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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

GOP Convention Begins in NYC; McCain, Giuliani to Lead Off

Aired August 30, 2004 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is my privilege to proclaim the 2004 Republican National Convention in session and call it to order.

ANNOUNCER: It's party time in New York with a couple of high- profile moderates in the spotlight tonight.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I've given thought to '08, '12, '16, '20...

ANNOUNCER: Who will John McCain help more tonight. The president or himself? That senator talks to Judy about his future and his relationships with Kerry and Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to be a positive experience for the people of this country to see what we believe.

ANNOUNCER: The star of the show warms up in showdown states while the Democrats try to upstage him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a failure of leadership.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from the Republican National Convention in New York, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us for this special 90-minute edition of INSIDE POLITICS. The Republicans did open their big event here with almost as much praise from New York City as for President George W. Bush. After all this party inside Madison Square Garden is the GOP's first ever convention in the Big Apple during the first presidential campaign since the September 11 attacks.

Inside the hall, delegates and Republican top guns seeking any and all advantages, mindful of how incredibly close and contentious the battle is between Bush and Senator John Kerry.

Tonight, the Republicans are hoping to make a good first impression by featuring some of the more famous and moderate faces of their party. Kelly Wallace is here with more on tonight's star turns by Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. They are the stars tonight.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are the stars. And as you know, Judy, they don't exactly see eye-to-eye with President Bush on every issue but that's really besides the point as far as the GOP is concerned because they appeal to moderates and Independents, who will decide this election. That's why they're getting these highly coveted prime time spots. We have some excerpts of both of their speeches tonight, both men to invoke the September 11 attacks and praise President Bush for his leadership. Take a look at an excerpt of Mayor Giuliani's speech he's expected to give.

He will say, "Winston Churchill saw the dangers of Hitler when his opponents and much of the press characterized him as a war- mongering gadfly. George W. Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is and he will remain consistent to the purpose of defeating it while working to make us even safer at home."

And Senator John McCain of the president he will say, "he has been tested and has risen to the most important challenge of our time. He has not wavered, he has not flinched from the hard choices, he will not yield and neither will we."

How much of the McCain praise is about 2004? Some insiders say it could have something to do as well with 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE (voice-over): Sealed with a hug and a kiss. A newfound friendship? Well, not exactly. This is politics, after all. John Weaver is one of Senator John McCain's closest advisers.

(on camera): Is one hugging the other a little more?

JOHN WEAVER, ADVISER TO JOHN MCCAIN: Well, as I said before, neither one of them are hug victims.

WALLACE: Translation? The one time rivals each get something out of putting 2000...

MCCAIN: I don't know how -- if you can understand this, George, but that really hurts.

WALLACE: ...and all the bitterness and differences behind them. The president in a tight race, needs help with Independents and winnable Democrats. Enter the Arizona senator who has a favorable/unfavorable split, 55-19 percent in CNN's latest poll better than any other national politician.

BUSH: I'm honored to have him by my side.

WALLACE: The maverick Republican, who turned down overtures from Democratic Senator John Kerry for the number two slot on the ticket gets something, too.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Senator McCain has to mend some fences with establishment Republicans. This is one way to do this. This is the biggest sign I've seen so far that McCain is thinking about that 2008 presidential race.

WALLACE: It's not clear what impact McCain may actually have on the current race but a sign of how both candidates think he wins votes, both campaigns invoke his name regularly. Just yesterday, former President Clinton tried to remind voters of the tough talk between the two Republicans only four years ago.

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We were told here by this party that's about to show us sweetness and light in Madison Square Garden that John McCain couldn't be trusted to defend the country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: McCain's aides say all this attention from the other side is flattering, but, Judy, they say that John McCain is solidly behind President Bush, proof that they say as you know he will be on the stump tomorrow all day with the president.

WOODRUFF: They're hitting three states.

WALLACE: And then after the convention he's likely to be with the president and vice president, too.

