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State of Play in California; Interview With Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Aired February 26, 2004 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: A California connection. The '04 Democrats gear up for another debate, and reach out to the Golden State.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing wrong with a son trying to follow in a father's footsteps.

ANNOUNCER: Except, perhaps, when it comes to getting re-elected. President Bush heads south in his quest for a second term.

She marches to her own tune. Teresa Heinz Kerry talks to Judy about her husband, his rivals, and life in the campaign spotlight.

TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY'S WIFE: I have more important things to think about. And some people have to earn a living. And, you know, c'est la vie.


ANNOUNCER: Now, live from the site of tonight's Democratic debate in Los Angeles, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Hello, and thank you for joining us at the University of Southern California.

Well, when the four Democrats who are still vying for the presidential nomination come here tonight, they won't find any lecterns to stand at or timers to cut them off. Instead, they will gather around a table for free-wheeling conversation that should give voters their best chance yet to see the candidates interact. The CNN- Los Angeles Times sponsored debate, moderated by our own Larry King, begins five-and-a-half hours from now.

John Edwards warmed up for the event by holding a campaign rally in San Francisco. He's hoping a strong debate performance tonight will fuel a late surge for him in California and in the nine other Super Tuesday states.

John Kerry, meantime, wants to further cement his front-runner status tonight with an eye toward knocking out his competition sooner than later. Heading into Tuesday's contest, Kerry got an influential endorsement today from The New York Times.

The Democratic debaters have a fine line to walk tonight. They need to appeal to a national audience while also tailoring their messages to California voters, who may not know them very well.

Our Bill Schneider has been talking to California political operatives about the state of play.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): What happens if you give an election and there's no campaign?

ALLAN HOFFENBLUM, GOP POLITICAL ANALYST: There has been no campaigning done specifically here in California. We've not seen any positive ads. We've seen no negative ads. We've seen no advertising for any candidate.

SCHNEIDER: It costs a lot of money to run ads in California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a million dollars a week.

HOFFENBLUM: I would say $2 million a week.

SCHNEIDER: So what do California voters know about John Kerry?

HOFFENBLUM: From Massachusetts, he went to Vietnam. And he doesn't like George W. Bush very much.

SCHNEIDER: And John Edwards?

HOFFENBLUM: Kind of young and kind of cute, and doesn't like George W. Bush very much.

SCHNEIDER: Polls show Kerry's the front-runner in California. But is he vulnerable?

DARRY SRAGOW, DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL CONSULTANT: There's no animosity that I'm aware of towards John Kerry in California. But I don't sense any passion.

SCHNEIDER: If nothing happens, Kerry wins. Tonight's debate is John Edwards' only chance to make something happen.

SRAGOW: The trick in this business is to say something, to articulate something that causes voters to react with ah-ha, he just said what's in my mind.

SCHNEIDER: Edwards could go negative, maybe remind Democrats, you're about to nominate another Massachusetts liberal. Remember the last one? But that would require him to abandon the positive tone of his campaign. Edwards could talk about his signature issue, trade.

SRAGOW: I think arguing against free trade is not going to work in California at all.

HOFFENBLUM: This is the Pacific Rim. We have agriculture in this state. We're very dependent, you know, on trade, and such.

SCHNEIDER: Edwards' best bet? Run as the outsider. And try to pick up the Howard Dean and Wesley Clark votes that might have been pretty big in California.

SRAGOW: This is the state that, after all, is the home of Silicon Valley and early adapters. And we take to new technology very quickly, and tend to make our own decisions. Very suspicious of power centers. He could tap into that.


SCHNEIDER: Edwards could tap into the resentment some California Democrats feel over the fact that they didn't even get a chance to vote for Dean or Clark. Edwards' message? Try me.

WOODRUFF: And they thought they were having their primary early out here.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. This was supposed to be the beginning.

WOODRUFF: But it turns out we're down to four.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bill, thanks you very much. We'll be talking to you throughout this night.

Well, President Bush is not willing to feed the political spotlight to his would-be Democratic opponents. He traveled to Kentucky to today to raise more campaign money and to road test his stump speech.

Let's check in with our senior White House correspondent, John King -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, a new stump speech from the president today, but a continued focus by Mr. Bush on the economy. The president's actually back here at the White House at this hour, returning a short time ago.

He was scheduled to be in North Carolina, but he was snowed out. A snowstorm, unusual snowstorm in North Carolina, causing the president to cancel an economic event and a fund-raiser. So he's back here at the White House now.

