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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Edwards on His Own; Gay Rites, Bush Twins Join Dad on Campaign Trail

Aired July 14, 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: John Edwards hits the trail by himself. Can John Kerry's running mate win the hearts of rural voters for the Democratic ticket?

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I grew up in a small town.

ANNOUNCER: A political showdown over gay marriage.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The leadership is engaging in the politics of mass distraction.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: What harm will it do to do something that we know will actually protect the family?

ANNOUNCER: But the Senate scuttles a bill that would ban same- sex marriage.

Miss America comes to Washington. Does she think the president should speak at the NAACP convention?

ERICKA DUNLAP, MISS AMERICA: I think it's very important that we have our national leadership there.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

As John Edwards launches his first solo swing as John Kerry's running mate, we may be getting the first glimpse of him in the traditional vice presidential role of attack dog, or at least as much of an attack dog as the usually upbeat Edwards gets. Our national correspondent, Kelly Wallace, is in Des Moines, Iowa.

Hi, Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. You are exactly right. We saw John Edwards playing a new role for himself, the role of the one launching attacks against for his boss against their opponents. Edwards was here in Des Moine with his wife, Elizabeth. Also on hand, Iowa's governor, Tom Vilsack, a vice presidential contender, and his wife, in this battleground state which Al Gore narrowly won back in 2000. And here we heard the senator say and slam the president, contrasting President Bush for how Senator Edwards says he is dealing with reports of faulty intelligence about Iraq, with the approach, Edwards says, the British prime minister took today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tony Blair didn't run from the report, he didn't try to not acknowledge it. Instead, what Tony Blair said was, I take full responsibility for the mistakes. What we need in the White House is somebody who has the strength, courage and leadership to take responsibility and be accountable, not only for what's good, but for what's bad. That's what John Kerry will be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: And a Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman reacting to that, saying he finds it amusing how he believes Edwards is twisting the facts of that British report for "political gain." Now, Senator Edwards is traveling to seven states, Iowa and Illinois today, Louisiana, Texas, California, Florida and North Carolina in the coming days. Democratic strategies believe Edwards, with his humble and modest small-town roots, can appeal to voters all across the country, especially voters in small town USA, who could be very important this year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE (voice-over): Some political observers believe the rural vote could decide the election.

RON BROWNSTEIN, POLITICAL ANALYST: The rural vote is important because it moved so sharply against the Democrats last time it allowed Bush to win a number of Midwestern battlegrounds in particular, and also to get very close in others that Democrats have to have.

WALLACE: Even with Edwards on the ticket, team Bush-Cheney holds a sizable lead with small town voters, 55 to 42 percent in a recent CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll. Kerry right now is doing only slightly better than Al Gore did in 2000 when he lost the rural vote handily to George W. Bush, while Bill Clinton held his own in both elections with small town USA. Democrats now hope one John can make that happen for the other.

EDWARDS: There is no one better prepared to keep the American people safe than this man.

WALLACE: He is going solo in ads and on the stump. The question now, can he deliver?

(END VIDEOTAPE) WALLACE: And finally, Edwards learned, as he flew here, that the senator defeated a measure -- or passed a measure, bringing an end to debate over a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. In his remarks here, he accused the president and the vice president of "using the Constitution for a political tool."

But Edwards is also facing criticism from some gay rights groups who believe he should have stayed in D.C. and weighed in on this, even though it never came to a final vote. Asked about that by our own CNN's Ted Barrett up on Capitol Hill, Edwards refused to answer, Judy, saying he's not doing any press at the moment.

WOODRUFF: Hmm, all right. Kelly Wallace with the very latest. Thanks very much. And we're going to talk a little bit more about that vote in just a minute.

Well, meanwhile, President Bush is making his own play for America's smaller cities as his campaign bus rolls through Wisconsin today. At rallies in Fondulac and Waukesha, Bush pushed -- talked up his conservative values and accused John Kerry of being out of touch with those values. He also continued to defend his decision to invade Iraq. We'll have a report on the president's bus tour later on INSIDE POLITICS.

Now we turn to Capitol Hill and to that new election year defeat for President Bush and fellow conservatives. As we just mentioned, the Senate today refused to green-light a proposed constitutional amendment on gay marriage. Our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry, is here with me now with more on the vote and the campaign implications -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Judy. In the short term, this is a big political defeat for the Republicans. They were planning to embarrass the Democrats on the eve of the Democratic national convention. But instead, Republicans were left red-faced, because they fell 12 votes short of continuing debate, and they also fell 19 votes short of actually reaching 67 votes, the super majority you need in order to change the Constitution.

But Republicans insist that in the long term, they now have Democrats on the record against a ban on gay marriage, and they believe that's going to backfire at a time when, as you heard, Kerry and Edwards are out on the campaign trail talking about values, in particular, conservative values.

