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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Clinton's Hard Sell; Interview With Vernon Jordan; The Ex- Files: Illinois Senate Race

Aired June 22, 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: Bill Clinton's hard sell: Americans may be rushing to buy his book, but are they buying his story?

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: "And I was trying to protect my family and myself from my selfish stupidity. I believed the contorted definition enabled me to do it."

I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

ANNOUNCER: A friend of Bill offers his take on the Clinton book.

We'll also ask Vernon Jordan about his new role in the Kerry campaign.

The TV star, the Senate candidate, and the ex-files: newly unsealed divorce papers reveal embarrassing allegations about Illinois Republican Jack Ryan.

JACK RYAN (R), ILLINOIS SENATE CANDIDATE: Now we're asking about what happened between a husband and a wife in the most intimate part of their relationship.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

While former President Bill Clinton will probably earn millions of dollars from his just-released book, it is no secret he's after something priceless: a kinder, gentler view of his political legacy and his personal reputation. A new poll suggests Clinton has his work cut out for him, with a majority of Americans seeing him unfavorably. But he is still the darling of many Democrats, which helps to explain the throngs who turned out today to get Clinton's book and his autograph.

We begin with CNN's Kelly Wallace in New York.

Kelly, I was up there with you this morning. There were crowds then. I assume there are crowds still.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are still crowds, Judy. The line easily still larger than a city block long. You know, Bill Clinton is a master politician, someone who loves to campaign. And he seems to be relishing this, his latest campaign, as you said, not only to sell books, but also to polish his legacy along the way.

He was supposed to only be at this Midtown Manhattan bookstore signing books for an hour, but he has been here for about two and a half hours. And the guidance we're getting from his attorney, Bob Barnett, is that he will remain here, hoping to sign a copy of the book for every person waiting in this line. And the former president seemed to have presidential politics on his mind, because here's what he had to say when he was asked earlier if he accomplished what he wanted to in his autobiography.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Well, I think that's something only the readers can decide. But I tried to tell the story of my life and the story of America's life in the last half of the 20th century. And then I tried to elevate the importance of politics.

Again, I tried to show people that these political jobs are deciding jobs, and that people, whether they're Republicans or Democrats, we have different ideas, we have different policies. And the decisions we make have consequences for people. And I think that will be obvious in this book, that this -- too often we lose sight of the fact that this public work affects the way Americans live. And I hope that when people read this, they'll have more of an appreciation for it.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think people will read it?

CLINTON: Yes, I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: And I've heard it described as "Harry Potter" for adults. But that's probably a good way to describe sort of the Clinton mania going on here as the former president arrived earlier this afternoon.

We've been reporting all day hundreds and hundreds of people waiting to get a glimpse of the former president, to get his autograph. Some people waiting as many as 12 hours in line here.

Obviously, the president has been doing a number of interviews, a full-scale PR offensive to try and sell copies of his book. But now we have his actual book, the words that he is actually putting forward on a range of issues, including why he says he was lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CLINTON: "What I had done with Monica Lewinsky was immoral and foolish. I was deeply ashamed of it, and I didn't want it to come out. In the deposition, I was trying to protect my family and myself from my selfish stupidity. I believed the contorted definition enabled me to do it."

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WALLACE: And, of course, a political question we have all been asking, does Bill Clinton on center stage right now help or hurt the presumptive Democratic nominee, John Kerry? Well, Clinton advisers I've been talking to say he will be helping John Kerry over the next month as he goes around the country talking about his book and talking up the Democratic Party. But Judy, you know there is an alternative view, especially coming from conservatives who believe any talk of Bill Clinton's presidency and his scandals will energize conservatives in a way they have not been energized before -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Two very different views. We're used to that. Kelly, thank you very much.

WALLACE: Sure.

WOODRUFF: Well, the index of the book "My Life" cites 15 references to Vernon Jordan, Clinton friend, adviser, and political player in the Democratic Party to this day. Just yesterday, the attorney and former civil rights leader was named as John Kerry's lead presidential debate negotiator. Vernon Jordan joins us now from New York.

