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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

What's Dean Doing? The Withdrawal Debate; Kerry-ing On: Wisconsin and Beyond

Aired February 16, 2004 - 15:30   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And, no, we are not dropping out of the race.

(APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: Will he or won't he? Depends on who you ask. We'll get the latest on Howard Dean's post-Wisconsin plans.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't need a president who just says...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gentlemen start your engines.

KERRY: We need a president who says, America, let's start our economy and put people back to work.

ANNOUNCER: John Kerry keeps revving up his campaign against President Bush.

KERRY: I'm John Kerry...

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANIDIDATE: ... and I approved this message.

DEAN: Because it's time to take our country back.

ANNOUNCER: Standing by their ads. Are the presidential candidates merely paying lip service to the law?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us on the eve of another Democratic presidential primary. John Kerry just may be rehearsing another victory speech, with polls showing him way ahead in Wisconsin. For many, though, the bigger question today is whether Howard Dean is preparing and "I'm out of the race" speech.

Dean has been sending mixed messages. But there are some tea leaves to read, including the exit of Dean's campaign chairman.

Bob Franken joins us now from Milwaukee with more from the Dean camp -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, to paraphrase an old joke, all those people with the Howard Dean campaign, raise your hands. Not so fast, Steve Grossman.

Steve Grossman, in fact, is the one who apparently raised his hand to say, I'm leaving. He certainly played his hand and gave it away when he said to The New York Times this morning that he was reaching out for John Kerry. Well, he'll have the ability to do so from outside the Dean campaign.

Dean announced today that Grossman, who had been the national campaign chairman, is no longer the campaign anything. And of course one of the signs of a faltering campaign is when the candidate has to continuously deny that he is withdrawing. Well, that happens even before the race is over, and that's exactly what's happening to Dean. So much so that he's making a joke about it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: Get your friends out to vote in the primary on Tuesday. And after that, we've got Utah and Idaho, and then we're going to Hawaii. And then we're going to California.

(APPLAUSE)

DEAN: And then on to Ohio. And then we're going to New York. I'm going to Georgia.

FRANKEN (voice-over): No scream this time, but to the point. Except, it gets a bit murkier. Several top Dean advisers privately say a poor showing in Wisconsin could very well mean that candidate Dean will become non-candidate Dean, or at least re-cast his race for president as a movement. Even those campaign leaders who speak publicly leave some tantalizing wiggle room.

ROY NEEL, DEAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think Governor Dean's going to keep on campaigning. I think that he'll step back tomorrow night after the Wisconsin primary and, you know, take a day off. I mean, they've been on the road a long time. And he'll sit back and think about what his options are and where this campaign can do its best good and go forward.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: Well, Dean keeps on saying, Judy, that he's going forward for the long haul. Of course the question is, how long is that long haul -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So Bob, what are the Dean folks that you're talking to there saying? Are they discouraged? We're going to have a little report from them later on in the show. But the ones you're talking to, are they puzzled? Are they discouraged, or what?

FRANKEN: I think they're puzzled, and well they should be, because each time the candidate opens his mouth he does send, as you pointed out, a different signal. One of the top campaign aides has told me -- he says, "I have no idea what's going to be happening Wednesday. No idea whatsoever."

WOODRUFF: All right. Well that doesn't send a single message. We're all over the map.

OK. Bob, thanks very much.

Well, whatever his Democratic rivals do next, John Kerry is keeping his focus on President Bush.

CNN's Kelly Wallace reports on Kerry in Wisconsin and beyond.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One day after debating his fellow candidates, John Kerry sounded more and more like the Democratic front-runner. He never mentioned his rivals. Instead, focusing exclusively on President Bush.

He took a tour of a technical college in central Wisconsin, and began what his aides are calling a four-day tour focusing on the economy. Here, he and his aides pointed out that Wisconsin has lost more than 75,000 jobs since President Bush took office. The Massachusetts senator then took issue with Mr. Bush's visit to the Daytona 500 yesterday.

KERRY: George Bush went down to Daytona yesterday to do a photo opportunity at NASCAR. Now, I happen to like NASCAR, and I'm particularly pleased that Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race, for a lot of reasons that many of you follow it will understand.

Let me tell you something, we don't need a president who just says, "Gentlemen start your engines." We need a president who says America, let's start our economy and put people back to work.