What went wrong, though, for the Republicans in the short term is that a lot of moderate Republicans, like John McCain, broke away and didn't vote with them on this amendment. And that hurt them.

Obviously, you also had prominent Republicans like Lynne Cheney out there talking against this amendment, saying it should be left to the states to decide. You also had Democrats leading in attacks, saying that this amounted to gay bashing, and you had Democrats, like Edward Kennedy, saying today that Republicans are wasting time on the floor debating an issue that was going nowhere, when they should be dealing with issues like homeland security. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: The leadership is engaging in the politics of mass distraction by bringing up a discriminatory marriage amendment to the United States Constitution that a majority of Americans do not support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: The Republicans say is there no more important issue than preserving the traditional marriage in America, and they also are vowing, Republicans like Sam Brownback, that they will be back next year and they will ultimately prevail.

WOODRUFF: Even though they got 48 votes. And, as you said, it takes 67 to change the Constitution...

HENRY: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: ... or begin to change it, we should say.

HENRY: Absolutely. And it would still have to go to the House, anyway. Then it would have to go to all the states across the country and be passed by three-quarters of those. And so it's a long process.

What Republicans are trying to spin here is that this is a good first step for them. That's what they believe. They certainly fell far short. But they think that the momentum is going to build and build for this eventually. And, in fact, here's what Sam Brownback said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: This is a big country, and it's a -- and it's a very active one. I think you will see this issue churning, and ultimately we will win this fight. Marriage this union of a man and woman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: And Republicans are also planning to make a big deal out of the fact that Kerry and Edwards were not here for the vote. In fact, they were the only two senators not voting. Republicans say this confirms their suspicion that Senator Kerry wants to have it both ways.

He was telling gay rights groups -- gay rights groups that he was against the ban on gay marriage, but he didn't actually show up to vote. Democrats respond, obviously, that this was an issue that was going nowhere, that their votes actually didn't matter, so they didn't need to show up. Obviously, the finger pointing has begun -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Sure sounds like it. Ed Henry, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

Well, the Senate vote on gay marriage raises new questions about the power of so-called wedge issue to divide voters this election year. Here now, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Wedge issues deliberately create conflict. Democrats suspect that's why Republicans were trying to force a vote this week on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Everyone knows that it doesn't have the votes do be placed before the American people. It's there only to create, I think, a major conflict.

SCHNEIDER: President Bush has been showcasing his support for the amendment.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We stand for institutions like marriage and family.

SCHNEIDER: Is he deliberately trying to create conflict? Sure.

BUSH: And yet, on these positions so many Americans share, my opponent is on the other side.

SCHNEIDER: The point about wedge issues is that in this election, very few voters are interested in them. Asked to name the most important problems facing the country, Americans put three issues at the top of the list: the economy, Iraq and terrorism. No other issues reached double digits, including immigration, the environment, gay rights, abortion and guns.

Sometimes in the past, a wedge issues has had impact. In 1988, a conservative group used the Willie Horton issue to discredit Michael Dukakis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dukakis not only opposes the death penalty, he allowed first-degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison. One was Willie Horton...

SCHNEIDER: It worked. But this year, wedge issues don't seem to be having much impact. Conservatives are dismayed by the lack of widespread voter alarm over same-sex marriages.

Why is 2004 different? Because the voters are unusually energized this year. Four years ago, fewer than half the voters said they had give an lot of thought to the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore. This year, a whopping two-thirds say they've given this election a lot of thought.

Voters see big issues at stake this year, and big issues tend to crowd out smaller issues. The voters are not only intensely interested, they're also intensely divided. In 2000, 25 percent of voters said there was a chance they would change their vote. This year, that number has fallen by nearly half.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: Wedge issues like same-sex marriage don't seem to be having much impact this year because voters are so strongly committed to their choices, it's hard to wedge them loose.

WOODRUFF: Only 13 percent say they'd change their vote.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

WOODRUFF: Fascinating.

SCHNEIDER: And we're going to find out every one of them.

WOODRUFF: We're going to find every one of them.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thank you very much. We're on the hunt.

Well, the Democrats have revealed the name of their convention keynote speaker. Up next, I'll ask DNC chairman, Terry McAuliffe, about the convention, about Hillary Clinton's less than starring role, and other questions.

Also ahead, is former Bears coach Mike Ditka ready to put himself into the Illinois Senate race? We'll have an update on that.

And, there she is, Miss America. She tells us why she went to Capitol Hill today.