WOODRUFF: Kelly Wallace, thank you very much. And by the way I did sit down with Senator McCain as well yesterday. I'm going to have that interview coming up in just a few minutes here on INSIDE POLITICS.

Vice President Cheney is already here in New York. He was in the house this morning for important opening business. Here now CNN's Bob Franken.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is my privilege to proclaim the 2004 Republican National Convention in session and call it to order!

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not all prime time. The Republican delegates had to be morning people, too, and that would include their party chairman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will leave here with momentum that will carry us to victory in November.

FRANKEN: To advance that cause, the party's marquee speakers begin tonight. But there was all important routine to handle, like the party platform.

SEN. BILL FRIST, GOP PLATFORM CMTE. CHAIRMAN: Above all, the platform is the written embodiment of our ideas.

FRANKEN: Some of the platform's ideas are considered by many delegates as more conservative than the lineup of speakers. But no one was talking publicly of that today because it was time for the main business of the week, the nomination of the presidential ticket. And as Dick Cheney reminded everyone by his presence in the hall, vice-presidential, too. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's my great honor and high privilege to nominate George W. Bush, a strong and compassionate leader for the office of president of the United States of America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is an honor to nominate our friend, Dick Cheney, for the office of vice president of the United States!

FRANKEN: The roll call will conclude Wednesday and the Bush/Cheney Republican ticket will be sent on its way from a city that is overwhelmingly Democratic. But also the GOP hopes, a city with fond memories of the president's response in the desperate days following the September 11 attacks.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: Nearly two years ago, with the city's fate still a question mark in many minds, our president decided that this convention would come to New York City. This was a show of faith that required courage and vision, one that all New Yorkers will not forgot. And today, it fills me with enormous pride and gratitude to tell everyone that New York City is back!

FRANKEN: Just for good measure, the Republicans brought in a former mayor, a Democrat. But certainly a friendly one.

ED KOCH (D), FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR: This year, I'm voting for the reelection of president George W. Bush!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: And that was the Democratic former mayor and the question he asked afterwards was his patented, "how am I doing?" The real question is how will George W. Bush and Dick Cheney do in trying to win that big bounce they will need in a very hard race -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: That's the real question. That's the tough one. All right. Bob Franken, thanks very much.

President Bush is today hopscotching between showdown states on a path to New York that is planned for maximum political mileage. He pitched for votes in New Hampshire, doing a Q&A session in Nashua. Later today he held a rally in Michigan. We'll have a full report on his day and his message ahead.

Meantime, John Kerry is in his home state of Massachusetts today enjoying a little downtime in Nantucket. He left his running mate, John Edwards, to try to steal some of Bush's convention thunder. In North Carolina, Edwards gave a sweeping denunciation of the Bush administration's foreign policy, accusing the president of a failure of leadership. We'll have details on that story ahead also ahead.

Checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily." Two Republican groups say they're not happy with the party platform and they are calling on the GOP to pull back from its more conservative positions.

A new ad produced by the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay and lesbian party members uses the image of Ronald Reagan to urge the party to be more inclusive and to abandon its platform stand against gay marriage among other issues.

Meanwhile a group of former GOP office holders calling itself Back To The Mainstream placed this full page ad in this morning's "New York Times." The ad calls for more moderate party stands on a wide range of issues.

The Georgia Democratic party is taking aim at the state's Democratic U.S. Senator Zell Miller who delivers the keynote address here at the Republican convention Wednesday night.

... calls for more moderate party stands on a wide range of issues.

The Georgia Democratic party is taking aim at the state's Democratic U.S. senator, Zell Miller, who delivers the keynote address here at the Republican Convention Wednesday night. The ad uses excerpts from Miller's keynote speech in 1992 Democratic Convention, where he was especially critical of Republicans as well as the first President Bush.

Protesters are back on the streets of New York, making their voices heard in opposition to the president and his party. The demonstrations today have been much smaller and less organized than the massive march that filled the streets yesterday. Scattered protesters targeted some GOP delegates as they left their hotels today but the heavy police presence prevented significant disruptions.

