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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Bush Gets Good Payroll Report; How Is Kerry Camp Spinning Job Numbers?

Aired April 2, 2004 - 15:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: On the job -- the president gets a payroll report to brag about.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This economy is strong. It is getting stronger.

ANNOUNCER: How is the Kerry camp spinning the numbers?

Road warriors -- it's the House versus the White House over highway spending. Could both sides wind up winners?

Courtroom drama -- there are plenty of high profile cases in the headlines. But only one of them is linked to the political play of the week.

Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. Judy is off this week. I'm Candy Crowley.

We begin with a shot of pain relief for one of President Bush's biggest election year headaches, lagging job growth. A new payroll report out today shows 308,000 new jobs in March, the fastest growth in four years and more than double what many economists had expected. Still, the unemployment rate rose slightly by 0.1 percentage point.

We want to find out how the Bush and Kerry campaigns are playing those numbers. And for that, we're joined by a White House correspondent, Dana Bash, and our national correspondent, Kelly Wallace.

Dana, to you first.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, as you can imagine, after being really not thrilled month after month with the reports that they had been getting on this very important political issue, jobs, they were certainly stunned at these numbers today here at the White House and over at the campaign.

The president himself, while walking across the south lawn, certainly seemed to have a bounce in his step, even giving reporters a thumbs-up. And aides say, as you can imagine, he was in quite a good mood this morning, after hearing about these numbers.

But now, traveling across the country, as the president has been campaigning, he has been focusing on the other economic news he said has been good, home ownership being up, stock markets on the rise.

Today, while traveling in West Virginia, he was all too eager to add jobs to the list.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The economy is growing, and people are finding work. Today, the statistics show that we added 308,000 jobs for the month of March.

We've added 759,000 jobs since August. This economy is strong. It is getting stronger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, West Virginia is a traditionally Democratic state, but it is one the president beat Al Gore by, just by 6 percentage points. It's also a state, though, that has seen thousands of job losses since the president has been in office, and it is someplace that shows polls between Mr. Bush and Senator John Kerry neck and neck.

So the president's team was certainly delightful for him to be able to take this good news down to West Virginia.

And, of course, the president's economic approval ratings have been lower than most other issues, when it comes to how people view Mr. Bush. So this is something that they're certainly quite happy.

But there is some sense that they should be cautious, that this is one month. Of course, February and March -- February and January were a little bit better, as well. But just to give you a sense of how they're feeling over at the campaign, Candy, I'm told that, at a senior strategy meeting this morning, there were some jokes, and one person sort of pointed out that that is probably not the atmosphere that they were hearing from over at Senator Kerry's campaign this morning -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much -- Dana Bash at the White House. We appreciate it. And I do imagine there was a slightly different reaction over at the Kerry campaign.

And for that, we want to go to Kelly Wallace, where they're walking kind of a fine line here. You don't want to dump all over job creation. On the other hand, what?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, exactly, Candy, very difficult. Everyone is happy about job creation, but you know the campaign so well. This is an issue. They believe it is President Bush's greatest vulnerability. So they have to walk a political fine line. What they're continuing to say is they believe the job picture remains bleak under the Bush administration. We had John Kerry putting out a statement, his campaign putting it out on his behalf, as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

Here's what he said: he said, "After three years of punishing job losses, the one-month job creation announced today is welcome news for America's workers. I hope it continues. But for too many families, living through the worst job recovery since the Great Depression has been, and continues to be, far too painful."

So that is the message aides say we will continue to hear from Senator Kerry, who, a short time from now, will be meeting with Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, AFL-CIO Chief John Sweeney and the rest of his economic team.

Aides say this was a previously scheduled meeting and is not happening because of this jobs report.

What aides also say is they are looking at national polls, and they believe Americans continue to trust John Kerry more when it comes to the economy. They point out to yesterday's poll released by the "Los Angeles Times." When people were asked, who do you trust more to handle the financial security for average Americans, 47 percent -- actually, that should be 47 percent for John Kerry, 34 percent for George Bush. The rest of the people were saying neither, both or they don't know.

So, Candy, they like what they are seeing in these national polls, but they know, if we see month after month of hundreds of thousands of jobs being created, Candy, well then, Democrats think one of their top issues could be taken away from them.

CROWLEY: CNN national correspondent Kelly Wallace -- thanks very much, Kelly. Talk to you later.

More on what the jobs report means for America and the campaign ahead when I talk to the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

With the prospect of new jobs in mind, the House, today, overwhelmingly approved a $275 billion highway spending bill. The vote sends the measure to a House/Senate Conference Committee and into an election-year showdown with the White House.

