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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

John Kerry Relaunches Presidential Campaign

Aired September 2, 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: Anchors away. John Kerry relaunches his presidential campaign, with a military backdrop and fighting words.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every day of this campaign I will challenge George Bush for fundamentally taking our country in the wrong direction.

ANNOUNCER: If Kerry hopes to face Bush, first he needs to deflate Dean. What's a Democrat got to do to break out from the pack?

Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill with battle lines drawn and their work cut out for them.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

Well, John Kerry opened a new phase of his presidential campaign today with, by our count, 15 blistering references to President Bush and zero mentions of Howard Dean. And, yet, the most immediate threat Kerry faces is not from the man in the White House, but from the Democratic rival he never named. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley watched Kerry in action in South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a place called Patriot's Point with the USS Yorktown at his back and old Navy buddies by his side, John Kerry announced his 8-month-old campaign with a four-state swing he calls the American Courage Tour.

KERRY: George Bush's vision does not live up to the America I enlisted in the Navy to defend.

CROWLEY: Did we mention he is a combat vet? Subtle it wasn't, but there's no times for subtle. John Kerry needs some juice fast before the money begins to dry up and planned endorsements fade away. He is down in the polls in a fall made more painful by early campaign success, a seasoned 18 staff, a bunch of money, the aura of presumed front runner.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This time the person with the most votes is going to be the president of the United States.

CROWLEY: Oops. Kerry underestimated the politician in Howard Dean and the ferocity of anti-Bush sentiment in hardcore Democrats. Time for Plan B, synthesizing Kerry's yes vote on the war with the anti-war voters at the core of his party.

KERRY: I voted to threaten the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations. I believe that was right. But it was wrong to rush to war without building a true international coalition and with no plan to win the peace.

CROWLEY: Plan B is national security as the threshold issue, John Kerry as the guy with the war credentials to deal with it.

KERRY: Every investigation, every commission, every piece of evidence tells us that this president has failed to make us as safe as we should be.

CROWLEY: Plan B is John Kerry as a candidate with sharper elbows.

KERRY: Being flown to an aircraft carrier and saying mission accomplished doesn't end a war. And the swagger of a president saying bring them on will never bring peace or safety to our troops.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: For now Kerry intends to save his sharp elbows and not launch a frontal assault on Howard Dean.

Instead, strategists say Kerry will highlight Dean's plan to repeal every single one of Bush's tax cuts. They believe that will begin to draw a bright line between Kerry and Dean. After that, well, anything can happen. One aide said the fall will get longer and things change with the season -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, Candy, for now, John Kerry has relaunched in South Carolina. Where does he take this next?

CROWLEY: Iowa. The usual suspect places, Iowa and New Hampshire as well a stop in Massachusetts, where, obviously, he's from.

WOODRUFF: And a little New Hampshire where we're going to catch up with him tomorrow.

CROWLEY: Right.

WOODRUFF: OK. Candy Crowley with John Kerry at Patriot's Point in South Carolina. Thanks, Candy.

Well, we got a taste of John Kerry's campaign Plan B, as Candy said. But he may need to delve a bit further into the alphabet as he heads into the primaries. Here now our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KERRY: Hi. How are you?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): John Kerry has four months to turn his campaign around. What can he do? First, he has to showcase his strength. Kerry is a man of great intellectual stature. Is that something Americans want in a president? After four years of George W. Bush, they might.

Kerry's finest political moment came in 1996 when he faced Massachusetts Governor Bill Wells, no intellectual slouch in a series of eight remarkable campaign debates.

KERRY: I would not say that being in public life is a sacrifice. I'm not sure that I see it that way.

SCHNEIDER: Kerry's natural constituency is educated upper-middle class professionals, the NPR vote. Kerry's problem is that he and Howard Dean are fishing in the same pond, and Dean has been catching more fish because he's using a powerful lure, contempt for President Bush.

