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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Violence in Iraq Takes Toll on Bush's Poll Numbers; Detriot Debate Leaves Stances on Iraq Hazy

Aired October 27, 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 new wave of bombings in Baghdad. The conflict takes an even greater toll.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're even more determined to work with the Iraqi people to create the conditions of freedom and peace.

ANNOUNCER: We'll have new presidential poll numbers this hour.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president has done it wrong every step of the way.

WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no telling what's going to happen.

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot continue to play Bush roulette.

ANNOUNCER: There's no debate about their opinion of the president. But have the '04 Democrats made it clear where they stand on Iraq?

Taking a gamble in Mississippi. We'll check out the stakes and the strategies in the soon to be decided governors race.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. We begin with Americans' mixed opinions of President Bush against the backdrops of continuing violence in Iraq and the 2004 race for the White House.

Our just-released poll shows more than half the country still approves of the way Mr. Bush is doing his job. But his rating has dipped slightly in the last two weeks. And while Mr. Bush continues to beat an unnamed Democrat in a hypothetical election match-up, he doesn't get the 50 percent support widely seen as crucial to an incumbent.

On Iraq, 47 percent of Americans now approve, they say, of the way the post-war situation has been handled. That is down from 80 percent back in April. Support for the war itself continues to fall as well.

But on a day of deadly suicide attacks in Baghdad that claimed about 30 lives, Mr. Bush again vowed to stay the course.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: This government is determined to hear the call from the Iraqis. And the call is, they want a society in which their children can go to school, in which they can get good health care, in which they're able to live a peaceful life. It's in the national interest of the United States that a peaceful Iraq emerge. And we will stay the course in order to achieve this objective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: In fact, the conflict in Iraq was the main topic of debate at the latest faceoff of the '04 Democrats. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is back now here in Washington after covering the forum last night in Detroit.

Candy, Iraq did seem to take up a lot of space in this debate last night. Were the candidates clearly delineating their differences? And bottom line, does it matter?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it does matter. As you know, the Democratic primary voters tend to be a little left of center. They are the ones that at this point have really fueled the Dean campaign into first place. So it obviously matters certainly in the primary and at this point.

If you look at the nine candidates we have now, the one that sticks out the most, of course, is Senator Joe Lieberman. He has been both before the war and for the $87 billion for reconstruction and to support the troops. His whole argument now is, Look, at least I've been consistent. It's a point he brought up against last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So I don't know how John Kerry and John Edwards can say they supported the war, but then opposed the funding of the troops who went to fight the war that the resolution that they supported authorized.

I've been over Wes Clark's record and statements on this so many times. I heard him tonight. He took six different positions on whether going to war was the right idea. He took -- it took him four days to decide whether voting on the $87 billion was a good idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: It's unclear whether this tact has really helped Joe Lieberman. His campaign still seems stalled. But last night it was also clear he did touch a nerve because of his criticism. We got one of the lowest blows of the debate from Senator Kerry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KERRY: Well, Joe, I have seared in me an experience which you don't have. And that's the experience of being one of those troops on the front lines when the policy has gone wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Fairly interesting for a Democratic debate, Judy, and that is that both Senator Kerry and General Clark went out of their way to throw out their military credentials time and time again.

WOODRUFF: Candy, what about Howard Dean? What about how -- his performance last night? And did anything change his status as a front runner?

CROWLEY: No, that's the good news. They all sort of came out intact. The good news for Howard Dean is that that means he's still the front runner. He's got the most money, he's doing the best in the polls. Iowa still looks to favor Gephardt.

But certainly Dean's poll numbers are quite good. His numbers are quite good. There's less than three months to go. So he's sitting pretty.

I've noticed -- actually the past couple of debates I thought that Howard Dean seemed a little mellower than he has in pastimes. And that may in fact be the sign of a front runner.

WOODRUFF: May be. We need to study that a little bit more, Candy. Just back from Detroit, thank you very much.

Well right now we want to take you to something live going on at the State Department. Secretary of State Colin Powell talking to reporters.

(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT)

WOODRUFF: Secretary of State Colin Powell talking to reporters after a meeting with the deputy prime minister of the united Arab emirates, answering questions primarily about Iraq and the violence there this day.

Well, back to the Democratic debate in Detroit last night. There were some debate watchers who felt that the Democratic candidates did not adequately address urban and African-American issues. Detroit's mayor was especially miffed, apparently, when Dennis Kucinich vastly overstated the host city's homicide rate.

We are joined by the mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick. Mr. Mayor, what was it that upset you about this debate?

MAYOR KWAME KILPATRICK, DETROIT: Well, you know, overall, let me say first, it was a great event. It was professionally done. And it was excellently presented to our citizens.

What I was upset with is the deliberation. The actual debate and the substance of it. I mean you come to one of the largest manufacturing-based states in this country, the first to have its primary in February. And you don't discuss any urban issues. You don't discuss jobs, education, technology, health care, issues that Americans are facing.

It was pretty much a Beltway conversation. The Washington guys going at it with each other. And we're looking for a break-out candidate to talk about issues that real Americans want to hear about. And those are the issues, the quality of life issues that we need to discuss.

