The Web    CNN.com      Powered by
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SERVICES
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SEARCH
Web CNN.com
powered by Yahoo!
TRANSCRIPTS


 

Return to Transcripts main page

JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Kerry Campaign Laboring in Wisconsin; Interview With Senator Russ Feingold

Aired February 17, 2004 - 15:30   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JAMES P. HOFFA, TEAMSTERS PRESIDENT: You know, John Kerry has one quality I think all of us know. He can beat George Bush. And that's all we want to do.

(APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: there's no mincing words. The Kerry camp is thinking far beyond today's primary in Wisconsin.

Food for though. Are Howard Dean and John Edwards seriously mulling exit strategies?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will tell you this, we are interested in winning. And if I don't win, we are interested in having a Democratic president in the White House.

ANNOUNCER: The commander in chief's battle plan. What do Republicans see as his best weapon against a veteran like Kerry?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us on this primary day in Wisconsin.

Well, there's still plenty of suspense in the Democratic presidential race. Not necessarily about who will win, but about when another candidate will drop out. Seventy-two delegates are at stake in Wisconsin. And John Kerry is hoping to lead the state with his running -- winning streak intact.

Both John Edwards and Howard Dean say they are staying in the race whatever the outcome tonight. But speculation about their futures is rampant, particularly regarding Dean, who had previously portrayed Wisconsin as a possible last stand.

Our correspondents are in Wisconsin to bring us live reports on the top Democratic contenders. Let's begin with the Kerry campaign and the embrace that he got in Wisconsin today from top labor leaders.

CNN's Kelly Wallace is traveling with the Democratic front- runner. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY: Send Bush to Mars. Send Bush to Mars.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shortly after sunrise, union workers rallying in Milwaukee for John Kerry, but getting most fired up about President Bush.

HOFFA: John Kerry has one quality I think all of us know. He can beat George Bush!

WOODRUFF: These are the 19 unions, five million members strong that had originally backed Dick Gephardt, but today formally threw their support behind Kerry. The front-runner talking more and more like the general election campaign has already begun.

KERRY: This is not a conservative Republican administration. This is an extreme radical administration.

WALLACE: Getting out the vote the goal now, with Senator Ted Kennedy asking Wisconsin voters to do for Kerry what they did for his brother, John F. Kennedy, in 1960. We asked the senator if he thought it were time for Kerry's rivals to step aside.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: As one that stayed in a long time myself in 1980, I'm not one to advise people to get out early. But I think there is a sense of people coming together now behind the candidate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: And tomorrow, John Kerry heads immediately to Ohio, one of the 10 states holding contests two weeks from today, what is known as Super Tuesday, when more than 1,500 delegates are up for grabs. Kerry's advisors say he will spend the bulk of his time in states like New York, California, Minnesota, Georgia and Ohio.

We believe he will be in Ohio for a couple days next week as well. This campaign clearly looking ahead to the general election campaign as well, because many believe that Ohio will be a battleground state between President Bush and the ultimate Democratic nominee -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Kelly, we heard what Senator Kennedy has to say about whether the other candidates should pull behind John Kerry and get out of the race. But what are they saying on Senator Kerry's staff? What are they saying?

WALLACE: Well, privately, Judy, they say there's sort of good and bad here. They say it is good for this primary fight to continue because reporters, like ourselves, are continuing to do stories about this primary battle, getting the Democratic message out to the American audience.

But on the other side, they say the longer this continues, the longer you won't have the ultimate Democratic nominee and they won't be able to focus exclusively on President Bush. What you're seeing this campaign do is focus a great deal on President Bush, at the same time dealing with this nomination fight. So they say there's good and bad here. And ultimately, though, Judy, you would think they would like to lock this up as quickly as possible.

WOODRUFF: Actually echoing a lot of the arguments you hear from Democrats all over. All right. Kelly Wallace, thank you.

Well, John Edwards is calling this a critical day for his campaign, but not one that will determine whether he stays in the race.

CNN's Dan Lothian is with Edwards in Milwaukee -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, we are at the headquarters for Senator Edwards. This is where he will be showing up later tonight to speak to his supporters.

As you mentioned at the top of the show, Senator Edwards has been saying that no matter what happens tonight that he will stay in the race. His campaign, and even Edwards himself, has been saying that they look forward to a two-person race, believing they can really get some momentum in this campaign if they can -- it can come down to Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry.

