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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Southern Stakes; Interview With Ed Gillespie
Aired February 10, 2004 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where is Elvis up here? Oh, there he is.
ANNOUNCER: John Kerry on the King's turf, hoping to rock today's votes in Tennessee and Virginia.
CROWD: Go, John, go!
ANNOUNCER: Sons of the South duke it out to be the Kerry alternative. But will they find themselves singing the blues tonight?
It's enough to make a cheese head spin. We'll have the latest on Howard Dean's ever-changing Wisconsin strategy.
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not going to be the end of the line.
ANNOUNCER: Is the proof in payroll records? A new move to answer questions about the president's National Guard service.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from CNN election headquarters in Atlanta, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: And thank you for joining us for this special 90-minute edition of INSIDE POLITICS.
You know, you could write a book about all the reasons the South is such an important region politically. And more than a few people have. But today's Democratic presidential primaries in Tennessee and Virginia boil down in large part to this: How well do Southerners respond to front-runner and New Englander John Kerry. And if native sons John Edwards and Wesley Clark can't win here, can their campaigns survive much longer?
Then, of course, there are the 151 delegates up for grabs, 69 in Tennessee and 82 in Virginia. Our correspondents are covering the candidate in today's showdown states and a battleground ahead.
First up this hour, the Kerry campaign.
CNN's Kelly Wallace is with the candidate in Fairfax, Virginia -- hello, Kelly.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Judy.
Well, asked about his chances tonight, John Kerry told reporters earlier he is -- quote -- "always hopeful." But senator and his aides do believe that two victories today definitely possible, in light of all the momentum behind this candidate, after winning 10 of the first 12 presidential contests.
The senator, though, appeared to not want to make any news today, because, earlier today, he was in Memphis, Tennessee. There, he was asked, just as he was asked here when he got here to Fairfax, Virginia, about the release of these documents by the White House to try to pet to rest any questions about President Bush's National Guard service during the Vietnam War.
The senator said earlier today and again here in Virginia that he's not going to comment on it. He says he hasn't seen the records and, therefore, he can't comment. He says it's not an issue that he has created. Of course, on Sunday, after President Bush's interview, he did say that, just because President Bush received an honorable discharge does not answer questions about whether he showed up for duty, as he was supposed to do.
So, instead of talking about controversy, the senator seeming to want to talk about today's contests in Tennessee and Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Every state is important. I've made extra strops everywhere all the time. You know, I don't think you take anything for granted ever. And you've just got to keep working and trying to reach out and ask for every vote you can get. And that's the way I think everybody who has been with me knows that's the way I campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Of course, if he wins in Tennessee and in Virginia, he could do two things, No. 1, prove that he can win in the South, but, also, he could knock one of his Southern opponents in the race.
Once we got here in Virginia, we asked the senator if he thinks, at some point, the Democrat should coalesce around one candidate. He said, it's not appropriate for him to give advice. He says, Judy, each candidate has to make this kind of decision for him or herself -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: The politically diplomatic answer. All right, Kelly, thanks very much.
Well, John Edwards says he hopes to finish in the top two tonight. He has already moved on to Wisconsin, which holds its primary next Tuesday.
Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is with the Edwards camp. She's already in Milwaukee -- Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, John Edwards prepared to leave within the hour and head here to Wisconsin, which tells you that he's moving on.
Obviously, they will be watching the poll numbers. But you're right. Over the past couple of days, what John Edwards has said is, a couple of strong seconds. You know, and that was not what he was looking for, but he thought that would be good enough to move him on.
Just some brief Edwards' sightings this morning at a poll, where he greeted some voters and some supporters right across the bridge from his home in Georgetown. So, we haven't seen much of him today. He has done some radio call-in interviews from his home here into Wisconsin. So this is a campaign that's planning on moving ahead, no matter what those results show. We already have two Edwards ads that we are told are going up on the air here in Wisconsin today.
But what they're trying to do here, Judy, is to, again, get it down to a two-man race, John Kerry vs. John Edwards. They talk already about California. In fact, Edwards is leaving for California later this week. He will do some fund-raisers there. He will do some events there. He will appear on "Jay Leno" there. So this is a campaign moving ahead on many fronts, and, in fact, as we mentioned, coming here to Wisconsin right about the time the polls close.
So a couple of seconds, and they think he's good to go. But, as you know, they will be reading those results very carefully, Judy, because we are coming down to crunch time. The Edwards' campaign says, look, we're getting matching funds. We've got plenty of money to keep going. And, certainly, they have their eyes on March 2 and Super Tuesday -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And, Candy, again, what is the rationale for going ahead if he doesn't win either state tonight?
CROWLEY: Well, the rationale is that, at some point, this race comes down to two people. They believe that John Edwards has not -- I'm sorry, that John Kerry has not been scrutinized in the way Howard Dean was.
They believe that, under the hot lights, Kerry will lose some of that sheen of front-runner. They believe that, when given a direct choice between John Kerry and someone else, that, in fact, they'll come off, because John Kerry -- John Edwards is someone who wears well. I have to add, though, that's always been Howard Dean's rationale as well for going on. So when everybody says they want a two-man race, they're talking about a different two men. The constant there is John Kerry.
WOODRUFF: Yes, we've noticed. He seems to be in every one of these
WOODRUFF: OK. Candy, thanks very much, in Milwaukee.
And now we move to Tennessee, where Wesley Clark will be watching the returns come in tonight.
CNN's Dan Lothian covering the Clark campaign.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Retired General Wesley Clark is hope for an upset in his backyard. Down in the polls not only here in Tennessee, but also Virginia, retired General Clark is spending primary day reaching out to voters. He says he needs to win here in Tennessee.
He began his day with interviews on two local radio stations and tried to get to the hearts of voters through their stomachs, handing out doughnuts at a Nashville intersection. We visited several polling stations and Clark also worked the phones at his national headquarters, targeting undecided voters.
(voice-over): At a rally in Nashville Monday night, Clark urged voters not to be influenced by the polls and the front-runner's momentum.
WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't put much stock in polls.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CLARK: It's really up to the voters of Tennessee to make their own decisions, not to have the decisions made by people in other states. It's really up to the people in Tennessee to think about what they want.
LOTHIAN (on camera): Clark has said he plans to continue going, even if he doesn't win here in Tennessee. But having already asked some 250 staffers to give up their paychecks for a week, many believe it will be difficult for him to keep going if he doesn't win.
Dan Lothian, CNN, Nashville.
WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Howard Dean still is working to make headway in Wisconsin, while essentially skipping the contests in Virginia and Tennessee. Today, Dean urged Wisconsin Democrats to vote for an outsider next Tuesday, rather than what he called a Washington fixture, an obvious jab at front-runner Kerry, this a day after Dean backed off from his previous contention that Wisconsin's primary would be do or die.