Earlier in Kentucky at an economic roundtable, the president continued to make the case that his tax cuts were pulling the economy out of recession and were now beginning to create some job growth in the economy. But the president during this discussion in Kentucky did seem to make a concession.

He wants Congress to make all of the 10-year Bush tax cuts permanent. Republican leaders are telling him they do not have the votes to do that this year. The president seemed to acknowledge that fact, as he made the case, though, that this tax cuts are good for the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: I'm calling on Congress to make the tax cuts that are set to expire permanent. I would like Congress to make all tax cuts permanent. But at the very minimum, they need to listen to the stories up here on the stage and make those set to expire in 2005 permanent, for the sake of our economy, for the sake of American families, for the sake of small business owners and for the sake of job creation. The tax cuts need to be permanent.


KING: From that event, the president went on to a Bush-Cheney campaign fund-raiser. He pulled in more than $1 million for his campaign, and he road tested his new stump speech, very similar to the speech he first gave to Republican governors here in Washington earlier this week.

The president not mentioning Senator John Kerry, the Democratic front-runner by name, but he did talk about one senator from Massachusetts, suggesting he had waffled on a number of issues, including whether to support the war in Iraq, whether to support the Patriot Act, those tools to fight terrorism here in the United States.

The president saying he was very much looking forward to the campaign. And Judy, the president for months has been saying he is loosening up for the campaign. That line has now gone from the speech. Aides say from here on out he will be campaigning much more aggressively -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, one quick question. Any cognitive dissonance there over the notion the president is out there talking about jobs, people out of work, on the one hand? On the other hand, he's out there raising millions of dollars for his own campaign for re- election.

KING: Well, the Bush campaign knows that there are those who will criticize all this fund-raising. They say the president, of course, needs to raise money. And we are about to see the fruits of that money, if you will.

You're focusing on this debate, which of course tees up the Super Tuesday primaries next week. Two days after those primaries, the president will start spending the more than $100 million he has in the bank on television advertisements.

Campaign operatives say, yes, fund-raising gets criticized in the news media, but they say it is not a major issue with the voters unless there are any improprieties. They say the Bush-Cheney campaign has no such impropriety. So the president will both raise money and focus on his campaign message.

WOODRUFF: All right. John King, traveling with President Bush today.

John, thank you very much.

Right now, we want to take a turn in our coverage and turn to the situation in the violence-racked country of Haiti. The president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is joining us now on a telephone line.

Mr. President, first of all, what is the situation in your country? The reports we have here in the United States is that much of the country is virtually just out of control, and people are running with virtually no law enforcement throughout the streets. What is your assessment of what's going on?

JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE, HAITIAN PRESIDENT: Actually, we have terrorists, criminals with weapons burning police stations, killing people in some areas like Gonaives, Cap-Haitien, while here, in Port- au-Prince, people are anxious because they don't know when those terrorists will be coming to Port-au-Prince and kill thousands of people. That's why we are eager to see an international force coming to Haiti, increasing the number of the police who are already in Haiti to disarm those terrorists while the opposition should sign an agreement. And with humanitarian assistance, the situation, of course, will become better.

WOODRUFF: President Aristide, you know that there are a number of critics of yours who say that the reason -- you call them terrorists, but others looking at this situation say these are political opponents of yours. And there are people both in and outside your country, people who have been very friendly to Haiti, who say that you are a large part of the reason that these political opponents have turned against you. How do you answer them?

ARISTIDE: I disagree, because some of these people are members of an organization called FRAP, who killed with the army at the time more than 5,000 people from '91 to '94. They are well known as drug dealers. They are well known as people who were and who are involved in killing people.

So we cannot confuse them to any normal Democratic opposition. That's why we need to work with the real opposition facing those terrorists, criminals, to prevent them to kill more people.

WOODRUFF: President Aristide, are you willing to give up power or to share power if there is some sort of international peacekeeping force in your country?

ARISTIDE: Last Saturday, I welcomed a high level of international delegation, and I said yes to the proposal they give to me, wishing that the opposition here, instead of backing terrorists to kill more people, would sign this agreement. So this agreement includes the possibility to have a new government where we share power and share responsibilities. And I think it's fair, when we can do that with members from the opposition, from the civil society.

WOODRUFF: Would you be willing to give up power altogether if it came to that?

ARISTIDE: No. We had 32 coup d'etats in our history. Although we are the first black independent country of the world celebrating our bicentennial, 200 years of independence, we will strengthen our Democratic experience by moving from one elected president to another elected president. But not from one coup d'etat to another one. We have 32-coup d'etats; it's enough. We need now to respect the constitutional order, and I will leave the palace on February 7, 2006, which is good for our democracy.