Well, unlike many GOP convention speakers, John McCain has some good things to say about his colleague, John Kerry. Coming up, how does the Kerry factor affect McCain's relationship with President Bush? I'll talk with the senator about politics and personal history.

Also ahead, a Kerry ally on rapid response duty here in New York, I'll interview Iowa's Democratic governor, Tom Vilsack.

And later, how does Arnold Schwarzenegger and Laura Bush figure into the convention equation. With 64 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As we've been saying, Senator John McCain is going to be giving one of the main opening night speeches at the Republican National Convention at the podium you see right behind me. A little I had a chance to talk to the Arizona Republican senator and I asked him about a number of things, including all his recent campaign appearances with President Bush causing some to wonder if maybe he's the running mate and not Dick Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, you know, as I've said since the year 2000, when I supported the president's election and I support his reelection. I campaigned for him in New Hampshire in January. And I'm glad to do what I can. I believe the overriding issue of this campaign is the war on terror and I believe that he's best qualified to address that enormous challenge.

WOODRUFF: But there were some very tough exchanges between the two of you, so very, many would say, hard feelings coming out of the 2000 election.

Is it fair to say now that you've put that behind you and you are personally close as well as politically close to the president?

MCCAIN: I think our republic is very friendly. I put it behind me when we met in Pittsburgh two months after the primary. I can't look back in anger. It's not appropriate for a -- for my representation of the people of Arizona. Nobody in America likes a sore loser, particularly in politics. And so I put it behind me a long time ago and campaigned very vigorously in 2000 for the president.

WOODRUFF: You were saying earlier today that you had spoken on the phone yesterday with John Kerry. Is he a closer friend than George W. Bush?

MCCAIN: No. It's hard to say. John and I -- John Kerry and I are friends and have been friends for many years. We worked on a lot of issues together, the POW/MIA and others. But it's a different kind of relationship. When you're friends with a colleague in a Senate, you're on an equal basis. The president of the United States is a different status. And the president and I have a very friendly relationship.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about the swift boat ads. They've dominated so much of the news lately. You very clearly asked President Bush to condemn those ads. He has not specifically condemned them, and his campaign indicates he will not do that. Some people that are looking at the time he's spending with you and saying, he's taking advantage of your popularity, having you next to him, but he's not going to take your advice.

MCCAIN: There are a lot of issues that the president hasn't taken my advice on. I am glad that the president strongly condemned the 527s. I was very happy when he called me to tell me that we would join in legal action and legislative action.

WOODRUFF: Senator, another question about the -- specifically about the swift boat ads. There are people who admire you very much, have been close to you, who have advised you, who say they see the exact same thing going on now as what happened to you in South Carolina in 2000.

MCCAIN: A lot of bad things happened in South Carolina. And I was angry about them at the time. As a matter of fact, I overreacted to them and it hurt my campaign. But for me to compare those and look back in anger and say, this is a terrible thing. Life isn't fair. Jack Kennedy said life isn't fair. And I do not have specific evidence or any evidence that the president is connected to these ads. And he claims that he is not and I'll take him at his word.

WOODRUFF: There are those, just moving beyond what the charges about whether John Kerry was telling the truth about, well, let me ask you that question. Do you think John Kerry is telling the truth about what happened in Vietnam when he served there?

MCCAIN: I believe that John Kerry served honorably. And are we now going to go back and re-examine every medal that every candidate for public office or every office holder got? This is so injurious and so angering to me. I've spent the last 30 years trying to heal the wounds of the Vietnam War? Why? Because there were 18- and 19- year-old kids who served honorably in Vietnam, came home and were given a very bad reception by their fellow citizens.

This made it much more difficult for them to come all the way back, some of them have still not come all the way home. So what are we doing now, we're ripping those wounds open again for political purposes. Can't we care a little bit about those veterans who served honorably and don't want to revisit this issue?

