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Pennsylvania Showdown; Truth in Advertising; Intelligence Reform, Military Service Factors into Campaigns; McGreevey Pressured to Step Down Sooner; Do Kerry, Bush's Proposals Add Up?; Catholics Could Be Crucial Swing Voters; What Do Sports Say about the Candidate?

Aired August 17, 2004 - 15:29   ET


ANNOUNCER: An ad war of words over military service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush used his father to get into the National Guard, was grounded, and then went missing.

ANNOUNCER: We'll check the spots against the facts.

A Keystone for Bush? The president makes another pitch for votes in Pennsylvania.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With your help, we'll carry Pennsylvania. With your help, we're going to win in November of 2004.

ANNOUNCER: McGreevey digs in. The New Jersey governor defends his decision to resign later, rather than sooner, despite growing political pressure for a quick exit.



CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Thank you for joining us. Judy is off this week. I'm Candy Crowley.

We begin with President Bush in Pennsylvania, his 32nd visit aimed at winning a showdown state he narrowly lost four years ago. Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, traveled with the president to Ridley Park -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, is one of the suburbs of Philadelphia that is going to really determine who will win this state's 21 electoral votes in November. And you might notice behind me a Chinook helicopter.

The president toured the plant here, a Boeing plant here, that makes the Chinook helicopter. He went through the assembly line. Even signed some of the chopper parts that are on the assembly line. And during his speech here, Mr. Bush used this speech to mix two top campaign issues, jobs and the economy, and war.


BUSH: We're equipping our troops, as we should. Boeing Company is not only making good choppers, they're working on unmanned vehicles, advanced satellites, modern communications systems, the Army's future combat systems, all of which will help defend our country. In other words, this administration is thinking about today. We're also thinking about tomorrow.


BASH: Now, Boeing is one of the largest employers of this area. About 4,500 people work at this plant. It also makes the B-22 Osprey, at least parts of it, and the Kerry campaign points out that, although the president is talking up jobs in this area, the B-22 is something that Vice President Cheney, when secretary of defense, called for the termination of because he said it was essentially out of date.

Now, in terms, Candy, of Pennsylvania, as you mentioned, this is the president's 32nd trip here. It's something that he also mentioned when speaking to folks here, talking about the fact that he wants their vote. Let's take a look at why this is so important, look at the 2000 stats.

The president lost here by five percentage points, Al Gore at 51, George W. Bush, 46. And I mentioned earlier, the Philadelphia suburbs are absolutely key both campaigns say to winning the state.

This particular area is a real swing area. And it is a place where there are registered Republicans. But they went, particularly in this county, Delaware County, very big for Al Gore last time around. Take a look at these stats. Al Gore, 54 percent, George W. Bush, 42 percent.

So this is a place that the president has been a lot, this particular area. John Kerry, as well.

The latest polls, public polls show that the state of Pennsylvania is trending towards John Kerry. And the Kerry campaign, talking to aides, they say they feel pretty good about the way Pennsylvania is going, that they feel that they're up in their polls, according to their internal polling. Talking to a senior Bush aide, they say their internal polls show a dead heat here in Pennsylvania.

So, Candy, this is a trip, as evidenced -- this trip is evidence, I should say, that certainly the president is taking the state very seriously. They know in the Bush campaign they can win the White House without Pennsylvania, because they've done it before. But they also think that looking at the electoral map, it's very hard for John Kerry to win the White House without winning Pennsylvania. So campaigning here is as much about making sure Pennsylvania is not in John Kerry's side of the ledger as it is on George Bush's -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Dana, is there -- there something that the Bush campaign sees in Pennsylvania that makes the picture different now than it was in 2000? I mean, for the 2000 election, five percentage points was a pretty big spread.

BASH: It was a pretty big spread. And certainly they are hoping that they can do well with some of the voters in -- in the middle, if you will, some of the more conservative voters in the middle of the state.

But the fact that he is here in the Philadelphia suburbs is telling. Because, as I mentioned, these are registered Republicans. And they should, on paper, be voting for George W. Bush, but they tend to be more moderate. So, for them, issues like jobs and the economy, and even perhaps some of the social issues are important to them.

