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Kerry and the Black Vote; Splitting the Ticket?

Aired July 15, 2004 - 15:30   ET


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president may be too busy to speak to you now, but I've got news for you. He's going to have plenty of time after November 2.

ANNOUNCER: The NAACP embraces John Kerry. But, at the same time, some black lawmakers are second-guessing the Kerry camp.

Speculation keeps flying about the Bush-Cheney ticket and whether there's any daylight between them.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's been very clear he doesn't want to break up the team.

ANNOUNCER: Mike Ditka takes a pass.

MIKE DITKA, FMR. NFL COACH: And I'm just going to be one more voice in the wilderness.

ANNOUNCER: With the coach out, who will Illinois Republicans draft for the Senate race?



JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

President Bush probably did not mean to help John Kerry court African-American voters, but his conspicuous absence from the NAACP convention seemed to make Kerry look good to the groups members by comparison. That's despite lingering questions among some black leaders about whether Kerry's outreach efforts are adequate. We begin with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush declined an invitation from the NAACP, teeing up John Kerry nicely.

KERRY: And you know something? The president may be too busy to speak to you now, but I've got news for you. He's going to have plenty of time after November 2.


CROWLEY: He hit all the usual notes of his middle class pitch, promising more jobs, better jobs, less crime, improved education, a safer America. Nine out of 10 African-Americans who voted in 2000 voted for Al Gore. So Kerry's challenge is not so much winning the black vote as getting blacks who don't vote to go the polls. And for that, few words worked better than these: Florida 2000.

KERRY: Don't tell us, the strongest democracy on Earth, that a million disenfranchised African-Americans and the most tainted election in American history is the best that we can do.

CROWLEY: Kerry's speech came as his campaign unveiled a $2 million ad buy targeted at the minority community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can he really make a difference for me and my family?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Learn about John Kerry's plan to expand access to healthcare to nearly all Americans, especially our children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can he do for my community?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get to know about the John Kerry Education Trust Fund. John Kerry, get to know him.

CROWLEY: The Congressional Black Caucus was greatly underwhelmed and said so.

REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: They've got to revise the ad itself, which -- which was not -- didn't turn on any of my colleagues in the caucus at all. So that's got to be changed.

CROWLEY: It is the latest in a series of private grumbling and public complaints about the Kerry campaign's minority outreach. Early on, it was about the lack of color in the upper echelons of the campaign. More were added.

Yesterday, Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Barack Obama was put on the prime-time convention lineup after criticism that the roster was too white. Black leaders think it would have been nice to have been consulted on the ad before it aired, but they give Kerry high marks for his quick corrections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kerry cannot win without the African-American vote. We know that and he knows that.

CROWLEY: Yes, he does.

KERRY: Over the next three-and-a-half months, we need you to do what nobody in America does better: register voters, talk to voters, talk to your neighbors and get people to the polls.

CROWLEY: The Congressional Black Caucus and the Kerry campaign say new ads are in the works.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Capitol Hill.


WOODRUFF: Instead of appearing before NAACP leaders deemed "hostile" to the president by the White House, Bush now is set to address another leading civil rights group. He'll appear before the National Urban League next week, as will John Kerry. A little later, I'll talk with the RNC's point woman for African-American outreach about the candidates and the black vote.

In recent days, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney have been trying to dispel any notion that their partnership may be in jeopardy. Their comments speak to ongoing buzz about whether Cheney might be dropped from the ticket.

Let's go to the White House and CNN's Kathleen Koch -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Judy, that buzz does seem to get louder by the day, but it is very important to keep in mind that this is a president who, just like his father, puts a premium on loyalty and stands by those who are loyal to him, like the vice president. Of course, there are these persistent rumors and calls from Republicans, like former Senator Alfonse D'Amato of New York, and others, to replace Cheney with someone like Arizona Senator John McCain or Secretary of State Colin Powell. But the president's spokesman today vigorously dismissed the rumors, and the vice president, in an interview, insists the president wants him on the ticket.


CHENEY: He's made it very clear that he wants me to run again. The way I got here in the first place is he persuaded me four years ago that I was the -- the man he wanted me in the post, not just as a candidate, but as somebody to be a part of the governing team. And he's been very clear he doesn't want to break up the team.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, I guess that's all part of the inside-the-beltway rumor mill that goes on during a campaign season. I think the president made his views very clear when, even before he had made a decision or announcement at least that he was going to run for reelection, that if he did, the vice president would be part of that team.


KOCH: The Bush-Cheney campaign, too, insists that the vice president is staying on the ticket, pointing out that he's an active and valuable campaigner who is very popular with supporters around the country. According to spokesman Scott Stancil (ph), the vice president has spoken at some 46 Bush-Cheney fund-raisers over the past year. And aside from the president, Stancil (ph) say that Mr. Cheney is the best advocate for what he calls the administration's record of accomplishment -- Judy. WOODRUFF: All right. Kathleen Koch, thank you very much.

