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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

President Bush Set to Launch Fund-Raising Blitz; Medgar Evers Remembered

Aired June 16, 2003 - 16:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: Show him the money. President Bush is set to launch a campaign fund-raising blitz, while Democrats have a difficult run for their money.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MS), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have reached that magical moment in the evening when just about everything's been said, but not everybody has said it yet.

ANNOUNCER: The last straw? The Democratic Party may wish it were. We'll examine an early presidential beauty contest and whether the results matter.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not bad for a beginner.

ANNOUNCER: The dish on Bill Clinton. We'll tell what you he's cooking up to raise cash, with help from his famous friends.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington: JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

For the Bush campaign, it is all about the bottom line this week. The president toured a pasta factory in New Jersey today to again promote new tax cuts and, he hopes, an upturn in the economy. Tomorrow, he will zero in on his own campaign coffers, kicking off a two-week fund-raising blitz. With Mr. Bush leading the money chase in various cities, his reelection campaign is expected to raise almost $25 million before the end of the month and the next round of fund- raising reports to the SEC.

Our Bill Schneider has more on the early grab for political dollars.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The Bush fund-raising blitz starts Tuesday night with the first of 14 events for the president, the vice president and the first lady by the end of June. All in all, the Bush reelection campaign could raise a historic $250 million, 2 1/2 times the record set by Bush himself in 2000, all in so-called hard-money contributions of up to $2,000 allowed by the new campaign finance law. Republicans have a much bigger base of hard-money contributors. Democrats used to make up for it with soft- money contributions in six- and seven-figure amounts from big contributors. Those are now illegal. No more fat cats? Not quite.

LARRY NOBLE, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: It's going to put more of an emphasis on what we call bundling, which is the fund- raisers, the people who can go out there and raise $100,000 from other people in $2,000 contributions.

SCHNEIDER: 2004 will be the biggest disparity in money between the two parties in history. But President Bush has no primary opponent. And next year's general election campaign is publicly funded. What will the Bush campaign do with all that money? Intimidate Democrats, for starters.

NOBLE: The Democratic candidate is going to be out of money when we know who the Democratic nominee is going to be, and President Bush is going to be sitting there on a fantastic war chest and just going to be able to be merciless in terms of attacking the Democratic candidate.

SCHNEIDER: The Bush campaign may start running ads this year. President Clinton started running ads in June 1995, a year and a half before his reelection. That would be now in the current campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: Bill Clinton did something no president has ever been able to accomplish. He passed and signed a tough law to ban deadly assault weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Ads like that soften the ground before the campaign even starts by improving the incumbent's image.

NOBLE: It's generally very important for an incumbent to do, because what they can talk about is their record. They can look presidential. They can look above the political fray.

SCHNEIDER: Clinton did it with soft money, the kind of money Democrats can't raise anymore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Democrats in Congress supported campaign finance reform as a matter of principal. But it's likely to be a costly principal for them until they learn how to raise hard money on the same scale Republicans do -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: But we can bet they're all trying to do that.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, exactly.

WOODRUFF: OK, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Well, as the president's reelection bid cranks up, he's moving two trusted political figures into new positions. The Bush camp today formerly announced that Marc Racicot will serve as campaign chairman. The former Montana governor is stepping down from his current job heading up the Republican National Committee, while veteran GOP strategist and Washington lobbyist Ed Gillespie will then take over the helm of the RNC. Gillespie was a key adviser to the 2000 Bush campaign.

The Democratic presidential candidates are trying to steal some of the spotlight from the Bush camp and from one another. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean takes on his primary rivals and the president in the first campaign ad of the '04 race for the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Howard Dean. And it's time for the truth, because the truth is that George Bush's foreign policy isn't making us safer. His tax cuts are ruining our economy and costing us jobs. And too many Democrats in Washington are afraid to stand up for what we believe in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The Dean campaign begins running that ad tomorrow on broadcast stations throughout the kickoff caucus state of Iowa.

Well, Dean and two of his Democratic opponents were in Wisconsin over the weekend to compete for primary support. There was an unofficial straw vote, but more than a few Democrats wonder if the event made any difference.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): John Kerry made the pilgrimage to Wisconsin this weekend.

KERRY: We have reached that magical moment in the evening...

WOODRUFF: But there was no magic for him that night. Howard Dean carried the Wisconsin straw poll, besting Kerry to 203 votes to 50 votes. If you're thinking that's not a lot of people, you're right. In fact, just three candidates showed up after all nine of the '04 Dems signed a DNC letter vowing to skip what they referred to as potentially divisive straw polls.

So, does the Wisconsin mini-mini vote mean anything? Well, probably not a whole lot. Straw polls generally don't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations, Phil Gramm.

WOODRUFF: Phil Gramm got a lot of play after winning a 1995 Arizona straw poll.

SEN. PHIL GRAMM (R), TEXAS: Today, we laid the foundations to carry Arizona in February of next year.

