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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Hollings Won't Seek Another Term; Flynt Declares Candidacy for California Governor

Aired August 4, 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: A self-described "Hustler" of smut makes his California campaign official while Gray Davis looks to a higher power to try to keep his job.

Take cover. With the Howard Dean juggernaut still gaining steam, other '04 Democrats are venting.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Take the Democratic Party out into the political wilderness.

ANNOUNCER: Joe Lieberman talks to Judy about his presidential rivals and his party's future.

Is he running or going? A long-time Senate Democrat finally reveals his plans.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

First up, a new setback for Democrats in their already uphill battle to retake the Senate in 2004. Just a short while ago, long- time South Carolina Senator Ernest Hollings announced that he will not seek another term next year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ERNEST HOLLINGS (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: With all of this attention, radio, TV and press, I'm constrained from changing my mind.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLLINGS: I will confirm what you've all suspected, that I will not be offering for reelection this next year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley with us now. Candy, just how big a blow for Democrats is Hollings' retirement? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they may indeed have expected it, as many people did, but fact of the matter is, this is a major blow to Democratic chances of regaining control the Senate.

Those chances have gone from not great to really not great. If you take Hollings departure, out it on top of they already-announced retirement of Georgia's Zell Miller, what you've got are two previously-secured Democratic Senate seats morphing into something else entirely.

It is about location, location and the South has been inhospitable territory for Democrats of late. In South Carolina, Democrats are having trouble just getting together enough money to throw a primary. And Georgia surprised just about everybody last year, throwing out what looked to be two safe Democrats, Governor Roy Barnes and Senator Max Cleland, now ex-governor and ex-senator.

And it may only get worse. John Edwards, a first-term Democrat in a North Carolina Senate seat, which has seen a lot of turnover, is running for president and may or may not give up his Senate seat. While he ponders, other Democrats who might run for that seat tread water and Republican contenders are swimming along.

Same story in Florida where Senator Bob Graham, another Democratic contender for president, still retains his option on what is, with him in it, a secure Senate seat.

The numbers of course haven't changed, Judy, but Democrats still need to pick up two seats to regain control of the Senate. What has changed of course is the dynamics, open seats are much harder and more expensive to hold on to -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And essentially what you're saying is the Democrats really don't have a clear fallback strategy here.

CROWLEY: Well, you know, the South is tough and what it really means is that now they have to pick -- they have to keep hold of two Southern seats, and that's tough.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley, talking about Ernest Hollings, Fritz Hollings retiring from the Senate next year.

Turning now to presidential politics, in just a few short months, Howard Dean has moved from obscurity to the spotlight in his bid to unseat President Bush. While Dean is just one of nine Democratic hopefuls, he's getting a lot of attention from the news media. And if the polls are correct, the former governor of Vermont is getting noticed by voters as well. Here's CNN's Bruce Morton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's on the cover of "TIME," he's on the cover of "Newsweek," front page of Sunday's "Washington Post," front page of the "Style" section of today's "Washington Post," on "LARRY KING" later today. In Iowa, a Des Moines register poll has him two points ahead of early favorite Dick Gephardt. In New Hampshire a "Boston Herald" poll has him three point as head of fellow New Englander John Kerry, a Franklin Pierce College poll, one point ahead. All within a margin of error, just statistical dead heats, but he's moving. He's blazed trail on Internet, other candidates are following. And he's the only one who is on TV in the president's home state of Texas.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the past two and a half years we've lost two and a half million jobs. And has anybody really stood up against George Bush and his policies? Don't you think it's time somebody did?

MORTON: Howard Brush Dean III, transplanted New Yorker, is hot, hot. What does it mean?

STUART ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Well it doesn't mean that he's going to be the Democratic nominee, but at least now he's in the game. A few months ago he was a joke, a third tier candidate, a former governor of Vermont who had no chance. And now he's a serious contender for the nomination.

MORTON: If you're old enough, you remember other outsiders. Eugene McCarthy in 1968, Gary Hart in 1984, John McCain three years ago. They were hot, they were not nominees. Jimmy Carter was an outside who did win but primary season was longer then. Outsiders had more time to make their case.

And how will Dean's sometimes abrasive, in-your-face style play with voters over the next few months?

ROTHENBERG: I think American voters like to like their politicians. And I'm not sure whether Howard Dean is likable enough.

MORTON: We'll find out. He's hot, people are noticing him and the first tests, Iowa and New Hampshire, are still more than five months off.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And as Bruce mentioned, Howard Dean will be a guest on "LARRY KING" tonight. That's at 9 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

And from one of Howard Dean's fellow Democratic contenders some pointed barbs. Senator Joe Lieberman told CNN's "Late Edition" yesterday that Dean could lead the Democratic Party into the political wilderness. He picked up that theme today, talking about Dean and Dick Gephardt when he sat down with me for an interview.