WALLACE: On his plane, reporters asked Kerry if he had any contact with Howard Dean in light of reports that Dean could possibly decide to get out of the race if he loses in Wisconsin tomorrow night. Kerry said that he and Dean spoke at last night's debate, and he described Dean as being open and very warm. Aides say there has been no contact between the two men today, and they say there's been only casual contact between aides in both campaigns.

That being said, a senior Kerry adviser described Dean's organization as a "important constituency." And the thinking is that if Dean did decide to get out of the race, the Kerry team would try to do everything it possibly could to get Dean and his team on board as quickly as possible.

Kelly Wallace, CNN reporting from Wausau, Wisconsin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: In other words, they can't really ignore the hundreds of thousands of people who've been signing on to the Dean Web site. Well, John Edwards, for his part, may be trailing John Kerry in Wisconsin polls, but he did score a coup over the front-runner today. Edwards won the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

CNN's Dan Lothian has more on Edwards and the state of his presidential campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator John Edwards is looking to slow down Senator John Kerry's momentum. He's flying around the state of Wisconsin, a state that's lost some 80,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000. Senator Edwards is pushing his $3 billion jobs creation program. Speaking to supporters at the South Milwaukee Community Center, he told them he will fight to stop the export of American jobs.

EDWARDS: We can strengthen and lift up working middle class families if we have a president of the United States who understands what's happening, understands what's happening in their lives, who will wake up every morning, fighting for them, fighting for their jobs, which is what this campaign is about for me.

LOTHIAN: Senator Edwards says, no matter what happens in Tuesday's primary, he will stay in the race. In fact, he says he's looking forward to a two-man race with Senator Kerry.

Dan Lothian, CNN, South Milwaukee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And there's more evidence of Edwards' plans to stay in the race. On Thursday, he is scheduled to launch a three-day fly- around tour of five states that are part of the Super Tuesday showdown. On March the 2nd, New York, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, and Ohio.

And now checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," underdog Dennis Kucinich has more opportunities to say "cheese" in Wisconsin today than any of the other Democratic candidates. According to his schedule, he has a whopping seven campaign appearances and photo opportunities in the state, nearly twice as many as his Democratic rivals.

And less than a week after Wesley Clark exited the presidential race, a powerful Democrat reportedly is promoting his vice presidential prospects. The New York Post reports that former President Bill Clinton has been working aggressively behind the scenes to pressure John Kerry to choose Clark as his running mate. The Post is quoting an unnamed Democratic activist as saying, "Clinton is promoting Clark in order to preserve his own credibility, since Clinton was said to be supportive of Clark's failed presidential bid."

Question, should Howard Dean soon follow Clark's lead and drop out of the race? Up next, we'll talk more about what Dean may do and should do with his now-former campaign chairman Steve Grossman.

Also ahead, John Kerry, the news media, and the rumor mill. How have reporters dealt with some sensitive questions?

And later, President Bush and the bottom line in Florida. Is he helping his campaign, or giving ammunition to the Democrats?

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Well, as we have reported, Howard Dean and his campaign chairman, Steve Grossman, have parted ways. Grossman quoted in today's New York Times as saying that if Dean loses Wisconsin, "I will reach out to John Kerry, unless he reaches out to me first."

Steve Grossman joins us now on the telephone.

And Steve Grossman, I understand you're on a cell phone driving to Boston. And we're going to -- we understand that the connection is not so good. But first of all, why decide to go public with this to The New York Times?

STEVE GROSSMAN, FMR. DEAN CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Well, Judy, I think that, you know, Howard's campaign is one that I have been part of since the beginning, since actually the summer of '02. I continue to believe deeply in Howard and believe that no matter whether he wins this election or not, he has made an enormous contribution to participatory politics in America and really has created something of a movement.

By the same token, I think should Howard not win the Wisconsin primary, it is time to coalesce around our nominee, our presumptive nominee. And I want to do everything I can to build bridges.

I've known John Kerry for 34 years and chaired his campaign -- co-chaired his campaign in '96 against Bill Weld. And I think maybe in a position to build some of those bridges and to knit these two teams together should Howard not win this primary and should Howard decide to change the tone and rhetoric of this campaign.

WOODRUFF: Steve Grossman, why not tell Howard Dean this in private, rather than through an interview with a newspaper?

