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Inside Politics

Gore and Bush Prepare for Final Face-Off; Considering the Political Effects at Home of the Middle East Crisis

Aired October 16, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Smiles side, Gore won't try to play Mr. Nice Guy tomorrow night. This time around, the muzzle is off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Jonathan Karl on Al Gore's day of town hall preparation, as the final presidential debate nears.

Plus:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The thing about these debates is you have got to know who you are and what you believe. And I know what I believe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush readies for the face- off and rallies supporters in Clinton country.

Also:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Could the Mideast crisis become the October surprise of the presidential campaign?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Our Bill Schneider considers the political effect at home, as the crisis rages on in the Middle East.

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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.

Amid great uncertainty over the crisis in the Middle East and whether and how it might affect the presidential election, George W. Bush and Al Gore spent this day preparing for their third and final debate tomorrow night in St. Louis. With the race still deadlocked, the pressure on the candidates is enormous. Both must find a way to try to break out. And yet they are aware that a single mistake could cost them the election.

We begin with the vice president and CNN's Jonathan Karl in St. Louis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a group of unpaid citizen advisers called into to play the part of the audience, Vice President Gore prepared for what some aides say is his favorite debate format: the town hall meeting.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that tests are important to get a good measurement of whether a school is moving in the right direction or the wrong direction. Do you think there are too many tests?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are already way to many.

GORE: I used to think that too.

KARL: Smiles aside, Gore won't try to play Mr. Nice Guy tomorrow night. His aides say he was too restrained during the last debate. This time around, the muzzle is off, the goal to do what aides acknowledge Gore failed to do during the first two debates: setting out in stark, clear and urgent terms what is at stake in the election, a theme Gore hit over the weekend.

GORE: Prosperity itself is at stake in this election! Jobs are at stake! Families are at stake! Health care, our schools, the environment, they're at stake! Social Security is on the ballot this fall!

KARL: With the race so close, aides, some of whom previously thought the debates would win the election for Gore, now say they aren't looking for a knockout punch Tuesday night. But they are keenly aware the clock is running out.

WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: And the urgency is you have 2 1/2 weeks left. And it's coming to a close. So I think both campaigns would have a lot of urgency and a lot of, you know, stress and anxiety going on right now, because this is getting down to the final in a race that -- according to the vast majority of the polls, private and public -- is a horse race.

KARL: Gore goes into this debate the way he went into the last: with his campaign attacking George W. Bush's record in Texas, specifically Bush's assertion in the last debate that Texas spends $4.7 billion a year on children's health care. Most of that money actually comes from the federal government and private charities.

The Gore campaign says it's just one of a long list of misstatements Bush has made about his record.

DALEY: I think there has been, for a very long time, a kind of attitude that Bush makes mistakes, that he does things that may not make sense, but OK, so what? That's been going on for a long time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Here in St. Louis, preparations under way for tomorrow's debate. It's a format that Gore should be especially comfortable with. Aides estimate that, over the course of his political career, Gore has held more than 1,000 town hall meetings -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jon, are the people around Al Gore concerned at all that if he does come out swinging tomorrow night, as you described, that that may be different enough from how he came across in the last debate that people are going to be sort of curious about what's going on?

KARL: Well, it is a concern. One thing that Gore's aides are trying to say -- and they've been saying this a lot -- is that Gore needs to come out there and be himself. Now, with the change in style and changing style so many times during the course of this campaign, some may question: Well, what actually is that? What is Al Gore being as himself?

And they say that is being aggressive, not being afraid to be on the attack, but maybe not being as hot -- as red hot as he was in that first debate, where Gore was ready to pounce on virtually everything that Governor Bush had to say. So they're looking for some kind of a balance between that first debate, where you had a very aggressive Al Gore, and the second debate, a very restrained Al Gore.

Finally, in the third debate, they say this is Al Gore being himself.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl, on the road, thanks a lot -- Bernie.

SHAW: As with the vice president, George W. Bush is preparing for tomorrow's third and final showdown. Aides say the format is not the governor's favorite, but they say his town hall objectives are clear.

Our CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley was with the governor today as he made a stop on his way to St. Louis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Little Rock, Arkansas -- need we say more?

BUSH: Three weeks from tomorrow, Arkansas is going to be George W. country. CROWLEY: Arkansas has had a favorite son in the White House for eight years, but Republicans believe President Clinton has fallen out of favor enough to give George Bush an opportunity. Still, a fundamentally Democratic state, Arkansas has trended Republican recently. It has a GOP governor and senator, and two of four House seats are Republican-held: thus the deadlocked polls in Arkansas and a late-race visit by the Republican nominee.

