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Davis Tries to Draw Voters From Schwarenegger; Bush Avoids Recall Issue on California Visit

Aired August 14, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: A former Mr. Universe, resorting to strong-arm tactics? Find out how Arnold Schwarzenegger is dealing with his California recall competition.

It's women one day, racial minorities the next. Governor Gray Davis tries to cover his bases in his fight to keep his job.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALUFORNIA: Everyday people allow me to be governor will be a day I will work hard to improve the lives of the people.

ANNOUNCER: A commanding presence in California. While the president tries to evade the recall frenzy, could it alter the political battleground in 2004?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fascinating bit of political drama.



JOHN KING, CNN GUEST HOST: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off this week.

As Arnold Schwarzenegger fever has swept through the California recall race, Governor Gray Davis has, at times, seemed almost lost in the media shuffle. And now he's being left out of a proposed September 17 debate. Broadcasters behind the proposal say Davis will be invited to tape an appeal to the voters. But the conversational give-and-take, as they call it, would be limited to the top contenders for Davis' job. The governor does, though, go before the cameras this hour in another attempt to rally constituencies behind him.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is there joins us now live from Carson, California -- Thelma.


Well, we are expecting the governor to arrive at any minute now. He's expected to be here on campus to talk about his signature of AB- 60, which basically authorizes the establishment of an African- American political and economic institute here on the campus of the Cal State University at Dominguez Hills.

Now, a quarter of the student body population here is African- American, a quarter is Latino. The governor will also voice his opposition to Proposition 54, which bans state agencies from collecting racial and ethnic information. Now those pushing for the initiative says that this leads to a -- quote -- "colorblind state." But the governor says it's divisive, that if the initiative passes, that important information would no longer be collected and that this is data which helps to improve public services, education and public health care. He also says that law enforcement would no longer be able to gather any information on race-based hate crimes.

Now, in addition to courting minority groups, the governor was in San Francisco yesterday to court women's groups. He reaffirmed his position on pro-choice and announced his intention to sign five bills to protect a woman's right to choose.

After the governor speaks this afternoon, he will field questions from students and faculty. Then he will take questions from reporters. Now, some of the people here on campus told us a short time ago that they feel that by the governor coming to campus, by announcing his support for an African-American political and economic institute and also by speaking out against Prop 54, that the governor is showing his sensitivity and commitment his to minority students and issues that they face.

And, of course, this is all part of the strategy as you had mentioned, John, to reach out to those minority voters and hopefully they will go to the polls on October 7 and vote no to the recall -- John.

KING: Thelma Gutierrez live with Governor Davis in Carson, California, thank you very much.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing his campaign work behind the scenes today. And more and more, we are hearing now that key Republicans in the state are leaning hard on the other Republicans in the race, those opposing Schwarzenegger, hoping they'll bow out and clear the way for the movie actor. Former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, former gubernational nominee Bill Simon, all are both getting that pressure, we are told, although one Ueberroth aide told me earlier today he considered it -- quote -- "relatively mild."

Mr. Uberroth plans to formally launch his campaign next week. Look for a series of John McCain-style town halls designed to highlight Ueberroth's record as a fix-it man and portray Schwarzenegger as a policy lightweight. Ueberroth's campaign Web site is already up and running.

Independent candidate Arianna Huffington raised questions today about Schwarzenegger's meeting with former Enron chief Ken Lay during the state's energy crisis. But the columnist, known for criticizing corporate fat cats, faced questions about her own conduct, after a report that she had paid hardly any income taxes over the past two years.


ARIANNA HUFFINGTON (I), CALIF. GOV. CANDIDATE: I have absolutely no problem with my taxes. If you read the story carefully, all that it said is that the two years of my tax returns, which I voluntarily released -- as you know, I did not have to -- but our campaign is about transparency. During this two years as a writer, I had writing and research expenses that were greater than my income. I'm sure you know, there's a difference between loopholes and tax deductions. They're part of our system. They're perfectly legal and perfectly normal.


KING: The more wild things get in California, the more President Bush is trying to stay out of the recall fray. He's in the Golden State, though, this hour visiting with troops and preparing to raise money for his own re-election campaign.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman also in California today, blasting the president's environmental record. The '04 Democrats all have come out against the recall. But so far, they seem no more willing than Mr. Bush to rally behind any replacement Democratic candidate.

Yet for all the attempts at keeping their distance, the White House contenders may find that the recall has an impact on their race.

Mike Allen of "The Washington Post" has been tracking all this, especially from the White House perspective. He joins us now from Waco, Texas.

Mike, the president twice now has said Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a good governor. But the White House says he's not endorsing anyone. In California, many Republicans think that's a green light.

MIKE ALLEN, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, John, when he called him a good governor yesterday, he made an important amendment. He said a good governor, as would many others in the race be. And I think that's as close to a walkback as you're going to get from this White House.