With 111 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As we approach the Democratic convention, more details are emerging about the themes and the personalities in the party spotlight. With just 12 days until the delegates assemble in Boston, the Kerry campaigned has announced that U.S. Senate candidate Barack Oboma of Illinois will be the convention keynote speaker. Obama is a law professor and a state senator. If elected, he would become just the third African-American to serve in the U.S. Senate in the last century.

Well, with me now to talk more about the convention and the election, Terry McAuliffe. He is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

All right. Before we get to the convention, John Kerry chose John Edwards a week ago yesterday. A new poll, a "Washington Post"- ABC poll out today shows Kerry and Bush tied at 46 percent. Where's the bounce?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Well, you've got to understand, this is a very close electorate that we're dealing with. I mean, we are running against the incumbent president, well at war, who has just spent over $80 million attacking Senator Kerry.

I've got to tell you, we are going into our convention, Judy, in the best shape any challenger in the history of our party has gone into our Democratic convention. So we're in very good shape. Give us these four days in Boston to outline John Kerry's, John Edwards' battleground, their vision for the future of this country, and the American people will understand what this ticket is all about and, more importantly, what it's going to do for them.

WOODRUFF: All right. I don't want to get hung up in the polls...

MCAULIFFE: Yes -- right.

WOODRUFF: ... but another number that jumped out at me in this poll, when people were asked who do they trust more to handle terrorism, President Bush way out front. His numbers are improving on handling terrorism, John Kerry's are sliding.

MCAULIFFE: Well, first of all, George Bush has been in office for three and a half years, he has the bully pulpit, he's in the White House. We are going to use the next 111 days to define John Kerry, his vision for the future of the country. But for us right now as a challenger, going against an incumbent president, we are in as good a shape as we've ever been in.

If you look at the state-by-state polls, the battleground states, if the election were held today, Judy, we would win this election, and we would win it with extra electoral votes. It's not today; we've got a long way to go. But we're in great shape.

WOODRUFF: All right. The president, George W. Bush, out on the campaign trail today, the second day in a row. He's out in the Midwest, he's talking about John Kerry and John Edwards and Hollywood values. He keeps pointing to this event in New York City last week, fund-raiser.

He says -- he says -- he says, "Kerry and Edwards talk about Hollywood being the heart and soul of America." He said, "I think the heart and soul of America is found in places like Duluth, Minnesota."

MCAULIFFE: Why doesn't George Bush spend a few minutes talking to his vice president, Dick Cheney, who used a grotesque obscenity on the floor of the United States Senate towards another United States senator? First of all, these are entertainers, they make their own comments. I disagree with a lot of what they had said.

But George Bush ought to spend time, first of all, with his own vice president, who made these remarks. Second of all, we've learned today, Judy, that George Bush had a 90-page report given to him by the CIA to read about Iraq and whether they had weapons of mass destruction. He didn't have the time to read that report. He asked for a one-page CliffsNotes version. We need to see that one page, because it didn't have all the issues that were related to it. I find it outrageous that George Bush did not take the time to read a 90-page report before he committed our sons and daughters to go off to war. I think it's a disgrace, and that's what George Bush ought to be focused on.

WOODRUFF: Two very quick questions. The Democratic convention, Barrack Obama, running for the Senate in Illinois...

MCAULIFFE: Right.

WOODRUFF: ... is going to be keynote speaker. Hillary Clinton is not going to be given a starring role. The former head of the party, your party in New York State, is upset. She sent out an e-mail to a thousand women in New York, saying, we've got to turn this around. Is this going to turn into a problem for the Democrats, that Hillary Clinton...

MCAULIFFE: Let me tell you, Hillary Clinton is very excited. She's been out working on behalf of the ticket. She's been out working on behalf of the Democratic Party. She has done everything we've asked her to do.

She is going to be on stage on Monday night. She and other senators collectively agreed of which woman senator they wanted to speak. So she is very happy.

This is a non-issue. We have a great lineup that we went out with yesterday that we announced. You know, Max Cleland introducing John Kerry, Elizabeth Edwards introducing John Edwards. We have a star-studded cast of folks, John Kerry's crew from the swift boat, Jim Rasmun (ph), the man whose life John Kerry saved. So, you know, she is happy with the lineup.

WOODRUFF: Mike Ditka, does that possibility worry you in Illinois, running -- it would be running against Barrack Oboma.

MCAULIFFE: You know, listen, I remember the Bears, I remember the Super Bowl shuffle. I think Mike Ditka ought to spend his time worrying about football.

I am very happy where Barrack Obama is today. He's way ahead in the polls. He's going to treat each state like it's Election Day. He's going to be our keynote speaker.

But let anyone who they want run. We're in great shape in Illinois, and we're in great shape in the rest of the seats in the United States Senate.

WOODRUFF: Terry McAauliffe, it's very good to see you.

