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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Is Dean So Hot He's Unstoppable?; Big Push For Union Endorsements by Democrats

Aired August 5, 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: It's the political version of wildfire, and Howard Dean's Democratic rivals are worried about getting burned.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a big target on my back from all the other campaigns on the Democratic side.

ANNOUNCER: But is Dean so hot he's unstoppable?

Are the '04 Democrats feeling Labor pains? A big push is on for union endorsements, and one candidate is claiming an advantage.

THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The labor movement matters hugely to the Democrats.

ANNOUNCER: The California countdown. With a deadline nearing in the race to replace Governor Davis, political stars are coming out to offer opinions and make their announcements.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us.

The '04 Democrats are trying to put union muscle behind their campaigns, courting AFL-CIO leaders in Chicago today. Some could use the help more than others, as Howard Dean mania sweeps through segments of the party. With the race heating up on a couple of fronts, the gloves are coming off.

We begin our coverage with Bill Schneider and tough new efforts to stop Dean in his tracks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Typically, the year before an election, a frontrunner becomes established: Walter Mondale, Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, George W. Bush.

Then an insurgent emerges and pulls an upset in the New Hampshire primary: Gary Hart, Paul Tsongas, Pat Buchanan, John McCain. After a scare, the party establishment quickly regroups and secures the nomination for the frontrunner. But the Democrats don't have a frontrunner for 2004. The party establishment, mainly among Joe Lieberman, John Kerry and Dick Gephardt. An insurgent has emerged anyway to challenge the establishment.

DEAN: Rank and file Democrats are almost as mad at the Democratic Party as they are at the Republicans because they don't feel like the Democrats in Washington have stood up to the president.

SCHNEIDER: Many Democrats fear what could happen if they nominate Howard Dean.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It could well be a ticket to no where. He could take the Democratic Party out into the political wilderness.

SCHNEIDER: Talk about front-loading. The insurgent is surging six months before the first primary. Dean's already made the cover of "TIME" and "Newsweek." That's not supposed to happen until he wins New Hampshire. What's he done?

In Iowa, Dean has surged into a narrow lead over the local favorite, Dick Gephardt. In New Hampshire, Dean has surged into a narrow lead over the local favorite, John Kerry.

Democrats are just beginning to wake up to the fact that if Dean beats Gephardt in Iowa and then Kerry in New Hampshire, the former Vermont governor may be unstoppable, which is why a "Stop Dean" movement is beginning to materialize. The "Stop Dean" movement has an argument.

LIEBERMAN: Only a candidate of new ideas who runs from the center out can defeat the president.

SCHNEIDER: But it doesn't have a candidate. Actually, it has too many candidates. As long as three or more candidates are splitting the anti-Dean vote and the party does not close ranks behind one, Dean can't be stopped.

The party chairman says not to worry.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: This is very early in the primary process. I remind people that Bill Clinton didn't even get into the race of October 4 of 1991. We have plenty of time.

SCHNEIDER: No, they don't. Primary elections will be earlier than ever this year. And the process could shut down before a "Stop Dean" movement could even get started.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Democratic insiders fear a Dean versus Bush contest would turn the election into a referendum on the Iraq war and gay civil unions and tax cuts. Not necessarily the Democrats best issues, in their opinion -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

And now to the Democrats' labors for union support. Today Dick Gephardt won the backing of the United Steelworkers, his 10th major labor endorsement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's time we had a president again who understands what's going on in the lives of ordinary American workers, whether they're in unions or not. This president doesn't get it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: In Chicago tonight, Gephardt and his Democratic rivals will be vying for perhaps the biggest union prize, an endorsement by the huge AFL-CIO.

As our Bruce Morton reports, labor's political clout may not be all it used to be, but it is still important to Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The labor movement is different now. Not workers on assembly lines turning out cars or appliances. Robots do a lot of that kind of work at today's factories. This is a BMW plant in South Carolina.

And the biggest union in the AF of L-CIO is the Service Employers International Union, 1.5 million members, half of them in health care.

Second biggest, the Association of State, County and Municipal Employees, 1.3 million, 20 percent of them in health care.

Labor is different, but does it still matter to Democrats? Oh, yes.

MANN: The labor movement manages to mobilize union households, get them to the polls and get them voting disproportionately for Democrats. So as they have gotten smaller, their influence in elections has probably become even more important.

MORTON: Yes. The proportion of union members and the work force is down from 20 percent in 1983 to 13.2 percent now, but the share of union household voters is up from 19 percent in 1992 to 26 percent in 2000. Labor is key for Democrats.

