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America Votes: The Issues, the Politics, the People

Aired November 2, 2002 - 12:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Washington with a special edition of CNN SATURDAY: "America Votes: The Issues, the Politics, the People." We're coming to you live from Washington, D.C., our nation's capital, just three days away from elections that will decide the balance of power on Capitol Hill. Every vote counts. Every election critical.
We'll be consulting with our political team in Atlanta, but first, perhaps one of the most intriguing neck-and-neck races is that of a Senate seat in Minnesota. Following a plane crash death of popular Democratic incumbent Paul Wellstone, former Vice President Walter Mondale steps in to take on Republican nominee Norm Coleman. CNN national correspondent Bob Franken is in Minneapolis, and he brings us up to date with the last-minute campaigning from there. Hi there, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Fredricka. And Mondale is campaigning in Duluth, Minnesota and will be going to points north. Meanwhile, his Republican opponent, Norman Coleman, is campaigning in the southern part of Minnesota and will end up in St. Paul, meeting with the first lady. Both of them are talking about the future, but, of course, some of the high interests in this campaign is because of what's past.


(voice-over): At 74 years old, Walter Mondale was enjoying life as an icon. But now that he's back in the fray, his Republican opponent, Norman Coleman, is trying to push hard against the icon, trying to bridge the gap between aggressive and tasteful.

NORMAN COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA SENATE CANDIDATE: This election is about hope and opportunity, about jobs. It's about quality education for our kids. It's about taking care of our parents and grandparents.

FRANKEN: That's one of the gentle spots the Coleman campaign has decided to run after aides claim their candidate asked them to pull another one, an attack ad. It dredged up the economic tribulations when Walter Mondale was Jimmy Carter's vice president. Mondale made it quite clear that just might backfire.

WALTER MONDALE (D), MINNESOTA SENATE CANDIDATE: We've got two days to go and I want to stay on the positive issues of what I want to do and people know Paul Wellstone's issues. They know where he stood. They know where I stood. Compare them.

FRANKEN: So instead of negative ads, Coleman is relying on the GOP's heavy hitters. Vice President Dick Cheney made a stop.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a senator, he'll be forward looking and effective and a truly independent voice for an independent state.

FRANKEN: President Bush and the first lady will make separate appearances for the Republican candidate over the weekend. At the same time, negotiations continue for a face to face debate between Coleman and Mondale.


FRANKEN: Now, the fact of the matter is is that those negotiations continue without resolution. There are many who are a little bit skeptical that there can be a debate, but a Mondale spokesman who is involved in the negotiation says that we should bet on there being one. Well, that leaves, basically, tomorrow when the president is here, and Monday. So a lot of people are saying that there just may not be time -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Bob, I understand some of the campaign signs have been rather interesting, given that Mondale got into the race at such a last-minute notice. I understand that a number of those signs are handwritten?

FRANKEN: That's right. I think there's been a run on crayons in Minnesota right now. Democrats creating their own signs. It was interesting, as a matter of fact, the only Mondale buttons that I've been able to find have been ones that are held by collectors from 1984.

WHITFIELD: Oh. Well, that's a fun sight. All right. Thanks very much, Bob. Appreciate it.

Well, the Minnesota race, Senate race is just one of many congressional races that could alter the balance of power on Capitol Hill. With me now to talk more about that are Ron Brownstein, a political reporter with the "Los Angeles Times" and CNN political analyst, and in Atlanta, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

All right, gentlemen, good to see both of you. Minnesota, let's talk about that. We've got a 74-year-old and a 53-year-old in the race. Might this be a case where name recognition on a national level might defy the conventional wisdom of usually the younger candidate having the appeal, Ron?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Norm Coleman, the Republican, has been a very strong candidate all through this cycle. I've been up there and seen him campaign; he is a very good candidate. But he was trailing Paul Wellstone when the senator died. I mean, there was a lean towards Wellstone, and there's a natural sympathetic impulse toward, I think, memorializing Wellstone in the state.

The problem the Democrats have had is that that memorial service may have gone a little far and generated a little bit of a backlash. The public polling shows Mondale still safely ahead. The Republicans say they see some movement toward Coleman in their own surveys. We're going to be watching this one late Tuesday night, probably well into Wednesday before it's all counted.

WHITFIELD: Well, Bill, let's bring you into the equation, or back into the equation, if we could. Do you see that that memorial service might indeed show some backlash to Mondale?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it could, because I think Republicans were infuriated when they saw the minority leader of the United States Senate, Trent Lott, travel all the way from Washington to Minneapolis to pay his respects to his colleague, Paul Wellstone, and he got booed, and the governor, Ventura, got booed. I think that angered a lot of Republicans, and President Bush has run -- said will be there this weekend. The question is, will they be able to fire up turnout? Because Democrats will certainly turn out to pay their respects at the polling place.