The president is certainly making the case for -- for war again. That's something that he talked about here. So it's more of an issue of defending his record, and not so much interesting to hear the president. He did not talk a lot about the socially conservative issues when he was here. Perhaps that's because he's trying to get some of these moderate Republicans to vote for him this time.

CROWLEY: White House correspondent Dana Bash. Thanks, Dana.

While Senator John Kerry remains on vacation in Idaho, some of his allies are renewing questions about President Bush's National Guard service, even as they defend the Democrat against attacks on his war record. Wesley Clark and several other retired generals held a news conference today, along with Kerry's swift boat crewmates in Vietnam. They urged President Bush to denounce an ad accusing Kerry of lying to get his war medals and they compared Bush's Vietnam service to Kerry's.


GEN. WESLEY CLARK (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One man volunteered to serve his country. He volunteered to go to Vietnam. And he volunteered a third time to command a swift boat in one of the most dangerous activities in the war.

The other man scrambled and used his family's influence to get out of hearing a shot fired in anger. That's the comparison.


CROWLEY: The back and forth over Bush and Kerry's service records continues to play out on the TV airwaves. Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" looks at the dueling ads and whether they're accurate.



HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": John Kerry's decorated Vietnam service has always been his strongest political asset. But now it's become the focus of an airwaves shootout between an anti- Kerry group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and the liberal organization, First, the Swift Boat spot.

LOUIS LETSON, SERVED IN VIETNAM: I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart, because I treated him for that injury.

KURTZ: Louis Letson says Kerry had a minor shrapnel wound because he was too close to a grenade he threw. The senator denies that. And there's some dispute about whether Letson treated him at all. In any event, many Purple Hearts -- and Kerry won three -- are awarded for minor injuries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star. I know. I was there. I saw what happened.

KURTZ: One problem with this ad, none of the veterans served on Kerry's boat. Another problem, the "Boston Globe" quotes one of the vets in the ad, George Elliot, as saying he made a terrible mistake and that Kerry did deserve his Silver Star.

In fact, injuries aren't the main reason Lieutenant Kerry got some of his medals. His citation for the Silver Star rests on his attacking during two Vietcong ambushes, a "daring and courageous tactic" in which Kerry showed "utter disregard for his own safety."

As for the Bronze Star, Jim Rassmann says Kerry saved his life by fishing him out of a river under enemy fire. An account partially challenged by one of the Swift Boat Veterans.

LARRY THURLOW, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH: John does return and pick him up. But I distinctly remember we were under no fire from either bank.

JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS: Jim Rassmann, what about that? You hear Mr. Thurlow saying there was no enemy fire at that point.

JIM RASSMANN, SAYS KERRY SAVED HIS LIFE: Mr. Thurlow is being disingenuous. I don't know what his motivation is. But I was receiving fire in the water every time I came up for air.

KURTZ: The MoveOn spot returns fire by making the president's wartime service the issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush used his father to get into the National Guard, was grounded, and then went missing.

KURTZ: Bush was a congressman's son when he was immediately accepted by the Guard. But there's no record that his father pulled any strings.

As a pilot, he wasn't grounded. He gave up his flying rights by passing up a medical exam. And Bush disputes being AWOL, although there are no records to confirm he showed up for duty in his final year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now he's allowing false advertising that attacks John Kerry, a man who asked to go to Vietnam. KURTZ: Bush isn't allowing anything. His campaign didn't produce the veterans' ad. The spot also quotes John McCain's criticism of the Swift Boat Veterans' attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable. I think the Bush campaign should specifically condemn the ad. George Bush, take that ad off the air."

KURTZ (on camera): The irony of this demand is that MoveOn itself, like the veterans group, is an independent 527 group legally barred from any coordination with the presidential campaigns. So these organizations keep their distance while doing political dirty work for their candidates, who take no responsibility for the attack spots.



CROWLEY: On another front, Senate Democrat Tom Harkin jumped into the battle over military service. The former Navy pilot accused Vice President Cheney of being, "a coward" for not serving in Vietnam. And Harkin called Cheney cowardly for mocking Kerry's promise to fight a more sensitive war on Iraq.

The Bush-Cheney camp responded by saying this is a flailing attack by John Kerry's surrogates, who cannot explain why John Kerry missed 76 percent of the public hearings of the Intelligence Committee, why he voted against funds for body armor for Afghanistan and Iraq, and why he wants to fight a more sensitive war on terrorism. We'll have more on that story ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.