Well, checking the headlines now in today's "Campaign News Daily," a Kerry campaign official tells CNN that the senator will make a cross-country trip leading up to his convention week arrival in Boston. He'll begin next Friday in the state where he was born, Colorado, and work his way east from Denver. We are told that John Edwards will be with him at the start of the tour and head to Boston on Monday. Kerry will wind up in New Hampshire on the Tuesday of convention week and then go on to Boston.

A new poll from North Carolina suggests the Kerry-Bush race has to tightened in John Edwards' home state. The survey shows Bush with 48 percent support, Kerry 45 percent. It was taken Monday and Tuesday, after Kerry tapped Edwards as his running mate.

The Bush camp is unveiling new TV ads questioning John Kerry's family values.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When it comes to issues that affect our families, are John Kerry's priorities the same as yours? Kerry voted against parental notification for teenage abortions.


WOODRUFF: Kerry's record on birth control saying he voted against parental notification for teenage abortions. The Bush camp says this ad will air in select markets.

Well, now let's bring in dueling senior strategists Tad Devine, with the Kerry campaign, and Matthew Dowd, with the Bush campaign.

Tad Devine, to you first. What about this new Bush ad that says John Kerry's values are not your values?

TAD DEVINE, KERRY CAMPAIGN SR. STRATEGIST: Judy, I didn't think I would live long enough to see a presidential campaign ad that talked about birth control. But we finally have arrived at this stage. I mean, the Bush campaign is getting more desperate, I think, by the hour. The fact that they've driven all these issues into the middle of the campaign, divisive, polarizing wedge issues, I think reflects the president's governing philosophy and the strategy of their campaign, which is to divide the nation.

WOODRUFF: Is that what it's about, Matthew Dowd?

MATTHEW DOWD, BUSH CAMPAIGN SR. STRATEGIST: Obviously not. I mean, these are issues that are not divisive at all or polarizing. These are issues supported by the vast majority of people in this country, and it's just giving parents some right to know and involvement in what their kids are doing in school.

And as Tad full well knows, these are issues that 70, 80 percent of the country supports. It's just they don't have a -- have an answer to them, and they can't stand up for Senator Kerry's record. And so they sort of use these adjectives that just don't apply.

WOODRUFF: That doesn't sound like what you're saying, Tad Devine.

DEVINE: No, it doesn't, Judy. Judy, I understand what Matt's saying, because you can ask someone a question in a poll and get a big number. But to suggest that issues like these are not polarizing, I mean, I just don't think that's creditable on its face.

WOODRUFF: All right.

Matthew Dowd, let's quickly get the Vice President Cheney question on the table. You're quoted in "The New York Times" today as saying, he's not going anywhere, it's just silly rumor, in effect. But why does this rumor persist? Republicans are still telling reporters, not letting them use their names, but they're still saying this could happen.

DOWD: Well, Judy, these are -- this is going to go on that list of conspiracy theories like the NASA faked the moon landing and in area 51 there's aliens. I mean, it's the same level of rumor.

There's two people that are involved in this decision, the president and vice president. Both of them have decided this. The president asked the vice president when he first decided to run that he wanted him on the ticket. It should end there.

That's all there is to the story. You're going to see the vice president in more cities and states this time than he was in 2000.. He's a great asset. And, you know, they -- people can have these conspiracy theories, but that's all they are.

WOODRUFF: Is -- from your perspective, Tad Devine, do you want Dick Cheney off the ticket?

DEVINE: Well, listen, we'll leave it to the president and his campaign to decide who he runs with. I mean, we're very, very proud of John Edwards. John Kerry made the very best pick.

I think you can see the difference between the two campaigns and the vice president in just this fact. We have an ad right now running all across the country with John Edwards featured in the ad.

The narrator of the ad -- Dick Cheney is never in any of their ads, he's never featured. They really, you know, don't want him out in public very much. So I think that's the difference. We're proud of our running mate and they're running away from theirs.

DOWD: Judy -- Judy, just one thing. That's completely false. I mean, presidential candidates don't normally use their vice president to try to figure out a way to argue their message, which is what the Kerry campaign is doing.

And secondly, the vice president tomorrow is going to be in Wisconsin, then he's going to be in Michigan. He's going to be in city after city, and we're proud to have him out there, and we're looking forward to the debate between the vice president and John Edwards in the coming fall.


WOODRUFF: Another...

DEVINE: Well, it's not false that he appears in none of their ads, let me just say that.

WOODRUFF: All right. Another quick subject. Tad Devine...


WOODRUFF: ... the Congressional Black Caucus critical of -- speaking of other ads, the new ads that your campaign is aiming at the African-American community. Among other things, calling them disappointing, horrible, lackluster.

