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Inside Politics

Gore Touts Importance of Environment; Bush Focuses on Concept of Strong Leadership; Seniors Could be Key to Winning Pennsylvania

Aired October 26, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to do what Harry Truman said he would do: I'm going to tell the truth and they'll think it's hell!


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore portrays himself as a truth- teller about global warming and George W. Bush's environmental policy.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: In my administration, we'll make it clear there is the controlling legal authority of conscience.


SHAW: Bush turns Gore's past words into a stinging message about leadership.



JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These folks come to play, and to vote, but they don't always like their choices.


SHAW: John King on the cards senior citizens hold in election 2000.

ANNOUNCER: This is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw in Washington and Judy Woodruff reporting from Pittsburgh.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. I am here in the battleground state of Pennsylvania to talk to voters. George W. Bush is also in this state. He will be addressing a rally in Erie in this hour and then head on to the state of Ohio.

Our Candy Crowley reports that Bush's battle cry of the day is leadership.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Military heroes on the stage; the Gettysburg Address as a backdrop; a Pittsburgh veteran's museum is his arena. George Bush delivered a somber but slighting speech on the nature of leadership.

Al Gore's campaign, he said, is a fitting end to the Clinton-Gore administration.

BUSH: They're going out as they came in: their guide, the nightly polls; their goal, the morning headlines; their legacy, the fruitless search for a legacy.

CROWLEY: It was, in essence, a treatise on leadership and its importance.

BUSH: ... should be the most important question Americans ask before they vote: What kind of leader will a potential president be?

CROWLEY: It was a serious, scathing indictment of the Clinton- Gore administration. Bush's most pointed to date.

BUSH: When you wait for the latest polls to point the way, you cannot lead. When you hold your finger to the wind, you cannot put your finger on a problem. And when you hold onto power for power's sake, you cannot govern.

CROWLEY: The Texas governor accused the Clinton-Gore administration of eight years of not leading on the issues of education and Social Security.

BUSH: Responsible leadership does more than just sets an agenda, it sets a tone of civility and bipartisanship to get things done on behalf of the American people. In recent years there's been too much argument in Washington and not enough discussion. Too many standoffs and showdowns and shutdowns.

CROWLEY: Though he walked carefully through the political minefield of administration controversy, Bush left footprints nonetheless.

BUSH: Finally, a leader must uphold the honor and the dignity of the office to which he had been elected.


In my administration, we will ask not only what is legal, but what is right.

CROWLEY: No direct mention of Gore's legalese defense of his fund-raising calls from the vice president's office, but you did not have to read between the lines to hear it.

BUSH: In my administration we'll make it clear there is the controlling legal authority of conscience.

CROWLEY: The Gore campaign said the speech was a Bush effort to hide from his lack of experience and judgment. Al Gore, said a spokeswoman, is talking about issues.

(on camera): But from the very beginning George Bush has felt that leadership is the core issue of campaign 2000. As the campaign draws to a close, he still feels that way.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Pittsburgh.


WOODRUFF: I was also at the Republican-sponsored event we just saw in Candy's report, and I talked to some voters there. Almost all of them were already in Bush's camp. But many of them left more enthusiastic about voting for him.

Ray Horvath, pro gun-rights, originally for Alan Keyes, said today's speech is just what's needed to turn out the Bush vote in western Pennsylvania.


RAY HORVATH: I think it's just going to fire up the base even more. It start out with an -- I think, an anti-Gore-Clinton vote. But the more people see Governor Bush, it's a pro-Bush vote and people that I know are energized. They're excited; they can't wait get to get to the polls.


WOODRUFF: There were a handful of undecided voters who slipped in. Graduate student Jennifer Drent voted for Bill Clinton; liked his policies, she said, but not his moral values. And as for Bush and Gore, she said there are things she likes about both of them.


JENNIFER DRENT: Gore is really strong on his pro-choice and a couple of other things; whereas Bush -- I really like his strong statements on Social Security.

WOODRUFF (on camera): Investing some of it?

DRENT: Yes, yes; and making sure that, you know, the 20-some- year olds will still have, you know, the opportunity to get the benefits from that.


WOODRUFF: Tomorrow, Ms. Drent will go to see Al Gore when he campaigns here in western Pennsylvania. It is winning over the undecideds and firing up the decideds, like these voters we just saw, that bring Bush and Gore back to Pennsylvania and its 23 electoral votes again and again --Bernie. SHAW: Thanks, Judy, see you again, very shortly.