WHITFIELD: All right, Bill. South Dakota, another critical state in terms of the balance of power in Congress. Not just Daschle's race, but we're also seeing that Representative John Thune, who was recruited personally by Bush, is now up against incumbent Senator Tim Johnson. And this, indeed, might also be a very tight race?

SCHNEIDER: Very tight rate. I was in South Dakota. Down to the wire. A lot of local issues matter there. Health care, health insurance, because prices have skyrocketed. There is a lot of independent farmers and business people in South Dakota who are very worried about that. The money that's been spent in South Dakota is utterly incredible. It's not very expensive to buy ads in South Dakota, and the money has come in because this is such a critical race for the balance of power, and to a lot of people it looks like a race between President Bush and Tom Daschle as much as between Tim Johnson and John Thune.

BROWNSTEIN: Fredricka, there is actually a common theme here. The three most endangered Democratic incumbents are all in the Midwest. In Minnesota, in South Dakota and in Missouri. And in all three cases, what you have are Democrats who have to run better with rural and small-town voters than Al Gore did in 2000. That was the biggest decline that Democrats suffered, on cultural issues and so forth. These candidates have to do better if they are going to hold those seats in 2002.

WHITFIELD: And Ron, Bill was talking about the incredible amount of money being poured into the South Dakota race. Often that's such a big turnoff for a lot of voters. How do you suppose that might impact the turnout?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, what you've got is a year where very few races have been competitive, especially in the House. And as a result, an enormous amount of money that has been raised is channeled through a very small funnel. People are being bombarded in places in the country, mostly with negative ads, because in the environment where the electorate isn't really engaged, candidates feel that negative ads work better than positive ads. But the cost of that is it does tend to limit the universe of people who actually go out and vote.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about North Carolina. Elizabeth Dole and a former Clinton big name, Erskine Bowles. Is this likely to be a tight race between those two?

BROWNSTEIN: It does seem to be getting closer, and it's one the Democrats would really like to add to the board. They have three Republican seats that are their primary targets -- Arkansas, New Hampshire and Colorado. This is the next one down. And if they could put this one in play, it's one for viewers to watch early in the night, because if Erskine Bowles can get over the top against Elizabeth Dole, who has been trailing all the way through, it would signal the Democrats did develop a little bit of a push at the end that may help them in the overall battle for control.

WHITFIELD: Bill, you know, this has been said to be, perhaps, an uphill battle for Bush as he campaigns now. It's almost as if he's running for office himself. And some would say he really kind of is, to make sure that the Republicans can at least hold on to the majority in the House and perhaps regain it in the Senate?

SCHNEIDER: That's right. The president has been campaigning. In fact, the entire cabinet is out there campaigning. It's a remarkable thing. The whole government seems to be involved in this campaign, which means that Bush has a lot at stake here. If he doesn't do well on Tuesday, Tuesday night and Wednesday, if it turns out the president, the Republicans receive a setback, it looks like his own popularity just doesn't translate to his party. He doesn't have the clout that he expected to have, and when that's shown, that means even members of your own party are going to say, he's not doing me any good, why should I support him? He's got a lot on the line here.

WHITFIELD: Well, Bill, do you see the House is being taken for granted? It's only a six-seat majority in terms of the Republican Party.

SCHNEIDER: I can't find a single political observer who believes that the Democrats have a chance to take back the House, which makes me very suspect. I wonder. I think there's a chance they could.

I mean, look, the only thing that I can see in the polls happening for the last four weeks is mounting anxiety over the state of the economy. That cannot be good news for the president's party. That is, the Republicans. So far, we haven't seen it really impacting the vote. But things can change at the last second. I'm just saying that there is news out there that people are unhappy, anxious about the economy. I wouldn't be surprised if the Democrats pulled off a surprise.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, if the Democrats don't take back the House, which I agree with Bill, most people don't think they will, the big story this election will be their failure to attach those disappointing economic numbers to the president and make him pay a price for it. Democrats have been reluctant to challenge the tax cut, and as a result of that, they have been unable to develop a broader critique on the economy. They have no lead. When voters are asked, who can do better to produce prosperity, very unusual in a period where the economy is doing so poorly, and that may be the biggest detriment they've had, the biggest failure they've had in this campaign that will prevent them from getting control of the House in all likelihood.

WHITFIELD: And we're going to talk about that a little bit more, those issues that are impacting these races. The economy, you mentioned, is one, and of course, Iraq is an issue that can't be overlooked, especially since many voters say they felt like President Bush has been spending an awful lot of time on the war in Iraq and very little on other issues, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: We're seeing a movement, Fredricka, back to the division of the 1980s, where Republicans were enormously more trusted than Democrats on issues of national security, protecting the homeland. To the extent the debate has been about Iraq, it's been an enormous advantage for them. Democrats have wanted to steer it, since they haven't really had an advantage on the economy, to things like Social Security, pension protection, Medicaid, prescription drugs.

