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Al Gore Says He Won't Run For President in 2004; Trent Lott Tapes Appearance on BET to Again Explain Thurmond Comments

Aired December 16, 2002 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Al Gore ends the speculation.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought, for all those reasons, it was the right thing for me to decide not to be a candidate this time.

ANNOUNCER: The reasons behind his decision from the personal to the political.

Assessing the odds facing the Democratic contenders. Does any candidate have an early edge, and who's now free to join the fray?

The political storm with staying power. Senator Trent Lott prepares to make his case one more time -- in prime-time.

In Washington, a potential revolt in the Republican ranks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican Party can't continue, hour after hour, day after day, to decimate itself.

ANNOUNCER: Who's leading the charge for a change in leadership, and the possible replacements if Lott is forced from power?

ANNOUNCER: Live, from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. In a few minutes, we expect Cardinal Bernard Law to make his first public appearance since he resigned as Boston archbishop. We'll bring his news conference to you live when it happens.

In the meantime, we're following two major political stories in the Monday news cycle. Al Gore today explaining his decision not to run for president in 2004. We'll tell you what he had to say, and consider what Gore's decision means to the Democrats' presidential hopefuls.

Also, Republican Senate leader Trent Lott is taping an interview this hour for Black Entertainment Television. It could be Lott's last chance to win over those who are still unimpressed by his attempts to apologize for comments about Strom Thurmond's campaign for president in 1948. More on the Al Gore announcement in a moment. But first, let's turn to the political crisis still surrounding Senator Trent Lott. With me from Capitol Hill is our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl.

Jon, there is a -- small, but growing number of Republican senators who are saying they like the idea of having a conference early in January to reconsider their leadership.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As a matter of fact, Judy, that will happen. But first, let me clarify. I have moved here to the headquarters of Black Entertainment Television here in Washington, D.C., off Capitol Hill. The Trent Lott interview, which is actually taking place down in Mobile, Alabama will take place shortly.

They are going to allow us to watch a feed of it here at their bureau here in Washington. So, we'll be watching that and coming back and telling you what he has to say once the interview is over, once the taping of the interview is over.

As for the growing effort to do something about the Republican leadership in the Senate, the Republican Conference, which is chaired by Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, and a Lott loyalist has announced that they will go forward on January 6 and have a conference, and getting all 51 Republicans in the Senate to discuss whether or not Trent Lott should stay on as their leader.

That is on January 6. January 7, of course, is the day that the 108th Congress reconvenes, officially getting back underway.

So this is the way they'll be starting out. It was supposed to be a session where they would be starting out talking about what they would do about the president's agenda, getting forward, ready for a new session of Congress, and now they'll be talking, a day going into that, about who their leader should, in fact, be.

Now, this decision is drawing praise from many Republican senators, saying this is the right thing to do, whether or not they want to change leadership. One statement came from John McCain, just put out a statement saying that this is necessary for the party to get together and to show that they are the party of Lincoln in word and deed.

And McCain went on to say that he believes that -- quote -- "Senate Republicans must act to prevent the controversy concerning Senator Lott's remarks from creating increasingly harsh political divisions among us that will test the public's faith in our sincerity."

So that's the story now. This is something Trent Lott adamantly did not want. He, after all, remember, Judy, was elected to a two- year term as Republican leader back in November. Now he's got to go through it once again and find out if his colleagues want him to actually fill that term. WOODRUFF: But Jon, this has been such a fast-moving story. In effect, saying that this decision may be made in January the 6th, that is weeks from now. That really leaves Senator Lott sort of hanging out there. Jon, I'm going to interrupt right now because I'm told that Cardinal Bernard Law's news conference is just now getting underway in Boston. Again, this is the first time he has met with the press since the announcement that he would be resigning his position -- Cardinal Law.

CARDINAL BERNARD LAW, FORMER ARCHBISHOP OF BOSTON: ... responsibility for the archdiocese, and I think it best for me simply to say what I've prepared, and I will not be available for questions beyond that, and I hope that you will respect the reasons for this, and I take this opportunity, too, to thank you for your courtesy during these years.

As I said last Friday, it is my hope and it's my prayer that my resignation as archbishop might help the archdiocese of Boston to experience healing, to experience reconciliation, and to experience unity. The statement released last Friday really expresses all that I have to say.