WOODRUFF: But Senator, there are Vietnam veterans out there who oppose John Kerry's service, who are very angry about what he said when he came back from the war. They are saying that his anti-war efforts, among other things, helped to prolong the time that you and other POWs spent in Vietnam.

MCCAIN: That is a legitimate issue. Anything that any veteran did after they came home, that is perfectly legitimate. And if there are people who are angry about it. I disapproved of the throwing of the medals on the steps, OK, of the Capitol. But -- and everybody has to make their judgment about that. So I make a -- I draw a very bright line between people's performance in combat in Vietnam and post-Vietnam conduct.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

And we'll have more of my interview with Senator John McCain a little bit later.

Also coming up, I will talk with a Democratic governor who has made it all the way from the Midwest to Midtown Manhattan. A Democrat's view of this Republican Convention when INSIDE POLITICS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

with senator John McCain a little bit later.

Also, coming up, I will talk with a Democratic governor who has made it from the Midwest to mid-down Manhattan. A Democrat's view of this Republican Convention when INSIDE POLITICS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Senator John Kerry is keeping a low profile this week but plenty of Democrats are keeping close eye on this Republican Convention and are more than ready to share their thoughts.

Among them Iowa's Democratic governor, Tom Vilsack, who joins us just down the street at the CNN Convention diner. Governor Vilsack, good to see you, thanks for talking with me.

GOV. TOM VILSACK (D), IOWA: You bet you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: The battleground state polls are showing slippage on the part of John Kerry, others polls a little bit troubling. In fact, it's hard to find a Democrat outside the Kerry campaign who doesn't say they're worried about the direction of the Kerry campaign. And who doesn't call for major changes.

Is the Kerry campaign ready for prime time?

VILSACK: I tell you, Judy, you found a Democrat that will push back on that theory. This race is going to go back and forth. Everyone expected John Kerry to have a good July, everyone expected George Bush too have a good August, and he did. The reality is this election really starts Labor Day. And I'll tell you, I like Democrat chances. If you look at history, George Bush as incumbent, is not where he needs to be to be confident about reelection.

And if you look at the platform the Republican party is about to endorse, it's a lot more conservative than the rest of the nation. I like our chances.

WOODRUFF: But again, Governor, John Kerry's been leading in many battleground states, now across the board, with the exception of Iowa, your state, where he seems to be doing all right. We're seeing slippage. You are not concerned that there need to be some significant changes in approach.

VILSACK: I think John Kerry needs to stick to the plan talking about what's best for middle class America. I will tell you, George Bush landed on an aircraft a some time ago and said mission accomplished in Iraq. He's going around talking about how the mission has been accomplished with reference to the economy. That's not what I'm hearing on main street in my state. And I suspect in main streets all across the Midwest and America. The reality is, we can't be satisfied with 1.8 million fewer private sector jobs. We need to grow this economy. We cannot be satisfied with the prescription drug bill that really helps pharmaceuticals companies and not seniors. We need to address the issue of uninsured Americans.

John Kerry has plans for that. He's articulating those plans. And John Kerry is a great closer. Don't forgot that.

WOODRUFF: Governor, all that may be the case. But I think you would have to agree in the last three weeks, the agenda has been pretty much completely controlled by the Bush/Cheney campaign.

How does John Kerry change that?

VILSACK: He needs continue doing what he's doing, talking to Americans about the problems that concern them. There's a substantial amount of anxiety in the United States. We're talking about education reform, healthcare reform, economic growth, America's standing in the world, all those issues, John Kerry is talking about and he needs to continue to do what he does best, communicating with folks on a one- on-one basis. And I will tell you, over time, that is going to make a difference. This race is going to go back and forth, no question about it, but it's hardly time to panic.

WOODRUFF: You don't think the Republicans have done a good job of making John Kerry the issue in this race right now?