The problem is, Iraq and the economy are the biggest two issues facing the country this year. So people are talking about and thinking about -- and if Democrats really aren't engaging on those, they're giving up a lot of ground before they start.

WHITFIELD: And Bill, national security, another one of those issues. Are a number of these candidates talking about those issues, or are they trying to stick with the local issues in their respective states?

SCHNEIDER: Surprisingly, they haven't been talking too much about national security. If it was an issue anywhere, it was an issue in a race with Paul Wellstone in Minnesota. His tragic death, of course, cut short that debate, because he was one of the only -- I think he was the only senator, the only Democratic senator not to vote for a war resolution.

But now, of course, he's not in the race. He tragically was killed. And I can't find many races where the war issue, the national security issue, even the war on terrorism is big. Perhaps right here where I am in Georgia, where Saxby Chambliss, the Republican challenger, is running tough ads against Max Cleland, the Democrat, saying that he didn't vote for national missile defense, he's not strong enough on national security. A few places, but it's not a national referendum on the war in Iraq or the war on terrorism.

WHITFIELD: All right, Bill Schneider and Ron Brownstein, thank you very much, gentlemen. Appreciate it.

Well, Republican President Bush certainly has a lot at stake in these elections. Today he's campaigning for his party in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. And in the Sunshine State, Bush's brother Jeb, the governor, is in a tight race for reelection. Mr. Bush left the White House this morning for Tennessee, the first stop on his three- day, 10-state campaign swing. The president arrived at Dobbins Air Reserve Base near Atlanta just a short while ago.

And our Kelly Wallace is keeping track of the president's whirlwind campaign weekend, and she's a bit ahead of him at his next stop, Savannah, Georgia -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, President Bush certainly keeping a very busy schedule. What he is doing is he is targeting the close congressional and gubernatorial races, hoping his relatively high approval rating means Republican victories on November 5.

As you said, though, the stakes, very high for this president, who we saw earlier this morning in Tennessee. He knows if Republicans maintain control of the House and win back control of the Senate, he will have a better chance of getting his domestic agenda passed.

He also knows the more Republican governors there are, the better his chances for reelection in 2004. And that is why in Bluntville, Tennessee the president speaking very bluntly, calling on Republicans to go to the polls for that state's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Congressman Van Hilleary.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have an obligation as American citizens to vote. So as we approach an election day, I'm traveling the country, reminding Republicans and Democrats and people who don't give a hoot about politics to do their duty and go to the polls. But I got some suggestions once they get in the box.


WALLACE: The president certainly has some suggestions. And he'll be taking that message again to 10 states between now and election day. States with some of the closest Senate races that we are seeing. We know he's here in Georgia, as we've been saying. He goes to Minnesota tomorrow. South Dakota. He'll also be visiting Missouri and Arkansas. He's going to Illinois and Iowa, states with very close congressional races. And, of course, there is Florida.

Now, here is where the politics get a bit personal. President Bush will be making his 12th visit to this state since taking office, hoping to give his brother a boost. Governor Jeb Bush in a surprisingly tight race for reelection against his Democratic challenger, Bill McBride. This state, very important to both parties. We know it was a battleground state in the disputed election of 2000. The president hoping to give a boost to his brother.

But Fredricka, Democrats think they win when the president visits as well. They think it energizes Democratic voters to go to the polls and vote for an alternative to the Bush agenda. And as you know, Democrats bringing in some heavy hitters as well. Former President Bill Clinton will be in the state, and former Vice President Al Gore will be there Sunday and Monday as well -- Fredricka. WHITFIELD: All right, thanks very much, Kelly Wallace in Savannah, Georgia, one of President Bush's next stops. All right, thanks very much.

Well, all eyes will be on Florida again this election where the president is trying to help out baby brother Jeb Bush in his campaign for reelection. The incumbent is taking on Democrat Bill McBride of Tampa. McBride is getting a little heavyweight help himself this weekend, as Kelly was mentioning. He has appearances with former President Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.

Some political observers say the road to the Florida's governor's office is literally on Florida's interstate 4 corridor. Our John Zarrella explains that.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Harry's Diner in Lakeland, Florida, is always packed with the regulars. There's good food and good conversation. Lately, with the race for governor tightening up, politics may as well be on the menu.

STEVE KOVACS, LAKELAND RESIDENT: You better have good tires on your vehicle, and be able to get along with minimum amount of sleep if you're going to be a statewide candidate in Florida.

ZARRELLA: Steve Kovacs and Larry Gray have each lived here for more than 30 years. Like Lakeland, they are conservative. This is Republican country, a stronghold for Jeb Bush. But Lakeland also sits along the most fluid, demographically mixed area of the state.

