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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

The Money Race: End-of-the-Year Report; Iraq Politics; Uranium Claim Revisited

Aired December 24, 2003 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: John Kerry mortgages his political future. But can this house help him get to this house? We'll update the action in the money race.

The loose cannon question. Does Howard Dean always say what he means?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way he meant to mislead anybody.

ANNOUNCER: We'll hear from Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi.

'Twas the night before Christmas, and even in Iraq, politics was a source of a few good laughs.

DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: ... Saddam Hussein is. "Did you see where he was hiding?" "I'm telling you we haven't seen a leader in a hole that big since Clinton."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

BOB FRANKEN, HOST: And as you've noticed, Judy Woodruff is not here today. I'm Bob Franken.

And moving on with our show, this time of year, many Americans are feeling a real strain on their finances. And John Kerry's presidential campaign is apparently no different. But unlike many voters of even most of his rivals, Kerry has plenty of assets to tap into.

CNN's Kelly Wallace has been following the money trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anybody else?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is the holiday season, but Senator John Kerry is dipping into his personal fortune not to buy gifts, but to boost his presidential campaign. He just finalized a $6.4 million mortgage on his Boston home. This after loaning the campaign $850,000 of his own money just a few days ago. Aides say this shows Kerry is committed to winning the Democratic nomination. Analysts say it could reveal something else.

RON FAUCHEUX, EDITOR, "CAMPAIGNS AND ELECTIONS" MAGAZINE: But as his prospects have faded, particularly over the last five or six months, his ability to raise money has also faded.

WALLACE: Kerry was close behind frontrunner Howard Dean in the money game at the end of September, with Wesley Clark, who got into the race in September, near the end of the pack. But before the end of the year, Dean and Clark each expect to raise at least $10 million more with Senator Edwards counting on $5 million.

Aides to Kerry, Congressman Dick Gephardt, and Senator Lieberman refuse to say what they hope to collect. And Lieberman played down the fact that his campaign aides will postpone receiving one paycheck in January.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is their decision, which is to have as much money available to put out into the field and into the early primary states and perhaps on to the media.

WALLACE: Not to be a grinch, but there is one historical trend that could bring the holiday blues to all but one candidate.

FAUCHEUX: Usually the candidate who raises the most money at this point in time tends to be the winner. There are some exceptions to that.

WALLACE: The last one, back in 1979, when Republican Ronald Reagan had less money than former Texas governor John Connelly.

HOWARD DEAN (D), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some of you did give it to me, and I appreciate that.

WALLACE: Everywhere he goes, Dean touts how his money advantage has come the unconventional way, through aggressive use of the Internet. The candidate courting $200 million in donations of $100 or less.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: And Dean faces another advantage going into Iowa and New Hampshire. He and John Kerry have both opted out of the public financing system. This means, while they will not get money from the federal government, they do not face any spending limits going into the primary season -- Bob.

FRANKEN: And Kelly, the thing that the Dean people like to say is that their money is coming from supporters, where Kerry is having to finance himself. Would you agree that it says something about the success of their campaigns?

WALLACE: Well, the Dean folks would like you to think that, Bob. They say that at least going back to the end of September more than 50 percent of their contributions were in the form of $100 or less. The Kerry folks, though, Bob, would say something else.

They will say that this shows how committed he is. That he's willing to reach into his deep pockets to fund this campaign to give some momentum going into Iowa and New Hampshire. And Bob, all these candidates know they need to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, especially Senator Kerry. If he doesn't do well, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire, then he will have even more of a difficult time raising money in the weeks ahead.

FRANKEN: Kelly Wallace, with one of the truisms about politics, that you can have the same set of facts and different explanations.

And right now, checking the Christmas Eve headlines in "Campaign News Daily," John Kerry is spending some of that campaign cash on a new TV ad that starts running today in New Hampshire and Iowa. The ad focuses on the need for U.S. energy independence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY (voice-over): It's time to make energy independence a national priority and to put in place a plan that frees our nation from the grip of Middle East oil in the next 10 years, because no child growing up in America today should ever have to go to war for oil. I'm John Kerry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Two new polls shed light on the February 3 primaries in Arizona and Oklahoma. In Arizona, Howard Dean is the clear front runner with 26 percent. Wesley Clark, the only other candidate in double figures, about a third undecided. And in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Dean is again on top, but the race is much closer. He has 24 percent to Clark's 21 percent, with still a lot of undecided Democrats in Oklahoma as well.