Today, Vice President Gore is in the Midwest. After stumping most of this day in Iowa, he is due to arrive this hour in Wisconsin where a new poll is suggesting he has widened his lead over Bush slightly to 7 points.

As CNN's Jonathan Karl explains, Gore tried to bolster his chances in key battlegrounds today by focusing on the environment.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seizing on a new U.N. report with alarming findings about global warming, Vice President Gore returned to his signature issue: the environment.

GORE: Unless we act, the average temperature is going to go up 10 or 11 degrees. The storms will get stronger. The weather patterns will change. But it does not have to happen, and it won't happen if we put our minds to solving this problem, and that is one of the reasons I am running for president.

KARL: At a raucous outdoor rally in Davenport, Iowa, Gore used the report to take a shot at George W. Bush.

GORE: We have a situation where the big polluters are supporting Governor Bush and they are wanting to be in control of the environmental policies.

KARL: Gore called global warming a moral issue and said Bush doesn't understand what needs to be done about it.

GORE: He says on global warming he's not sure that -- what the cause is and maybe we shouldn't do anything except just study it.

KARL: The Bush campaign says Governor Bush acknowledges the existence of global warming and offers a more reasonable approach to protecting the environment than Al Gore.

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The vice president seems to be saying, let's act and then figure out what the problem is. Governor Bush is a responsible leader who believes we should figure out what the problem is and then act accordingly.

KARL: Gore spent much of the day talking about the issue, addressing it during a special Iowa taping of rap star Queen Latifah's show, a nationally-syndicated program with a young audience.

As Gore moves his way through the battleground states, he's telling voters that their state is the key to victory.

GORE: You are in the catbird seat, because Missouri is even up. The bellwether state always goes with the -- almost always has gone with the winner.

Iowa is in the catbird seat. You have a chance to pick not only the next president, but the kind of future that you want for your children, and thank goodness it's Iowa.

KARL: Jonathan Karl, CNN, Davenport, Iowa.


WOODRUFF: Gore also slammed Bush's Social Security plan today, citing a study by financial experts of evidence of what he calls Bush's "fuzzy math." But the Bush camp is using the same report as ammunition against Gore.

Our Brooks Jackson checked out the study and found it criticizes both candidates.


BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George W. Bush says he'd pay off the national debt in just 16 years. Al Gore says he'd protect Medicare.

GORE: I will put Medicare in an ironclad lockbox.

JACKSON: But do their numbers add up? Now a new report says both candidates' claims are -- quote -- "incomplete, at times internally inconsistent, potentially misleading, and leave many questions unanswered." It was released by the American Academy of Actuaries, a nonpartisan group of number crunchers.

Ron Gebhardstbauer analyzed the Bush and Gore Social Security plans.

RON GEBHARDTSBAUER, PENSION EXPERT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ACTUARIES: We looked at the two campaigns, both Bush and Gore. Neither one of them really fixes the problem completely. And they do a little bit here and there, but it's not going to solve the problem.

JACKSON: He says Bush's plan to let younger workers put some of their Social Security taxes into private accounts would rob the government of so much money it would bring back federal deficits by the year 2015, making it impossible to pay off the debt by 2016, as promised.

He also looked at Gore's plan to prop up the existing Social Security system with up to $250 billion a year in general revenues starting in the year 2011. His conclusion: "that will be far less than necessary to make up the Social Security shortfall." Eventually, Gore's plan would require new deficits, increased taxes, or reduced Social Security benefits.

Medicare plans came under analysis by Guy King, former chief actuary of the federal Medicare system. King says Gore's lockbox isn't really ironclad. It's -- quote -- "imaginary" and "does nothing to cover the significant shortfalls" that begin in a few more years. He also says Bush's plan to restructure Medicare -- quote -- "does not provide sufficient detail to judge the cost or long-term impact."

Both the Bush and Gore campaigns reject these findings. The Bush campaign says the actuaries underestimate future economic growth. The Gore campaign says Gore never promised his lockbox would do anything more than delay the system's insolvency.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: Still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, what voters are looking for in a candidate, and what they are seeing on television: Bill Schneider with some new results and David Peeler with the ad spending.