DEVINE: Well, you know, that happens, I guess, sometimes in campaigns. Judy, we had a great meeting today with the Congressional Black Caucus and representatives from Uniworld who are producing our African-American media campaign. I think everybody is very much on the same page.

WOODRUFF: Tad, I'm going to have to interrupt you because we want to scoot -- I want to ask both of you to stand by, but we do need to scoot to a news conference. A Marine lieutenant colonel talking to reporters about the return of Corporal Hassoun. We'll be -- let's hear what he's saying.

LT. COL. DAVE LAPAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Quantico was chosen by this repatriation team as the best facility due to its central location and access to a variety of support services. Corporal Hassoun will remain at Quantico until the repatriation team decides that he is able to return to full duty.

Repatriation is the process of decompression, debriefing and integration of individuals who have been captured or detained. The length of this process can vary from weeks to months, depending on the circumstance of the individual case. The Marine Corps is fully committed to supporting the repatriation process in the interest of Corporal Hassoun's welfare and fitness for duty. Corporal Hassoun will not be available for media interviews until the repatriation team and Corporal Hassoun himself decide that he is ready to do so.

Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a quick, quick question. At what point will the investigators from CIS have...

LAPAN: We're not going to be able to entertain any questions...

WOODRUFF: All right. It looks like they're not answering any questions -- or are they? No, I guess not. That's Lieutenant Colonel Dave...

LAPAN: ... for a few minutes and do some background stuff, I'd be happy to do that. OK?

WOODRUFF: All right. They're not prepared to talk on camera further. Maybe they're going to talk off camera. We'll try to find out what they're saying and report that to you. Again, that's Lieutenant Colonel Dave Lapan with the Marine Corps, talking about the return to the United States of Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun. He, of course, was the Marine who disappeared from duty in Iraq back in June, and then resurfaced just a few days ago in Lebanon.

He's now back in the United States. He landed there a little bit earlier today. And as you heard them saying, this process of repatriation could take days, weeks, or even months. We'll bring you more on that as soon as we have it.

All right. Now, back to our conversation with Tad Devine of the Kerry campaign, Matthew Dowd of the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Tad Devine, you were saying that it's not surprising your being criticized, but, I mean, the Congressional Black Caucus on these -- on these new ads, they're saying they weren't consulted.

DEVINE: Well, you know, we understand that criticism. As I was saying, Judy, we had a great meeting today. I wasn't there, but our media team was there. We talked with them.

I think we're all on the same page now. This is an unprecedented effort, $2 million in direct targeted spending prior to a convention. I think it represents John Kerry and John Edwards' commitment to mobilize and energize the African-American community.

Senator Kerry was there today at the NAACP, speaking directly to one of the most important groups in our nation. You know, I think this media campaign will be part of a much bigger effort to mobilize and build on the support from the last election.

WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Matthew Dowd, President Bush having his own difficulties with the African-American community. The NAACP decision not to speak there, some very tough language coming out of the leadership today, or this weekend. Kweisi Mfume, the president, saying, "If I got nine percent of the black vote four years ago and lost the popular vote, overall I'd be concerned I couldn't tolerate any slippage."

DOWD: Well, I think the president -- I'd rather talk about what we're going to do. He's going to talk before the Urban League next week, one of the largest groups in the country. And we're going to reach out to every voter we can.

I don't think you can judge a constituency outreach by whether or not you go to one -- one meeting or that. So we're going to continue to fight for every vote, Latinos, African-Americans, and everybody.

WOODRUFF: All right. And we're going to leave it there. Except Matthew -- I'm sorry -- Tad Devine, one other question. Hillary Clinton, some grumbling about the fact that she doesn't have a prime- time speaking spot at the Democratic convention. Is that going happen?

DEVINE: Judy, Senator Clinton, along with all of the women senators -- I think nine of them in the Democratic Party -- agreed that they wanted to appear and speak together and ask Senator Mikulski, the senior member, to speak on their behalf.

So she's going to appear in that context. That was the decision they made together. We're very, very proud of all the women and all the senators that we have on our side.

So she made that decision. And she -- Hillary Clinton, Senator Clinton, is one of the most important Democrats we have in our party. We look forward to having her campaigning extensively at the convention and thereafter.

WOODRUFF: So she won't be speaking separately?

DEVINE: She's going to be appearing with the other senators. That's a decision they made together.

WOODRUFF: OK. All right. We heard it from Matthew Dowd -- I'm sorry, from Tad Devine. We're going to get it straight. Tad Devine is with the Kerry campaign, Matthew Dowd with the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Gentlemen, great to see you. Thanks very much.

DOWD: Glad to be here.

DEVINE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: All right. Appreciate it. Thank you.

DOWD: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Well, there has been a lot of talk about what John Edwards brings to the Democratic ticket, but what about his wife? Up next, a profile of Elizabeth Edwards and the trials that have shaped her life and her marriage.