And President Bush is with his family at Camp David for the Christmas holidays. But here in Washington, details are emerging about an internal review of Mr. Bush's controversial state of the union claim about Iraq's nuclear program. So let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, to find out what it is that the findings of the president's foreign intelligence board are -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bob, the White House admitted over the summer, we remember, that the president never should have said in his State of the Union Address that Iraq was trying to purchase uranium from Africa because they admitted then that the intelligence simply didn't support that claim as the president was making his case for war.

But the open question still is, why and how that those 16 words, that line, got into his very important State of the Union Address. Now, the president's foreign intelligence advisory board, which is a group of about 12 people that gives the president private advice and reports, looked into the issue for several months. They concluded and told the president, according to a source who was involved in the findings involved in the report, that not only was the CIA at fault, which was discussed over the summer, but also the White House was as well for not checking the facts, not asking the right questions about the intelligence according to the source.

It was a mistake that propagated itself, that it was simply a goof because White House officials at the highest levels didn't ask the right questions and simply let it happen without letting it go through a proper venting process.

Now, this report doesn't seem to give any new information about the intelligence of this claim, but it does certainly revive an issue that the White House would like to put behind them, and certainly would give Democrats an issue, particularly a weapons of mass destruction, Bob, which, as you know, have not yet been found if Iraq.

FRANKEN: As a matter of fact, we're almost a year after that state of the union claim. And as you pointed out, no WMD, as they like to call it, have been found. What does the White House think the impact of that's going to be?

BASH: Well, the short answer is, not much. The president's political advisers do understand the weapons of mass destruction have not been found. But they believe that Americans simply have moved on, as one of his senior advisers said to me earlier today. That they understand from their internal surveys that Americans say the most important thing in Iraq was capturing Saddam Hussein, which, of course, happened, and also stabilizing things on the ground in Iraq.

That is what they're focused on, not so much on weapons of mass destruction anymore. And if you look in our recent survey, Americans actually do still believe the weapons of mass destruction will be found. Fifty-four percent said that is the case. They think that they'll still be uncovered in Iraq. That was after Saddam Hussein was captured.

That was up from about 41 percent before the capture of the Iraqi dictator. But the question is, what if no weapons of mass destruction are found? The last time we asked that question in October, 55 percent of the people responding said that the Iraq war would still be a success even if weapons of mass destruction were not found.

The question, Bob, though, is, as we go into an election year and as more reports come from Congress, come from internal investigations and the intelligence agencies, whether that will revive the issues and whether the Democrats will still be able to use the issue against this president -- Bob.

FRANKEN: And the whole issue, of course, Dana, is about the war on poverty. And on this Christmas Eve, the French government has grounded three Air France flights between Paris and Los Angeles amid fears of a possible terrorist attack in the U.S.

For that information, we now turn to our national security correspondent, David Ensor.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bob, as you say, Air France has canceled its three flights from Paris to Los Angeles, two direct ones and one that goes through Cincinnati. And that affects the return flights as well.

This came, officials tell us, after consultations between the French and the U.S. governments. The announcements were quickly confirmed by the French foreign ministry and the interior ministry. These are the flights that are canceled. But the return flights also going to be canceled for today. And tomorrow, as far as we know, it's open-ended for the moment.

This is based, according to U.S. officials, on security concerns, with one senior administration official telling us that it's based in part on information that also led to the nation going on to code orange and the raised alert level nationwide here in the United States. Officials say they are also talking with Mexican government officials trying to work out some concerns they have about security on flights from Mexico.

They also made some changes locally at the Los Angeles Airport, which is one of the targets that U.S. intelligence believes al Qaeda might seek to try to attack. There's now a prohibition on curbside drop-offs to passengers. Not everybody is obeying it, but that is the new rule. Also, we understand that both at this airport and at some others crews from non-U.S. carriers are sometimes finding themselves questioned at some length when they arrive here in the United States.

So a heightened state of alert at a lot of airports, especially Los Angeles International. And these Air France cancellations obviously the latest move showing how seriously the United States and its allies are taking the danger of possibly al Qaeda terrorism in this holiday period -- Bob.

FRANKEN: David Ensor reminding us about uncertainties that could, among other things, have an effect on the election.

