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Inside Politics

Al Gore Denies Charge That He's for Big Government; George Bush Avoids Talking About Clinton, Stays Focused on Gore

Aired October 24, 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)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll make this clear pledge: As president, I will not add to the number of people doing work for the federal government, not by even one position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore puts more punch into fighting the Bush camp's charge that he is a fan of big government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, if he decides he can't help himself and starts getting out there and campaigning against me, the shadow returns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush tries not to let a Clinton question divert him from going after Gore.

SHAW: The widow of Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan is thrust into the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

WOODRUFF: Plus, how do pollsters build a likely voter model and why does it matter so much?

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

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.

Perhaps one of the last things Al Gore wants exactly two weeks before Election Day is to be lumped with losing Democrats such as Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale. But that is exactly what the Bush camp has been trying to do in its quest to portray Gore as a big spender.

So today, as our Jonathan Karl reports, the vice president fought back with new energy and a new pledge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: I pledge allegiance to the flag.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Al Gore, the New Democrat, is back. After dropping in on Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Little Rock, Vice President Gore declared himself the true fiscal conservative on the ballot and promised to make government smaller if elected president.

GORE: In this tale of two candidates, I'm the one who believes in limited government, and I have believed in it long before it was fashionable to do so in the Democratic Party.

KARL: Republicans have relentlessly sought to portray Gore as an old-style, big-government, liberal Democrat. Gore strategists acknowledge that line of attack that has hurt the vice president with swing voters. In Little Rock, he directly answered the charge, at times sounding more like Ronald Reagan than Al Gore.

GORE: I'll make this clear pledge: As president, I will not add to the number of people doing work for the federal government, not by even one position. And there will be more who leave those ranks than the ones who are replaced.

KARL: In making this new promise, Gore made his oft-repeated claim that because of his leadership, the federal work force has been reduced by 300,000 employees. Republicans have pounced on that claim, pointing out that the overwhelming majority of those reductions came because of cuts to the defense budget.

And while Gore promises to reduce the size of government, the Republicans are hitting the airwaves with new ads accusing him of doing the opposite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, RNC AD)

NARRATOR: Now Gore promises smaller government. But Gore is actually proposing three times the new spending President Clinton proposed. Why does Al Gore say one thing when the truth is another?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: I know my opponent would like to run against a mythical, big-spending, big-government candidate -- a cartoon image from campaigns past. Maybe he should take a look at the facts.

KARL: The facts, Gore insists, show that it is Bush who is the big government candidate in the race.

GORE: Governor Bush likes to rail against big government. Yet on his watch, the size of government in Texas has grown.

(LAUGHTER)

It's shocking, isn't it? It is true, though. Texas now has more government workers on the payroll than the state of New York. KARL: The Bush campaign acknowledges that as the population in Texas has grown, so has the size of state government. But Bush claims that state spending in Texas adjusted for inflation and population growth has grown at its lowest rate in almost 50 years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: The next stop for the vice president is Nashville, Tennessee as Gore tries to work, spending resource and time and money in Tennessee to become -- trying not to become the first presidential candidate since George McGovern to lose his home state -- Judy.

SHAW: Jonathan Karl with the very latest there.

Governor Bush campaigned today in Illinois and Tennessee, and he stumps in Florida this evening. The latest Florida poll shows he and Gore are dead even in the Sunshine State, where Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor. And a new Tennessee poll shows the candidates running neck and neck in Gore's home state.

As our Candy Crowley reports, Bush tried to turn the momentum his way in those battlegrounds by staying focused on Gore rather than the current resident of the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BUSH: I also will swear to uphold the honor and integrity to the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He ends every speech the same way and everyone knows what it means. But George Bush never talks about Bill Clinton and scandals, not even when asked directly, as he was Tuesday.

BUSH: Now, if he decides he can't help himself and starts getting out there and campaigning against me, the shadow returns.

(LAUGHTER)

I may say something in defense of my record, but it's time to move on. This race is between the vice president and me, and that's the way it's going to remain.

CROWLEY: Bill Clinton was a seconds-long diversion for Bush, who opened up a tri-state tour in suburban Chicago, where he hopes swing voters will help pull off an Illinois surprise.

In a variation on the theme of tax cuts, Bush offered up a comparative through the inquisitive. There is, he says, Al Gore's plan.