But will the AF of L-CIO endorse one Democrat? Not this week in Chicago and maybe not at all. Dick Gephardt is the sentimental favorite and some unions, the Steelworkers, the Teamsters have endorsed him, except that the Teamsters Chicago local is for John Kerry.

Labor likes Gephardt, but some doubt he can win. It takes two- thirds of the AF of L-CIO's 13 million members to endorse. What labor wants most of all is to beat George W. Bush. MANN: Unions have strong feelings about George Bush because George Bush has proven to be a very conservative and very ambitious president. He is working assiduously to build Republican majority that would largely put the labor movement out of any significant influence in federal policymaking.

MORTON: So what's likely is union by union endorsements of different candidates, with Gephardt probably getting the most, but not all, and the United Labor campaign in the election for whoever the Democrats dominate.

Labor knows it doesn't like the other guy.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And let's talk more about the labor vote now with Leo Gerard. He is the president of the United Steelworkers of America, the union that endorsed Dick Gephardt today.

Mr. Gerard, the head of the AFL-CIO has asked member unions not to do any separate endorsements before the primaries. Why are the Steelworkers doing it now?

LEO GERARD, PRES., UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA: Well, first of all, we're doing it because we've been canvassing our members. We have an internal rapid response structure we call it that reaches 18,000 of our rank and file activists on the shop floor and in consulting with them and giving them information on the candidates, giving them public policy positions, it became very clear that our activists wanted us to take a position so they could play a role in the primary process.

And having done that, we polled them over the last several days and 92 percent of our locals came out in favor of Dick Gephardt. So we endorsed him because we want to get into the primary process and start working on the public policy position that matter to our members.

WOODRUFF: At the same time, you know because I'm sure you watch politics, all of you watch politics very closely.

GERARD: We live politics.

WOODRUFF: Dick Gephardt is not, at this point, ahead in the polls in his neighboring state of Iowa. He's running back, far -- not far back, but down the pack when it comes to fund-raising. Why is Dick Gephardt the horse you want to ride?

GERARD: Well, first of all, it's -- you know, we're not going to be voting today. It's five or six months before the primary and polls are a snapshot of any given day. A weeks ago Dick Gephardt was ahead. And it depends on a lot of things.

We think that Dick Gephardt represents the values of the middle class of America. He represents the values of people that get up and go to work and play by the rules every day, people who, quite frankly, feel abandoned.

Talk about Steelworkers -- 200,000 steel workers lost their health care as a result of the collapse of the trade -- of the steel industry because of bad trade deals. And Dick represents their hopes and their dreams and he represents, I think, what are the middle class values of America.

WOODRUFF: What about Howard Dean? Here's somebody, former governor of Vermont, seems to be catching on in terms of the Internet; is picking up contributions from rank and file Americans across the country. How seriously did your union, the Steelworkers, look at him?

GERARD: Look it, let me just say that I think every Democratic candidate is a well qualified candidate, and every Democratic candidate, in our view, on representing the middle class values of America, not just the upper class values of America -- every candidate would be better than the current circumstances we find ourselves in.

In the intro, you said it very -- very eloquently. Most of the time, the person who is sort of picking up momentum, five or six or seven months before the primary, ends up flaming out. Howard Dean is a very articulate candidate, and when the time comes to cast the ballots in the primary, that's when we'll decide who wins. Not before that.

WOODRUFF: All right. Leo Gerard is the president of the United Steelworkers of America. Thank you very much for talking with us.

GERARD: Thank you very much. Pleasure being with you.

WOODRUFF: And we'll be talking with you soon as well. Thanks a lot.

Still ahead, California Democrats have new reason to ring their hands about the recall election. We'll have the inside story.

And I'll ask Republican businessman Bill Simon about his prospects of trying to become governor again if Gray Davis gets the boot.

Plus, why Republicans are knocking their heads as they look toward the 2004 Senate elections.

And later, Howard Dean's teenage son gets his day in court.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In California, Governor Gray Davis got a key boost today in his fight for political survival. The California AFL-CIO released a letter to elected Democrats urging them not to run in the October 7 recall election.

But the issue of whether Davis can hang on remains a very real and troubling one for the Democrats, as a key deadline approaches. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): They huddled in the state capital, Democrats hoping to save their party's hold on the governor's mansion, if not the governor himself. They're talking about new polls showing Gray Davis losing support. And they're wondering whether to bet on another horse as the clock ticks down to the Saturday deadline to enter the recall race.