Here's our Congressional correspondent, Joe Johns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT voice-over): One hundred sixty-two Republicans joined almost every Democrat in a lopsided vote to pass the Highway Spending Bill in defiance of a veto threat from the president because of the price tag. Republican Don Young of Alaska, who pushed the bill through, said the White House position was a mistake. REP. DON YOUNG (R) TRANSPORTATION CHMN.: I think, in retrospect, they'll look back and say, you know, maybe we ought to just keep quiet on this issue. I think they should, but that's their decision. I work well with the President, but on this issue, he was dead wrong.

JOHNS: The bill calls for $275 billion in overall spending for the next six years, $217 billion for highways, more than $50 billion for mass transit, $6 billion for safety and research. The bill's potential for creating jobs was a big selling point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will get more Americans back to work, good pay, good benefits, doing things that all America needs.

JOHNS: Budget hawks argued unsuccessfully that members were loading up the bill with their own pet projects.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This Congress is out of control, and it is in desperate need of some adult supervision.

JOHNS: In all, $11 billion in special projects for individual districts, $4 million to eliminate graffiti in parts of New York City, $8 million to build a garage for the Cleveland Museum of Art, $10 million for construction of ferry boats and terminals in Alaska, which happens to be the home state of Congressman Don Young.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Now, the Senate has already passed a Highway Spending Bill that costs even more than the House version. Right now, it is just hard for members of Congress to resist taking projects home to the voters during an election year, even if the White House objects -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Joe, if I look at this sort of from a political point of view, do I see a win-win situation here? Let's say the president vetoes it, thereby making deficit hawks happy, making his conservative base, who have been complaining about how much money he's spending, making them happy.

The House and the Senate override it, and they go home and say to their constituents, look, we brought you jobs, we brought you highways, we brought you museums, whatever, doesn't everybody win?

JOHNS: Well, yes, that's a scenario a lot of folks have talked about up here.

The downside to it that was expressed by one Congressional staffer to me today is they're worried about the perception of the president. On the other hand, they don't want him viewed as somebody who was unable to get along with U.S. allies, unable to get along with the United Nations, and now unable to get along with Republicans in his own party in Congress, Candy.

CROWLEY: So I guess we'll have to watch the scenario writers and see who's right come November. Thanks, Joe. A check of the polls in four key showdown states leads our Friday headlines in "Campaign News Daily." The numbers differ slightly across the different battlegrounds, but the results are the same, slim leads for the president, but within the margin of error.

In New Hampshire, a survey, by the American Research Group, finds President Bush has a five-point lead over Senator Kerry, 48 to 43. Without Ralph Nader, whose presence on November ballots is not assured, the Bush lead is three points.

Out west in New Mexico, a similar story. Bush has 46, Kerry 45. Without Nader, Bush and Kerry are tied at 47 percent.

Turning to the Midwest and Wisconsin, the president has the edge over Senator Kerry, 47 percent to 41 percent in the Badger Poll. Ralph Nader receives 5 percent. When Nader is out, Bush has a four- point lead over Kerry.

And finally, researchers at the Ohio Poll just updated the president's approval rating; 46 percent of Ohioans say they approve of the job Mr. Bush is doing, 51 percent disapprove. And that is a four- point drop in approval since February, a 30-point decline since a war- time poll was taken last April.

In a number of showdown states, voters are anxious about their jobs. Up next, how much will the president profit politically from one month of strong job growth? I'll talk with the chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers.

Plus, a look ahead to Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission. Will sparks fly? They will when Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile go at it.

And, just when liberals are breaking into talk radio, does America need another conservative voice on the air? William Bennett tells us why he's getting into the act later on INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: One month does not a trend make, but a big jump in job growth during March is a welcome oasis for the economy and the president's political prospects.

With me now, from the White House, is the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, Gregory Mankiw.

Thank you so much for joining us. Look, months and months of pounding on the job, so I want the first question -- just go ahead, crow about it. What happened this month that failed to materialize last month and all the months before?

GREGORY MANKIW, CHAIRMAN, W.H. COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Well, the economy really turned this summer. In today's reports, that's been confirmed and we've been seeing it in lots of other economic statistics. You know, GDP growth has been quite strong. The labor market took a little while longer to get on track, but this really confirms what we've been seeing, and the recovery is very much on track now.

The economy's created 750,000 jobs since August. And all indications are that it's on track to create quite a few more in the months to come.