Thank you for being with us.

VERNON JORDAN, CLINTON FRIEND AND ADVISER: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And we want to say also that Bill Clinton confirms in the book that he did ask you initially to be his attorney general. You turned him down. You said you wanted to remain in the private sector. But I want to ask you about the book.

You told me you hadn't had a chance to read it yet because it's just out today. But The New York Times reviewer, she called it "sloppy," "self-indulgent," "lacking focus." Do you think that's a fair criticism?

JORDAN: Well, I can't respond to whether or not that's a fair criticism or not simply because I have not read the book. And I have not read the review even. I've heard about it. And I think you have to respect reviewers to have a view maybe different from everybody else's.

When I read it, I'll form my own view. My suspicion is that it's a very good book. I certainly hope so.

WOODRUFF: He writes about your having been a friend and an adviser to him for many, many years. But, of course, many people are looking straight to the Monica Lewinsky part of this book. And I'm reading from one page. He said, "I also felt bad that Vernon Jordan had been caught up in the maelstrom," referring to the investigation. He said, "I knew he hadn't done anything wrong and I hoped that some day he would be able to forgive me for the mess that I had gotten him into."

Have you forgiven him?

JORDAN: There was nothing to forgive. He's my friend, he made a mistake. We're all subject to mistakes. And if you have a friend, you stick with him through thick and thin. He would have done that for me; I am pleased to have done that for him.

WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about John Kerry, but to make that transition, there are some people who are out there saying, having Bill Clinton right now talking about his personal trials and tribulations is not necessarily good for John Kerry. What do you think?

JORDAN: I think the election in November 2004 is between George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry. And those two will be in contention, and that's who the electorate will choose between. And I don't think anything else is going to intervene in people's judgment as it relates to the two. I separate this book totally from the campaign, except to the extent that it may be helpful and influencing American voters to look favorably upon the Democratic nominee.

WOODRUFF: We started out by saying, Vernon Jordan, you've been asked to be John Kerry's chief debate negotiator in the general election. Do you believe there will be three debates between the presidential candidates as the Commission on Presidential Debates...

JORDAN: That is the proposal of the Commission on Presidential Debates, that there be three debates: the first on domestic policy, the second on foreign policy, and the third to be sort of a town meeting. Once the -- my Republican counterpart and I sit down together with the commission, everything is on the table. It is my hope, however, that we will follow the commission's recommendation.

WOODRUFF: George W. Bush was underestimated by many Democrats in 2000, they now say. Do you believe he will be underestimated as a debater in this election?

JORDAN: Given my role, I'm not underestimating a sitting president with a record. So we will go into this with the understanding that we have a very tough incumbent in the White House, and we will look at it from that standpoint. And we will prepare from that standpoint.

WOODRUFF: How do you see your primary responsibility as the chief debate negotiator?

JORDAN: Well, I think that this debate is in the interest of the American electorate. And I think that we want to be sure that the American voter understands the issues from both of these candidates, understands them fairly. And to the extent that impartiality and civility will enter in this process, I think that's a good thing. These debates are in the interest of the American citizens. And I think that both the president and Senator Kerry are looking forward to it, as -- as I think most candidates do.

WOODRUFF: Well, we will certainly see in the months to come, as all the -- the plans and the negotiations unfold. Vernon Jordan, we thank you very much for talking with us.

JORDAN: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

And in the presidential race, as we are talking about it, we learn that John Kerry canceled a campaign trip to New Mexico today in order to return to the Senate for a vote on veterans health care. While he's here in Washington, will Kerry squeeze in any ticket talk? Well, he's not saying yes or no.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) vice presidential candidate?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to have lots of meetings today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The possible VP picks. John Edwards appeared today with a fellow senator who says he's not interested in being Kerry's running mate. Republican John McCain joined several Democrats in blasting yesterday's Supreme Court ruling that HMOs are shielded from lawsuits in state courts.