My first question to Lieberman concerned Dean and whether Senator Lieberman is concerned that more and more Democrats are falling in love with the former Vermont governor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LIEBERMAN: I'm saying that six months after the campaign started in January a number of the candidates have taken positions, including Governor Dean, which I believe are not the positions that we need to meet the challenges of America's future, to our security and our prosperity, and they're probably a ticket to nowhere for the Democratic Party. And I want to take the Democratic Party somewhere, I want to take it back to the Oval Office, where we can help America have a better, safer future.

WOODRUFF: But if you're right about that, how do you explain all the excitement that his campaign has generated? All the people are giving money on the Internet, he's on the cover of the newsmagazines this week. How do you explain it?

LIEBERMAN: Yes. Governor Dean has tapped into an anger among Democrats, particularly toward the Bush administration. I share that anger. But the fact is that we're not going to defeat the outdated, extremist ideology of George W. Bush and the Republicans with outdated extremes of our own.

LIEBERMAN: We're not going to win -- in fact, we don't deserve to lead -- if we're not committed to keeping Americans safe and secure in an age of terrorism and tyranny. We're not the party that America will turn to if, as Governor Dean and Congressman Gephardt have said they're going to repeal all of President Bush's tax cuts, including the ones that help the middle class. I don't agree with that. And I don't believe the American people want that kind of leadership. They certainly don't need it.

WOODRUFF: I'm not sure what Dick Gephardt would say, but wouldn't Howard Dean say, "Well, when I was governor of Vermont I went out of office with virtually a balanced budget. I was considered very much a fiscal conservative, so where do you come off saying that I'm an extremist?"

LIEBERMAN: Well, what I'm talking about is tax policy. And these are exactly the kinds of debates that Bill Clinton had in 1992 when he ran for president. Remember the Democratic Party before Clinton was identified by too many people -- too many Americans -- as high tax, big spending, weak on defense. I'm afraid that some of the other Democratic candidates for president want to take us back to those days. And in those days we didn't earn the confidence of the American people that we were really ready and prepared and capable to lead this nation. I don't want to go back to those days.

WOODRUFF: Senator, are you flat-out saying that Howard Dean or Dick Gephardt couldn't win the election if they were nominated by your party?

LIEBERMAN: Well, let's -- I think they'd have a real hard time. And let's put it this way, I've said from the beginning and I say here again today: Based on my experience, based on my ideas, based on the fact that I have a record of strength on security, of pro-growth, pro- jobs, economic record and a record of real support for social justice and social progress that I am the Democrat who can win. American elections are won in the center. George W. Bush fooled a lot of people into thinking in 2000 that he was a compassionate conservative, a centrist. And when he got into office, he governed from the far right. This opens up to my party the opportunity to retake the vital center of American politics where elections are won. And I am the Democratic candidate, based on my ideas and my record, who can do that.

WOODRUFF: You mentioned Howard Dean having tapped into the anger that some Democrats feel toward President Bush and his policies. But why haven't you tapped into that anger? And if that anger is out there, somebody is going to be capitalizing on it, aren't they?

LIEBERMAN: There are a lot of Democrats who, like me, share the anger and frustration at the Bush record because it's hurt us. It's compromised our economy, it's taken 3.1 million jobs from us, it's put us into the largest debt in the history of America. But there are a lot of Democrats out there -- and I speak for them -- who want so much to defeat President Bush and know that only a candidate of new ideas who runs from the center out can defeat the president and open up a new day for the American people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Senator Joe Lieberman. I talked to him just a short time ago. And just a few minutes ago I got off the telephone with Howard Dean's campaign manager, Joe Trippi, who said that Democrats will never defeat George Bush by trying to be just like him. Joe Trippi said Howard Dean believes the only way to beat this president is by taking the fight directly to him, and he said that's what Governor Dean will continue to do. He said we have no apologies to make.

Well, we will head to California next on INSIDE POLITICS. Governor Gray Davis hasn't fared well in the court of public opinion. Will he do better in the state supreme court as he fights the campaign to force him out of office?

Plus, another candidate "hustling" for Davis' job. What is publisher Larry Flynt saying today about his campaign?

And "Seabiscuit" is more than a hit movie about a race horse. It's apparently the unofficial theme of a presidential campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking headlines in our "Campaign News Daily", get out your beer mugs, if you have them, if you drink. The "Draft Wesley Clark" movement plans to toast their would-be presidential candidate again tonight. They'll be raising their draft beers and root beers in Clark's honor at a Washington bar. Clark may be drinking up the attention, but at last word, he still had not made a decision about whether to run.