Now, Senator Edwards was out trying to get every last vote this morning at a diner and a pharmacy in Milwaukee, shaking hands and signing autographs. And he drove about an hour and a half away to Madison, Wisconsin, where he was at the University of Wisconsin, meeting with some students there and some volunteers. He was encouraging them to not only go out to vote, but to vote for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: Please, go to the polls. Touch as many people as you can today. Get them to the polls.

We've had an enormous energy and excitement around this campaign over the last several days. Overflow crowds everywhere we've gone. I appreciate what all of you have done, but our work is not done. We still have enormous work to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: After he wraps up here tonight, Senator Edwards will be going back home to Washington, taking part of the day off tomorrow, then having a fund-raiser in New York tomorrow evening. The campaign already has started targeting those Super Tuesday states. They have a schedule from Thursday through Saturday, focusing on states like Georgia and Ohio, where they've lost manufacturers jobs -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Dan, in essence, they're saying they don't really care what the results are tonight, they're going on?

LOTHIAN: Well, that's true. That is what they're saying publicly. It will be interesting, though, to see what the numbers are tonight. Perhaps they'll go back to the drawing board and say, can we continue going forward, do we have the funds to keep going forward in this race if we don't have a strong showing? But publicly, what they're saying is that, no matter what happens tonight, they're in this race.

WOODRUFF: OK. Dan Lothian, thank you.

Well, Howard Dean, another man in this race, appears to be setting a new bar for deciding whether to drop out of the presidential race. The Super Tuesday primaries are two weeks from today. Dean once suggested that Wisconsin's primary that was do or die, but on CNN this morning he again denied that today's contest will be the deciding factor in his political future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: This isn't done yet, and I think I certainly respect your opinions and the pollsters' opinions, but last I looked, voters actually get to choose the Democratic nominee. So I'm in this to win.

We have more electoral -- I mean, excuse me, more delegates in the convention than anybody else, except John Kerry. And we think we can overhaul him, particularly in the next Super Tuesday primaries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: That's right, the voters do get a say.

Well, as Dean's presidential prospects have dimmed, the controversy has faded over public access to his records as Vermont governor. But the court battle goes on. And today, a Vermont judge ruled those documents are not necessarily privileged. And he said that Dean must provide a detailed index of the records and explain why they should be kept secret.

Well, if this year's primaries and caucuses are starting to blur together in your mind, you're not alone. As our Bill Schneider explains, the state-by-state results so far have been remarkably similar.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Get the feeling that what we've had so far is really a national primary? After all, John Kerry has won 14 of the first 16 states. One yellow state for John Edwards, South Carolina, where he was born. One blue state, Oklahoma, narrowly for Wesley Clark. All the rest, Kerry red.

It's almost like a traveling road show over Broadway production. The exit polls in states before Wisconsin show an amazing consistency from state to state. Kerry has swept Democrats and Independents, liberals and moderates everywhere.

What's behind it? Issues? Not really.

Among primary voters who say they want a candidate who agrees with them on the issues, Kerry has been narrowly ahead. But Kerry has built up a huge margin in state after state among voters looking for a candidate who can beat President Bush. This traveling road show has a big hit song called electability. All the candidates are singing it.

DEAN: You have the power to choose the strongest candidate to beat George Bush.

DEAN: If you give me a shot at George Bush, I'm going to give you back the White House.

SCHNEIDER: But it's Kerry's rendition the voters seem to like best, because he has the show business chops to sing it on cue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So do you feel any degree, any degree of responsibility for the war and its costs and casualties?

KERRY: This is one of the reasons why I am so intent on beating George Bush and why I believe I will beat George Bush. Because one of the lessons that I learned when I was an instrument of American foreign policy, I was that cutting edge instrument. I carried that M- 16.

SCHNEIDER: The only question left, will this show close in Wisconsin? It depends on whether the audience votes to keep it going.

DEAN: Wisconsin, you have the power to keep this debate alive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: After all, voters in New York and California haven't had a chance to see this show. An that's where the reviews really count -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: That's right. If you think in terms of population, very true. All right. Bill, thank you very much.

Well, we want you to stay with CNN tonight for complete coverage of the Wisconsin primary, starting with "LARRY KING LIVE" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. That's when the polls will close in Wisconsin. Aaron Brown will have more results during "NEWSNIGHT" at 10:00 p.m., and Wolf Blitzer, Jeff Greenfield, Bill Schneider and I will be here at 11:00 for a special primary wrap-up show.