Improvements in the economy, however, have been a holiday blessing for President Bush and his re-election campaign. Still ahead, the poll numbers brightening Mr. Bush's end of the year celebrations.

Plus, 'tis the season for the '04 Democrats to sell books. But who's wining that competition?

Howard Dean campaign manager, Joe Trippi, on the candidate's controversial statements and misstatements.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FRANKEN: Christmas day is less than a half-hour away in Iraq. And earlier, President Bush called members of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan, Bosnia and aboard two U.S. military vessels. And the troops this Iraq got another Christmas morale boost, and that was a visit from David Letterman, the entertainer.

He also presented some of his sidekicks, who chatted with wounded soldiers at a combat hospital and met with troops at one of Saddam Hussein's ransacked palaces. He brought along also one of his signature lists: the top ten signs you've been in Iraq too long. And we particularly like number nine: "You've heard a crazy rumor that around Schwarzenegger is governor of California."

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FRANKEN: The State of Vermont has requested the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking to unseal records from Howard Dean's 11 years as governor. Dean sealed 145 boxes of documents that the legal watchdog group Judicial Watch filed to suit to make the records public. The state attorney general says that former Vermont governors have routinely sealed some of their documents on leaving office. And Dean has denied claims the documents might be political damaging.

Howard Dean's comments about the capture of Saddam Hussein and what some might call his imprecise campaign rhetoric have led to new lines of attack by Dean's party rivals. Judy spoke yesterday with Dean's campaign manager, Joe Trippi, who was in Des Moines, Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Joe Trippi, thank you very much for talking with us.

JOE TRIPPI, HOWARD DEAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Great to be here.

WOODRUFF: With the capture of Saddam Hussein, the president's poll ratings are up this week. And when you ask people -- there was a "Washington Post" poll, Joe Trippi, that asked people, on the domestic front, who do they have more confidence in on domestic issues, health care, education, Social Security? Compared to Howard Dean, 50 percent, the president, 39 percent your candidate.

How do you overcome that?

TRIPPI: Well the president is president of the United States, and most people know who he is. And he's at 50 percent. And as long as we've been out there, there's still a large group of Americans who don't know -- that really aren't focused on the presidential race on the Democratic side and don't know who Howard Dean is.

But where they know where he is, we're doing quite well. We're ahead in all of the national polls. We're going to continue to make this case. We're a year away.

We're not safer. You know, the people who are out there saying how safe we were right after Saddam got caught are now out there -- the same Democratic candidates are now talking about the orange alert being raised to level orange and talking about how the president hasn't made us safe. I mean, they keep changing where they are based on what the news events are.

Governor Dean has been opposed to this war from the beginning because we weren't focused on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, which is where we should have kept our focus. And we're not focused on homeland security, which we need to be focused on if we're going to secure our country.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, you also have polls this week, while we're at it, showing among Democrats more than half of them say they know hardly anything or nothing at all about your candidate, Howard Dean's, positions on the issues. Isn't that worrying to you at this stage?

TRIPPI: Again, I think ABC-"Washington Post" poll has us at 31 percent, and the rest of the field in single digits. We're making headway across this country, running a 50-state campaign. And people are just learning about us.

But the more they learn about us the better we do. And they learn about Governor Dean balancing 12 straight budgets, about delivering health care to children in state and prescription drug benefits for seniors, and all doing it while cutting the income tax twice in his state. So these are things the American people will learn despite all the attacks from the other candidates who have an interest in stopping us for their own political interests. Obviously, they're going to attack us.

WOODRUFF: Two other quick things. One is what's been described as the governor's imprecision with language, sometimes serious misstatements.

The latest, Joe Trippi, this questionnaire by the Quad-City, Iowa newspaper asking him about a family member involved in the military. He came back and referred to his brother, who was missing. His remains, of course, found in Laos.

What do you say to the newspaper who says this was not an accurate response by the governor?

TRIPPI: The governor has been very open about this. And frankly, he doesn't talk about it very much to anybody. I mean, the press has had a hard time getting him to talk about his brother. So there's no way he meant to mislead anybody about it.

It's just -- and this whole question about imprecise language, the governor says what he means. And I think people aren't really used to that. He does make mistakes, and he does. He apologizes for it and takes responsibility for it. That's totally different from all of the rest of the guys in this race.