WOODRUFF: By the time the primary rolled around, Graham had dropped out of the race.

PAT ROBERTSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It looks like next week, I'm going to have a very favorable announcement on that regard.

WOODRUFF: A win in a 1987 Iowa straw poll paved the way for Pat Robertson's presidential debut, but it didn't get him anywhere near the White House.

Of course, straw poll victories don't always spell doom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Governor Bill Clinton with 950 votes, 53.61 percent.

WOODRUFF: Bill Clinton got a big bounce from a 1991 straw poll in Florida. Still, on the whole, these straw poll wins haven't added up to much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And '91 is as far back as we looked.

Still ahead, we'll talk more about the weekend's straw poll in Wisconsin and the Democratic race with the editor in chief of "The Hotline."

Plus, what is Senator Trent Lott doing now to improve his relations with the civil rights community?

And next: The president's nephew uses his star power to help out Uncle George.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Cooking up some cuisine, Clinton-style. Ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: The former president gets ready to kick it up a notch.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Joining us now with more on that Wisconsin straw poll over the weekend is Chuck Todd. He's editor in chief of "The Hotline," which is one of the sponsors of the poll.

All right, Chuck, Howard Dean got 126 votes, to 33 for John Kerry. What does that tell us?

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE HOTLINE": That was just among delegates, by the way. One of the things we did to try to legitimize the straw polls in the eyes of some people, we separated out official guests, which was the loophole, if people wanted to bus people in, vs. the actual delegates, people that were elected in their counties to actually represent Wisconsin Democratic Party politics. So that was what that was.

What does it say? I think it says that Dean -- what everybody would expect. Dean sort of has this connection with the liberal activists. And it's not that surprising. I would have been shocked if Dean didn't win our little straw poll.

WOODRUFF: So what does that mean his people were doing that the other candidates didn't do? We have already said only three of the nine candidates even bothered to show up at this event in Wisconsin.

TODD: Well, one of the things they did, they were active. And in the reports we got, they had volunteers that would remind people before they went to the reception, hey, did you go vote in the straw poll? That was one little thing they did.

But the other thing is, they -- their Internet networking does connect with the very liberal activists that is very connected in these state parties, these county-level Democratic activists who show up to these conventions. This convention was a low-turnout convention in general, because there's no major statewide race in Wisconsin. They had the governor's race the last time. They actually had twice as many people last time.

So these are the people that so committed, they're probably on their e-mail all the time. They're doing these meet-up dot-coms. So Dean had a connection there with his sort of Internet campaign that almost allows him an advantage in these settings.

WOODRUFF: Does that make Dean a threat in other places around the country?

TODD: Well, of course it does. It gives him this automatic sort of volunteer field staff, which is what they've been talking about, that this Internet things gives them people on the ground.

Now, the question is, can they grow beyond this core 10 to 15 percent that they are already polling, for instance, in Iowa, or 20 percent that they're getting there? Can they grow outside of that? And that's what they're going to find out, is, are all of their activists also the only supporters they got, or are they going to be able to get more people involved?

WOODRUFF: So are you saying John Kerry and some of the others really have something to worry about here?

TODD: I think they take it very seriously. They take Howard Dean much more seriously now than they did two months ago. People in the media are taking Howard Dean more seriously now than they were two months ago. Sure you have to worry about it, because, if only one person is courting the liberal activist crowd, that -- it might be a small chunk if you're running against just one other primary candidate, but you have eight other primary candidates here. Suddenly, his 15 or 20 percent is a very domineering chunk when you're splitting it up nine ways, or, who knows, 11 ways, if we get Wesley Clark and Joe Biden in this thing.

WOODRUFF: Are we going to see many more straw polls?

TODD: I don't think so. The DNC campaigned against this straw poll very actively. They not only sent the letter that you guys showed, but they made sure a copy of that letter was in there. We had a lot of people tell us -- tell our folks at the straw poll, saying, the DNC told us not to participate. We're not participating. They want it to stop. The campaigns don't want to do it. It costs a lot of money. They don't want to have to spend money on this stuff.

But I think they're good things. They're fun. That's for sure.

WOODRUFF: And we're covering it.

TODD: Well, of course we are.

WOODRUFF: Chuck Todd with "The Hotline," good to see you. Thanks for coming by.

TODD: Great. Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily": Retired General Wesley Clark says that he'll decide whether to run for president within the next couple of months. The former NATO supreme commander has been testing the Democratic political waters, but has been somewhat coy about his future plans. He told "Meet the Press" yesterday that he's giving a 2004 White House bid some serious consideration.

The draft-Gore campaign drew a small, but determined crowd in the former vice president's home state of Tennessee. About 100 Gore fans attended the rally in Nashville over the weekend, hoping to change Al Gore's mind about not running for the White House again.

In California, a campaign to recall Governor Gray Davis now seems poised to make it on the ballot. Supporters of the recall effort claim that they have 700,000 of the 900,000 signatures that they need to gather by September 2 in order to put the measure on the March ballot. We'll keep watching that story.