WOODRUFF: But Mr. President, you've been in power for, what, 10 years now. How much responsibility do you bear for the situation?

ARISTIDE: I'm sorry to say the truth. I was elected in '91 after seven months. It could happen, and we lost more than 5,000 people.

I was back only last February 7, 2001. That's why on February 7, 2004, we had more than one million people in a peaceful demonstration in Port-au-Prince. And we did it without any violent incident, which means we will continue through a peaceful way to strengthen a Democratic experience, investing in human beings, in health care, education. That's why we care about those people suffering from those terrorists, and we need Red Cross, humanitarian assistance, to not let them (UNINTELLIGIBLE) killers without any real assistance.

WOODRUFF: How many international peacekeepers will it take to restore order in Haiti? And from what countries should they be drawn, do you think?

ARISTIDE: From my point of view, if we have a couple of dozen of international soldiers, police, together right now, it could be enough to send a positive signal to those terrorists. Once they realize the international community refuses the terrorists to keep killing people, we can prevent them to kill more people. And then we may have a resolution through the United Nations to have more coming to Haiti and prevent the wars.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying it might only take a couple of dozen initially?

ARISTIDE: For the moment. If we have that today, I am convinced it will be sending a very positive signal to those terrorists.

WOODRUFF: But Mr. President, what do you say to those in the United States and other countries who say, "Why should we be part of a force going into a country where there has been complete lawlessness? Why should we put the lives of our soldiers on the line in order to restore order in a country where there is none?"

ARISTIDE: First of all, we already have international police in Haiti through a special mission of the OAS. Secondly, by increasing this number, we protect lives. Thirdly, on September 11, 2001, terrorists did the worst thing in the United States, and the world said no to terrorism.

As today, the world cannot close their eyes, letting terrorists killing people, and killing the fragile democratic process. I think it can be good for the world.

And also, remember that next November, you will have elections in the United States. Yesterday, we had more refugees leaving Haiti because of those terrorists and moving towards Florida. They will not be able to vote next November in your country. We wish they can stay in Haiti to vote when before next November we will organize democratic elections.

WOODRUFF: That sounds almost like a threat that you are stating.

ARISTIDE: No. I am realistic. I'm just telling the truth. Because the more we have those terrorists killing more people, the more we will be seeing refugees.

And we care for their rights. That's why we are eager to see them staying in Haiti instead of leaving Haiti because of those terrorists.

WOODRUFF: Mr. President, again, you keep referring to your -- to these individuals as "terrorists." Others are saying they are political opponents who have risen up because of mistakes that you have made as the president of your country.

ARISTIDE: No. When you say FRAP, you mean the name of that organization who killed more than 5,000 people from 1991 to 1994. So it's not new. And some of them should be in jail.

Some orders, we have their names, and we could even give the names. So we are talking about those people.

We should not confuse them to some dissident Haitians who are members of the opposition, although they prefer to embrace people who are already convicted as killers instead of moving with a democratic process. So I'm not inventing that, I'm just describing the reality.

WOODRUFF: Do you believe, President Aristide, that you are getting the sort of cooperation that you need, or even communication with the Bush administration right now, the United States?

ARISTIDE: Yesterday, I had a very good and constructive communication with Ambassador Foley, who is the U.S. ambassador to Haiti. And from time to time, when it's necessary, we have good meetings and conversation. With other officials from the U.S., we used to talk. And we will continue to talk.

And also, this week, I had many conversations with many members of the U.S. parliament, and also U.S. citizens. So I think now it will be good for the U.S. As for Haiti, as for the world, if (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we move ahead to protect life, to protect democracy, instead of letting terrorists killing more people. And that may happen at any time.

WOODRUFF: Again, it sounds like a threat that you're making. Mr. President, what needs to happen right now for the situation in Haiti to improve, for there to be order restored?

ARISTIDE: Allow me, with all due respect I have for you, it's not a threat. I'm trying to be responsible by telling the truth. Because at any time, those terrorists may come to Port -au-Prince and kill thousands of people. And we don't want that to happen. We have to prevent that.

I think once the international community, especially the U.S., would accept to send a clear signal to those terrorists, we could start by preventing the worst to happen at any time.

Second, if then we have the international force through the United Nations, or CARICOM or the U.S. in Haiti increasing the number of the international police already in Haiti, it will make the huge difference.

Thirdly, we signed an agreement. We wish the opposition would sign that same agreement to have a new government, where sharing power, we will share responsibilities, including members from the private sector, members from the opposition. And together we go ahead to organize elections, to professionalize our police, to have -- get reforms, fighting against corruption, against drugs, building a state of law. I think this is the best.