The course of events in recent months has certainly been different than anything I or others would have predicted on the occasion of my installation more than 18 years ago. To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and from my mistakes, I once again apologize, and from them I beg forgiveness.

During these past 11 months, decisions have been made and policies strengthened which ensure the safety of children as the archdiocese moves forward. A commitment to a comprehensive plan to deal with all aspects of this issue has begun to develop and to be implemented.

Well, I had hoped to be part of that implementation. It came to be ever more clear to me that the most effective way that I might serve the church at this moment is to resign. The holy father and those assisting him in such matters were most understanding.

I renew my gratitude to the holy father for accepting my resignation. I am grateful to God for the grace and for the privilege to have served as archbishop.

My personal plans for the future are not fully developed. I will take a brief vacation with some priest friends after Christmas, and then I will go on retreat at a monastery. Following that, I will take up residence outside the archdiocese and continue my responsibilities as cardinal.

Needless to say, I will continue to be available as necessary in the legal process. The apostolic administrator, Bishop Richard Lennon, has the pledge of my prayers and heartfelt support. May he and all in the archdiocese experience the peace which only the Lord can give as we celebrate this blessed time of hope, which is Advent, may Mary, mother of the incarnate word, and mother of the Church intercede for the Archdiocese of Boston, that it might experience the spirit's gift of healing and of reconciliation and of unity.

And I thank you very much for your attention and for your presence.

WOODRUFF: Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop in Boston, who announced on Friday he was stepping down from that position, just telling the reporters he met with in Boston. He said, "To all those who suffered from my shortcomings and my mistakes, I once again apologize and I beg for their forgiveness."

He announced that he will go on a short vacation. He will then go to a monastery for a retreat, but then he will remain in the Boston area where he will continue to serve out his responsibilities as a cardinal.

He will maintain the title and the responsibility of cardinal. Again, Cardinal Bernard Law talking very briefly with reporters in Boston.

And now back to our two breaking political stories this day. As we showed you last hour here on CNN, Al Gore met with reporters to talk about last night's announcement that he will not attempt a reelection match with President Bush.

Our Jeanne Meserve was at the Gore news conference. She joins me now from Raleigh, North Carolina -- Jeanne, we heard Al Gore say not once, but twice he's at peace with this decision that he has made.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right, at peace. He says it's the right thing for himself, his family, his party, and his nation. He says there was no moment of epiphany when he realized he should not run in 2004, but rather a slow dawning that any rematch between himself and George W. Bush would turn into a rehash of the 2000 election. He acknowledged that the country just might need a new face, but he said he believes if he had decided to run, he could have won.


GORE: This is going to be an exciting race, and whoever emerges from this competition will be a strong candidate, and again, as I said last evening, I truly believed that the Democratic nominee, whoever that turns out to be, is going to have an excellent chance of defeating President Bush.


MESERVE: Asked who he thought his withdrawal from the race might benefit, Gore said it was just too early to tell, also too early to say who he might endorse. He said he had received three telephone calls from John Kerry, from Senator Jon Lieberman, and also from Senator John Edwards. He talked with the three of them.

Interestingly said he not gotten phone calls from either Tom Daschle or Dick Gephardt. Also, he said in the week prior to his decision, he did not have any conversations with former president Bill Clinton or with Terry McAuliffe of the Democratic National Committee.

Now, Gore said, in the future, he intends to stay political active -- politically active. He will be out there giving speeches. He was asked what he wanted his political epithet to be, and the former vice president laughed and said it was a little too early for that.

He said, Please don't get out the chisel and the granite just yet -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: That is right, Jeanne. He did say he plans to stay active. He plans to lay out his proposal for tax cut -- for -- for a tax plan in January, and also to talk about health care. So a lot to keep an eye out for. All right, Jeanne. Thanks very much.

Well, Al Gore's decision to stay on the sidelines has opened the door to an array of other Democratic hopefuls.

Among them, Gore's former running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman, who says that he'll make a decision about his own White House run very soon.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: As I have said to many of you when you asked me how likely was it that I would run if Al Gore did not run, I said I probably would run if Al Gore doesn't run, and that remains the case.


WOODRUFF: Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts has already started forming an exploratory committee. He says Gore's decision won't change his plans.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I said all along that whatever Al Gore did or did not decide to do was not going to affect my personal decision, and I made that clear several weeks ago. I've been on a track to organize a national campaign. I think that is going very well. I'm extraordinarily encouraged by the support I've been getting.


