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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Convention Preview; Protests Preview; Interview With Governor George Pataki

Aired August 27, 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: The battle for the showdown states. Four new polls show four crucial states still are up for grabs in the race for the White House.

The Republicans raise their convention curtain in three days. We'll take a look at what's planned inside the Garden and outside.

Is New York ready for the GOP? The Republican governor of the heavily-Democratic Empire State says yes.

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: This is going to be the most exciting convention my party's ever had and probably the most exciting convention the city's ever seen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the CNN Election Express in New York, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us. Our GOP convention coverage today brings us to New York's Chelsea Piers in Hudson River Park, alongside the CNN Election Express. New Yorkers know the Piers as a popular recreation area, but at times this waterfront has also received passengers and cargo. It was also a departure point for U.S. troops during both world wars.

Well, as security tightens around Madison Square Garden, and workers inside complete their preparations, new state polls give George W. Bush reason to smile. He now has small leads over John Kerry in several coveted battlegrounds.

The "LA Times" surveyed registered voters in three Midwest states. In Ohio, Bush holds a five-point edge over Kerry, 49 percent to 44 percent. In Wisconsin, a state Bush lost four years ago by less than half a percentage point, Bush holds a four-point lead. And in Missouri, the president leads Senator Kerry by two points, 46 to 44.

George Bush has poured huge time and effort into winning Pennsylvania as well. And a Pew poll of likely voters there gives Bush the smallest of leads, 45 percent to 44 percent. John Kerry was leading earlier. Among registered voters, however, Kerry continues to hold the edge in Pennsylvania, 45 to 43 percent. In a few minutes, I'll talk about these new polls with John Kerry's pollster, Mark Mellman. But now, Bush is targeting voters today in a must-have state down South, while Kerry is an state considered safely in the Democratic column. The president has scheduled a rally in Miami late this afternoon. Among those traveling with him to Florida is Democratic Senator Zell Miller, who is delivering the GOP convention's keynote speech. In California, meantime, Kerry is holding a fund-raiser this hour in San Francisco before heading to Washington State later tonight.

The Bush-Cheney campaign hopes to get a healthy boost from next week's GOP convention. Planners will try to stir party faithful with a parade of GOP stars and one well-known Democrat. With three days to go before the opening gavel, CNN national correspondent Bob Franken previews the lineup for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Critics say the lineup is like putting lipstick on a pig. Compassionate conservatives, yes, passionate ones, no. From night one, the party will be putting what it regards as its best faces forward, or best gloss, depending on the point of view. It doesn't matter says the campaign chairman.

MARC RACICOT, BUSH CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: So I think there's just a remarkable difference for the American people between the president and what he has to offer, and his opposition in terms of their clarity, their consistency and their steady hand.

FRANKEN: So, Senator John McCain, who has morphed recently from the picture of Bush irritant to pictures of Bush embraced, is at the podium Monday evening. So is Rudy Giuliani, another of the so-called moderates. And a reminder of the September 11th attacks here.

RUDY GIULIANI, FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR: We need someone who is going to understand that we have to remain firm against terrorists.

FRANKEN: Tuesday is another night of stars, quite literally, with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, certainly a muscular party figure, but conservatives say he is weak on gun control and abortion. Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele will also speak that night. Who's that? Well, that was the same question everyone asked about Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Barack Obama before he spoke to his convention.

And that's not all. First lady Laura Bush also goes gently into the night Tuesday. Wednesday, the warm Republican embrace includes a Democrat, a nominal one in many eyes, Georgia's Senator Zell Miller.

Then Vice President Cheney, so the conservatives finally get their red meat man. And don't expect anything in his speech about gay rights. And then, of course, Thursday's big finish, President Bush, with a variation on his theme: Bush good, John Kerry not good.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to beat him come November. FRANKEN: The president will deliver his remarks from a specially-constructed theater in the round stage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: Of course, like the Democratic convention, this is going to be extreme political theater. But, Judy, what's different is that some of the main characters are going to be pretty much out of sight.

WOODRUFF: Well, that's the way it sounds. Bob Franken joining us right here on Chelsea Piers. Thanks very much.