We'll have a report on Dean and new Wisconsin poll numbers just ahead.
Join me and the rest of the CNN election team tonight for up-to- the-minute primary coverage and results. It all begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern with a special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360" and continues throughout our prime time lineup. Then, at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, a special "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" on the vote and what it means for the race. Well, the Bush White House today is trying to get rid of an election-year headache, questions, renewed by Democrats, about the president's military service.
Let's check in now with our White House correspondent Dana Bash -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, what we saw here today at the White House was a good old-fashioned White House document dump to try to do exactly what you said, to try to really counter the Democrats' charges from the past couple of weeks that the president didn't show up for all of his time in the National Guard during the Vietnam War.
Now, this is an issue -- the issue here is really between 1972 and 1973. The president was in the Texas Air National Guard. But, at that point, he was serving in Alabama while working on a political campaign. Now, what they released today here are a number of things. First of all, point summaries from the National Guard, saying that he logged enough time to fulfill his duty, but also some new payroll documents that the White House got just yesterday, they said, from someplace in Colorado, where they store all these things.
The White House spokesmen, Scott McClellan, said that these new documents should put this issue to rest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These documents show that he fulfilled his duties. These documents show that he met his requirements.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, what they put out was a list of dates between 1972 and 1973, dates they say the president got paid for serving in the National Guard for those particular days they say that he served, but wouldn't actually describe or define what serving meant.
Now, it's important to point out that there were some gap in those dates. But if you take a look at this, this is what they put out. It's microfiche from the center in Colorado. They got this. It's very difficult to read and to sort of verify, even to see how much the president actually got paid for these days.
Now, what the White House is not answering -- and, really, Scott McClellan today answered for more than 30 minutes reporters' questions on this -- they can't say why exactly some of the president's commanders during the time -- or in the past four years, really, have been quoted as saying that they don't recall him showing up, they don't recall seeing him there. And, also, they are not saying here why they put out paper as opposed to really coming out with some people who served with the president and remembered him during that time.
Now, to all of these questions, to people who might be asking these questions still, Scott McClellan said, it's all politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCLELLAN: The president was proud of his service in the National Guard. He fulfilled his duties. He was honorably discharged. I think there are some that we're now seeing are not interested in the facts. What they are interested in is trying to twist the facts for partisan, political advantage in an election year. And that's unfortunate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, the White House aides that we've talked to really are making it clear, Judy, that what they are trying to do is to try to end this controversy now, particularly as they look forward to see that they might have a Vietnam veteran, a decorated one at that, as their opponent, potentially, coming through this election year -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Dana, thanks very much, a pretty unusual day at the White House. And, in fact, I'm going to be talking in a few minutes with the chairman of the national Republican Party, asking him some about this. We know he's going to want to weigh in on the Bush campaign and the president's military service as well.
Plus, Virginia and Tennessee voters have their say. We'll get the first read on our exit polls this day.
The running mate guessing game already is under way. I'll ask a top Democrat if he hopes to be on John Kerry's short list, if John Kerry is the nominee.
And later, Al Gore unplugged. What is all the shouting really about?
WOODRUFF: As we reported earlier, the White House has today released records intended to back up President Bush's assertion that he fulfilled his duty as a member of the Air National Guard during the war in Vietnam.
With us now from Washington, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie.
Ed, thank you very much for being with us.
ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: You bet, Judy. Thanks for having me.
WOODRUFF: All right, the White House put out these records today, which include, among other things, pay records and annual so- called retirement point summaries.
But, we are told, there's still no paper evidence or human evidence, if you will, people who served with President Bush who have come forward to document the fact that he actually showed up for duty in Alabama during that period between 1972 and '73. So my question to you is, is this still an open question?
Look, the president -- you know, this question came up. The Democrats said the president was a deserted. The Clark campaign said he was a deserter, which, by the way, is a treasonous offense punishable by death. And then the chairman of the Democratic national party came out and said the president was AWOL. It's clear that he wasn't AWOL. His records make clear that he was never AWOL and was honorably discharged.
People say, well, show us the pay stubs. And they were able to produce the pay stubs. And they're there to document that he served his time and fulfilled his obligation and got his points. But, look, Judy, this is what we're going to see. The Democrats do not want to talk about the issues. And they've managed now for a couple of days to distract from Senator Kerry's long record in the Senate of voting to weaken our national security, voting against the policies that enabled us to win the Cold War, voting against the first Gulf War, voting to cut intelligence funding by $1.5 billion at a time when the terrorists were attacking Khobar Towers and the USS Cole and the embassies in East Africa.
And I'm afraid that we're just going to hear more of this, because they're going to engage, it's clear now, in an incredibly dirty campaign.
GILLESPIE: The chairman of the Democratic Party said the president is guilty of a felony, he said, on your air, by the way, on CNN. It's just flat wrong. But that's the kind of thing I suspect we will hear.
WOODRUFF: And we're giving you a chance, of course, to come back and give your side of it, and the president's had a chance.
GILLESPIE: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: My question still is, are there individuals who will come forward or is this -- does this end all the questions, as far as you're concerned?
I don't know about individual people saying -- well, this one general says, I don't remember seeing President Bush there. He then came out in "The Washington Post" the next day and said, wait a second, I don't remember not seeing him there either. It was 31 years ago. The fact is that you're paid for the times you show up to do your duty. And people said, produce the pay stubs. The pay stubs have been produced.
(CROSSTALK) WOODRUFF: I want to quickly, though, ask you about something we read in "The Washington Post" today. Columnist Richard Cohen, an acknowledged Democrat, a liberal, wrote today that he said, the National Guard was so disorganized back in those days that he was even paid for meetings that he did not attend. What does that say about these records?
GILLESPIE: You know, again, I think it's clear that the Democrats are going to say anything.
You know, they said, well, produce the records. The records get produced. Now they say, well, the records don't mean anything. This is desperation. But it is not uncommon. And we've seen out of the Democratic side for some time, these vicious personal attacks that, frankly, would be slanderous under ordinary circumstances. Nobody is going to sue Terry McAuliffe for slander.
But the fact is, Judy, when I say something as chairman of a national party, I have an obligation to have some accuracy with it.
WOODRUFF: I hear you.
GILLESPIE: I can document to you the votes that I just cited in terms of Senator Kerry's record.
This is the kind of dirty politics. You can't just make things up and accuse someone of committing a felony or accuse someone of treason, as they have done.
WOODRUFF: We're going to talking to Terry McAuliffe again tomorrow. And I want to pose to him exactly what you said.
But I do want to also ask you, Ed Gillespie, about the economic report to Congress the White House issued yesterday. Among other things, it predicted that there will be 2.6 million jobs created in the United States this year. Do you stand by that number?