CROWLEY: And I don't want to rain on your parade, but after all, that's part of my job. A 2.8 manufacturing jobs, just manufacturing jobs, have been lost. I remember being in Tennessee with the Democratic candidate during the primaries and meeting with a number of men and women whose entire factory that kept the town going were losing their jobs because that factory was closing up.

What is in today's report that helps them? What is it in today's report that helps any of these people whose jobs and whose lives have been invested in these factories that are closing down and whose jobs have gone overseas?

MANKIW: You're absolutely right that this has been a very hard time for the economy over the past few years. The president inherited a recession, and we had a series of contractionary shocks, corporate governance scandals, end of a high-tech bubble, terrorist attacks. All these things put downward pressure on the economy, especially the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing really took it on the chin this time.

We're not there yet. The economy is not in great shape, but it's heading in the right direction, and that's the important thing to keep in mind. We've created a lot of jobs in the last six months, but we need -- we have farther to go. Fortunately, we're heading in the right direction.

CROWLEY: And how do you do that, though? If you're headed in the right direction, do you all just stand back and say, OK, or is there something that you can say to those men and women that have lost their jobs? What help is on the way for them?

MANKIW: Well, the unemployment rate is falling, and jobs are being created. But the president still has things he needs to do.

For one, he wants to make sure that the taxes aren't raised on the American people. Some people think the right answer right now is to raise taxes. The president has said no, we need to stay on the course we're on and keep taxes low and make the tax cuts permanent.

Some people think we should retreat to economic isolationism and be afraid of the rest of the world. The president said no, we need to keep our markets open, open all markets abroad, and really the prosperity is not zero sum, that other countries can prosper, and we can prosper together, and that building walls and hiding behind them, throwing rocks in our harbor is not the solution for economic growth.

CROWLEY: So, to me, that's what the president does not want to do. And so that's a defensive position. What is the aggressive position for these people?

MANKIW: No, it's not. He wants to keep the tax cuts permanent. That is something we still need to do positively, get through Congress. He wants to negotiate free trade agreements. And Bob Zoellick is going around the world doing just that, tearing down barriers to trade and American products.

He wants to reform our tort system and reduce the burden of frivolous lawsuits. He wants to reduce the barriers that are stopping businesses from opening in the United States. He wants to encourage businesses to come here, to insource, to create jobs in the United States.

CROWLEY: I've got about 15 seconds left. When you all took office, the unemployment rate was 4.2 percent. Also coming out with the big new job's number was that unemployment rose about a tenth of a percent. We're now at 5.7 from 4.2. Where does that need to go? What are you aiming for, and why is it going up?

MANKIW: Any given month's numbers shouldn't be over-interpreted. But if you look at the trends we've seen since the Jobs and Growth Bill was passed this summer, the unemployment rate has fallen from 6.3 down to 5.7. It's heading down.

If you look at the consensus of private sector forecasters, they're telling us it's going to continue heading down. The economy is heading in the right direction. We're not there yet. We're not satisfied, but we're heading in the right direction.

CROWLEY: Greg Mankiw, who is chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, at the White House -- thank you so much. We appreciate you joining us.

MANKIW: Thank you, candy.

CROWLEY: Conventional wisdom says Ralph Nader hurts John Kerry more than George W. Bush. Coming up, Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan take issue on Nader's new effort to undermine the president's base.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Ralph Nader has released a letter to conservatives upset with the policies of the Bush administration, inviting them to, quote, send a message by supporting the Nader campaign.

Joining me to take issue on that and more are Donna Brazile, of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute, and Bay Buchanan, of American Cause, who joins us from Denver.

Gosh, Bay, call me crazy; it's hard for me to imagine that conservative Republicans might vote for Nader, but, you know, we also have polls that show that he takes evenly from Democrats and Republicans. What do you make of this?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, THE AMERICAN CAUSE: Well, I can assure you it's not conservatives. The president does have some concern amongst conservatives who are upset with a number of different policies, possibly, and they may stay home. They may go with the Constitution Party.

But, I will -- I don't think he has any concern whatsoever that he is going to lose any kind of numbers at all to Ralph Nader. Ralph Nader is a friend of mine. I happen to be one who has enormous respect for him, unlike my friend Donna. But I would, in no way, ever vote for Ralph Nader.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANGER: Well, Bay, you should join. I think a Nader/Buchanan ticket would be a fabulous ticket. Draw all of those conservative votes away from George Bush.