WOODRUFF: And with me now from Boston to talk a little more about the Democratic field without Al Gore is our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- all right, Bill, how does it line up without Mr. Gore at the top?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the "Washington Post" took a poll last month, and they asked people who -- Democrats who they would favor for the nomination if Gore doesn't run. Now, guess who the front-runner for the nomination is -- is it Lieberman, Daschle, Kerry, Gephardt, Kerry, Sharpton, Edwards, Dean? No. It is that last answer. The answer is, 29 percent say they don't know.

There is no front runner in this race. Followed closely by Joe Lieberman, the best known of the Democrats, because he was on the national ticket in 2000. What does that signify? It signifies that this race is wide open. There is no front-runner. We are at the first day of the invisible primary that will take exactly one year until the end of next year to determine which candidate can raise the most money, and which candidate can build a solid front-runner lead in the polls.

WOODRUFF: Bill, can you say, though, at this point, which candidate benefits the most? I mean, clearly, this is a signal to Joe Lieberman to go ahead and get in. But among these candidates, is there one candidate or another that benefits more from Gore staying out than anyone else?

SCHNEIDER: Well, certainly Lieberman has leads to run, and you might imagine that some of the Gore support will be more likely to support Lieberman because Lieberman is Gore's man, but I don't think all of the Gore support will just gravitate towards Joe Lieberman. He is the one candidate who most closely carries the Clinton legacy, so to speak, but at a remove. He was the vice president to Clinton's vice president. So that's a distant relationship.

John Edwards can claim a certain relationship with Al Gore because he is a Southerner from a neighboring state. Gore is from Tennessee, Edwards from North Carolina. If there's a Southern strategy, if that is what Democrats want, then John Edwards can claim some of that legacy.

Gephardt and Daschle, both leaders of Congress, Washington figures. In many ways worked closely with the Clinton administration. I think it goes in various directions.

WOODRUFF: Well, if you're a student of politics, it just gets more exciting than ever, because we expect there may be even more names on this list. All right. Bill Schneider in Boston.

It was a political bombshell, but was politics the only factor in Al Gore's decision? Our Jeff Greenfield on the reasons behind Gore's stunning announcement.

With the former vice president out, who's in? We'll go live to Iowa and New Hampshire, the first battleground in the 2004 campaign season.

Plus, behind the scenes. Trent Lott is fighting for his political life. Who is the Senate Republican leader reaching out to? We'll get the scoop from our Bob Novak.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: He's taken his hat out of the ring, but will Gore still play a large role in the 2004 election? Next, I'll speak with one of Gore's former campaign managers. INSIDE POLITICS back in a minute.




... a living human being. Al Gore was in the public eye from the beginning, put there by a father who was himself a United States senator, and by a mother who dreamt of the highest office yet for their son.

He learned early the burden of political obligation. He went to Vietnam in part to help save his father's endangered Senate seat. The father lost anyway. He sought other paths, went to divinity school, worked as an investigative reporter, but the political pull prevailed. He was a congressman before he was 30, a U.S. senator and a presidential contender before he was 40.

GORE: Gore Jr., do solemnly swear...

GREENFIELD: Vice president of the United States at 45.

GORE: I know what it's like to lose...

GREENFIELD: Politics leached into the most intimate of family matters. His convention speech of 1992 compared his son's near fatal traffic accident to the hurting American economy. Four years later, he recounted in horrific detail the death of his sister from lung cancer.

GORE: Until I draw my last breath.

GREENFIELD: His run for the White House in 2000 was hobbled by wounds. Some of them self-inflicted, like fund-raising among Buddhist monks, some of them external, like the conduct of the president he served and hoped to succeed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand by, stand by CNN...

GREENFIELD: And the election itself, has anyone lost the White House under stranger circumstances? Gaining half a million more votes than his opponent, with the key state loss in a welter of mis-marked ballots and a bitterly divided U.S. Supreme Court.

GORE: You know, the good news about not being president is that I have my weekends free.

GREENFIELD: So maybe what it came down to is less a matter of primary calendars and public opinion polls, and more a hunger to be free from the demands of a political life that hobbled the spirit.

GORE: Would you mind if I...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, sure. Be my guest.

GREENFIELD: Certainly the man who ran so free and even wild Saturday night seemed to be saying -- at least for a time, good-bye to all that.