Watching from the wings, California's two U.S. senators. Dianne Feinstein has been urged to become a candidate. Barbara Boxer said she'll announce Friday if she thinks another Democrat should enter the fray.

National Democrats are treading gingerly, blasting the recall while dodging mentions of Davis himself.

DEAN: I don't think you want in the most popular state in the country another attempt at overthrowing a legal election by the conservative right.

WOODRUFF: Senator Hillary Clinton, who's promised to stomp for Davis, was on Leno last night.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: ... but I oppose the recall because I think based on everything that I've heard and what my colleagues from California tell me, it would be bad for the state economically and politically.

WOODRUFF: Of course Leno's big coup comes tomorrow when Arnold Schwarzenegger reveals his intentions. The actor is expected to take a pass, clearing the way for former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who hasn't announced his intentions yet, but who has been assembling a campaign team.

And yet another colorful character may join the fray. Columnist Arianna Huffington has taken out papers for a candidacy. She'll make her announcement tomorrow as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: With me now from Los Angeles to talk more about latest developments in the California recall election is Bill Simon. He's former Republican candidate for governor in the state, he made a strong showing against Gray Davis in the last election, coming in five points behind him. Bill Simon, are you going to run?

WILLIAM SIMON (R), FRM. CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: Hi, Judy. We'll have an announcement shortly on that. But I'm looking at it very closely. We've got a team ready to go.

WOODRUFF: Big smile says the answer is going to be yes?

SIMON: Well I'm going to wait on that final announcement for a little bit.

WOODRUFF: Has Arnold Schwarzenegger sort of hanging out and not making a formal announcement hurt you and other Republicans?

SIMON: I don't think so, Judy. I mean, at the end of the day this campaign will begin, you know, this weekend. And it's got to be about ideas, it's got to be about a vision for California. Whoever runs. Whether it's Arnold, Dick Riordan, myself, they've got to have a plan, a plan for California. Clearly I had one during the general election campaign. I talked about the budget deficit, and turns out that we were right, actually.

WOODRUFF: What do you say to Republicans in California, and I've been talking to some of them who say they think if any Republican can beat Gray Davis, it would be -- if Schwarzenegger doesn't get in -- Dick Riordan who I know you beat in the primary last year. But their view is that this go around poll shows Riordan has a better shot.

SIMON: Well, Judy, honestly, it depends on voter turnout. I mean the polls that I've seen actually shows that I'd do a little better than Dick, if you presume that the turnout is going to skew Republican. I do a little better with Republican voters than Dick does.

WOODRUFF: What do you Say, Also, Bill Simon, to those, you know, to the argument coming not only from Gray Davis and others that, quote -- I'm going to quote him from the campaign last year. "Bill Simon is a right-wing Republican. This recall effort is a right-wing Republican effort." How do you come back at that? What do you say?

SIMON: Well, Judy, clearly with respect to the recall effort 1.6 million people have signed a recall petition. Eighty percent of Californians disapprove of Gray Davis, 80 percent of California is not right-wing.

As far as our campaign, I mean, clearly, you know the ideas we put forward are not, if you will, right-wing in nature. You talk about a budget deficit being historic, Davis accused me of playing politics. Well it turns out I was right.

We talk about out educational system and the fact that we're in the basement nationally. People out here are the unions, want to put off the high school exit exams for two years. That's just plain wrong. We talk about roads, water and power that are deteriorating before our eyes.

Once again, these are ideas that resonate with out people. Not with conservatives or moderates but will all the people of California.

WOODRUFF: Still, Gray Davis beat you by five points just, what? Eight or nine months ago. What makes you so sure you can beat him this time?

SIMON: Well, Judy, his approval ratings have plummeted because people know he lied about the budget deficit. He said a week before the election the budget deficit would be about $12 billion. I said that it would be well in excess of $20 billion. He accused me of playing politics. Well now the record shows who was right. He lied about me personally and that's all now been proven that his advertising, $80 million of personal attacks, were all false. It's clear that the people, Judy, are fed up with the type of campaigning that has been a hallmark of Davis' career, personal attacks.

WOODRUFF: And, just quickly, a California recall race with Larry Flynt, the publisher of "Hustler" in this race doesn't make California's politics kind of a laughing stock?

SIMON: Well I don't think so, Judy, honestly. At this point we'll let the people decide. I think many candidates have run in many states from different beliefs and backgrounds. And you know I have a lot of faith in the common sense of our people, both in California and also in our country.