Look, I think Ralph Nader is fishing right now. He's fishing for anybody but Bush, Democrats, and now, you know, can't leave them alone conservatives. So I believe that, at this point, Ralph Nader still doesn't have a game plan. He may not be able to get on some of the ballots, and he's just looking for some attention.

CROWLEY: Just quickly, I want to ask you about...

BUCHANAN: He only needs to get on one or two.

CROWLEY: That's true. I mean he could do a lot...

BUCHANAN: I'm sorry. He only needs to get on one or two.

BRAZILE: That's true, Bay.

BUCHANAN: The right state -- If he gets on the right states and pulls one or two points, he's going to hurt Mr. Kerry, that's for sure.

BRAZILE: And I support him getting on the ballot in Texas, of course.

CROWLEY: Let me move you all on to those horrible pictures out of Fallujah the other day, U.S. citizens burned in their car, their bodies dragged, hung -- horrible. What does the Bush administration -- how does the Bush administration have to respond? Doesn't there have to be some on-the-ground response? Let me ask you first, Donna.

BRAZILE: Absolutely. I think they're waiting right now to try to investigate what happened before they go in there with a military response. I heard today that the Marines are ready to find or capture or kill those who are responsible.

At this point, I think the Bush administration is still in trouble. We don't have an exit strategy. We don't know how to bring the peace. We don't know how to bring all of the factions together. And we saw clearly the other day that the people in Iraq are not happy.

CROWLEY: And, Bay, is that the message that you got from those pictures? BUCHANAN: No. And, in fact, I read three or four accounts very thoroughly this morning, early papers, and I felt terrific -- I'll be honest -- from the response of the Iraqis.

The Iraqi people were outraged, and they said they felt for the Americans, that this is something that they remembered happening to some of their friends and family under Saddam Hussein. And they considered it vile.

I really thought that they really came to the side of the Americans on this issue, and they're probably more heartened than ever for desire to make certain this doesn't happen to them again and feel real desire for that self-determination. I think the president is on the right track.

BRAZILE: Well the Bush administration...

BUCHANAN: I think the Marines are ready to move, and -- but we can't exit until we do get out these kind of elements. And I think Fallujah is the next town that we've got to clean out of the bad guys.

BRAZILE: Well, I want to echo what you said there, Bay. They did reach out to the mosque and reach out to some of the Muslim leaders in the country to really go and preach this morning at prayer against such violence, and that's a good move.

CROWLEY: And doesn't it, in fact, Donna -- I noticed John Kerry's response to this, which was, you know, we cannot lose our resolve because of this, I mean putting him and President Bush on the same page for the first time I've actually seen.

BRAZILE: Well, that's important, because I think the American people would like to hear what the Democrats have to say. And on many fronts, like this one, you will find that there's no difference when it comes to terrorism, and, of course, killing Americans. We all are resolved to fight the war on terrorism.

CROWLEY: Let me move on, and Bay, first to you, Condoleezza Rice -- there's one school of thought that she is just going to blow those guys away, very articulate, very on target. Do you look forward to her testimony with trepidation, or are you glad this is happening?

BUCHANAN: I think it's absolutely terrific. I think -- she gives me the same confidence Ronald Reagan used to give me before a debate. I just -- I have seen her in action, and I cannot tell you how impressed I have been, a classy, smart, articulate woman, very strong. Confidence oozes out of those pores of hers.

I think the message to the American people will be that this woman is good and she's smart and she's strong and she should be where she is, one more reason to vote for George Bush.

CROWLEY: You know, I mean what's the danger there for Democrats who just pounded to get her out there in public?

BRAZILE: Well, the danger, I still believe, is for the Republicans. Condoleezza Rice needs to examine all of her statements, her previous statements that she's put on the record about September 11th.

Look, she's given a lot of interviews, Candy. That's a lot of research material that the Democrats and Republicans will have. Remember, the commission, the entire commission wanted her to come before the public and raise her right hand.

Condoleezza will give steady answers, but she has to -- I think she must be prepared to really deal with what Richard Clarke laid out last week.

CROWLEY: Donna Brazile, thank you very much -- The Democratic Committee's Voting Rights Institute. Bay Buchanan, you also come back from American Cause. We appreciate both of you.

BUCHANAN: Thank you.

BRAZILE: Thank you, Bay.

CROWLEY: Arizona Republican Senator John McCain is at it again. At a seminar yesterday, "The Boston Herald" quotes McCain as saying the Republican Party has, quote, gone astray on certain issues.

The senator was also quoted as saying, "I think the Democratic Party is a fine part, and I have no problem with it, in their views and their philosophy. But I also feel the Republican Party can be brought back to the principles I articulated before."