BUSH: How many of you own hybrid, electric-gasoline engine vehicles? If you look under there, you'll see that's one of the criterion necessary to receive tax relief. So when he talks about targeted tax relief, that's pretty darn targeted.

CROWLEY: And then there's George Bush's plan.

BUSH: How many of you all pay federal income taxes? You get tax relief.

CROWLEY: Moving south, the governor took another swing at Tennessee. Bush strategists believe conservative Southern Democrats and fence sitters are particularly susceptible to the big-government argument.

BUSH: I'm running against a man who's going to defy the history books about big spending. He's going to be the biggest spender if he gets elected in the history. He'll be three times bigger than that which President Clinton proposed.

CROWLEY: There is more to the struggle for Tennessee than its 11 electoral votes. This is as well about territorial imperative.

BUSH: I feel good about carrying Texas, and my opponent says that he wants to carry his home country too. He may win Washington, D.C., but he's not going to win Tennessee.

CROWLEY: This is Bush's fourth trip to Tennessee this year. Current polls show it's a dead heat.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Now, if Tennessee offers George Bush an opportunity to invade his opponent's territory, Florida does the same for Al Gore. Home to Governor Jeb Bush, the Sunshine State once thought to be pretty solid Bush territory, but it's a toss-up now and Governor George Bush will spend the day there tomorrow on a bus trip -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Candy Crowley out on the trail. Thanks a lot.

Well, in the race for electoral votes, our CNN analysis shows another state has moved into Governor Bush's column. Bush now leads in 24 states, including Nevada, which we had listed as a toss-up last week. That would give him 209 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

Based on our analysis, Gore still is ahead in 12 states and the District of Columbia, which would give him 175 electoral votes. Now that still leaves 14 states and their 154 electoral votes up for grabs, including some of the biggest states, such as Florida, which Candy mentioned, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

SHAW: We're joined now by the party chiefs: DNC National Chairman Joe Andrew and RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson.

Gentlemen, the same question to you both, starting with Mr. Nicholson. Will this race remain neck-and-neck all the way to the wire?

JAMES NICHOLSON, RNC CHAIRMAN: It's going to be a tight race, I think, right down to the wire, Bernie. But we're going to win. We have momentum. I mean, we've got Gore having to go campaign in his home state. He's having to campaign in the president's home state. You saw another state move into solidly in our column on the electoral vote. And Governor Bush's message is resonating with the people. He is talking in a way that the people trust, because he's got a background of achievement to back up it in Texas. And he talking genuinely about reducing the size of government. And the people in this country know they cannot believe Al Gore. And he's now, all of a sudden, got religion. And he's talking about smaller government.

But he's introducing, in his budget, 200 new or expanded programs that would cost us an additional $700 billion over the projected surplus.

SHAW: Joe Andrew, neck-in-neck to the end?

JOE ANDREW, DNC NATIONAL CHAIRMAN: Bernie, it's going to be an unbelievably close race. But I think that Jim's got more than a little fuzzy math there. He's got a little fuzzy logic. I mean, every poll in this country shows that Al Gore has the momentum right now, and partly because the very foundation of George Bush's run for the presidency, his record on education in Texas, has been found to be a great exaggeration itself.

The Rand study, this nonpartisan institute study that came out today, I think is a real blow to the Bush campaign, a real blow to the very foundation of why he's running for president. I think that will increase Al Gore's momentum. And I think this optimistic vision that he has for the future of our country has made a real difference over the past week.

NICHOLSON: Can I can comment?

SHAW: Gentlemen, chew on this question, if you will, starting with you, Joe Andrew: Do you squirm at the thought that your candidate could win the popular vote, but lose the electoral vote?

ANDREW: Well, clearly, all of us who believe in democracy fear that and hope that that doesn't happen as well. I think it won't happen, again, because the foundation of George Bush's run for the presidency has now been called in question, because his record on education has been called into question, and because Al Gore has made it very clear to all of Americans that he really is the fiscal conservative here.

He is the one that wants to pay off the debt. You know, George Bush is always good at saying: It's your money and you ought to have it back. Well, you know, it's our debt. And the mature, adult thing is to make sure we pay off the debt.

SHAW: Jim Nicholson, win the popular vote, lose the electoral vote.

NICHOLSON: I think that's quite unlikely, Bernie.