WOODRUFF: The last thing I want to ask you about is this distribute, apparently, with retired General Wes Clark over whether Governor Dean offered him the running mate spot on the ticket if Governor Dean gets the nomination. I asked General Clark about this again yesterday. He was emphatic. He said it was clearly offered. So who's telling the truth here?

TRIPPI: Well, I read the transcript. It didn't sound like he said that at all. He sort of said that they talked something about it, but he really didn't put it on the dotted line. I mean, I was in -- the meeting I was in, the governor told the general repeatedly...

WOODRUFF: Well, he said it was a one-on-one meeting when it was offered.

TRIPPI: Well, again, it's unclear to me what the general's saying. The governor has made it clear that he did not make an offer for the vice presidency. The general, when you really press him on it, says, well, he didn't make an offer on the dotted line, but I knew what he meant kind of thing.

You know, frankly, I don't even understand why we're talking about this. We're both running for president of the United States. Who cares?

I mean, that's what we're running for. Let's go -- we're out there making our case. The general is making his. And we'll see who wins this thing. We're not going to take -- underestimate any of these candidacies, including the general.

WOODRUFF: A good note to end it on. Joe Trippi, Merry Christmas. And we'll see you in the new year.

TRIPPI: Happy holidays to you and everybody else. Thanks.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: And one of the rivals of Dean and Clark, John Edwards, is helping out some last-minute shoppers in North Carolina. Edwards signed copies of his book "Four Trials" at a store this morning in Raleigh. So we thought now it would be a good time to check in on how all of the presidential hopefuls' books are selling based on their rankings at amazon.com.

As of this afternoon, Howard Dean's book is out front, ranked at number 737. The books by John Edwards, Wesley Clark and Dennis Kucinich are next, all relatively close in their sales rank. Meanwhile, books by John Kerry, Al Sharpton and Joe Lieberman lag further behind.

The political battles haven't exactly gone away, but Washington, D.C. is doing its best to get people in the holiday spirit. And you'll see what we mean when INSIDE POLITICS returns

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FRANKEN: Well, it isn't quite as big a traditions as lighting the national Christmas tree, but for 18 years now, Christmastime in Washington has meant one thing: it's time for Santa to go water skiing on the Potomac. So, OK, the weather wasn't ideal today, but it rarely is in December. And at least Santa had plenty of company: knee boarding reindeer, flying elves, and even a jet skiing grinch.

In other sights and sounds here in Washington, and more in keeping with the traditional spirit this time of year, just look in the right places and things are pretty jazzy.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: He's riding high in the polls as the election year nears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know who has the highest job approval in December of any American president since 1972? George W. Bush.

ANNOUNCER: But are all the numbers adding up for the president?

Party bashing?

DEAN: We have to have the values of the Democratic Party, but in Washington, the culture is, say whatever it takes to get elected.

ANNOUNCER: Is Howard Dean ripping apart or saving the Democratic Party?

It's quiet on Capitol Hill right now, but that won't be the case next month. We'll take a look at some big fights that could break out when Congress comes back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

FRANKEN: Welcome back. I'm Bob Franken, sitting in for Judy today.

And President Bush has said over and over again that he doesn't pay attention to the polls. But we can't help but assume that he has at least passing knowledge of the recent upturn in his numbers, and that will help him ring in the new election year on a positive note.

Senior White House correspondent, John King, looks at the public opinion and the president as 2003 draws to a close.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's year-end polling numbers have Republicans more and more optimistic about next year's campaign.

BILL MCINTURFF, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: You know who has the highest job approval in December of any American president since 1972? George W. Bush.

KING: Sixty-three percent of Americans approve of how Mr. Bush is handling his job. Well above the ratings enjoyed by presidents Nixon, Reagan and Clinton heading into their successful re-election years. This President Bush also has significant advantages compared to where his father stood entering his re-election campaign back in 1992.

PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: He seemed more down to earth, in touch with the average person and his father was seen as somebody that was a little bit more aristocratic, who didn't understand grocery scanners and those things.

KING: The economy is usually the major factor in presidential politics. Nearly six in ten Americans say economic conditions are good but it is a somewhat nervous optimism.

HART: No. 1, it's a sense we've lost jobs. No. 2, it's the sense that those jobs are going overseas. And No. 3, it's a sense that we've gone from a surplus to a deficit.

KING: The capture of Saddam Hussein is shaping year-end views of the Iraq war. 61 percent of Americans say it was worth going to war. And 56 percent say the Iraq war made the United States safer. One weak spot for the president, many Americans don't accept his calling Iraq the central front of the war on terrorism.