Earlier today, McCain's office said the senator's remarks were taken out of context. His "gone astray" comment was made, they say, during a discussion of McCain's concerns with his party's stands on specific issues, including spending.

His praise for the Democrats was part of a wider discussion about the rise of partisanship in Washington. That explains it, I guess.

Republicans control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, but the road to cooperation takes a detour when it comes to highway construction. Bob Novak is coming up with the inside buzz on a bill that may be on the road to a veto.

And plenty of constituencies are represented on Capitol Hill, but one that doesn't vote is about to win the political play of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Attacks.

AD ANNOUNCER: While jobs are leaving our country in record numbers, George Bush says sending jobs overseas makes sense for America.

ANNOUNCER: And counterattacks. AD ANNOUNCER: John Kerry's record on the economy, troubling. He opposed tax relief for married couples 22 times.

ANNOUNCER: But can you believe everything you see and hear in these campaign ads?

The Dean demise. From front-runner to out of the race.

HOWARD DEAN (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will not give up.

ANNOUNCER: How did it happen? We'll speak with an insider who witnessed the implosion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Air America radio is on the air.

ANNOUNCER: You've heard about Air America. Now, a big name from the right jumps into the talk radio mix.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm smart enough, and I'm good enough, and doggone it, people like me.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Welcome back, I'm Candy Crowley sitting in for Judy this week. Listen closely today and you just might hear a sigh of relief from the Bush campaign and maybe a little bit of hand wringing at the Kerry camp. While the president is out promoting his record in Georgia and West Virginia he's getting a campaign assist from the new report showing unexpectedly strong job growth last month. It is proof, the Bush team says, that the president's economic policies are working.

There is not much John Kerry's campaign can say without sounding like sour grapes or stepping on its own message so the Kerry camp is highlighting the many jobs lost during the Bush administration and questioning whether the growth will continue. The jobs report may color the way voters see Kerry's new campaign ad. Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" has been reviewing the latest Kerry and Bush TV spots and checking their facts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's getting hard to tell the presidential ads without a score card. President Bush hit John Kerry on the gas tax on Tuesday. The senator blamed Bush for lost American jobs yesterday. And two hours later the Bush campaign rushed out another negative ad, also about taxes. Kerry, who tried going positive last week, is now on the attack.

AD ANNOUNCER: While jobs are leaving our country in record numbers, George Bush says sending jobs overseas makes sense for America. His top economic advisers say moving American jobs to low- cost countries is a plus for the U.S. John Kerry's proposed a different economic plan that encourages companies to keep jobs here.

KURTZ: Well, not exactly. Bush never said that sending U.S. jobs overseas makes sense. The line comes from the White House economic report, which is stamped with the president's signature, but even the quote is misleading. The report says that, quote, "when a good or service is produced more cheaply abroad it makes more sense to import it."

Treasury Secretary John Snow and Bush's top economic adviser Gregory Mankiw have said that so-called outsourcing is part of trade and can be positive for the economy. Kerry has proposed incentives to keep American jobs at home. Even his aides concede that wouldn't have a major impact when there's so much cheap labor in countries like Mexico and India. The new Bush ad is like a greatest hits album, repeating golden oldie claims that Kerry would raise taxes by $900 billion. He has no such plan. And supports a 50 cent gas tax, which Kerry spoke in favor of a decade ago. But there are some new tunes, as well.

AD ANNOUNCER: John Kerry's record on the economy? Troubling. He opposed tax relief for married couples 22 times. Opposed increasing the child tax credit 18 times. Kerry supported higher taxes over 350 times.

KURTZ: Kerry has cast those votes against marriage tax relief and child credits but he's also voted for such measures several times and is now pushing an expansion of tax credits for children. The no votes tended to come in party line battles against the Republicans. Such as when Kerry opposed Bush's big tax cuts. In one vote just last month, Kerry joined a majority in the Senate in opposing future tax cuts unless Congress finds a way to pay for them. By, for example, cutting spending.

Despite these escalating ads in 18 battleground states, President Bush doesn't really want to see American jobs go overseas, and John Kerry doesn't really want married couples and parents to pay more in taxes, except for the wealthiest 2 percent. But the campaigns are hoping to drive home their negative messages through sheer repetition, betting that the distortions and exaggerations will be lost in the barrage. This is Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Another new anti-Bush ad is running in a few battleground states. A $2 million buy by the Media Fund. Here's a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AD ANNOUNCER: George Bush is spending $87 billion more in Iraq. But after three years, where's his plan for taking care of America? Shouldn't America be his top priority?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Not to worry if that spot looked familiar. Another anti-Bush group, Moveon.org, ran an almost identical ad last year and then gave it to the Media Fund.