What the president said at first was taken as an endorsement. And people close to the president are not so sure that was a great idea. There's this embryonic conventional wisdom that Arnold Schwarzenegger in office would be good for the president. Robert Novak had a column today positing that, mainly because it awakened what he called a comatose California Republican Party. But people around the president think it could have very mixed impact.

KING: Well, as you know, Karl Rove, from day one of this administration, has wanted to put California in play in '04. But Karl Rove also from day one of this administration has wanted to make sure that this president's conservative base does not defect or sit on its hands in the next election. A conflict in those two points in this particular case, is there not, because the conservatives so dislike Mr. Schwarzenegger? ALLEN: Well, no, that's a good point. And one reason -- there are a lot of reasons to run in California and a lot of reasons that Mr. Rove has always had a big focus on it. It's so populous, it impacts public opinion polls. Maybe the first reason is because of the fund-raising they do there. Mr. Rove has ambitions to make the Republican party a longterm majority. You have to deal with California if you're going to do that.

But when they're honest, Republicans will tell you the reason to play in California is not to win. Not this time. Even with a Republican governor, people around the president tell us, if you win California, you're talking 35, 40 states. If you win California, the race is over.

KING: Well, let's compare notes. If you call into the Simon camp or if you call even into the Ueberroth camp, they say they are getting calls from Jerry Parseky (ph), the president's top fund-raiser in California, from Congressman David Dreier, one of the White House key operatives based in California, and other Republicans who are known to be friends of this White House.

Yet the white house says it is not involved at all. And in these calls, they're saying, Hey, do you really want to run? Schwarzenegger's going to win. No fingerprints. But is there, at least behind the scenes, an effort, if not by the White, then by its allies to try to clear the field?

ALLEN: John, you're exactly right.

As you talk to people in California, what you hear them saying is that the one way in which White House allies are involved is in trying to winnow (ph) the field. And the president himself is not going to do it in those fund-raisers you mentioned, he's not going to mention any candidate. They say the only reference he may make to it is to say that these are interesting times in the state. But both as you mention Congress people and key fund-raisers have been talking to other candidates and we're told putting some pretty heavy pressure on them not to run.

KING: Mike Allen of "The Washington Post," joining us today from Waco, Texas. Thank you, Mike.

ALLEN: Thanks, John.

KING: We have more on the '04 race in today's "Campaign News Daily." The Draft Wesley Clark campaign is preparing to launch a new ad it calls "historic." The spot airs in New Hampshire, Iowa and Clark's home state of Arkansas beginning next week. The pro-Clark movement says it's the first draft effort in history to launch TV ads.

Most of the '04 Democrats are stumping in Iowa again today. Senator John Kerry was one of several Democrats who criticized President Bush today for what they said was an administration effort to cut the pay of more than 150,000 troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. A White House officials tells CNN the Pentagon has been told -- quote -- "to fix it "and that the administration will work with Congress to extend those payments.

On a lighter note, Senator Kerry may be too hungry on the trail for his own good. He posed with a sloppy super-sized corndog at the Iowa State Fair a day after the flap over his ordering of a non- traditional Philly cheese steak.

On another food note, Democrat Dennis Kucinich attends dinner with the vegetarian community of Iowa tonight, perhaps the less than politically choice in a state better known for its pork.

There's much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS. Gray Davis has been getting advice from a master political fighter. But is the California governor's plight comparable will Bill Clinton?

We'll get some fresh takes Arnold Schwarzenegger's problem with the Republican right from Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile.

And later, the recall as blockbuster news and entertainment.



DAVIS: I think every Californian would take the economy that the Clinton-Gore administration gave us and trade it in for this economy in a heartbeat. So I'm happy to listen to him and take his advice.


KING: Gray Davis and Bill Clinton have been huddling and talking about the recall jam. The governor stood by former president during the impeachment crisis, and Clinton seems to be returning the favor, although some of his aides tell us he's not too happy Governor Davis is out there talking about it. As our Bill Schneider tells us, the two situations, the Clinton impeachment and the Davis recall are worlds apart.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Bill Clinton survived one kind of recall. Now he's advising Gray Davis how to survive another. Is Davis' situation remotely comparable to Clinton's?

Clinton got in trouble because of sex and intensely private matters.


BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.


SCHNEIDER: To Americans, lying about sex is not a capital crime that merits the political death penalty, but poor job performance does, and that is what a lot of Californians believe Davis is guilty of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he knew that there was a $38 billion deficit before the election and basically kept it quiet.

SCHNEIDER: It looks like Davis' principle opponent will be the very popular Arnold Schwarzenegger.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIF. GOV. CANDIDATE: It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican, if you're young or old, what the racial thing is -- nothing matters to me.

SCHNEIDER: But Clinton benefited from having an unpopular Newt Gingrich as his principle adversary.


REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R), GEORGIA: ... the most systematic, deliberate, obstruction of justice coverup in effort to avoid the truth we have ever seen in American history.


SCHNEIDER: Like the Clintons, Davis tried to depict the effort to overthrow him as a right-wing conspiracy.

DAVIS: Now, I am confident that voters of this state will not opt for a right-wing agenda over a progressive agenda.