Well, so much for what we can expect inside Madison Square Garden. New York is also preparing for demonstrations that are expected throughout the week outside. AS CNN's Jason Carroll discovered, protesters have one thing in common, diversity.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here we go.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A mother from New York, a student from the University of Hawaii. Those coming to New York City to protest are as varied as the groups they represent. On Friday morning, Mothers Opposing Bush marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, pushing strollers, their children carrying banners.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's very important to teach my children about the power of democracy in action.

CARROLL: Thursday night, DNC to RNC. A loose mix of environmentalists and labor leaders rallied against Democrats and Republicans for not supporting real people.

LESLIE CAGAN, UNITED FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE: OK, great. Good. Take care.

CARROLL: But by far, the largest demonstration is likely to come from this group, United for Peace and Justice. They're anti-war. Leslie Cagan...

CAGAN: We talked to the police this morning.

CARROLL: ... is the group's spokeswoman.

CAGAN: We and millions of Americans are fed up. So this Sunday, we will march and say no to the Bush agenda, no to their policies of war, greed, hate and lies.

CARROLL: Cagan predicts 250,000 people will peacefully march up 7th Avenue to Madison Square Garden, where the convention will be held. Some 800 smaller groups will march under UPJ's banner, organizations like Iraq's Veterans Against War and Green Dragon, who protest corporate greed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are celebrating the American rebel, Lucian (ph), from corporate monarch George II.

CARROLL: The city denied UPJ a permit to rally in Central Park after their Sunday march. But word is many will go there anyway. Police are also concerned about anarchists, or so called fringe groups, who they say want to cause trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If people break the law, we're going to deal with it, we're going to arrest them.. The court system is ready to receive large numbers of people, if that's necessary.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: People power... power.

CARROLL: Most protesters say, hopefully, it won't be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And, so far, police have already arrested 22 people. And in the event that they do have to make large-scale arrests, they've set up a temporary holding pen at a pier right next to where we are. That pen opens tomorrow.

And, Judy, if necessary, police say that that pen can hold up to 1,000 people. But, again, a lot of people out there hoping it will not be necessary.

WOODRUFF: These are people who would be arrested?

CARROLL: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: A pen?

CARROLL: Yes, absolutely, ready to hold them, process them if necessary.

WOODRUFF: Jason, thank you very much. I know we're going to be spending a lot of time with you in the days to come...

CARROLL: Yes, that's for sure.

WOODRUFF: ... if you're watching all this. Thank you very much.

Well, New York state Governor George Pataki is preparing for a big role at the Republican convention. He will introduce President Bush in a prime-time speech next Thursday.

I met up with the governor today at a busy local landmark, Grand Central Terminal. I began by asking if New York is ready for all the Republicans descending on the city.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATAKI: New York is ready. And I think this is going to be the most exciting convention my party's ever had, and probably the most exciting convention the city's ever seen. I'm really, really optimistic about it. WOODRUFF: But the polls are showing New York City residents aren't so sure they know what to make of Republicans. They certainly don't agree with them politically.

PATAKI: Well, I think it will be a great thing for, first of all, the Republicans from around the country, many of whom haven't been here before, to see this great city. And then some of the residents of the city to see that there really are Republicans, and we have two legs and two arms and two feet. And I think -- I think it will be a great thing for New York and a great thing for the party.

WOODRUFF: Not to be the skunk at the party, but President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, they're giving a big speech at Riverside Church tomorrow, we're told. Senator Clinton is going to be very visible next week. Polls show New Yorkers are maybe more comfortable with the Clintons than they are even with President Bush. Is that a problem for you?

PATAKI: Not at all. This is New York, and we're used to that type of diversity. We're used to free and open discussion of all the issues.

All I want to do is have the people of New York and the people of America have an opportunity to hear our president. I think when they do, they're going to say, this is the commander in chief we need, this is the leader who has -- who has done everything to protect us from terror, who's turning around the economy. And I'm optimistic that we're going to see a lot of excitement coming out of this convention.

WOODRUFF: "The New York Times" reported the other day that after years, they said, of trying to prove to national Republicans that you're not just a New Yorker, that now you're trying to prove to national Republicans that you're -- that you're one of them. I mean, what -- what exactly are you trying to do this week, Governor?

