inside Politics

Presidential Debate Fails to Draw Large Audience; Gore and Bush Travel to Swing States

Aired October 4, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I enjoyed that debate, because it gave me a chance...


... gave Americans from all walks of life a chance to see us directly.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: ... Bush sheds some light on his debate performance on the stump and in an interview with CNN.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did you see the debate last night?




GORE: I think it's better to spend time attacking America's problems than attacking people personally.


WOODRUFF: Al Gore stays positive after his first face-off with Bush. Do instant polls have anything to do with it?

We'll get through the maze of partisan spin and check the facts dished out in the debate.



CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney are getting ready for the second round. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Chris Black previews tomorrow's clash of the running mates.

ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff at CNN Election Headquarters, and analysts Jeff Greenfield and Bill Schneider.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. Bernie Shaw is in Kentucky, preparing to moderate tomorrow's vice presidential debate.

Today, both Al Gore and George W. Bush are following up their first debate with new pushes in big industrial states and new shots at one another.

We begin our coverage of the candidates and their debate postmortems with CNN's Candy Crowley. She's on the road with the Bush campaign.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Westchester, Pennsylvania greeted George Bush like a conquering hero, with a little bit of razzle-dazzle and a boffo review from his buddy, another governor.

GOV. TOM RIDGE (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Isn't it great to wake up the day after a smashing victory?

CROWLEY: Still in partial debate mode, Bush picked up where he thought he made his best case, that Al Gore will spend the county out of the good times.

BUSH: No, this is a huge expansion of government, and the surest way to make sure prosperity slows down is to expand the role and scope and size of the federal government. And it's not going to happen under President George Bush.

CROWLEY: Bush campaigned in this hugely important state as the debate postmortem focused in on the lesser details of Bush v. Gore.


GORE: First I want to compliment the governor on his response to those fires and floods in Texas. I accompanied James Lee Witt down to Texas when those fires broke out.


CROWLEY: As it turns out, the vice president never visited the disaster site with FEMA Director James Witt. The Gore camp says the vice president did an aerial inspection of the region as he came into Texas. Gore staffers say the vice president went to Houston where he attended a party event, a fund-raiser, and received a disaster briefing from local FEMA officials. The Gore camp says the vice president frequently travels with Witt to disaster sites and suggests that Gore's statement was a trivial honest mistake. George Bush says this is not about details, but about the larger picture.

BUSH: If there's pattern of just exaggeration and stretches to try to win votes, it says something about leadership as far as I'm concerned, because once you're the president, you can't stretch. In foreign diplomacy there needs to be a plain-spoken, you know, attitude.

CROWLEY: In general, Bush told CNN he thought the debate was a pretty good exchange, but as yet he hasn't had a chance to review his performance.

BUSH: I hope I smiled enough. I felt very comfortable.


CROWLEY: On a couple of more personal notes, Bush says he was so revved up after the debate he found it hard to go to sleep, and the first person he called in the limousine after the debates en route to a rally was his father, who had been nervous and was glad it was over.

As far as Dick Cheney's debate tomorrow night, George Bush says he thinks Cheney will do just fine, and the advice for him beyond the usual be yourself, Bush says have some fun -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Candy, what do the Bush people think they need to do in the next two debates or are they so far down the line they haven't focused so much on that yet?

CROWLEY: I think one of the things that they believe about the next couple of debates is that they are more forums that will favor the governor. They will be -- one of them is a town hall meeting, the one in St. Louis. The next one coming up, they'll be seated around a table, a more casual forum that Bush thinks that he can thrive in.

Certainly, there's going to be some sharpening up of some of the messages. I talked to some people last night. They want to make sure that the education message comes through loud and clear, and that some of the other messages are sharpened up. But in general, they say that they thought he did a pretty good job.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley, traveling with the Bush campaign, thanks.

Now to the vice president the day after the debate and what he's doing for an encore. Here's our senior White House correspondent, John King.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As always, the debate continued on the day after. GORE: My opponent's tax plan gives more -- spends more money for tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent than all of his new spending on education, health care, prescription drugs, and national defense all combined. That is wrong.

KING: Warren, Ohio is blue-collar country, and the vice president said his economic plan was crafted with places like this in mind.

GORE: I'll cut taxes for middle-class families who have the hardest time paying taxes.

KING: Ohio was the vice president's first post-debate stop for a reason. A Gore win here could be a knockout blow. No Republican has ever been elected president without carrying Ohio.

GORE: This is the time for you to make the choice.

KING: Gore said he was happy with his debate performance, convinced he had drawn sharp contrasts on critical issues like taxes and a prescription drug benefit for the elderly. And even though the polls are tight, Democrats insist the race is beginning to tilt their way.