MCINTURFF: The public view is, there's kind of, Osama bin Laden, cracking al Qaeda. And that is kind of the central war on terrorism. They see Iraq as being separate.

KING: This week's heightened terror alert also could stir up worries and political volatility.

HART: Everything that's happening out there says people are insecure and uncertain about what's ahead. They're looking for a certain amount of safety and a certain amount of regularity.

KING: A lot is likely to change by the time Republicans nominate the president for a second term here next summer. But Mr. Bush closes this year running well ahead of his democratic rivals and also well ahead of the Democrats when pollsters asked voters who they trust more on issues of national security.

John King, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: We haven't seen poll numbers on the subject, but our unscientific survey shows some moderate Democrats were irked when Howard Dean called the centrist DLC, the Democratic Leadership Congress Party, the Republican wing of the Democratic party. Al From who heads the DLC is quick to note that Dean has not won the nomination nor even any primary votes yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL FROM, DLC FOUNDER, CEO: I don't think the party as a whole is giving in to Governor Dean. Governor Dean has run a good campaign. He's obviously leading in a lot of the polls, particularly in the early states, and in New Hampshire, he's doing very well. But he is -- there are about 60 percent or 70 percent of the Democrats in most polls who still don't support him. Some of us have been raising issues, not just about Governor Dean but about the direction of the party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: So what is Dean's relationship with his party and its establishment? Let's talk about this with Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times" who's here with me in Washington and our senior political analyst Bill Schneider in Los Angeles. Ron, I'll start with you. You wrote a column about this today.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Yes. Governor Dean is now on an escalated level of conflict with the party centrists. It was sort of implicit, Bob, all year when he called himself the representative of the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

He was implying there was another wing of the Democratic party and last week he made that explicit when he said the Democratic Leadership Council which was the group that incubated many of the ideas central to Bill Clinton's presidency was the Republican wing of the Democratic party.

Now, Dean may see this, and I believe his camp does this as a way to energize his liberal base on the eve of the first votes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The risk he's got here is both creating a problem in unifying the party if he wins the nomination and also sending a signal to moderate and independent voters in the general election who might perceive him as too ideological, too extreme if he's abandoning the centricism associated with Clinton.

FRANKEN: And so, Bill Schneider, a subplot in the Democratic party right now is the battle to be the man who carries the anti-Dean banner?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. There's one issue that could stop Howard Dean and that is running against Howard Dean by saying, what, he can't win? That may not have much traction with primary voters who usually don't care about that all that much.

That he's a phony? That may be a hard way to start. His values. Can another Democrat challenge his values? Here's the important thing about Howard Dean. He says he represents the core values of the Democratic party, and he does. He's unlike John McCain's challenge to the Republican establishment in 2000.

John McCain seemed to challenge conservative values and the Republican establishment fought back and squashed him. But the Democratic establishment feels a little bit powerless here because Howard Dean is running on the values that most rank and file Democrats believe in, principally, anti-war and anti-Bush.

BROWNSTEIN: What's interesting about this, Bob, I think, there actually is a schizophrenia in the Democratic party. Clearly, over the last few months, big chunks of the Democratic establishment have moved to consolidate behind Howard Dean who started as the classic outsider insurgent.

Two of the biggest unions in the AFL-CIO, an increasing number of elected officials, especially black elected officials and of course Al Gore. On the other hand, as Dean makes comments like this, his speech last week, in which he seemed to criticize Bill Clinton, argued that he had given up too much ground to Republicans.

You see increasing anxiety at the same time among more moderate Democrats who worry that Dean simply is not going be able to compete in the general election if his focus is solely on stoking, energizing, and exciting the base, giving away too much ground in the center to George Bush.

So I think you have the Democratic party moving in two directions at once on the prospect of Howard Dean.

FRANKEN: And it sounds like many people would consider standard Democratic party. But, Bill, there are some who worry that the Democrats are in the process of forfeiting the election to George Bush.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, that's a big concern. You hear that out here in Hollywood, which is also part of the Democratic political establishment. People will come up to me and they'll say, "Do you think Dean can win? Do we have a sure loser here?"

The Dean movement is sort of impervious to all these criticisms. That's what's interesting about it. It's not part of the conventional political operation. It's a movement. The American politics has a history of working through coalition politics. But this is a movement. We've seen movements succeed in the past. Ronald Reagan led a political movement that succeeded, but he had a big advantage. A discredited incumbent in the form of Jimmy Carter whose presidency seemed to fail in 1980.