Called the Interstate 4 corridor. It runs from Tampa on the West Coast through Lakeland, Orlando and on east to Daytona Beach.

MARK SILVA, ORLANDO SENTINEL: It includes people who have no allegiance, really, to either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. It includes Hispanics, newly arrived Puerto Rican voters. A whole mix of people that are very much up for grabs in any political contest.

ZARRELLA: For Governor Jeb Bush and his Democratic challenger Bill McBride, this is voter-rich territory. Nearly three million voters, Democrats, Republicans and a vast number of independents live along the corridor.

SUSAN MCCMANUS, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: We say in Florida that I-4 corridor politics is politics imported from all over the country, and even outside the country.

ZARRELLA: In a state where registration of Republicans and Democrats is virtually a dead heat, political experts say the I-4 corridor, paved with independent voters, could determine the outcome. And experts say Hispanic voters along the corridor are hugely important, particularly the Puerto Rican community, which has an ongoing aggressive voter registration campaign. LUIS PASTRANA, PUERTO RICAN AFFAIRS ADMINISTRATION: Over 10,000, 10,407, to be exact, that we raised in a period of three months. And most of them, I'd say a good 80 percent of them, do not identify a political party.

ZARRELLA: Corridor voters are considered sophisticated, with issues, not party politics, determining many of their votes.

(on camera): Bush and McBride are likely to spend a lot more time between Daytona Beach and Tampa. With so many undecided voters here, political experts say the road to the statehouse may well be the I-4 corridor.

John Zarrella, CNN, Orlando.


WHITFIELD: Well, stay tuned to CNN all weekend for pre-election coverage, and we are going to take you now to Marietta, Georgia, where President Bush is speaking to some of the Republican supporters there. Let's listen in.

BUSH: See, we have a responsibility. If you believe in democracy, if you love freedom, then you have a responsibility to go to the polls next Tuesday.


And I'm not talking about just a handful of Georgia citizens. I mean everybody, Republicans and Democrats and people who could care less about political parties, they need to do their duty.

But when you get inside that box, I've got some suggestions.



For the good of Georgia and for the good of the country, Saxby Chambliss needs to be the U.S. senator.


For the good of the 11th, Phil Gingrey needs to be the U.S. congressman.


And for the good of school children of Georgia and the taxpayers of Georgia, Sonny Purdue out to be the next governor.


I appreciate Sonny. I appreciate him being straightforward, down-to-earth, tells it like it is. That's why he's going to be a fine governor. I appreciate the fact that he said education is a priority. That's why he's going to be a fine governor. I appreciate the fact that he's actually met a payroll before.


That's why he's going to be a fine governor.


No, I appreciate Sonny being here. And I appreciate the members of the mighty Georgia congressional delegation for being here as well -- Mac Collins and Johnny Isakson, John Linder and Bob Barr. I appreciate their friendship, and I appreciate their service to our country.


WHITFIELD: All right, you've been listening to President Bush as he is stumping for Republican candidates in the state of Georgia. We're seeing him from Marietta, Georgia, at the Cobb Galleria Mall there, talking about throwing his support behind Saxby Chambliss, as well as in the governor race, Roy Barnes up against Sonny Perdue. And of course, after Georgia, he's going to be heading on down to Florida, and that highly contested governor's race there, pitting his brother, Jeb Bush there, against Mr. McBride, the Democratic candidate. And of course, that's a critical state, because as you well may remember, it was only two years ago when Florida became the pivotal state in the presidential race. Of course, coming up, we'll be talking more about America Votes: The Issues, the Politics, the People, the good, the bad and the ugly on our airwaves. CNN's political analyst Jeff Greenfield looks at the season's political ads.

And next, the issues. Which party is most trusted by the people to take care of what matters to them, and how will that impact the election?


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. This breaking news out of Minnesota now involving the Senate race involving Mondale and Coleman. Our Bob Franken is following the story there, and what appears to be an agreement between Mondale and Coleman on a live debate on Monday -- Bob.

FRANKEN: Well, that's the problem. It appears to be an agreement, but it is not an agreement. Here's what we have. The Mondale people are telling us, a variety of sources in the Mondale camp, they have agreed in principle to a debate that would be held at some time, still not specified, on Monday, the day before the election, over public radio in Minnesota. They have agreed.

The Coleman camp says it has not reached an agreement. The Mondale people, in effect, have made an offer and the Coleman people are considering it.

According to the Mondale people, things are getting close, but, quote, "it is not a done deal." But there's some maneuvering that goes on here. Each side will want to be the one who says, we're willing to debate, but the other side is not. Thus far, the latest proposal comes from the Walter Mondale side agreeing to a debate under certain conditions. The Coleman people have not yet signed on. This kind of maneuvering is going to be going on for quite a while, but it is the kind of dance that oftentimes precedes a debate in this very unusual, abbreviated political campaigning -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Bob Franken from Minneapolis. Thank you very much.