GROSSMAN: Well, Howard and I had a long talk over the weekend, and we talked about his goals. And his goals were twofold, he told me. One, he says, "I'm overwhelmingly committed to electing a Democratic president and making sure George Bush is a one-term president. I'll do anything and everything I can to make that happen."

Number two, "I do not want in any way, shape or form break faith with those people whom I have been part of for so long during this campaign, the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people who are part of movement to restore and to revitalize participatory politics." And so I believe longer term, whether Howard Dean wins or not, he's made an enormous contribution. And I think Howard can play an important statesman-like role, win or lose, in this presidential primary process.

So I think he understood. And actually, he was as concerned about my own political future as he was about his own. He knows that I've known John Kerry for 34 years and led his campaign in '96. And he said to me himself -- he said, "Look, you took an enormous risk supporting me. And I'm grateful for it. You were there with me when nobody else was."

And so I don't think my joining John Kerry's efforts should Howard not win Wisconsin primary would come as any surprise to Howard Dean. And I think probably if he were on this call he'd probably suggest that it was in my best interest and probably in the party's, as well.

WOODRUFF: But I think you would agree that by doing it this way, you have hurt Dean's effort by publicly, in essence, parting ways with a candidate and doing it in such a public way.

GROSSMAN: Well, again, I have not spoken to John Kerry, have not reached out to John Kerry, and have had no conversations with John Kerry. I never intended to do anything other than to have this conversation until after Wisconsin. And then, and only then, should Howard not be victorious in Wisconsin.

But I think there does come a time and a place for everything. And when I was chairman of the Democratic National Committee, I was proud of the fact that I played a role as bridge builder and had something of a conciliatory role between different elements of the Democratic Party. And if I can do that in a modest way in this effort as well, and knit together the Dean and the Kerry organizations, If Howard is not victorious and if his campaign for the nomination is not successful, then perhaps that will help in the long run.

Because we need everybody. We need all hands on deck in order to beat George Bush. This is going to be a very, very tough election this fall.

WOODRUFF: Very, very quickly, Steve Grossman, it sounds like you're saying that you don't think Howard Dean is going to get out after Wisconsin. I mean, when you talk about his saying he doesn't want to break faith with his supporters...

GROSSMAN: Look, Howard's the only one who can decide precisely what he's going to do. His name is on the ballot. He will continue, I believe, to be out there talking passionately about the things that matter.

He defined the debate in this campaign from day one, Judy. And you and I both know that. Much of what people talked about on all those debates, Howard Dean made it popular and made it acceptable to talk about. So he's made a huge contribution to the political dialogue. And whether he wins or not, I'm enormously proud of the role Howard has played, and I look forward to continuing to work with him, whether it's on his grassroots movement or anything he asks me to do, short, intermediate or long term.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, we very much appreciate your giving us a call. Steve Grossman, who, up until just a few hours ago, was the chairman of Howard Dean's campaign for president.

Steve, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

In other words, still no sense of whether Howard Dean will get out of the race tomorrow if he is not victorious in Wisconsin.

A new federal law takes aim at political mudslinging. But is it working? Coming up, we'll take a closer look at the closer so-called "stand by your ad" rule and its new outlets campaigns are using to get around it

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Senator John Edwards says unity is what America needs. And he is spreading that message in Wisconsin. One day ahead of the Wisconsin primary, Edwards has started airing a 30-second television ad called "Believe." The Edwards campaign says it highlights the senator's uplifting vision.

Here's the ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: I believe in the politics of what's possible. And for me, that's what this election is about. See I think this is about something much bigger than the petty sniping that is going on. It's about a new, positive, uplifting vision for America.

That's what we're about as Democrats. It's what we should always be about. We're the party that believes in bringing people together, not tearing them apart. Together, you and I are going to change America. Because you believe in the same thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Edwards spending more on television ads than any other candidate in Wisconsin. This "Believe" ad, by the way, has previously aired in Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia and Tennessee.

In this election year, federal candidates are required to stand by their ads in a way they never had to before. A look now at why it works that way, and at the fallout it's having in the ad war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EDWARDS: I'm John Edwards, and I approve this message.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): With those words, there's no mistaking who's responsible for a campaign ad and its content. The "stand by your ad" statement is a requirement of the Campaign Finance Reform Act signed into law in 2002 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme court last year. It's designed to limit commercial mudslinging by forcing federal candidates to take responsibility for what's said in the spot.