But the problem is can this movement succeed if George W. Bush is not discredited? You know, when he called the DLC, the Republican wing of the Democratic party, he actually had a point because the DLC, the Democratic Leadership Council's argument is, we have to play on the Republicans' playing field. They own the stadium. They run Congress. They run the White House. So if we're going to win, we have to play on their territory.

FRANKEN: I think I want to ask both of you to stay with us, if you would, please. We're going to talk more about the Democrats internal troubles in just a moment, and also ahead, the presidential hopefuls in the headline.

Howard Kurtz looks at their love/hate relationship with the media. Where's the love? And later, Christmas Eve reflections and we'll find the poetry in politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) FRANKEN: We continue with Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times," who's in Washington. And Bill Schneider of CNN Washington who's in Los Angeles. Go figure.

But it doesn't matter where you are, it seems to be that one of the most interesting questions of the campaign, Bill, is what has happened with John Kerry? The man started the year as the odds-on favorite. And now his campaign is in such trouble, he has to mortgage his house to keep it float.

SCHNEIDER: One word, Bob: Iraq. John Kerry might have been a very strong candidate if it were two years ago at the end of 2001 when Bush was riding high after the terrorist attacks, he very popular, even with Democrats.

Kerry has a great biography, including a heroic record of military service, he has stature, and he could have looked like the Democrat's George Bush.

But then something happened. It was called the war in Iraq. And that war caused a massive eruption of anger among rank and file Democrats. Something that Kerry didn't seem prepared to deal with. Howard Dean stepped out in front and expressed, he articulated that anger.

Timing is everything in politics and John Kerry just picked the wrong time. He didn't count on the Iraq war creating this huge wave of anti-Bush sentiment.

BROWNSTEIN: You know Kerry had his constituency stolen from under him, Bob. Historically the Democratic presidential has divided between what some people call the wine track and the beer track. There's usually a candidate who appears most to upscale, social liberals with college educations, and one who is more of a blue collar, non-college, lunch bucket candidate.

Kerry thought he was going to be the wine track candidate, the up-scale candidate, especially in New Hampshire. And Howard Dean came along and has proven to be a favorite of those people primarily because of the war but also because of other issues.

And now Kerry is really a man without a clear constituency. He does have more focus lately. He's thrown everything into Iowa, he's trying to get a good showing there that could slingshot him into New Hampshire.

The problem he's got is that if he can't show well in New Hampshire, it's hard to see how he fights on. And right now Howard Dean leads him by 20 to 25 points there.

FRANKEN: Well, and there are some columnists that are suggesting that John Kerry is now trying to go after the beer track by dropping "g"s at the end of his sentences and that type of thing.

It's been put a variety of ways, and we'll put it politely too. There were many people, Bill, who thought that John Kerry's problem would be the fact that this is somebody who is somewhat aloof, he's not really the traditional kind of candidate. Do you believe that that's been a factor?

SCHNEIDER: I think it has. He's had a difficult time connecting with a lot ordinary voters which means what Ron just described, his efforts to transform himself into a populist are going to be just as ungainly and unsuccessful, I should add, as Howard Dean's efforts to after the guys with Confederate flag decals in their pickup trucks.

Never try to be something you're not. Jimmy Carter found out when he talked about lusting in his heart after women in that famous "Playboy" interview. That's the worst thing a politician can do.

You know a student once wrote to former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli a century ago and said, "If I want to go into public life, Prime Minister, what should I know?" And the prime minister wrote back, "There are only two things to enter public life. One is, know yourself, and the other is, know your times." That's still very good advice.

FRANKEN: So it raises the question, Ron, what does John Kerry have to do to stay in the race and what will knock him out of the race?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, John Kerry needs a strong showing in Iowa, as I said, that would give him some momentum in New Hampshire. He can't really see a scenario where he's a viable candidate after New Hampshire unless he comes in very close to Howard Dean.

Bob, everybody's got the same problem right now. I mean you have the potential for Howard Dean to win Iowa and New Hampshire. If Dick Gephardt comes in second in Iowa he would be fatally weakened. And John Kerry would be suppressed by coming in third.

If John Kerry in second in New Hampshire he'd be fatally weakened and Wes Clark and John Edwards would be suppressed by coming in behind him.