MCAULIFFE: Thanks, Judy. Great to see you.

WOODRUFF: We're going to be in Boston next week.

MCAULIFFE: We'll have a great time. WOODRUFF: Be seeing you there.

MCAULIFFE: Thank you. You bet.

WOODRUFF: Thanks a lot for stopping by.

MCAULIFFE: You bet.

WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.

Well, Ericka Dunlap has a high-profile job, and she's using it to honor the country's newest veterans. Coming up, my conversation with a Miss America who's decided to get a little political.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The current Miss America, Ericka Dunlap, went to Capitol Hill today, but she had more in mind than seeing the sights and posing for pictures. She also had an agenda which includes honoring veterans wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq. A little earlier today, I talked to her about the reasons for her visit and her focus as Miss America?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DUNLAP: Well, diversity is my platform for the year, and it's been received very well. The connection between diversity and the armed forces is -- is quite obvious. The fact that we have so many men and so many women of various cultural backgrounds, various ethnic battlegrounds that are fighting for our country, it means so very much for me and for the message that I'm spreading across this nation.

WOODRUFF: What do you want for -- for these men and women who are fighting and who, you know, put their lives on the line?

DUNLAP: First of all, I think it's important that they continue to have opportunities and equities when they come back from their service, as well as when they're away. They should be able to feel appreciated and respected and valued for the job that they're doing and for what they bring to the table and for what they're doing.

WOODRUFF: You were over in the Iraq war theater last Thanksgiving, you were in Kuwait. You met with some of these -- some of the troops. What did you take away from that experience?

DUNLAP: It was extremely inspiring. I will never ever forget that opportunity. And I'm so very thankful to have had it, because it gave me a chance to see first hand what many Americans are just viewing by way of the media. And it gave me an opportunity to -- to have a forum by which to present to young Americans, as well as Americans of all ages, of what type of resilience is being expressed and displayed in -- on many different fronts by our servicemen and women, just knowing that they're extremely resilient and effervescent, and knowing that they have a job to do.

And they believe that they're just doing their job. And I thank them so very much. Every time I get a chance to meet with our troops, whether it's abroad or at home, I get an opportunity to thank them. And they say, "I'm just doing my job." That speaks volumes to me.

WOODRUFF: I know. We all feel that way about them. What about those who have been wounded? You've met with some of them, you've talked with some of them today. What are you coming away with?

DUNLAP: There's just a tremendous amount of inspiration that I come away every single time I visit a veteran's hospital or if I even meet a veteran in my travels. It's amazing to me to know that these are people who have given their lives and given their limbs, and they do it because they have a job to do. It's absolutely amazing. So I'm extremely inspired every time I have an opportunity to meet with them.

WOODRUFF: Separate thing, you are going to the NAACP conference/convention this week. You're going to be speaking.

DUNLAP: Yes.

WOODRUFF: I'm sure you've heard President Bush has declined to speak this year. Any thoughts about that?

DUNLAP: Well, I think it's very important that we continue to focus on leadership that will be supportive on all fronts of our American public. I think it's extremely relevant for the president and for the other candidate to make sure that they are accessible to all Americans, and especially at major conventions of this type. It's extremely important that they continue to support regardless of the affiliation of that organization.

WOODRUFF: Do you wish the president were speaking?

DUNLAP: I do. I wish that he was there, because I think it's extremely important that at the largest civil rights organization's convention, yearly convention, I think it's very important that we have our national leadership there, so that we can feel that sense of connection, that sense of pride in what is going on in our -- in our communities and what's going on in our nation.

WOODRUFF: How much attention are you paying to this election? I just saw a number that only half of eligible blacks voted in the last presidential election. That was 7 or 8 percent less than eligible whites. What does that say to you, and is that something you're interested in doing something about?

DUNLAP: Well, it's my passion right now, especially because I am an African-American. And fortunately, I'm one with influence.

I hope to inspire young African-Americans, especially, to remind themselves that it is important to vote, your vote does count. And for older African-Americans as well, many of them were disenfranchised.

I'm from the great state of Florida. And, as we all know, Florida had many, many issues with the -- with the election four years ago. And it's my quest to make sure that in my state, as well as throughout this nation, I stand as an advocate for voting rights and for making sure that people are empowered by the voting process.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Ericka Dunlap says she plans to get even more involved in working on getting blacks registered to vote after she moves on and gives up her crown in September.

A lot of prominent Democrats soon will be heading to Boston. And that brought a very prominent Republican to the city today. We'll tell you what Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge was looking for.

Also ahead, the majority leader fails to muster a majority. We'll take a closer look at Senator Bill Frist's problems.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: The president on the trail. Can he capture the crucial Badger State come November?

BUSH: I believe the heart and soul of America is found in places in Wisconsin.