Well, let's turn now to public opinion heading into Tuesday's elections. In such midterm elections, the White House traditionally loses congressional seats. Let's get an idea now of what may be on the minds of Americans. A Pew Research Center poll finds that President Bush's job approval rating now at 59 percent, down from 67 percent in September. And support for military action against Iraq also has fallen -- it's 55 percent now, and it was 64 percent in September.

Let's talk more about what it all means. Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center. All right. A number of issues at stake here. The threat of national security being one of them. And President Bush has been doing a really good job, you would think, of campaigning for national security, and for this war on Iraq.

ANDREW KOHUT, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: Well, the public has a high regard for him and for the Republicans on the foreign policy issues, on the war on terrorism, even on what to do about Iraq, despite the slippage in support for potentially using force.

One of the things about this campaign, things go up, things go down in terms of issues, but it doesn't translate into any change in partisan attitudes. There's the biggest disconnect I've ever seen between people's worries, their changing concerns and their views about the parties and the candidates by implication, which don't seem to change in response.

WHITFIELD: There have been some criticisms coming from some voters who say President Bush has been spending perhaps too much time on this campaigning for the war on terrorism or even the war on Iraq.

KOHUT: Well, that's why he's been out talking an awful lot in recent days about the economy and jobs, and all kinds of things, because he remembers the lesson of his father in 1991, when dealing with the first Gulf War, or the Gulf War. And the public was saying, well, he cared about that, but he didn't care about the economy. In '92, a very large percentage of people were saying, he doesn't get it, he doesn't realize how bad the economy is, and he is not trying hard enough. And the president doesn't want to repeat that.

WHITFIELD: All right, let's look at some of the numbers when we're talking about the threat of terrorism and where people stand, where American voters stand on it. We're seeing a Republican Party at 44 percent. Democratic Party with 27 percent. In terms of how much time is being devoted to the war on -- or the threat of national security? KOHUT: Well, that's not too much a reflection -- what they mean is that the American public has more confidence in Republicans than Democrats, and that really hasn't changed, even though the public is less satisfied with the way the war on terrorism is going, it's not translating into any less favor for the Republicans or any more credit for a Democratic alternative. And there is one of the problems. There aren't many Democrat clear announced Democratic alternatives on any of these issues.

WHITFIELD: Let's talk about Iraq now. Let's see the numbers that you all have collected on where that issue stands with the parties.

KOHUT: Again, you see that same 42/33 margin in favor of the Republicans, and as Ron Brownstein said a while ago, it looks like the old days, with the Republicans having this really strong margin on foreign policy and security-related issues.

WHITFIELD: And on the economy, neither party really has an advantage, do they? No one seems to have brought forth any real solutions in order to get the economy back in shape, at least according to some of the public opinion. What are some of the numbers you have for the parties?

KOHUT: Forty percent Democrat, 37 percent Republicans. It should be a bigger gap, given the fact that the Republicans are in power, and this week the consumer confidence board showed -- confidence board showed consumer confidence at a nine-year low, but, again, it doesn't result in any change in these perceptions.

That's what we had, virtually, all summer. As people have become more anxious about the economy, it hasn't benefited the Democrats.

WHITFIELD: Andrew Kohut, thank you very much, from the Pugh Research Center. Appreciate it.

Well, updates this hour's "News Alert" straight ahead. Then, the political messages. TV watchers are bombarded with every day, what's the message, and is anyone listening?

Plus -- up close with the Senate race in North Carolina. We'll go on the road with Mrs. Dole and Erskine Bowles. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: Almost every commercial break on local TV these days is populated by tough and sometimes nasty political ads. CNN's Jeff Greenfield has a look at why so many political ads often seem so negative.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, Wayne Allard voted against tougher standards for arsenic in drinking water.



ALEX SANDERS (D-SC), CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: I hunt cause my daddy hunted.





JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST (voice-over): They're spending a billion dollars on this midterm election, and they're spending most of it 30 second at a time on thousands, no, tens of thousands of TV ads. After awhile, they all seem to blend into a handful of messages and themes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His father was the son of a share cropper.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her father was a plumber.


GREENFIELD: All the candidates are salt of the earth people, boot-strapped from humble circumstances through hard work. If anybody grew up rich, you sure can't tell it from these ads, and they all embrace this year's magic word. Values.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark Pryor. Arkansas values...



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Hampshire's values.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rock solid Georgia values.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GREENFIELD: Curiously, we haven't found any candidate running on New Jersey values or New York values or California values. I think if anyone tried it, the voters in those states would just laugh out loud.