SHAW: A dozen days before the presidential election, George W. Bush leads Al Gore by seven points in our CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup tracking poll. It is the second day in a row that Bush has had the advantage in which -- a week in which our survey has suggested a good deal of volatility in the electorate. Now, comparing our tracking poll to others: Bush has a two-point lead in the "Washington Post" survey. And the margin is the same in the ABC News poll. However, Gore is ahead by two points in the Reuters/MSNBC tracking poll.

With some voters still uncommitted, we are turning to our Bill Schneider in New York with this question: Bill, what are voters looking for this year?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Bernie, a change of leadership, but not a change of direction. Look, we have got peace and prosperity. Voters don't want radical changes the way they did after one term of Jimmy Carter in 1980 or after one term of President Bush in 1992. Bush has to convince voters that he is safe on the issues: no Gingrich revolutions. And he may be doing just that.

We asked voters who would do a better job on different issues. Here's the report card. On education and Social Security, Bush has a slight edge, within the margin of error, which means he has neutralized the Democrats' historic advantage on those issues. If Social Security isn't a Democratic issue, the Democrats are in trouble. Taxes is the one issue where Bush does have a significant lead: no surprise. He's a Republican. Taxes is his major.

Big surprise on the economy. Clinton and Gore have presided over the longest economic recovery on record. Yet Bush and Gore are rated equal on the economy. It looks like Bush has convinced voters that government did not have much to do with driving the boom: no war, no defense buildup, no tax cut, no big public works spending program. So it doesn't seem to make much difference to voters who the president is. The economy drives itself.

Medicare is the one issue where Gore does have a slight lead. Bush has convinced voters he's just as good as Gore on all the big issues: Medicare, Social Security, education, the economy -- better on taxes.

SHAW: Is Bush doing well because of the issues? SCHNEIDER: No. He's safe on the issues. He's an acceptable alternative on the issues, which, of course, is why Bush has the edge -- not because of the issues, but because he offers a change of leadership. From what? From Bill Clinton. Gore has the edge over Bush when it comes to understanding complex issues.

Gore gets high marks for his knowledgeability -- just like Clinton. But Bush has a wide advantage on honesty and trustworthiness. People have a lot of doubts about Gore's honesty and trustworthiness -- just like Clinton. Bush also has a big advantage on sincerity. You remember John McCain's campaign theme: straight talk? That's what voters are looking for after eight years of Bill Clinton: someone who is not driven by political calculations.

Now, these results suggest that Bush is seen as more sincere, more of a straight-talker than Gore. Bush has convinced voters he offers a change of leadership. He's also convinced them that he's not offering a big change of direction, that he's safe. What can Gore do? Two things: Convince them that Bush is not safe, that he's risky and radical. And one other thing: Gore can stay away from Bill Clinton -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Bill Schneider.

Well, Gore and Bush are using their campaign ads to reach undecided voters in key states. Joining us now to talk about that ad spending: David Peeler of Competitive Media Reporting. He tracks political ads in the top 75 media markets.

David, has the spending changed over the last two weeks?

DAVID PEELER, COMPETITIVE MEDIA REPORTING: Well, Bernie, there is some interesting things that we've observed over the last two weeks. If we go back to October 9 and we look at the Bush and the RNC efforts, we see that they were spending about $7 million in that week. In the last week, they've accelerated that spending to $8.3 million. And that's a rate that we expect will continue as we get into the home stretch next week.

What's really interesting is to see where that money is going. It's gone into the states of California, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania. So they are really making a race in those states. And that's where they are spending some of their resources. They have pulled back in Ohio, which is a trend we've been observing for the past several weeks. And they have just recently started to pull back in Missouri.

Interestingly enough, they just went on air in Connecticut, which is Joe Lieberman's home state. So that's a change, the only change that we've seen in the last couple weeks. Moving onto the Democrats, we see Gore and the DNC combining to spend $3 million over that same period, starting October 9, accelerating their spending to $4.6 million in the following week.

That money is going into the states of Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington. And they have also pulled back in Missouri. I think, Bernie, what we're starting to see come across here is that some of the fund-raising prowess that the Republicans have shown in the past is starting to flow through to the media campaigns. They are clearly outspending -- at least in terms of the presidential race -- they are outspending the Democrats.

And it's starting to become a significant amount.

SHAW: Well, David, I have to ask you: How many ads does all this money buy?

PEELER: Well, yes, let's look at it more from a viewer's perspective. If you look at that same two-week period of time, you are talking about, in only the -- in those few states -- which are 21 for Bush, and 17 for Gore -- 15,000 ads for Bush over 13,000 for Vice President Gore. And, you know, really, in a day of the life of a viewer, what does that mean? We took a look at Florida to see what it means..