GILLESPIE: Well, I'm not an economist, Judy. I was lucky to get out of college.
GILLESPIE: But the fact is, if you look at the growth rates that we're seeing now, 8.2 percent in the third quarter, somewhere between 4 and 5 percent for the fourth quarter, job creation of over 100,000 jobs for the last month, for which data are available, the fact is, we are seeing job creation take place in the economy.
And projections, the White House forecast, as I understand it, was below the blue chip and below other forecasts for economic growth. So I do believe we are seeing the benefits of the president's policies play out in our economy right now. And those benefits would be reversed if we were to raise taxes on the economy, when we're trying to foster job creation, as all the Democrats propose. WOODRUFF: I hear you. I was just going to say, there's one other part of that report which has attracted some attention. In it, the president's economic advisers praise the so-called outsourcing of jobs to other countries, in other words, exporting jobs overseas. Is this going to be a message that the president campaigns on?
GILLESPIE: Well, you know, I don't know that they praised it, so much as acknowledged that this is going on in the economy. And it is going on in the economy.
But, at the same time, we are creating jobs here as well. So I haven't had a chance to read the report. But the fact is that job creation is a critically important issue. The president's policies, his six-point plan to foster economic growth, everything he's doing every day to make sure every American who wants a job can find a job are critically important. And there are policy differences here between what the Democrats would do and what the president seeks to do.
And we're anxious to talk about these things.
WOODRUFF: Ed Gillespie, happy to speak up for his party -- Ed, thank you very much.
GILLESPIE: Always. Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Great to see you. We appreciate you stopping by. Thanks.
GILLESPIE: My pleasure.
WOODRUFF: Well, Al Gore did not enter the '04 presidential race, but he isn't staying away from the campaign. Coming up, a look at the former vice president's tactics and his timing.
And next, Bill Schneider looks at the Southern strategy of John Edwards and Wesley Clark. How will it play after today?
WOODRUFF: In today's primaries in Tennessee and Virginia, John Edwards and Wesley Clark are facing off on familiar turf. They are both sons of the South. But will their ties to the region translate into votes? And what if John Kerry sweeps both contests?
Here's CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The big issue in this campaign is electability. So far, John Kerry has won everywhere except the South. So Wesley Clark and John Edwards are making this pitch: A Democrat can't win without the South, which is the only place they've won.
CLARK: No Democrat has won the presidency in the last 40 years unless they did carry some states in the South.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Democrats have never elected a president who didn't win at least five Southern states.
SCHNEIDER: Each says, I can win the South; a Massachusetts liberal like Kerry can't.
CLARK: He's a good man, John Kerry, but he said that a Democrat doesn't have to win the South.
SCHNEIDER: Therefore, the argument goes, I am Mr. Electable.
EDWARDS: The South is not George Bush's backyard. It is my backyard. And I will beat George Bush in my backyard.
SCHNEIDER: That argument will instantly be deflated if Kerry wins Tennessee and Virginia today. What then for Edwards and Clark? Then, there's a battle between the two of them for second place.
EDWARDS: I'd like to be in the two top two in both places.
SCHNEIDER: Suppose Clark and Edwards together get more votes than Kerry. Then, whichever of them comes in second can say, if the other guys get out, I can take Kerry. Right now, each of them is fighting for the chance to go one-on-one with Kerry.
EDWARDS: It's a war of attrition. It's about narrowing the field down to two, which I think we're close to now.
SCHNEIDER: Clark and Edwards are not the only ones playing that game. Howard Dean is trying to turn next week's Wisconsin primary into a one-on-one race with Kerry, not if Edwards can help it.
EDWARDS: Wisconsin is part of this nomination process. And we are competing hard there.
SCHNEIDER: Each man claims he'll stay in until he gets his one- on-one shot at Kerry, even Dean, who once said he would get out if he lost Wisconsin.
QUESTION: Would you drop out of this campaign if there is not a win in Wisconsin?
QUESTION: You will stay in it?
SCHNEIDER: It's a game of chicken. Each main candidate, Dean, Edwards and Clark, is trying to muscle the others out, so he can have Kerry all to himself. But Kerry's not playing that game. He just continues to pile up delegates, because happiness in politics is a divided opposition.
WOODRUFF: It certainly is.
WOODRUFF: It means, you just can't get there from here, as long as you're divided.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. Exactly.
WOODRUFF: OK, Bill, thank you very much. We'll see a lot of you later on.
Well, another Southern Democrat has been making headlines lately. Al Gore has a reputation of being a somewhat stiff and cautious speaker. However, that does not describe some of his recent comments or his delivery.
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He betrayed this country! He played on our fears!
WOODRUFF (voice-over): Al Gore unleashed. The former vice president has come into his alpha male own, running a shadow grudge match against the man who sent him back to the private sector four years ago.
First, Gore opened his own front in the '04 war, attacking George W. Bush in an unusual series of speeches, the most recent, a thundering denunciation of the war in Iraq.
GORE: I think there were millions just like me who genuinely, in spite of whatever partisanship they may have felt prior to that time, genuinely felt like they wanted George W. Bush to lead all of us in America wisely and well.
WOODRUFF: The talks, fueled by a passion some said they didn't see enough of in his own presidential run made a splash, connecting with angry Democrats across the country. It seemed natural that the former vice president would embrace the angriest Democrat of them all.
GORE: I'm here because I believe that this Howard Dean campaign offers America the best chance to prove the cynics and the pessimists wrong.
WOODRUFF: Gore's endorsement of Dean went a long way toward establishing the campaign's credibility. But it also turned the outsider candidate into an insider, which hurt Dean in the long run. Many trace the beginning of his steady decline to the day Gore joined the team.
GORE: Well, I want to say just a few words.
WOODRUFF: All of which leaves Gore in an awkward position. Did he embrace the right message, but the wrong messenger, leaving himself in limbo again, at least for the time being?
WOODRUFF: We'll be hearing more from Al Gore, I'm sure, in the days and weeks to come.
Well, Howard Dean is nowhere to be seen in Tennessee or Virginia today. Coming up, the latest from Dean's campaign in what he once called the must-win state of Wisconsin.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back to our special 90-minute primary day edition of INSIDE POLITICS.
Well, with party loyalists in Virginia and Tennessee heading to the polls, the two native southerners in this race are battling to emerge as the primary challenger to front-runner John Kerry. While Kerry looks to add to his 10 victories so far, Arkansas native Wesley Clark has been stressing his southern roots and hoping that a strong showing will prove to voters and potential voters that he remains a viable candidate.
John Edwards is also under pressure to pull out a victory. Both of today's contests border his home state of North Carolina.