We have an update now on presidential campaign fund-raising since we first reported yesterday about John Kerry's record first quarter haul. Kerry aides have upped that total now, raised between January and March to $50 million. That's a record for a nonincumbent in a single quarter. And the Kerry camp reports it raised $38 million of those dollars in March alone. That is the largest one-month fund- raising total in history. The Bush camp says it will exceed Kerry's first quarter fund-raising though it has not yet released an official total. As of the end of February we're told the Bush campaign had a hefty $110 million cash on hand, although because of the ads we assume they have spent some of that.

It is time now to open up Bob Novak's notebook. I've never -- on Capitol Hill -- the most political bill -- I always see and I've ever seen is the highway bill. Not really an exception this year.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-ANCHOR, "CROSSFIRE": It passed this morning by an overwhelming margin, Candy. In the face of veto threats by the president, the leadership kept adding money at the very end. Why were they adding money? To make sure that no congressman is left behind, that everybody got enough money. Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, freshman conservative congresswoman, had been cut out by Chairman Don Young and the transportation committee because she was against a gas tax increase. The leadership said you can't do that. They put the money back for her. Everybody gets highway money.

CROWLEY: I was going to say, if you can't get highway money you might as well just retire. Now, what's in the highway bill? I mean, what are some of the things?

NOVAK: The interesting thing is they had a closed-door House/Republican Congress and Sue Myrick, congresswoman from North Carolina just raised hell that it wasn't really a highway bill. There was so much non-highway money nobody was interested. But let me just give you a couple, it's a long list, but I want to give you some interesting items. $4 million for graffiti elimination in the Bronx and Queens, New York. $1 million for transportation museum in Townsend, Tennessee. $1.5 million for the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, which is smack in the district of John Dingell, the senior Democrat in Congress.

CROWLEY: Well, hey, graffiti, you know, taking away graffiti, that makes the trip nicer, right? It's all about transportation. South Dakota, the Senate race. What's going on there?

NOVAK: Tim Diegos (ph) who was an (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Indian and a newspaper publisher was running in the Democratic primary against Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader. No problem there. But he has pulled out of that and is running as an Independent. That could be a problem for Senator Daschle running against the Republican John Thune, because the Democrats rely on the Native American vote, that's how they elected Tim Johnson last time. And if this Diegos pulls off some of the Indian vote from Daschle, that could be a problem.

CROWLEY: That would be a good race to watch. Thank you so much, Bob Novak.

For the Bush campaign a little reaching out to the conservative base tends to be a good thing. And that's just what happened this week. We want to check in with our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Candy, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act that President Bush signed into law this week, now was it about crime, or was it about abortion? The answer isn't clear. What is clear is, it was the political play of the week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Sponsors of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act insisted it was about crime.

REP. MELISSA HART (R), PENNSYLVANIA: The legislation simply changes federal law and allows for a prosecution of two crimes against two victims.

SCHNEIDER: Like a sensational murder case now being prosecuted in California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You only have to look at the tragic case that is occurring right now in California, the Laci Peterson case.

SCHNEIDER: Under California law, Scott Peterson has been charged with two murders. His wife Laci, and their unborn son Conner (ph). Laci's mother championed the cause of making the killing of an unborn child a federal crime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were two people who washed up on the beach at that time. And one was Laci and the other was her son Conner.

SCHNEIDER: President Bush agreed this week when he signed the new law.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All who knew Laci Peterson have mourned two deaths. And the law cannot look away and pretend there was just one.

SCHNEIDER: Critics argued there was another agenda here. Abortion.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Once in a statute you create a fertilized egg as a human being with specific rights, the march to eliminate Roe v. Wade is on its way.

SCHNEIDER: If it becomes a crime to murder an unborn child, why isn't it a crime to abort an unborn child?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: They're trying to make this about abortion not about convicting a criminal.

SCHNEIDER: Nonsense, supporters said. Abortion requires the mother's consent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not about abortion. Under no circumstances can you prosecute the mother.

SCHNEIDER: What clinched their case was a threat from Laci's mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Politicians say that Conner was not really a victim of a crime. They need to think long and hard about whether they really want to say that. If Laci and Conner's law is not enacted this year, I will keep fighting for it. I will not hesitate to explain the issue to their voters.