Aides to Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich are likening him to the legendary racehorse Seabiscuit. The Seabiscuit story, now playing out in movie theaters across the country. Kucinich aides note their candidate also is a small in stature underdog that they believe can be a winner.

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura once again is wrestling with questions about his political future. Ventura was honored weekend at a wrestling museum in Iowa and told reporters if he ever decides to return to politics, the only office he's interested in is president.

INSIDE POLITICS will be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: At this hour, "Hustler" magazine publisher Larry Flynt is officially announcing his bid to run for California governor. These are live pictures coming into CNN. Flynt growing or joining the growing ranks of candidates with who hope to replace Gray Davis if the Democrat is removed from office. Flynt, who is a Democrat, filed the initial paperwork last week, saying -- quote -- "I don't think anyone here will have a problem with a smut peddler as governor" -- end quote.

Flynt is speaking to reporters right now. There are the pictures you see from his offices in Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY FLYNT, PUBLISHER, "HUSTLER" MAGAZINE: This recall is unique and the field is open. And the person with the best name recognition is probably going to get elected. I felt that there was no nobody out there that had a better name recognition than I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Larry Flynt, the publisher of "Hustler" magazine.

Well, Governor Davis taking his fight for political survival to the state supreme court. He filed suit against -- asking the court to postpone the October 7 special recall election until next March, March 2. That's the date of California's presidential primary. Davis says he expects more Democrats to turn out to vote on primary day, which could help him defeat the recall and keep his job. His lawyers say the delay will help prevent voting rights violations because new and improved ballot machines will be in place by March.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL KAHN, DAVIS ATTORNEY: What we've asked court to do here is to avoid the train wreck. We don't want a situation in which we've counting the votes and we're trying to decide who really won and then the Supreme Court has to decide whether to invalid invalidate the election. We're coming to the Supreme Court and we're saying, The citizens deserve certainty. We're asking to you solve these problems now so that we don't have to undo an election after it's held.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: Davis also is asking the state high court to change the ballot rules to allow him to run to run to replace himself if voters decide to oust him.

For more on what's going on in California, let's turn now to CNN's Charles Feldman in Los Angeles.

Charles, the most interesting thing to me now is that you have more Democrats leaving open the option of whether a Democrat should run, a serious Democrat should run against Gray Davis.

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, because the Democrats are in a bit of a bind. If they don't put somebody out there and if the recall is successful, then they run the risk of losing California to the Republicans. If they put somebody there, someone strong, let's say, like Senator Dianne Feinstein, then the conventional wisdom -- and I hate to use the word conventional, because there is nothing conventional about this, as you know -- but the conventional wisdom is that if she should go out on a limb and say she would put the name on the ballot, then you may as well kiss Gray Davis goodbye.

So it's a bit of a bind for Democrats. There's a meeting, I understand, today in Sacramento, where some state Democrats are meeting to decide what to do and they have to make a decision, of course, by this Saturday, which is the deadline for filing. It's a mess.

WOODRUFF: Charles, over on the Republican side, we're now -- it's now pretty clear that Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't going to run. We're just waiting for him to make the announcement. But what about former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. Now there's all sorts of word out that he may run, but what's the hold up?

FELDMAN: Well, the hold up seems to be that he and Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course, are very good friends and the presumption is that Dick Riordan is waiting to see officially what Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to do. There are some people suspect that when Arnold makes his announcement this Wednesday, that perhaps a good move would be to have Dick Riordan by his side and to say to the public, I'm not running but here is a guy you may want to vote for.

So Dick Riordan, when he ran, here, of course, he was mayor of Los Angeles for a while. He's a very cautious kind of guy, He's not a very bold politician. So I think he's waiting to see what's going to happen and then once Arnold Schwarzenegger officially makes his move on Wednesday, I think we'll find out and certainly by Saturday we'll find out what Richard Riordan is going to do.

WOODRUFF: So at this point, Charles, with -- what? -- five days to go before the deadline, who are the big names out there who are waiting to see if they are going get in or not? You mentioned Dianne Feinstein. We talked about Riordan. Anybody else?

FELDMAN: Yes, well, Feinstein , of course, is the 800-pound gorilla for the Democrats. Everyone's waiting to see what she does. You do have, remember, Darrell Issa, who is the Republican Congressman from San Diego. Now, you know, he's considered a long shot but remember, it's his money, millions of dollars, that he contributed that actually turned this whole recall from a fantasy into a reality. So I don't think anyone is writing him off quite yet.