But I would like to comment on -- you know, this study that Andrew is talking about, there was a comprehensive study done by the Rand Corporation that showed that the achievement among all children in Texas is up 59 percent among minority children. And it's up 81 percent. And the person who supervised that team that did that study reaffirmed it today.

It's not somebody -- some liberal coming out two weeks before the elections questioning that study. But let me say something else. You know, Al Gore says that he invented the Internet. I think that he's probably going to be sorry that that happened, because I have, in my hand right here, something from the White House Web page. And it's entitled: "Accomplishments in Texas."

And it spells out how unemployment is down, the number of new jobs, how education has improved. Head Start has expanded -- smaller classes, more teachers, more tax cuts, and crime is down. And that's at www.whitehouse.gov. That is not an RNC Web page. That is the White House's Web page saying that about Texas Governor Bush's accomplishments.

ANDREW: So, Jim, exactly what would be the logic be then for George Bush to be against real funding for Head Start, and increasing the number of teachers that he wants to put in the schools, and putting more cops on the street?

NICHOLSON: He is -- he...

ANDREW: The very federal programs that have helped the people of Texas like they have helped all 50 states.

NICHOLSON: I don't think you have been paying attention.

(CROSSTALK)

SHAW: Let me -- let me intrude on your discussion by asking you a question: Jim Nicholson, if President Clinton rolls out in a final two-week full-court press, what will the Republicans do?

NICHOLSON: If he -- is your question that he runs away with this?

SHAW: If he rolls out campaigning vigorously for Al Gore, trying to rally the Democratic base, what will the Democrats -- the Republicans do?

NICHOLSON: Well, we'll do what we're doing. We'll continue talking about the issues and the positive vision that Governor Bush and we have for America that is resonating so well with the people of this country.

SHAW: OK.

NICHOLSON: I mean, I think what Clinton -- you know, he's going to remind him of the baggage that that party has, and that he brings to this. You know, Al Gore has said: I'm going to be my own man.

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLSON: Well, what does Clinton have to do with that? SHAW: Joe Andrew, how much damage do you expect Ralph Nader to do to your man in the Pacific Northwest on election night?

ANDREW: You know, I think, because this election is so close, Bernie, that those people who are supporting Ralph Nader, who are overwhelmingly pro-choice, overwhelmingly care about the environment are going to, when it comes to Election Day, say: You know, Al Gore is someone who is going to stand up and fight for a woman's right to choose. Al Gore is the most environmental candidate we've had for president.

And that's why, in the end, Ralph Nader's numbers won't be as high as they are today. I think that Al Gore will win those states.

SHAW: OK. One easy one for you, a two-or-three-worded answer, starting with you Jim Nicholson: How crucial will turnout be Election Day?

NICHOLSON: Turnout is very, very critical in this election. We have to turn out our base and the independents that we're appealing to. It will be very important -- hope everybody will vote.

SHAW: And Joe Andrew.

ANDREW: Very, very important. Democrats are always working to get people out to vote.

SHAW: OK, party chairs, Joe Andrew, Jim Nicholson, thanks very much. See you on the campaign trail and election night.

ANDREW: Thank you.

SHAW: Quite welcome.

Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: the Missouri Senate race after the death of Mel Carnahan -- our Bob Franken with the unusual story. Plus: David Peeler will talk with Judy about the ad assistance in the fight for Capitol Hill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Missouri's new governor said today he would cast his vote in the state's Senate race for the late Mel Carnahan. Governor Roger Wilson says voters of the state should do the same, suggesting that Carnahan's widow may take the seat if incumbent John Ashcroft is defeated.

Bob Franken taking a closer look now at the Missouri race.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan died just over a week ago, but the election is just two weeks away.

GOV. ROGER WILSON (D), MISSOURI: Things have to move on. FRANKEN: When his plane crashed, Carnahan was locked in a too- close-to-call struggle for the U.S. Senate with Republican incumbent John Ashcroft. Because he died so close to the election, Carnahan's name could not be removed from the ballot. So the new governor, Democrat Roger Wilson, decided an announcement was in order.

WILSON: I want you to know today that, should Mel Carnahan receive the largest number of votes in the election coming up, it is my intention to ask Jean Carnahan if she would fill that term, that two-year term.