Checking the headlines in "Campaign News Daily," John Kerry is adding more names to his roster of campaign strategists. Among those joining the Kerry team is Michael Hooley (ph), a Boston-based adviser credited with salvaging Kerry's Iowa campaign last winter. Former Clinton White House advisers Doug Seiznick and Marsha Hale (ph) are also joining the Kerry staff.

John Kerry's running mate, John Edwards, is back on the campaign trail in Arkansas today. He held a town hall-style meeting earlier this afternoon at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. It is Edwards' second trip to the state in the last two weeks.

Bruce Springsteen's efforts to help the Kerry-Edwards ticket has sparked a response from a conservative party candidate in New York. Senate hopeful Marilyn O'Grady plans to release a TV ad called "Boycott the Boss" which urges people not to buy Springsteen's music. Springsteen has been a vocal critic of President Bush and he plans a concert benefiting an anti-Bush political group. Marilyn O'Grady places incumbent Democrat Charles Schumer and Republican Howard Mills in November.

With the political fight over military service getting uglier by the day, can either Bush or Kerry come out of this looking good? Campaign strategists will spar over that and more. Also ahead, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld finds himself in an odd position on Capitol Hill. Did he vent his disagreement with President Bush?

Plus, Hurricane Charley gives Florida officials a new reason to be concerned about voting problems.

With 77 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.


CROWLEY: Returning now to the battle for the White House. As we've said, the candidates' military records are very much in the spotlight on the campaign trail. With us now, Terry Holt, press secretary with the Bush-Cheney campaign, and Kerry campaign spokeswoman, Debra Deshong.

Debra, let me start out with you. You all have spent a couple of days, in fact a week, I think, on the Kerry campaign, saying George Bush ought to condemn this Swift Boat ad that we've been talking about. By the same token, do you think Senator Harkin, calling Dick Cheney, the vice president, a coward also needs to be condemned?

DEBRA DESHONG, KERRY CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: You know, Senator Harkin speaks for himself, as John Kerry speaks for himself. But this begs to the question, people are upset, people are angry.

George Bush has refused to repudiate these false ads, ads that John McCain himself called dishonest and dishonorable. So my question to Terry is, where is the leadership? Where's George Bush? When is he going to finally repudiate these ads?

You know, we know they're funded by his Republican friends in Texas. All it would take, Terry, is one phone call from the White House to make this false, negative campaign to stop.

CROWLEY: You don't need me. Go right ahead.

DESHONG: Sorry, Candy.

TERRY HOLT, PRESS SECRETARY, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN: Well, this is classic Kerry adviser behaving badly. It's becoming quite a pattern. It's undignified and it's -- it's a trifle sad.

You know, Tom Harkin was one of the guys, along with Kerry and Edwards, to vote in support of the president's decision to go into Iraq and then -- and then cut and run on the troops and not fund the troops. So Tom Harkin is really way out on the left. And frankly, I think he probably ought to apologize for the comment.

It's an awful comment and quite low. Quite beneath him.

CROWLEY: I mean, Debra, as you know, these Swift Boat ads, there's a lot of 527s running around out there.


CROWLEY: And I think you've seen the latest one from, which has a number of names I know that are familiar to you. It's clearly a pro-Kerry group saying that George Bush's father got him into the National Guard. Also not demonstrably really provable.

So it seems to me that we're getting to this spiraling sort of thing where you say, you take back that and they say, you take back that.


CROWLEY: Where is the end of this?

DESHONG: Well, you know, John Kerry today released a statement about the ad, saying that he agreed with Senator McCain that this ad was inappropriate, that this campaign should be about ideas and issues, not insults.

So John -- John Kerry does say when an ad is airing that he finds inappropriate. We're just wondering when George Bush is going to do the same.

HOLT: I'll tell you, you know, the president said when the Swit Boat ad first appeared that we ought to have a moratorium on all of these soft money, unregulated activities, because, after all, it's been President Bush who was the target, the personal attack target of about $100 million in these kind of spots. And it seems a little disingenuous for the Kerry campaign to be so offended when someone's running ads against them after the president has been compared to Hitler and all kinds of other terribly unfair things.