And Bill will be back with us a little later to bring us the first information from today's exit polls in Wisconsin. Is the Badger State going with the trend?

Plus, the Wisconsin political scene now, and in its sometimes unpredictable past.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Well, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin joined Republican Senator John McCain in pushing campaign finance reform into law. He's been watching as the presidential candidates navigate their way through and around some of those reforms.

Senator Feingold joins me now from Madison.

Senator, first of all, I want to ask you about the presidential contest under way in your state today. What is your sense of how things look right now? Is Wisconsin likely to go along with the polls, or might we see a surprise?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: Well, I think John Kerry will probably win the primary, but both John Edwards and Howard Dean have continued a very spirited campaign here. The Kerry campaign is great. He looks very presidential.

But Howard Dean keeps hitting issues that are very dear to Wisconsin Democrats, opposing the U.S. Patriot Act, being against the Iraq war, and imposing the No Child Left Behind bill. John Edwards has been very smart to come up here and talk about jobs. Jobs is the most important issue to people in Wisconsin, and he's been hammering away on it and has gotten the endorsement of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and also The Capital Times.

But that's not to take away from the enormous enthusiasm for John Kerry. So it's sort of a happy time here in Wisconsin. We like all of the candidates. We're unified. We know they have to fight it out, but it feels good. It feels like we might have a winner on our hands as this thing comes through.

WOODRUFF: Well, as you know, journalists like to look at Wisconsin's maverick reputation. You're saying you don't think we're going to see some sort of surprise out of the blue here?

FEINGOLD: I'm not sure. It's possible. I think John Kerry will probably win the primary. What the actual numbers will be, will be very interesting, because there's been -- I found some resilience in terms of Dean's support still, and also some surging for John Edwards, although a lot of people around the state are very excited about Kerry. So anything can happen.

I'll just say this, in 1960, we sent a senator named John to the White House in Wisconsin, and we got two senators named John who are doing very well, as well as Howard Dean's continued efforts.

WOODRUFF: You're, of course, referring to John Kennedy back in 1960. Senator, what are -- you mentioned jobs, you mentioned some of the other issues the candidates are talking about. But, you know, in state after state, we've seen these Democratic primaries, the voters largely looking at, or in a number -- a large number of them looking at electibility, whether they think the candidate they vote for can beat President Bush. To what extent is that a factor for voters in your state?

FEINGOLD: Very important to people in Wisconsin. They want to beat George Bush. I've never seen anything like it. Not just Democrats; Independents, Republicans, who have been Republicans all their lives.

I will say this, though. I think that people are beginning to perceive a number of the Democratic candidates...

WOODRUFF: Senator Feingold, I'm going to have to interrupt you. My apologies. We have a story we're following out of Phoenix, Arizona, and we want to take our audience there now.

This is in the hit and run trial of a former Roman Catholic bishop of Phoenix, Thomas O'Brien. He was accused in the death of a 43-year-old jay-walking pedestrian back in June. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this your verdict, so say you one and all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Poll the jury, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jury number one, is this your verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number three, is this your verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror four, is this your verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror five, is this your verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror seven, is this your verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror nine, is this your verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror 11, is this your verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror 12, is this your verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the verdict of the jury. What I am going to do is, if there's going to be any pre-sentence hearing (UNINTELLIGIBLE), so that I can hear whatever information may be provided to the court. And then I will set a sentencing date after I've had a chance to reflect on that information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, well set it in 30 days. I'm also going to order a pre-sentence report and direct the defendant to report to the Adult Probation Department, which department handles the preparation of all pre-sentence reports.

The defendant may remain under the same release terms and conditions in accordance of Rule 7.2. I'm going to -- I need a date.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: March 19.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. March 19 at 8:45 will be the date set for pre-sentence hearing, at which time I will request that any information that's to be provided to this court will be provided on that date.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that's fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. We have scheduled the pre- sentence hearing for March 12. I'm going to -- it seems the jury will report back to the jury room on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I'll be meeting with the jury and...

WOODRUFF: Former Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien has been found guilty of leaving the scene of a hit and run accident last year. He was arrested in connection with the death of a 43-year-old jay- walking pedestrian. This in Phoenix.

And the jury has just found this former Roman Catholic bishop to be guilty of leaving the scene of an accident. But more importantly, leave the scene of a deadly hit and run. He becomes -- Thomas O'Brien becomes the first American bishop to be found guilty of a felony.