ANNOUNCER: All in the family. The Bush twins join the campaign team and make some headlines.

JULIA REED, "VOGUE" MAGAZINE: They finally are of age and think -- I mean, this is their father's last campaign. I think they're excited to go out and do this. And this is their last shot.

ANNOUNCER: It's the question everybody's asking, will Mike Ditka run for the Senate?

MIKE DITKA, FRM. BEARS COACH: If I want the opportunity, I'll run. I'm not afraid to get beat at anything.

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

While President Bush travels by bus to Wisconsin today, new criticism of prewar intelligence on Iraq is driving some of his campaign message. Our White House correspondent Dana Bash is on the road with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The Kerry campaign, led by their vice-presidential candidate, John Edwards, is seizing on British Prime Minister Tony Blair taking personal responsibility for getting bad intelligence on Iraq, asking why President Bush has yet to do the same. Mr. Bush, of course, is four months out from an election that could ride on his decision to go to war. And he's here on the campaign trail insisting over and over, just as Tony Blair did, that no matter what, the war was just.

Now the president is continuing to point out he wasn't the only one to get it wrong, that it was also Congress including two Democratic senators he's now running against. And despite the controversy, Mr. Bush is still making the case that terrorists were in Iraq and still are.

BUSH: Abu Nadal was a known terrorist and his organization found safe haven there in Iraq. As has other people. Guy named Zarqawi who's name is in the news. There was a car bomb today in Baghdad. I suspect Zarqawi ordered it. I don't know. But that's the nature of Zarqawi. See he'll kill anybody, anywhere, anytime to try and create fear and confusion.

BASH: The president is on 145-mile bus ride through Wisconsin, a state he lost four years ago to Al Gore by fewer than 6,000 votes.

BUSH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pretty good in there? I'm just getting a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 400 calories a cup.

BASH: As is tradition, the president made some of what his campaign calls unscheduled stops, but where Bush supporters were ready and waiting with signs and flags.

Just as he did in Michigan and Minnesota the day before, the president is hitting rural areas on this trip, this time shoring up voters in towns that voted for him the last time around.

Mr. Bush is playing up his economic policies on this swing. But he's also continuing to hit Senator Kerry and Edwards on hitting social issues, telling people at these rallies that they don't represent them on things like same sex marriage and abortion.

Now Senator Kerry's campaign says that this a desperate move. They still they think they can take these rural votes away from Mr. Bush with the appeal, the say, of Senator Edwards.

Dana Bash, CNN, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: It's hard to believe it's only July.

John Kerry remains at his home base of Boston, another day absent from the campaign trail. But John Edwards is keeping his profile high. He's due at a reception in Chicago tonight after a rally in Des Moines, Iowa. His first solo swing as Kerry's running mate. Edwards began the day here in Washington where he met with House Democrats who could be heard cheering wildly for him behind closed doors.

Meantime the Kerry-Edwards campaign launched a $2 million multimedia ad buy aimed at African-American voters in big cities and battleground states. It encourages them to turn out for Kerry by saying his jobs, health care and education plans would have a direct affect on their lives.

Today's procedural vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage represents a defeat for Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist. The Tennessee Republican has faced a number of legislative tests since assuming his leadership post in late 2002, including several high-profile setbacks already earlier this year. Here now, CNN congressional correspondent Joe Johns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In an embarrassing set back on the gay marriage ban, half a dozen Republicans voted against Senate Leader Bill Frist. The amendment was always expected to fail. But the number of defections on a procedural vote where party members usually toe the line was surprise. Before the vote, Frist laid the blame with Democrats.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: And it was interesting for me where Democrats are usually obstructing this and go ahead and take a vote and then let's get out of here.

JOHNS: Problem is even some Republicans argue the measure went the wrong direction.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The constitutional amendment we're debating today strikes me as antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans.

JOHNS: Some observers like conservative law and policy expert Bruce Fein say Frist's parliamentary skills leave something to be desired.

BRUCE FEIN, CONSTITUTIONAL LAWYER: You never gain politically when you flex your muscles and then are defeated. And Images and appearances count for 90 percent of genuine power in Washington, D.C.

JOHNS: It hasn't been a good year for Frist who has said he is leaving in 2006 and is considering a run for president. He took up a gun bill earlier this year designed to protect the gun industry from lawsuits, but right before the final vote the National Rifle Association pulled its the support and the measure died.

And last week, Frist put a bipartisan bill limiting class-action lawsuits on the Senate floor only to see it unexpectedly die after a fight over the terms of the debate.