If no one can emerge as a surprise second, and Howard Dean wins both, it may be very hard for anyone to generate momentum against him.

FRANKEN: And, Bill, doesn't Howard Dean have the problem that he has to do a strong first or else the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) works against him?

SCHNEIDER: Well, sure. The expectations game is going on right now. And I think in New Hampshire he clearly he has to show up very strongly. That's supposed to be his state.

But all the other candidates have very much the same problem. They have to figure out how to run as the alternative to Howard Dean. The question is, the most effective way to do that is challenge Dean's views. But the problem is those are the views that most Democrats, particularly those who participate in primaries and caucuses, hold: anti-Bush, anti-war. Those are the views of most Democrats.

So it's a gold mine that Dean has tapped into.

BROWNSTEIN: Very quickly, the only way, perhaps, to beat Howard Dean is not to peel away his voters, it's to mobilize an alternative constituency. It's really to find another part of the party, probably a non-college, blue collar part of the party that isn't as attracted to him and consolidate them because you're not going to get away the Dean supporter from him now.

FRANKEN: Ron Brownstein here in Washington. Bill Schneider in L.A. Thank you very much.

You know, political candidates in both parties often agree on at least one issue. And that's a strong dislike of the media. At least much of the time. Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" has more on that love and hate relationship candidates often have for the people who cover them. and the media who cover them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (voice-over): Politicians love a good headline. And Dick Gephardt is no exception. So when "The Washington Post" interviewed some Republicans who said the congressman would be the strongest candidate against President Bush, it turned up in a campaign ad as an undisputed fact.

AD ANNOUNCER: Dick Gephardt is the Democrat Republicans fear most.

KURTZ: But Howard Dean doesn't have warm and fuzzy feeling for the "Post" these days. After a front-page piece in my paper accused him of a series of untrue and misleading statements, Dean said that voters can believe him or believe "The Washington Post."

And when a "Post" editorial slammed his foreign policy views as "out of the mainstream," the former Vermont governor demanded equal time. He fired off an op-ed piece saying the "Post", quote, "badly misrepresents" his views.

John Edwards, whose campaign hasn't gotten rave reviews from the press was quick to seize on a favorable mention.

AD ANNOUNCER: Perhaps the most detailed and coherent domestic agenda of any of the candidates.

KURTZ: Who says so? A single writer for "The New Republic."

There's a bit of a love/hate relationship here. The first President Bush complained talked about nutty talking heads and had those bummer sticker.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FRM. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fastest selling bumper sticker in America!

KURTZ: "Annoy the media, re-elect Bush."

ROSS PEROT, FRM. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you can dish it out, you ought to be able to take it.

KURTZ: Ross Perot called reporters jerks and teenage boys. Bill Clinton used newspaper headlines to attack his primary rival Jerry Brown. But once in office, he carped about the knee-jerk liberal press.

When Oliver North ran for the Senate, he mocked what he called "The Washington Compost."

The current president says he doesn't even newspapers, relying instead on Andy Card and Condoleezza Rice for his daily fill.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I get my news from people who don't editorialize. They give me the actual news. And it makes it easier to digest on a daily basis the facts.

KURTZ: Now Dean who got such glowing coverage when he was surging to the head of the pack is battered by headlines like this one in "The New York Times." "Some Democrats Uneasy About Dean as Nominee."

(on camera): Dean is already running against Washington. Maybe now he'll start running against the Washington press corps. That always gets the activists revved up. Nobody loves the press these days anyway. Except for candidates who discover a new-found respect for journalistic brilliance when a newspaper says something nice about them.

This is Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: Doesn't happen often.

A quick check now of today's second edition of "Campaign News Daily."

Democrat Dennis Kucinich has reached a campaign milestone. Kucinich is qualified for federal matching funds which mean he will receive a federal match of any donation up to $250 per contributor.

Well the Green Party may not have Ralph Nader this time around but want everyone no know there will be a Green Party candidate. Among the six hopefuls seeking that party's nomination is Peter Camejo who represented the Greens unsuccessfully in the California recall election. The Green Party convention, in case you want to put it on your calender, will be held in Milwaukee in June.