And at the end, we heard the judge looking at a sentencing date of March the 12th. That all occurring just now live in Phoenix.

And right now, we go quickly back to Wisconsin.

Senator Russ Feingold, our apologies for interrupting, but we did want to follow that breaking news out of Phoenix. Senator, I was asking you about the -- this notion of electibility. Democrats all over the country seem to be interested in finding the candidate who has the best chances against President Bush, but you also say jobs are important.

FEINGOLD: Well, of course. Whoever our candidate is has to focus heavily on jobs. But I attended the debate in Milwaukee. I had a nice front row seat, and I heard all of the candidates, including Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton, as well as the other three candidates, do a terrific job of distinguishing themselves from this current administration's attitude about jobs.

They seemed very committed to dealing with it, and I thought every one of the candidates understand that if you're going to be the Democratic standard holder, if you're going to be the leader for the party, you've got to talk about stopping the hemorrhaging of these jobs. And I personally oppose NAFTA and most favor nation status for China.

And I'm pleased to hear our leading candidates admitting that these agreements haven't worked out the way they should and Democrats have to stand up for American workers. So you can combine electibility for fighting for American jobs, believe me.

WOODRUFF: Senator Feingold, just quickly, as the author of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform law, what is your view of these ads we've just in the last week or so seen? First the Bush- Cheney campaign, then Senator Kerry in response putting against each other on the Internet, making -- e-mailing to their supporters all over the country very tough stuff this early in the year?

FEINGOLD: Well, it proves that our bill is effective in terms of not allowing unlimited soft money contributions to be used for broadcast. That is the number one way of influencing voters at this time. And we put an end to the practice of using those unlimited contributions for that.

Whether further reforms in the future need to be considered for other forms of media, is something we can talk about. But I guarantee you, it's a real difference in America when members of Congress and senators can't call up big corporations and unions and individuals and ask them for these huge checks for these campaigns.

This presidential campaign is different in that regard. And I think even -- we can already see already that even though there's some negativity coming out, it's a lot slower in coming than it has been in previous presidential elections.

WOODRUFF: Some will begin to ask whether using this kind of advertising on the Internet should have been foreseen, but that is a subject of discussion another day. Senator Russ Feingold, we appreciate you talking with us.

FEINGOLD: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you very much.

A vacant congressional seat will soon be filled. When we return, a special congressional election today in Kentucky. A race that is especially important to the Democrats.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: In Kentucky, a vacant congressional seat is being decided today. Voters in the state's sixth district are choosing between Ben Chandler and Republican Alice Forgy Kerr. Ernie Fletcher gave up the seat in December after winning the governor's race over Chandler. The winner of today's special election will complete Fletcher's term and will have to win again in the fall for a full term.

Howard Dean says she staying in the race no matter what the results in Wisconsin. Coming up, what his actions today are signaling about his intentions.

Also, I'll ask Republican National Committee chairman, Ed Gillespie, about the political ad war between team Bush and team Kerry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Questions from the campaign trail. Is Wisconsin Howard Dean's last stand? Does John Edwards need a strong showing today to keep going? Will a big victory tonight make John Kerry a virtual shoo-in?

KERRY: Good luck to all of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm pretty torn right now between Kerry and Edwards.

ANNOUNCER: You've heard from the politicians and the pundits. But what do the Badger State voters have to say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It may be the end of the road for a few of them.

ANNOUNCER: The road ahead.

EDWARDS: And we've got a whole group of primaries coming up.

ANNOUNCER: If the race for the White House continues past Wisconsin, where are the next stops?

Now live from New York, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back to New York, a state that we know will be a mega prize in the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses two weeks from today.

Well Howard Dean is look ahead to March and March 2, even as he keeps denying today's contest in Wisconsin could spell the end of his campaign. Let's check in now with CNN's Bob Franken covering Dean in Milwaukee. Hi, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Judy. And of course the question is would a candidate who is still running say that he would pull out if he didn't do well before he knew how well he was going to do?

Well the answer is certainly no if you're Howard Dean. He was out there going through the ritual stop at diners that seems to accompany just about every election day. Dean was out there pushing for votes, hoping for the kind of surprise that Wisconsin produces every once in a while.