FRANKEN: Carnahan's widow has never held public office, but she was widely praised for the way she handled public arrangements surrounding her husband's death.

GOV. ROGER WILSON (D), MISSOURI: She indicated that that was certainly a decision that she was not ready to make at this time, and I respect that.

FRANKEN: However, a source very close to the family tells CNN that Mrs. Carnahan has indicated she is -- quote -- "inclined to accept an appointment." She gave the eulogy Sunday for an aide who died with her husband.

JEAN CARNAHAN: Chris believed, as did my husband, that one person really could make a difference if they took the risk of trying.

FRANKEN: Democratic sources say their internal polls in Missouri show Mel Carnahan's support has jumped since his death. One of their latest has Carnahan at 50 percent, Ashcroft at 38. Senator Ashcroft's campaign officials refused to comment on their internal polls.

STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He can't attack, he can't criticize. It puts him in a very difficult place.

FRANKEN: The stakes are high. Democrats are relying on a strong showing by Carnahan to translate to big voter turnout for the presidential candidate, Al Gore, and Senate Democrats were pinning a lot of their takeover hopes on a Carnahan victory.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: We think Mrs. Carnahan would do an extraordinary job as the senator from Missouri.

FRANKEN (on camera): Sources say Mrs. Carnahan is considering a public appearance to ask voters to support the Democratic ticket. At the very least, she seems not ready to retire from the public arena.

Bob Franken, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: The battle for control on Capitol Hill has some candidates calling out the cavalry. In 27 House races and four Senate races, Arizona senator and former presidential hopeful John McCain appears in ads asking voters to support the Republican candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, HAYES CAMPAIGN AD)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Congress needs people like Robin Hayes, and now Robin Hayes needs you. On November 7th, help me re- elect Robin Hayes to Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AMERICANS FOR GUN SAFETY)

MCCAIN: I believe law-abiding citizens have the right to own guns, but with rights come responsibilities. Close the loophole. Vote yes on 22.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: McCain is also lending his support to gun safety initiatives in Oregon and Colorado.

On the Democratic side, President Clinton has been brought into the race in Florida's third congressional district in an ad praising Representative Corrine Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BROWN CAMPAIGN AD)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When people see her coming in the White House if she wants something, we finally decided to just go and tell her yes before we even hear what it is. And I'm here to say Corrine Brown does deliver.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Joining us now, David Peeler of Competitive Media Reporting, who tracks political advertising in the top 75 media markets.

Hi, David.

DAVID PEELER, COMPETITIVE MEDIA REPORTING: Hi, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Tell us, first of all, how much spending is there behind these ads featuring Senator McCain and President Clinton?

PEELER: Well, Judy, it's very interesting. You know, in sports the athlete that gets the most commercial endorsements wins, and in this case John McCain is the political equivalent of Tiger Woods.

In the 10 states that we saw some spending, almost $3 million has been spent on ads that have John McCain supporting either the candidate or the issue in that area. That's over 31 races that we've seen around the country so far. I suspect that that will only increase between now and election day.

As we turn to the Bill Clinton spot that we saw for Corrine Brown, we see only about $33,000 spent against that one spot, and that's the only one that we've seen so far. And I think really from a media tactic what's important here is that there's some speculation growing that the voter turnout may be low, and if that's indeed the case, the parties are really going to have to try and get their base out. And John McCain seems to appeal to the Republican base. So, that's what they're going for there, and we'll see if it changes for President Clinton in the coming days.

WOODRUFF: All right. Now, the competitive race between Minnesota's Republican senator, Rod Grams, and the Democratic challenger, Mark Dayton, has generated some negative campaign ads. And for his part, Grams called not on John McCain, but on his mother for help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DAYTON CAMPAIGN AD)

ANNOUNCER: Rod grams has run a negative campaign from the beginning. His ads have been called not true and not fair. Why won't Rod Grams run on his record?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, GRAMS CAMPAIGN AD)

AUDREY GRAMS, ROD GRAMS' MOTHER: Rod cut taxes and he's the one who did the lockbox to save Social Security. He has a plan for prescription drugs, too.

You can trust Rod. I should know, I raised him.

Mark Dayton, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Vote for Rod.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: All right, David. How much are these candidates spending?