WOODRUFF: But a number of these candidates, Mr. Mayor, are not from Washington. Have you heard back from them since you expressed your views on that?

KILPATRICK: Absolutely. And I can say that the first person that got in touch with me was Governor Dean who said, You're absolutely correct. And he got a chance to talk about his urban agenda with me and reporters here in the city of Detroit because he wanted to address that issue.

And we also, you know, it was a debate. So, I mean, the format sometimes doesn't dictate that you be able to talk about what you need to talk about. But being in Detroit, and, you know, we've lost 3 million jobs in this country.

This is the manufacturing base of this country. We like to claim that in Mowtown. We want to hear about those real bread and butter issues that parents and children and families care about every single day. Not about $87 billion. And not about President Bush in every answer. I want to hear about what you're going to do to move America forward.

WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about President Bush because the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, Betsy DeVos, was quoted as saying, "A lot of what they had too say were hateful attacks on the president." Did you think they were hateful?

KILPATRICK: Absolutely not. I mean, I guess that's what the chair of the Republican Party would say. There were no hateful attacks. I think most of the people there were very respectful to the president.

But you have a right to dissent and disagree in this country, and that's not hateful, that is a great opportunity to show your differences. But you have to clearly delineate where you are and what your concise plan is. And I think that's what they fell short on.

WOODRUFF: You said you heard from Governor Dean after the debate. Are any of these candidates emerging in your mind as potential -- really -- people who would strongly challenge President Bush next year?

KILPATRICK: You know, not as of yet. I think in the beginning of the program, your person there talked about Governor Dean's race being in tact and he being the front runner. And I think it's because he's having conversations that they don't necessarily have in Washington every day.

He's talking about health care and delivering that to all Americans. And how business and community and small business come together. He's talking about education.

And until the other candidates jump on that train, I mean we don't only want to hear about Iraq, we want to hear about why $87 billion is not coming to cities and townships and local communities in America.

But we also want to hear about what is the plan for moving us forward? Eighty-six percent of the gross domestic product of America comes from 319 metro areas, cities. If cities don't work, America don't work. And that's what we want to hear about in cites around this country.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Mayor, I want to show you statistics from the 2002 election. There were exit polls done. And the point of all this is to say that it looks as if African-Americans who are under 50 are voting less reliably Democratic than those who are over 50. We looked at numbers in terms of vote for the House of Representatives and also in terms of party identification. How do you explain that?

KILPATRICK: You know the Democratic Party historically has been moved by large organizational politics. By labor unions, by large organizations. And this new generation of people, I'm a 33-year-old mayor in the city of Detroit and I had to run against the grain. And the way that I did that is by talking about what brings us together, what unites us, and then delivering a real plan to get there.

Usually you get supported by one of those traditional organizations and they drive your campaign right in there to victory. That's over. And a lot of people have to be explained to, in a two- way cell phone independent generation that we live in, you have to talk to people where they live, where they are, about what type of country we want to have. And if voters don't connect to them candidates they want to be their leadership, you'll never have that America that we have all been promised.

So I believe that people -- it's not just African-Americans. I think if you look at the -- you know, the numbers for every...

WOODRUFF: Right.

KILPATRICK: ...culture or community, you'll see a running away of the traditional party politics, Democrat and Republican.

WOODRUFF: All right. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of the city of Detroit. It's good to see you. Thank you for talking with me.

KILPATRICK: Thanks a lot for having me.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Well, we are looking at -- according to some new polls -- some shifts in the Democratic presidential race. Our new poll shows that Howard Dean is now leading the Democratic pack nationwide. Now, this is the first time in a CNN survey.

Our poll director says it is not that Dean necessarily has gained strength. It is that Wesley Clark has lost some. Dick Gephardt, who comes in third, appears to have picked up some of Clark's support.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: Since August, the number of Democrats who say they want a liberal to win the nomination has gone up substantially. And I think that winds up longterm possibly helping Dean, hurting Clark.

An important thing with the Clark supporters is, that most of the drop in his support has come along men. He's held steady among women. But he had that huge lead early in October due largely to the fact that men were standing up and saluting a retired general. Now they're not so sure about him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: All right. That's the national picture.

In the meantime, two new state polls lead the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily." In the lead-off primary state of New Hampshire, Howard Dean still holding a wide lead among likely Democrat voters; 37 percent of the survey said they favored Dean. He has a 13-point lead over John Kerry, who got 24 percent. All the other candidates were in single digits in the "Boston Globe"/WBZ survey.

In Illinois, the race is much tighter, with a lot of people still trying to make up their minds. Dick Gephardt leads with 13 percent, followed by Wesley Clark with 11. Howard Dean got 10 percent. Illinois native Carol Moseley Braun was next with 9. Thirty-five percent say they are undecided.

As the primaries approach, the presidential hopefuls are peddling their new campaign books. John Kerry signed copies of his new book, "A Call to Service," today in New York. Five other Democratic hopefuls have already published books. Still to hit the printing press are works by Dennis Kucinich, releasing next month; Howard Dean, coming out in December; and John Edwards on the bookshelves in January.