During that first debate in 2000, Al Gore was roundly criticized for heaving all those sighs of exasperation, even of contempt. Maybe this time what we heard was an enormous sigh of relief.

Jeff Greenfield, CNN, Santa Barbara, California.


WOODRUFF: And with me now to talk more about Al Gore's bombshell announcement, former Congressman Tony Coelho who also ran one of Al Gore's campaigns about 10 years ago it was -- Tony Coelho.


WOODRUFF: Thank you for being with us. A relief? Is that what has happened here, that this is something -- a very personal decision, ultimately, on his part?

COELHO: Very personal, and I think that you have to respect him for this decision. Here's a man who has run for president or vice president since 1988, been successful for eight years as vice president. He personally took himself off the stage. That's very courageous, tough to do, and I respect him tremendously for doing that. The right decision for himself, the right decision for the party, and I think you're going to find a guy who is going to be totally at ease and at peace with himself, which he hasn't been for a long time.

WOODRUFF: Let me turn the question around. You have told me -- and you've been very open that you told him back in February of this year that he should not make this race.

COELHO: Right.

WOODRUFF: Why did it take him so long to come to the decision, if you look at it from that direction?

COELHO: Well, he's a very personal individual. This is a decision that he had to internalize. Don't forget, he probably wanted to be president of the United States going clear back to the '60s as a very young man.

WOODRUFF: In high school?

COELHO: Because of his father and because of the whole family. Young people dream of being president, and here's a guy with a family that was there.

This was a very tough decision to say -- the odds are he would have been nominated. The odds are he would not have gotten elected, because the public didn't want a rehash of 2000.

So here was a decision that he had to make. If certain things happen, he could be president, but the odds were against that. What's the best thing for himself? What's the best thing for the party? He made the right decision.

WOODRUFF: He said at one point that he came to this decision last week while he was rehearsing for "Saturday Night Live." Did that strike you as strange? I mean, I gather you weren't all that thrilled with the "Saturday Night Live" portrayal of Al Gore. Why not?

COELHO: No. I wasn't. I -- though he was a little demeaning of himself. I think he's a guy with tremendous ideas and tremendous concern about public issues, and I thought it was a little flippant, and I thought that -- I thought his best skit, by the way, was the skit on Trent Lott, because it's very current, his choice of words were good. I thought it was a very -- a very...

WOODRUFF: The hot tub...

COELHO: The hot tub I didn't particularly care for. I didn't particularly care for the kiss, the lingering kiss. But I thought -- this is a substantive individual. He'll be a factor going forward. A lot of people don't think -- he will be.

Don't forget, he's the one who started off -- the media basically sat on their hands on the Trent Lott thing. He's the one that got out there first. He is the one who led in regards to the criticism in Iraq. He led in regards to the economy. The guy was willing to get out there, and be tough. He will continue to be a factor.

WOODRUFF: There is one other thing on this whole business, Tony Coelho, of being private. He held this so closely that his own brother-in-law, Frank Hunger (ph), who some people say is one of the people he's closest to in the world, didn't know until Sunday afternoon.

What is it about this man who can keep a huge decision like this from so many people? I mean, apparently only his immediate family knew.

COELHO: Well, when I became chairman of his campaign in '99, I knew him, but I didn't know him that well, and I got to know him very well after being with him every day for a long time. And what I found is he's a very, very private individual, and very few friends. And his best friend is his wife, and his kids are his best friends.

That is -- that's the core of his essence, his family. He's very strong into that family, and I think people missed that. There's no phoniness about this. This is a very private person. I person with very deep values, and that's the group that helped make up his mind. Nobody else. Now, he took input from a lot of people, but not anybody else.

WOODRUFF: Well, and the field is now wide open.

COELHO: Wide open.

WOODRUFF: Where do we go from here?

COELHO: It is -- you know, I said to you once earlier that this is sort of like '91 all over again, you know? It's a Bush and the seven dwarves, and here we go again, and one of the dwarves became president. Let's see if it happens again.

WOODRUFF: OK. Tony Coelho good to see you. Thank you for coming by.

COELHO: Thank you, Judy. Appreciate it.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, we will have more on the Gore decision, and what it means on the campaign trail. Coming up next, we will go live to Iowa and New Hampshire, two key states in any run for the White House. But first, there's no Christmas cheer for retailers this holiday season.