PEELER: Well, if you can't get John McCain, get mom, it always works. What we've seen is that Dayton has spent about 1.5 million, so he's outspending Grams to date. Grams has spent $460,000 to date. But he's also gotten some help from the Republican Party. They've added up another $520,000. So in total, he's being outspent by about half a million dollars so far in this campaign.

WOODRUFF: All right, David Peeler, and I know we'll see you again several times between now and election day. Thanks a lot.

PEELER: Thank you, Judy

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

SHAW: Still to come...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Excuse me. Are you going to vote in this election?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Our Bruce Morton on the tricky task of finding those who will and why it matters to pollsters. Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Lieberman is probably the best-kept secret in the Cuban cause.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Examining Joe Lieberman's appeal to Cuban-American voters in Florida.

SHAW: And later, surfing the political Web: a look at the sites that might help the undecided voters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: We will have more of this day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories. United States forces in Bahrain and Qatar remain on highest alert. It was ordered after officials learned of specific threats against American citizens and facilities in both those countries. The Pentagon says this move is the right thing to do considering recent events in that part of the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did that, as we do with all such continuous assessments, based on a receipt of credible -- I'm sorry -- specific threats against U.S. forces in those two areas. But in some cases, and this one in particular, the credibility of the threat information was simply unknown to us.

But given the circumstances, the recent attack on the Cole, and the generally higher level of threat throughout that region, we thought it was simply the prudent thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: The attack on the USS Cole happened 12 days ago in Yemen. U.S. officials are downplaying speculation about a possible pre- emptive strike against suspected terrorist targets.

The U.S. military is not discounting the possibility an alleged terrorist leader or his associates may be involved in these threats. Osama bin Laden is expected of masterminding the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. This man is also believed to be linked in the bombing of the Cole.

The wealth Muslim hardliner from Saudi Arabia is living in exile in Afghanistan.

WOODRUFF: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is trying to salvage his leadership as more fighting erupts between Palestinian and Israeli troops. Today Ramallah, on the West Bank, was the scene of more rock throwing and gunplay. At least three people have died in the latest round of violence. Barak is trying to form a coalition government. Aides hope to announce its formation by Thursday.

An armed teenager who held an elementary school class and its teacher hostage near Phoenix, Arizona is in police custody. The incident in suburban Glendale lasted about an hour and there were no injuries. Police say the suspect is a former student of pioneer elementary school. He allegedly threatened the class with a 9- millimeter gun. Police have not said what prompted the incident.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, our new tracking poll numbers and Ron Brownstein's take on them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: Just 14 days before Americans cast their ballots our poll shows they are almost evenly divided in their support for George W. Bush and Al Gore. Gore now leads by one point in the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup tracking poll of likely voters. Now, statistically, there's no real change from yesterday, when Bush was ahead by two points. But the poll indicates Gore has gained some ground in the past few days.

Most other tracking polls also show this presidential race is neck-and-neck. But there have been times when various surveys have seemed to contradict one another. Pollsters explain that by pointing to the different likely voter models they use.

Our Bruce Morton has an inside view of those models and why they matter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): Excuse me, are you going to vote in this election?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am really afraid of what will happen to this country if I don't at least make an attempt to push it in the direction that I'd like to see it go in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I always vote. It's a privilege.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a lot at stake in this election and it's close and everybody should vote.

MORTON: They all say they're going to vote, but pollsters need to be sure they'll vote -- count a lot of non-voters in your poll and your numbers will be wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No I'm not because I haven't registered.

MORTON: OK, a pollster wouldn't count you. But it's not nearly that easy. Just registering isn't enough.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: We know that most registered voters don't vote and we've got to go a little further than that.

MORTON: The Gallup organization uses a kind of test.

FRANK NEWPORT, EDITOR IN CHIEF, GALLUP POLL: We ask every respondent a series of questions that we use to measure their likelihood of voting like "Did you vote last time? Do you know where people in your neighborhood vote? How interested are you in voting this year?" and so on and so forth and we assign everybody a score.

MORTON: If they figure 50 percent of the people will vote then they use the 50 percent of the sample with the highest scores as likely voters. Different pollsters ask different questions to see who the likely voters are. Getting it right really matters.

RICH MORIN, POLLING DIRECTOR, "WASHINGTON POST": Any difference in your sample and the people who really turn out is going to produce a big, big difference in the results. You could be off by a considerable amount if you merely overestimate the percentage of people who go out to vote by 3 or 4 percent.