Another trend. If you are in trouble, find someone more popular than you to stand with you. In New Hampshire, Senator Judd Greg appears with John Sununu, who's locked in a very tight Senate race.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zell voted to support the Boy Scouts of America. Max voted against the Boy Scouts.


GREENFIELD: In Georgia, Republican Saxby Chambliss runs ads that claims he's actually closer to Democrat Zell Miller than Democratic Senator Max Cleland is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Replace Max with Sax.


GREENFIELD: So Miller went on TV and cut an ad saying, no, that's not right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Max's opponent should be ashamed.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To hide her record...


GREENFIELD: And when it's time to go negative, the arguments are the same from one end of the country the other. The Democrats? They're weak on defense.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voted against the president's vital homeland security efforts.


GREENFIELD: If you are a Republican, you're out to undermine Social Security. But sometimes, it gets downright personal. In Texas, Republican Governor Rick Perry charges opponent Tony Sanchez with links to money laundering murders.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A federal judge confirmed Sanchez's bank wired millions of laundered drug money to Manuel Noriega's Panama.


GREENFIELD: While the Sanchez campaign has this police video showing Governor Perry in a nasty spat with Texas cops.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you let us get on down the road?


GREENFIELD: There's another curious thing about these ads. Most of them don't ask you to actually vote for a candidate. Instead, they ask you to do something else.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell Erskine Bowles, his Clinton-style attacks have no place in North Carolina.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell Tim Hutchinson his change hasn't been good for Arkansas.


GREENFIELD: Why all these calls? Because these ads are paid for with soft money. Those unlimited contributions that are supposed to end after this year. And those ads, by law, are not allowed to explicitly ask for a vote. But of all the negative ads I've seen, this one is in a class by itself.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liz Krueger voted against restrictions on public urination and aggressive panhandling. Urinating in public? That's disgusting.


GREENFIELD: And just what is it we're supposed to decide? Depends. I'm Jeff Greenfield.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jeff. Well, let's talk a little bit more about how every election voters say and articulate in various ways, they don't like the mud-slinging campaigns, yet each election we see it happen nonetheless. Somewhere along the lines are the candidates learning that in the end they really do benefit, perhaps, from the mud-slinging? GREENFIELD: Well, consultants will say, and sometimes they will even say it publicly, the reason we do this is it works. One thing I think we do know about negative ads is that they tend to depress voter turnout, and believe it or not, in some cases, that is exactly the point.

Some campaigns believe we can't win over people who are on the other side, say, ideologically, but we can make them feel so bad about their candidate that they'll stay home. And that's almost as good.

So, yeah, you get a situation where people bemoan this, they don't like the negative tone, they hate it, and the consultants do it again and again and again, often in the same words, because they're doing many different races, because they believe it's effective. It's up to the voters maybe some day to say no, it isn't. But so far they haven't done that.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jeff Greenfield. Thanks very much. Good to see you.

Well, coming up on "America Votes: The Issues, the Politics, the People," the race for senator in North Carolina. It's the southern belle versus the Clinton guy. And they're running neck and neck.


WHITFIELD: Political polls this week show a tightening Senate race to replace Jesse Helms in North Carolina. And both candidates are national political insiders with presidential connections. CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley reports.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She once ran for president.


CROWLEY: He once worked for one.


CROWLEY: Now, they both want to be senator for North Carolina.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what I hear. We got a dead heat.


CROWLEY: She used to be more than 20 points up and sitting pretty. Name recognition through the roof. A husband who owes her for all the time she was the spouse of the candidate, and the president vested enough in her victory to visit the state five times. And now -- the race is very, close.

With $3 million of his own money and some tough ads, Bowles has pulled himself out of obscurity.

While George Bush has been on the frequent visitor plan in North Carolina, there has been no sign of Bowles' former boss. Bill Clinton is a mixed bag in this conservative state, not worth the risk. But this Clinton fund-raiser, former head of the Small Business Administration, former Clinton chief of staff has managed to do what Al Gore could not -- separate himself from the person of Bill Clinton and embrace the policies.

BOWLES: I don't think anybody's more fiscally conservative than I am. You know, I have been given credit of being the architect of a balanced budget, of bringing people together from both sides to balance the budget. But I am socially progressive.

CROWLEY: In this state, where textiles have been hit hard, Bowles talks a lot about jobs, and so does she.

DOLE: Well, Erskine, let me say to you, you have had your chance. You were chief of staff for Bill Clinton, and you did not enforce the trade laws all during the '90s, and that's why our industry has been devastated.

CROWLEY: Bill Clinton's name comes up a lot in her speeches. Don't let that southern sugar voice fool you. Elizabeth Dole is a woman who can play northern hardball.