BUSH: That's OK. There is a lot of Democrats coming our way too. They are tired of what's happening in Washington.

CROWLEY: With Republicans to the north and west, and Democrats to the south and east, Arkansas will likely be won here in the central part of the state. Little Rock and its nearby suburbs are packed with swing voters. Bush used his brief visit to drive home a theme his campaign thinks has bounce among swing voters and conservative Democrats: Al Gore as architect of a big government.

BUSH: I'm running against somebody who wants to increase the size and scope of the federal government.

CROWLEY: Bush dropped by Arkansas en route to St. Louis for the third and last presidential debate. He spent Sunday afternoon and Monday morning perched on a stool, taking questions from aides in a rough simulation of a town hall meeting.

BUSH: The thing about these debates is you have got to know who you are and what you believe. And I know what I believe.

CROWLEY: With three weeks to go in the tightest of races, there are two things to do: Make no major mistakes and make sure your voters actually vote.

BUSH: This election is going to come down to the campaign that's got the most active grassroots organizations, that campaign that can convince people to take the extra step, phone the extra phone, find that extra neighbor to take to the polls. I'm here to ask for your help. I want to you to join this campaign.

CROWLEY (on camera): Arkansas is the first stop on a seven-city, six-state, 83-electoral-vote, 4,795-mile one-week trip. But then, who's counting?

Candy Crowley, CNN, Little Rock, Arkansas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Indeed, who's counting?

Well, tomorrow night's town hall debate will take place against the backdrop of Middle East violence and the increasingly urgent search for peace. In Gaza and the West Bank today, Palestinian protesters again clashed with Israeli forces. A Palestinian police officer was killed. Another 40 people were wounded.

At about the same time: President Clinton met with top leaders in the conflict in talks designed to work toward a cease-fire.

For the very latest, we go to Egypt and CNN senior White House correspondent John King and our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

John, let's start with you.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, they have been speaking and meeting here for 12 hours now, so perhaps an understatement that the White House press secretary, Jake Siewert, a short time ago described it as -- quote -- "tough going" -- still no deal -- a dinner broke up just a short time ago.

The president at this hour supposed to sit down for his third meeting of the day with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. He's had three already with the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak -- aides say Mr. Clinton trying to personally negotiate the terms of a cease- fire agreement to end the 17 days of deadly violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Mr. Clinton also hopes any summit agreement worked out here would include an agreement on a fact-finding commission to look into, explore the roots of this violence the past 17 days. And he hopes -- and many here think he's too optimistic -- he hopes for an agreement for the Israelis and the Palestinians to ultimately commit to a date to resume formal peace negotiations -- this obviously a very frustrating mission for the U.S. president.

He thought just 2 1/2 months ago at Camp David, he was on the verge of a historic breakthrough. Now, Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat will barely speak to each other, although they were seen chatting briefly before the dinner tonight -- in his opening remarks at the summit this morning, Mr. Clinton urging the leaders -- almost pleading with them, though in a very somber voice -- to think past the bloodshed, the anger, the bitterness and mistrust of recent days and not to let all this destroy the partnership they've built this past seven years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We shouldn't give it all up for what has happened in the last few weeks. And what has happened in these last few weeks reminds us of the terrible alternative to continuing to live in peace and to continuing the peace process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, the president was to leave Sharm-el-Sheikh about an hour from now, head back to the United States. The White House, though, just a short time ago announced he is postponing his departure indefinitely. Again, he is to meet with Mr. Arafat again this hour. Then aides say he could summon Mr. Barak back as well -- these negotiations now going through the night here in Sharm-el-Sheikh -- still no deal in sight -- White House aides saying they see the potential for progress. One called it gut-check time -- said they still have not seen the evidence that the Israeli leader and the Palestinian leader ready to make the concessions necessary to forge that cease-fire agreement -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, thank you, John.

And now we are going to go to Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, we just heard John say the Israeli leader, the Palestinian leader barely speaking to one another, the rhetoric going into the summit was very, very tough, directed at the other side. Has that eased off at all there during this meeting?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to the officials that we've been talking to, who are actually inside the room when these meetings are going on, there was what they describe as a business-like meeting between Arafat and Barak. They have not sat face to face to have substantive talks, but they have met in the group of officials there, and they have shaken hands, and they have exchanged word, but nothing substantive yet.