WOODRUFF: What does Trent Lott have to do to keep his job as Senate Republican leader? The scoop from our Bob Novak. That is moments away.


WOODRUFF: Trent Lott's efforts to reach out for political support just ahead: "Inside Buzz" from Bob Novak on who the senator has been calling and what's at stake for Republicans in the Senate.


WOODRUFF: Bob Novak is here with some "Inside Buzz."

All right, what are you hearing about Trent Lott and just how strong his position is today?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He was on the phone today, Judy, talking to other Republican senators, but also talking to Congressman John Lewis from Georgia, the Democratic civil rights fighter, who was very critical over the weekend of Lott. I'm told they had a very long conversation. They may meet together.

Lott, I believe, is -- there's not going to be another election where it's Lott up against the rest of the Republicans. Either he will resign before that and then they will an election with other people, or there won't be any election at all. Don Nickels is so far the only Republican senator who has called for his removal. He is high and dry.

One member of the Republican leadership, not Lott, referred to Nickles' statement as a suicide letter, because he is in bad shape with his colleagues. He's a little bit out on the edge. He moved a little too fast.

WOODRUFF: Well, you're making a distinction between those who are saying, yes, we can a conference, and Nickels, who has said Lott should go.

NOVAK: He is the only one who says he has to go. If there is a replacement, if Lott resigns, I think it's fairly certain it won't be Nickels as the replacement.

WOODRUFF: OK, let's switch over to Al Gore. You've learned that there's an aide to Al Gore who's been saying for days that he wasn't going to run?

NOVAK: For weeks, for a top aide, he's been telling people.

It was a great surprise to us in the news media that he's not running. But the insiders were not surprised. And one of those insiders who had been expecting it was really sure on Saturday night when he watched "Saturday Night Live" and he saw a topless Al Gore in a hot tub. He knew he wasn't running for president then.

WOODRUFF: All right, the governor of the state of Iowa, a Democrat, Tom Vilsack.

NOVAK: The buzz in Democratic circles is that Tom Vilsack may run for president. Now, this would knock out the Iowa caucuses, because, under a caucus system, the governor of the state would be a cinch, just as it happened in 1992, if you remember. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa ran. There was no competition in the Iowa caucuses.

This is very bad news, Judy, for the Midwestern prospects for president in the Democratic Party, Dick Gephardt of Missouri, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who had been looking toward Iowa as a big win. I'm not sure Vilsack will run, but he could get a head start there. And he's an attractive guy.

WOODRUFF: Finally, here in Washington, the solicitor general of the United States is thinking -- Ted Olsen, thinking about intervening in a case?

NOVAK: He has -- I am told by sources he has actually requested permission to intervene in the anti-affirmative action case now pending before the court to be decided later this year at the University of Michigan.

Now, there are some Republicans, kind of nervous Republicans, who say, with this question of racism raised by the Trent Lott situation, is this the time for the Bush administration to come out against affirmative action? It might not look very good. But that is a popular position with many Americans, to be against affirmative action.

WOODRUFF: You say he's requested permission. Is this a White House call on whether this happens?

NOVAK: Oh, yes. This is a big decision. WOODRUFF: OK. So the Lott situation has some bearing here.

NOVAK: In the opinion of some politicians. Of course, politics never influences...

WOODRUFF: Doesn't intervene.

NOVAK: ... presidential decisions.

WOODRUFF: Or in judicial decisions.



WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Novak, thanks very much for the "Inside Buzz."

NOVAK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Still to come, we'll find out in our "Campaign News Daily" why the White House budget director might be considering a return home to Indiana. And we will hear what Michael Dukakis has to say about Al Gore's political bombshell.


(voice-over): Time to check your I.P. I.Q. Our question today: When did Al Gore first run for president: 1988, 1992 or 2000? The answer is coming up in a few minutes here on INSIDE POLITICS.




GORE: In any case, my reasons, as I said last evening, didn't come down to any single factor, but because I have run for president twice before and because a race this time around would have focused on a Bush-Gore rematch, I felt that the focus of that race would inevitably have been more on the past than it should have been when all races ought to be focused on the future.


WOODRUFF: Well, with Al Gore out of the picture in 2004, what does that mean to Democratic leaders in two early battleground states, New Hampshire and Iowa?

With me now from Manchester, New Hampshire, is that's Democratic Party chairwoman, Kathy Sullivan; and from Des Moines, Iowa, state Democratic Party chairman Gordon Fischer.