Meantime, Dick Gephardt loyalists reportedly are preparing a letter to Kerry, urging him to choose Gephardt as his number two after prominent Edwards supporters made a similar appeal to the nominee in waiting. A new poll shows Kerry trailing President Bush in Edwards' home state of North Carolina by a tighter than expected margin of five points. Nearly one-fourth of those surveyed, though, said they would be more likely to vote for Kerry if Edwards were on the Democratic ticket.

Another would-be VP, Virginia Governor Mark Warner, sang Kerry's praises in a speech to the Democratic Leadership Council here in Washington.

Well, now on to Illinois, and the Senate race that is turning into somewhat of a soap opera. Republican Jack Ryan is trying to defend his character and salvage his candidacy now that sexual allegations made by his ex-wife have become public. CNN's Jonathan Freed reports from Chicago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The headlines all use that three-letter word. But Jack Ryan can't say it enough. It's not about sex, it's about his son.

RYAN: I think about my -- my boy, who we're trying to protect.

FREED: The Illinois Republican Senate campaign is deep in damage control mode. At issue, allegations he pressured his then wife, actress Jeri Ryan, of "Star Trek Voyager" and "Boston Public," to have sex in front of other people at risque nightclubs. She alleged it in 4-year-old divorce documents, unsealed by a California court, and released late Monday. He denies it, and hopes taking the political high road will keep his Senate bid on the rails.

RYAN: Even in the heat of a custody dispute, which you know is the most difficult dispute I think two people can have, even in that, when the stakes are high, and it's almost a situation of the lawyers encourage you to say no holds barred, I said nothing negative about her.

FREED: Both Ryans fought the document's release, trying, they said, to protect their 9-year-old boy. And she's issued a statement, calling her ex a "loving father" and supporting his candidacy. But will it work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most people we've heard from so far said, "Is that all? We thought there was something really bad in there."

FREED: Ryan is trailing Democrat Barack Obama, whose effort to steal the seat from the GOP is gaining momentum. And the idea that he would become the only African-American in the Senate is adding to his political appeal. For months, Ryan, a millionaire and political neophyte, assured his supporters and the public there was nothing damaging in the divorce documents. But now...

GREG HINZ, POLITICAL REPORTER: I think it will be extremely difficult for Mr. Ryan to put this back together again. There are senior people in his party who feel he misled them. He has a killer issue that's going to distract now for many months.

FREED (on camera): Ryan insists that he still has plenty of party support. But no less than the state GOP chairman has used the politically loaded phrase, "We are going to take some time to assess the situation." And Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood wants Ryan to quit for the good of the party.

Jonathan Freed, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Back now to the presidential race and the places where it all began. We're going to revisit the leadoff battlegrounds of the primary season, where winter chills have given way to summertime showdowns.

Also ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes John Kerry, he's wishy-washy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's no more wishy...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: CNN's Carlos Watson gets an earful from older voters in Ohio.

And later, Bush and Kerry worked at their day jobs and try to influence the presidential vote in the process.

With 133 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Some breaking news we want to report to you, and that is that CNN has confirmed, talking with U.S. military officials, that an air strike has taken place on a so-called safe house of a terrorist network in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. We are told that this is the same area where an air strike took place over the weekend.

We don't have anymore details than that. Again, the U.S. military confirming there has been an air strike in a so-called terror network safe house in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With less than five weeks to go until the Democratic convention, who would have thought we would still be talking about Iowa and New Hampshire? But those two swing states are very much in play. And here to focus on them is Chuck Todd, editor in chief of The Hotline, an insider's political briefing produced every day by The National Journal.

All right, Chuck. Iowa, New Hampshire, they've got something in common. Let's talk about it.