WOODRUFF: So just to be clear, what is the -- you started out by saying clear signal from the United States. What exactly is that clear signal that you're looking for?

ARISTIDE: I think on September 11, 2001, the U.S. government sent a very strong and clear signal to those terrorists. Today, we have them here.

We signed an agreement with the U.S. to cooperate in fighting drug dealers. It was on October 17, 1997, which allows the U.S. to cross the Haitian water and help us to prevent the drug dealers to come to Haiti.

Now we can see the boat people, we can also see those drug dealers using our sea to bring drugs to Gonaives, to Cap-Haitien, where are the terrorists and weapons to them. So it's possible for the United States and Haiti, through this agreement, to prevent the thugs and terrorists to bring more drugs and more weapons to the country.

WOODRUFF: But you're not equating the al Qaeda terrorists who struck the United States on September 11, 2001, with the people who are causing disruption in Haiti right now, are you?

ARISTIDE: Well, there is no major difference when you see those terrorists last September 11, 2001, killing people in the states, and when you see terrorists here in Haiti killing people. Because once you kill one human being, it's already too much. That's why we think this is a very important time to send a clear signal to the entire world that we are all united against terrorists.

WOODRUFF: One last question, Mr. President. How much power are you prepared to give up?

ARISTIDE: Well, based on our constitution, I am the president, and the future prime minister will be the head of the government. And neutral independent citizens being the head of the government. Of course, we will work together respecting law and our constitution, showing that as I was ready, I am ready to work with them, wishing they, too, will be ready to work with us. Because there is no democracy with that opposition, and I'm very happy to know opposition will be on board.

WOODRUFF: And Mr. President, just finally, what do you say to the people in your country who have lost family members, lost friends, through this terrible chaos and mayhem of the last weeks?

ARISTIDE: The first lady yesterday had an interview, and she addressed this humanitarian assistance because she cares. And I support what she said. The same way most people suffering, I think, the best way to alleviate the burden is, first of all, to give humanitarian assistance to them, to accompany them to face the reality. Because if there is no justice for those who are suffering, they will suffer more.

And by preventing the killers to kill more people, we may see them suffering more. So I am ready to continue to work with them, to accompany them within a framework of law and humanitarian assistance, to show them that we care.

WOODRUFF: President Aristide, you sound remarkably calm for someone at the center of such a terrible, terrible situation in your country right now.

ARISTIDE: Yes, I am. You know why I am? Because I am sure that what I'm doing, this is the right thing.

Not for my ego, not for my personal interests, but because I am an elected president doing my best within the limits I have to get support from here and from elsewhere in order to protect life, in order to build a step of law after spending 200 years of independence with 32 coup d'etats.

The last coup d'etat we had we lost more than 5,000 people. And today, we see the same people who kill them back in the country to kill more. That's why knowing that what I am doing, this is the right thing, I feel calm moving ahead with the hope that we will prevent the worst to happen.

WOODRUFF: A very calm and confident sounding Jean-Bertrand Aristide, president of Haiti, joining us by telephone.

President Aristide, I would ask that you stay on the line for just a moment. I know some of my colleagues at CNN International would also want to ask you some questions. So if you would, stay on the line for just a few minutes longer. Thank you very much for talking with me. We appreciate it.

Again we've been speaking with the president of Haiti, Jean- Bertrand Aristide, at a time of turmoil and extreme unrest in his country. Hundreds of people killed in the last few weeks of fighting, and chaos in the streets of that island nation's large cities.

I'm Judy Woodruff. When we come back, we'll continue with INSIDE POLITICS. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ANNOUNCER: Showdown in California. The four remaining Democratic presidential hopefuls face off tonight in the City of Angels in a debate unlike any held so far this campaign season.

Who's got the most to gain tonight? Who's got the most to lose?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, in many ways it's Kerry's to lose.

ANNOUNCER: We'll break down the strategies.

It's the biggest prize in the presidential election. And now, with a Republican governor, will the Golden State be up for grabs in November?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no question that the smartest thing the Bush campaign can do in California is to listen carefully to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from the site of tonight's Democratic debate in Los Angeles, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: And welcome back to the University of Southern California and our countdown to tonight's Democratic presidential debate. Very much switching gears here after that interview with the president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Well, it is proving to be a relatively low-key day for the White House hopefuls as they prepare for tonight's high-stakes showdown. I think that's about the only way you can describe it, Frank Buckley. CNN's Frank Buckley has been covering these candidates as they traverse the state of California. What are you finding? What are you learning, Frank.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well both of them getting ready for some debate prep coming up for the debate that we're going to have here at USC this evening. Each one of them engaging in one campaign stop today.