MORTON: In fact, the "Post" and ABC use the same interviews, but use different tests for likely voters and sometimes get different results.

MORIN: Yes, it likely will be different only on a few days and only by a point.

MORTON: So pollsters worry over who's likely to vote. Likely voters themselves know who they are and sometimes scorn their non- voting fellow citizens.

QUESTION: What do you think about people who don't vote?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They suck.

MORTON: Take that non-voters.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Indeed; and we're joined now by Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles" -- talk about candor.

What is going on with the electorate this year? I mean, we have seen tracking polls not always agreeing with one another. Right now they all seem to be pretty much in line. What's going on out there?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, first of all, we have not seen the lead change hands after Labor Day, according to Gallup polling, in a presidential election since 1980, This is the first time -- 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996 the candidate who was ahead on Labor Day never went behind.

Now, unless I've lost track, because it's been a little hard to keep track of this as it moves up and down -- today is the fifth lead change in the Gallup polling after Labor Day between Gore and Bush. And I think what it tells us is a couple things.

One, there's obviously some questions about the volatility of the polls and exactly how pollsters are measuring likely voters, as Bruce Morton said. But the reality is, I think, this is not only a 51-49 election in the broad sense -- that the parties are pretty evenly matched. You don't have a driving issue; you have two candidates who are not totally inspiring on the one hand, but don't really inspire great antipathy on the other.

But it's not only a 51-49 election for the country, it's a 51-49 election for a lot of people, and the choice is very narrow...

WOODRUFF: You mean they're torn.

BROWNSTEIN: They're torn, exactly. And as a result, people are moving back and forth. The last increment of voters, maybe the last 15 percent, are moving back and forth based on whoever is having a better time in the news at that precise moment. As a result you have a really tight race.

I think the underlying reality, though, Judy, is you have a country at parity. Look at Congress, look at the House, look at the Senate, look at party ID -- the two parties are as evenly matched as at any time in our lifetime and that points toward a close race.

WOODRUFF: Meaning turnout matters -- whatever happens in the last few days before the election?

BROWNSTEIN: This is going to be a great election for Monday- morning quarterbacks because everything matters. In a year like this, unless something breaks at the end -- you could have a 1980 situation where it breaks open for one candidate or the other, but it doesn't look that way.

I mean, the natural equilibrium of this race seems to be equilibrium. Whenever one of them gets ahead, as the event that caused them to get ahead recedes in the public memory we drift back toward a dead heat. It almost feels like that's where this race wants to be on a day-to-day basis.

WOODRUFF: All right; in some of the battleground -- many of the battleground states, as you're saying -- everything matters. One of the things that's going on out there is you've got the National Rifle Association allied against the AFL-CIO, organized labor.

Talk about what's happening in some of these states?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, this is really a shadow war going on out there in the states that will most likely decide the election. You look at places like Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio -- the two most powerful forces on the ground tend to be the AFL on the one hand and the NRA on another. And to a large extent they are competing not only for the same types of people -- white, blue collar men, but literally for the same people: socially conservative union members. I was out in Michigan last week at a series of NRA rallies and there was a substantial union turnout, of people who were being pulled on that issue. On the other hand, there are lots of union members who are also NRA members who are being pulled back on the union issues and the economic issues. These two organizations are banging into each other across the Midwest, I think, more directly than they ever have before.

WOODRUFF: Just quickly Ron: Whatever happened to the anti-gun vote that we talked about after Columbine and the other school shootings?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, watching these two debates, Al Gore spoke about gun control as if he had a gun at his back. I mean, he just did not want to talk about this issue or address it.

It largely reflects the electoral college. The states where gun control unambiguously works for him: New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, California, by and large he's safe. And the states that are being -- that are going to decide the election it is at best to watch -- and it may even be a negative in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania, where the unions' own polling show 40 percent of union members are NRA sympathizers. So it really is a question of geography more than anything else at this point.

WOODRUFF: Fascinating to watch. All right, Ron Brownstein, thanks a low. Appreciate it.

BROWNSTEIN: Sure.

WOODRUFF: Just ahead, the Democratic vice presidential candidate -- his thoughts on faith and a look at his appeal to Cuban-American voters in Florida.