But, of course, fearing that's not going to happen his advisers are already behind the scenes suggesting he might want to rethink a continuation of the campaign. But every time he's asked, including when he was asked by Bill Hemmer on "AMERICAN MORNING" he very determinedly says, he is not going anywhere.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: We think we can overhaul him, particularly in the next Super Tuesday primaries. If not, I'm going to support whoever the Democratic nominee is. We need to beat George Bush. He the most irresponsible president in my lifetime, a half a trillion dollar deficit every single year. We cannot go with this borrow and spend, credit card president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Well whatever he says, Dean is going back to Burlington, Vermont, tomorrow, where the issue on the table could be summed up this way, Judy, now what?

WOODRUFF: All right. Bob Franken reporting on the battle in Wisconsin. And especially what Howard Dean says he's going to do after that one's over. Bob, thank you very much.

Well In that Wisconsin bat the John Kerry and John Edwards campaigns both are trying to make Kennedy connections. That is the focus and fact of today's "Campaign News Daily." Will John Forbes Kerry, his middle name included, follow in John Fitzgerald Kennedy's footsteps? Kerry supporters would like to think so. As mentioned earlier, Senate colleague Ted Kennedy has been urging Wisconsin Democrats to do what they did back in 1960, choose a JFK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: John Kerry, our candidate, do for him what you did for my brother. He'll be a great president. He'll lead this country. We're proud of him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: It turns out that John Edwards's campaign is also having 1960s flashbacks. Edwards has been encouraging Wisconsin Democrats to hand him an upset victory tonight, as they did when they voted for John Kennedy in the primary 44 years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: John Kennedy came into office at one of the times of greatest racial division in our division. He believed everything was possible, and he gave the American people what they were hungry for, hope.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The political dynamic in this election is rather different than it was in John Kennedy's day. Among other things, Democrats appear remarkably united in their desire to oust President Bush. That seems to hold true in Wisconsin as it has in other states.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got eight kids, Democrats, and I've got a wife that's Democrat. So I'm back in the fold.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Bob Sullivan (ph) got used to voting Republican, until this year. Just ask him what he thinks of the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bush? It's not printable.

WOODRUFF: So today, Bob's voting for John Kerry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the guy comes out and says how it is and he can say in the words I understand, anything more than five letters, I'm in trouble.

WOODRUFF: Still, he concedes Kerry is not his first choice. That would be John Edwards. But Bob thinks the Bostonian looks like a winner. And that's the word from most of the voters we talked to at Milwaukee's Kocat (ph) Cafe. In their view, Bush must go and Kerry can take him down.

As for the other Democrats...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, what about them? I don't know that much about them. I would -- I think Kerry is more -- he could beat George Bush. He is more easy than the other two.

WOODRUFF: Down in the kitchen, Mike Bresleer (ph) prepares his veal meatloaf with a touch of cynicism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media has a lot to do with it too, no offense. But the media, I think, pushes Kerry as a front-runner and everybody just kind of follows the lead.

WOODRUFF: And he's voting for Kerry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but that's only because of one reason, though. I just -- I don't want to see Bush in there in the next four years.

WOODRUFF: One floor up, Colin Boumier (ph) gets the last word on the man who could make Wisconsin his last stand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Howard Dean? Woo hoo! A little too much fire for me. I like people that kind of like plan things out. You're not going to use your public as guinea pigs. I don't think cooks should do that, I don't think politicians should do that.

WOODRUFF: For him, apparently, politics is a dish best served cold.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: That's a scene with some voters in Wisconsin.

Well while the Democrats are searching for votes in Wisconsin President Bush was in commander in chief mode, you might say, today. Driving home his reelection campaign message that he is committed to the war on terror.

He spoke to troops at a Louisiana Army base that has lost a dozen soldiers in Iraq. He also ate lunch with National Guardsmen on the heels of questions about his own service in the Air National Guard in the 1970s.

Let's talk now about some the flash points and the rest for the Bush campaign that's evolving general election strategy with the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie. Good to see you again, Ed Gillespie.

ED GILLESPIE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Good to see Judy. Good to see you too, thank you.

WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about the president's trip. He spent a couple day in Florida, in Daytona, at the NASCAR event yesterday in Tampa. Today he's at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Is this saying that the campaign, the White House is a little worried about the Democrats?

GILLESPIE: Oh, the president's been out there taking his message and talking about policies for a long time. I was very heartened to see him at the NASCAR event over the weekend. I thought it was great. You know, in the past we've seen presidents throw out the first pitch in the World Series or flip the toss for the coin toss for the kickoff for the Super Bowl.