MARK MELLMAN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: George Bush really needed to shake things up in this debate. He really needed to change the dynamic. He really needed to give people that "ah-ha" experience where they thump their forehead and say, my gosh, I've been thinking about this race all wrong. And he really failed to do that.

KING: But several top Gore aides privately gave the governor his due and the day-after stump speech reflected some lessons learned.

Governor Bush repeatedly called Gore a big government fan who would rather spend the federal budget surplus than give some back to taxpayers. The vice president had this day-after rebuttal.

GORE: And it is your money, and it's your Medicare, it's your Social Security, it's your clean environment, it's your schools,

KING: The governor said Gore had no credibility on campaign reform, and it's clear the vice president expects there's more to come.

GORE: You know, even though Governor Bush and I have a lot of differences, personally, I think it's better to spend time attacking America's problems than attacking people personally.

KING: The Gore camp says it will be a few days before a true assessment of the debate's impact can be made.


KING: But they did concede this point: Some in the Gore campaign had predicted prior to last night's round one that it would be a decisive turning point. Today, they said it hasn't turned out that way, that Governor Bush had done OK, and that the race remains fiercely competitive heading into rounds two and three -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, let me ask you the same thing I asked Candy with regard to the Gore people. What do they think that he has to do in the next two presidential debates?

KING: Well, in round two, the two candidates will be seated at a table with the moderator. They believe that will give the vice president a greater opportunity. Remember, last night, when the vice president challenged the numbers, the fairness of the Bush economic plan, Governor Bush, excuse me, kept saying that's fuzzy math, Washington math. They believe that the more relaxed format next time will allow the vice president to say, well, if my numbers are wrong, what are your numbers, and demand more specific answers. They think that will help there.

They're also looking, Judy, outside of the next two debates. They believe Governor Bush last night created an opening for Pat Buchanan, the Reform Party candidate, by being -- by saying he would not seek to overturn the RU-486 abortion pill decision, by not being clearer on abortion rights. The Democrats are hoping Pat Buchanan steps into the breach and tries to soften up Governor Bush's support among Christian conservatives.

WOODRUFF: All right, John King, on the road with the Gore people. Thanks a lot.

Well, in the end, the only reviews of the debate that really matter, of course, are those of the voters.

Our Bill Schneider has been going over several flash polls that were conducted after the debate -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's why I'm here: your friendly neighborhood poll flasher. And what did the polls show? Well, all four networks did flash polls of debate watchers last night. Now here's our post-debate poll of polls.

The ABC News poll shows Gore winning the debate by three points, 42 to 39, and that's within the margin of error. Our own CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup flash poll has Gore winning by seven, 48 to 41, also within the margin of error. NBC News, Gore wins by 10. That's significant. CBS News, Gore by 14, also significant.

So I think we have the answer: Gore seems to have won by a small to moderate margin. And by the way, men thought Bush won while women thought Gore won. Were they watching the same debate?

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill, what's your assessment? What did Bush, in your view, accomplish in the debate?

SCHNEIDER: Well, No. 1, he didn't screw up, which is a disappointment for a lot of late-night comedians. Gore seemed to be challenging Bush to pronounce the name of the Yugoslavian opposition leader, Vojislav Kostunica. I like that. Kostunica. But Bush wisely decided he wasn't going to try. Now we asked viewers if the debate made them feel any differently about the two contenders: 27 seven percent said it made them feel more favorable toward Al Gore, but a slightly larger number, 34 percent, told us it gave them a better opinion of George W. Bush. So Bush did make some progress. He held his own against the vice president, and that helped to close the stature gap between the two men.

WOODRUFF: What about the poll and what it shows with regard to whether people changed their minds?

SCHNEIDER: Well, we didn't really see much changing of minds. Only 3 percent of the viewers said that they switched their votes because of the debate. The candidates were mostly preaching to the converted. ABC News measured the vote preferences of debate viewers before and again after the debate, and they found hardly any change.

This debate did not change many minds. What is did really was reinforce existing impressions.

WOODRUFF: Which impressions?

SCHNEIDER: Well, our friends at NBC News asked debate-watchers whether they associated various qualities with either Gore or Bush. Now, Gore is considered far more knowledgeable and experienced than Bush. Bush is considered more easygoing and likable than Gore.

Now, what do you think people want in a president: knowledgeable and experienced, or easygoing and likable? Sounds like Gore for president, as long as people don't have to spend too much time with him. Now, what voters really want in a president is leadership. When the poll asked which candidate has the stronger leadership qualities, the result was a tie.