CHUCK TODD, THE HOTLINE: Well, there have been more anti-Bush, more negative ads run against President Bush in those two states than any other state. Because what people forget, when the -- when the nine Democratic candidates were fighting it out, they always talked about how they didn't attack each other. And for the most part, they didn't. But they did attack one person, every single one of them, and that was President Bush.

WOODRUFF: Saturation, anti-Bush...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Amazingly -- absolutely.

WOODRUFF: First of all, let's talk about Iowa. What's the lay of the land there? TODD: Well, first of all, the fact is, the last poll I've heard about, a private -- private poll probably connected to a Republican, had Bush narrowly up. It was done last week by a point. It is remarkable when you think about all the amount of negative ads that have been run against Bush in the state of Iowa that his numbers have held up so much.

Now, President Bush has spent so much time in the state, one of the very few states that he's been -- spent more than 10 days of his presidency in that city. He's been there 11 times. Now, compare that with John Kerry, who's been in the state 71 times. But, of course, 70 of those times were as a primary candidate for president.

WOODRUFF: Right, sure.

TODD: But it is -- it is stunning in some ways that Bush is so competitive in that state.

WOODRUFF: Tom Vilsack, he -- his name is bandied about as being on the -- at least what the press thinks is the short lists of vice presidential running mates for John Kerry. How much of a difference would that make in Iowa if he were chosen?

TODD: Well, the resiliency I think of President Bush in Iowa is what keeps Vilsack on this supposed short list, because, the fact is that they -- Kerry hasn't maybe broken through the way they thought. That said, a lot of people -- Vilsack's numbers aren't that great in Iowa. He's been going through a tough budget crisis, like many governors. And so he's -- his popularity numbers reflect that.

Now, some home state pride would kick in if he actually did get picked. And it could move stuff a little bit. But I've talked to a lot of people who say that the news about him voting for an English- only amendment when he was a state senator probably kills his VP chances, to be honest with you.

WOODRUFF: Wow, yes. That's interesting. All right. What about New Hampshire, the Granite State? We talked about it a lot earlier this year. What's it looking like now?

TODD: Well, I tell you, this is one place where, you know, Bush barely carried the state. Everybody talks about if Gore carried his home state. Well, if Gore had carried New Hampshire, he would have gotten the 271 electoral votes.

Kerry is almost the favorite son there. Unlike the rock solid Republican days in New Hampshire in the '80s, there's a lot of former Massachusetts residents who do lean Democratic, who are in the state now. And it is as if John Kerry is like their third senator. It's going to be -- it could be a tough thing for Bush to carry New Hampshire simply out of regional favoritism toward -- toward Kerry more than anything else.

WOODRUFF: Fascinating how we put these states in one pile and then a few years later they turn around and they surprise us.

TODD: They do. They change...

WOODRUFF: We shall see.

TODD: That's right.

WOODRUFF: All right. Chuck Todd, The Hotline, an insider's political briefing produced every day by The National Journal. You can go online at nationaljournal.com for subscription information.

Chuck, thank you.

TODD: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK.

Well, seniors in the showdown state of Ohio have strong opinions, it turns out, about George Bush and John Kerry. Up next, our Carlos Watson talks with a group about who they plan to vote for in November.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As some of the nation's most reliable voters, seniors could play a critical role in deciding the election outcome in showdown states like Ohio. CNN's Carlos Watson recently talked down and talked about candidates Bush and Kerry with residents at a Cleveland senior center as part of his continuing series, "The American Pulse."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What do you think about this election? Are you excited about one candidate or another?

WALTER PALMER, DEMOCRAT: I will vote for Kerry because I'm a Democrat. But I don't really know anything about him. All I know is he's a senator from Massachusetts. That's all I know. OK?

So far as Mr. Bush, I respect him as a man, but not as a president. If you really look at him when he speaks, he always got a little smirk on his face like he's lying to you.

WATSON: Did you get that same feeling the few times you've seen John Kerry speak?