Aides point out that last year, Frist had a string of legislative successes, including Medicare reform. And blame his current difficulties on election year politics. Plus, they argue, defeats such as the marriage ban show Frist is not afraid to stand on principle.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Many have criticized me and Senator Frist and others for bringing this up, saying it's premature, saying we're picking a fight for politics, whatever.

Let me assure you, if I thought this was not in the best interests of protecting the American family, I would not be here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: But while critics point to the gay marriage amendment as a Frist failure, others say he may have scored points with a key Republican constituency, the Religious Right. Today Frist was appearing on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" blasting his opponents -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Joe Johns, thanks very much. Report today from the Senate. We appreciate it, Joe.

With me now to talk more about today's failed Senate vote on the amendment that would ban same-sex marriage is James Dobson. Dr. Dobson is a chairman of Focus on the Family and a strong supporter of the amendment. He joins me from Boulder, Colorado. Dr. Dobson, good to see you.

JAMES DOBSON, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Thank you, Judy. I'm in Colorado Springs. But thanks for having me on.

WOODRUFF: Well, thanks for straightening that out.

OK, 48 votes in favor. Nowhere close to the 67 needed to pass a constitutional amendment. How serious a set back is that?

DOBSON: Well it's not a setback at all, Judy. Nineteen people who said -- 19 senators who said they were either opposed it to or were undecided came over and voted for cloture. And we think that's good.

A constitutional amendment is always difficult to pass, especially the first time around. And we feel very good about getting 48 votes on this procedural issues. I believe we're going to eventually get it. You can bet on one thing, we'll be back.

WOODRUFF: It is clear, Dr. Dobson, that most Democrats are against this amendment. But isn't it the Republicans -- you had six Republicans who voted against cloture. Didn't they present the difference that determined the outcome here?

DOBSON: Judy, they often do. Those are the rhino Republicans. They're Republican in name only. And they often vote what we would consider to be the wrong way on the moral issues, the pro-family issues, the social issues. This very predictable for most of them to do that.

As for the Democrats, they've been running for the tall grass. They're scared to death of this issue. They wouldn't even allow it to come to a vote. See that' the main thing here. Democrats here did what Democrats do. They used a procedural maneuver to keep from having to put their names on the line on this very, very important issue. And it will be remembered in November. WOODRUFF: You called them rhino Republicans. But let me ask you about something Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire says. He's, you know, someone I think most of us would consider a conservative Republican. He put out a statement, he said defining marriage is a power that should be left to the states. He said it is premature to amend the Constitution based on a hypothetical scenario.

DOBSON: Judy, that is such a lame answer, if I may say so. You can't leave it to the states when everybody knows that the Supreme Court has the preeminence over the states. Just as they did in the Amendment II issue in Colorado, where the people of this state voted to put that issue into the constitution. Supreme Court simply overwrote it.

And they did that in 1973 in Roe v. Wade. And they will do it again. The court has made it clear that's where it's going. And so it's really kind of unfortunate to say we suddenly believe in states' rights when they haven't demonstrated that through the years.

WOODRUFF: All right, we're going to have to leave it there. Dr. James Dobson who's the chairman of Focus on the Family. We appreciate it.

DOBSON: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

Just ahead, the coach considers a new career. We'll have a live update from Chicago with the latest on Mike Ditka's possible run for the U.S. Senate.

Plus new criticism of President Bush from an unexpected source. Republican Governor Mitt Romney goes off message. We'll tell you what he had to say.

And later, the president's twin daughters talk about why they're stepping out, hitting the campaign trail for the first time on their father's behalf.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Presidential polls lead the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily." Both surveys were taken after John Edwards became John Kerry's running mate. But it's hard to gauge what impact the Edwards pick is having. A nationwide "Washington Post" survey finds the White House race a dead heat. Kerry and Bush deadlock at 46 percent. Last month, Kerry led Bush by four points in the "Post" poll.

In the showdown state of Pennsylvania where both candidates are spending a lot of time, Kerry is leading Bush 49 percent to 42 percent. A Quinnipiac survey last month showed Kerry leading Bush by six points in Pennsylvania.

Outside political groups known as 527s have spent big money on TV ads designed to boost John Kerry's candidacy. Now, deep-pocketed Bush supporters are joining the fray. A 527 group known as Progress for America has raised more than $2 million to spend on TV ads that will praise President Bush.

According to Roll Call, the money comes mainly from three longtime GOP donors. 527 groups are largely unregulated but they're not allowed to coordinate their activities with the campaigns. INSIDE POLITICS will be back in 90 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: There's a lot of talk in Illinois today about former Bears' coach Mike Ditka and it doesn't have anything to do with football. Instead it's all about the U.S. Senate race. CNN's Chris Lawrence joins me now from Chicago. Chris, what's the latest?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, our sources are telling us that as of this morning, Mike Ditka was heavily leaning towards running. And prominent Republicans have been spending a lot of time with him lately. Just last night Senator George Allen had dinner with Ditka and GOP sources tell CNN basically gave him the lay of the land, telling him what to expect if he decides to run. That's important because Senator Allen is the man responsible for getting Republican Senate candidates elected.