PATAKI: All I'm trying to do this week is my best to introduce the president. Now, it's a tremendous privilege to have that honor. And it's not going to be about me. It's going to be about the president and why this country needs him.

And, you know, everybody is speculating about, "What are you going to say about yourself?" I'm not going to talk about myself. I'm going to talk about the president. That's my role, that's what I want to do, and that's what I feel very excited and honored to have the opportunity to do.

WOODRUFF: Right. At the same time, Governor, I think it's clear to many people that your position on a number of planks in the Republican Party platform are different, whether it's gay rights, gun rights, abortion. How central are those issues do you think to the philosophy of the Republican Party?

PATAKI: Well, I think the overriding policy of our party, the philosophy of our party is confidence and trust in the people. Not elites to tell us how to spend our money and run our lives, but the people's ability, when government gets out of the way, to allow them to have a better future.

Freedom is the essence of our country and it's the essence of the philosophy of our party. And when I think of our president, he's protecting our freedom from those terrorists and others who would try to take it away. He's helping to create more jobs so that people have the freedom that comes from confidence in their family's ability to make a living and have a better life. And those are what unite us, not just as Republicans, those are what unite us with so many of the American people.

WOODRUFF: But, speaking of you, George Pataki, you're spending some quality time with the New Hampshire Republican delegation this week. You've got a breakfast with them, and I don't know what else.

There's all sorts of talk about you in 2008. What's possible? What's on your mind right now?

PATAKI: Judy, what's on my mind right now, very seriously, first of all, is to make sure we have a safe and successful convention. And second of all, to do my job as the governor of this state. You know, the people have given me an incredible honor and privilege to be the governor of New York now.

WOODRUFF: You're not thinking at all about 2008?

PATAKI: I think the people of America are thinking about 2004. Judy, none of us can predict what's going to happen in 10 weeks, let alone what might happen in four-and-a-half years. And that's what we have to focus on.

This is a critical election. And politics can change in a day, it can change in a week. It's certainly going to change dramatically in four years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: New York Governor George Pataki. And we learned something interesting about Grand Central Terminal, where I talked to him, and that is that more people pass there in a day, 700,000, than live in the state of North Dakota.

So, back to the question, is John Kerry slipping in some crucial showdown states? Next, I'll speak with Kerry's chief pollster about the latest numbers in the presidential race.

If the election were held today, who would win? Bob Novak joins us in a few minutes with his electoral map.

Plus, John Glenn jumps into the Swift Boat controversy. I'll talk with the former senator from Ohio.

With 67 days left until the presidential election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Here we go. Reporting from the Chelsea Piers in New York City, as we reported earlier, new polls in three Midwest battleground states, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin, show Senator John Kerry apparently has lost ground in recent days.

Joining me now in Washington is Kerry pollster Mark Mellman.

Mark Mellman, the national polls are still close. But with these sort of battleground numbers, and with the Republicans about to get some kind of boost from their convention, is this a problem for your campaign?

MARK MELLMAN, KERRY POLLSTER: Well, you know, Judy, the fundamentals of this race are quite clear. If you look at all of these polls that have been done, overwhelming majorities of Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction, overwhelming majorities disapprove of the job George Bush has done on the economy, they disapprove of the job he's done on Iraq, and they disapprove on the job he's done on foreign policy.

So as this campaign progresses, we have no doubt people having deciding that George Bush shouldn't be the next president are going to move very clearly to John Kerry's corner. You look at a lot of polls in a lot of states, they're all different. The reality is, if you average up all these polls today, John Kerry is leading in states that would win the electoral college today.

WOODRUFF: But there's still been slippage. And Mark Mellman, my question is, if John Kerry had such a successful convention, what has happened?

MELLMAN: Well, you know, there's no question that there's been a lot of diversion. We had a scurrilous campaign of lies waged against John Kerry. The president has now admitted that those charges were lies, though he hasn't condemned the liars for telling them. But nonetheless, the campaign's been talking about other things lately.

John Kerry is out there trying to tell the American people, trying to explain to the American people what his plans are to lower health care costs, what his plans are to stop tax breaks and encourage jobs to go overseas. Instead, he has a plan to keep them here. And we think when the campaign is focused on those issues that the American people really care about, John Kerry's going to benefit because voters have already decided that George Bush just can't handle the job of dealing with the economy, dealing with health care.