SCHNEIDER: It worked. The crime issue trumped the abortion issue. For the Peterson family, it's the political play of the week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: John Kerry voted against the bill. President Bush signed it into law. That means we're likely to hear more about this issue in the presidential campaign -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Our senior analyst Bill Schneider. We have been snakebit this week. We apologize to you and the audience for somewhat of a problem with that. We got it out. Thanks, Bill.

Imagine being a fly on the wall to see Howard Dean's amazing political rise and even more spectacular fall. Up next, a former Dean pollster gives us the inside story on the Democrat's wild ride. Plus does William Bennett see himself as the next Rush Limbaugh? I'll talk to the former education secretary about his new gig in talk radio. And later, your shot at being a campaign strategist just a click of the mouse away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Howard Dean's spectacular rise and fall as a presidential candidate was fueled, in part, by the candidate's strong- willed personality. To outsiders Dean was a political breath of fresh air. But in the May issue of the "Atlantic Monthly" Dean's pollster Paul Maslin writes that behind the scenes the Dean operation was plagued by conflicts over strategy and personality. Paul Maslin is with me now from Madison, Wisconsin. Thank you so much for joining us.

PAUL MASLIN, FMR. DEAN CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: You're welcome, Candy. Good to be here.

CROWLEY: Let me tell you what really strikes me in the totality of this article and that is as we on the outside were reporting on it, we were saying oh, there's inner conflict, and oh, they don't want to open up the records because they're afraid that something is in the records of Dean as the governor and the whole time the campaign was saying no, no, that's not it at all, and giving us some reason for what was going on and yet you describe Howard Dean's best attribute as being so open and frank and saying what he means. Now is there some sort of friction there between those two things?

MASLIN: No, I don't think so. I think that everybody's strength is their weakness in politics, I think. And the governor's strength throughout the campaign was what you just described. The breath of fresh air. The guy who was willing to stand up and speak in plain language and stand up for the Democratic party. And yet that outspokenness and willingness to say what he believed also got him into trouble at various points along the way.

When you refer to the records, I was just trying to show a human being. This is a guy that never anticipated. He hadn't been looking in the mirror his whole life and thinking, I'm going to run for president one day so when he was making decisions in Vermont he never realized one day that they may come back to haunt him when he's a candidate for president or all the various sort of intense examination of his past that would come up. And there was friction because of that, sure.

CROWLEY: And the other thing, there was a paragraph in there where Dean said look, I'd rather shut down the campaign than open up my records. And then Joe Trippi, his campaign manager, said I just talked to Dean privately, he can't even -- he never dreamed he'd get this far. He never dreamed he might win. How else did that manifest itself? Because all you ever saw on the campaign trail was confidence, we're going to do it. We're going to go. Where else did you see that?

MASLIN: Well, I think that what I also described in this article was that he did not like being the front-runner. He did not like being the focal point of attention. Now was he a competitive person that you also saw that certainly wanted to win and was trying as hard as he could? Of course. But he was never comfortable with this role, he described it as being a pin cushion. Of having everybody look at everything. Again, I tried to show a human being here. In the end we didn't make it. We all made mistakes, candidate, campaign manager, myself, the rest of the team. We didn't get there.

I tried to show a human being, though, about how he was struggling with a position that I don't think he ever dreamed he was going to be in. When he decided to run, he was going to do something about health care and try to balance the budget. He never believed that the ride we all could end up getting on would be the one that would take place and become the front-runner and the focal point of so much attention around the country. I wanted to show people a little bit about that.

CROWLEY: So he surprised himself as well as a lot of us, obviously. The other thing that struck me was your calculation of the Gore endorsement and what the end it gave you, which you said it was of little or any value. Explain that.

MASLIN: It's a very interesting, I think, very surprising piece of this campaign that was always very surprising. It made Dean the clear front-runner and thus the target was really on his back after that endorsement. But the irony is we found out in Iowa that the group that was the most willing to say that they would not be affected by the Gore endorsement were the people who actually had supported Gore in the 2000 caucus. They were regulars who had been there before. They weren't necessarily going to accept somebody's advice this time, even though it was the candidate who supported them. They weren't really our demographic, they were older and not really the Dean constituency. We discovered fairly soon after that endorsement, we all were very happy about it and thankful to Al Gore but it didn't have much positive value for us in Iowa, unfortunately.

CROWLEY: Pollster Paul Maslin, author of "The Front-Runner's Fall" in the May issue of the "Atlantic Monthly." Thanks for joining us.