SHAW: Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman called for a spiritual awakening during his stop at Notre Dame University today. In his address to the students at the Catholic university, Lieberman discussed faith and politics and the criticism of his use of religion in campaign speeches.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With all respect, I think these people have forgotten that the Constitution promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. We Americans are after all not just another nation, but by the specific words of our pledge, we are one nation under God.

SHAW: Lieberman's record on relations with Cuba could make him an asset in the battleground state of Florida. There, Cuban-Americans who traditionally vote Republican, are still angry over the administration's handling of the Elian Gonzalez case.

But as Pat Neal reports, Joe Lieberman may change the minds of some in that community.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us welcome our very dear friend and a friend of all Cuban-Americans who love freedom and democracy, Joe Lieberman.

PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was grateful recognition of a longstanding record. Joe Lieberman hopes it will help the Democratic ticket win part of the Cuban-American vote in the critical state of Florida.

LIEBERMAN: I will not rest until we all do what we can achieve for the people of that great island the freedom that we treasure in the United States of America.

NEAL: Lieberman joined Cuban-American community leaders in a meeting sponsored by the president of the powerful Cuban-American National Foundation. Timing of the meeting was sensitive.

FRANCISCO HERNANDEZ, PRESIDENT, CUBAN AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION: The concern has always been for the deep feelings that have been aroused in this community because of the Elian Gonzalez situation.

NEAL: The staunchly anti-Castro foundation had blasted the Clinton administration for its determination in returning Elian to Cuba and his dramatic seizure. Many Cuban-Americans are still bitter and hold Democrats responsible. Even though Al Gore broke ranks with the administration and wanted to boy to stay, many felt he was pandering for their vote.

But Lieberman has had a long friendship with the foundation and has the strongest record of supporting the exiles cause of any national candidate. Lieberman has consistently voted to tighten the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and to prevent food and medicine sales to the island. Cuban-American Democrats want his record known.

LUIS GARCIA, MIAMI BEACH COMMISSIONER: Joe Lieberman is probably the best-kept secret in the Cuban cause.

NEAL: Cuban-Americans make up 8 percent of the Florida electorate. They traditionally vote Republican, giving Ronald Reagan and George Bush 80 percent of their vote in the 1980s.

(on camera): But Bill Clinton took more than 40 percent of the vote in 1996, helping him to become the first Democrat to take Florida since Jimmy Carter.

(voice-over): Even with Lieberman's record, Cuban-American Democrats say it's a tough sell.

GARCIA: It's going to be difficult.

NEAL: But some Republicans said it's not too late.

MANNY VAZQUEZ, CANF MEMBER: If they mean what they say about freedom for Cuba and not lifting the embargo, then I think they could have an input. NEAL: Lieberman has received more than $100,000 in donations from members of the Cuban-American National Foundation throughout his Senate career, but this election, foundation board members have poured in at least $650,000 to Republicans to elect George W. Bush. He is the brother of the foundation's ally, Florida governor Jeb Bush.

But even the foundation's president says the Democratic ticket would be fine.

HERNANDEZ: I think that Cuban-Americans do not have to be concerned about Cuban policy with Joe Lieberman as vice president of the United States.

NEAL: Some foundation members are concerned about the mixed message the meeting with Lieberman brings to the community, but others say that's exactly the message that should be sent, that Cuban- Americans should find allies, whatever their party.

Pat Neal, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Residents in Puerto Rico may be casting ballots in the U.S. presidential race November 7th despite warnings the votes won't count. A federal judge in San Juan ruled in August that Puerto Ricans should be allowed to vote, but an appeals court in Boston overturned the ruling. Still, the Puerto Rican governor has vowed to go ahead with the vote.

Our Maria Hinojosa has an update.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beautiful Aquadilla, Puerto Rico, where bright blue waters reap plentiful fish; where some still get around on horseback. A simple life, where island charm is paired with simple American values; where people like Jose Lausel have proud memories of serving in the United States Air Force.

Born in Puerto Rico as an American citizen, he volunteered for military service, but recently he volunteered to take the same U.S. government he once served to federal court.

JOSE LAUSEL: Any place in the world I can go I'm an American and I can vote, but not here.

HINOJOSA: Puerto Ricans, all U.S. citizens by birth, have never been allowed to vote for president as long as they reside on the island. But recently, a federal judge ruled in Lausel's favor and Puerto Rico began printing up the ballots. Lausel and 10 other Aquadillan plaintiffs began putting up their posters.