Also ahead, Mike Ditka's decision. What does it mean for the Illinois Senate race?

And later, Democratic women in the Senate, we were just talking about them. Are they being dissed by their party's convention planners?

With 110 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.


WOODRUFF: As all of us know, the days are ticking away in the 2004 political season. There are only 11 left until the Democratic national convention in Boston. And now that John Kerry has named the number two man on his ticket, a fresh face has emerged on the political circuit. No, not would-be vice president John Edwards, but rather his wife, Elizabeth.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): A beaming face with a compelling message: I am one of you.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARDS' WIFE: If you try to pretend you're something else, be something else, you're going to be uncomfortable with that, and voters are going to sense it.

WOODRUFF: Elizabeth Edwards speaks through her life's experiences. Unlike the other wives on this year's presidential circuit, she's a relative political newcomer whose life is in a very different place.

TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY'S WIFE: She suffered loss and she didn't drown with it.

WOODRUFF: The loss came when her 16-year-old son, Wade, died in a car accident nearly 10 years ago.

EDWARDS: People come up to me all the time and say that they're sadly a member of the same sorority that I'm a member of. And so you make connections with people in that way.

WOODRUFF: The tragedy marked a turning point for Elizabeth Edwards. She folded her law practice. And in her late 40s, underwent fertility treatments and became pregnant again, her two young children adding sparkle to standard stumping.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, with the love of my life for 26 years married, and even before that, the love of my life, Elizabeth...

WOODRUFF: And she's thrown herself into this campaign...

E. EDWARDS: We want to have the votes of every person in this room.

WOODRUFF: ... bringing a soft touch to the hard sell back in the primaries.

E. EDWARDS: It's really important his voice be part of the process, if -- not just for him but, frankly, for the people who are really responding to him.

WOODRUFF: And sharp advice and a new warmth to the Kerry ticket now.


WOODRUFF: Elizabeth Edwards.

Well, First lady Laura Bush is anything but silent this election season. Speaking today in Jacksonville, Florida, Mrs. Bush took on some tough issues, including embryonic stem cell research. She says the research which the president has restricted is being misrepresented as on the verge of a breakthrough.


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: There isn't a cure around the corner, sadly, for Alzheimer's with embryonic stem cell research. It's much, much -- embryonic stem cell research is much more preliminary than that.

There's -- you know, we're not about to come upon a cure. And the fact is there is adult stem cell research, which has been more promising in -- for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) medicines.


WOODRUFF: President Bush travels to Florida tomorrow, campaigning in Tampa.

Well, it is now fourth and 10 for Republicans in Illinois. Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka says it would be exciting, but he has decided not run for the U.S. Senate. His decision has state GOP leaders scrambling. Here's CNN's Chris Lawrence.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the football terms, Mike Ditka knows well the Illinois Republican Party has lost its quarterback, his backup, and the coveted free agent that might have saved the season.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They certainly didn't expect to be in this position.

LAWRENCE: The party abandoned primary winner Jack Ryan over allegations he forced his ex-wife to go to sex clubs. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said State Senator Steve Rauschenberger was the next best man to replace Ryan. And Rauschenberger refused to run. And for a few days, it looked as if they'd be backing a charismatic ex-coach.

DITKA: I'm ultra conservative in my thinking. And if that's wrong, it's wrong.

LAWRENCE: Ditka says he wanted to do it but got intense headaches from all the phone calls and scrutiny, and ultimately he wondered if his temperament would translate from the football field to the political arena.

DITKA: It's either right or wrong. It's not -- there's no in between.

LAWRENCE: So Democratic candidate Barack Obama continues to campaign without a strong voice to oppose him.

BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS SENATE CANDIDATE: I certainly would enjoy a vigorous debate with a Republican opponent who's -- can articulate the Republican philosophy. LAWRENCE: Illinois Republicans say by the time real voters start to focus on politics in late summer, they'll have a strong candidate who expects to win.

JOHN HOFFMAN, ILLINOIS REPUBLICAN PARTY: Barack Obama has not really been tested. And in those closing weeks -- closing months and weeks of the campaign, we're going to have a candidate who is going to really show a very sharp contrast with his out-of-the-mainstream values.

LAWRENCE: But political analysts say, if Republicans are realistic, all they can expect now is to lose with respectability.

PAUL GREEN, ROOSEVELT UNIVERSITY: Mike Ditka was their version of the Hail Mary pass. Now they have to punt.


LAWRENCE: Now, Professor Paul Green says, at this point, the big private donors won't waste their money. And the Republican candidate would have to be able to spend millions of dollars on their own.

With the election less than four months away, it also likely would have to be someone who's run for office before and gone through the vetting process, which possibly narrows the choices to multi- millionaires and former candidates, Jim Oberweis and John Cox -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, we're all waiting with baited breath to see who emerges.