And, you know, none of this is about who's going to be the better president. The president yesterday, for example, talked about realigning the military to meet the threats of the 21st century. The Kerry campaign obsesses about a war that occurred in the middle of the last century.

We've never even questioned his service there. And yet he brings it up and has his Kerry surrogates, like Wes Clark today, attacking the president personally. It's out of bounds and it doesn't help us get to the next agenda, and what we're going to do in the next four years.

DESHONG: You know, we agree. And we could make this all go away, Terry, if George Bush would pick up the phone, call his Republican friends in Texas and say, "Stop funding this negative, dishonest, dishonorable Swift Boat, swift vet ad campaign right now."

So we agree with you. It's wrong. It's dishonorable. When is he going to condemn it?

CROWLEY: I think we're probably not going to get much further on this conversation. Just a thought that's occurred to me.

Let me move on, because I want to talk a little bit, Terry, about the Republican convention coming up, and get Debra's input, as well. And that is, what do you think this president has got to do?

We have seen since the Democratic convention that he pretty consistently does trail in most of the polls. Doesn't in the Gallup poll recently that we've put it out. It seems to me that the president's going to have to gain some traction. How does he do that at the convention?

HOLT: Well, I think, you know, the president makes a terrific connection with the American people on the values that they have. He shares those values.

You know, talk about what's -- what's next for this country. We've been through an awful lot in the last three-and-a-half years. We've made some sacrifices. And it's been tough at times.

But we have hope and opportunity out there for us. We think we're still a strong nation, and getting stronger every day.

As the president unveils this second term, and what it's going to look like, I think that he's going to inspire people to join his campaign based on an optimistic message. But also based on the simple fact that he can connect with the American people in a way that John Kerry has failed to do.

CROWLEY: Debra, let me talk to you. And you can go off to RNC if you want in their -- in their convention. But as you look at the -- at the road ahead, we're now going to finish up the conventions at the end of this month, on to debates, and then, of course, the election. What do you think, looking at it, worries you the most?

You all have been in a pretty good position over the past month or so, post your convention. Seems to me that you might be a little worried about a bounce out of the RNC for the president.

DESHONG: Yes, absolutely not. We're not worried. We are the only candidate in this race so far with a plan for America. We're the only candidate in this race with a plan to grow the economy...

HOLT: You ought to talk about it more often if you do.

DESHONG: Well, Terry, I've got a book right here, our plan for America. Happy to send you one. You can buy it on right now.

HOLT: Edited very carefully, I might say.

DESHONG: We're the only candidates with a plan for America.


CROWLEY: I'm glad you...

DESHONG: Happy to share it with you.

CROWLEY: OK. So we've got the book up and everything. I'm going to have to end it there. Debra Deshong, thank you so much.

DESHONG: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Terry Holt, thank you.

HOLT: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: We'll see you back here later, I hope.

HOLT: Sure.

CROWLEY: Illinois Republican Senate hopeful Alan Keyes is wasting little time making headlines in his newly adopted state. In an interview with the "Chicago Sun-Times," Keyes was asked about recent comments in which he compared abortion to terrorism and said the 9/11 attacks were a warning from god to end abortion.

In the words of Keyes, "What is done in the course of an abortion? Someone consciously targets innocent life. As I often point out to folks, the evil is the same." Keyes' Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, called the comments "deeply troubling."

Coming up on INSIDE POLITICS, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld weighs in on plans to overhaul U.S. intelligence operations. Caution is the key word as Rumsfeld speaks. Details when we return.


CROWLEY: Words of caution from Donald Rumsfeld, as the defense secretary sat down with the Senate Armed Services Committee to talk about intelligence reform. The hearing was one of just several today related to the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. The latest now from CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry -- Ed.


That's right. Two very powerful political forces were squaring off today: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and some 9/11 families. They were not in the same hearing room, but they both clearly are headed in different directions on a key point in these 9/11 Commission recommendations, those 41 recommendations for reform, just how powerful this new national intelligence director should be.

Now, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is obviously a master political infighter, a master bureaucrat. He's been in Washington a long time.

He knows he lost the first battle. Over his objections, President Bush has endorsed the concept of a national intelligence director. And at this Senate Armed Services hearing today, Rumsfeld, though, made it clear that he wants to fight it out on the details. He wants to make sure that this national intelligence director does not get too much power in his estimation.