In a recent poll, the majority of Democrats said they don't want a nominee who seeks common ground with Bush, they want a fighter who will take Bush on.

Does that mean Kerry has to imitate Dean? Yes, when it comes to showing contempt for Bush.

KERRY: And every day of this campaign, I will challenge George Bush for fundamentally taking our country in the wrong direction.

SCHNEIDER: So where does Kerry distinguish himself from Dean? There's an opening for an anti-Bush moderate, one who can appeal to blue collar Democrats who have so far not found a candidate.

They're not Dean people, but they don't look like Kerry people either. Kerry's a wealthy patrician, but he does have an impressive record of military service.

KERRY: The best lessons that I learned about being an American came in a place far away from America on that gun boat that Max referred to in the Mekong Delta with a small crew of volunteers.

SCHNEIDER: And a message that has a little of Bill Clinton's populous touch.

KERRY: Let me put it plainly: if Americans aren't working, America's not working. So my economic plan sets this goal. To get back George Bush's 3 million jobs in my first 500 days as president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Kerry announced his candidacy in South Carolina, not in Massachusetts, in front of an aircraft carrier, as if to say, Who you calling a Massachusetts liberal? -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: That thought did occur to us. All right. Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Well you can hear more from John Kerry about his candidacy and how he plans to on running his campaign tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

And as I mentioned a minute ago, I will speak one on one with the senator from Massachusetts tomorrow on a special edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll be live from New Hampshire.

More headlines from the Democratic hopefuls are in our "Campaign News Daily" today. Joe Lieberman is unveiling his plan to bring health coverage to America's uninsured. Lieberman projects that his proposal will cost about $55 billion a year. He plans to pay for it, he says, by repealing George Bush's tax cuts for high income Americans.

Congressman Dick Gephardt kicks off his TV ad campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AD ANNOUNCER: 1983, the economy is in a tail spin. Every Republican opposes Bill Clinton's economic plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The two 30-second spots highlight Gephardt's role in passing the 1993 Clinton economic plan and his pledge to fight for middle class families.

The Howard Dean campaign has launched what it is calling its "September to Remember Online Membership Drive." The Dean team wants to sign up 450,000 supporters by the end of the month to demonstrate Howard Dean's grassroots support.

The Reverend Al Sharpton says he has the style and the substance to win the White House. In the latest edition of "GQ" magazine Sharpton talks about his custom-made suits and says that he brings more style to the presidential field than any other candidates. In his words, quote, "You want to be classy and stylish without being a distraction," end quote.

Well top candidates for California governor may be hitting the briefing books today in preparation for their first debate tomorrow. Except, that is, for Arnold Schwarzenegger who's sitting this one out.

Meantime, Governor Gray Davis is getting some more help from California's popular senior senator. Diane Feinstein stared in a new Davis ad urging Californians to vote against his recall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: It's producing uncertainty and instability. It's bad for the economy, bad for jobs and bad for California. That's why I'm voting no. I hope you will, too. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Republican Peter Ueberroth is dismissing the media frenzy over Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign as -- quote -- "noise and hoopla." In a radio interview today, Ueberroth said he hopes to spend about $10.5 million on his campaign for Davis job with one-third of that money coming from his own pocket.

Well, still ahead, political style and substance on Capitol Hill. With lawmakers getting back to work, we'll look at their jam-packed agenda, the expected battles and stand-offs.

Plus, the '04 Democrats gear up for an important debate. Who's got the most to prove, the most to gain and the most to lose?

And up next, a new round in the California recall free-for-all plays out on the airwaves.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Can't wait for INSIDE POLITICS? Well, get your early morning fix by clicking on to your new daily political column, "The Morning Grind," which went online today. It has got a quick digest of candidates' schedules, an overview of what to expect each day and links to the day's hottest political stories. Thanks to editor John Mercurio (ph), everything you'll need to tide you over until 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Check it out at cnn.com/allpolitics.