PALMER: Sometimes John Kerry, he's wishy-washy. If you listen to some of his speeches, he'll say one thing here, he'll say something else tomorrow. Kerry's like a dash (ph). It goes up and down.

ANNIE BRABSON, DEMOCRAT: He's no more wishy-washy than is George Bush. Wishy-washy? Poor Mr. Bush is one of those people who are so misguided that he doesn't know, and he doesn't know that he doesn't know.

WATSON: And you said that you are paying a lot of attention to the election.

BRABSON: Nothing would make me happier than to push out Mr. Bush.

WATSON: Margaret, what about you?

MARGARET BELLA, INDEPENDENT: Bush is not a -- an elected president. He's a selected president by the Supreme Court because of all of that rigmarole in Florida. We have to get rid of him.

BOB DOBER, REPUBLICAN: I'm a Catholic. But I don't vote for Catholics who don't uphold their principles. Just like Kerry, I wouldn't vote for Kerry, because he overtly says he's a Catholic. But politically, he's everything but a Catholic.

WATSON: What do you think about this election?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm not too happy with it. But between Kerry and Bush, I would take Bush 100 times over. I don't like Kerry. I can't -- I can't stand the looks of him, I can't stand what he says. I don't like the Democratic Party.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Some outspoken voters talking to our Carlos Watson in Ohio.

Well, we're going to have more on Bill Clinton's book when INSIDE POLITICS returns, including the perspective from Capitol Hill. I'll talk with a former Clinton aide who is now a member of Congress, and with a Republican congressman who voted for impeachment.

But next, an update on the current occupant of the White House, who would like to extend his lease for another four years.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(AUDIO/VIDEO GAP)

WOODRUFF: Let me quickly ask you both about what Bill Clinton has to say about Iraq. Among other things in the book he points out and he said, "I repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq." He said, "even though I think he should have waited until the U.N. inspections were over," he said, "I don't believe he went in there for oil." He's expressing support. Congressman Foley, does this have an effect on the debate over Iraq?

REP. MARK FOLEY (R), FLORIDA: Well, I think it's very, very important that President Clinton weighs in. He can certainly help us get the kind of satisfaction in Iraq that I think every one of us, Democrat and Republican, want. That's a liberated, free Iraq, under a democracy. And it's critically important we get this right, because if we do not get it right, and that's where President Clinton can be very helpful, then we will have a cataclysmic episode of events that could occur there in the Middle East and elsewhere.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Emanuel, two-word answer, we're out of time. REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: I think on Iraq, the fact is, it was good that we got rid of Saddam Hussein. What we have now did not need to happen this way. It was because of poor management that got us the conditions we have today.

WOODRUFF: Gentlemen, we appreciate it very much. Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, Congressman Mark Foley of Florida. Good to see you both. We appreciate it.

Well, John Kerry has a new TV ad ready for showdown state viewers. We're going to have a first look at it.

Also ahead, Ralph Nader says he's turned in enough signatures to get his name on the Arizona ballot. But Democrats say not so fast. Those stories next in "Campaign News Daily."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: There are two developing stories we're watching out of Iraq at this hour. We go quickly to our correspondent at the Pentagon, Kathleen Koch. Kathleen, first of all, these air strikes we reported a little while ago on Fallujah, the city in Iraq. What can you tell us?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Right now, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, who is a spokesman for the military coalition in Iraq has put out a statement saying that they believe that this just is a house that they also attacked on Saturday in the Fallujah area. It was indeed a safe house for the network of suspected terrorist Abu Muqtada al-Zarqawi. Kimmitt says in this statement that this strike was based on multiple confirmations of actionable intelligence, and that they used precision weapons to target and destroy the safe house. Now obviously there's been a lot of controversy about that strike on Saturday, where 18 people were killed in the destruction of a safe house while many local Iraqis said that safe house contained many women and children -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So we don't know anything about the identity specifically of anybody in there. Separately, Kathleen, I want to ask you about new information coming out of Iraq about the murder of the South Korean hostage.