VILSACK: Anybody can do a good job if you don't tell the truth. The reality is a lot of untruths were said about John Kerry. John Kerry is disciplined, continuing on his message. He wants to talk to Americans about how he's going to create 10 million new jobs. He wants to talk about concerns of Americans in healthcare and bringing the cost of healthcare down and more accessible to more Americans. He wants to talk about energy independence, lower cost for college tuition. He wants to about America that's respected in the world.

That is what Americans by the end of the day are interested in hearing. They're not interested in hearing negative attacks on folks. They are interested in what these two gentlemen are going to do over the next four years. George Bush, has a hard time talking about what he's done in the last four years and at this point he has no vision for the next four years. John Kerry, has a very concrete comprehensive vision. He just continues -- needs to continue to talk to Americans about their problems, their concerns and how he would address them.

WOODRUFF: Iowa's governor, Tom Vilsack. Thank you very much for talking with us. We appreciate it.

VILSACK: Thanks, Judy, you bet.

WOODRUFF: Thank you governor. And we want to tell you that Governor Vilsack is just one of the dignitaries who's going to be stopping by the CNN Ticktock Diner, were calling it this week. It is located just a block from Madison Square Gardens. CNN is taking over this week. We wired with it televisions. We parked the CNN Election Express Bus outside. And some of your favorite shows like "CROSSFIRE" are going to be live from there.

And we'll also be holding convention watching parties at the diner every evening.

Well, the star of the Republican show haven't arrived in New York City, yet. We're going to catch up with the President Bush, who's stumping in a pair of crucial showdown states when our expanded edition of INSIDE POLITICS continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It is showtime here in New York City. The Republicans have raised their convention curtain right here inside Madison Square Garden.

Welcome back to this special 90-minute edition of INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff.

In an interview broadcast earlier today, President Bush was asked if he thinks the U.S. can win with the war on terror. Now, he's been asked the question before, but this time his answer came as somewhat of a surprise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think you can win it, but I think you can create conditions so that the -- those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world. Let's put it that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: A Bush White House official says the president simply meant that the war on terror will not end in a conventional way. But Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards said in North Carolina today, "John Kerry and I know we can in with the war on terrorism, and we know how to win it."

Meanwhile, the president continued his pre-convention swing through the nation's battleground states. For more on that, let's turn to CNN White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is President Bush's beginning of the big push towards the convention. The strategy here, of course, to highlight key elements of his agenda in critical states.

Today, it is New Hampshire, known for its fierce independence. President Bush won it by just one percent, 7,000 votes, back in 2000. Now, despite the fact that it's historically conservative and Republican, the biggest challenge the campaign is facing, they say, is to mobilize and persuade independent voters. The strategy here for the president, to capitalize off the fact that voters here don't like taxes and they don't like big government.

BUSH: The tax relief plan, the economic stimulus plan we passed is working here in the Granite State.

MALVEAUX: Now, here's what they're looking at. Out of registered voters in New Hampshire, Republicans 36.9 percent, Democrats 26 percent. And those who are unenrolled or undeclared in their party affiliation, 36.8 percent.

Now, President Bush's next stop is Michigan. That is where the latest polls show Kerry is ahead of the president by just three points.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Nashua, New Hampshire.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Back here inside Madison Square Garden, the governor of the state of New York, Republican George Pataki, is at the lectern there at the podium, checking it out. He'll be speaking, along with a number of other prominent New Yorkers during this four-day convention.

Well, Democrat John Kerry is taking time away from the campaign trail. But as we reported, John Edwards has already had a busy day. CNN's Joe Johns is standing by not far from Kerry's vacation home in Massachusetts.

Hi, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.

This was supposed to be some downtime for the Kerry road show. Nonetheless, John Kerry, we're told, actually getting ready to go out windsurfing in just a little while here in Nantucket. Still, it's not all fun and games for Kerry or his campaign.

They have been going after the White House, the administration on foreign policy, seizing on two recent statements by the president of the United States, including that statement that we can't in with the war on terror. John Edwards, in a speech in North Carolina, saying this is no time to declare defeat.