DEAN: I'm Howard Dean and I approved this message because it's time to take our country back.

WOODRUFF: Faced with this new restriction, campaigns are finding new outlets to go negative.

NARRATOR: Kerry. Brought to you by the special interests.

WOODRUFF: You don't see President Bush personally taking responsibility for this anti-Kerry message by his re-election campaign. That's because it's a Web video, e-mailed to six million supporters, and not covered by the campaign finance law. The Kerry camp is fighting fire with fire, e-mailing its own video to supporters.

NARRATOR: Who's the politician who's taken more special interest money than anyone in history? The same one who's attacking John Kerry's record because he can't defend his own.

WOODRUFF: It isn't required, but the Kerry Web video does include a candidate disclaimer, perhaps with an eye toward airing it on television down the road.

KERRY: I'm John Kerry, and I approved this message because together...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: We're going to head back to the campaign trail in just a minute. Coming up, the candidates' last-minute scramble to attract voters in the Badger State.

Also ahead, would the Democrats be better off if the race for the nomination was over sooner rather than later? Our Bill Schneider has been thinking about the alternatives.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: I really appreciate all your help. We're in this for the long haul.

ANNOUNCER: The doctor tends to his troops. But are the faithful in Howard Dean's campaign losing hope?

EDWARDS: Senator Kerry just said he will beat George Bush. Not so fast, John Kerry.

ANNOUNCER: He's way behind. But John Edwards says he's staying in the race for the White House. Does the competition hurt or help the Democrats' bid to unseat President Bush?

BUSH: Gentlemen, start your engines.

ANNOUNCER: One race over. Another one just begun. George W. Bush gets his re-election campaign in gear in the Sunshine State.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back. We've been talking a lot about the Democratic candidates today. They are in Wisconsin competing for tomorrow's all-important Wisconsin primary. But we also want to pay some attention to the Bush campaign. The president is back at the White House today after a political swing through Florida. Let's check in now with our White House correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, it seemed to me the White House said it's not officially a political trip, but it had all the trappings of one.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It sure did, Judy. It was his 19th trip to Florida, and there's really probably no need to explain to any of our viewers why Florida is so important. Everybody remembers the 2000 election, those 537 votes Mr. Bush won by and of course clinched the presidency after that. Now his Democratic rivals have been hammering away at the president on the economy, on his policies that they say have really hurt the economy. The president's poll numbers have certainly gone down with regard to how people view his stewardship of the economy.

So the president's event today in Tampa was focused on the economic status of the country, and it was decidedly upbeat. The president visited a Tampa window manufacturer that has hired 63 employees over the past year. And that they say they plan to hire 40 more. The message at that small business today from the president is that things really aren't that bad when it comes to the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: You know you can say well, of course, they just picked the upbeat people. The truth of the matter is people are pretty upbeat all over the country. That's what I'm here to report to you. There's an optimism in our country that is -- that is undeniable. And we've got growth, and the key question is, are we wise enough to continue the policies, but to keep the policies in place that encourage growth?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, those policies that the president was referring to, of course, are his tax cuts. The president said today, as he has said a couple of times in the past as he's traveled around the country talking about the economy, that he does not think it would be a good idea, as many of his Democratic rivals have suggested to repeal any of his tax cuts. He said that those in particular have helped companies, small businesses like the ones that he visited today.

But Democrats, as you can imagine, Judy, were very quick to jump on the president's rosy picture of the economy, particularly in Florida. The Democratic senator from Florida, Bob Graham, issued a statement saying that the president should also talk to some of the people who are currently out of work. In Tampa alone he said there are 19,000 who have lost their jobs and the White House is very well aware that the jobs issue is a key issue. But the president today decided to have an optimistic tone as opposed to talking about the fact that he understands people need jobs around the country.

Now yesterday, of course, the president had a lot of fanfare when he went at the other side of the state went to Daytona to the NASCAR race. He got to utter those words, gentlemen, start your engines, and really got to court what many believe will be a key constituency, those NASCAR dads that the White House are trying to embrace. They had voter registration from the Republican National Committee there really trying to get people who were there, more than 200,000 there, to go for George W. Bush in the fall. Back to you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And Dana, you were talking about the president's economic record. What about the deficit? I mean there have been an ongoing argument about whether that's a minus or not. Is it something that voters really focus on? How much is the White House worried about it? do they think it's a big deal, or what?