Really the pressure is on John Edwards. Tonight at this debate we have four candidates for the first time on stage instead of the nine we've had in the past, or the seven or the five. Now we're down to four.

Of those four, of course we've got senator Kerry the front runner. Senator John Edwards is on the stage, Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich. The pressure really on Edwards. John Kerry simply has to appear presidential, keep the shoelaces tied tightly so he doesn't trip.

Today he got a big endorsement, "The New York Times" endorsement on the Super Tuesday contest. "The Times" saying that "Kerry understands the nuances and shades of gray in both foreign and domestic policy. While he still has trouble turning out snappy sound bites, we don't detect any difficulty in laying down a clear bottom line."

John Edwards, meanwhile, campaigning today in San Francisco. The burden in this debate really on him. He's down in the polls going into Super Tuesday. Senator Kerry has won all but two of the Democrat contests to date. But if Edwards doesn't win any contests on Super Tuesday, can he continue? Here's what the senator said about that this morning.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My goal in this is to continue to accumulate substantial numbers of delegates. As all of you certainly know these are not winner take all states. The delegates will largely be apportioned according to the vote (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I'm very much in this for the long haul (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


BUCKLEY: And since Senator Edwards talking about delegates, right now Senator Kerry has 741 delegates to his 214 delegates. Really the burden is on Edwards tonight -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: That's a big gap to make up, isn't it?


WOODRUFF: I mean you're hearing people say John Edwards, you've got to do something really dramatic to shake this entire race up.

BUCKLEY: On the other hand he is saying that he doesn't have to necessarily win on Super Tuesday. He's saying that he's got a shot in states like Ohio and Minnesota, Georgia. He concedes that California and New York are difficult states for him.

But he's saying he's collecting delegates. He doesn't necessarily have to win. But we'll see if his money runs out and if he is able to continue his campaign.

WOODRUFF: California watching this debate tonight. But so is the rest of the country.

BUCKLEY: That's right.

WOODRUFF: All right. Frank, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

We have heard that a number of Californians complain that the Democrats haven't invested much time or resources here this primary season. But you know, that's likely to change once the general election battles get started because California is just too important to ignore. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): California, the Holy Grail of politics, 55 electoral votes long-coveted by White House aspirants of both parties. But for years firmly in Democratic pockets.

DAN SCHNUR, GOP STRATEGIST: The Bush/Cheney campaign spent $12 million in California, and lost the state by 1.3 million votes.

WOODRUFF: Will 2004 be different? California has long been in the sights of the president's political chieftain Karl Rove. A Bush win here could be the ultimate political coup. And this time he has a secret weapon.

SCHNUR: If the president has Governor Schwarzenegger by his side, people are going to listen to him in a way that they didn't four years ago.

WOODRUFF: GOP strategist Dan Schnur says Schwarzenegger can help Bush expand his appeal here tapping into key groups like moderates, Latinos and white women.

Even so in a state where Democrats have long outnumbered Republicans, the president faces a steep climb. But one top Democrat says this year's nominee shouldn't expect another 2000 cakewalk.

GRAY DAVIS, FRM. CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: Last time Al Gore didn't have to pay for a cup of coffee.

WOODRUFF: Former Governor Gray Davis say a popular Republican in Sacramento will force Democrats to make a bigger California commitment.

DAVIS: Well, there's no question it makes a difference if there's a Republican in the governor's office. When Vice President Gore ran, we put our operation lock, stock and barrel at his disposal. And I was singing his praises, not criticizing him.

WOODRUFF: Davis says his party can't afford to ignore his state this year.

DAVIS: If we do our part, I do not see a scenario that President Bush can win. If we do nothing, take California for granted, don't spend a dime here and President Bush makes a big effort, then it could be close.

WOODRUFF: But for Bush, a close California contest could be enough, forcing the Democratic nominee to play hard in the Golden State.

SCHNUR: The more time that the Democratic nominee has to spend here, the more money that the Democratic nominee has to spend here, the less time and money the spending in Ohio, in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, and in Florida.

WOODRUFF: All states guaranteed to be fiercely contested in November.


WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of Florida, CNN has just learned that the United States senator from Florida, Bob Graham, is going to be endorsing John Kerry next week. We have been hearing talk of this out on the political hustings but now it has been confirmed. Bob Graham, who formerly, of course, was in this race for president, is saying that he will endorse John Kerry for president next week.