And I thought it was great that the president was there to drop the flag at America's race in Daytona. Today obviously talking with the troops and talking about national security.

So I think it's just par for the course, frankly. But there will come a point in time when the president's going to engage politically and time that will come when the Democrats settle on who their nominee is and there's a contest afoot. But it's not quite here yet.

WOODRUFF: Let me read you something that a reporter in "The Tampa Tribune," where the president was yesterday -- the reporter wrote in -- he was talking about the president's criticism of the Democrats and other whose disagree with his tax cuts.

He said Mr. Bush, quote, "made little attempt to mask the politics of a visit funded by taxpayers as official presidential work."

What do you say to this reporter?

GILLESPIE: Well, I'm not familiar with the report you just cited. But the fact is, like I say, you know, the president has been traveling and should travel, be out, talking to people in the country and hearing from them directly as he's been doing because Washington's a bubble.

And I think you have to get outside the bubble to really have an understanding of how the policies are playing out in the real world. And I'm glad the president does that.

WOODRUFF: Today John Kerry took note of the fact, Ed Gillespie, that the president was at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Among other things he talked about the president's commitment to America's veterans.

He said George W. Bush and Dick Cheney came into the office promising this country's veterans help is on the way. Three years later he said we know that statement couldn't be further from the truth. And he said he's going to help them with health care and housing pay and equipment.

GILLESPIE: Well the president has increased funding for health care for veterans. And so once again we see an instance where what Senator Kerry says is at odds with the facts. I'm sure we will continue to see that throughout the year, assuming he's the nominee.

I don't assume that necessarily. I think there are Democratic voters -- have a few more contests in which to cast votes. But should he be, I suspect, we'll continue to see instances where what the senator says and what the facts are will not be in snyc.

WOODRUFF: Some people are saying, Ed Gillespie, that this contest has already gotten surprisingly mean and personal and dirty, if you will. They point to these back and forth e-mail ads that your campaign first ran and then the Kerry campaign responded where you both really went hard after the other.

Is this the kind of campaign the American people should look forward to?

GILLESPIE: Well let's be clear about something, Judy. You say the Bush campaign was the first to run this. And it was a Web video that they put out.

Let's be clear about something. Senator Kerry has spent $40 million -- actually, $49 million, I'm sorry, $49 million on ads attacking the president. Many of them saying the president take special interest money. And it turns out that Senator Kerry has been the No. 1 recipient of special interest money in the United States Senate over the past 15 years.

And the fact is that, you know, he's out there running these ads, attacking the president. That's, by the way, that's not all the ads he's run. I'm just talking about the ads only attacking the president.

And it turns out what he's saying is in odds with what he's done and what he does.

So to me that was a legitimate point to make to supporters via e- mail of the president's reelection.

WOODRUFF: Last, very quick, any doubt in your mind Dick Cheney will be on the ticket?

GILLESPIE: No doubt in my mind at all. And I'm excited about not only working to reelect President Bush but to help reelect Vice President Cheney who has been one of the most effective vice presidents this country's ever seen.

WOODRUFF: If anybody would know, Ed Gillespie would. Thank you very much. Good to see you again.

GILLESPIE: You bet. Good to see.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

GILLESPIE: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Super Tuesday, ad we've been telling you, is two weeks away. But will the voters be super interested by then? Coming up, I'll convene a roundtable of reporters from across the country.

Also, what's on the mind of Wisconsin voters as they go to the polls today? Bill Schneider has a first look at today's exit poll.

Plus, Bruce Morton looks beyond the cheese heads at what makes Wisconsin politics unique.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As Wisconsin voters mark their ballots today, the Democratic candidates already starting to focus on an upcoming gold run of candidates. Super Tuesday with ten contests is just two weeks from today. Among the key states holding contests that day, California, New York, and Ohio. And with us now to talk more about Super Tuesday and more are Carla Marinucci of the "San Francisco Chronicle," Fred Dicker with the "New York Post." He is in Albany, New York. And in Milwaukee, Dan Balz, senior political reporter for the "Washington Post."

Before we turn to Super Tuesday, Dan, give us a sense of the lay of the land in Wisconsin. Is John Kerry's steamroller going to keep on rolling or maybe Edwards or Dean going to pull a surprise?