BASH: Well, there certainly has been grumbling among conservatives in his own party about the deficit, in addition to the Democrats on the campaign trail talking about the problem that the deficit causes. What the White House is saying, continues to say is that they believe they can cut the deficit in half over the next five years and they say that they don't necessarily believe that people are going to vote on the issue. But certainly that compounded with the job loss, could really hurt the president potentially on the overall issue of the economy -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Dana Bash, reporting now from the White House. Thank you.

And as Dana was just telling us, President Bush did get a less than friendly farewell in Florida today from one of the state's top Democrats, senator and former presidential candidate Bob Graham held a conference call with reporters to talk about Mr. Bush's trip to Florida and the effect of his economic policies. The call was in conjunction with the Kerry campaign, although Graham has not endorsed the Democratic front-runner.

Well, at this stage of the Democratic presidential race, some sort of flow chart might be useful to keep track of who's going after whom. In Wisconsin today, less than 24 hours before that state's primary, front-runner John Kerry seems increasingly in general election mode. He's launching a four-day swing targeting President Bush's economic record for the most part ignoring his Democratic rivals.

On the other hand, John Edwards also continuing to say less rather than more about Kerry or the other contenders, despite some polls suggesting his prospects in Wisconsin are less than winning. It is part of, you could say, his kinder, gentler I'm-in-this-for-the- long-haul strategy that includes a tour of Super Tuesday battlegrounds later this week after Wisconsin.

And then there's Howard Dean's campaign and those hard-to-ignore questions about whether Wisconsin will or will not be his last stand. Dean said again today that his campaign will go on. But I'm told by a source who heard from the highest levels of Dean's remaining campaign that the decision has been made to drop out after Wisconsin. And as you heard on INSIDE POLITICS a short time ago, former Dean national campaign chairman Steve Grossman seems unsure about what Dean will do. Grossman exited the campaign today after suggesting that he would defect to the Kerry camp if Dean lost tomorrow. It all has to be rather disheartening for Dean's die-hard supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): January 18, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. February 15, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. No roaring rally this time. Just a sober speech before a polite audience of health care professionals. The army of supporters winnowed down to a handful of college students, dealing with dashed expectations and a revamped mission.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to get 2,000 students to vote. That's our goal. Right now we don't know who they're going to vote for but we just want them to get to vote.

WOODRUFF: They're now campaigning to make sure their message makes it to the White House, even if their man doesn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even if he loses these primaries, even if he doesn't become the president for me, he's already -- his campaign is -- will be president in November, regardless.

WOODRUFF: A poet's query, what happens to a dream deferred? Disappointment permeates Dean's Milwaukee headquarters. Marching orders remain but the drive has gone. Volunteers commune quietly, sneaking cigarette breaks, preparing to cheer their candidate through one more debate. As they gather across the street from the debate, at Gaffrey's (ph) Bar it feels like the end of the line for a rock tour. Volunteers who've logged months on the road reminisce. Children wear their sleepless summer T-shirts. But summer's over. Outside, Alissa Sukakoshi (ph) of San Francisco keeps the faith. She signed on at the eleventh hour. Wisconsin is her first tour of duty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was expecting things to pick up and they weren't. And when he was talking about dropping out in Wisconsin I figured, well, then I mean, he's not going to make it to California.

WOODRUFF: And now she's remaining true to the man who inspire her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has fire. He has integrity. He's a great person. And if you look at his ideas, they make sense.

WOODRUFF: Fired up, the Deaniacs pour out of Gaffrey's (ph) to rally at the debate. At one point they meet with a mock-in. A half hour later they're back on their bar stools. Cheering Dean on as some look beyond his candidacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all sit together as a group. And the candidate that emerges as the nominee will have to work with the -- with all of us who have formed this organization.

WOODRUFF: While others hold onto hope. Russell Scott (ph) of Wisconsin volunteered for weeks in Iowa. Optimistic as the campaign hits his home turf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's going to win the nomination. If you look at the numbers and the delegate count. Kerry can't keep up these numbers all the way to 2,161.