SCHNEIDER: But that's gotten harder to do now that the conservative congressman who funded the recall has pulled out of the race.

Bill Clinton survived by convincing voters he was doing his job.


CLINTON: I will submit to Congress for 1999 the first balanced budget in 30 years.


SCHNEIDER: Clinton has advised Gray Davis to do the same thing.

DAVIS: Many people are trying to become the governor. I am the governor.

SCHNEIDER: But there's a big difference. When Clinton was impeached, more than 60 percent of Americans thought he was doing a good job. Davis faces a recall at a time when fewer than 30 percent of Californians think he's doing a good job.

(on camera): In politics, you need a base. Those are the people who are with you when you're wrong. Clinton had a base that stood by him when he got in trouble. But not too many Californians seem to be there for Gray Davis right now.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Los Angeles.


KING: Up next, Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile, their thoughts on the recall effort and the '04 race.

And later, how even the entertainment media are hitching their satellite trucks to the recall bandwagon.


KING: More INSIDE POLITICS in just a moment. But first this just into CNN. Word of a significant power outage in New York City. Our Jason Carroll joins us now on the telephone with details -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well what we can tell you at this point -- it was just about a little bit after 4:00 when all of a sudden the lights went on here at the New York City bureau for CNN. We're located in -- on the West Side of Manhattan, located at 33rd and 8th Avenue.

I'm looking out the window here. There were literally thousands of people on the street. We are also being told of various power outages in Secaucus, New Jersey as well as at the United Nations. That is located on the East Side of Manhattan. Also downtown at the Stock Exchange.

In addition to that, we are also getting reports of an outage on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at WCBS TV which, again, is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Various reports coming in as well as power outages as far away as Connecticut.

Again, at this point no cause for the power outages. Again, I'm looking outside my window here, street lights are out. Again, thousands of people on the street. A lot of questions in terms of exactly why the power has gone out. It (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for at least 15 minutes. And at this point a lot of people are asking questions in terms of why the power went out and when it's going to go back on -- John.

KING: And, Jason, as we try to answer those questions, just your anecdotal from looking out the window, the sense of this on the rush hour, 4:00 in the afternoon, this starting in New York City?

CARROLL: Well, there's a crush, as you can imagine, John, of people who are outside wandering there on the streets. I think what's happening at this point is a lot of people, you know, are in these high rises are in buildings making their way down stairwells. Obviously there's probably going to be people who trapped in elevators.

We are trying to get confirmation in terms of what's happening below ground, in the subways, trying to find out if there's people who are trapped below. I'm getting a note right now. As well that note just coming to me here. City Hall located in Downtown Manhattan, we already know that there was no power at the Stock Exchange, which, again, is located in the Financial District in Downtown Manhattan.

So at this point we as best as we can tell, much of the power is out in Downtown Manhattan as well as on the East Die, the West Side of Manhattan. Again we're hearing reports of power being out as far away as Secaucus, New Jersey and as well as Connecticut -- John.

KING: Jason, want to add to this a report from the Reuters News Agency that not only is the power out in New York City but that they are major power outages reported simultaneously in Detroit, Michigan and in the Canadian cities of Toronto and Ottawa. That a report from the Reuters News Agency. Obviously we at CNN will try to independently confirm that, keep track of the situation in New York and these other major cities.

Reuters reporting the power out not only in New York, but in Albany, Detroit, Toronto and Ottawa, is that correct?

CARROLL: I'm sorry, John...


KING: I'm sorry, Jason, CNN has confirmed power out in Albany and Detroit. We will continue to track this story.

Back to INSIDE POLITICS? OK. We're going to try this. We'll keep track of this developing story which I suspect will take us away again.

But joining me to discuss the recall effort in California, the '04 race, our weekly visit from Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan. Let me start on breaking news of a different sort. I assume you both agree that Schwarzenegger is a bad for California.


BAY BUCHANAN, AMERICAN CAUSE: I think Arnold Schwarzenegger's going to be the governor. I think he'll be good for California in the sense that he can get in there, and if he goes by his conservative fiscal policies and starts to cut -- turn that state around fiscally, he'll only be excellent for California.

But do I endorse Arnold Schwarzenegger? Absolutely not. I'm a social conservative. He is as far away from that position as Bill Clinton ever was. So no, I'm not supporting him from that point of view, but I think he'd be a far improvement over what we have out there now.

KING: Do you think it's a done deal?

DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MGR.: No, absolutely not. Why should the voters of California choose an amateur, someone who probably doesn't know what it's like to balance a budget, a complicated budget at that. Someone who's unable to work with the legislature. So I think it's a bad deal for California, it's a bad deal for America and I think it's a bad deal for conservatives. And Bay noticed, because he's pro-chase, he's pro-gay rights and of course he's pro-gun control. And that spells disaster for conservative Republicans...


KING: Ladies, I need to apologize. As I suspected, we need to end this one question today and go back to this breaking news story. My apologies. We will bring you back, I promise.



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