And it may be Christmas Eve, but Bob Novak is still picking up plenty of "Inside Buzz" about what may happen on Capitol Hill once the holidays are over, and Bob will fill us in, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FRANKEN: Now we're joined by Bob Novak. You have the "Inside Buzz." One of the things I'm finding interesting, as you know, is Capitol Hill. Usually the beginning of Congress, particularly the Senate, is very quiet affair. Not so?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Not so. They get back on January 20, and Majority Leader Bill Frist starts with a bang. He is sending out the word to the boys and girls that they're going to have a closure vote on the omnibus appropriations bill requiring 60 votes to pass it. 2:00 on that very afternoon they get in, now that's a really risky venture. If they don't get closure, how are they going to pass that bill then? And they run out of authorization for spending January 27. So the Congress starts, gets back with a mini crisis.

FRANKEN: Isn't the problem for him the fact that people on both sides...

NOVAK: Exactly.

FRANKEN: ... have problems with that bill?

NOVAK: Including John McCain who doesn't like all the pork in it.

FRANKEN: Now one of the favorite whipping boys of the Democrats. That's John Ashcroft. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary, is asking Ashcroft recuse himself from the Texas redirecting case.

NOVAK: Yes he sent a letter in the spirit of Christmas two day ago to Ashcroft, demanding, demanding that he disqualify himself. He said that he was risking the reputation of the Justice Department and the Voting Rights Act by staying involved in this, since this is -- this Texas redistricting discriminates against blacks and Hispanics.

This is a part of the racial disenfranchisement campaign by the Democrats that they started with Florida. They're going to continue to try to build up the minority vote in next year's campaign.

FRANKEN: Of course, that's one of the fundamental issues involved in any redistricting.

Moving states. Now we move to Louisiana and John Breaux, who's not going to run for reelection. There was some concern that what he was doing in this increasingly Republican state was turning it over to the other party. He doesn't think so.

NOVAK: He has assured people had would never get out if it weren't for the fact that he wasn't sure his protege, Chris John, Congressman Chris John, was a little more conservative than he is, would be able to win.

But that's not a sure thing. Even though no Republican has won a Senate seat from Louisiana since reconstruction, they have a good candidate this year, David Vitter. The important thing is this time George Bush will be on top of the ticket.

FRANKEN: One thing, I want to make sure we get this in. Bill Daley (sic) endorses Controller Dan Hynes in the Illinois Senate. Tell us about that.

NOVAK: He was in town the other day, the former secretary of commerce, former Gore campaign manager. They had a $1,000 a plate fund raiser at Morton's of Chicago restaurant here in Washington.

Now what's interesting about that is this is a signal that the Daley political organization is for Dan Hynes in a crowded Democratic primary field. Even though the mayor, Richard Daley is not going to endorse anybody. This is considered a probable Democratic takeover from Senator Fitzgerald who's not running.

FRANKEN: The more things change in Illinois, the more they stay the same. Bob Novak, thank you very much.

We have to move along now with our information about Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman who is off the campaign trail until Sunday when he returns to New Hampshire. But today he took time out to help here in Washington. Lieberman and his wife Hadassah spent the morning serving meals at a homeless shelter. He refused to talk politics, describing his help as a human response to a human need.

And Christmas is the only time of the year that the greatest, over-arching reality in politics doesn't come into play -- or does it? Coming up, reflections and rhyme about the driving force of the political life, no matter whether you're a Republican or a Democrat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FRANKEN: Well, it's Christmas Eve when politicians, their staffs and even political reporters get to spend a little down time. The really amazing thing about all of this is that nobody had to take a poll first.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN (voice-over): You better watch out, better not try -- to campaign today. I'm tell you why. It simply doesn't play well had the polls.

Can't even be mean to the front-runner Dean. It will probably be seen as Yuletide obscene, which simply doesn't play well in the polls.

That goes for Wesley Clark. The talks which he insisted, spoke about vice president and Clark said...

WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not interested.

FRANKEN: But you better watch out, you can't about louse, not even take shot about Kerry's house. It simply doesn't play well in the polls.

They'll be time for that, the political show, for taking those shots at the way Dean says...

DEAN: No.

FRANKEN: But now it doesn't play well in the polls.

So keep those issues simmering. They'll work well in a pinch. But wait be in the 26th, or you'll come off as a Grinch.

Even President Bush fends leave him alone. Don't trash him today, your advisers will say. It simply doesn't play well in the polls.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: Proving once and for all that poetry and politics rarely mix.

Thank you, that's it from INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Bob Franken.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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