Chris, thanks very much.

Fighting words today from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Yes, we're putting our credibility on the line. We think that if the election were held today, there would be no question but that the Democrats would take back the House.


WOODRUFF: Republicans, of course, currently hold a 23-seat margin in the House. And many experts say it will be difficult -- difficult for Democrats to take back control.

Well, the man who used the Internet to revolutionize politics has turned to a more traditional way of getting out his message. Coming up, Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's former campaign manager, joins me to talk about his new book.

Also, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair had similar intelligence before the Iraq war. But our Bill Schneider says they now are confronting different sized credibility gaps.



ANNOUNCER: Are women being shortchanged at the Democratic National Convention? Some top Democrats in the Senate say yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very frustrated.

ANNOUNCER: He's the first president in decades not to speak at the NAACP convention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said he didn't come because we criticized him. But if he didn't go anywhere people criticized him, he'd never leave home.

ANNOUNCER: We'll ask a top Republican if George Bush can reach out to black voters.

On the trail with John Edwards.

J. EDWARDS: Well, actually, it's probably more important to listen and to hear what people's problems are instead of guessing what they are, and instead of making policy just out of Washington D.C., to be out there in the real world.

ANNOUNCER: Can John Kerry's running mate help turn Louisiana from red to blue?



WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

Kerry campaign sources say the Democrats hope to fill in the remaining blanks in their convention agenda by tomorrow. We are told that all of John Kerry's former rivals for the Democratic nomination are slated to speak in Boston. That does not include Dennis Kucinich, since he is still an active candidate. The speakers' roster has left some of the party's most prominent women, though, feeling left out.

Our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry, has that story.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hillary Clinton was left of the speaking list for the Democratic national convention, kicking off a firestorm. But it turns out all nine Senate Democratic women were snubbed by the Kerry campaign leaving the dean of their caucus furious.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: That I personally felt rather volcanic.

HENRY: All nine women were expecting a major role on the first night of the convention. But the announcement of the line-up left them out. Mikulski faxed an angry missive to Kerry's campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill and then vented by phone.

MIKULSKI: I told them, you know, this ship of state missed the boat.

HENRY: Mikulski noted Clinton never asked for separate podium time at the convention. Mikulski believes if the Kerry camp had better promoted the role of all Senate women they could have avoided charges that Clinton was shunned.

Women leaders are calling for Clinton to get a higher profile.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Yes, I think Senator Clinton should be on the program.

HENRY: Party officials say they're now trying to get a more prominent but not primetime role for Clinton. For her part, Clinton insists she's not disappointed.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: No. I've had many opportunities in the past. I'm not at all deterred from going and being part of this exciting convention that I think's going to kick off this campaign and lead it to victory.


HENRY: Judy, Democrats are privately saying that being part of this group of nine senators never prevented any of them individually, Hillary Clinton or anybody else from speaking at the podium themselves. And they're also saying, well, Mrs. Clinton never asked for specific podium time herself. Her allies are upset that she was not actually asked. She didn't ask for it but they wish that she had been asked.

And I can tell you, Kerry officials say they are sorry, they certainly did not mean any slight towards Mrs. Clinton or Mikulski. In fact, all nine senators will be together at the podium on Monday night. But they are now trying to work out some sort of a compromise where Mrs. Clinton may get her own time and Judy, one scenario floating around is that perhaps Mrs. Clinton could introduce her husband on Monday night, when he has a primetime slot -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Ed Henry. It's very interesting because we just heard from Tad Devine from the campaign who said she's going to be part of the nine. So we'll see where all this ends up. It sounds like it's still being worked out. Ed Henry, thank you very much.

The Kerry camp already was working to smooth over some hard feelings on the hill, agreeing to tweak its new ad campaign targeting African-American voters in response to black lawmakers who wanted a more affirmative message. By and large, this appears to be a good day for Kerry's outreach program given the rousing reception he got from the NAACP. Kerry worked in several jabs at President Bush and his decision to skip the civil rights group's convention in Philadelphia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KERRY: As a campaigner, I know something about scheduling and conflicts and hostile environments. But you know what, when you're president of the United States, you can pretty much say where you want to be and when. And when you're president, and when you're president, you need to talk to all of the people and that's exactly what I intend to do.


WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, some black leaders feeling snubbed by the president are wondering out loud if the Bush camp has written off the African-American vote. We're joined now by Tara Wall. She is the RNC spokeswoman for African-American outreach.

Tara Wall, good to see you. Thank you for talking to us.

TARA WALL, RNC OUTREACH: Thank you. Let me make a quick correction. It's actually press secretary for outreach which includes African-Americans.

WOODRUFF: All right. I appreciate the correction. We want to get it straight. Thanks very much.

WALL: We're reaching out to a lot of groups.

WOODRUFF: Was it a mistake for the president not to speak to the NAACP, given the firestorm?