Both guys are leaders. And that is why this contest has been so close.

WOODRUFF: And is it still close?

SCHNEIDER: Well, we really won't know for sure until Friday. That's when we will report standings based on a fresh sample of voters, all of them interviewed after the debate.

WOODRUFF: All right. We have to wait that long.

SCHNEIDER: We certainly do. And I'll say this, too: Kostunica.


WOODRUFF: You did that very well.

SCHNEIDER: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much.

Well, we should note that we are not reporting our daily CNN/"USA Today" Gallup tracking poll numbers today. That is because all of the interviews were conducted over a three-day period before the debate. And therefore, they may not reflect the state of the race now.

And now to our Jeff Greenfield, who's been looking at some other debate numbers -- Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Kostunica. Gesundheit. Sorry, couldn't resist. So I mentioned yesterday that I was at least...

WOODRUFF: Show-off.

GREENFIELD: Yes, I know.

I mentioned yesterday I was at least as interested in the size of audience for last night's debate as I was in the debate itself. Why? Because it might tell us just how interested the voters are in this presidential campaign. Well, the first numbers are in, and they suggest the public, so far, is underwhelmed by this contest.

You know all those predictions that as many as 75 million people might watch the debate? Forget about it. ABC and CBS combined drew an estimated -- estimated -- 32 million viewers to the debate. Fox network, which aired the debut of "Dark Angel," drew an estimated 14 million. NBC's Yankee-Oakland playoff game drew roughly 5-6 million viewers.

Now, that 32 million estimate does not include PBS, CNN, and other cable networks. And it doesn't measure those NBC West Coast stations that aired the debate via tape delay. But even by the most generous of calculations, last night's viewership was almost certainly far lower than almost every past presidential debate.

Nearly 70 million, for example, watched the first Carter-Ford debate in 1976. Some 65 million people watched the first Bush-Dukakis debate in 1988. Only the second Clinton-Dole debate in 1996 drew fewer eyeballs. What does this mean? A couple of hunches: It's possible that those who watched baseball and a sci-fi thriller are disproportionately male.

And that could mean that, given the gender gap, that the debate audience was more Gore-friendly, which means those post-debate polls Bill Schneider talked about might not have been measuring the real electorate. But what can be said with a lot more assurance is that even now, with a very close race, and with barely a month to go, this presidential campaign hasn't caught fire.

We're going to know a lot more about this next week, when the audience for the second presidential debate rises or falls. And as Samuel Goldwyn once said, Judy, if people don't want to go to a movie, you can't keep them away.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeff Greenfield. And -- but when you said it's -- maybe hasn't caught fire, it better catch fire quickly if it's going to. I mean, we are 30 -- what? -- how many days away?

GREENFIELD: We are barely a month away. And that's the point. You would think by about now, people might start focusing. And, you know, maybe the next debate -- maybe October 17.


WOODRUFF: Maybe they're not hanging on every word the way we are.


WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield, thanks a lot. We'll see you later.

Well, those who did watch the debate were bombarded with competing claims and figures, making it difficult at times to know if Bush and Gore were telling it exactly like it is.

So our Brooks Jackson checked out some of the candidates' assertions.


BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The truth took a beating in round one from both contestants. Al Gore fibbed first.

GORE: I have actually not questioned Governor Bush's experience.

JACKSON: Wrong. Gore has questioned Bush's experience.

Just listen:

GORE: Does Governor Bush have the experience to be president?


GORE: A proposal like that makes you wonder.

JACKSON: Gore says he was questioning Bush's proposals, not his experience. Later, Gore said Bush's prescription drug plan would at first give not one penny to a couple make $25,000 a year. And this time, Bush bruised the truth when he denied it.

BUSH: Under my plan, the man gets immediate help with prescription drugs.

JACKSON: Wrong, unless the man spends $6,000 a year on prescriptions. Bush's plan does call for immediate catastrophic coverage for everybody, but full coverage only for low-income persons, well below $25,000 a year.

Gore was way off when he spoke of his plan to pump money into the failing Social Security system.

GORE: I would put right back into Social Security. That extends the life of Social Security for 55 years.

JACKSON: Wrong again. The Social Security trust fund is projected to be exhausted in the year 2037. By pouring in hundreds of billions from general revenues, Gore would delay that, but only until 2054, by his own campaign's figures. That's extending its life 17 years, not 55.

Bush bashed the truth with this:

BUSH: The Senate Budget Committee did a study of the vice president's expenditures. They projected that it could conceivably bust the budget by $900 billion.