And, in the state of Florida, the Bush campaign has aired over 2,600 spots to Al Gore's just over 2,000 spots. What that means, if you are a viewer is, on any given hour, you have got an average of about 16 presidential spots that you are exposed to. And if you're looking during the heavy news hours or around some more of the prime- time hours, that number might just as well double.

So you are being bombarded by political ads. And clutter is an issue here at this point. So the best creatives are the ones that are going to get the message out.

SHAW: Wow. David Peeler, Competitive Media Reporting, thank you.

PEELER: Thank you.

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

Still to come...


KING (voice-over): It's no secret the elderly are the most dependable voters. So as the campaign winds down, there are phone calls galore.


SHAW: John King on the targeted effort to get out the vote in a key battleground state.



ANNE MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So much riding on these races and so few clues to the outcome. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Anne McDermott on the California House races that could help tip the balance of power on the Hill.

And later: voter apathy? Not in Puerto Rico. A look at why political activity is a way of life.


SHAW: We will have more of this day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.

Divers working to remove the bodies aboard the submarine Kursk have found a note in the pocket of one of its dead crewmen. Russian Navy officials say the note indicates at least 23 of the boat's 118 seamen survived the explosions that sent it to the floor of the Barents Sea in August. They apparently died after the sub filled with water.

The Pentagon is consulting United States military commanders around the world today about terrorist threats. The heightened focus on security comes two weeks after the apparent suicide attack on the USS Cole. The defense secretary and chairman of the joint chiefs are discussing threats and troop security.

Yemen's president has said one suspect in the bombing may be an Egyptian. He says it is possible he died in the blast. Sources say most of the FBI investigators looking into the blast have finished their work in Yemen. They're planning to return to the United States in the next day or two.

The militant group Islamic Jihad is claiming responsibility for an explosion this morning in Gaza -- the first suicide bombing in the past of violence. The blast occurred when a Palestinian man wearing a backpack full of explosives blew himself up his bicycle reached an Israeli military post. This attack sparks fear in Israel of a possible new bombing campaign.

The crime rate in the nation's schools dropped during the 1990s. According to the results of a study by the U.S. Justice Department, the rate of violent crimes declined between 1992 and 1998. The study says the percentage of students saying they were victims of any kind of crime fell from 10 to 8 percent between 1995 and '99.

About 60 lawsuits filed against Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford are being grouped together and heard by a judge in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, four former workers at the Bridgestone/Firestone plant in Decatur, Illinois, are giving depositions today. They're being questioned about the tire manufacturing process.

When INSIDE POLITICS returns, the AFL-CIO versus the NRA. Interest groups duking it out in this presidential campaign 2000.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Checking the latest state poll, Al Gore has widened his lead in Washington state. He is 9 points ahead of George W. Bush in a new Elway poll. Gore also has gained ground in Colorado. He now trails Bush by just 4 points in a "Denver Post" survey. In Florida Gore is 4 points ahead in a "New York Times" survey. Two polls in Florida yesterday conflicted on whether Bush or Gore is ahead. In New Jersey, Gore's lead is narrowed to 6 points in a Quinnipiac College poll and in Louisiana Bush has gained ground. He now leads by 13 points in a University of New Orleans survey.

Here in Pennsylvania, the most recent polls show Bush and Gore in a dead heat. The outcome here could be swayed by the state's many senior citizens.

Our John King talked to older voters here in the Keystone State.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what I want you to do is type your name.

KING (voice-over): They say it's never too late to learn or to teach for that matter. But time to study the candidates for president is running short, and lifelong Republican George Klenk is having a late campaign change of heart.

GEORGE KLENK: I visualize Gore and Bush with Arafat and Barak, and I just can't see Bush handling them as well as Gore would. I don't feel he has the background for international relations and diplomatic relations.

KING: It's no secret the elderly are the most dependable voters, so as the campaign winds down there are phone calls galore.

Norma Broderick received a recorded message from Barbara Bush the other day, and several in this group received a pro-Gore call message from actor Ed Asner.

NORMA BRODERICK: It was about Social Security -- what Bush would do to Social Security. So many -- what was it? Trillion that he would take from there and give to the younger people to invest $2,000. It was quite a recording.

KING: Almost every day now brings a new piece of mail from the candidates, too.