The president has also said in recent days that the U.S. is suffering from catastrophic success of its war policy. John Edwards talked about that also in his speech in North Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: I want to talk today about the other ways in which this president has miscalculated. The Bush administration miscalculated by rushing to war without a plan to in with the peace. The Bush administration miscalculated by deciding to go it alone, without strong allies.

The Bush administration miscalculated when they waited three years after September 11 to start to reform our intelligence. The Bush administration miscalculated by turning its back on Afghanistan. The Bush administration miscalculated by failing to listen to the 9/11 Commission. The Bush administration miscalculated by standing on the sidelines while North Korea and Iran advanced their nuclear programs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Republicans have not allowed all this talk about the war on terror to go unanswered. They say a number of Democrats, particularly in Congress, have supported the president, have supported his leadership. And they point to Senator Tom Daschle in particular -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Joe Johns in beautiful Nantucket. Thanks very much, Joe.

And now we want to check the polls in some of the presidential battleground states.

According to the latest CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll, John Kerry leads George W. Bush among likely voters in Iowa by 51 percent to 5 percent. Ralph Nader has two percent. His name will appear on the Iowa ballot.

In Wisconsin, Bush leads Kerry 48 percent to 45 percent. It is not clear if Nader will be on the ballot there.

In Pennsylvania, it's a dead heat, at 47 percent, Nader getting two percent. Earlier today, however, a three-judge panel rejected Nader's bid to run as an Independent on the Pennsylvania ballot. All three of these states went narrowly for Al Gore in 2000.

There are two new polls to report from the state of Florida. In a Research 2000 survey, Bush and Kerry deadlocked at 46 percent. Ralph Nader, who may have access to the Florida ballot on the Reform Party line, gets two percent. And in a "Miami Herald-St. Petersburg Times" poll, Bush has 48 percent, Kerry 46, and Nader has two percent.

The featured speakers at this convention are well known not just inside the Republican Party, but among the public at large. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, reports the big names being showcased in primetime should come as no surprise.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Everyone talks about two Americas. Are there any political figures out there who appeal to both parties? Well, yes. John McCain.

His fellow Republicans like him, only 16 percent are critical. But Democrats like McCain, too. Didn't he defend John Kerry's war record when it was under attack? Then there's former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: We're all hurt. We're all damaged.

SCHNEIDER: Among Republicans, Giuliani is widely admired. But Giuliani is also well regarded by Democrats.

And, from the other coast, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Republicans around the country are 3-1 positive for the governator. But Democrats are also inclined to like him.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican, if you're young or old. What the racial thing is, nothing matters to me.

SCHNEIDER: Does anybody in the Bush White House have bipartisan appeal? Look at the first lady. Republicans are nearly unanimous. They love Laura.

But Democrats tend to like her, too. She's not controversial.

McCain, Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, Laura Bush, they're all featured speakers at this week's Republican convention. Republicans are using the convention to reach out.

No they're not, say Democrats. They're using the convention to put on a false face.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON (D), FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The other party about to convene here, putting on its once every four years compassionate face.

SCHNEIDER: McCain has been critical of the religious right. Giuliani and Schwarzenegger support abortion rights and gay rights. Those views are hardly typical of the Republican delegates.

Sixty-three percent of the delegates describe themselves as conservatives. Seventy percent oppose abortion altogether, or would permit it only to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest. Forty-nine percent oppose any legal recognition of same-sex rips.

Doesn't the party have to worry about rallying around the base? No. Conservatives are totally rallied behind Bush and Cheney.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: It's not like in 1992, when the first President Bush was in trouble with conservatives after he broke his "No new taxes" pledge. Republicans then used their national convention in Houston to placate conservatives with speakers like Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan. And the party paid a price for it at the polls.

WOODRUFF: And they're trying not to do that in 2004.

SCHNEIDER: Exactly right.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thanks.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

WOODRUFF: We'll see a lot of you later on tonight.