JACKSON: Wrong yet again. That study was by the Republican staff of the Budget Committee, not the full bipartisan Budget Committee itself. And even they put Gore's overspending as at little as $27 billion; $906 billion was the maximum.

Both men hit below the belt as they sparred over Bush's plan for a $1.3 trillion tax cut.

GORE: Almost half of all the tax cut benefits, as I said, under Governor Bush's plan, go to the wealthiest 1 percent.

JACKSON: Almost half? That's an exaggeration. When Bush's plan is fully phased in, 43 percent of the benefits, well under half, would go to the top 1 percent. And that's according the liberal Citizens for Tax Justice. The bipartisan Joint Tax Committee of Congress says 51 percent of the benefits would go to those making over $100,000 a year. But they make up much more than 1 percent of the population.

Rather than give those facts, Bush came back at Gore with this.

BUSH: The facts are, after my plan, the wealthiest of Americans pay more taxes of the percentage of the whole than they do today.

JACKSON: Misleading, to say the least. That Joint Tax Committee study shows that the share of income tax paid by the wealthiest group, those making over $200,000 a year, will rise slightly under current law, to 24.7 percent. Under Bush's plan, their share of the reduced total would be exactly the same: 24.7 percent.

(on camera): So when these two meet for a rematch next week, better listen carefully and check the facts.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: the debate reviews and the race ahead. We'll talk with David Broder and Jeff Greenfield.


WOODRUFF: For more now on reaction to the presidential debate performances, we are joined in Milwaukee by David Broder of "The Washington Post," and once again, here in Atlanta CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield.

David, I want to start with you. You were with a group of voters, undecided voters, I think, last night. Tell us a little of what their reactions were. Who did they think helped himself last night?

DAVID BRODER, "WASHINGTON POST": Judy, these folks did not like either of these candidates very much going in. They felt a little bit better about them at the end of the debate. But by and large, just as Bill Schneider was saying, there's no sign among our folks that they signed up with either Gore or Bush.

WOODRUFF: So neither candidate, as far as your people were concerned, really moved very much on the temperature scale?

BRODER: That's right. I frankly thought myself that both candidates did very well, and I was looking for a little bit more of a positive reaction from those voters than we actually received.

WOODRUFF: Jeff, how does that jibe with your own reading of this?

GREENFIELD: Well, it seems to me, Judy, that it confirms this notion -- you might think of it like a nagging cold I can't get rid of -- that there's just not a lot of passion and engagement in this race. The viewership numbers would suggest that.

I mean, I don't know, David, whether you agree that it's just not a campaign that's caught fire out there, I don't think, yet?

WOODRUFF: David, what do you think?

BRODER: And I don't know why that -- and I don't know why that is, Jeff, except for the -- sort of the cliche comment that everybody makes that the country is so prosperous and so much at peace that people aren't really concerned about who's running things in Washington.

I still have the hope that at some point the voters are going to tune in, because this really has been a terrific campaign.

WOODRUFF: Did either candidate, Jeff, hurt himself? Maybe that's the way to put the question.

GREENFIELD: Well, you know, the one area, the one time when I thought somebody did something that might have hurt him -- and I'd be curious to know whether David's focus group thought so -- when Bush said, yes, I was disappointed in the fund raising and I've got a question about how Al Gore handled that, because we've been hearing that one of the things that voters are least interested in is any sign of negativity, even if it's a criticism of public behavior. And I wondered whether that -- that comment of Bush got a thumbs down from your folks.

BRODER: It did not, Jeff. The only thing that they commented on negatively was the frequency with which Al Gore repeated that wonderful phrase, "the wealthiest 1 percent of the American people." One of our folks said: "I got it about the third time; he didn't have to keep repeating it."

WOODRUFF: You got the sense he was worried that people were tuning in and out, and he wanted to make sure every single viewer heard that.

David, where does this race stand right now? I mean, given perhaps low viewership last night that Jeff was describing earlier, given the reactions you were hearing, where are we?

BRODER: I think here in Wisconsin, Judy, it's a race that is still out there to be won by either candidate. That was true in Michigan when I was there last week. It was true in Ohio the week before that. I don't know what's finally going to tip this race, but I believe it's still something that has yet to occur.

WOODRUFF: Jeff, you've covered a number of presidential campaigns. Do you see it that way, and if you do, what happens when it's so close? I mean, there was Kennedy-Nixon in 1960. You weren't covering then.

GREENFIELD: Not quite, but there was Carter...

WOODRUFF: Carter...

GREENFIELD: ... Ford in '76 which closed. We haven't seen a race quite like this since 1960, where it may be close all the way. 1980 was close until the end.