The meetings have been characterized as alternately reasonable, and attempting to achieve some kind of progress, and at other times descending into a shouting match, particularly there was one meeting of foreign ministers in which apparently we are told the Israeli and the Palestinian representatives simply started shouting at each other and had to be told to calm down by Madeleine Albright and the Egyptian foreign minister.

So there have been all sorts of highs and lows and real roller coaster emotions and activities going on right now. And alternately, we've been told that there was some progress possibly being made and then there was no progress being made.

Right now what we are being told by the Israelis and by the Palestinians is that absolutely no progress has been made on the key issue of drafting a statement that would call for a cease-fire; that would implement a mechanism for verifying a cease-fire; and implement some kind of a mechanism to verify in the future that the kind of violence we've seen in the Middle East over the last two weeks would not erupt again.

That has not happened. There are still outstanding issues. Chief among them, the Palestinian demand for an international commission of inquiry into the violence, and also for the Israelis to lift their blockade of Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Israelis say that they won't do any of that until there is a cease-fire, the Palestinians say they won't call a cease-fire until the Israelis agree to those other conditions.

And so we're at a bit of a deadlock here right now. Israelis say they plan to meet through the night. Now, one thing we heard from Palestinians was that they were told that President Clinton wanted to come out with a statement to indicate what he felt progress, or what sort of direction this meeting had taken. Palestinians say that they would not accept, that if that happened, they would come out with their own statement and they want an agreement or nothing -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Christiane Amanpour; CNN's John King, both at Sharm El-Sheikh. Thank you -- Bernie.

SHAW: Off the coast of Yemen, meantime, the investigation into the attack on the USS Cole is at full speed. A U.S. official is telling CNN "squads of people" are now on the scene. But so far, no individuals or groups have been targeted as suspects.

The attack killed 17 U.S. sailors in what Yemen's president today described as "a criminal act."

Navy officials say, repair teams are on board, but the salvage operation is difficult.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. MARK FITZGERALD, U.S. NAVY: They had to conduct a survey of what they were going to do, how they were going to cut it out. Those kinds of thing. The divers are working in a touch-feel kind of mode. So it's a slow process, and that's the real problem, it's just slow- going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: The bodies of seven victims have been recovered from the damaged areas. But the rest remain out of reach, entangled in the wreckage.

How will these international events factor, if at all, into the November election, here in the U.S.?

Our Bill Schneider joins us now to explain -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Bernie, could the Mideast crisis become the October surprise of the presidential campaign? As of yet, there's no evidence that the crisis has had any impact.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Voters give Al Gore a slight edge as the candidate better able to handle the crisis in the Middle East. They give Bush a slight edge as the candidate better able to respond to the terrorist attack.

Overall, it's a dead heat when voters are asked, which candidate would do a better job handling world affairs?

But what if President Clinton responds militarily to the attack on the USS Cole. How would the voters react? Remember August 17, 1998, when President Clinton confessed to the American people about the Lewinsky affair?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Three days later, he ordered air strikes against suspected terrorist bases in Sudan and Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: My fellow Americans, our battle against terrorism did not begin with the bombing of our embassies in Africa, nor will it end with today's strike.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: The president's opponents called the air strikes a political diversion from his domestic problems. But that's not how the American people saw it. They saw it as doing his job. The decline in his job rating abruptly halted.

In December 1998, just before the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president, he ordered air strikes against Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Then yesterday morning I gave the order, because I believe that we cannot allow Saddam Hussein to dismantle UNSCOM and resume the production of weapons of mass destruction with impunity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: The president's opponents again howled -- another political diversion. But that's not how the American people saw it. They saw it as doing his job.

Two days later, the House of Representatives voted for impeachment. And the president's job rating soared 10 points.

In the current crisis, Vice President Gore has called for retaliation.

VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The U.S. will not rest until the perpetrators are held accountable.

SCHNEIDER: So has Governor Bush.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope we can gather enough intelligence to figure out who did act, and that the necessary action. SCHNEIDER: The provocation is clear. The political groundwork has been laid for a military retaliation. Would the voters respond cynically? The likely answer is no. Americans would rally to support their commander-in-chief.