WOODRUFF: Well, we're going to leave it there. We're going to be watching for your announcement, which sounds like it's coming very soon.

SIMON: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bill Simon, nice to see you again.

SIMON: Nice to see you.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much for talking with us.

Up next, why some Republicans think a good candidate is hard to find.

And is Al Gore planning to offer the '04 Democrats some advice?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The newly announced retirement of South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings has put the spotlight on the Democrats' problem in the 2004 Senate elections.

But Republicans have their own headaches as they try to recruit candidates for some key races.

Here now, our Congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl.

Jon, now what is the latest on Republican efforts in Nevada to recruit somebody to run against Senator Harry Reid?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we have some news here that could be really disturbing for Republicans. That is the candidate that they had been trying so hard to get into that race against Harry Reid, the current Congressman from Las Vegas, Same -- Jim Gib -- I'm sorry -- James Gibbons is not going to be running, according to people familiar with the situation. He has not made a final decision, but Republican strategists say that they expect him not to run now; that he is strongly leaning against to run. Now Gibbons -- his press secretary says he will not make an announcement until the end of the month, but that -- and he is officially still undecided, so there may be a last-minute effort to get him back in this race. But right now Republican strategists here in Washington no longer expect Gibbons to run in that race.

WOODRUFF: Now Jon, the general view, of the experts anyway, has been that the political map going into next years favors the Republicans favor in these Senate races. But -- so how are they doing in other contests around the country?

KARL: Well, the map certainly favors Republicans, at least as it looks now. But they do need some recruiting victories here.

Right now there are a lot of unanswered questions for Republicans, most significantly in the state of South Dakota, where Tom Daschle should be a top target for Republicans. It's a strongly Republican state. But John Thune, the top Republican recruit out there, is still undecided. He won't make his decision until the fall.

And then you've got the state of Arkansas, another Republican- leaning state, where there is a Democrat who should be vulnerable, Blanche Lincoln. Republican Governor Mike Huckabee still hasn't made a decision there. He's not expected to make a decision until after a special session of the legislature down there in the fall.

So some major unanswered questions for the Republicans.

And meanwhile, Judy, Republicans have had some serious set backs along the way, as well. Some of their other top recruits have decided not to run.

Look, Jennifer Dunn out in Washington state decided against a run, Former Governor Jim Edgar of Illinois decided against a run, despite White House recruitment. Mel Martinez, the HUD Secretary, would have been a great candidate for Republicans in Florida. He decided not to run. Former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer also decided not to run. Those were all candidates Republicans had hoped to get to run in for the Senate next time around. And Judy, all of them have decided not to.

So clearly this is a map that favors the Republicans, but they need to get some candidates in there running.

WOODRUFF: Tells us that Karl Rove may be a man on the phone these days.

KARL: Sure.

WOODRUFF: OK. Jon Karl, thanks very much.

Well, checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," it is primary day in Mississippi and political observers around the nation are keeping tabs on the governor's race. Incumbent Democrat Ronnie Musgrove and former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barber are expected to easily win their parties' nomination. Their likely face off this fall could offer clues about the '04 election.

Although Al Gore opted out of the '04 race, he still is speaking out. He will give a major speech in New York Thursday on the aftermath of the Iraq war. Gore is expected to take aim at Bush administration policy. But it is not yet clear if he will talk about the direction of his own party. Aides say the speech just happens to be coming on the heels of rumors denied by the Gore camp that he might reconsider running for the White House.

Well, from candidate to parent, Howard Dean takes time off from the campaign to deal with a family matter. The story when INSIDE POLITICS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We're learning that the debate is under way at the National Episcopalian Conference in Minneapolis on whether the first bishop of the state of New Hampshire, or the first bishop in the Episcopal Church who would be gay will be permitted to take that position and both sides, we're told, have 30 minutes to debate, after which voting will get under way. Everyone has to vote by 6:00 p.m. Eastern. CNN following the story closely and we'll bring you the results as soon as we know what they are.

Meantime, the 17-year-old son of Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean agreed today to take part in a court diversion program to resolve some criminal charges. Paul Dean appeared in court in Burlington, Vermont, along with his father and mother. He was charged for his role in the theft of some beer and champagne from a local country club.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: I said this is a foolish mistake. People do make stupid mistakes, and he has to pay the price for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: There is a community board that will determine if the younger Dean's punishment, which could include community service or making restitution.

Well, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff.

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