I think what David's talking about, the great number of states that are still in play, suggests that this race could also turn not just on something that we -- that's yet to happen, but on something that by traditional terms might not be -- have been considered that significant. That is I think that -- I think so many voters are so kind of watching this race with one eye half open that there may be just some little twitch of an event that can turn this thing one way or the other.

WOODRUFF: David, what about you? When, you know, a race is this close, what makes up voters' minds in the last analysis?

BRODER: It is totally unpredictable, Judy. I'll give you one example from last night's conversation after the debate, because you remember Al Gore made a point of saying that he was proposing to have a heating oil reserve fund for New England. One of our listeners here in Wisconsin said he ought to know that it gets cold here in the Midwest, too. So he set up a little competition between the Midwest and New England as to who's being pandered to.

WOODRUFF: All politics is local. David Broder, thank you very much...

BRODER: You got it.

WOODRUFF: ... for joining us from Milwaukee. Jeff Greenfield, thanks a lot.

And we'll see you a little bit later.

GREENFIELD: A little bit.

WOODRUFF: Well, much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, still to come...


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... be able to speak to America without a filter and be able to talk about what I believe in.



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought I had a great opportunity to tell them about my plans.


WOODRUFF: ... the presidential hopefuls talk post-debate. George W. Bush and Al Gore in their own words.



JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Warm and fuzzy vice presidential debates are the exception. Usually the second-slot contenders do the slicing and dicing for the ticket.


WOODRUFF: ... Jeanne Meserve on vice presidential hopefuls at the podium as this year's No. 2s prepare to take the stage.

And later, examining the candidates: Jeff Greenfield on getting too up-close and personal.


WOODRUFF: We'll have more of this day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories. We have this just in to CNN from Paris.

We are told that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have reached a tentative agreement to stop the deadly violence that has been raging in the Middle East for a week. This news comes from the French capital, where Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has been holding talks today with Mr. Arafat and Mr. Barak.

In addition to quelling the violence, Albright has been trying to restart Middle East peace negotiations.

As the Paris talks were getting under way, there was more violence in the Middle East. Palestinians and Israelis clashed for the seventh-straight day. The worst violence appeared to be in Gaza. Dozens of people on both sides have been killed in the week-long fighting. Yugoslavia will have to try again to elect a new leader. A court, late today, nullified the September 24th presidential election and said that a new vote must be scheduled. Ironically, it was the opposition which had asked the court to rule on the matter, seeking to have its candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, declare the winner. The opposition had claimed victory in the earlier vote, which Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic refused to accept.

Two days of downpour made rivers of Miami streets today. Flooding is blamed for one death and for stranding thousands of cars. A state of emergency is in effect. Officials have asked people not to leave their homes unless it's necessary.

And when INSIDE POLITICS returns, Bush and Gore debate in separate interviews today with CNN.


WOODRUFF: George W. Bush and Al Gore may have one fall debate under their belts, but they still have 34 days ahead of them to battle for votes. Today, the two candidates continued to debate, after a fashion, in separate interviews with CNN.

Here are some excerpts of Bush's interview with Candy Crowley, and Gore's interview with Jonathan Karl.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You said last night that you have never, I want to quote; you said you have actually not questioned Governor Bush's experience. But in an April 13 "New York Times" story, which is what he was referring to, you said, regarding the tax cut proposal, quote, "it raises the question: Does he have the experience to be president?" Those are your words: "Does he have the experience to be president."

So how could you say you've never questioned his experience?

GORE: Well, maybe it's not as different as I believe it is. The point I was trying to make in that speech covered by the "Times" was that the tax cut proposal raises that question; and maybe that's a distinction without a difference.

But to me, it is different. If I was -- I didn't say, I don't think he has the experience to be president. I've said, look, if he has this huge $2 trillion tax cut proposal that puts us right back into deficits again, if you look at the nature of that proposal, it raises that question.



CROWLEY: What clicks in the sound bites, as far as the Gore side is concerned, is that he is going to spend more money to give a tax break to the top 1 percent, than all of the money for Medicare... BUSH: Yes, but it's just not true.

CROWLEY: Well, what I wanted to ask you, was -- and you replied and said "fuzzy math."

And he kept saying, you're not answering my question. You're not denying what I'm saying. Do you deny it?

BUSH: Well, I'll deny it right now. Of course I do.

The top 1 percent receive $223 billion of tax cuts. That's far less than I'm going to spend. The top 1 percent pay a third of the taxes and get 20 percent of the cuts. The top 1 percent are going to continue, or the wealthiest Americans are going to continue, paying the greatest percentage of tax relief.