It happened to President Kennedy after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962; to President Carter, after the seizure of American hostages in Iran in November 1979; to President Reagan, after the twin crises in Lebanon and Grenada in October 1983; and to President Bush, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

They all saw their job ratings go up, at least temporarily.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: But would it help Al Gore? The record shows that any political impact would be small and short-term. But the vice president just needs a small amount of help. And with the election less than a month away, the short term is all that matters -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Bill Schneider.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: Putting the Texas governor under scrutiny. A look at George W. Bush and his record at the helm in the Lone Star State.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: One day away from the final presidential debate. This one on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. It is the second debate hosted by the university, the last was in 1992.

With the election now just 22 days away, George W. Bush holds a slim lead in our new tracking poll. Bush is at 47 percent, Al Gore at 44 percent in the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup survey. The Texas governor has now held a slight lead for the past three days.

SHAW: In the closing days of this campaign, Vice President Gore and his party are calling attention to Governor Bush's record in Texas. At issue: Bush's performance on key issues such as hate crimes, health care and poverty.

CNN's Tony Clark examines the record.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman paid a visit to the Lone Star State as part of the Gore campaign's new effort to shift campaign focus to Bush's own credibility, as well as his record.

Lieberman began his tour by focusing attention on Bush's environmental record: meeting with residents in Odessa, Texas just down the road from a plant that, in 1998, vented foul smoke over poor neighborhoods for three weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just think, he did it to us in Texas. What's going to happen to the other states?

CLARK: The following day, at a colonia near the Texas-Mexico border, Lieberman was told the Texas governor isn't doing enough to help the poor.

REV. ALBERT LELO: We went to the county. We talk about it. Even, we went to Austin to talk about it, so that he can help us in the colonias, but nothing was done.

CLARK: Bush has set up a colonia initiative office with its initial focus on getting residents hooked up to water and sewer lines, using federal grant money.

SCOTT STORMENT, DIR. OF COLONIA INITIATIVE: During the past five years, we have completed 26 colonia projects under Governor Bush's tenure. And that is serving approximately 90,000 residents at this point.

CLARK: The latest attacks from Democrats target some of Bush's remarks in last week's debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM LEHRER, MODERATOR: On hate crimes laws?

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No we've got one in Texas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLARK: But Bush did not support legislation to broaden the scope for the Texas hate crimes law, a fact noted in newspaper ads featuring the daughter of dragging death victim James Byrd and radio ads with the mother of gay beating victim Mathew Shepard.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the second debate, you said that you opposed the Kennedy Hate Crime Bill. I want to know why?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLARK: At the time of Byrd's murder, Bush called for those responsible to be treated harshly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The behavior of the people arrested was barbaric, and the Jasper -- and the law, the law, needs to be fierce and firm and tough for barbaric behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLARK: But despite the urging of Byrd's family, Bush did not endorse changes to Texas' hate crimes law that would have specified groups to be protected. And when it comes to helping all uninsured in Texas...

BUSH: We spend $4.7 billion a year in the state of Texas for uninsured people.

CLARK: Yet the Texas comptroller reports three-fourths of that is from charity care provided by doctors and hospitals and paid for by local governments and charitable institutions, not the state. On the environment...

BUSH: We reduced our industrial waste by 11 percent. We cleaned up more brown fields than any other administration in my state's history.

CLARK: EPA data shows toxic releases in Texas actually increased in 1998, the last reporting year, from 1995, the first year Bush was in office.

RICHARD WILES, ENVIRONMENTAL WATCH: Mr. Bush likes to point to the fact that Texas is an industrial state and that's why it's so polluted. That's not the case. In fact, for the industries we looked at, California has far more of these big industrial smog polluters; but California enforces the law, Texas doesn't.

CLARK (on camera): While Texas is considered to be solidly in the Bush camp, Lieberman hopes to turn the state into a liability for the governor. Using Bush's record here to win votes for Gore in other states.

Tony Clark, CNN, Midland, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: And just ahead, convincing voters in a swing district. A Pennsylvania House race that is up for grabs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In Pennsylvania's once solidly Republican 13th District, the House seat changed hands three times in six years. Now the district's freshman Democratic congressman is trying for a second term.

Brian Palmer takes a closer look at one key race in the battle for control on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This used to be solid Republican country, Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District, towns like Jenkintown, Abington, Glenside. So why did Bill Clinton carry the district in 1992 and 1996? And why does a Democrat, Joe Hoeffel, now hold the congressional seat?

REP. JOE HOEFFEL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Wow, goodies. I didn't know I was going to pick up T-shirts here. PALMER: A seat that the Republican Party, with its slim majority in the House, hopes to reclaim with its challenger, State Senator Stewart Greenleaf.