WOODRUFF: Well, you say that, but when you look at these polls and the so-called internals, some critical questions, like who would be a strong and decisive leader? George Bush has opened up a 20-point lead on that question. On who is honest and trustworthy, Bush has a large lead. Have the Swift Boat ads done that much damage?

MELLMAN: You know, it really hasn't. But, I mean, if you look at these polls, what they also tell you is that only about one in seven people believe these charges. Even the president of the United States has said these charges are lies. And that's exactly what they are. Most Americans understand that. But the campaign has been diverted.

Look, the Bush campaign does not want to talk about health care because they have nothing to say. They don't want to talk about jobs going oversees because they presided over the greatest job loss in recent history. They don't want to talk about those issues. John Kerry does.

When we get back to those issues, I think we will see a change in this campaign. But, again, the reality is you can point to any one poll in any one state or any one time. What the polls all together tell us is that John Kerry's in the lead in the battleground states and in the leads in states worth over 280 electoral votes.

WOODRUFF: But I interviewed John Glenn, the former senator today. I asked him if John Kerry had brought this on himself to some degree by talking so much at his convention about his Vietnam War experience. He said he agreed that that had happened, that to some extent he did bring it on himself. Was that a mistake?

MELLMAN: No. Look, John Kerry did not ask anyone to stand up and lie about his service in Vietnam. That's just a complete misnomer.

The reality is, at his convention, John Kerry talked about his values, he talked about the fact that he was man of faith, a family man. He talked about his plans for America. He talked about his plans to reduce the cost of health care. He talked about his plans to keep good jobs in this country.

And, yes, there were generals there who said John Kerry would make a great commander in chief. And there was a guy who John Kerry fished out of a river who said that he risked -- John Kerry risked his life to save this other man's life. Lots of people stood up and said that they were crewmates John Kerry. But there was never an invitation to lie about who John Kerry was and what happened 35 years ago.

WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there. Mark Mellman, chief pollster for the John Kerry campaign. Mark, thank you very much for talking with us. We appreciate it.

MELLMAN: Thank you, Judy. Good talking to you.

WOODRUFF: And Bob Novak will be updating his Novak electoral map when we return, and he will give us more on a debate that just won't go away. Another voice in that controversy over John Kerry's service in Vietnam.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak is joining me now beside the Hudson River with some "Inside Buzz."

All right, Bob. I understand you have a new Novak electoral map. What does it show?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Yes. My colleague, Tim Carney, and I have switched Florida and West Virginia from Kerry to Bush. And that means that if the election were held today, the electoral college count would be 269 to 269. A dead heat.

This can happen, Judy, because they have an even number of electoral votes. That means it would go into the House of Representatives.

We all show -- there are a lot of polls that show Bush ahead in -- in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But we still give those states to Kerry, as we still give Nevada and also New Hampshire.

So we're giving Kerry the benefit of the doubt. And by the end of this week, it's entirely possible, if Bush gets any bounce out of this convention, he'll be ahead in the electoral college. But that 269-269 is scary.

WOODRUFF: For the Kerry people. Bob, I want to ask you about what you wrote in your column today. A Navy man who served with John Kerry in Vietnam was on the boat when Kerry was wounded in an incident for which he got his first Purple Heart. What is this retired admiral saying?

NOVAK: He is saying that, contrary to the enlisted men who are part of the Kerry presidential team, the people who were on the dais in Boston with him, he is saying he was in the boat and he was in command of the boat that first time.

He said that Kerry just got nicked. He said there was no enemy fire. It is -- but the interesting thing is that John Kerry has said nobody who was ever in a boat with him has ever been critical of him.

Well, this guy stayed in the Navy, became a rear admiral. He was the deputy judge advocate general of the Navy and, you know, a very respected figure. I also -- I also checked with a couple of other officers, and they told me it was inconceivable that John Kerry would have been in that boat with two enlisted men on his first mission without a more senior officer.

WOODRUFF: And, yet, the Kerry campaign pointing out that Shockdale (ph) has given money to several Republicans, he's a Republican donor. And, Bob, frankly, President Bush said yesterday he thinks John Kerry is telling the truth.