When we return: remembering a civil rights leader from Mississippi who helped change a nation, a memorial service for Medgar Evers -- just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Both the House and Senate have given approval to plans to expand the child tax credit to low-income families. But the proposal still remains bogged down in a joint conference committee.

Let's go now to CNN congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl to see where things stand.

Jon, not easy finding common ground here.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, this child tax credit expansion is going nowhere fast, Judy.

Right now, what's happened is that the Senate, which has passed a $3.5 billion tax package is saying that anything, any number, must be offset by raising other tax revenues. The House, meanwhile, is drawing a line. Republicans are saying that they'll agree to no tax increases to get this passed. People on both sides, Judy, say the only way this will get passed is if the White House gets actively involved -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Oh, I'm sorry, Jon. I thought we were going to hear from either a senator or a House member there. My mistake.

Jon, very quickly, separately, I want to -- we've been talking about children. On the Medicare front, though, you've got the secretary of health and human services today getting involved in pushing Medicare benefits.

KARL: This was an interesting event, Judy. You actually had Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson on a Harley- Davidson. The event was called Revving Up For Medicare. He was joined by other senior citizens, the point being, pushing for Medicare, reforming it for today's active seniors.

Judy, the interesting point here, besides seeing Tommy Thompson in leather on a Harley-Davidson, is that he was joined by Max Baucus, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, somebody working with the White House to get this Medicare reform passed, not the kind of thing you see every day, but there you have it.

WOODRUFF: It brings "Easy Rider" to mind.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: OK, Jon Karl, thanks very much. We appreciate that report.

KARL: OK.

WOODRUFF: Just ahead, more financial disclosures today from members of Congress -- among those who have disclosed their assets, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- the story when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Four decades after his assassination, a civil rights leader from Mississippi is being remembered in Washington. A memorial service for Medgar Evers was held today at Arlington National Cemetery, an idea sparked by a group of high school students. Here's CNN's Bruce Morton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHARMISTA DEV, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Let us prove to Medgar Evers that his famous words, "You can kill a man, but you cannot kill an idea," hold true for our generation as well.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sharmista Dev is one of three high school students who made a documentary about slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers as part of a National History Day project. They also thought up the idea of honoring him at Arlington National Cemetery 40 years after his murder, 40 years to the day after Evers, a decorated World War II veteran, was buried here.

DEBRA SIEGEL, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Medgar Evers is important because he has given us our present.

MORTON: The South has changed. Mississippi has changed. One proof: A guest at this ceremony was Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, who had to resign as majority leader after suggesting America might have been better off if then segregationist Strom Thurmond had won the presidency back in 1948.

BARRY BRADFORD, TEACHER: Senator Lott, in 1960, did not agree with everything Medgar Evers stood for. But, to his great credit, he reflects the change in America, because he has said, "I was wrong." And he has come to understand that. And his presence here today, Senator Lott's presence here today, says more than I could ever say about how much America has changed.

MORTON: Lott did not speak. Evers' widow, Myrlie, recalled the first Arlington service 40 years ago.

MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS, WIDOW OF MEDGAR EVERS: "Taps" were played. The salute, the American flag being folded and presented to us, it was one of the few times in my life when I felt that we were truly being treated as Americans.

MORTON: Not such a rare feeling now in Mississippi or any other state -- one man's legacy.

Bruce Morton, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Bush's nephew, George P. Bush, is taking a break from his studies to help raise money for the Committee For Justice. The younger Bush, who is the son of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, will headline a fund-raiser for the group in Washington later this month. The Committee For Justice is promoting the president's judicial nominees. George P. Bush is studying for his bar exam, after graduating from the University of Texas Law School last month. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, it turns out, is among the wealthiest members of Congress, with a net worth ranging from $18 million to $106 million. And that's according to financial disclosure forms for House members released today, a big range there. Earlier this year, Pelosi became the first woman to lead a political party in Congress. She joins another newcomer to the leadership, Senate Minority -- Majority Leader Bill Frist, in Capitol Hill's multimillionaire club. Senators released their disclosure forms on Friday.

(FINANCIAL UPDATE)

WOODRUFF: The Hillary Clinton book is already paying its way -- that story coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Just one week after the release of Senator Hillary Clinton's new book, her publisher is all smiles. Simon & Schuster says that it has recouped the $8 million advance that it paid to Senator Clinton, plus printing and marketing costs for "Living History." About 600,000 copies of the book have been sold so far. Simon & Schuster calls the rate of sale fantastic and says it is a record for a nonfiction book.

Well, meanwhile, Senator Clinton's husband, the former president, also is involved in a new money-making venture, but it's to benefit his presidential library. "The New York Post" reports that Clinton has asked some of his friends with star power to contribute their favorite recipes, among them, U2's Bono. The Clintons themselves, along with former administration officials, will also contribute. We'll see.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thanks for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.

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