WALL: No. I think this particular NAACP leadership has clearly shown how divisive they have become with their hate-filled rhetoric towards the president. It's one thing to welcome someone into your home. It's another thing to welcome them and then at the same time you're welcoming them, criticizing them so harshly and equating them with Nazis and other hate-filled speech. I think that certainly does not set the tone for welcoming someone into your home or your convention.

WOODRUFF: All right. Setting them aside for a moment, yesterday I happened to interview Miss America who is 22 years old, she happens to be African-American, her name is Ericka Dunlap. She is speaking at the NAACP convention, I think, at some point today. I asked her if she thought the president made the right decision. She said she wished he had gone to speak and I'm just going to quote quickly. I mean, she's not a politician. She's not partisan.

She said, "I think it's extremely important that at the largest civil rights organization's convention, it's very important we have our national leadership there." She said, "I wish the president and Senator Kerry both were speaking."

WALL: I respect her opinion and her right to have her opinion. That's fine. But at the same time, recognizing once again, this may be the oldest civil rights organization but it is a far different civil rights organization under this leadership than it originally was. It has gotten much more partisan, very much partisan and divisive and I think there is a clear distinction there. WOODRUFF: Let me quote to you, Tara Wall, something that John Kerry said today in his speech to the NAACP. He said, "I'll be a president who is truly a uniter, not one who seeks to divide one nation by race or riches or by another label."

WALL: Yes, I heard him say that. It's ironic that he says that while at the same time targeting specific groups for going after the -- in his opinion -- going after the rich and taxing the rich as opposed to not taxing the middle class.

He is -- once again, this is double speak and flip-flopping on Kerry's behalf. He's here pandering because he has to. He is not resonating at all within the black community. And black leaders know that. They recognized that.

He failed miserably when he met with the RAINBOW/PUSH Coalition. People were scratching their heads as to what he stood for. Polls still show that people don't know where he stands for -- African- Americans don't know what he stands for. So I think he's still having a hard time actually having people understand and realize who he is, what he stands for. He set out no urban agenda, he never established what he is or what he will do for African-Americans.

So I think that you will see a clear distinction in these two leaders because President Bush is a doer. His policies are empowering people of color right now. People of color in the United States of America today are doing very well under President Bush because of his policies of homeownership, education, small business incentives, tax cuts. These are things that matter in the black community that Kerry is totally misconnecting and missing out on.

WOODRUFF: And at the same time, some of these African-American leaders point out black employment has doubled under President Bush. But what I want to ask about. The president got 8 percent of the black African-American vote in 2000. How much better can he do this year?

WALL: We are certainly aggressively reaching out to all Americans including African-Americans. I'm here in Miami because we're right in the middle of our African-American Economic Empowerment tour with RNC chairman Ed Gillespie, Don King, some other noted African-American business leaders, Texas railroad commissioner Michael Williams, Lieutenant Governor Steel of Maryland because we are saying -- and we've been doing this -- we've had five cities we've stopped at now the last couple of months because we're not taking any votes for granted.

Unlike the Democrats, we don't take the black vote for granted. We know right now statistically, we've seen that African-Americans between the ages of 18 and 25, about 35 percent of them now no longer consider themselves Democrats. They consider themselves Independents willing to look at the Republican party. So we certainly want to continue to work with those folks and reach out to those folks. About 40 percent of those same folks have said that they recognize the Democrats are taking them for granted. so we believe we have some real opportunities there. WOODRUFF: Tara Wall with the Republican National Committee. Thanks you very much. We appreciate you talking to us today.

WALL: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

WOODRUFF: The president has been taking care of Oval Office business today, signing a law that toughens penalties for identity theft. He'll be back out on the trail tomorrow with stops in two showdown states. Tampa, Florida and Beckley, West Virginia, we should say showdown state cities.

John Kerry meantime due at a rally in Charleston, West Virginia tonight, after a front porch event in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania just outside Philadelphia. Meantime, Kerry's campaign today accepted the Presidential Debate Commission's proposed schedule. The Bush camp says that it looks forward to the debates but it will talk about terms it says, quote, "at the appropriate time."

John Edwards was in Louisiana today trying on a different vice- presidential hat than he wore the day before. CNN's Kelly Wallace traveled with Edwards to New Orleans.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yesterday, John Edwards spent time criticizing the White House. Today, he focused mainly on the main role his campaign manager says he'll play for John Kerry and that is touting a positive and optimistic message. Stop number one of the second day of his solo tour, New Orleans.

Here the campaign launched what it is calling the "front porch" tour focusing on hometown values. Aides say this visit to Louisiana shows how much the campaign believes is now in play with John Edwards on the ticket.