She married a marquee Republican name, but didn't stay home to bake cookies. Secretary of labor, secretary of transportation, head of the Red Cross, 2000 presidential candidate. The first female to graduate from Harvard Law, Dole was a liberated woman way before it was cool.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would now like to welcome the lady I admire most -- please welcome Elizabeth Dole.

CROWLEY: She is a huge draw, but Dole's failed presidential campaign has made many Republicans nervous. "In 2000," said one Republican, "she couldn't translate her celebrity into political support. I hope she has learned how to close the deal."


CROWLEY: Fredricka, there are two kinds of races this election day. Some are marquee races, those with the famous names, and others are really close. This has the benefit of being both.

WHITFIELD: And Candy, it looks like the Clinton/Bush race all over again in some respects, with Clinton campaigning in Maryland and Michigan for governor races there. And of course, President Bush all over the map.

CROWLEY: Different President Bush, but, yes, absolutely.


CROWLEY: It is. What's interesting with the two of them, to me is, where they go. What they've found in the polls is, whenever a president goes to a state, the poll numbers for that person pop a little. Well, in these last final days, that pop matters. It dissolves when you come too early. So that's great.

And the other thing about Bill Clinton is, is at this point, he's going to the base. He is going to urban areas, and it's all about getting out the vote, and who excites voters more than the top dogs in the party? So that's why you see the two of them out there.

WHITFIELD: All right. Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Well, straight ahead on "America Votes: The Issues, the Politics, the People," we'll examine voters' concerns with Jesse Jackson and conservative commentator Armstrong Williams. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: During the 2000 presidential election, hanging chads and dimpled ballots were not the only problem. African-American voters complained of being disenfranchised, and several civil lawsuits followed. We take a look at that issue and the many others facing black voters at the polls this year. Reverend Jesse Jackson is founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and he joins us live from Chicago. Good to see you, Mr. Jackson.


WHITFIELD: All right, well, there are a number of issues that make these races pivotal. In particular, among the African-American voters, it has been said, based on a number of research, that apparently the number of African-Americans as registered Democrats is waning. It has seen quite a decline in the past five to 10 years. How much of an issue is that going to make itself apparent this year?

JACKSON: It's not an issue. The first issue is our vote must count. And in Florida, we lost Florida by the margin of disenfranchised voters. I put students on the books, registered them at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) college (ph). They were not taken down and put on the rolls. There were Haitian-Americans who needed Creole language support, could not get it. Farm workers who needed financial support, could not get it.

So the issue for us today is the right to vote, a protected vote that's counted. I hope the people vote in big numbers on Tuesday and vote our hopes and not our fears.

WHITFIELD: Is it your opinion that African-American voters are saying they don't want to be taken for granted, that it should not be presumed that they'll automatically going to be voting Democrat?

JACKSON: Yeah, but the issue here is not Democrat or Republican. Two years later, we've gone from a $3.5 (ph) surplus to $200 billion deficit. Two years later, we've lost three million jobs. We've lost 401(k) money by the billions, we've lost pension fund money by the billions. An we have an administration that has not met with the NAACP one time. Basically, anti-civil rights. That's a signal. They've not -- Mr. Bush has not met with John Sweeney of AFL-CIO one time -- anti-labor. They're challenging Title IX, women's rights.

If you are challenging women's rights and workers' rights and civil rights, that is a message, that is a compelling message, and in fact, drives us to organizing to protect our interests.

WHITFIELD: Among those issues that black voters say are being ignored -- in this morning's "Washington Post," it says that many black voters are saying that the issues of job, unemployment is not being addressed by this administration, and they're going to indicate their feelings when they go to the polls on Tuesday?

JACKSON: And that's the stuff of which coalition is built. The fact is, that workers, white, black and brown, and women, have a converging interest. If you look at 40 (ph) million who have no health insurance, that's not just a black issue. The needs for affordable education of all of America's youth -- it's Appalachian whites as well as rural black.

I think the real (ph) issues of our time -- conference of health care, public education, public transportation, equal protection under the law. Choosing economic security here at home, not just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about Iraq, those are the issues that are driving the agenda.

WHITFIELD: Black voter turnout has always been, or has historically been, a problem in the state of Florida. Given we're two years now after that debacle, at the presidential race, do you believe that we're doing to see a greater number of black voters heading to the polls this year?

JACKSON: I certainly hope so. You know, I'm on my way later today to Maryland and then to Florida tomorrow, to Orlando and Sanford and Jacksonville and Tallahassee, because you have massive voter turnout.

Now, you've got two problems. One, you've got 600,000 people who are ex-felons, about 400,000 of them are black, who lost their right to vote. And that must be restored. That's a big issue across the south. And second issue, of course, is that once people do vote, their vote should count. They had problems counting in 2000, and when Reno ran, problems counting in 2002. So we must vote and get our vote to count.