Kathy Sullivan, to you first. Is this something that is going to strengthen the Democratic Party, because Al Gore is not in, because there will be a whole raft of people running, all of them at this point with maybe as good a chance as everybody else?

KATHLEEN SULLIVAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE DEMOCRATIC CHAIRWOMAN: Oh, I think that we were going to have a raft of people running whether Vice President Gore ran or not. We already had seen the expressed interest from Senator Kerry, from Governor Dean. Senator Edwards has been up here, Congressman Gephardt, obviously.

So, it was always going to be somewhat of an open primary. This probably makes it more of a wide-open primary, because all those people who had a great reservoir of respect, admiration and love for Al Gore will now be looking for other candidates to support.

WOODRUFF: Gordon Fischer, from your perspective, is this better for the party or not?

GORDON FISCHER, IOWA DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN: Oh, I think it's probably better for the party.

I do want to give Al Gore all the credit in the world for being a terrific public servant for many years. But now that he's stepped aside, I think we have got several candidates. I agree with the premise of your question to Kathy. We have got several candidates, all of whom have an equal chance at winning the nomination. It's going to be a very exciting time for Iowa Democrats, as we have lots of visitors from other states come in and try to work the state and try to get to know Iowans better.

WOODRUFF: Let me just cite to both of you two polls.

Kathy Sullivan, one done in your state of New Hampshire, the "Hotline"/Bullseye poll, this was done just a few days ago. With Al Gore out of the race, John Kerry is showing up with 40 percent, with a distant second Joe Lieberman at 13 percent, Dick Gephardt 11. I am not going to all the way down the list.

But is that a fairly accurate read at this point of how much support these men have in New Hampshire?

SULLIVAN: No. I think, at this early stage, what you're looking at is name recognition more than anything else. I mean, obviously, I think the Kerry people are probably happy with where they're at right now with what they're doing in New Hampshire.

But there's a lot of good candidates. You have two other New England candidates, with Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman, who will be getting into the race. There are people up here who think a look at history and they say they're not quite sure if someone from New England can win. Does the ticket need someone from the South, like a John Edwards?

There are a lot of people like Dick Gephardt. We've got a lot of great candidates, all of whom bring something to the table. But, hopefully, what we get into now is the issues phase. We start talking substance rather than process.

WOODRUFF: Now, Gordon Fischer, what about in Iowa?

Let's look at this poll. Again, this poll was just done a few days ago, the "Hotline"/Bullseye poll in Iowa. They are bunched a little bit more closely here: Gephardt out front, though, with 26 percent; John Kerry 18, so on down; Lieberman 16; Daschle 12. Is that an accurate reflection or is this name recognition, as Kathy said it is in New Hampshire?

FISCHER: I think Kathy was right. This really is about name recognition at this early, early stage.

I think any one of these candidates -- truly, you could make a case for any one of these candidates winning the Iowa caucuses next year. So, really, anything can happen. This race is absolutely wide open.

WOODRUFF: We had Bob Novak just saying that your own governor, Tom Vilsack, may be joining the Democratic fray. What do you know about that?

FISCHER: Well, I don't know anything, to be honest, Judy. He hasn't told me he's running for president.

I would say he's very, very popular here in Iowa, not only among Democrats, but among all Iowans. He was just reelected by a very comfortable margin, has done some wonderful things for the state in education and economic development. So, he would be a very, very formidable candidate, not only here in Iowa but nationwide, should he decide to run.

WOODRUFF: Kathy Sullivan, what does the Democratic Party nominee need -- or the candidates at this point -- what do they need to be talking about in order to advance the case for whoever the nominee is in '04?

SULLIVAN: Well, there are several issues that need to be addressed, economic issues, for one, foreign policy, two.

I think one thing that Al Gore was really doing a good job of recently was giving some very substantive speeches on issues like economics, health care, foreign policy. Are we overlooking the war on terrorism with this proposed war on Iraq? These are the types of things people need to talk about.

I think Democrats are looking for a very strong candidate, someone with strong character and a person of strength to take it to George Bush in the election.

WOODRUFF: Are you convinced that George Bush can be beaten, Kathy Sullivan?

SULLIVAN: Oh, for goodness sakes, of course he can be beaten. That's why we have elections. You know, George Bush -- in my opinion, George Bush not been an effective president. I think he's very weak on issues involving the economy and environmental issues that are important here in New Hampshire.