STEWART GREENLEAF (R), PENNSYLVANIA CONG. CAND.: Nice motor home, huh?

PALMER: The short answer is: a more economically and ethnically diverse population has moved in, altering the district's political profile. The 13th is Pennsylvania's most affluent congressional district, but most of it is solidly middle class with some working class neighborhoods.

Republicans still outnumber Democrats three to two.

MICHAEL YOUNG, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: It's become the quintessential really ticket-splitting district, where voters, despite the party registration, are as likely to vote for one party as another.

LINDA FINARELLI, MONTGOMERY NEWSPAPERS: You have moderate Republicans, and you have moderate Democrat, and both of the candidates fit into those slots. There does not seem to be a lot of differences between the two of them.

PALMER: 13th District voters like to vote for moderates, too. They went for a Democrat for the first time in decades when they elected Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky to Congress in 1992. But they turned on her when she broke a pledge and voted for President Clinton's 1993 tax increase. Republican John Fox took the seat, then Democrat Hoeffel took it back.

Hoeffel hopes to keep the seat by promoting his record as a fiscally responsible Democrat.

HOEFFEL: I think the big challenge is to make sure that this economic prosperity enriches not just the few, but all Americans. So I would do that by paying down debt, which will keep the economy strong and create jobs, and by investing in people with education, health care, and retirement security.

PALMER: But Greenleaf claims he is the fiscal conservative, not Hoeffel.

GREENLEAF: He did vote against every tax reduction, not one, but every one of them that came up. That is not being a fiscal conservative. I would have voted for all of them. He's a nice person and I'm not criticizing his views. It is just that I don't think it fits this district.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It comes down to: Who do you trust?

PALMER: Bill Bosler (ph) of Jenkintown, a registered Democrat, is voting party line, but his wife Catherine Knowle (ph), a Republican, is waiting to hear what the candidates say about her issues? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not as concerned about taxes increasing or decreasing as taking care of the people who need to be taken care of?

PALMER: In a district where many Republicans sound like Democrats and the Democrats sound like Republican, the power of incumbency may be decisive. But Stewart Greenleaf is still going door-to-door, insisting that with this district's fickle record and Republican majority, voters may turn the incumbent out of office once again.

Brian Palmer, CNN, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: There is much more ahead on this edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Still to come:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The heights above Pittsburgh, looking down where the mighty Ohio River first flows, before it courses along the banks of four states in all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Bill Delaney on the political waters and the shifting tides along the Ohio River Valley.

Plus:

SHAW: The ABCs of a key campaign issue, and later.

WOODRUFF: Measuring political coverage -- are the news media losing interest in the presidential race?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Beyond the river city of Saint Louis and the battlegrounds of the middle West, George W. Bush and Al Gore have zeroed in on a handful of states rich in electoral votes.

CNN's Bill Delaney reports from the mill towns of the Ohio River Valley to see how people there view this election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DELANEY (voice-over): The heights above Pittsburgh, looking down where the mighty Ohio River first flows, before it courses along the banks of four states in all -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and, eventually, Kentucky -- past struggling steel factories in the upper Ohio Valley and the towns linked to them, places often less prosperous than other parts of their own states and the country as a whole, contributing to an electoral tide of 57 electoral votes in all. Still, not necessarily flowing one way or the other.

Not that you'd know it at Hamilton Kettles in traditionally Democratic West Virginia, where non-union workers from three neighboring states all like Bush. The boss, Chuck Friend, is from West Virginia.

CHUCK FRIEND, CEO, HAMILTON KETTLES: I think people are ready for some solid integrity.

DELANEY: What you hear again and again where many voters share conservative values, a sense Clinton's scandals have rubbed off on Gore, and a sense Bush is just more likable.

Production manager Ed Henderson lives in Ohio.

ED HENDERSON, PRODUCTION MANAGER: The way he talks, the way he treats people -- there's no certain reason why, but I just like his personality.

DELANEY: Chris Powell from Pennsylvania will vote for Bush based on an issue, though three generations of his family have voted Democratic.

CHRIS POWELL, FABRICATOR: From what I've picked up so far, Gore's getting carried away with gun control, but Bush is just saying to enforce the laws that we already have.

DELANEY: Despite the fact that Democratic West Virginia could tilt to Bush, Gore does have support in the Ohio Valley.