Still, the campaign is not advertising here at the moment. And a poll back in May showed that John Kerry was trailing President Bush significantly here. In an interview with the "Chicago Tribune," John Edwards says he believes voters still are not very familiar with John Kerry. He said, quote, "they don't know him very well. I think our responsibility -- my responsibility is to make sure that Americans know him as much as possible the way I know him."

So here at a town meeting he talked to voters and tried to convey what he and John Kerry think about a range of issues including how they believe they would keep America safe.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The best defense is a good offense. We need to go get these terrorists where they are and stop them in their tracks, which means in many cases that the cells that are located, as most of them are, outside -- headquartered outside this country, we need to have relationships with the rest of the world that are positive, that are productive, so that we can work with our friends and allies around the world and get to these terrorist cells before they do us harm. WALLACE: Earlier Kerry and Edwards appeared on Don Imus' radio show, Edwards getting a question that makes campaign aides cringe. He was asked the cost of a gallon of milk in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

EDWARDS: I think a half a gallon of milk costs about 2.30, $2.40. Is that right?

DON IMUS, "IMUS IN THE MORNING": No, a gallon costs $2.99 in Albuquerque. Actually it costs $4.19. What do you think a six-pack of beer costs in Albuquerque?

EDWARDS: I have to be honest with you. I haven't drunk a six- pack of beer in a long time. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

IMUS: I know but you're kind of trying to get a bunch of those people who do drink it to vote for you.

WALLACE: From here, Edwards heads to President Bush's homestate of Texas. Polls there showing that state pretty much a lot for Mr. Bush so why the visit? Aides say to raise money and also to contrast differences with team Bush-Cheney right in the president's own backyard. Kelly Wallace, CNN, reporting from New Orleans, Louisiana.


WOODRUFF: Candidates don't like those "how much does it cost?" questions. There is a new request for an independent investigation here in Washington. The target isn't the White House it is the House majority leader. Details in a moment.

And later, Joe Trippi rewrote the rules for presidential campaign fundraising. Now, he's written a book about it.

Plus, they may be out for laughs but it is a serious politics.


WOODRUFF: A pair of government watchdog groups are calling for an independent investigator to look into charges of ethics violations by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

The House ethics committee is reviewing a complaint against DeLay by Democratic Representative Chris Bell who is also from Texas. The groups Common Cause and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington say an independent investigator is needed because some ethics committee members received contributions from DeLay.

DeLay is accused of accepting contributions from Weststar Corporation in exchange for legislative favors. Congressman Bell also wants DeLay investigated over contributions from Enron. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: Joe Trippi rewrote the book on how to raise money for political campaigns. As Howard Dean's campaign manager, Trippi tapped into the Internet and proved that it can be a source of millions of dollars in small contributions. He's now written a book about it called "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything." He joins me from Los Angeles to talk about it.

Joe Trippi, first question. Would John Kerry be where he is if Howard Dean hadn't had all the problems he had?

JOE TRIPPI, FMR. HOWARD DEAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don't know about the problems but he wouldn't be where he is without the Dean campaign. We had our supporters online vote to let us opt out of the public funding system that would have capped the Democrats at $45 million. When we did that, John Kerry four days later said if it was good enough for Howard Dean and his supporters, it was good enough for his campaign and he opted out, too.

John Kerry has $182 million now with average contributions over the net of $108. That's the legacy, I think, of hundreds of thousands of people who got out there early because Governor Dean had so much courage and joined a campaign and started a grassroots movement that really has changed not just the way politics will be funded but I think how we conduct politics in the future with American people involved. And that's what the book is about.

WOODRUFF: If he had such a dramatic effect and was on top of the mountain just a few short months ago, what went wrong?

TRIPPI: I actually think we were a little league baseball team. The Dean campaign was seven people and $100,000 in the bank. We were supposed to buy tickets in the nosebleed section of Fenway Park and watch the big leaguers show us how to play politics. Somehow we snuck past security and got out on the field and 650,000 Americans got out there with us. It's a really their story. The campaign is really their story. And we carried a lead in the top of the 9th. And everybody wants to know how the Red Sox beat us in the bottom of the 9th.

I think the real story is the miracle of how this little league team actually carried the ball and taught the party how to oppose Bush, taught the party how to retool and get back to grassroots. And like I said, opted out and gave Kerry something Karl Rove never counted on that the Democratic nominee would actually be competitive dollar for dollar with George Bush.

WOODRUFF: You won't be surprised to know some of the press are being tougher than that. You know very well about Roger Simon writing in "U.S. News & World Report" this week saying, "Dean had instructed his campaign to build him a juggernaut in Iowa but instead they built him a house of cards on a foundation of sand" and he just goes on to say some pretty scathing things about you and the way the whole thing was run.

TRIPPI: That's the story of -- that's one story, my story and the real story of the Dean campaign is in the book "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and people can read Roger Simon if they want. I'm not going to get into that. The last time I managed a campaign was for city attorney in Los Angeles in 1985. So I was just one of the people who was crazy enough to go up there and give it my all and I did. I'm proud of what we did.