(on camera): Simple math explains all the attention. A quarter or more of Pennsylvania's vote will come from those over the age of 60. It's a group President Clinton carried by 15 points in this key battleground state back in 1992, but split evenly with Republican Bob Dole in 1996.

(voice-over): The competition is equally spirited this year. The Texas governor and the vice president are running dead even nationally among those in the 50 to 64 age group, and Mr. Bush had a small edge among voters over 64. The politics here at the Erie Center for Health and Aging reflect the city's blue-collar history. Democratic tradition in these parts goes back a bit.

BOB EDWARDS: I met Roosevelt once on the back of a train. He was probably one of the nicest men I've ever met. Very polite president, and I was 17 getting ready to go to the Navy.

KING: But conservative Democrats like Bill Miller give Governor Bush some hope here.

BILL MILLER: I really don't agree with the Vice President Gore's stand on abortion and vouchers for schools.

KING: John Rensel is another life-long Democrat leaning Republican this year.

JOHN RENSEL: Clinton, I agree, was a moderate Democrat. Gore is definitely liberal. I don't think Gore has a chance of getting his programs through Congress, especially with a Republican Congress; and I thinks think you will have.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So are you ready to vote in the election?

KING: Health care is an obvious concern, and most here agree with the vice president's view that any new prescription drug benefit be part of the Medicare program.

Changing Social Security is another hot topic; consensus about what to do, harder to come by.

IRENE EDWARDS: Our daughter looks at what we get. She chuckles, thinking, well, this would be, you know, my candy money or my dinner money.

KING: Ask around here about campaigns past and present and there's a sense that things have taken a turn for the worse.

BILL MILLER: I think there seemed to be more stature in the presidents of a bygone time. It seems more flippant today.

KING: It's a lament heard time and again in the poolroom and at the card tables. These folks come to play and to vote, but they don't always like their choices.

John King, CNN, Erie, Pennsylvania.


SHAW: In industrial battleground states such as Pennsylvania there is a major political battle underway between the National Rifle Association and the AFL-CIO.

Joining us now to talk about this, Steve Rosenthal, the national political director of the AFL-CIO; and Bill Powers, the public affairs director for the NRA. In the battle for conservative labor voters, how are they breaking? For Bush or for Gore?


I mean, the whole reason we're here, though Bernie, having this conversation, is because of the political hypocrisy of Al Gore. When he was a politician from Tennessee he sought NRA support and voted our way. In 1988, when he started to run for president and wanted the Democratic nomination, he actually called NRA, said I can't support you anymore, I have to get through the New York primary.

Now he's spent the last 12 years setting himself up as the most anti-gun rights presidential candidate in U.S. history; but when the road to the White House comes down to, not Beverly Hills, not New York city, not Washington, D.C., but Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, even his home state of Tennessee -- suddenly Gore goes out and says: No, wait a minute, I'm pro Second Amendment rights.

And that political hypocrisy could be his death knell. The voters aren't buying it.

SHAW: Mr. Rosenthal, I suspect you want to respond to that.

STEVE ROSENTHAL, AFL-CIO NATIONAL POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I don't think it is too early to tell, Bernie. In fact, what we're seeing is working class families strongly supporting Gore right now.

I don't want to debate, you know, the ups and downs of the gun issue. The fact of the matter is Gore has been consistent on guns. He served in Congress for 20 years as a member of the House, member of the Senate and then the administration. What we've seen is consistency from the standpoint of making sure that hunters, that collectors, that sportsmen can keep their guns.

The NRA is running a scare campaign and trying to make people believe, honest people believe that Al Gore wants to take their gun away. The fact of the matter is, this election's not really about that. There are a lot of bigger issues at stake here.

Working families are looking to see, where do they stand on Social Security, on education, on health care? And then beyond that, for union families, they're looking to see where these candidates stand on issues like right-to-work.

SHAW: Bill Powers.

POWERS: Working families are for freedom. No one understands freedom more than a hard-working member of a labor union; and that's why, when they go to the polls they're going to vote for their freedom. Al Gore has been anything but consistent on our issue.

In the last year, his proposed licensing of lawful gun owners, federal photo-ID cards, mandatory federal testing for law-abiding gun owners -- I mean, name me one thing Al Gore has done in support of the Second Amendment except give it lip service in the final weeks of the campaign.

ROSENTHAL: As I said, the bottom line is that this election, for working families, is about their family's economic security. And what we see here is a case where George W. Bush has consistently opposed working families' interests.