One-time front-runner Howard Dean has all but conceded today's contest. He's focusing all of his time and energy right now on winning Wisconsin, which holds its primary a week from today.
A New poll indicates that Dean faces a formidable challenge. John Kerry is leading in the latest Wisconsin survey, with 45 percent of the vote. Dean is in third place, more than 30 points behind.
For more now on the Dean campaign, CNN's Joe Johns joins me by telephone from La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Joe, what's up with the Dean campaign right now?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, it's been another day of stumping in Wisconsin for Howard Dean. He went to a school in Superior, Wisconsin, this morning, taking a tour of a huge new middle school there, giving a speech to a crowd of hundreds of people. Both students and adults in attendants. And he came here to La Crosse, Wisconsin, taking another tour, giving remarks in a couple of science classes, a geography class, a course class. He's taking questions at both stops along the way.
Now, on the issue of the super delegates, three super delegates have told CNN that they are withdrawing support of Dean at the convention. As you know, super delegates are generally people who old special positions in the party, either are elected to offices or high- ranking party positions.
So far, the campaign has told us it has no knowledge of super delegates saying they will not support Dean. And our reporting indicates -- we're talking about a state Senator in Illinois and two DNC members from Washington State and New Jersey. All of this, as you know, comes one day after Dean announced he's not getting out of the race, reversing himself from last week's campaign e-mail that said anything less than winning Wisconsin could put him out of the race -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right. Joe Joins reporting for us from La Crosse, Wisconsin. Again, Joe saying that the Dean campaign having no evidence that the super delegates are leaving Howard Dean, but some of CNN's reporting indicating that at least some of them are saying they are abandoning him and turning to other candidates.
We'll have more on that later.
A little time ago -- a little why ago, I discussed next week's Wisconsin primary with the state's Democratic governor, Jim Doyle. I started by asking him if today's results in Virginia and Tennessee will have an impact, or if his states' voters will take a new look at the race.
GOV. JIM DOYLE (D), WISCONSIN: I think they'll be taking their own fresh look. Although, there's little doubt that the momentum that's sweeping the country is true here in Wisconsin. Recent polls seem to suggest that the kinds of leads that Senator Kerry has in other states are similar here in Wisconsin.
But on the other hand. I guess we pride ourselves here that we're independent. We like to think that our primary is being rightfully restored to its preeminent place. And I think voters will take it very seriously.
WOODRUFF: Well, what do you think voters in Wisconsin are looking for? And are they hearing this from the candidates?
DOYLE: I think there's no doubt that the overriding concern here is jobs and the economy. We are an industrial state that's lost a lot of jobs to China, and our people are really look for a vision of where the economy of this state and country are going to be going and the national policy that's directed at creating good-paying jobs. And I think they are getting it from the Democratic candidates. I think that's why you see this surge of enthusiasm among Democrats about their chances of winning this election.
WOODRUFF: Governor Doyle, we've seen other Democratic governors endorsing -- primarily, we've seen them endorsing John Kerry just before the dates of their own primaries. Will you be endorsing before next Tuesday?
DOYLE: I don't have any plan to. My -- I have -- I think I would be very happy to support any one of the leading Democratic contenders here. My one concern that I hope that I can see happen in Wisconsin is that this is not a negative primary.
I think the primary's good for the Democratic candidates as long as they don't spend time ripping each other apart. And that's the one time that I might have to step in. But otherwise, I think the voters of Wisconsin will decide who the -- where our delegates are going to go at the Democratic Convention.
WOODRUFF: So you rule out an endorsement before Tuesday?
DOYLE: I haven't ruled it out absolutely, but I think it's very unlikely that I would endorse before Tuesday.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about Senator Edwards and General Clark. It's pretty clear that you're going to have John Kerry and Howard Dean competing. But if Edwards and Clark, if either one of them does not do well in today's primaries, do you think they should go on with their campaigns?
DOYLE: They have -- both of them have strong groups of supporters here in Wisconsin who I think would be very disappointed if they didn't. I'm in no position to look at what their budgets look like and how they go on from -- you know, if they do lose today, how they go on. I don't have any way of knowing.
I do know that each of them has supporters in this state, has a pretty good organization in this state. And I think there would be some disappointed people if they weren't participating in the Wisconsin primary.
WOODRUFF: Well, Howard Dean, for his part, has announce that whether he wins Wisconsin or not, he's now decided that he's staying in the race at least until March 2, Super Tuesday, when you've got a huge number of delegates up for grabs. Is that a wise strategy on his part?
DOYLE: Well, again, it's up for him to make that strategy. Although, it's certainly quite a reversal. I mean, he has been telling the voters of Wisconsin this is it, this is the moment, they're the ones that are going to decide whether he is going to go on.
And he's been very clear on that. He's raised money based on that. And just yesterday in Wisconsin announced that that isn't quite accurate, that he is going to go on no matter what.
I don't know. I do think the picture will look very different after the Tennessee and Virginia tonight and Wisconsin on Tuesday. I would think following it, if Senator Kerry does win big here, it's going to be very hard for people to go on.
WOODRUFF: Governor Doyle, one of the comments that Governor Dean made yesterday was that it would be a mistake for the Democrats to end this contest too early. He said John Kerry hasn't really been vetted, this has all happened so fast.
Would you agree with him, that if this contest ends in a week or two, that John Kerry won't have been thoroughly scrubbed, if you will, by the public and by the media? DOYLE: Well, I think he's been pretty well scrubbed. There's been just an incredible intense focus on him in recent weeks, and he's stood up very well in it. I do think that -- I do like the idea of a good competitive Democratic primary season, but I think at the time that it's pretty clear where the nomination is going to go, it's best for all of us Democrats to get behind that and to move forward with -- to the real target, which is to win the White House in November.
WOODRUFF: Governor James Doyle of Wisconsin. His state votes next Tuesday.
Well, the candidate who's made winning Wisconsin his number one goal leads the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily." Howard Dean's former campaign manager is speaking out about Dean's rise and fall and the supporter who helped to make Dean a contender.
Joe Trippi told an audience of technology executives that, contrary to some reports, his work for the Dean campaign did not make him rich. In fact, he says it cost him money. Trippi also said that if Dean loses, the campaign's list of 600,000 e-mail subscribers should not automatically go to the Democratic nominee. "I'm not sure I would turn it over to the nominee because I don't believe the nominee has a relationship with these people." "I think the relationship is between Howard Dean and that individual."
Past highs between the League of Conservation Voters and John Kerry's wife are receiving new attention. They conservation group acknowledges that the Heinz family foundation headed by Teresa Heinz- Kerry donated more than $57,000 between 1993 and 2001. Mrs. Kerry also made a personal donation of $2,500 herself.