Well, we're going to head to Capitol Hill for a progress report on efforts to strike a prescription drug compromise.

Plus, we will countdown to the vote for Mississippi governor. A potential test of the Bush machine before election 2004.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The president today declaring a major disaster exists in the state of California. The president ordering federal aid be made available to supplement state and local monies to help with recovery because of those wildfires that have been raging across Southern California in the last few days. The president's action making federal money available to people in Los Angeles, in San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura counties. Money for temporary housing, home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help people and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

INSIDE POLITICS in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Just a few weeks remain in the current session of Congress, and several important political issues still must be resolved.

Our Jon Karl is on Capitol Hill, keeping track of it all.

Jon, we know the president would like to get energy legislation; he'd like to get Medicare reform. What are the chances?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the next few days are going to determine that. The next several days will really determine the success or failure of what remains of the Bush domestic agenda. This is his chance to get those last remaining items passed. Big items here. And right now it's starting to look like it could go either way. Simply too close to call. Something Donald Rumsfeld might call a long, hard slog in the final negotiations on the big issues.

First, on Medicare. The negotiations are going on right now in the Capitol, have been going on for most of the day. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson has been up here meeting with members of the House and the Senate, who are negotiating the final compromise on Medicare prescription drugs.

Now, Thompson came out of the morning session of the meeting telling reporters -- quote -- "we have a long way to go." And this is from somebody who has usually been extremely upbeat on the prospects for getting something passed, a sign that there is still a lot of work to be done on this. The last contentious issue here is the question of whether and how to allow private insurance companies to compete with Medicare. And then even once they come to an agreement in that conference committee, the question is, Can that agreement pass in both the House and the Senate? Questions that are simply too difficult to answer right now.

At the center of that debate are two figures you might call the Congressional odd couple up here. On one hand, Bill Thomas, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee over in the House. And Chuck Grassley, the Finance Committee over here in the Senate. Now those two are also at the center of the other big negotiation going on up here, which is energy. And those negotiations are not going even as well as the Medicare negotiations are going. As one member of the House Republican leadership, a staffer told CNN -- quote -- "We're playing chicken with the Senate. If no one blinks, we'll do it next year." Well, nobody really thinks that this can get done next year. This is the chance to do it. Next year is an election year. And right now, it doesn't look too promising, although members of Frist's staff, people around Bill Frist and Bill Frist himself, remain optimistic that they will deliver on both these huge domestic priorities for the president, Medicare, prescription drugs and energy. But, Judy, as you can see, it's not going to be easy.

WOODRUFF: Jon, these things two things breaking -- are they breaking down purely on partisan lines, with Republicans wanting to get something done and Democrats holding back because they don't like the outlines of what the Republicans want?

KARL: Actually, Judy, the fascinating here right now with this is that they are now right now breaking down Republican versus Republican, especially on that energy bill.

The last remaining contentious issue there that may kill the whole bill if it does, is the question of ethanol. Ethanol, the alternative fuel made from corn. It's dear to the heart of Chuck Grassley, the Republican finance chairman. Bill Thomas is not a big fan of ethanol tax credits. They are the ones disagreeing right now on this. It's not Democrat against Republican. Right now, at least with energy, it's Republican against Republican.

And even over there with the Medicare prescription drugs deal it is Republicans arguing amongst themselves.

WOODRUFF: All right, things can get complicated here in Washington.

KARL: Yes.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl, watching it all, thanks very much.

When we come back, the home stretch in the Mississippi governors race. New poll numbers and a look at who has the momentum and the big name endorsements heading into next week's election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The Mississippi governors race is heading into the home stretch with the latest polls showing a tight race between the incumbent Democrat and his well-connected Republican challenger. Former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour, a long- time figure here in Washington and friend of the president, leads incumbent Democrat Ronnie Musgrove 50 percent to 45 percent.

Musgrove has tried to paint Musgrove has tried to paint Barbour as an outsider with more connections to Washington lobbyists than to Mississippi. Barbour has tried to turn his White House connections to his advantage. President Bush is planning to campaign with Barbour Saturday.

And had we planned to discuss this race in-depth today with Julie Goodman, a reporter with "The Jackson Clarion-Ledger" Newspaper, but technical difficulties, satellite problems in fact, have prevented us from being able to be in touch with her. I hope we can resurrect that later in the week.

New York Governor George Pataki has weighed in on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal for non-partisan elections in New York City. Pataki said he favors the idea, which is on the New York City ballot Tuesday. Many Democrats oppose the idea because they believe it would cost them support in this heavily Democratic city.

In the race for the White House, the stakes are already high. But in Iowa, there's apparently more writing on the outcome of the Democratic caucuses than you might think.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In the presidential race, Iowa's widely seen as a make or break state for Democrat Dick Gephardt of neighboring Missouri. But someone else stands to gain big from a Gephardt victory in the Hawkeye State. One of Gephardt's top advisers, it turns out, Bill Carrick, is confirming that he bet GOP pollster Frank Luntz $10,000 that Gephardt wins Iowa. Yes, that's right, $10,000. Once results are in, we'll let you know if they made good on the wager.

These political consultants, they make good money.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff, thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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