Also at that dinner last night was Judy Baar Topinka, the head of the state Republican party and she went on the radio today praising the potential of Mike Ditka.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY BAAR TOPINKA, ILLINOIS GOP CHAIRWOMAN: I think he can go into areas that normally are not Republican and people will still vote for him, but it's up to Mike. None of this -- what you think and what I think is all fine and good, and we can love him dearly but he has to make up his mind if he wants to do it. I can't make a move until I find out from Mike does he want to throw the pass. I'm ready to receive if he wants to throw the pass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE: Well, whoever is throwing that pass from the Republican side will face a formidable opponent from the Democratic candidate. Today, the Kerry/Edwards campaign announced that Barack Obama will give a keynote speech at the Democratic Convention. But today Obama said even that speech doesn't make him a shoo-in come November.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS SENATE CANDIDATE: I think if Ditka gets in I wouldn't call myself an overwhelming favorite. I think you'd be talking about somebody with 100 percent name recognition and somebody with significant following all throughout the state.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The Republicans' choice in Illinois could have national repercussions. Political analysts say Ditka is notorious for his temper. And with the amount of media coverage he would receive, even one off-the-wall comment about a particular group of people could damage the party's appeal.

DON ROSE, POLITICAL ANALYST: The Republican party hasn't got a lot to lose in Illinois, but, you know, if he were to offend one or another group substantially, bearing this standard, with his arm around George Bush, it could be explosive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: It would also make it difficult for Republicans to characterize Senator John Edwards as inexperienced while at the same time, putting their arms around Mike Ditka. On the other hand, Mike Ditka could make them extremely competitive in the state of Illinois.

Our sources tell us Mike Ditka has told at least two people that he does plan to attend a Republican fundraiser here at the Navy Pier in Chicago tonight -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: I have a feeling that will be well covered.

LAWRENCE: Yes.

WOODRUFF: All right. Chris Lawrence, thanks very much. CNN has just learned that the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert called Mike Ditka. All we can learn is the speaker's press secretary says time is running short for him to make a decision.

We check in now on security preparations at the Democratic Convention when we return plus new criticism of the Bush administration by a sitting governor. This time it's from a member of his own party.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Massachusetts Republican Governor Mitt Romney today criticized Democrat John Kerry. Not unusual you might say. Romney also had some critical comments for the Bush administration. In a speech at the National Press Club, Romney criticized federal spending programs. In his prepared remarks, Romney said that federal money is spent, quote, "based on who will vote for us or for our party. In effect, we buy votes." Romney, who is a strong Bush supporter also criticized Kerry as we said citing Kerry's close ties to trial lawyers and labor unions.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge was in Massachusetts today to get a firsthand look at security preparations for the Democratic Convention. Our Boston bureau chief Dan Lothian is with me now for more. Hi, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Hello. Indeed, Secretary Ridge was here in Boston accompanied by Boston Mayor Tom Menino as you mentioned, taking a close look at the security preparations here leading into the convention that's just some 12 days away.

He met first with authorities -- law enforcement authorities, emergency personnel, officials with Gas and Power at a safety command center in the Boston area where he received a briefing. Part of that was closed. But officials were trying to lay out all of the various details that they have in place with regard to security.

He also took a tour of some of the mobile command centers, the units that will be dispatched throughout the city during the convention, some half-dozen of those units anywhere from those bomb sniffing dogs to robotic equipment to retrieve hazardous materials, to even some Boston dive units, which would be dispatched into the water if they are needed, if something is found there.

He then ended up his tour here at the Fleet Center, of course, the main venue for the convention. He took a tour and also took a look at one of the X-ray systems for vehicles, any sort of delivery vehicles that will be going into the Fleet Center during the convention will have to be X-rayed. He did take a look at that, Secretary Ridge saying that he likes what he sees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Our goal is to deter any potential attack with multiple layers of security. Based on what I have seen and heard, I can tell you that the security plans and arrangements and commitment of federal, state and local officials is very, very strong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Secretary Ridge says that while there is credible evidence that al Qaeda may be looking to disrupt the Democratic process, he says there is absolutely no evidence that the Democratic National Convention will be targeted.