This is a man who wants to put rich against poor. Big against little -- I mean, he's a divider.

CROWLEY: Is it a factor?

BUSH: Being a divider? No, I don't think is, because I think you're talking to the next president.

CROWLEY: So it was that good of a debate?

BUSH: Well, I don't know about that, but I don't think people buy that. And this is a fellow that, we're learning, is willing to say anything. And, you know, evidently, in the course of the debate he said he came down to inspect the fires. He praised me for, you know, handling the fires in Texas and he came down -- you know, he said, I came down with James Lee Witt -- well, it turns out he didn't, evidently.

Your reporters will research the story. But, if that's true, that he didn't come down, it's just kind of -- it's a pattern of, kind of, just saying whatever it takes to win.



KARL: Now, in many of the instant polls that we've seen what people thought of the debate, you fared quite well. But even some of those who thought you showed a real command of the issue felt that with some of the audible sighs off camera and some of the chuckles, that you seemed, maybe even a little condescending towards Governor Bush.

GORE: I certainly did not feel that way; and under the debate rules, we were told there were going to be no coverage of our reactions when the other guy was talking. And sometimes those rules are made to be broken, I guess; and any way, I learned my lesson on that. I'll be much more careful not to give an audible reaction when he's talking.

KARL: So, that is some sense a regret or something that you'll change. What did you...

GORE: I don't think that's a big deal, incidentally.



CROWLEY: The polls show that this may not have been the definitive, pivotal moment that we all thought it would be, and I'm sure you hoped it would be.

What breaks this loose? This has been this way for about 10 days; you know, the ongoing punditry and polls seem to indicate that the debate really didn't change things. What can you do to break this loose?

BUSH: Well, I think I'm going to win because, first of all, being close at this point, or ahead in most of the national polls, is a good sign with five weeks to go.

Secondly, one of the things that it's hard for people to measure is intensity and people are strongly -- my team is ready to go. And the reason why is they don't want four more years of the Clinton-Gore attitude. They like my plans of rebuilding the military and doing something on Social Security and getting something done on Medicare and prescription drugs.

People understand that I know what I'm talking about when it comes to public education and so, there's -- not only am I philosophically in tune with the majority of voters, our team is ready to go and turn out the vote.


WOODRUFF: And, just for the record, Vice President Gore said the debate rules prohibited coverage of the candidate's reactions, but the campaigns made that agreement with the Presidential Debates Commission, not with the television networks that carried last night's face-off.

In case you missed Gore's sighing during the debate, here are a couple of examples.


BUSH: I have a record of appointing judges in the state of Texas...


BUSH: ... that's what a governor gets to do.



BUSH: The man is practicing fuzzy math again. There are differences.



WOODRUFF: Well, we are joined now by Margaret Carlson of "Time" magazine and Tucker Carlson of the "Weekly Standard." And given that lead in, I have to ask you both right off the bat, what of the sighing Margaret?

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": The sigh kept Gore from winning the debate.

Bush answered at least five questions in a faltering, hesitant way, in which he was hoping the bell would ring. And Gore would have clearly won the debate last night, had it not been for the fact that he has so many mannerisms -- leading with the sigh, the bridge of sighs, that make people unable to embrace him as the winner.

And this including the media. The media can't do it either. Because when I read, this morning, all the commentary -- I was there, so I didn't hear it last night, and I was amazed to find out that our colleagues all said that it was a draw.

TUCKER CARLSON, "WEEKLY STANDARD": The breathiness is very off- putting, I have to say.

I mean, you know, and it's interesting -- I mean, there is this sense in which Bush is benefiting from something, and I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's the low expectations of the people covering him. You know, he didn't drool or pass out on stage or anything, so he's getting credit for that.

But there is this kind of interesting reluctance on the part of the press to pass judgment on it. I think a lot of people, they don't, necessarily, break down along ideological lines, believe that, you know, maybe Bush didn't do as good a job as he might have.

And yet, the coverage does not reflect that at all. It's interesting.

WOODRUFF: So Margaret, body language matters more than scoring pure debating points?

M. CARLSON: Well, let's assume people don't all watch as closely as we do. So 75 million saw it, there are 275 million people in the country; 200 million are going to take what the press accounts of it; and the press accounts are that it was a draw.

And so, the 75 million, I think, who were watching closely...

WOODRUFF: Actually, Margaret, if I can interrupt, the numbers that we're getting today are more in the order of 35 million, not even 40. These are the lowest numbers ever for a televised presidential debate. M. CARLSON: And I wonder if that declined over time, as the debate went on, the numbers. So we're at 40 million. And so the others are somewhat dependent on the media, and the media just couldn't bring itself to give it to Gore because of what the sigh symbolizes, which is he put away the question on Milosevic. Bush had it wrong.