NOVAK: That's the line for the president. But, you know, I don't follow necessarily what the president says.

The matter of fact is that Admiral Shockdale (ph) had a long conversation with him. He says -- he says he's a political independent. He says -- but the interesting thing is he swears he had no contact with the Bush-Cheney campaign or the White House.

The interesting thing is that he is a very credible figure. And either he is not telling the truth, or John Kerry is not telling the truth. You've got to remember who's in the boat on an incident like that. One of them is not telling the truth.

WOODRUFF: Apparently not, from reading your account. Bob Novak, the Swift Boat controversy lives on.

NOVAK: It does.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. He'll be joining us -- he'll be on CNN in about an hour and 15 minutes on "CROSSFIRE."

Talk about timing. The Democrats invade Times Square just days before the Republicans open shop at Madison Square Garden. We'll have the latest on a political turf battle.

Plus, what are George Bush and John Kerry up to today? We're covering the campaign trail from coast to coast.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Just three days until the big show opens in New York. Are the Republicans preparing any surprises? Judy gets an early look inside Madison Square Garden.

It's the Republicans' week, but the Democrats won't stay quiet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will have a very aggressive operation up here.

ANNOUNCER: It's Friday, and you know what that means. We'll tell you who won our "Political Play of the Week."

Live from the CNN Election Express in New York, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back. We are reporting once again today from New York City, along with the CNN Election Express at Chelsea Piers in Hudson River Park.

The Republican Party delegates, journalists and political protesters all are arriving in town to prepare for next week's Republican National Convention. The convention gavel falls on Monday but security measures are already being tightened at what is expected to be one of the largest demonstrations of the week is scheduled for Sunday.

George W. Bush himself won't arrive here in New York until Wednesday. He is on a week-long pre-convention campaign swing that will take him through eight states, most of which are considered up for grabs come November. For more on what the president is doing today, we turn to CNN White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

Hello, Suzanne. SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello, Judy. President Bush is not only traveling but, of course, earlier this afternoon, he signed executive orders implementing some of those recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. Essentially this happened as the White House continues to negotiate with Congress over creating a powerful new position, a national intelligence director, one who would essentially will answer to the president and coordinate all 15 intelligence agencies.

But what he has said today, the presidential directives would immediately put into place, put into motion those steps that he endorsed back on August 2.

They are very simple. They would establish a national counter- terrorism center, this is kind of a warehouse for intelligence analysis, also would give the CIA director greater interim power to perform duties -- the national director would at a certain point, at a later date.

This also includes some new duties of requiring -- determining the budgets of the intelligence agencies under the purview of Pentagon, as well as setting budget priorities for joint military and intelligence programs.

And finally, the last directive would establish guidelines to try to help those agencies coordinate, better share information with one another.

Now all of this comes at a critical time for the president and he brings his message to Miami, Florida, that is where is this afternoon. We expect that he is going to make a couple of announcements, one that is going to get the attention of voters.

He is asking for an additional $2 billion in emergency funding for reconstruction after Hurricane Charley. Another really interesting note, Judy, here is that he is going to be campaigning with that maverick Democrat, Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, certainly hoping to attract some of those swing voters -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Suzanne Malveaux with the latest on the president's schedule. Thank you, Suzanne.

In California, John Kerry turned his attention today to the nation's economy and the way that his policies could help the average customer. Our Joe Johns is standing by with more in San Francisco.

Hi, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. This is the Fairmont Hotel in sunny San Francisco. John Kerry is attending a fund-raiser here, one of three fund-raisers on this West Coast swing. He returned today on policy matters to economic issues with that latest economic report showing the economy slowed, actually moved slower than was expected over the second quarter.

The campaign, of course, says that is evidence the economy has not turned the corner. Kerry talked about that report at a high school just not far from here earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: Just this morning, the Commerce Department released a revised downwards figure for the growth of our country over the last quarter. It slowed down again. It has gone down from the 4.5 percent of the quarter before, down to 2.8 percent. And John Edwards and I believe we should stop downsizing the dreams and possibilities of America and start doing a better job of putting people back to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Kerry offered a number of proposals, including one to crack down on predatory lending practices. Of course, the Bush campaign did weigh in on this, they issued a statement earlier today, they said the economy has gained 1.2 million jobs in the last year, accused Kerry of conducting a campaign of pessimism and said he's intent on talking down the economy and ignoring progress.