And Rumsfeld had a warning for Congress. He said that if they don't get this reform right the penalty could be too high.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We are still looking at these things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm very...

RUMSFELD: They're terribly important, and I am not in the position to say anything other than the devil's in the details.


HENRY: But at another Senate hearing, there were 9/11 families that were speaking out. And they were saying that they believe very strongly in the concept of a national intelligence director.

And you have to keep in mind that these 9/11 families have proven to be politically adept. They were the ones who pushed President Bush into agreeing to have this 9/11 Commission to begin with. They also pushed the speaker of the House very hard to extend the deadline on the 9/11 Commission. And one of those 9/11 family members, Kristen Breitwiser, said that she feels very strongly about the national intelligence director.


KRISTEN BREITWEISER, SEPTEMBER 11TH ADVOCATES: Going forward, we must ensure that when intelligence community judgments are made and people are killed, at a bare minimum, someone in our intelligence community is held accountable. An NID would be that person.


HENRY: And Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman today said that he believes these 9/11 families are a citizens army that can prod Congress into action. And so, Candy, the battle is really joined here, where you have the defense secretary, also the Joint Chiefs chairman, General Richard Myers, coming out today and saying that this national intelligence director might not be the panacea that some people in Congress think. But you have the 9/11 families and the 9/11 commissioners being very strong in their belief that this national intelligence director could be a very critical part of the reform effort -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Congressional correspondent Ed Henry. Good to see you, Ed. Thanks.

HENRY: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Straight ahead, the political war without end. The latest back and forth over Vietnam. How did the rhetoric get so ugly?

And an update from New Jersey, where pressure is growing on the governor to leave office sooner rather than later.



BUSH: I was proud of my service. I flew F-102 fighters.

KERRY: I defended our country as a young man.

ANNOUNCER: Why does military service matter so much in this year's race for the White House?

Some pricey promises.

KERRY: We're going to lower the premiums by $1,000 per family.

ANNOUNCER: But can John Kerry pay for what he's proposing?

The politics of vacations. What's right and what's wrong when you're running for president?



CROWLEY: Welcome back. I'm Candy Crowley, sitting in for Judy this week.

If you are choosing political fighting words, coward and liar are right up there, or down there on the ugly scale. That's what it's come to in election 2004. Both sides are on the attack in the battle over wartime heroics, absences and deferments. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider is tracking the fire.


BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The campaign battle is escalating dangerously. It started with an ad challenging John Kerry's credentials as a Vietnam War hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry is no war hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He betrayed all his shipmates. He lied before the Senate.

SCHNEIDER: Outraged Kerry supporters are returning fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush used his father to get into the National Guard, was grounded and then went missing. Now he's allowing false advertising that attacks John Kerry.

SCHNEIDER: On another front, after Kerry talked about waging a more sensitive war on terror, Vice President Cheney saw an opening to challenge Kerry's toughness.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being sensitive.

SCHNEIDER: On Friday, an outraged Senator Tom Harkin said, "When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil."

How did things get so ugly? One reason is that military credentials matter again, just as they did during the Cold War.

In the 1992 campaign, questions were raised about Bill Clinton's draft record. But the Cold War was over. Clinton got elected.

Questions were raised about George W. Bush's National Guard service in the 2000 campaign. But Bush got elected.

Nine-eleven brought the national security issue back front and center. In the 2002 mid term, Democrats were outraged by what they saw as unscrupulous charges against Georgia Senator Max Cleland, a disabled war veteran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As America faces terrorists and extremist dictators, Max Cleland runs television ads claiming he has the courage to lead.

SCHNEIDER: Cleland's defeat made him a martyr to Democrats. He helped fellow Vietnam veteran John Kerry win the 2004 Democratic nomination. With Kerry at the top of the ticket, Democrats now have credibility on national security.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: During the Vietnam War, many young men, including the current president, the vice president and me could have gone to Vietnam and didn't. John Kerry came from a privileged background. He could have avoided going, too, but instead he said, "Send me."

SCHNEIDER: Will they let Republicans challenge Kerry's credibility? Not without a fight.


SCHNEIDER: For ten years, from the end of the Cold War in 1991, to September 11, 2001, national security virtually vanished from the political agenda. No one threatened the U.S. In any other period Bill Clinton and George W. Bush would have had a lot more trouble getting elected president -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Senior political analyst Bill Schneider out in Los Angeles. Come home, Bill, all is forgiven.