What the NRA is doing is taking out materials to union members saying, George W. Bush wants to take away your gun. The fact of the matter is, for union members...

POWERS: You mean Al Gore.

ROSENTHAL: George says Al Gore wants to take away your gun, excuse me. The fact of the matter is -- just let me finish for a second -- what we're saying is: no, it's not about, it's George W. Bush who wants to take away your union, that Bush has consistently opposed workers rights up and down the ladder. Thank you.

SHAW: OK, I'm going to pin you down to the double-edged question. First for you, Bill Powers: How do you get these conservative labor voters without turning off the soccer moms?

And for you, Mr. Rosenthal, how do you get these conservative labor voters without turning off these rank-and-file members who are afraid you're going to take their guns away? Address that question please?

POWERS: I understand the question. In the end, Bernie, I think it just comes down to just being honest; and that's what we're trying to do, simply let people know the positions of the candidates relative to this issue of the Second Amendment, which is of concern to our members and to gun owners across the country. And all we can do in the end is be honest with the voters on the positions of the candidates and let it stand.


ROSENTHAL: What we're doing is taking information out to union members that says, first off, George W. Bush wants to pass national right-to-work, and point to the fact that he wants to undermine unions -- done it in Texas, wants to do it nationally. That he wants to take away overtime pay. That he wants to let states opt out of the minimum wage, Texas's minimum wage, $3.35 cents an hour. He wants to take that nationally.

So, when working families have a chance to look at the facts and see how anti-worker and anti-union George W. Bush has been, they're going to vote on that, not necessarily on their gun, and the fact is...

POWERS: I don't know.

ROSENTHAL: ... Al Gore doesn't want to take their gun away.

SHAW: We're fresh out of time, but please... POWERS: We were in Flint, Michigan with 6,000 people at a rally with Charlton Heston and member after member of the labor unions were coming up to us that night and saying, you know, we don't believe Bush is going to take away our job, but we know Gore wants our guns.

ROSENTHAL: The final word?

We know for a fact -- we pay union members the respect to provide them with information. The NRA is trying to mislead them. The fact of the matter is nobody wants to take away their gun, but people do want to take -- George W. Bush wants to take away their union.

SHAW: Steven Rosenthal, national political director of the AFL- CIO; Bill Powers, the public affairs director for the NRA.

Gentlemen, thank you.

ROSENTHAL: Thank you, Bernie.

POWERS: Thank you, Bernie.

SHAW: Hope to see you sometime on election night.

Now, Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: Well, beyond interest groups such as the National Rifle Association and organized labor, there are many organizations out there trying to influence voters. Among them, the nation's newspapers, many of which will endorse one presidential candidate over another.

CNN's Bruce Morton looks at the endorsement process and whether it makes a difference these days.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All across America, newspapers are endorsing presidential candidates. "The Washington Post": Gore "offers leadership." "The Columbus Dispatch": "Bush could better "smooth over the bitter partisanship" of the Clinton years. Minneapolis "Star Tribune": Gore for "seriousness of purpose and sound policy prescriptions." "Detroit News": Gore has a "disdain for the internal combustion engine," so vote Bush.

Endorsement after endorsement after endorsement. Do they matter? Probably not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look at what the candidate has to offer. I look and I research, but I don't listen to what papers have to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm not influenced by the newspaper because I make up my own mind.

MORTON: In fact, media scholar Kathleen Hall Jamieson says in her new book that in 1996, only 29 percent of regular newspaper readers even knew who their paper had endorsed, never mind voting for him.

ERIC NEWTON, NEWS HISTORIAN, NEWSEUM: Newspapers today are important not for who they endorse, but for what they expose. What's in the news columns, really, today, is far more important than that name that appears on the editorial page just a couple of days before the election.

MORTON: It wasn't always that way. Newspaper editorials helped start the Spanish-American War, thundered praise for this candidate, blame for that one.

NEWTON: Newspapers were big at the beginning of the century because they were the only game in town, and they're not as big now because there are so many other players. It's that simple.

MORTON: True; voters once knew candidates only from newspapers and posters. That changed with Franklin Roosevelt.


FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And our armed forces with the unbounding determination.


MORTON: That voice in speeches and fireside chats gave Americans the feeling that they knew their president.


SEN. JOHN F. KENNEDY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want us to recapture that image.


MORTON: Television intensified the feeling that you knew the candidates personally. Voters shared emotions with their presidents -- grief, anger, whatever.