WOODRUFF: And so he cheers when Dean himself finally enters Gaffrey's (ph) and the candidate acknowledges that dedication and vows to keep fighting.

DEAN: No, we are not dropping out of the race after Wisconsin.

WOODRUFF: Offering words of comfort to his younger supporters.

DEAN: It is tough and you've got to keep at it. And just when you think you're winning, they get you and you've got to fight.

WOODRUFF: Concluding by summoning an old ghost.

DEAN: We're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma, and Arizona, and North Dakota, and New Mexico!

WOODRUFF: But in Milwaukee, defiance turns poignant.

DEAN: Then we're going to New York. We're going to Georgia. And we're going to Massachusetts.

WOODRUFF: And then it's over. And Howard Dean leaves the building.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And now let's talk more about Dean's future with our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, who has logged many miles covering the Dean campaign. Candy, what's going on inside that campaign right now?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's the famous final scene in one way or another and that's always slightly messy and not at all pretty.

You see those who have -- it's like the stages of grief in some ways, I think we're watching. There are the true believers -- and we heard from some of those in your piece -- that said well, you know, we can still win, because -- and mathematically, absolutely.

But you know that politics sometimes is less about math than perception. And John Kerry has all the perception mo at this

point. And then you have others who really are some political pros. Steve Grossman, you mentioned, who look at this and go, whoa, this is over, who have to start worrying about their own careers and where they're going to go next. And so you see that kind of discombobulation that happens when the body sort of begins to break apart.

WOODRUFF: At what point though, Candy, I mean clearly the people around Howard Dean are facing reality, as we describe it. If the candidate himself is reluctant to face that reality, or he wants to hang on to these supporters, as Grossman was telling us a little earlier, does he begin to hurt himself?

CROWLEY: Sure. But this is a very smart man. We've seen it through his campaign and what he's done and there are ways to hang on to this group. And again it was alluded to by some of those in that piece.

And that is that you can take this energy and take this group, whom he feels quite loyal to and whom he doesn't want to let down. And put them into some sort of 50123 or some kind of group that can, you know, work for voter turnout, or can push them definitely to the Democratic side and keep them coming out.

If he goes on with the campaign, there's going to come a point when people say what the heck is he doing? There's also a point when money is a real problem. It's going to be easier if John Edwards says in, which of course he says he's going to.

But I think that you have seen this transitioning by many of the Dean people and sometimes by Dean himself into a kind of a movement, more than a campaign. And that seems to be where they're headed.

But woe be to the person who predicts what Howard Dean's going to say on Wednesday morning.

WOODRUFF: We're not going to do that here. But boy, but Grossman as you've said, you cannot deny the man has had a huge effect on the election -- I mean on the campaign.

CROWLEY: In the end his legacy will be what he wants to protect, too.

WOODRUFF: Candy Crowley, thank you very much.

Three days after Senator John Kerry categorically denied rumors of an affair, the young woman who was the subject of the Internet and talk radio gossip has now come forward to deny it, as well.

In a statement to the Associated Press, her former employer, she says, quote, "I have never had a relationship with Senator Kerry. And the rumors in the press are completely false. Whoever is spreading these rumors and allegations does not know me, but should know the pain they have caused me and my family. It seems that efforts to peddle these lies continue, so I feel compelled to address them," end quote.

The woman also denied to the Associated Press that she ever worked or interned for the senator. The woman's parents also issued their statement echoing their daughter's comments. They added, quote, "We appreciate the way Senator Kerry has handled the situation and we intend on voting for him for president of the United States," end quote.

Well as the woman's statement noted, the story continues to percolate on the Internet. Howard Kurtz of "CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES" takes a look at where it surfaced and how it has been treated.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES" (VOICE-OVER): Six years ago, Internet gossip Matt Drudge reported that "Newsweek" had spiked a story about Monica Lewinsky, unleashing a process that led to Bill Clinton's impeachment.

Last week Drudge floated an unsubstantiated rumor about John Kerry -- not that he supposedly had a relationship with a young woman, but that some news organizations were said to be looking into the matter. Despite the utter lack of evidence, it was only a matter of time before the rumor seeped into the mainstream media.

First came conservative radio host Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh questioning why journalists were digging into President Bush's National Guard record but not reporting on the Kerry rumor. The answer, of course, is that reporters had no proof involving Kerry.