The League of Conservation Voters tells CNN that the money went to its policy arm, not its political entity. The group also denies the donation played any role in the group's January endorsement of Kerry or the group's decision to run TV ads on his behalf.
Well, Bob Novak is with me now from Washington. He's got some new information to report about the Kerry campaign.
Bob, what have you learned?
ROBERT NOVAK, CNN "CROSSFIRE": Another endorsement for Senator Kerry. Judy, James P. Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters Union, and several other unions in the Alliance for Economic Justice, all of which had endorsed Richard Gephardt for president, are about to endorse Senator Kerry.
They wanted to do it in Wisconsin on -- Milwaukee on Thursday, in time for the primary in that big union state. I don't think they're going to get it done until Tuesday. But the endorsement is for sure.
You remember that Hoffa and the teamsters were very reluctant in 2000 to endorse Al Gore, didn't do it until the very end. The White House, under President Bush, had been courting Hoffa assiduously. But instead, he endorsed his old law school classmate, Dick Gephardt.
And now, after a meeting in the living room of John Kerry's House in Massachusetts, he's convinced that Kerry is OK on the trade issues that worry the teamsters. And this big block of unions will go over to Kerry in a few days.
WOODRUFF: So, Bob, these union leaders make this decision without checking with their membership?
NOVAK: Well, they speak for their members. You know that, Judy.
WOODRUFF: OK. That may be worth another story we'll tell at some point soon. All right.
Bob, thank you very much.
NOVAK: You're welcome.
WOODRUFF: A piece of news there.
Well, the situation in Iraq has taken another deadly turn. Coming up, the latest on the bombings that killed dozen of people today in a town South of Baghdad. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana will be with us from Capitol Hill to talk about the on going bloodshed and more.
Also ahead, what are the voters thinking as they cast their ballots today in Tennessee and Virginia. Our Bill Schneider checks in with a look at some exit polls.
And Senator Joe Lieberman gets a heartfelt welcome back on Capitol Hill.
WOODRUFF: Well, as we all know, the situation in Iraq is a key issue in this presidential election year. And today, there is more blood shed in that country. At least 50 people were killed in a bombing south of Baghdad. Many of the victims were waiting in line to apply for police jobs.
Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana is a member of the Armed Services Committee. He's with me now from Capitol Hill.
Senator, incidences like this, of bloodshed, are not at all uncommon in Iraq. Given that, how confident are you that the people of Iraq themselves are going to be ready to take over their own country when the U.S. essentially pulls out in June?
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Well that's a great question, Judy. I think there's a lot of work to be done now and between the end of June. Some real questions have been raised about whether authentic elections can be held because such basic things like voter lists and that sort of thing haven't been compiled yet.
But we've got to get on with the business of establishing a democracy there. I suspect it will be a sort of two steps forward, one step back kind of thing. Progress will be uneven, but the Iraqi people have to step up here. They have to show that they're prepared to take control of their own country and to move forward.
WOODRUFF: Senator, I'm sure you listened, if not to the president's interview on "Meet the Press," you've certainly read the accounts. At this point, are you comfortable with his explanation that he accepts the intelligence that he had before the U.S. went into Iraq, essentially intelligence that turns out to be wrong? They apparently -- at least at this point, there's no proof that they had weapons of mass destruction.
BAYH: Well, Judy, that's right. It underscores the fact that intelligence work is unavoidably and inherently subjective to a certain extent. There are ambiguities involved, gaps in the evidence, contradictory evidence, denial and deception by the folks who are trying to analyze.
So it appears that a real mistake was made here. And I think the best way to handle it is to acknowledge that and to take vigorous steps to make sure that it does not happen again.
WOODRUFF: Should heads roll?
BAYH: Well, I'm somewhat conflicted about that, Judy. I believe in accountability, particularly for mistakes of this magnitude. At the same time, you know, the question is, could reasonable people -- would reasonable people, having looked at that evidence, drawn the same conclusion, or was it the result of negligence, something of that order? If it's the latter, heads must roll; if it's the former, I think a little more latitude is in order.
WOODRUFF: Senator, let me ask you about the Democrat presidential contest. It's a contest that you decided yourself not to enter this year. You said you wanted to spend more time with your family. But keeping an eye, as you must be watching how quickly things have developed, does John Kerry have a lock on this nomination right now?
BAYH: Well, he's surely the clear front-runner at this point, Judy. And if he wins the two primaries today, that's going to be another big step in that direction. But the one thing we've learned over the last couple of months is that the conventional wisdom is almost always wrong. The voters have a way of confounding us all.
So he's the clear front-runner. It's got a little ways to go. But he sure has the momentum at this point.
WOODRUFF: Your state of Indiana is known to be Republican. Could John Kerry carry the state of Indiana?
BAYH: I think he would wage a very competitive fight in our state. He's a decorated war hero, he's a former prosecutor. He wants to emphasize a fiscal responsibility. And most importantly of all, Judy, getting this economy moving. As I travel around our state, I hear even from Republicans and Conservatives a lot of anxiety about the health of the economy. It's been a jobless recovery so far. And also the cost of health care. I think those are two big issues that will determine the outcome, and Senator Kerry's been very outspoken on both.
WOODRUFF: Senator, your name has already popped up as one of those that would be very likely under consideration for a vice presidential running mate. Is this something you would be interested in exploring with Senator Kerry or whoever the nominee of the party is?
BAYH: You know, Judy, I'm flattered that you would ask, but that's entirely up to our nominee. I hope they will select someone who is obviously qualified to serve in the case of an emergency, but most importantly after that can help them win. And that is a decision only they can make.
WOODRUFF: All right. Well, you could bring along Indiana, though, right, Senator?
BAYH: Well, I'm running for re-election to the Senate this fall. So I hope I can be re-elected to that.
WOODRUFF: OK. Senator Evan Bayh, we appreciate you talking with us. Thanks a lot.
BAYH: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: One of John Kerry's recent endorsements apparently came with some strings attached. Coming up, Hotline editor Chuck Todd joins us with some behind-the-scenes information about the Kerry campaign, and others.
WOODRUFF: The presidential race is, of course, front and center on the national stage. But what is happening behind the scenes in individual states is also worth reporting.
For that, Chuck Todd joins us from Washington with our weekly "Hotline" tip sheet. Chuck is the editor in chief of The Hotline, an insider's political briefing produced every day by The National Journal.
All right. Chuck, first of all, what is this about quid pro quo maybe with John Kerry and the governor of Virginia?