Bill Clinton after the attack on the USS Cole.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will find out who is responsible and hold them accountable.


MORTON (on camera): We still need newspapers. Along with the Internet, they're a good place to find a detailed explanation of just where the candidates stand on, say Social Security. But we don't need them to tell us who to vote for any more. Nowadays, the candidates are people we think we know.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: The Los Angeles area as a congressional battleground.


SHAW: You know, much like the presidential race, the battle for the House is being waged on a state-by-state basis. In California, Democrats have targeted two Republican-held seats, forcing the incumbents into a major fight for re-election.

Anne McDermott takes a closer look.


MCDERMOTT (voice-over): James Rogan won't let you see him sweat, but the Republican Congressman is running hard. He's trying to hold onto his seat in California's 27th District. The Democrats, though, want it just as much.

SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE, POLITICAL ANALYST: California is ground zero for the fight to control Congress.

MCDERMOTT: If the Democrats can snap up six seats, they can take over the House. And Rogan is considered especially vulnerable because his district, just northeast of Los Angeles, has grown increasingly Democratic in the past few years. And Rogan is the man Democrats love to hate for his role as a House manager in the president's impeachment.

Rogan, though, has not shied away from the "I" word.

REP. JAMES ROGAN (R), CALIFORNIA: I would cast that vote today. I would cast that vote tomorrow. I would cast that vote 100 years from now, because it was the right vote.

MCDERMOTT: And the impeachment issue also brings Rogan lots of money, says his challenger, Democratic state senator Adam Schiff.

ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA HOUSE CANDIDATE: This race would have been over months ago except for the fact that I'm running against the best-funded incumbent in the nation, who's raised money from right-wing sources around the country.

MCDERMOTT: But Schiff has gotten plenty of money himself, and the combined campaigns will spend about $13 million before it's all over, making it the most expensive Congressional campaign in history.

But money isn't the only weapon. There's star power, and for the Republican Rogan, that means John McCain. But that's not McCain's only campaign.


REP. STEVE KUYKENDALL (R), CALIFORNIA: We got an American hero here tonight, folks.


MCDERMOTT: Republican Steve Kuykendall is another Los Angeles- area incumbent in a race for his political life, and his contest against former Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman is said to be one of the closest of all.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're the that one my husband says to vote for.



MCDERMOTT: This is another race with lots of money and lots star power. Movie star Bo Derek is there for Kuykendall. Senate star Barbara Boxer is there for Harmon, and every now and then John McCain comes back.


NARRATOR: Steve Kuykendall is independent, straight-talking.


MCDERMOTT: So much riding on these races and so few clues to the outcome. There is one thing, though, that they all agree on.

KUYKENDALL: It'll be a late night in Washington, D.C. on November 7th.

MCDERMOTT: Anne McDermott, CNN, Los Angeles.


SHAW: Late night here in Washington and indeed at CNN election headquarters in Atlanta.

Well, joining me now with his reporter's notebook, Bob Novak, of "The Chicago Sun-Times."

We're going to talk about House races in a moment. But you're back from the Show Me state. What's the latest in that Senate race?

ROBERT NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I was in Kansas City last night for a Gore rally. Nominally a Gore rally, but what it really was was a rally for somebody who wasn't even there. That's Jeanne Carnahan. the widow of Governor Mel Carnahan killed in the plane crash because she is saying she hasn't decided, but it's a set deal. She will take an appointment to the seat by the governor if her dead husband defeats Republican Senator John Ashcroft. And they're running a campaign on that basis.

Now here's what's really interesting. The private polls show that if the election were held today, the dead man would win. Some rumors have it that he's up by 11 points. I don't think that is true. It's more like in one independent poll five or six points. What do the Republicans do?

Well, Ashcroft can't attack the widow who would step into the seat, but several influential Republicans tell me if this happens, and they hope it won't. They hope Ashcroft will come by, they will do everything in their power to prevent Mrs. Carnahan from being seated in the Senate on the grounds that only an inhabitant of the state of Missouri can win in the election, and Governor Carnahan is dead. He's not an inhabitant.

This is a fascinating story. I've been doing this since 1960, Bernie, and I've never seen a story like this one.

SHAW: Sounds like it could potentially get nasty, and of course we'll watch that very closely election night.

Now back to battle for control of the House. What's this about the Republican leadership trying to help out those Republicans who are in deep caca?