One other note, Judy. Federal health officials have sent to not only Boston but to New York City as well, what they're calling so- called chemical packs which would protect against a biological or chemical attack, if that were to occur here. This was part of months- long project, taking place in other states but it was expedited in these particular markets because of the Democratic National Convention here and the Republican convention in New York. Officials once again pointing out, there's no credible evidence that these conventions might be attacked but they just want to be prepared just in case -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Dan Lothian, thank you very much. Well, with me now, my colleague Wolf Blitzer who has just had an interview with the man who's at the very center of the U.S. intelligence committee, Wolf, the acting director of the CIA.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": John McLaughlin spent some time with me, Judy. A fascinating, fascinating interview, if I say so myself. We went through all of the issues, the key issues resulting in the intelligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq.

The acting CIA director went through all the criticisms that were leveled against his agency, the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency by the Senate intelligence committee. We went through all of the false sources, the reliance on foreign intelligence sources as opposed to U.S. intelligence sources. And he was very blunt, he was very specific and he responded to each and every one of those criticisms. On a current issue, I pressed him on how serious he's taking these current threats facing Americans in the lead-up to the elections in November, specifically at the conventions in Boston and in New York. Let me play a brief little exchange that I had with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, INTERIM CIA DIRECTOR: This is a very serious threat we're facing.

BLITZER: How serious?

MCLAUGHLIN: It's serious in the following sense that I think the quality of the information we have is very good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He was clearly worried about what's going on right now in terms of al Qaeda operations, al Qaeda planning, didn't want to get into some sensitive specific issues, clearly didn't want to undermine what they call sources and methods, how the U.S. intelligence committee goes ahead and collects this kind of information but there's no doubt that he is concerned and believes that these worries all of us have right now are based on real solid intelligence.

I asked him why anyone should have so much confidence in the CIA right now given the mistakes leading up to the war. He responded to that but I'll leave it to our interview which we're going to play in its entirety in the next hour here on CNN. The full interview with John McLaughlin, the acting CIA director will air on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" 5:00 p.m. Eastern right at the top of the hour and we'll also have a second interview that hour, our live interview with Tom Ridge, the homeland security secretary. He'll join me as well. So we have a lot of discussion on concerns, terror threats, terror plots against the United States right now.

WOODRUFF: I know we're going to want to watch both of those interviews. Wolf, thank you very much for coming by to tell us about it. We appreciate it. 5:00, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

The newest additions to the Bush campaign are making an impression out on the trail and perhaps with fashion savvy young women as well. Up next, Jenna and Barbara Bush are not only tagging along with dad, they're speaking out as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Just weeks after graduating from college, President Bush's twin daughters have begun a crash course in public life. Both out on the campaign trail and pages of a leading fashion magazine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): So far Jenna and Barbara Bush's days on the campaign trail seem to consist of walking and standing and smiling for the cameras and for the crowds. But after so many years of being sheltered from the family business of politics, the Bush daughters' public debut is a big deal.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I want them to be involved if they want to. But at the same time, you know, I worry about the pain that, you know, they might have, because they didn't choose this life, you know, their dad did.

WOODRUFF: For a couple of 22-year-old women, this may be the best part of it. Glossy glamour shots in the August issue of "Vogue" magazine.

JULIA REED, "VOGUE" MAGAZINE: Barbara and Jenna were incredibly gracious and actually poised.

WOODRUFF: In an interview for "Vogue" the Bush twins broke their silence about their family, their futures and their decision to join their parents in the campaign. Jenna is quoted as saying, "it's not like he called me up and asked me. They've never wanted to throw us into that world and I think our decision probably shocked them. But I love my dad and I think I'd regret it if I didn't do this." End quote.

REED: What is surprising about their experience is that they did have such a normal kind of college experience.

WOODRUFF: Barbara and Jenna have had a White House connection for almost two-thirds of their life, with their grandfather serving as vice president and then president before their own father won the top job. And yet glimpses of them have been fleeting. Many Americans may only remember this, their run-ins with the law over alcohol three years ago when they were under-age.

L. BUSH: Our children ought to be totally left alone and allowed to have a totally private life. They're not public citizens. They didn't run for office.

WOODRUFF: Now they're adults and the protective shield has been lowered. Jenna appears to have been the more outspoken sister in the "Vogue" interview praising her parents' marriage, calling her mom cute with funny quirks and describing her father's interactions with her boyfriend this way. "He's not the shotgun dad type. He's the joking around to the point where he scares the heck out of them type."

What's next for the Bush daughters? With an English degree from the University of Texas, Jenna says she plans to teach. She has applied for a job at an elementary school in Harlem.

Barbara graduated from Yale and majored in Humanities. She plans to work with AIDS-afflicted children in Eastern Europe and Africa.

But their father's campaign comes first.

REED: They finally are of age and they think, this is their father's last campaign, I think they're excited to go out and do this and this is their last shot, it's his last shot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Great pictures. We'll be watching them out on the campaign trail. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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