WOODRUFF: And, Gordon Fischer, do you think Bush can be beaten?

FISCHER: Most definitely. I agree with Kathy completely.

And right now, people are really hurting here in the Heartland. The economy is not good. Joblessness rates are high. We've got a federal deficit that is ballooning out of control, careening out of control. The economy is in terrible shape. And I think President Bush is going to have to explain that to the American people.

WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to leave it there, spoken like the two respective Democratic state party chairs in their states.

Gordon Fischer in the state of Iowa, Kathy Sullivan in New Hampshire, we thank you both for talking with us.

FISCHER: Thank you, Judy.

SULLIVAN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And now checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels says he is seriously thinking about running for governor in Indiana. Over the weekend, Daniels told "The Indianapolis Star" that a lot of Indiana Republicans have asked him to come home and run in 2004. He said he'll make a final decision in the next few months.

In North Carolina, Republican Congressman Richard Burr says he expects to have strong White House support if he decides to challenge Senator John Edwards in 2004. Burr says he has not decided if he'll challenge Edwards. If he does, he says he expects the same level of White House support that was given to Elizabeth Dole this fall.

Senator Edwards, of course, is considering a run for the White House, but the law allows him to run for the Senate and for president at the same time. That's not true in every state.

When we return: The man who led the Democratic bid for the White House in 1988 speaks out on Al Gore's decision not to seek the presidency in '04 -- an interview with Michael Dukakis just ahead.


WOODRUFF: Speaking of Boston, well, Al Gore's decision not to run for president in '04 shocked many Democrats and Republicans alike.

CNN's Bill Schneider caught up with the Democrats' 1988 presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis, at Northeastern University in Boston, where he's teaching and asked him what he thinks of Gore's decision and the effect on his party.


MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are lots of people in the party that like him. And, look, the fact of the matter is that, if the president hadn't gotten into his personal difficulties, Gore would have won easily, in my judgment. So, it's not all his fault.

SCHNEIDER: How would you assess the field right now? I understand you're not committed to...

DUKAKIS: Oh, no, I'm committed. I'm committed. Look, I'm with my former lieutenant governor.

SCHNEIDER: OK, let's talk about...

DUKAKIS: Body and soul.


DUKAKIS: I think John has a terrific shot at the nomination. And, frankly, I think he's got a damn good shot at the presidency.


DUKAKIS: I know him. He's smart. He's tough.

There is no way this White House is going to demonize John Kerry on national security and foreign policy and patriotism. He was on the Mekong River getting shot at when most of these guys, including the guy in the White House, were doing everything they could to stay out of Vietnam.

As I said to him the other day, maybe I can advise him a little bit on how to win a nomination. I know nothing about winning a final election.


DUKAKIS: So, I'm not offering any advice and he shouldn't take it.

SCHNEIDER: Well, let me ask you this. Should he stay away from you in this campaign?

DUKAKIS: I mean, he won't do that. Nor will he stay away from anybody.

If I were he, I'd be talking to Al Gore tomorrow. I'm not sure Gore will endorse him. Obviously, he has got close ties with Joe Lieberman and others and so forth. But I think John Kerry ought to be seeking the help of every single person in this party and people outside the party. And I think he will do so.


WOODRUFF: Fascinating. Well, Bill Schneider continues that interview with Michael Dukakis tomorrow. We'll air of rest of it here on INSIDE POLITICS.

And INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


(voice-over): Time to check your I.P. I.Q.: Our question today: When did Al Gore first run for president, 1988, 1992 or 2000? The answer: 1988. Gore won some Southern primaries, but dropped out of the race after losing in New York.



WOODRUFF: You know, there's one image that stands out from Michael Dukakis' run for president in 1988. Our Bill Schneider asked the former Democratic nominee to talk about that image.


SCHNEIDER: You mention your campaign and the word that comes up instantly is the tank. How did that happen?

DUKAKIS: Well, the same reason that George Bush was in a tank at least two or three times in that campaign. You do these things. I didn't see any -- but the other side either was smart enough or clever enough to use it in a spot.


WOODRUFF: Tomorrow on INSIDE POLITICS, Dukakis talks more about his failed campaign and he has some pointers for his party's presidential hopefuls.

That's it for today's INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.


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