That's, of course, going to be of some help if John Kerry's the nominee running against President Bush in that state that was oh so close in 2000.

John Kerry's wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, as we know, does not shy away from the political spotlight or the rigors of the campaign trail. She's been out there. I caught up with her yesterday here in Los Angeles after a Latino event. And when I talked to her, I started by asking if she feels she's making a difference in her husband's campaign.


TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY'S WIFE: Yes. I think everybody working the campaign makes a difference. And I make certain kinds of difference, and he makes certain kinds of differences and we all make a difference.

I think this is a campaign with wonderful people. I think the quality of the people involved in this campaign certainly showed its colors in Iowa and New Hampshire and elsewhere. And it's been the most gratifying things has been the people that we've worked with and the people we've listened to and tried to woo.

WOODRUFF: One of the things that's striking is how early the Bush/Cheney campaign is out there talking about your husband talking about him as a candidate. They're almost ignoring Mr. Edwards. They're assuming your husband's going to be the nominee. Today they're saying he's trying to run away from his record.

HEINZ KERRY: Well, you know, it's campaign year. What else is new? I don't take any votes for granted. Not one. And I would never, ever diminish anyone's stature by assuming anything.

I think we've had a lot of very interesting candidates. I think our candidates have had a lot of different strengths. I think that John's strengths today are particularly relevant to our time. I think he's a man who likes complexity, understands it, and doesn't shy away of looking sometimes as though he is saying one thing and doing another when in fact, anybody who understands this knows exactly what he means.

I think only people who like simple notions or simple solutions -- well simplification, let's say, would expect that to be so. I find complexity interesting and so does he. And we do live in complex times. WOODRUFF: When the Bush/Cheney campaign, though, says very simply that your husband voted against a whole list of weapons systems, how does it make you feel as someone who has obviously talked to your husband about some of these issues?

HEINZ KERRY: I don't talk to him a lot about defense weapons. I do believe in a strong defense. I think he does, too. And I think anybody who's fought for this country would know that you don't want to face fire being weak. And like the president, he does understand that.

WOODRUFF: There's another issue that's out there this week. The president put it on the table yesterday when he said that there should be a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Do you believe that this is the wrong thing to do?

HEINZ KERRY: I think it's another election year posturing of people who can't talk about the issues. I think our country believes in civil rights.

I'm a mother. I have three sons. None of them happen to be gay. But if they were, I would want to feel free and proud of all of them. I would not want to hide anyone. I would not want to be embarrassed by anyone.

And as a mother, I would say it's got to be very hard for those people who feel afraid to speak up, and for the parents who can't face it. And I think we are a much more generous country than that.

And so I think civil unions and benefits and all of the dignity and respect that any human being deserves is what people deserve. And that's all I think.

WOODRUFF: Gay marriage, you were quoted earlier this week as saying that eventually you think this country will accept the idea.

HEINZ KERRY: Not quite what I said. What I said is that we live -- it's a very shocking thing to a lot of old-fashioned people. It's not even -- I'm not talking about people who think about it in terms of fundamental anything. Just culturally. And that I don't think our country as a whole is ready to be hit with something like that. But that's just a cultural thing. That's what I said. They took it as saying, you know that's what we're going to have. What I said is that everybody deserves respect and the same rights. And John has come out against marriages. But absolutely for all rights and civil unions. And that's pretty clear.

WOODRUFF: Two other things, Mrs. Kerry. Senator Edwards is out there saying he's the candidate who most identifies with poor people. That he was the son of a mill worker. He was raised in a very humble environment. And that he connects with these people.

HEINZ KERRY: And I'm sure he does. I'm sure he does connect with them. But you know what? Connection has many dimensions, fortunately. Some of them are what you do with your life. Some of them are where you come from. Some of them are who your friends are. And I think he has a very particular set of gifts, and it's great. But I don't think it's very American to diminish what, or disenfranchise anyone because of where they came from, what they think about, how much they have, or how little they have.

The great thing about this country is that it is premised on the belief that everybody, if they believe and work hard, can be part of the best of America. And I think it's great that John Edwards has come from where he's come. And that's also a presumption, because he does not know where John Kerry came from. In fact, he only knows some of it. And he doesn't know all about it. And it's also disregarding the sacrifices and more importantly the lessons that he learned with his fellow veterans in Vietnam, in school, and in all his three years when he ran around the country trying to stop the war.

You know, we all have lessons, we all have hurts, we all have pain. And fortunately most of us grow with it. And I say, great for John Edwards, and great for Dick Gephardt, and great for John Kerry.