CROWLEY: In New Jersey today, a high profile Republican is joining calls by officials in both parties for Governor James McGreevey to resign now.

Former Governor Christy Whitman suggests it will be impossible for McGreevey to get anything done after revealing he had affair with another man and announcing he'd step down November 15.

The man at the center of McGreevey's decision apparently is also feeling pressure.

Here's CNN's Deborah Feyerick.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If Golan Cipel thought he could slip away from New Jersey and the scandal enveloping the governor there, he was wrong.

The Israeli-born former aide to James McGreevey, going home to a suburb outside Tel Aviv, to his parents, and to a mob of waiting cameras. Making his first televised statement.

GOLAN CIPEL, FORMER AIDE TO JAMES MCGREEVEY (through translator): I have had a very difficult time. I've come to Israel to be with my family at this time. I cannot expand on anything for legal reasons.

FEYERICK: One former colleague tells CNN Cipel has been distraught since it came out. He planned to file a sexual harassment suit against the governor. Cipel, through his lawyers, says he's straight and was subjected to repeated advances by McGreevey.

Settlement talks between the two sides broke down Thursday, just hours before the married governor announced he was gay and had an affair.

GOV. JAMES MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY: I have decided the right course of action is to resign.

FEYERICK: On Tuesday McGreevey was back to running the state, first holding terrorism drills with federal officials. The meeting with the man who will replace him if he stays until November.

The New Jersey Republicans and now Democrats are trying to force McGreevey out by September so that special elections could be held to choose a new governor.

Those close to McGreevey vow he will not go without a fight, an aide telling CNN, quote, "We're not going anywhere. If the governor's last fight is going to be against Democratic Party bosses, then we're ready to fight," unquote.

In an op ed piece in "US Today," the governor praises the things he's accomplished in the two years since he was elected.


FEYERICK: If there is a special election, the name being floated by New Jersey Democrats is that of Senator Jon Corzine. Sources close to the senator say he's in touch with many state Democrats today, including a morning meeting with Richard Codey, the man who could follow McGreevey. Now, we have also learned that, in a separate scandal involving the governor, one of his top fundraisers tomorrow, Charles Kushner, is expected to be in court. He is expected to plead guilty.

We do not know specifically what he's pleading guilty to. But this was another scandal surrounding the governor, though the governor was never implicated. But tomorrow one of his top fundraisers set to enter a plea -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Deborah Feyerick, on the New Jersey trail, appreciate it.

In presidential campaigns past and present, candidates have been known to make promises without fully explaining the price tag. Up next, how would John Kerry pay for all of the things he hopes to do if he wins in November? John King has a reality check.

Plus, how Catholic voters could tilt the balance in the showdown states.

And later, might actress Charlize Theron might one day get a fan letter from the White House?


CLINTON: I regret that began as a friendship came to include this conduct. And I take full responsibility for my actions.




CROWLEY: Showdown: Ohio. Both President Bush and Senator Kerry feel the Buckeye State is crucial to their campaigns. Now, Paula Zahn takes the pulse of undecided voters in Ohio. So please tune in at 8 Eastern tomorrow night as Paula hosts "THE UNDECIDED VOTE: A CNN TOWN HALL MEETING," live from Canton, Ohio.

We are back with more INSIDE POLITICS in a moment.


CROWLEY: There's a group of swing voters who could hold the key to the White House. Up next, "The Hotline's" Chuck Todd explains why Catholics could play a deciding role in the November election.


CROWLEY: John Kerry has released a book featuring billions of dollars in specific proposals on everything from the economy to health care. How does Kerry plan to pay for it all? That's not quite so clear.

Here's our White House correspondent, John King.



JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The candidate's book and his speeches are full of pricey promises.

KERRY: And we're going to lower the cost of health care. For every single one of you that gets it today, I'm going to raise the childcare credit $1,000.

But we're going to provide a $4,000 per pupil, per student tuition tax credit.

KING: There's more.

KERRY: And we're going to fully fund No Child Left Behind.

We will raise the funding for the Indian health system.

KING: And still more.

KERRY: That's why I've got a $2 billion effort that's going to go straight into clean coal technology.