Union leader Bill Sterner says his utility workers think Bush will wreck the surplus, wreck the good economy, while aiding and comforting corporations, the rich.

BILL STERNER, PRESIDENT, UTILITY WORKERS UNION: From a worker's standpoint, especially from a union worker's standpoint, there's a clear, clear difference in where we'll be four or eight years from now if George Bush gets elected.

DELANEY: Tell that to union man Mark Glyptis of the Independent Steelworker's Union in Weirton, West Virginia. Clinton's and Gore's pledge right in town eight years ago to end the dumping of cheap Asian steel was a lie, union officials say, that's cost 10,000 jobs.

Now that anyone's swinging toward free-trader George Bush.

MARK GLYPTIS, PRESIDENT, INDEPENDENT STEELWORKERS UNION: We're strongly behind Pat Buchanan.

DELANEY: For the most part, though, no one overriding issue driving the vote in the Ohio Valley.

NED RUGELEY, WHEELING JESUIT UNIVERSITY: On domestic issues, while there are distinct differences, they have really not gone out of their way to tell how those differences will effect the people of this region. As a result of that, people are almost left to personalities. DELANEY (on camera): Here in the upper Ohio Valley, working class and blue collar workers from three states converge -- the sort of voters Ronald Reagan once tore from their traditionally Democratic moorings.

Well, the moorings are loose again, with only Kentucky leaning hard in one direction toward Bush, a river valley that could tilt critical undecided states, states that could in a neck-in-neck race, sink or swim Gore and Bush.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Wheeling, West Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Now for more on those Ohio Valley states and other crucial toss-ups around the nation, I'm joined by Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."

Ron, looking at all the states still in play out there. Now Bill Clinton won most or all of those back in '92-'96.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": That's right. There are virtually -- I think there are no states that Bob Dole won in 1996 that are seriously in play at this point. Gore is not really a threat to pull over to the Democratic sides any of the states that the Republicans held, but there are 21 or 22, depending on whether you include California and Minnesota in the list, of states that Bill Clinton won in '96 that the Bush campaign is still seriously contesting. In a way, this is simple math, Judy. Bill Clinton won 379 electoral votes. Bush, obviously has to peel away enough of those to get to 270. Gore only has to hold on to parts of his base. But is striking that this late in the election, the Bush camp feels it has at least shot at more than 20 states that Bill Clinton won.

WOODRUFF: Excuse me, I've got a little cough.

Ron, five of those states voted for Dukakis in '88 and Clinton in '92 and '96. How is Gore doing?

BROWNSTEIN: Those are the most striking. When you have West Virginia, a state has been Democratic three consecutive elections, now Bush says that they are up, the Gore campaign says really no better than about even. Wisconsin, a dead heat between the two of them. Oregon and Washington State, three in a row Democratic, but both at best a dead heat, Democrats believe they're up slightly in Washington. The Republicans believe they're up slightly in Oregon. Finally, Iowa, one that does seem to be coming home where both sides agree Gore has a lead now.

WOODRUFF: I'm going to see if I can get through this interview. I'm really having a hard time coughing.

The big four states, the four states that are in play with the biggest electoral, talk about that.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, Clinton won all of them in '96 -- Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Michigan, right now, I think both sides see as about dead even, maybe a slight tilt toward Bush in the last couple of days, but it's worth recalling that Bush is running below his national number there, even if he may be ahead at this point. Florida, again, very close state. Democrats shifting resources in there, perhaps putting a greater emphasis on it now than Ohio, which does seem to be leaning safely Bush, And finally Pennsylvania, which has been strongly Gore through the cycle, but now the margin is declining. The Republicans say it's declined all the way to dead heat; the Democrats say they stabilized at about a five or six-point lead. But clearly, the person -- if one person won three of those four states, they would almost certainly be president.

If Gore can win Pennsylvania and Michigan alone, he will have a pretty good shot, assuming he can hold some of these other smaller states.

WOODRUFF: And finally, Ron, what is your analysis of why Gore is having such a hard time?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, Gore is losing ground on a lot of different fronts that Clinton gained, I think, You know, you can see it both from a message point of view, a demographic point of view and a geographic point of view.

From a demographic point of view, he's having trouble holding certain groups that Clinton won -- married women, who are very important, upper-income voters. You know, Al Gore spends a lot of time hammering the wealthy, and it almost seems as though he is telling people who have gotten enriched during the Clinton era, people who have been upwardly mobile, that he doesn't want them to vote for him.