MASLIN: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: He has been a cabinet secretary, and a best-selling author and now he's ready for talk radio. Up next, conservative Bill Bennett talks about his new gig and why he's decided to try his hand as a radio host.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL FRANKEN, "THE O'FRANKEN FACTOR", AIR AMERICA RADIO: This show is about taking back our country. It's about having fun. It's about relentlessly hammering away at the Bush administration until they crack and crumble this November because don't get me wrong, friends, they are going down. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Despite Al Franken's debut this week on Air America, liberal talk radio is a new and unproven concept. For now conservatives and sport fans still dominate the talking spectrum. The latest luminary to add his voice to airwaves is the Empower America co-director and former education secretary William Bennett. His new show "Morning in America" starts Monday. When we talked recently, I asked him where he got the title.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM BENNETT, CO-DIRECTOR, EMPOWER AMERICA: Well, to be engaging and interesting, I am a conservative. I guess everybody knows that. But, I'd like to be thoughtful about it. I don't want to berate guests. I don't want to make fun of people because they're liberal. I want to hear the argument. I start with a conservative position on most issues. But we want to take a lot of calls and talk to a lot of people. There's not a lot of morning drive talk radio that takes a lot of calls. We do say the most important voice out there is yours. We'll have a lot of guests but we're not going to focus on politics and policy. The focus will be on culture. Culture as it affects the news and politics and policy. But education, too. And the movies and sports. It will be about everything. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said culture is more important than politics. Politics can change culture, but culture's more important.

CROWLEY: So a comparative to Rush Limbaugh would be off the mark?

BENNETT: Yes, it would be off. It would be off the mark in a lot of ways. He has, you know, established a precedent that no one probably will follow, a mark that no one will pass. But, yes, it won't be as much on politics certainly on the election. We'll talk about it. It will be an affectation, we'll talk about it.

CROWLEY: If something happens in a schoolyard, God forbid, and it's your morning drive, you then talk about video games? Have that debate? What do you see this show being?

BENNETT: Sure, we'll do that. But I think we'll pause and reflect on things. We'll talk about the breaking news, but that's really for breaks. What we'll talk about are things that make a little more time. We want to digest it a little bit. We'll get some thoughtful people in. We might actually even have some professors even though I'm a conservative, I know some professors. We might have some of them. So I think it's going to be a different kind of conversation. You know, I'm trained as a philosophy professor. I don't want to scare anybody off my show now but I was a teacher for a lot of years. I would like to think that we could engage in talk radio about things that matter including politics without screaming at each other.

CROWLEY: And culturally, I think we know a lot about where you've stood on past cultural issues. Do you see yourself as someone who will be largely supportive of a conservative culture, a conservative administration? I mean, it's going to be seen within the context of politics.

BENNETT: Well, for the most part but I've had my differences. I differ with this administration on some things, on relations with China, for example. I've differed with this administration, with the Republican administrations on any number of things. But again, the point is to have vigorous talk radio, to pay attention to what else -- I'm delighted, by the way, to see Al Franken entering in with his entree. I've complained that the universities are way too liberal. And a lot of liberals have complained that talk radio is way too conservative. So invite Mr. Franken in, let him talk and let's see how it goes.

CROWLEY: Who is your best guest you can imagine getting? Who's going to be your big get and who's going to be your first guest?

BENNETT: That's all secret. People have to tune in Monday. It will be a surprise, I think, folks who will be on. There will be the usual suspects. We're rounding them up. But there will be some people on I think listeners will be surprised to see associated with Bill Bennett. But I've got a lot of friends out there of different points of view. I think it will be fun. And if I might say I'm smart enough and I'm good enough and doggone it, people like me. Or at least some people like me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: For those of you still wondering, the title of his show "Morning in America" is a direct ripoff, he admits, from a Ronald Reagan campaign slogan.

So what's a political junkie to do when you can't watch INSIDE POLITICS or "CROSSFIRE?" Coming up, we found something you might consider. But it's going to cost you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: It isn't too late for you, Joe Trippi's wannabes to try your hand at running a presidential campaign. We have found an Internet strategy game called Politicalmachine.com. This is not a case of a few clicks then you're done. There are plenty of rules and the game incorporates real world events. You can read the forums, articles, and hype for free but the download will cost about $40. They promise a full version will be ready in May.

Hope you will join me this Sunday on INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY where our guests will include the chairwoman of the Kerry campaign Jeanne Shaheen and Nicolle Devenish from the Bush campaign.

That is it for INSIDE POLITICS. Judy is back next week. I'm Candy Crowley. "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


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