NOVAK: They had a -- of course, as you know, most House seats are not contested. Only a few are really contested. So they had to deal with the Republicans that the great majority of Republican House members who don't have trouble getting re-elected would contribute money to what they called a battleground fund for the battleground districts for their vulnerable colleagues. Well, many of them, about 30 of them, have not forked over hardly any money. So they had an event on the hill this week where they called in these 30 or so recalcitrant House members, and seated across the table from them were the vulnerable -- their vulnerable colleagues who they haven't helped.


NOVAK: And they say, are you going to -- to shame them. And because you haven't raised money, these people may be defeated. Now whether that works or not, I don't know. But I am told that if they don't come up with the money, this will be considered when committee assignments are handed out in the new Congress

SHAW: Dum-da-dum-dum. One more question, Bob, before you leave. What do you see in the final 12 days of this campaign in this presidential race?

NOVAK: You know, the normal thing you see, Bernie, is that you find very hard, tough, negative campaign commercials, while the candidates tend to take the high road. Not this time. At that event in Kansas City last night, apart from the Jeanne Carnahan rally aspect. Vice President Gore was just attacking Governor Bush on every single issue. Bang, bang, bang! It was the toughest speech I ever -- he likes to attack. But he can attack.

Now, Governor Bush is on the attack, too, but he's not nearly as tough as Gore is. I think you're going to find in these last 12 days that this is going to be some of the meanest, toughest, most negative campaigning not just in the 30-second commercials, but in the 30- minute speeches.

SHAW: Well, we'll be watching and reporting the blow by blows. Thank you, Bob Novak.

And when we return: politics on the island of Puerto Rico.


WOODRUFF: On November 7, only about half of the eligible voters in the United States are expected to cast ballots. That is not the case in the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico, where the vast majority of citizens will go to the polls on Election Day. Why the difference?

Our Maria Hinojosa went to Puerto Rico to find out.


MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the seaside town of Dorado (ph), a quiet Puerto Rican night settles over the home of the Munoz family. The dinner talk is all about politics, for the young and the old, and the rush is on to finish up to watch TV -- not the local sitcoms, but political advertisements from rival parties.

For this family, it's all about politics, all the time. The patriarch was the island's first governor; his daughter, a former senator. But they're not unusual in Puerto Rico. While half of all Americans don't even vote, these Americans have one of the highest voter turnout rates in the Western Hemisphere.

VICTORIA MUNOZ MENDOZA, FMR. PUERTO RICAN SENATOR: The community doesn't like people who do not vote. When somebody says, I don't vote, that's nothing to brag about.

HINOJOSA: Instead, what the political parties here brag about is who has the loudest sound system, the brightest flags and best gimmicks, and the most pressing issues to drive even more people out to the polls.

JUAN MELECIO, PRESIDENT, PUERTO RICO BOARD OF ELECTIONS: An election in Puerto Rico is akin to a carnival, it's really people going out of their houses, blasting their horns in their cars, riding motorbikes at high speeds. There is that sense of involvement in an activity that is actually festive.

HINOJOSA: The entire country is consumed by politics long before Election Day. Politics dominate talk radio and talk TV 24 hours a day, all across the island. There is one election day every four years for every office. That day is a special holiday. Schools, banks, bars -- all closed -- everything except the polls and this fancy new $30 million board of elections building. A whopping 85 percent of all those eligible are expected to vote.

MELECIO: We would like to have it higher, 90 or something, but that's very -- that's being very optimistic. We have to realize there are always people in the hospitals. HINOJOSA (on camera): Preparing for elections here is a massive undertaking. These 9,000 boxes of ballots will be distributed to every corner of the island, where over 90 percent of Puerto Rico's 2.4 million eligible voters are registered to vote.

(voice-over): Even so, voters still use paper ballots, which workers stuff by hand. Three parties appear: supporters of statehood, those who prefer the commonwealth relationship to the United States, and those who want political independence -- issues which energize voters.

JUAN MANUEL GARCIA PASSALAQUA, POLITICAL ANALYST: The people of Puerto Rico are exercising their right to vote as a means of expressing a frustration against their lack of power in the context of their relationship with the United States.

HINOJOSA: And vote they will, because their future depends on it.

Maria Hinojosa, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.


WOODRUFF: And that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. Tomorrow, I'll be back here in Pennsylvania, talking with voters who haven't made up their minds yet.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: Judy, see you tomorrow. I'm Bernard Shaw. "WORLDVIEW" is next.



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