DAN BALZ, "WASHINGTON POST": I think all indications are that we're going to see tonight what we've been seeing for a number of weeks, which is another Kerry victory. There doesn't seem to be and hasn't been a lot of suspense out here. There's been some competitiveness for the second place finish between Senator Edwards and former governor Dean but in terms of who is going to come out No. 1, it would be a huge surprise here if Kerry did not win it.

WOODRUFF: Carla Marinucci, from your perch out on the west coast, and with California Democrats voting two weeks from now, how does this contest look out there?

CARLA MARINUCCI, "SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE": Judy, just to show you how rapidly the landscape has changed, just one month ago, a field poll came out showing Howard Dean in first place, followed by Clark. John Kerry in a fourth place position. And John Edwards not even showing up on the radar screen. So things have really changed in California. There haven't been any recent polls. We're expecting some soon.

The fact is that Kerry has locked up the endorsements of a number of very important faces and voices in California, Dianne Feinstein, Treasurer Phil Angelides, Controller Steve Westley. This is important for him, but John Edwards was just here last week and in one day raised $500,000. Had a huge crowd in Los Angeles. Very enthusiastic. I think Democrats here are glad that there's still a debate going on of sorts, although certainly it looks like John Kerry is the guy here.

WOODRUFF: Fred Dicker, what about in New York? I know you're talking to folks all the time there. How do they see this race at this point?

FRED DICKER, "NEW YORK POST": Well, they don't see a Super Tuesday coming up. They see a not so super Tuesday. May be super for John Kerry. A big Kerry blowout. We did have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here for a while for Joe Lieberman. He had a lot of support. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Wesley Clark had a base in New York. Both of those bases have been lost now with both candidates out of the running.

Howard Dean never had much strength here in New York and he has even less now. John Edwards is trying to put together something tomorrow at city hall in New York City but the best he can do is a couple of -- well, somewhat well-known city councilmen, including Bill DiBlasio who was once Hillary Clinton's campaign manager showing up. But there's no reason to believe that John Edwards has much support here in New York.

WOODRUFF: Dan Balz, back to you. I know you're talking to Democrats all over the country. As they look beyond Wisconsin and assuming the outcome is what so many believe it's going to be. Do we look for any surprises? Do we just look for John Kerry to just pile up the delegates? What are people looking for at this point?

BALZ: I think people are looking for signals from both governor Dean and Senator Edwards as to see how they're going to conduct themselves in the weeks ahead. It's not clear what they're going to do. Whether they might drop out if they lose tonight or whether they will try to keep going in some capacity. Both have said they plan to do that. There's going to be more pressure after tonight if they lose.

Not to do that or to do it in a way that does not damage John Kerry. The Democrats that I've talked to in the last couple of days don't think if this race continues for another couple of weeks it's that bad for John Kerry, as long as neither governor Dean nor Senator Edwards hits him too terribly hard. They have not done that too much so far. I think what Democrats worry about is if this continues on well past Super Tuesday, then it could be a serious problem.

WOODRUFF: Carla Marinucci, very quickly, have issues as we used to know them just gone out the window in this race? is It all about electability? Is that what you hear?

MARINUCCI: In California, Judy, that is the issue. As you know, Bush lost here by 1.3 million votes. There's still a lot of passion about the election in 2000 and California Democrats are really gearing up for this one. So, yes, electability No. 1 issue when it comes to looking ahead. Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: And Fred Dicker, I know you can't describe this in a 30-second conversation, but in New York, what do you hear Democrats most looking for in this race right now?

DICKER: Well, they're looking for Howard Dean to get out after tomorrow. And a little esoteric here in New York, a lot of people looking to see if this will be the final humiliation for Al Sharpton. Arguably, this is his home state. He's got a couple of residences in various places. If he doesn't break at least 10 percent here, Al Sharpton's goal of being the leader of African-Americans in the United States I think will sort of be smashed on the rock of the New York primary.

WOODRUFF: Fred, thank you for bringing to mind that Al Sharpton is a candidate in this race.

DICKER: We don't expect Dennis Kucinich to do much here, either.

WOODRUFF: All right. All three of you, we appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

We've been hearing about voters all over. What about what's on voters' minds as they go to the polls today in Wisconsin. Coming up, Bill Schneider looks at the trends in the early exit polls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Former president Bill Clinton is denying a report that he is pushing Wesley Clark for vice president. The "New York Post" reported that the former president had been calling Democratic power brokers to press front-runner John Kerry to pick Clark as his running mate. Clinton says he likes Clark but he says he is staying neutral on the issue.