I mean, in your poll, "CNN & TIME" over the weekend, he was losing by people at $75,000 and above by 24 points, more than double the margin that Clinton lost by to Bob Dole. And I don't think you can beat George Bush, who's relatively moderate, among middle-income voters enough to overcome something like that.

So, again, he is losing on a -- losing a ground on a sort of thematic sense, where Bush is pushing him back into the big-government corner in these debates, basically arguing that Gore is almost a pre- Clinton Democrat, a return -- as Bush likes to say, the era of big government being over would be over if Al Gore is elected.

So I think Gore has to push forward on some of these fronts, reverse this, if he's going to make this up in the last three weeks.

WOODRUFF: All right, Ron Brownstein -- and forgive my...

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: I'm losing my voice here.

BROWNSTEIN: Live television.

Thanks a lot -- appreciate it -- Bernie. SHAW: Coming up next, the political candidates go back to school: where Bush and Gore stand on education and what it says about their views on the role of government.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Conventional wisdom says a political debate on education favors Democrats. But George W. Bush has refused to cede the issue to Al Gore.

As CNN's Pat Neal from the battleground state of Missouri, the Bush and Gore plans illustrate each man's beliefs about the role of government.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make sure you have the words you really mean.

PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Missouri teachers and parents are closely checking the candidates' answer on education.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Education is the foundation of our country.

NEAL: The difference is in the math. Al Gore proposes spending $170 billion over ten years. George W. Bush says he'd spend less than one-third of that: $47 billion. Here, the ABCs of their plans. A is for accountability.

JOYCE JONES (ph), TEACHER: Is there anyone who would like to volunteer?

NEAL: Joyce Jones has been teaching for 30 years. She likes Bush's plan to test all students every year with a state standardized test.

JONES: It gives you a better picture of where their growth process is from one grade level to the other.

KIM GASS, MOTHER/VOLUNTEER: What else do you want to look up?

Kim Gass volunteers in her son's Ellisville school. She says some students just don't test well.

GASS: I've changed my mind a couple times. And it's because of the issues regarding testing for the kids.

NEAL: Gore would ask states to voluntarily test three additional times, on top of current federal law, which mandates three tests between third and 12th grade. B is for better teachers.

SANDY APICELLA (ph), VOLUNTEER: And Hank even got me to school before the first bell.

NEAL: Sandy Apicella helps in the library. She likes Gore's plan to test all new instructors in the subjects they teach. APICELLA: I have a college degree. I have a Masters degree. And they're coming home and asking me questions and I can't answer them. So, you know, I want to know that the teacher knows.

NEAL: Bush does not support mandatory federal testing of new teachers. Instead, he would provide $400 million to states. And they could decide whether to spend it on teacher-testing, pay raises, or hiring more teachers. Gore would spend 20 times more, $8 billion alone for pay raises.

In Lisa Flick's (ph) Missouri district, some substitute teachers are filling vacancies. She supports Gore's plan to give them a $5,000 to $10,000 pay raise.

LISA FLICK, MISSOURI RESIDENT: Teachers' salaries aren't equivalent to other professions. Maybe you're a first-year teacher, you will probably make half of what someone in computer science is going to make.

NEAL: Gore would also spend an additional $8 billion to hire more teachers. C is for choice. Both Gore and Bush agree that students in failing schools should be allowed to transfer to another public school. Gore also says failing schools could be shut down and reopened with new administration.

(on camera): Bush would offer another option. He would give parents of students in failing schools a $1,500 per-year voucher. That could be applied to private school tuition.

(voice-over): From the playground of her daughter's inner city St. Louis school, Annette Welch (ph) says, for some students, Bush's voucher plan could be the answer.

ANNETTE WELCH, MOTHER: It may help out on certain students.

ANITA CRAWFORD (ph), TEACHER: Is that something that happens in the fall?

CHILDREN: Yes, Ms. Crawford!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am.

NEAL: But like Al Gore, kindergarten teacher, Anita Crawford, is against vouchers. Crawford says parental involvement is more important.

CRAWFORD: We have -- don't have the parents backing us up. The things that we take and give to the children in the school -- in the school setting, this also needs to be reinforced in the home setting.