I think if we vote next Tuesday, and don't forget what happened when we were disenfranchised two years ago, that will make a huge difference come Tuesday night.

WHITFIELD: And voter apathy is often kicked up a notch in midterm elections like this one.

JACKSON: Well, we're going to try to go from apathy to excitement, based upon, if you want things as they are, they don't vote. If you want to protect affirmative action and women's rights, if you want the administration that will not commit $100 billion to fight a war in Iraq and not address health care at home, then few things are -- but if you won't change, you can vote for change and hope on this coming Tuesday.

You know, if we win this time, if Democrats win the House, for example, that there are 14 (ph) black congresspeople that could become chairs, subchairs of committees? The stakes are real big on this coming Tuesday, for the judges, of the House, of the Senate, the stakes are real high on Tuesday. Voter turnout should be real big.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jesse Jackson from Chicago, thank you very much.

JACKSON: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And now from the right, we talk with Armstrong Williams about the African-American vote. Armstrong is a syndicated columnist and conservative commentator, and he joins us right here in Washington. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right. So you heard Mr. Jackson make it very clear that apparently the White House has not done enough to reach out to the black voters. You were shaking your head during that interview?

WILLIAMS: You know, I have tremendous respect for Reverend Jackson, and what he represents. But Fredricka, so much has changed in America. The Florida debacle seems almost 50 years ago.


WILLIAMS: It seems ancient. Yes, it does.

WHITFIELD: Why's that?

WILLIAMS: So much changed, the war -- the 9/11 attack, the war on terrorism, the sniper attacks here in this area. So much has changed.

And you know, I am one who has criticized the Republican Party often. They have squandered opportunities to take advantage of the African-American vote and they have not earned the African-American vote, but with this president, George Bush in the White House, so much has changed. This is a man who is not anti-affirmative action. This is a man who has gone out of his way to show American blacks that he wanted their vote.

And, you know, what's interesting, many people may call it symbolism. I mean, even on the issue of school vouchers that the Democratic Party and people like Jesse Jackson and those are totally out of step with, the Joint Center for Political Studies just released a report this week indicating that almost 58 percent, 60 percent of American blacks support school vouchers. They don't care about the political debate. All they know is that their children are not learning. And so many of the Congressional Black Caucus members and others are just totally out of step.

But what has happened, President Bush only received 9 percent, even less, of the black vote in 2000. But in the Joint Center for Political Studies report, the president's approval rating -- now, get a load of this -- they said that in their approval ratings, Colin Powell was number one, in terms of the respect among African-Americans in this country. Jesse Jackson, whom we just listened to, dropped almost 23 percentage points out of favor with American blacks. Al Gore was 65 percent. President Bush had an approval rating of 50 percent among American blacks. That is quite significant.

WHITFIELD: So perhaps we're going to see that reflection at the polls on Tuesday, as black voters, and everyone else heads to the polls, perhaps, you're saying that those numbers are indicators that perhaps the Republican support among black voters might be strong?

WILLIAMS: Well, I am cautiously optimistic. There is a process here. The thing is, is they don't have -- see, Jesse Jackson and others can't use racism in this election. The racism issue is somewhat dead. Affirmative action is somewhat dead. It's not even a part of the debate, because President Bush has refused to allow to make it part of the...

WHITFIELD: Is it somewhat dead? Because it seems like when anyone comes out and say they don't like affirmative action, then certainly that does re-ignite the fire?

WILLIAMS: But this president is not saying that. This president supports affirmative action. And it's not a quietly held secret. He supports it.

But the issue is, they don't have someone in the White House that they can use as the boogeyman, someone they can say is part of the Ku Klux Klan in drag. This is a likable president, this is a president that people trust.

And see, what Reverend Jackson must realize and they have to continue to use these scare tactics, is when you have individuals who approve of a president as high as 50 percent, it will do one of two things. Either black people on Tuesday will feel they have nothing to vote for, or they are comfortable with the person who's in the White House. And they realize this can translate to some votes or no votes.

The poll also shows -- the study also shows from the Joint Center that even Democrats, blacks on the 4 percent that they would support Republicans, in the latest poll, it says 10. That may not seem significant.

WHITFIELD: That supports the notion that the dwindling number of black Americans who are registered as Democrats just might be the case? WILLIAMS: Absolutely. Just might be the case. Listen, I think the true impact of the black vote and the fact that the Republican Party has made a tremendous effort will show in the 2004 presidential election. Jesse Jackson and Charlie Rangel and others have much to be concerned about. The black vote cannot be taken for granted by Democrats or Republicans. For the first time in the last 40 years, both parties must earn that vote, based on results, not on rhetoric, and we will start seeing that in Tuesday's elections.

WHITFIELD: All right, Armstrong Williams, good to see you.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Thanks very much.



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