The story quickly bounced around the Internet, including the Web sites of "National Review," "The Wall Street Journal," "Slate," "Salon" and conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I don't know anybody in Washington that isn't aware of this story. So you get into this excruciating dilemma. How do you talk about it? Should you talk about it?

KURTZ: Don Imus asked Kerry about the rumor on his radio show, also carried on MSNBC.

KERR: Well there's nothing to report, so there's nothing to talk about. I'm not worried about it, no. The answer is no.

KURTZ: The denial, later repeated to reporters on the trail, gave the New York tabloids the opening they've been waiting for. The British papers, meanwhile, actually named the woman in connection with the rumor. One of them quoting her father as saying Kerry had made a pass at her, something far removed from the original allegation.

Now there were mentions of Kerry's denial in "The New York Times," on CNN and on "ABC's World News Tonight."

PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: The senator was asked whether rumors about him and a young woman had any substance. The senator denied it categorically.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: In that interview Senator Kerry was asked about the rumors that were flying around the Internet and talk radio.

KURTZ: Next the Sunday talk shows talked about the flimsiness of the story. They were nevertheless talking about it.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: That's pretty thin stuff on which to base a lot of reporting. And nobody in the mainstream media did anything with it until really until Kerry's denial heard first on "Imus in the Morning."

KURTZ (on camera): It's hard to keep salacious garbage from polluting the establishment media. The major news organization showed some restraint in ignoring the rumor until the static made that increasingly difficult.

But we'd all do well to remember that a secondhand account of the press looking into something is a far cry from that something being true.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And once again we want to emphasize that Senator John Kerry has categorically denied the rumors of an affair. And as we reported just a moment ago, the young woman who has been the subject of the Internet and talk radio came, forward to deny it, as well.

Well, the Democrats designed this year's calendar of primaries and caucuses to pick a winner early. Coming up, Bill Schneider has some thoughts on whether right now is too early.

Also how a prominent Red Sox fan feels about the newest New York Yankee.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: There's an old saying that goes "Anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger." But will a longer primary season make John Kerry's campaign stronger, or make the senator an easy target for the Bush team? Here now our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): It looks like the race for the Democratic nomination may go on no matter who wins Wisconsin Tuesday.

DEAN: After that, we've got Utah and Idaho, and then we're going to Hawaii. And then we're going to California, and we're going to Ohio. And we're going to New York. And we're going to Georgia.

SCHNEIDER: Would it be good for the Democrats to have the race go on? John Edwards says he wants a showdown with Kerry mano a mano.

EDWARDS: After the Wisconsin primary I believe it will be a two- person race at that point and that's what we've been waiting for. SCHNEIDER: But Edwards faces a problem. So far there's no significant anti-Kerry sentiment in the Democratic Party, even in the South. More than two-thirds of the Tennessee primary voters who did not vote for John Kerry last week say they would be satisfied if Kerry were the nominee.

For Kerry to continue winning primaries week after week could only help the prospective nominee, especially if he rivals continue to play nice as Dean did in Sunday's Milwaukee debate, sponsored by "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" and WTMJ-TV.

Asked if he agreed with the Bush campaign's criticism of Kerry as the candidate of special interests, Dean turned his fire on President Bush.

DEAN: I think George Bush has some nerve attacking anybody about special interests.

SCHNEIDER: For Democrats, it's not such a terrible thing to have several anti-Bush voices out there on the campaign trail.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president lied to the American people.

SCHNEIDER: What Democrats don't need is rivals who have little hope of winning tearing down their front runner, a process that may have begun in the Milwaukee debate.

EDWARDS: Senator Kerry's entitled, as is Governor Dean, to support free trade as they always have. The problem is there what we see happening, and it's NAFTA, which I opposed.

SCHNEIDER: You never know what your rivals might uncover. Michael Dukakis found that out in 1988 when an issue dredged up in the Democratic Primaries...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two of them committed other murders while they were on their passes.

SCHNEIDER: ... ended up being used against him in the general election.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FRM. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What did the Democratic governor of Massachusetts think he was doing when he let convicted first degree murderers out on weekend passes?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Democrats want the race to go on as long as the winner looks stronger, not weaker. And as long as the principal target is not John Kerry, but George W. Bush -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And right now it's right on the cusp.

SCHNEIDER: Right there, yes.