NEAL: Gore and Bush also disagree on what to do for youngsters before they go to kindergarten. Gore would spend $50 billion to provide preschool for all 4- and some 3-year-olds. Bush has no similar preschool initiative. With more students in classes than ever before, Missouri voters say they'll test the candidates by who can do more for students. Pat Neal, CNN, St. Louis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: When we return, politics in the media: the coverage and the comedy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: With a grant from the Pew Research Center, Steve Hess of the Brookings Institution has been keeping tabs on how the big three broadcast networks have been covering this campaign. I spoke with him about an hour ago, and asked whether the level of coverage is up to previous campaigns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: After measuring this for five weeks, I find that it's the lowest five weeks in the history of the evening news. 1992 was the high-water mark; 1996 was the low water mark. Expected given the nature of this campaign, very close, that we were going to be somewhere between, but closer to 1992. Instead, we're still running, after five weeks, below 1996.

Strange part about it, though, is while the evening news programs are going down, if you were watching in September the morning news program --"The Today Show, "Good Morning America" and "The Early Show," you would have had 30 percent more presidential election campaign news than in the evening shows.

SHAW: Why is that, given the fact that evening newscasts had a larger audience than the morning?

HESS: I think in the sense you're responsible for that, at least in part -- cable, Internet -- the idea that people have probably heard the hard news by the time 7:00 at night comes along. So that the evening news shows are becoming something more of a mini news magazine, and the morning news show, 7:00 a.m. in the morning, you're getting the first crack at the news, and so there is this interesting shift from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. for hard news.

SHAW: Does the age of the audience have anything to do with it?

HESS: Well, in a strange way, I think it does. You get a larger audience at night, but it's an older audience, so that more of the pieces are about health and so forth. In the morning, you get a lot of people getting up and going to work. In fact, I find, when I interview the reporters, that many of them love to do that morning show, because now they're talking to their news source, the important people that they interview -- cabinet members, the White House -- they're getting up. At 7:00 in the morning, 7:00 at night, they're still in the office.

SHAW: More importantly, is the coverage turning on the horse race, substance, coverage of issues? HESS: Again, it's the heaviest that I've seen on horse race. Horse race is good stories, I'm not knocking that; they're fun. But you want a balance between substance and horse race, and you're running way up on horse race, partly of course because it is a horse race; it's a close election. But in that case, there is some difference between the networks. For example, ABC has more of a balance than the others, but also less minutes than the others. NBC has more minutes, but less balance. So you pay your money, you take the choice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: We'll be sure to check in with Steve Hess again, as we enter the home stretch, and you can follow his research this and every Monday in his column in "USA Today."

Well, there is also some not-so-serious media coverage of this presidential race.

WOODRUFF: Over the weekend, the candidates found their second, more amicable sit-down debate satirized once again on "Saturday Night Live."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And it's compassionate.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Mr. Vice president?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, Jim, I agree with the governor on that.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And on Panama?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I agree.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Somalia?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Agree.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Bosnia?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Oh, I agree.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Kuwait?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, of course, Jim, on the Gulf War, I absolutely agree. In fact, I was one of the very few of my party who broke ranks to support the governor's father, President Bush, in that effort.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Really? Honestly?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I'm not making that up. That's an actual true thing. I swear, I swear. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Grenada.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Agree.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: All right. Gentlemen, I can't help but note there's been a great deal of agreement between of two of you tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Definitely.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I agree on that.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Is there anything that comes to mind where you might disagree.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Jim, I'm not...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, no -- you go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I really don't mind.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No, no, no, I insist, please. I was rude. I've had my turn, you go.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: After you?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No, I'm going to listen, I'm going to listen, I'm going to listen.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: OK. Governor Bush, can you give us an instance of where you and the vice president differ?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, Jim, for one thing, I think we disagree on my plan to restructure Nigeria's debt to the West. You see, I've been very impressed with the new leadership over there, President Olesegun Obasanjo.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Vice president Atiku Abackar.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: His special assistant, Mr. Tunde Alusunye, even the director general of public enterprise, Mr. Malam Nasier Alir Al-Rufat. They're all top notch.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Mr. vice president.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Actually, Jim, we agree on that as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

SHAW: Only in America.

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

WOODRUFF: And these programming notes: CNN's coverage of tomorrow night's presidential debate begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll carry the debate live from St. Louis, starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. And immediately following the debate, we'll have analysis, as well as a town meeting of our own, live from Warren, Michigan.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: And with some hot tea and rest, you'll feel better, Judy Woodruff, tomorrow.

WOODRUFF: Let's hope.

SHAW: I'm Bernard Shaw.

"WORLDVIEW" is next.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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