Clark who is from Clinton's home state of Arkansas dropped out last week of the Democratic presidential running race. Stay with us, much more INSIDE POLITICS coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: A total of 16 states have held primaries or caucuses in the past month. From cost to coast, exit polls have shows Democratic voters seem to be very consistent in what they are thinking.

CNN political analyst Bill Schneider joins me now with the early exit polling from Wisconsin -- Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Well, Judy, the big policy issues of Wisconsin primary voters is the same as it's been other states, the economy and jobs followed by health care and then the war in Iraq, behind domestic concerns.

You know, the issue of trade with other countries became a major focus in the Wisconsin campaign. We asked voters there, do you think trade with other countries mostly creates jobs for American workers, loses jobs or has no effect? And the answer? Not even close.

Nearly three-quarters of Wisconsin primary voters say trade loses jobs for Americans. That's in a state that has lost nearly 75,000 jobs in the last three years.

And that view is shared by supporters of all the three major candidates, Edwards, Kerry, and Dean. And they've all promised to revisit the NAFTA treaty with Canada and Mexico which Kerry voted for and Dean supported. Their criticism? It was not implemented correctly and it hurt U.S. workers.

Edwards says he never supported NAFTA and he's made it a major point of disagreement with his rivals. More than eight in ten Edwards supporters today say they are critical of trade. Edwards has latched on to criticism of NAFTA as an issue that embodies the major themes of his campaign. Economic populism and his claim to be a political outsider, not part of trade deals supported by the political establishment -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill, with a very early peek at what those interviews with voters are as they leave their polls places in Wisconsin. Bill, thank you very much.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

WOODRUFF: Still ahead, more politics in the Badger State. Bruce Morton shines a spotlight on Wisconsin's tradition of progressive politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It is known as America's Dairyland and it is in the nation's heartland. But when it comes to politics, Wisconsin often goes against the grain. Our Bruce Morton take as closer look at the state known for its progressive politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It isn't just cheeseheads or even real cheese and dairy farms. That's a major industry, but Wisconsin also has a progressive political tradition going back Robert La Follette, governor and then senator a century ago.

Howard Dean finds hope in that history.

DEAN: La Follette's entire legacy is at stake right now, and Wisconsin knows Bob La Follette's legacy is worth fighting for.

MORTON: The state has liked reformers from La Follette to former Governor Tommy Thompson, a pioneer on issues like welfare reform.

It's been to outsiders. John Kennedy over Hubert Humphrey from nextdoor Minnesota in 1960. Lyndon Johnson withdrew in 1968. He knew Eugene McCarthy would win Wisconsin. Southerner Jimmy Carter won in 1976, the primary that got him on the road to the nomination.

But Howard Dean?

CRAIG GILBERT, "MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL": Wisconsin isn't a vacuum. And so the problems that Howard Dean has had elsewhere translate here.

WAYNE YOUNGQUIST, WISH POLITICAL ANALYST: Dean has been fading. He will get some support from the normal crowd in Madison and other places like Madison. But basically, the vote to keep the process going is going to go to Edwards this time.

MORTON: It's an interesting test. Wisconsin has an open primary which means Republicans and independents can and do vote on the Democratic ballot.

GILBERT: The last time we had a contested Democratic presidential primary, the electorate was only 53 percent Democratic voters. The rest were independents and Republicans.

MORTON: The consensus is Wisconsin isn't that different. Kerry's ahead.

JERRY MAST, CARTHAGE COLLEGE: And I think it reinforces the sense in Democrats that it's not exclusive to Wisconsin, that electability is really very, very important. And that for better or worse, rightly or wrongly, Mr. Kerry has been defined as the electable candidate.

MORTON: The progressive tradition is real here, as real as the cows and the dairy farms. And it has sent liberals to Congress. Senators like William Proxmier. But it also sent demagogues like Red- baiting Joseph McCarthy.

And some see a rule in politics here.

YOUNGQUIST: A liberal Democrat who can't win here simply can't win nationally. It's just the nature of the state. We may elect mavericks, but if the liberal can't win here, they can't win.

MORTON: A message for Howard Dean? If he loses, that's something he'll have to think about.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: We'll find out soon enough if those Wisconsin pundits are right.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Don't forget, for all the latest on the Wisconsin primary, stay with CNN, America's election headquarters. Our Special coverage starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern when the polls close.

"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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



Senator Russ Feingold


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
SEARCH
   The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.