KING: More than 100 new spending proposals.

And this.

KERRY: Our plan will cut the deficit in half by four years.

KING: Just the major Kerry health care and education initiatives would cost more than $800 billion over ten years, about what would be saved by delivering on a promise to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $200,000 a year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got a shot at paying for those with the increased taxes on high-income households. But the rest of it is somewhat problematic.

KING: Senator Kerry, like many candidates before him, says he will pay for the rest by closing tax loopholes and eliminating wasteful spending.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of those are rather vague. The new programs are specific, and the offsets are in some cases very vague.

KING: The Democrat also says that, if need be, he will scale back his spending plans to put the government back on a pay as you go budget.

By the president's math, $2.2 trillion in new spending proposals.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said just tax the rich. You've heard that talk before, haven't you? Rich hires accountants. And guess who gets stuck with the tab. You do!

KING: But Mr. Bush also might be promising more than he can deliver, calling for more tax cuts while also pledging to cut the deficit in half.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the promises of either one of them add up. Kerry has got too much spending in his plan to be able to get that sort of deficit reduction. And Bush cuts taxes by too much.

KING: And those who watch the campaign with green eyeshades say both campaign are all but ignoring the biggest spending dilemma on the horizon. The wave of the so-called Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age in the next presidential term, creating a new senior boom strain on Social Security, and a major fiscal challenge for the next president.

John King, CNN, Washington.


CROWLEY: In a presidential race expected to turn on the vote in swing states, there's growing attention on Catholics, who are emerging as the quintessential swing voters.

For more, I'm joined by Chuck Todd. He is the editor-in-chief of "The Hotline: An Insider's Political Briefing," produced daily by the "National Journal."

So they told me that you were going to talk about Catholics as the ultimate swing demographics. So I got chills. What is the ultimate swing demographic?

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE HOTLINE": Well, it's amazing, first of all. Gore carried Catholics nationally 50 to 47. Very narrow sliver. He obviously carried the popular vote, very narrow sliver.

Catholics make up about one in four of all voters, 26 percent of the electorate.

In the battleground states, the showdown states, 12 of the 17 have a Catholic population, at least an electorate population of 26 percent or more. And to further sort of demonstrate why they're so close in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Bush won Ohio by three points in 2000. Well, he carried the Catholic vote by three points.

In Pennsylvania Gore won it by five points. He won the Catholic vote by five points. It is really the ultimate swing voter group.

CROWLEY: As the Catholic vote goes, so goes the nation?

TODD: Apparently, it's that close. And I think that that's why they're so intense on it.

CROWLEY: So how are they intense on it? How are they competing? What's the pitch to the Catholic vote?

TODD: Well, it's almost -- it's similar to the pitch of sort of this, you know, religion, practicing religious vote versus non- practicing religious vote.

In that the Bush campaign, we've heard that they're targeting, trying to get parish lists, trying to get active Catholics. Because the more likely that you go to a mass every week, the more likely you're going to be a Republican voter.

The more likely that you wear a shirt that says "I survived Catholic school" or are a recovering Catholic, the more likely you're probably voting in the Democratic camp.

So that's why this intense focus on active parish lists that the Bush campaign has been reaching out for is so intriguing, and so interesting to watch for us junkies.

CROWLEY: Now something interesting about New Mexico, because that's a place where the Catholics went overwhelmingly for Gore. Why is that?

TODD: Well, the Latino, the growing Latino population is overwhelmingly Catholic. And this is yet another sort of benefit that the Republicans and Karl Rove see -- sees in targeting the Catholic vote, particularly the practicing Catholic vote, because it could be their entree into the Latinos.

Right now, Latinos are more -- voting more as Latinos and not as practicing Catholics. If they can somehow make that switch a little bit, that would be the difference in just a couple of points in New Mexico among Catholics. That's be the difference between Bush carrying New Mexico and losing New Mexico.

So I think it starts to make sense when you start seeing these pockets in New Mexico, in Pennsylvania, in Ohio, why there's this just overly intense focus by Karl Rove and the Bush campaign.

CROWLEY: Another key demographic to watch. Thanks so much, Chuck Todd, who oversees our favorite daily reading. Thank you.

A reminder, 'The Hotline: An Insider's Political Briefing" is produced daily by the "National Journal." Go online to for subscription information.