CHUCK TODD, EDITOR, "THE HOTLINE": Well, it's interesting. You know, some people were surprised that Mark Warner, a self-styled southern governor, would take a risk and endorse before his primary, particularly endorse somebody like John Kerry, who is not a southerner, before it. And what we were able to learn and understand is that with the endorsement came a promise that Mark Warner would be prominently a part of the official short list. Whatever that means. Does that mean interviews at Senator Kerry's homes when that happens? You know, when CNN cameras will stake that stuff out. You know, somehow during the process.
But Warner was able -- from what we understand, was able to secure something to that effect in order to do this endorsement before the primary. Remember, Dick Gephardt did this -- endorsed after the Missouri primary. So it was a little bit of a risk for Warner to do this before the primary.
WOODRUFF: Well, we're going to be looking back on that day when we start talking about vice presidential running mates. All right. Some news you picked up about John Edwards in his home state of North Carolina.
TODD: Well, it's interesting. You know, about six months ago, the relationship between Erskine Bowles, who is the gentleman that wants to replace John Edwards in the United States Senate, and John Edwards was a little bit strained. Bowles was a little bit anxious to get Edwards to make a decision, was he going to run for both president and the Senate seat, what was he going to do.
And then when he made the decision, you know, was Edwards going to be a liability for Bowles, this and that. Well apparently the two have patched things up so well, and Bowles is obviously very happy that Edwards has seen some success on the campaign trail.
He had actually sent some of his own staff down to South Carolina to help during that primary, and is apparently very much looking forward to Edwards continuing in this race, because the better Edwards looks, the more access to potential donors that Erskine Bowles will have. And Erskine Bowles does not want to have to self-fund this Senate race the way he did the last one, Judy.
WOODRUFF: There's nothing like a winner to change the complexion of relationships. All right. Last but not least, Chuck, surprising somebody behind some of Howard Dean's ability to raise all that money?
TODD: Well, one of the unsung heroes, as we're learning about, about the Howard Dean fund-raising juggernaut, is a Republican direct mail fund-raising consultant now apparently turned Democratic fund- raising consultant, Katie Cook. Her company, Direct Line Politics, was one of the masterminds of the snail mail direct mail campaign which sent out over eight million pieces of fund-raising direct mail, raised nearly $7 million in money that came into the campaign, was very much something like nearly 20 to 25 percent of the amount of money the campaign raised. It wasn't all done on the Internet.
Here's something that's interesting, Judy, though, is that the last presidential campaign that Katie Cook worked on before Howard Dean, Gary Bauer's presidential campaign in 2000. So it's amazing. Howard Dean maybe was right, he was luring some Republicans to help his Democratic campaign.
WOODRUFF: Well, we hear about these consultants straddling political lines. I guess this is an example. OK. TODD: Well, there you go.
WOODRUFF: Chuck Todd, thanks very much. We always appreciate it. We always learn something.
WOODRUFF: The Hotline, of course, is an insider's political briefing produced every day by The National Journal. You can go online to nationaljournal.com for subscription information.
So what is on the voters' minds as they go to the polls these days? Coming up, today, especially, Bill Schneider looks for what Democrats in Virginia and Tennessee have in common with their counterparts in other states.
Plus, a former presidential candidate is welcomed back to his old job.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's beautiful out here. It's great.
ANNOUNCER: But will it be a great night for John Kerry as well? And after tonight, will one of these southerners still be standing?
Is it still the economy, stupid? We'll take a look at what's on the voters' minds.
NARRATOR: He's running for president to repeal the Bush tax cuts.
ANNOUNCER: Is Howard Dean back in the advertising game? We'll take a look at how much the candidates are spending on ads and where their commercials are running.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from CNN election headquarters in Atlanta, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back to this special edition of INSIDE POLITICS. You know, the polls are open for another three hours in Virginia, four more hours in Tennessee, the latest states to hold Democrat presidential primaries. Three of the remaining candidates have a considerable stake in today's contests, John Kerry, John Edwards and Wesley Clark. We are getting an early read now on our exit polling in those states.
And to learn a little bit more on that, senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
SCHNEIDER: Two Southern states, two Southern candidates. Is there any difference between them? Let's take a look at the exit polls and what it shows about the voters who supported in Virginia, Wesley Clark and John Edwards. They were different. Look at the number of Clark voters whose said they were angry at George Bush. A majority of Wesley Clark supporters were angry at Bush in Virginia, but John Edwards voters, just over one-third. So the Clark voters were angry voters, not so much the angry voters. What were the Clark voters angry about? Iraq, Iraq, Iraq; 37 percent of Clark voters said the top issue on their minds today in Virginia was Iraq. Only 10 percent of Edwards voters said Iraq was on their minds.
What was on the minds of those John Edwards voters? The answer, the economy, stupid. It was 45 percent, almost half the Edwards' voters cited the economy as their top concern. He kept talking about two Americas, one for the rich and the privileged, and the other was for ordinary working people; 31 percent of Clark voters said that was their top issue. It was overshadowed among Clark voters by Iraq. So you find these two candidates appealing to voters in the South on the basis of two very different issues, national security policy, economic policy.
WOODRUFF: Bill, how does this compare to what voters were saying was important to them in other states that have voted already this year?
SCHNEIDER: Well, the economy is the predominant issue among Democrats everywhere. And that's true in the South as well as in the rest of the country. What's interesting about the southern primaries is not how different they are from primaries like Iowa, that was a caucus, primaries like New Hampshire and other -- Michigan. But the fact that the Southern primary voters are very similar to primary voter in other parts of the country. The differences between Democrats in the South and outside the South is getting narrower and narrower.
WOODRUFF: On their views on the economy and Iraq, and also their desire to beat President Bush.
SCHNEIDER: We're finding a lot of anger at President Bush, among Southern Democrats, just as we're finding among Democrats outside the south.
WOODRUFF: Again, this is based on the early results from the exit polls coming in. There will be more coming in through the afternoon. We should be analyzing this tonight in our election coverage.
All right, Bill, thank you very much.
We have more now on the contest in Tennessee and Virginia, and the candidates actively competing in those states. CNN's Bob Franken is at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
Bob, what's going on?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is going to be where John Kerry holds what's he expects to be his victory rally today. That based on polls which show him with decisively both in Virginia and Tennessee. He began his day in Tennessee, as a matter of fact, going around, getting in some last-minute pleas for voting. He wants to get as big a win as he can so he can show that he, too, can win in the South, win against the Southern candidates, like John Edwards who started his morning in Arlington, Virginia, right outside Washington D.C., went to a polling place, along with some of his signs, some last-minute glad handing. He is trying to say that he is the one person who can run against Kerry and make a fight out of this. He hopes to be the runner-up. But he's going to have to reckon with Wesley Clark, the other Southerner, the Arkansas man who wants to win runner-up position, so he can claim the medal as the spoiler, the person who is most effective running against President Bush.
As far as Wes Clark is concerned, when he went out electioneering, he was greeted by some people who decided to serenade him.