WOODRUFF: OK, Bill, thank you very much.

It's just hours to go until Wisconsin voters head to the polls for the Democratic primary. Coming up, Ron Brownstein joins us from Milwaukee to talk about the race as it stands now, about yesterday's debate in Wisconsin, and about John Edwards' bid to prove the pollsters wrong.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With me now from Milwaukee to talk about tomorrow's Wisconsin primary and what lies ahead, Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."

Ron, the polls are showing Kerry way ahead. What do you see out there?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, the dynamic here has been very similar to what we've seen everywhere else since Iowa, really. John Kerry rolls into the state with a large lead, largely built on the perception that he's the strongest candidate against Bush, a perception rooted in the fact that he's beaten the Democrats everywhere else.

John Edwards and Howard Dean try to cut into that. Dean has a reasonable following here. He's spent a lot of time in the state. Edwards has worked the state very hard, also. I was with him Saturday in Madison. He had the endorsement of the paper there, he had the endorsement of the Milwaukee paper here today.

But it's hard to see either of them overcoming the lead Kerry has without presenting a stronger argument as to why he should not be the nominee.

WOODRUFF: Now what do you make about Edwards coming out last night and finally some would say trying to draw some distinction between himself and Kerry?

BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely. Edwards is in a Catch-22. I think the past few weeks have demonstrated pretty conclusively that unless he gives voters a more compelling reason not to vote for Kerry, in most places, almost all places, most of them will vote for Kerry.

On the other hand with Kerry this far toward the nomination, I think that Edwards' presence in the race is tolerated by the Democratic leadership largely on the grounds that he doesn't go too hard against Kerry. In effect, he can try to run the race as long as he doesn't try to too hard to win the race. So he's walking a very narrow line.

But clearly last night in the debate signaled a shift in tone. He continued today to point out that Kerry supported NAFTA. He questioned whether Kerry could afford his health care plan. He even made fun of Kerry's speaking style.

So Edwards is moving a little sharper toward making distinctions. On the other hand, Judy, this is someone who is never, I think, going to go into a scorched-earth attack. And that's why there are many Democrats who want him to stay in the race to keep the contest alive for the reasons Bill Schneider mentioned.

WOODRUFF: And that, in fact, is what Edwards says he's going to do, at least in the short run. He's running around five different Super Tuesday states later this week.

What about Dean and how well Howard Dean comes in in Wisconsin? And how much difference does that make going forward?

BROWNSTEIN: Well I think if he comes in third it would make it less likely for him to continue. I think they are wrestling with how they maintain a presence in the race if at all after tomorrow.

This is a state where he led, this a state that he said he had to win. And it's a state where he's put in more time than anybody else. So reality says if you can't win here where are you going to win?

Interestingly I think the Kerry campaign is divided at this point on whether they want Dean and Edwards to stay on the field or leave it. One camp says shut it down as soon as possible, less opportunities for missteps, more opportunity to focus on President Bush.

Another camp says John Kerry is doing awful well with these pictures every Tuesday night of him winning primaries. And if these other major candidates go home, so do those cameras.

So there is a camp in the Kerry side that would like to see this race continue because it really frankly has elevated him in the eyes of the public as introducing him to the American people as a winner as is often the case for the primary victor.

WOODRUFF: You don't know which side is winning though at this point? They're still arguing.

BROWNSTEIN: And I don't think it's in their hands anyway, right? So it's something that -- I think they're just interested bystanders.

WOODRUFF: OK. Ron Brownstein in Milwaukee. Thank you very much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Still to come on INSIDE POLITICS, a big deal on the baseball field gets noticed on the campaign trail. We'll tell you what a prominent Red Sox fan has to say about the deal that sends Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Democratic front runner John Kerry is not focusing completely on politics today. Like other Boston Red Sox fans he took notice of the deal that sends American League MVP Alex Rodriguez from Texas to the Yankees, a deal that is sure to heat up the rivalry between Boston and New York. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: The only big news of the day is A-Rod. I'm so -- A-Rod. a-Rod's in the Yankees.

QUESTION: Bad news for Boston?

KERRY: Oh, it's all pitching.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Doesn't seem to happy about it. Rodriguez, known as A-Rod, is considered by many to be the best player in baseball. Boston's bid for him fell through in December. And that's why the candidate was shaking his head.

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

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