Meanwhile, there was more to fight about on the economic front today, that of course because Alan Greenspan issued another one of his warnings about Baby Boomers retiring, of course, indicating, in his view, that benefits in the retirement systems need to be tweaked before Baby Boomers retire.

The Kerry campaign so far has not issued a statement. We've been asking for one and we've been told there is one coming. However, in the past, Kerry has said that he is opposed to cutting Social Security benefits.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right. Joe Johns, he's reporting on John Kerry out in California. Joe, thank you.

Well, back here in New York City, Madison Square Garden is being dressed up in red, white and blue, for the Republican Convention. A little earlier today I had a chance to get a sneak speak from Nicolle Devenish of the Bush campaign. And you could hear the balloons being inflated as we toured the convention floor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICOLLE DEVENISH, BUSH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: This is the stage from which our speakers on the first three nights will speak. And then at 11:01 on Wednesday night, parts of this stage will be taken down and a stage will be built in the middle here. So it's the first time in convention history that the president will give his acceptance speech in the round. So we're very excited.

WOODRUFF: So now what is that going to look like? Are you literally going to build an elevated stage? What about the...

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: ... and the delegates who are sitting there are going to be...

DEVENISH: The delegates there will be redistributed to other parts of the arena. And I imagine some of this space that we're standing in right now will become seating for our delegates.

WOODRUFF: What's the point of doing it this way?

DEVENISH: The point is, I think for this president, and we've made clear that our convention is as much about the country and everything the country has been through during his presidency. So it was very important to show our president here surrounded by our delegates and by the American people and that's certainly much of the message we're trying to communicate as anything else.

WOODRUFF: Another really important piece of convention, aside from that, though, is the music, the ambience, the entertainment.

DEVENISH: Right.

WOODRUFF: So a circle has literally been cut in the floor. Show that to me. But first of all, Nicolle, the floor has been raised here at Madison Square Garden.

DEVENISH: Right. Well, part of the goal, as we talked about it, is creating this intimacy here for the president and our delegates and really all of you, to bring everybody closer during our convention night. So the floor was raised 10 feet, which allowed us to have what I believe to be the first ever hydraulic entertainment stage at a convention.

And we're not a party very well-known for being hip or being on the front lines of having a lot of celebrity endorsements, but we will see Leanne Womack sing from this stage and some of our other entertainers. So it should be a neat element to see the entertainers come up.

WOODRUFF: So they will literally come up out of the floor. Now the balloons, I can hear them being blown up. You all are going to make a point of doing what on Thursday night?

DEVENISH: Well, we're going to drop 120,000 balloons. And I understand there is some confetti floating around. It looks like they had a practice run.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Confetti, we're told, that has the pictures of President Bush and first lady Laura Bush and some other prominent recognizable names in the Republican Party.

Well, aides say that former President Clinton's remarks will run 15 to 20 minutes and focus on the importance of the upcoming election and focus on strength of John Kerry and John Edwards. Democrats say that Mr. Clinton will head out of town, we're talking about a speech he's going to give in a few days and not be part of the Democratic message machine here in New York. Coming up in a minute, our Ed Henry, he'll be joining me right here. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We heard a lot from the Republicans during the Democratic convention so no surprise that Democrats have set up not far from Madison Square Garden. Sorry about that helicopter overhead near the Hudson River. They're here they say to watch for spin and then to counter-spin. They're already firing their opening salvo. CNN's Ed Henry reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Near the home of the world famous New Year's Eve bash, Democrats have invaded Time Square to send a message. They're here to crash the Republicans' party. Al Sharpton happened to be driving down 42nd Street. He hopped out of his Cadillac to give the new billboard a thumbs up.

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're going to try to convince America that what George Bush did was help make the world safer and better.

So right here in Times Square, while they're doing all the hoopla in New York, we're going to say the mission was not accomplished.