But he then had to add that Serbia plus Montenegro equals the old Yugoslavia. So he had to get in this extra verbage to impress the teacher and lost the effect of the answer to the question, which is that Gore is clearly better able to handle the Bosnian situation and the election.

WOODRUFF: Tucker, where is this race after last night's debate? What is -- what to you is the mission that Al Gore and George Bush have in the coming weeks and debates?

T. CARLSON: Well, I mean, I would be surprised if Gore didn't hit Bush a lot harder along the lines of, you know, you're a right- winger. I think gun control is going to an issue that Gore is going to hit really, really hard in the coming debate.

But I also think it's interesting: Gore's challenge, I think, in the next month is to stop exaggerating in public. It's so interesting. Gore said a number of things last night that turned out -- and the RNC can fax you, you know, 160 pages on this; if you ask them, they probably will, even if you don't ask them -- on how these examples that Gore gave turn out, under close inspection, not to be precisely true.

This classroom that he said was overcrowded -- well, it turns out, as has been reported all day long, the headmaster of the school in question gave this interview on the radio this morning, in which he said: Gee, the classroom was actually crowded because it was stuffed with $100,000 worth of new equipment, and that there were too many DVD players in the room, and that's why the students were crowded in.

Gore cannot, I don't think, afford to make a lot more statements like that, because it adds to the perception that he's an exaggerator, that he can't tell it straight. That's a problem.

M. CARLSON: And there, when he's under a microscope, knowing that everything he says is going to be looked at so closely the next day -- like, I don't know if we've gotten -- I haven't gotten the facts yet on whether the uncle was actually poisoned in World War I, but surely, we're going to go and look.

These gratuitous exaggerations that he doesn't need to make, combined with the size, make it that he doesn't walk away with it. The deal is not closed, even though, clearly, on terms of competence, sheer competence and experience, Gore was the -- was the better -- was the winner last night.

WOODRUFF: All right, Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you both.

M. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We'll see you soon.

Up next: setting the stage for the vice presidential face-off.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Tomorrow night, vice presidential nominees Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney will meet on stage for their first and only debate. Today, Cheney took a moment to echo the Bush campaign's theme of day.

Chris Black reports on the pre-debate politics and preparations.


BLACK (voice-over): Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney are getting ready for the second round. As Cheney went through a final practice session in Washington, D.C., he made a pre-emptive strike, accusing Al Gore of not telling the truth during the Boston debate when he said he accompanied FEMA director James Lee Witt to Texas fires.

DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Al Gore has described these presidential debates as a job interview with the American people. I've learned over the years that when somebody embellishes their resume in a job interview, you don't hire them.

BLACK: The Gore campaign says Gore made a mistake. He did go to Texas, only not with Witt. Republicans close to the campaign say Cheney may press Lieberman on why he has softened his positions on school vouchers and affirmative action since joining the Democratic ticket.

During a visit with firefighters in Richmond, Kentucky, Lieberman said he will reinforce the message delivered by Al Gore in Boston.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our opponents would basically waste the surplus by spending it all on one big tax cut that goes overwhelmingly to the wealthy, will probably put the country back in debt.

BLACK: Lieberman says he is ready to defend Al Gore. His aides say he will not raise Cheney's conservative voting record unless necessary, because, they say, this election is not about him or Cheney, but about Gore and Bush.

LIEBERMAN: I'm going to do all I can to make sure it's not a lot of negative back-and-forth personal-attack stuff.

BLACK: Lieberman, an elected official for 30 years, has developed an affable, conversational style, ideal, say campaign advisers, for this debate, which features the candidates sitting at a table. But Lieberman can get tough, as he did in his campaign against Senator Lowell Weicker in 1988. He softens the harshest barb with humor. HOWARD REITER, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT: He was relentless during the debates with Weicker, and he ran an advertising campaign that poked merciless fun at Weicker, his voting record and so forth. So this is a guy who, when he feels has to be a gunfighter, he has done so.

BLACK: But Cheney is a veteran of the TV talk show circuit, and he got high marks for his public performance as secretary of defense during the Gulf War. And Cheney says he will echo Bush's theme, saying the GOP approach means less government and more freedom for the American people.


BLACK: In the hours leading up to their one-and-only debate, the vice presidential candidates seem to be well-matched and primed to continue the arguments the presidential candidates began in Boston -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Thanks a lot. Appreciate that.