And probably you're asking, Judy, why were they singing "Calendar Girl" to Wesley Clark? I haven't the slightest idea.
WOODRUFF: Well, it's a good melody, and he can take that one on the trail. I think I would sign those students up if I were Wes Clark.
FRANKEN: We can see how emphatic they are after the election to see if they're singing a different tune.
WOODRUFF: We shall see. All right, Bob Franken in Fairfax, Virginia. Thanks very much.
With Howard Dean focusing almost exclusively on next week's primary in Wisconsin, his campaign director there has a new memo out today, detailing strategy for winning the state. Among other things, the memo cites the 82nd ad launched this week in Wisconsin, highlighting Dean's biography, his record and his plan for the future. Tonight, the campaign says that a new 30-second TV spot written, produced and chosen by grassroots supporters will hit the airwaves. Meantime, Dennis Kucinich stumped today in Tennessee, and then he headed here to Georgia. He told one of the super Tuesday primaries on march 2nd.
WOODRUFF: And Al Sharpton had a appearances throughout this day in Virginia where he campaigned sparingly over the weekend.
In the rush from one primary or caucus state to another, it often pays to take a breath, to revisit the overall state of the Democratic race. For that, let's check back with senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. We told you a while ago, she's in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
All right, candy, we're stepping back, and we're going to take a look at the whole thing.
CROWLEY: You know, Judy, if you step back, what you see here is the battle to become the not-Kerry. You know, early in the campaign, before any votes were taken, we were talking about the un-Deans, you know, the candidate that said, look, after Iowa and New Hampshire, I want to be the only one standing there against Howard Dean. Well, that's obviously all changed and now John Kerry, is the "it" candidate. Obviously, he has 10 of 12 victories in the primary caucuses so far. And there is this battle going on between Wesley Clark and John Edwards about which we'll learn a lot after we see how the polls close, and Howard Dean still in it and up in Wisconsin trying to stake his claim here. So we see sort of a three-way race for the not-Kerry As we go into tonight's votes, and then, of course, into Wisconsin next week.
WOODRUFF: Candy, why do you think it's been so hard for these other candidates to breakthrough? Once Kerry won Iowa and New Hampshire, I mean, was that, in effect, the handwriting on the wall?
CROWLEY: I think that a couple of things. First of all, they believe that part of it is the calendar. And, you know, we heard Republicans complain about this, too. What they've done, the Democrats, is the Republicans did before them, is compress a lot of these primaries. So there's very little time to catch up, if you make a mistake, once those primaries start. So the Iowa caucuses came. Dean faltered badly. He had a week to try and regain his traction in New Hampshire. It wasn't enough time, they say.
And then you look at John Edwards. He makes a nice victory in South Carolina, but he's only got a week to capitalize on that. So they are racing, racing, racing, multistate, and they can't play everywhere, because a lot of them now hampered by money, because they didn't win those the two very visible Iowa and New Hampshire contests. So there's that. And there is also, as well, the Democrats, and we see this in those exit polls, what they want is someone who can beat George Bush.
So once somebody wins once, as John Kerry did, and twice, as John Kerry did, voters say, oh well, here's a guy, he's winning. This guy looks like he's the one that can beat George Bush. So a couple things playing along with each other.
WOODRUFF: Candy, what about this argument that we now hear Howard Dean making in Wisconsin and perhaps elsewhere, that this contest needs to go on, because John Kerry really hasn't been sufficiently vetted by the voters, that there needs to be a contest that goes on for weeks, and it shouldn't be all over.
CROWLEY: Well, I think that he expresses what the others in the race feel, Wesley Clark and John Edwards, as well as you mentioned some of the others, that they feel, that if this could go on a little longer, that you would get the same kind of scrutiny of John Kerry, that you did, in fact, of Howard Dean.
Now, what you have here is not quite a month, but you have a fairly long period between the Wisconsin primary and Super Tuesday in March, and both John Edwards and Howard Dean, and to a certain extent Wesley Clark, believe that given that period, they, a, will have time to get their word out and, b, there will be time for John Kerry to be looked at more closely. Whether or not that is wishful thinking, perhaps, but it is the only strategy right now that's going to work for everybody else that's No. 2 or No. 3.
WOODRUFF: You're right. Two weeks, that's all it is, I guess, between March 17th, a week from today, and super Tuesday -- I'm sorry, February 17th and March 2nd, but right now two weeks seems like an eternity in politics.
CROWLEY: It does. It does.
WOODRUFF: Candy, thanks very much. We'll be talking to you a lot in the hours to come this night. CNN is the place to be for the most complete coverage of today's primaries. Join me and rest of political team, starting with "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at 7:00 p.m. and a special edition of "PAULA ZAHN NOW" at 8:00, as followed by special editions of "LARRY KING LIVE" and "NEWSNIGHT" and a special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" will have a complete wrap-up of the day's primaries.
WOODRUFF: Well, in recent days, some of the Democratic presidential campaigns have been experiencing money problems.
And later, one of the more intriguing questions about this '04 campaign, why do southerners John Edwards and Wesley Clark appear to be trail a New Englander on their home turf?
WOODRUFF: We know that television ad spending offers a window in where the candidates see the potential for showing strong. With me now from Washington for more on where the candidates are spending their money is Evan Tracey of TNS Media Intelligence. His group tracks ad spending in the nation's top 100 media markets. All right, Evan, first of all, how much money are these candidates spending, have they been spending in Virginia and Tennessee, the states voting today?
EVAN TRACEY, TNS MEDIA INTELLIGENCE: Well, Judy, the Kerry campaign has been spending about $560,000 so far in Virginia. A lot of this is concentrated in the expensive Washington, D.C. market that gets to the northern Virginia voters. The Edwards campaign has spent about $200,000 in Virginia. His focus is on the southern part of the state. The Richmond, Norfolk type area. The Clark campaign has spent about a million dollars in each Virginia and Tennessee.
But has been almost invisible the last few days since coming off the last Tuesday's primaries.
WOODRUFF: That's a lot, by contrast.
TRACEY: Yes, he spent a lot of money in January and December in those states, really trying to lay some groundwork. I guess he's hoping that investment will pay off tonight.
WOODRUFF: We were looking at numbers from both Virginia and Tennessee for Clark, Edwards and Kerry. What about Howard Dean?
TRACEY: Dean has been invisible since New Hampshire and continues to be invisible from New Hampshire. The only people right now up on the air in Wisconsin are the Kerry and the Edwards campaign. Both of those candidates have spent close to $60,000 so far in Wisconsin, but so far no evidence of Howard Dean. But we suspect we will see him here shortly.