HENRY: Democrats opened makeshift headquarters just blocks from Madison Square Gardens. This is where they will offer rapid response, just as the Republicans did during the Democratic convention in Boston. Here in the Green Room, Democratic officials will monitor Republican speeches and then punch back from their own television and radio studios.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Every time George Bush and the Republicans try and tear down or say something that's not true about John Kerry, we're going to respond aggressively.

HENRY: But Republicans will be countering the counter-spin with props like Flipper who's stalking the Democratic headquarters to highlight what they call Kerry's policy flip-flops.

MCAULIFFE: I guess everybody ultimately will be talking to everybody who will be talking to everybody. The bottom line, the facts are on our side.

HENRY: McAuliffe said Thursday that former President Bill Clinton would be overseas during the convention but Clinton will actually make it back to New York in time to deliver a speech Sunday at the historic Riverside Church. Democrats hope this will kick off their effort with a flourish.

SHARPTON: Who better than Bill Clinton to remind us of how times were better before Bush was president.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HENRY: Aides say former President Clinton's remarks will run 15 to 20 minutes and focus on the upcoming election. Democrats say Mr. Clinton will then head out of town to keep a very low profile. But you know Democrats have been promising there could be some surprises so everybody should stay tuned. You never know, Judy.

WOODRUFF: That makes us really be suspicious.

HENRY: Absolutely. You never know with Bill Clinton, he doesn't like to be off the stage.

WOODRUFF: Ed Henry, thanks very much. A once powerful force in the United States Senate is taking a stand today on the Swift Boat controversy. Former Democratic Senator John Glenn of Ohio today called on President Bush to condemn the ads attacking John Kerry's military record.

I spoke with Senator Glenn a little while ago and I asked him if Kerry brought this issue on himself by focusing so much attention on his own war record.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN GLENN (D), FMR. U.S. SENATOR: Well, possibly to some extent. John is proud of his record and his combat record, as I am and all veterans are. So he used that, so they jumped back at him with all this. This has so taken over the news and taken over newspapers, all the media, that I think we're in danger of just concentrating what happened in Vietnam 35 years ago and not really talk about the things that are going to be important for the future.

We have the biggest tax cut, a third of which went to the top 1 percent of the people in the country. We have the biggest debt, we have a foreign policy that needs to be -- we need our allies back again. These are the kinds of things our kids will live with in the future. That's the reason I think it's time in the last eight or nine weeks of this campaign to get back to the things that are really going to be really important for the future not just concentrating on what happened 35 years ago.

WOODRUFF: But don't you think John Kerry could have avoided this to a large extent by focusing himself on the future at the Democratic convention?

GLENN: He probably could have said more about that at the convention. I wouldn't disagree with that. I think he was proud of his military record, as he should be. He was out there, he volunteered to go out at a time when other people were avoiding it. He was wounded out there, he still has shrapnel in his body, so wasn't any doubt he got hit out there. I think it's time to get past this. Maybe he invited it, I wouldn't even make a judgment on that. The important thing now with the last few days of this campaign coming up is to get back to things that will build the future, not just dwell on something from 35 years ago.

WOODRUFF: Senator, let's talk about Ohio. President Bush is going to be stopping by there not once but twice on his way to the convention over the next few days. The latest poll is showing George Bush a little bit ahead in Ohio. He did win Ohio four years ago. My question is your state has experienced terrible economic downturns, big job losses, poverty numbers are up. Why isn't John Kerry doing better in Ohio?

GLENN: It's been within margin of error for a long time in Ohio, back and forth one way or the other, a couple of points, two or three points. It was almost a landslide when somebody got five or six points ahead back here a month or so ago. You're right, though that we've had a lot of problems here. I think it was just announced yesterday and I think "The Cleveland Plain Dealer" had it featured this morning that Cleveland now listed among the major cities of the United States having the highest poverty level.

That's not something we're proud of here at all but it shows the problems we have here in Ohio. I just want to see the candidates coming in here. Both of them are spending a lot of time in Ohio. And I want to see them address not only that problem but the others are going to build not only Ohio but the future of the country.

WOODRUFF: What specifically, Senator, does John Kerry need to do to put Ohio in his column?