But later, an appellate court in Boston ruled only residents of states can vote, and now Lausel and the others are preparing for a Supreme Court battle. They want Puerto Rico's nearly three million voters to have a voice in the presidential election. GREGORIO IGARTUA, PLAINTIFF LAWYER: The Supreme Court has established very clearly that the right to vote flows to the people because of citizenship. So we are citizens of the United States and we are being discriminated, four million American citizens.

HINOJOSA: But in Puerto Rico, no political confrontation can be separated from the bitter feuds that exist around the issue of statehood. Those that think Puerto Rico should be a state support presidential voting rights, but those who believe in independence or more autonomy from the United States say they don't ever want to vote for an American president and instead prefer to distance themselves entirely from U.S. politics.

JUAN MANUEL GARCIA PASSALAQUA, POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a ridiculous exercise. It's a laughable exercise, but it's another measure of the frustration of Puerto Ricans that are not permitted to participate in the government that runs this country. That is what colonialism is all about.

HINOJOSA: Pro-statehood Governor Pedro Rossello has been called Don Quixote for titling at political windmills, but he insists this is an issue of basic civil rights.

GOV. PEDRO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: We don't vote for who is the commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States, and yet Puerto Ricans are ordered into battle by that commander in chief.

HINOJOSA (on camera): The ruling government favors statehood, and their leadership says they'll press this case all the way to the Supreme Court, insisting that American citizens, no matter where they live, should have the right to vote for an American president.

Maria Hinojosa, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Still ahead, finding more political news online. A few sites of interest in this final stretch before the election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: This year, in addition to campaign speeches and news coverage, undecided voters have a new tool, the Internet. James Hattori of cnn.com takes a tour of politics on the Web with Andrew Brandt of "PC World Magazine."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREW BRANDT, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "PC WORLD": If you have a particular interest in a topic that is outside the sphere of coverage for two, three weeks of the election cycle, you won't hear about that in the network news. But you can go right to the candidates' Web site and find out exactly where they stand on that issue.

JAMES HATTORI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Are there sites that focus on specific aspects of the political system that might be enlightening?

BRANDT: Yes, absolutely. With Opensecrets.org, because you can enter in your ZIP code and find out who the top donors are in this neighborhood.

HATTORI: What sites are there out there that offer us deep insight into the political process?

BRANDT: There's a great site that's out on the Web. It's a political portal called the Freedom Channel. You can get a profile of the candidate in which you're interested in voting, find out their record, find out exactly where they stand on certain issues. You can also, for instance, watch all the presidential campaign commercials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Vote Buchanan for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDT: This is Grassroots.com. It's run by a newspaper organization and was started by the press secretary for Clinton, Mike McCurry...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE MCCURRY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Always nice to have you here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDT: ... and also the -- an adviser to the Bush campaign. It is focused on the issues that the major parties are bringing to the campaigns.

So here we are in the DNet's presidential election grid. What this allows you to do is pick the issues that you're most interested in and then see exactly where the candidates have made a comment about that particular issue, and read the comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Now, you judge for yourselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HATTORI: Are there sites that cater to specific groups of voters?

BRANDT: MTV does their Rock the Vote every year. You can tell that this is youth-oriented because it's absolutely impossible to navigate from their index page. They have lots of big words screaming at you to do things. What the Rock the Vote site lacks is a lot of original content. What they do well is pick the issues that are of interest to their viewers. HATTORI: The extent to which the Internet is being used this year is a big change from what it was even four years ago.

BRANDT: Yes. Once people start to realize that they can track the interests of people's click-throughs on their Web pages, you'll start to see campaigns tune their rhetoric a little bit toward what people are more interested in on the Web sites.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: That was James Hattori of cnn.com.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, but of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's Allpolitics.com. We'll see you again tomorrow when Al Gore will be on the trail in Tennessee and Missouri, and George W. Bush, he'll spend the day campaigning in Florida.

WOODRUFF: And this programming note: on "CROSSFIRE" tonight, how big a threat is Ralph Nader to the gore campaign? The guests will be Phil Donahue, a Nader supporter, and Congressman Robert Wexler, who backs Al Gore. That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

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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