WOODRUFF: Teresa Heinz Kerry in an interview yesterday here in Los Angeles, once again saying she doesn't think it is very American to diminish, or to, as she said, disenfranchise anyone because of where they came from. Well, joining me now is someone who's been covering the John Kerry campaign, our own Kelly Wallace. You've just arrived in Los Angeles, I guess, to get ready for this debate. Kelly, you are talking to this campaign all the time. How do they see tonight's debate?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Their strategy going in is not to change a thing. They say they want to stick to the same script they've been using all throughout all these debates. They want him to go out there, they want him to appear presidential, they want to make the case he has the experience to beat President Bush in November. The big question, they're saying, will John Edwards, the North Carolina senator, come after John Kerry? If he does they will be ready. But they're going to try and direct all their attacks on President Bush.

WOODRUFF: But what if he comes after? And we don't know, at least I don't know, what John Edwards might say to so-called -- in so many words, draw the distinctions out between the two. But are they expecting Edwards to do that?

WALLACE: That's the big question. We were on the plane and we were asking his advisers that and they say they don't know. And John Kerry, it's funny, is not a big fan of debate prep. He doesn't like to do the role playing. But he did a little bit of it on the plane talking to his advisers. They want to give him some of the tougher questions they expect to come out tonight. Their big question is they'll see what happens but he'll respond if he is attacked.

WOODRUFF: It's going to be a very interesting format. Around a table, conversational. We're all going to be watching.

WALLACE: We certainly will. WOODRUFF: All right, Kelly thank you very much.

Well, Bob Novak has been thinking about already a possible Bush/Kerry matchup and the electoral college. Coming up, are we in for a replay of 2000? The possibilities of history repeating itself are intriguing. But before we get to November, the winnowing process will have to continue. I'll assess the state of the Democratic race with a couple of veteran journalists.


WOODRUFF: Bob Novak joins us now with something a little different today. Hold onto your seats, because instead of his usual notebook items, Bob has his first Novak Electoral Map for 2004. All right, Mr. Novak, give us a quick overview of what this map looks like.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": This map, Judy, is based on work that -- by political reporter Tim Carney did on polls around the country, and talking to politicians of how the election would come out if it was held today. Now, in 2000, George Bush won by two electoral votes. He got 270 votes. We feel that if the election were held today, he would win with 279. Nine more votes, to 259 for Kerry. Now if he just won exactly the same states, he would have a gain -- excuse me, of eight electoral votes because of reapportionment. Excuse me. On the other hand he has a net gain of one electoral vote. We feel he would win Minnesota, lose New Hampshire and West Virginia. Excuse me, I have to take a drink.

WOODRUFF: That's all right. We're going to get you a glass of water there while I'm asking this question, Bob. We're looking at this map as we're talking. I want to ask you about the importance states that are in play. We're seeing yellow, blue, green white and so forth. What are the most important states that are in play, Bob?

NOVAK: Ohio is extremely important. We have President Bush winning that state as he did last time. But it's very close. Another extremely important state is Minnesota. We have him winning a state that was won by Gore last time, taking it away from Kerry. But he also has a very close race in Missouri, in Arkansas, and of course in Florida. Florida was close last time, it will be close this time.

You have to remember that it was a case last time where President Bush lost the electoral vote, and -- I mean lost the popular vote and won the electoral vote. Now this time, again, we feel that if the election were held today he would lose the popular vote, but he would win the electoral vote by even more, by nine votes this time. Partially because of reapportionment. And partially because the states would, if the election were held today, run just about the same as they did four years ago.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Novak. I've got it in my hot little hands here. The Evans-Novak Political Report. And looking ahead to the electoral map we're going to talk to you much more about it in the days to come. But one other note, Bob Novak, we're not going to let you get away, it's your birthday. And we want to wish you a very happy birthday.

NOVAK: And tell how much it is. It's 73rd birthday, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Wow. And we would have never guessed it. 20 years younger than that is what we were guessing.

NOVAK: Isn't that sweet of you? Thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: Go take care of that cough. Bob, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Well, the Democratic presidential candidates, we're told, we imagine, are getting ready to sit down and debate. Coming up I'll convene a pre-debate reporter's roundtable to look at the changes in the campaign and how far we have come since Iowa.



WOODRUFF: ..."Washington Post" news room also in Washington. Jim, to you first. Does John Edwards have a serious chance to win some states this coming Tuesday and stop John Kerry's march to the nomination?