WOODRUFF: All right, let me, very quickly, turn you to John Kerry. I know you are for John Kerry but you write in the book, "every time I see John Kerry on television I'm struck by the same thought, whether he's snowboarding or playing hockey or wearing his leathers sitting on a motorcycle. The message is the same: Aren't I amazing?"

WOODRUFF: You're saying John Kerry is arrogant, aren't you?

TRIPPI: No. I'm actually saying that's the mistake politicians in both parties have made for three decades now. And I think the difference in the Dean campaign, the really empowering message of the Dean campaign was Howard Dean showed real courage. He went out there every day on the stump and said, "look at you, aren't you amazing?" And 650,000 Americans were. A million Americans that are working for John Kerry are doing that still today. They're amazing.

And I think Kerry needs -- that's the only thing. I don't think Kerry is doing anything different in that line than Howard Dean did. And I think the Kerry campaign is learning from that. They took a leaf out of our play-bet book and e-mailed a million of their supporters and told them about John Edwards before they told the press or anyone else. I think they're doing actually an excellent job now in getting there. I think they could do a better job of that.

WOODRUFF: Well, I wish we could ask you how, but we're out of time. We'll leave it there. Joe Trippi. We hope to talk to you again very soon out on the trail. Thank you very much.

Britain's prime minister takes the heat and takes responsibility for a less than flattering post-Iraq intelligence report. Coming up, should Tony Blair's declaration be echoed by President Bush?


President Bush's political challengers are making the most of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's response to a report calling pre- war intelligence on Iraq weapons flawed. Blair said the buck, or the pound in this case, stops with him. Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards says President Bush should do the same. CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, takes a closer look.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Here's President Bush responding to last week's Senate committee report which found that pre-war U.S. intelligence on Iraqi weapons was flawed and exaggerated.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate Intelligence Committee has identified some shortcomings in our intelligence capabilities. The committee's report will help us in the work of reform. SCHNEIDER: Here's Prime Minister Tony Blair responding to this week's Butler Report, which found that pre-War British intelligence on Iraqi weapons was seriously flawed.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Any mistakes made that this report finds in good faith, I, of course, take responsibility.

SCHNEIDER: And more.

BLAIR: I have to accept, as the months have passed, it seems increasingly clear that at the time of invasion, Saddam did not have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons ready to deploy.

SCHNEIDER: One American joined the chorus of "here-here" and drew an implicit contrast.

EDWARDS: 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. Because he understands what leadership is.

SCHNEIDER: One reason for the difference, Blair has a serious credibility problem. In a poll taken earlier this year, only 32 percent of the British described Blair as trustworthy.

At the same time, a majority of Americans said they thought President Bush was trustworthy. The British report, like the American report, did not find any evidence of wrongdoing.

BLAIR: No one lied, no one made up the intelligence, no one inserted things into the dossier against the advice of the intelligence services.

SCHNEIDER: Blair doesn't have to accept blame, just responsibility. Blair can do that because he's not in any immediate political danger. His opponents don't have much credibility. British conservatives supported the war in Iraq.

President Bush is facing a serious opponent in an election less than four months away. So President Bush has had to make a slight alteration in his justification for the war.

BUSH: Saddam Hussein had the intent, he had the capability.

SCHNEIDER: And Prime Minister Blair is the one saying, "here- here."

BLAIR: He retained complete strategic intent on weapons of mass destruction and significant capability.


SCHNEIDER: The most immediate danger to Blair is that President Bush will lose reelection, in which case Blair could become politically isolated -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

Sometimes political jokes can backfire. Coming up, political humor and its consequences.


WOODRUFF: We have just enough time for an all-star second edition of the "Campaign News Daily." The Slim-Fast line of diet aids has shed Whoopi Goldberg as the campaign spokeswoman. It is a direct result of her R-rated swipes at President Bush during her comedy routine at a recent Kerry-Edwards fund-raiser.

A Slim-Fast executive says the company regrets the Goldberg remarks offended some of its customers.

Warming up a crowd for a Bush appearance in Green Bay, Wisconsin, comedian Dennis Miller declared, quote: "I couldn't let Whoopi Goldberg have all the fun."

Miller went on to make jokes at the expense of a number of Democrats including John Kerry, John Edwards, Bill Clinton and James Carville. And we hear they've noticed over on the "CROSSFIRE" set.

WOODRUFF: Before we go, though, we have some pictures that have just come into CNN from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. This is Marine Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun, 24 years old, he is the Marine, of course, who disappeared from his base in Iraq in June and surfaced just last week in Lebanon.

He is now undergoing what the Marines are calling "repatriation," which a Marine lieutenant colonel told us earlier this hour could take weeks or even months.

They say its routine for someone who has been through what Corporal Hassoun has been through.

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

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