New York is getting ready to roll out the welcome mat for Republicans, but what about Bush opponents? With just 13 days until the Republican National Convention, a labor group has hung a giant banner from its headquarters just blocks from Madison Square Garden. It says, "Save America, defeat Bush."

Unite Here is a newly emerged union representing hospitality apparel and other workers.

Meantime, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is hoping the city will profit from conventioneers and protestors alike. Today, he announced a plan to give demonstrators the same buttons convention delegates will be getting, giving them discounts at local businesses and attractions.

Are prices falling? The Labor Department says consumer prices fell by 0.1 percent last month. That's their biggest drop in eight months. Thank lower gas prices for the decline. We'll go live to Wall Street for market reaction to today's report when we come back.

Plus, John Kerry has been squeezing in some vacation time in Idaho. But the senator's sports enthusiast photo ops have been conspicuously absent this time around. Just ahead, what do vacation spots and rituals tell us about a would-be commander in chief?



CROWLEY: Now, you all know that in election years, nothing goes unanswered. Nothing. But sometimes responses take a little while.

We want to begin this story about a year ago, when John Kerry went to Philadelphia and a famous cheese steak place called Pat's. There he ordered, of course, a cheese steak, but he ordered it with Swiss cheese. That's kind of a food faux pas in Philadelphia. You're supposed to order it with Cheez Whiz, maybe American, but Swiss cheese, definitely a faux pas.

Now who notices these kinds of things? As it turned out, the Bush campaign did. Did we mention that the president was near Philadelphia today?


GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, this is my 32nd visit to your state since I've been president. A lot of people wonder why I'm coming so much. It ought to be obvious to you; I like my cheese steak Wiz with.


CROWLEY: There were also complaints at the time that John Kerry took dainty bites of his Philadelphia cheese steak. Unfortunately, the president did not get into that.

George W. Bush has Crawford, Texas. John Kerry has Ketchum, Idaho. The candidates' favorite getaway spots are more than 1,200 miles apart and, you could argue, worlds away.

As CNN's Bruce Morton explains, even when it comes to vacations, politics does not take a holiday.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you knew that Harry Truman liked to hang out with the boys in Key West and play poker, did that tell you something about what kind of a man, a president he was? Probably. Still true? Probably. President Bush does a lot of family stuff when he's at Kennebunkport, the family home in Maine. Goes out on a boat, plays golf with his dad.

He plays golf anyway. This is, of course, in Waco, Texas near his ranch. He enjoys that. He enjoys puttering around on the ranch. And he's a big believer in exercise. You've seen pictures of him jogging, or working out on his mountain bike, exercising, competing only with himself.

John Kerry still competes on one team sport, hockey. His nickname in college, one account says, was Keep the Puck Kerry. Ambitious, perhaps, even then.

He rides a bike, too, though serious exercise may not be the object. He hunts, skeet shoots, out for birds.

And he has more exotic sports. Snowboarding, for instance. Or kite surfing. Interesting for a fit 60-year-old.

He talked a few years ago about a fondness for extreme sports. His wife sees it this way.

TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY'S WIFE: I think he likes to do things that give him liberty, freedom of the air, you know, the water and the snow. Flying. He likes all of that.

MORTON: Kerry disagrees, sort of.

KERRY: I don't like to do things where you can lose control or you lose control or whatever. I disagree with people that make that assessment.

When I'm flying an airplane, I'm very careful. I'm very confident. I feel very confident about the procedures, about the checks I've done, about what I'm doing.

Likewise, when I'm on the water, I'm very confident about what I'm doing. I know what -- I'm careful and so forth. You don't find me jumping out of airplanes.

MORTON: But we all, of course, remember a president who did. And he seemed confident, too.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


CROWLEY: On another key question, who floats John Kerry's boat as far as Hollywood actresses are concerned? Kerry shares some of his favorites in an interview with "Gentleman's Quarterly" magazine.

Topping Kerry's list, Oscar winner Charlize Theron. The Democratic presidential nomination calls Theron, quote, "pretty extraordinary." He tells "G.Q." he's also fond of Catherine Zeta- Jones and Marilyn Monroe. Kerry is also careful to heap praise on his wife, saying, quote, "Thank God I found Teresa." Probably thank God he said that.

That is it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Candy Crowley. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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