JIM VANDEHEI, "WASHINGTON POST": He sure better or the race is going to be over after March 2. It doesn't look good. Most of the polling shows he's down in New York, down in California, down in Ohio. He's running kind of close in Georgia and thinks he can win in Minnesota. But he really has to win one of the big three states and show that he can win somewhere and really mount a serious challenge to John Kerry. Otherwise this thing is going to be over. He needs delegates. He doesn't have a lot of them. Kerry looks like a front- runner. He's had a great week because he's been arguing with Bush and not having to worry about getting engaged in a fight with Edwards.

WOODRUFF: Susan Page, what are you hearing? Are you hearing John Edwards may pull off some kind of a surprise on Tuesday?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, he's certainly done that in the past. He came in second in Iowa six weeks ago when we thought he would be fourth or fifth. He had won South Carolina, a must-win state for him. Did better than we thought in Wisconsin last week. So I don't think you want to write him off quite yet. He's competitive in single digits perhaps in Georgia. I think they hope to pull off an upset in Ohio. But I agree with Jim that better than expected second place finishes are no longer good enough for John Edwards. He needs to start winning some places. Pretty soon John Kerry is going to have enough convention delegates in hand to clinch the nomination.

WOODRUFF: Meantime, Jim, is John Kerry, is it tougher for John Kerry to have John Edwards coming at him in his own party while at the same time he's having to fend off all the incomings from the Bush White House?

VANDEHEI: I don't think so. I think he likes having this fight because it keeps him in the news. He doesn't have a lot of money and the Democratic party doesn't have a lot of money compared to President Bush and the Republican National Committee. So the longer that this race goes on I think the more attention he gets. And most of the media coverage so far of John Kerry has been John Kerry versus President Bush. And that's what he wants. The minute that this thing's over we're going to turn our attention to other issues and it's going to be harder for him to break through. And John Kerry doesn't have a lot of money to run ads. He's almost out of money himself and he's got to come up with the DNC or get the party to rally around him to give him money to run ads between that lull and the convention.

WOODRUFF: Susan, what about President Bush? Most everybody agrees he's had a rough couple of months, certainly since the beginning of the year. He's now trying to right himself by -- he's gone after John Kerry aggressively this week in a speech, making fun of his switching positions on issues. He's come out aggressively for a gay marriage ban constitutional amendment. Is the president helping himself now?

PAGE: Well, I think the president has moved to solidify his position with the conservative base, the Evangelical Christians who are such an important part of the Republican vote. That was one of the aspects of the statement he made on gay marriage this week. But I think the president is vulnerable mostly because there are things going on that concern Americans. The war in Iraq being one and the loss of jobs being another. That's an issue that he's been hit hard with by John Kerry and John Edwards. This race has gotten joined this week. I think the president's spent a lot of time raising money but insisting he wasn't ready to campaign. That's an argument the White House is no longer making. They see a real need to make up some of the ground that the president has lost in the last two months as Democrats have been very much on the attack.

WOODRUFF: Jim, how do you see the Bush/Cheney strategy right now? I mean, are they getting themselves back on some sort of even keel after a rough beginning of the year?

VANDEHEI: I mean, for an administration that had such a good run, they've been very politically savvy for most of his administration, they've had such a rough couple of weeks. I think they're trying to get back on their feet. They have to start spending money. They have to start hitting back at John Kerry and John Edwards for all the attacks they're taking. If you look at the polling numbers and in head-to-head matchups, the president's losing.

I think it will change a little bit once the president starts to run ads and starts to campaign more. But clearly there are now issues that really worry Republicans and Susan hit on both of those. Jobs and Iraq. And an incumbent president wins or loses on his own record. And it all depends on whether he can bring jobs back and whether he can stabilize Iraq. If he can't do those two things he's going to have a tough time in November.

WOODRUFF: Susan, is there anything that should cause us to think that we are not going to face a very ugly, bitter campaign over the next eight or nine months?

PAGE: Well, we already see the charge and countercharge. I know that Jim's e-mail must be like mine where you constantly get these attacks from one campaign or the other, from the Kerry side, from the Democrats and from the Republicans in the Bush campaign. I think this will be a very tough hard-fought campaign. Because as Bob Novak pointed out we expect a pretty tight election.

WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to have to leave it there. Our time is tight. Susan Page, Jim VandeHei, great to see both of you. We wish you were out here with us in California. But we know you've got to cover the whole country. Thanks a lot. Good to see you both. Well, that's it for this Thursday edition of INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Stay tuned to CNN tonight, our live coverage of the Democratic presidential debate begins at 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific. Have a good night. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.



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