WOODRUFF: Let's move on to the other political party. The Republicans. Are we going to be seeing spending by the Bush campaign any time soon?
TRACEY: Well, I suspect with the kick-off for the campaign on "Meet the Press" this past weekend that the Bush campaign ads can't be far off. What we are seeing, though, is a concentration of issue ads being run against Bush in several of the key battleground states and no group is just more evident than the group Moveon.org which has spent about $8 million to date attacking the Bush administration, but recently in the last 30 days, has spent about $4.7 million and a lot of this spending, Judy, is in states that we'll be talking a lot about as we get into the fall, like Missouri, like Ohio, like Florida, West Virginia and Nevada. Several of these states they've spent well over $2 million already laying the groundwork for the fall campaign for the eventual Democratting nominee.
WOODRUFF: We also saw a full-page ad Moveon took out today in the "Washington Post" going after the president on what he had to say about the war in Iraq. All right.
WOODRUFF: Evan Tracey, TNS Media Intelligence. We're checking in with you very often. We appreciate it.
TRACEY: Thanks, Judy. Good to be here.
WOODRUFF: The Bush campaign camp may not be up with ads yet but it is working to get its message directly to supporters. A 45-second clip from Mr. Bush's "Meet the Press" interview is going out this afternoon to the six million subscribers on the Bush/Cheney re- election e-mail list. As you would expect the campaign included topics that it wanted its supporters to hear such as the president talking about his foreign policy, about the war on terror and his call to lead.
Coming up, today could be critical for John Edwards and Wesley Clark as they try to stop the John Kerry juggernaut. Can they pull it off? Hear what our political analyst Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times" has to say about that.
WOODRUFF: As you know, voters in two key southern states are casting their ballots at this hour. But the polls have shown native southerners John Edwards and Wesley Clark in an uphill fight with John Kerry of Massachusetts. So what has been the problem for Edwards and Clark in their home region? With us now from Washington, political analyst, Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times."
Ron, you have been looking at Edwards and Clark and their efforts to break through specifically with regards to Edwards. What are you finding?
RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": I was on the ground with both of them in Tennessee late last week. It's been a strange week for both candidates, especially Edwards. They both got a toe hold in this race on February 3 by winning a single state each. To advance from that it was indispensable for them to show that they could beat John Kerry somewhere, Tennessee or Virginia. Both offering Democrat graphically an ideologically strong backdrop for them to press a message against Kerry who is a north eastern liberal senator.
And yet over this past week, both men, especially Edwards, have failed to develop any kind of consistent systematic argument as to why John Kerry should not be a nominee. Absent that argument, most voters unless you give them a clear reason not to, are going to flow toward the front-runner.
WOODRUFF: What about specifically, I mean, Edwards has tried to run a positive campaign. Has that hurt him? Essentially, what you're saying is he needed to break out with a different sort of a message. But so far he's been unwilling to criticize John Kerry for the most part.
BROWNSTEIN: Look. I think the -- for John Edwards running a positive campaign was an enormous asset when the backdrop when he was playing off of was Howard Dean, who was a very volatile front-runner who was out there attacking someone every day. George Bush, the other Democrats, Bill Clinton, the Democratic Leadership Council and of course when Dick Gephardt got into the mix in Iowa, Edwards had a clear contrast by being the positive alternative.
Right now John Kerry is a very peaceful front-runner, he's a calm front-runner who is running above the fray, isn't really attacking anyone. And so when John Edwards goes into the new states and says, look, here I am as Mr. Positive, voters are wondering what's the alternative? The front-runner is offering a very unobjectable campaign in that way as well. What's been missing from Edwards, I think, is a clear contrast with Kerry, a head-on challenge which has been Kerry's central argument that he is the most electable candidate. If Edwards wanted to challenge that, you wouldn't imagine a better place to do it than Virginia or Tennessee and yet for his own reasons, he has chosen not to this week.
WOODRUFF: Ron, when it comes to Wesley Clark, he has been willing to a degree to go after John Kerry. He talks about, he says I'm the outsider. He, John Kerry, is the insider. He has tried to make a contrast.
BROWNSTEIN: Clark has tried more than Edwards to do so. Although Clark has certainly diluted and sort of lost focus in his efforts by spending most of the weekend arguing with Edwards about veterans benefits and so forth as if the real competition here is for second. Both candidates have been saying they're going to draw sharper contrasts when the race gets down to one of them and John Kerry. The problem they face is that if John Kerry does wins Virginia and Tennessee New York City matter who comes in second, the bigger problem for anybody remaining will be the perception that the race is all but over and Kerry's nomination is inevitable. Getting it down to one on one may not do them much good if the other one, in this case John Kerry, is already seen as being right on the verge of the finish line.
WOODRUFF: Is there an obvious argument out there, Ron, that either one of these gentlemen has failed to pick up here?
BROWNSTEIN: Look, there are obvious questions that you could raise, sure. John Kerry's been an effective candidate but he does have a voting record that is quite liberal on a number of issues, taxes, defense spending, social issues. If John Edwards or Wesley Clark wanted to, they could have gone into Tennessee and Virginia and said I respect John Kerry enormously but given this record, is he really the most electable candidate. What you're seeing, Judy, is a self-reinforcing dynamic in this race.
Voters in each new state, basically look at the results in the states that preceded them, see John Kerry beating the other Democrats and simply reaching the conclusion that because of that he is the most electable candidate against George Bush. Unless the others challenge that and derail that assumption, it's very hard to see why any of these states that follow won't flow exactly the same way the ones that we've seen through the early part of February.
WOODRUFF: Very interesting question about why they have not willing to do what you just said. All right. Ron Brownstein, political analyst for the "Los Angeles Times." Someone who appears frequently on CNN. Ron, thank you very much.
BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Judy.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, he is back on familiar turf. Coming up, one week after dropping out of the presidential race, Senator Joe Lieberman gets a big welcome back on Capitol Hill. The story when we return.
WOODRUFF: Senator Joe Lieberman is back to focusing on the business at hand on Capitol Hill. The Connecticut senator received a tongue in cheek welcome back this morning at a hearing of the Senate arms services committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: Morning, everyone. We start today's hearing by first welcoming back one of the members who's been AWOL, away without leave, distinguished senator from Connecticut. If you would like to take a moment to explain your absence, we would be glad to have your views.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, Mr. Chairman, thanks for welcoming me back. It was quite a journey. I feel as if I was actively deployed. And now I'm returning to my home base.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Senator Lieberman, of course, dropped out of the race for the Democratic party nomination last week. We see that his sense of humor is intact.
Well, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS, this special edition. Tune in tonight for our special coverage of America Votes 2004. The Tennessee and Virginia primaries. Our complete coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll have the latest numbers and analysis of today's southern showdown. I'll see you then. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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