We're back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: If the Labor Day holiday wasn't enough to convince Washingtonians that summer is unofficially over, then the sight of lawmakers back at work should do the trick.

Our Congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl, is back to business, too.

Jon, good to see you back at the Capitol. Tell us what's on their agenda.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the biggest thing right off the bat is going to be Iraq, Judy. Members -- sources on both sides of the Capitol, the House and the Senate tell me that today that the White House has signaled to Republicans up here that they will sending up a significant request for money to help pay for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. By significant, these sources say they're expecting a request -- that the Senate person put it, between 40 and $50 billion. A source over in the House said the expectation would be between 30 and $60 billion.

This will shine an especially harsh light on the president's Iraq policy, as many Republicans up here are asking some very tough questions about the situation in Iraq urging the president to come out and to explain to the public very forcefully and very clearly exactly what the strategy is for rebuilding Iraq.

So all that is going on while the Congress is preparing for the first public hearings on the prewar intelligence questions. So this budget request, this supplemental budget request will be coming just as members of Congress are also asking very difficult questions about the war, what got us into the war in the first place.

WOODRUFF: Now Jon, just before they went away for break, the subject of prescription drugs and Medicare funding were very much on everybody's mind. Where does all that stand?

KARL: Well, that was the big issue. There was a lot of momentum up here on Capitol Hill. The talks, however -- negotiating the differences between the House and Senate versions of that prescription drug bill have bogged down over the summer. It now looks like a very difficult negotiation ahead. And, Judy, there isn't much public sentiment right now, it appears -- not much public clamoring for this bill.

Look at this new "USA"/CNN -- "USA Today"/CNN Today (sic) Gallup poll on this question. People asked -- these are all adults -- asked, "Would the Medicare bill do enough to help seniors? Seventy-six percent saying no, only 15 percent saying yes in that poll. And if you look at the next question, more people actually think this bill would do harm than good -- 17 percent saying it would help their families, 29 percent -- they believe the bill would actually hurt their families and the largest number, 42 percent saying it would have no effect whatsoever. So without much public clamoring for the bill that has passed both the House and the Senate, it looks like the negotiations ironing out the differences between those two bills will be very difficult, indeed.

And Judy, it is now -- appears no longer to be the top domestic priority, at least here in Congress. There is also the question of energy in the wake of the blackouts that paralyzed the Northeast during the August recess here. Now the energy bill has moved ahead in the cue as the top issue to be considered as the Congress gets back and gets back to work.

WOODRUFF: There's no question, the subject of energy is on a lot of people's minds as a result of that. All right. Jon Karl back at the Capitol, right at this station. We'll seeing a lot of you in the days and weeks to come. Thanks, Jon.

KARL: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Still ahead, showdown in New Mexico. We'll set the stage for this week's Democratic presidential debate. Will the candidates gang up on President Bush or on one of their own?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The Democratic presidential hopefuls will gather in New Mexico Thursday for a debate hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. With me now to talk more about this debate and other issues surrounding the Democratic hopefuls, Chuck Todd, he's the editor and chief of "The Hotline."

Chuck, all right. What are these nine individuals need to do? Howard Dean, everybody is talking about him. What do the others need to do this Thursday?

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE HOTLINE": It's interesting the last time they got together in an official debate we were in the same atmosphere, but it was a little bit reversed. It was Kerry the front runner, Dean the challenger and the whole storyline was, OK, how are the other candidates distinguish themselves from this Kerry/Dean feud?

Well now all of the candidates including John Kerry all trying to figure out how do they distinguish themselves from Howard Dean, the front runner? An I think watching these guys trying to make their case that they are the alternative. An, you know, it's not going to just be John Kerry.

John Kerry's going to have an advantage in coverage because he relaunched this week. That will be the first thing people look for is sort of how does Kerry do with Dean this time. But this is also what Edwards is going to do, it's also what Lieberman is going to do, it's also what Gephardt's going do. This whole race is about Howard Dean right now.