GLENN: I think doing the same thing he's been doing in Ohio here when he came in here before. He talks about education, the importance of it, talking about health for students for higher education also, and talking about jobs, and what his program would be for that, talking about the unfairness of the tax cuts, things like that that people really feel very strongly about. And those should be the centerpiece items that we're discussing in the last part of this campaign, not something that happened 35 years ago whether it inflames people's emotions or not. The major things that are going to build this future of this country, for us and kids are the things that should be centerpiece right now and they're not.

WOODRUFF: Former Ohio Democratic senator and astronaut, John Glenn. Bill Schneider's political play of the week is still ahead. Also, John Kerry's running mate has the economy on his mind. We catch up with John Edwards in our "Campaign News Daily."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: From New York City's Chelsea Piers alongside the Hudson River, we check the headlines in our Friday edition of "Campaign News Daily." Most New Yorkers it turns out are at least a little worried about a possible terror attack during the upcoming Republican convention. According to a "New York Times"/CBS News poll 20 percent of city residents say they are worried about terrorism. 33 percent say they are somewhat worried. While 46 percent say they're slightly worried or not worried at all.

Checking in on the presidential running mates, Dick Cheney is in Washington taking time off from the campaign trail. Democrat John Edwards however is on the road in Missouri. Edwards took questions on the Kerry economic plan during a town hall meeting in St. Charles. He also blamed Bush White House policies for widening the gap between rich and poor.

Republican Senator John McCain plans a party on the eve of the GOP convention. We're told that McCain has rented an entire restaurant Sunday night on the city's Upper Eastside. The senator has invited former mayor Rudy Giuliani and about 80 or 90 other people to help him celebrate his 68th birthday.

In a presidential election year, politicians and pundits consistently make note of gains enjoyed by candidates in the race for the White House. Of course, our Bill Schneider tells us another player has been getting a lot of mileage out of recent events -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know some figures have authority beyond politics. One of them is the grand ayatollah in Iraq who negotiated a truce deal this week with militants in Najaf and another is Senator John McCain. He's the one who wins this week's political play of the week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): John McCain supports George W. Bush for reelection but you'd never know it from the way Democrats invoke his name. After McCain criticized attacks on John Kerry's Vietnam war record, Democrats invoked McCain to put pressure on President Bush.

TAD DEVINE, KERRY CAMPAIGN SR. STRATEGIST: And the fact that the president of the United States, the commander-in-chief, will not take the advice of John McCain, stand up and denounce that ad as dishonest and dishonorable, I think speaks for itself.

AD ANNOUNCER: Senator McCain calls them dishonest.

SCHNEIDER: But when the Kerry campaign proposed running a TV ad showing a confrontation between McCain and Bush in 2000, McCain protested saying, "I regret that the Kerry campaign is using what happened in the 2000 campaign as a way to attack President Bush."

Kerry took down the ad. Meanwhile when President Bush complains about campaign spending by independent groups, he, too, invokes McCain.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I frankly thought we had gotten rid of that when I signed the McCain-Feingold bill.

SCHNEIDER: Now, the president has trumped the Democrats by joining forces with McCain in a lawsuit. According to the White House, the president reached out to Senator McCain to say, let's work together and pursue court action to shut down all of this activity by these shadowy groups. McCain has moral standing from his experience as a war hero.

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: When anybody puts their life on the line for their country, as Bob Dole did, and so did John Kerry and so did John McCain, then we pay a lot of respect to that. SCHNEIDER: But McCain gets his political authority from his career as a straight talker who speaks truth to both parties. Among his fellow Republicans, McCain gets a high favorability rating and very little criticism. But McCain also draws a very positive response from Democrats. McCain is both above politics and very political, a rare feat and the political play of the week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: McCain is the referee in this free-for-all campaign. The ultimate arbiter whose authority is accepted by all, sort of the grand ayatollah of American politics.

WOODRUFF: Never thought of it that way. Bill Schneider. Thank you very much. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: That's it for this Hudson River edition of INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Be sure to join me this weekend as I host INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY on the eve of the GOP convention. Plus, I'll be back next week, all week with special expanded editions of INSIDE POLITICS at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, noon Pacific, live from inside Madison Square Garden. Have a wonderful weekend, "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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