You have Bill Simon, who ran against Gray Davis the last time out and lost. People waiting -- he, of course, has declared that he is going to run but whether or not he's going to be a serious challenger is going to depend to a large measure on whether or not Richard Riordan enters the race. A lot of people in this state think that if Richard Riordan decides to run, that he has a fairly good chance of getting it.

But, you know, there are going to be -- a couple hundred people have already picked up the papers ton enlist for this thing. Nobody really knows -- and we won't until Saturday -- how many people are going on this ballot. And it's going to be the most confusing ballot, I think, that anyone has ever seen anywhere in this country. It's going to be wild.

WOODRUFF: Which, in fact, could end up working to the governor's -- in the governor's favor. We'll find out.

FELDMAN: Could very well, yes.

WOODRUFF: Many questions left to be answered. Charles Feldman, thank you very much, reporting from Los Angeles.

When we come back, our Bill Schneider checks in with some thoughts on the California recall election and how things are shaping up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In the California governor recall election, as you heard us discussing a moment ago, Democrats are wondering if the next shoe to drop will come from Senator Dianne Feinstein. Many are hoping that's the case. Our senior political correspondent -- or analyst Bill Schneider is in California, where everyone is asking, will Feinstein run?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: She is the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): That doesn't sound like a compliment, particularly for a woman, but in politics, it is. Congresswoman Sanchez is talking about Senator Dianne Feinstein. Sanchez and other California Democrats are trying to persuade Feinstein to run for governor this fall, not to defeat Governor Gray Davis, but as a fallback, in case Davis loses the recall vote.

SANCHEZ: It's plan B. If I were Dianne, I would say, you know, vote no on one, plan B is me.

SCHNEIDER: Feinstein is suddenly the candidate of the moment in California, even though she backs Davis and says she does not intend to enter the race.

Other potential contenders, columnist Arianna Huffington, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, say they probably won't run if Feinstein runs.

Davis desperately wants to keep her out. His concern? Democrats will see Feinstein as plan A, not plan B. They'll vote to recall Davis and elect Feinstein.

REP. CAL DOOLEY (D), CALIFORNIA: She has the broadest base of support of any elected official in the state today. And that's what we need.

SCHNEIDER: Feinstein and Davis have a history, and not a good one. It goes back to 1992, when she first ran for the Senate to complete the remaining two years of Governor Pete Wilson's second term. Democrats assured her she wouldn't have a primary opponent, but state Controller Gray Davis became the spoiler in the race. Davis ran an explosive ad comparing Feinstein, who was facing civil penalties for a campaign finance violation, to another Jewish woman, hotel queen Leona Helmsley, who was in prison for tax evasion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Helmsley is in jail. Feinstein wants to be a senator? Truth, for a change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: The ad generated a backlash for Feinstein, who beat Davis nearly two to one.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: The voters of California have sent another message tonight, and that is that they are tired of trash political campaigns and inflammatory ads.

SCHNEIDER: Now Democrats are imploring Feinstein to run to save the party. But Davis sees her as a spoiler.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: What goes around comes around. That's true in politics, just as it is in life -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, Bill, what does her decision boil down to? Clearly, there are polls being taken right now as we speak. How does Senator Feinstein decide whether to run for governor?

SCHNEIDER: I think there are a couple of variables. One is the private polling that is being done, there were no public polls in the last week or so. Do they show Davis going up or Davis going down? He was about 50 percent for the recall. Is that number climbing, in which case she may run to save the party, or is that number declining?

The second, of course, is whether Richard Riordan gets into the race. If he does, and he's seen as someone who's very likely to win, then there will be enormous pressure on her from Democrats to run.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider watching it all from out there on the West Coast. Thanks very much, and we'll be talking to you all week.

Still to come, Alan Chernoff checks in with the latest from Wall Street. And American presidents and their movie-watching habits. We'll find out which films have captured the attention of the nation's chief executives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino is asking Major League Baseball to schedule their games for the Red Sox during the Democratic convention in Boston next summer. He says he wants the thousands of people descending on the city to be able to enjoy the games. Officials in New York City have also requested that one of its two teams play home games during the Republican convention. Some fans have suggested that given the other longstanding rivalry, a Red Sox- Yankees game might be in order.

Well, screening movies at the White House is one of the perks we know of being president. But which film has been the biggest hit at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? The answer, "High Noon." According to a new documentary on the film-watching habits of presidents, the Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly classic has been seen most often over the past 50 years. President Bush has watched it at least once, and the Bravo documentary says Bill Clinton watched "High Noon" at least 20 times.

What does that tell us?

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'll let you figure it out. I'm Judy Woodruff.

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