WOODRUFF: And so what -- are there logical strategies at this stage of a campaign? Here we are Labor Day week. We're more than a year out from the election but we're only four months from Iowa.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: ... a lot of people will look for the famous "Where's the beef?" line. The famous line that Walter Mondale did that just cut Gary hart's campaign off at the knees. All of these campaigns are probably searching and all these stratigers (ph) are searching for the sound bite.

Can they find the sound bite that just undoes Howard Dean and at the same time relaunches their campaigns and gets their attention? And I think that we may see a sound bite race a little bit.

The other part of this, we need to remember, is that this debate is the first one in this series. And sure this debate is the most important debate, of course, until to the next one. But it is more nationally televised than any of the other debates, it is on PBS. PBS viewers are Democratic viewers. This is a pretty...

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: Now we talked about John Kerry relaunching. He is in South Carolina, he's going to be in Iowa and New Hampshire. In fact we're going to be talking to him tomorrow.

How do you see that playing with the fact that you've got aside from the debate you've got Dick Gephardt running his first or another set of ads this week. How does all this play out? TODD: What interesting is that Gephardt figured out how to get into the storyline this week. All of a sudden we were just talking about Kerry's relaunch and how he is going to try to change the momentum and trying to get it back from Howard Dean.

And the here Gephardt goes and beats him on to the air in Iowa and New Hampshire. And we know Kerry's going to supposedly go on the air this week, too. But Gephardt beat to the punch a little bit. And it allows Gephardt to sort of get a chance to sort of be on the same level as Kerry in this fight to be the alternative to Dean.

But, that one thing about Kerry you wonder. Remember the last time before the South Carolina debate he hoarse in his throat because he had been campaigning so much. Well what's he doing these next two days? He's campaigning a lot. He's reannouncing. So be interested to see if he's got the same sort of voice issues...

WOODRUFF: Or if they're using throat spray or something.

TODD: Exactly.

WOODRUFF: But you know John Edwards has been running ads. What is going to distinguish the Gephardt ads from what John Edwards has been saying? How do these guys set themselves apart at the stage?

TODD: And that's why these are debates almost now are becoming more important than the ads themselves because just what you said, John Edwards is on the air, Howard Dean is on the air, Dick Gephardt is on the air, by the end of the week John Kerry's going to be on the air. We're going to have huge clutter in Iowa and New Hampshire.

No one's distinguishing themselves so the voters there are going to be waiting for another moment in the campaign to see a distinctive moment and maybe it's in this debate, maybe there is that "Where's the beef?" moment for one of these guys. Then suddenly their ads will get paid attention to.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: It's a tough thing. I mean, Edwards to me is the most interesting guy to watch at this debate because he really needs to get some momentum before his announcement on the 16th. Will he be really aggressive, will he be really laid back? He is sort of the one wildcard here that I think a lot people ought to pay attention to.

WOODRUFF: A lot of questions including how does Howard Dean deal with what's coming at him if it indeed comes.

TODD: It could all become (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WOODRUFF: All right, Chuck Todd with "The Hotline." Always great to see you.

TODD: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: The NFL comes to the White House. Straight ahead, are you ready for some football? President Bush gets ready for Thursday night's kick off when INSIDE POLITICS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Bush's fondness for baseball is well known, but today he got a sneak preview of this week's preview to the fall football season. Members of the New York Jets and Washington Redskins stopped by the White House to present President Bush with the first game ball on the 2003 season. The jets visit Washington for the season opener this Thursday night. They're going to be competing with that Democratic presidential debate. We'll see who gets the biggest audience.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Don't forget tomorrow we're live from New Hampshire. We'll be talking to John Kerry, to state Democratic chair Kathy Sullivan, we're going sneak in an interview with General Wesley Clark who may join the race for president.

I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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