KOCH: Well, at this point, according to a senior military official, we have been told that the body of the South Korean hostage, Kim Sung Ill, has been located. The coalition forces found it. And it appeared to have been dumped. This was found west of Baghdad. The body was, as we were expecting, was beheaded.

(AUDIO/VIDEO GAP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the Tuesday headlines in our "Campaign News Daily." John Kerry is rotating a new TV commercial into his cycle of ads airing in the nation's showdown states. The spot features Kerry talking about his plans to reduce health care costs by cutting administrative paperwork. The spot will air in 13 states, starting this week.

Arizona Democrats want the state to give Ralph Nader's signature petitions a very close look in the days ahead. State Democrats tell CNN that a formal challenge to Nader's petitions will be filed tomorrow. In addition to their legal challenge, Democrats also claim Arizona Republicans helped to fund and to coordinate the Nader petition drive. A claim the Republicans are denying.

A poll of Connecticut residents find most people support Governor John Rowland's decision yesterday to resign. Rowland faced an impeachment probe and a federal corruption investigation. 87 percent of the people surveyed said they supported Rowland's resignation which takes effect July 1. 9 percent said they opposed Rowland's decision.

Well, we have seen the crowds lined up for hours for a chance to get a signed copy of Bill Clinton's memoir and maybe even a handshake. After all this time, what is it about the former president that inspires such strong feelings. On the morning after a star-filled party for the former president, I flew up to New York to talk to some of the people waiting to buy the book.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over); As the glitterati gathered at last night's party, at 48th and 5th, Janey Graf (ph) of Brooklyn was already waiting in line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I too, I took a sick day so...

WOODRUFF: She has company. As early as noon yesterday, die-hard Clinton fans were already lining up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he ran again right now, I'd be voting for him. Why? Because we like him.

WOODRUFF: Hundreds waited, slumped in chairs, sipping coffee, even sprawled out on the concrete.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been waiting here for, like, a long time, hours.

WOODRUFF: Many already poring through the dense, almost 1,000- page book. Each focused on a different aspect of the Clinton story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to know his story. You know, not, you know, all the scandal. Just how he started out. How he grew up. His family life. Things like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's a terrorism section near the end. I definitely want to see what he felt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His relationship to black people. Because I don't think he did that much for civil rights. I'm trying to find out in his book what did he really do, or what he thought he did.

WOODRUFF: And, of course... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will be fun to read the Monica Lewinsky scandal issues and his relationship with Hillary.

WOODRUFF: But this Clinton-loving crowd seems to have forgiven him his sins.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His mistakes that he made were personal mistakes. They weren't public mistakes, they were dragged out through the media, and they were very, very unfair to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you go in this line and talk about every guy, I bet you can uncover a lot of stuff about people.

WOODRUFF: No one we spoke with seemed as passionate about the current president and his Democratic challenger. They say they wish this year's candidates could communicate half as well as Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just love to hear him talk. Whatever the subject was. Because, you know, he was great to listen to. And he was bright. Bright and articulate. And that's pretty rare in a president these days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm afraid to say I'm a Republican. I think everyone here is very liberal. Keep quiet for the past 14 hours.

WOODRUFF: Yes, it was a Democratic crowd. So much so that even the Republicans we spoke with planned to switch sides in November.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'm going to vote for Kerry even though I'm a moderate Republican. I voted for Bush in 2000.

WOODRUFF: But today, even as the crowd braved the rain, it was all about Bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) probably likes Clinton...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot. And so we came from Connecticut. And we've been here -- what time did we get here, Matt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five o' clock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five o' clock. Whether you love him or hate him, whatever you feel about him, he's a pretty dynamic character.

WOODRUFF: Would you do this for any former president, do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

WOODRUFF: There's just something about Bill Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's something very special about Bill Clinton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And how about that Republican who said he didn't want to tell all the Democrats he was a Republican.

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

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