And when -- some of the most memorable political debates moments occurred when vice presidential candidates were on the stage. On the eve of the Lieberman-Cheney debate, our Jeanne Meserve takes a look back.



GORE: I would like to start by offering you a deal, Jack. If you won't use any football stories, I won't tell any of my warm and humorous stories about chlorofluorocarbon abatement.



MESERVE (voice-over): Warm and fuzzy vice presidential debates are the exception. Usually the second-slot contenders do the slicing and dicing for the ticket.


SEN. LLOYD BENTSEN (D-TX), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.



MESERVE: It hit. It hurt. And it resonated four years later when Dan Quayle debated Al Gore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1992) GORE: I'll make you a deal this evening. If you don't try to compare George Bush to Harry Truman, I won't compare you to Jack Kennedy.



MESERVE: That debate, however, was most memorable for its third participant.




MESERVE: The debate was rough and it was raucous.


HAL BRUNO, MODERATOR: I would like to remind the audience of one thing. Trying to stop you from applauding may be a lost cause. I didn't say anything about hissing, but I do think it is discourteous.


MESERVE: And then, toward the end, Admiral Stockdale started fumbling around, looking for something.

BRUNO: And he said: "I lost my hearing aid." And I almost blurted out: "You may be the luckiest man in America." But there was a guardian angel on my shoulder that prevented me from doing that.

MESERVE: In the annals of vice presidential debates, there have been some famous flubs.


SEN. ROBERT DOLE (R-KS), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we ordered up the killed and wounded of the Democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans, enough to fill the city of Detroit.


BRUNO: It had a devastating impact, and even more so because it came in the aftermath of the previous week's presidential debate in which President Ford had made the blunder or made the misstatement about the Soviet presence in Eastern Europe.

MESERVE: But vice presidential debates only have a big impact when the presidential race is close. When Geraldine Ferraro told off George Bush in the 1984 vice presidential debate, it was too late for the Mondale ticket. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1984)

GERALDINE FERRARO (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy.



MESERVE: With the presidential race so close this year, the vice presidential debate could make a difference if there are any memorable moments. And this tidbit, we've learned that Joe Lieberman will get the first question, but Dick Cheney will have the last word. He will give the second closing statement -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeanne Meserve, thanks a lot.

When we return, Jeff Greenfield's thoughts on overanalyzing the debate performances.


WOODRUFF: In Pennsylvania, a farmer has added a few twists and turns to the campaign trail. The two mazes, plowed into Randy Bate's cornfield, each bearing a candidate's name and a party symbol, cover more than 2 miles.

What do you say about that?

GREENFIELD: Some people have some time on their our hands.

WOODRUFF: Absolutely, and joining us again with some final thoughts on last night's debate, my colleague, Jeff Greenfield

GREENFIELD: Thank you, Judy.

OK, so let's see. Al Gore wore too much makeup, George W. Bush pursed his lips. Gore sighed audibly, Bush furrowed his brow. Gore's chuckle was a little forced, so were some of Bush's wisecracks.

You know, we relentlessly examine every word, every gesture, and we do this because we know, or think we know, how crucially important this stuff is. Call it the Richard Nixon's lousy makeup lesson.

But here's what I want to know: How would we, the folks who issue these judgments, feel if every single one of our clumsy gestures or verbal gaffes were held up to such relentless scrutiny? How many "uhs" or "you knows," how many untoward facial expressions do we offer up on a semi-regular basis?

It brings to mind the story of a lady who walks into a butcher shop and asks for a chicken. And she takes the chicken, and sniffs it, probes it, holds it up to the light, peers into every opening, and she says, "You know, I'm not sure about this chicken." And the butcher says, "Hey, lady, let me ask you, could you pass such a test?" Speaking only for myself, Judy, no, I could not.

And we have some final figures, though.

WOODRUFF: We're not going to hold you up that way, so...

GREENFIELD: Thank you. About -- it looks like, not counting PBS about 46.5 million people watched the debate, which except for the '96. Clinton-Dole debates, is the lowest number since the start of these debates.

WOODRUFF: Forty-six, not counting PBS, and once that's added in it could be over.

GREENFIELD: Possibly around 50, but that's still substantially lower than anything except for the '96 debates. So the question still holds, when are people really going to get engaged in this one?

WOODRUFF: That's right. All right, Jeff Greenfield, thanks a lot.

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

We'll see you again tomorrow when George W. Bush will be on the campaign trail in Michigan and Wisconsin, and Al Gore will be campaigning in Michigan and Florida.

This programming note: Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and former Republican Party Chairman Haley Barbour will be discussing the presidential race tonight on "CROSSFIRE." That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff. "WORLDVIEW" is next.



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