SCHNEIDER: OK.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

Well, the president looks to pick up swing state support before he heads here to New York. Up next, I will talk political strategy with the Bush campaign manager, Ken Mehlman. Also, it wouldn't be a convention without the "CAPITAL GANG." The gang joins me a little later to share their views on the day's political developments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Joining me now to talk about this convention and the campaign ahead, the Bush campaign manager, Ken Mehlman.

KEN MEHLMAN, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: How are you doing?

WOODRUFF: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule.

MEHLMAN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Let's get right to the news. The president made some news today in an interview on NBC. He said he does not believe the war on terrorism can be won.

Now, the Democrats have already come back. John Edwards has already come back today and said, "John Kerry and I, we can the war on terrorism. We know how to do it." What was the president suggesting?

MEHLMAN: I think what the president was suggesting was that we face an unconventional enemy. When you face a nation state, like in the case of Nazi Germany or Japan in World War II, you know when there's a surrender. The white flag goes up and the army surrenders.

But the war we face today is different. It's a shadowy enemy. And so, while we can do things to make Americans safer, and this president has and will, it's different than a tradition, conventional war. But it's interesting that...

WOODRUFF: So do you agree that the war cannot be won?

MEHLMAN: I believe that when you face an unconventional enemy that hides in caves, rather than has a capital, it will be very difficult to know when they've truly surrendered. But I do believe and I know that this president can make America safer and can make the world more peaceful. And it has.

And what's interesting about the whole debate is this, John Kerry and John Edwards two weeks ago said, by going after terrorists you create more terrorists. That's the exact wrong strategy in terms of winning the war on terror.

WOODRUFF: Well, that's their argument about the war in Iraq, that it's created more terrorists in reaction. Let me...

MEHLMAN: Although, both voted for the war and then voted against funding the war.

WOODRUFF: Let me tell you ask you about something Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa just said to me. I was asking about the fact that your campaign has been successful in making John Kerry the issue the last few weeks. He said, well, it's easy to do that when the other side is lying about your candidate, about John Kerry. Is that what's been going on?

MEHLMAN: I don't think so, Judy. I think what you've seen both in the last month and what you saw in March is the same thing. And that is, that when the public focuses a lot of attention on the race, as opposed to other things, and they focus on the two candidates, the president comes out ahead of John Kerry.

It's going to be a close race. We believe it will be a close race. There will be ups and downs.

I agree with Governor Vilsack on that. But at the end of the day, the American people, I'm confident, are going to believe that the way you make the world safer and America safer is by going after the terrorists. And the way you make the economy stronger is certainly not to raise taxes, which John Kerry has already said he wants to do.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about the platform here. A lot of discussion about whether the -- the faces, first of all, that you're putting on at this convention, the speakers, match up with the real philosophy of the delegates and the party. But specifically, today, you've got the Log Cabin Republicans, Republicans who believe in gay rights, they are now running ads against your party, saying this has become a vicious party.

They're going after the language and the platform on gay marriage. They are saying the radical right has hijacked the party. Let me just put the question to you this way: what is the party's message to a gay individual, whether it's the daughter of the vice president or anyone else, who wants to have a loving relationship with another gay individual? What is the message of the Republican Party to that person?

MEHLMAN: Well, the message to that person is that the relationship they want to have is their private business. And no one would ever want to restrict that freedom.

But fundamentally, the question that the platform addresses is a question of public policy. And the public policy is, who in this country ought to define the terms of marriage? And we believe it ought to be defined by the people in the states. And, unfortunately, you have had some judges in Massachusetts, some activist judges, who are trying to redefine it for the whole country. A law was...

WOODRUFF: But the platform suggests that even civil unions may not be...

MEHLMAN: Well, I think that the platform (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is up to the people of the states to make these decisions, not to activist judges. That's the fundamental difference. We trust the people, they trust the judges. That's a big difference.

I'd also say to anybody out there, if you believe we need to take the battle to the terrorists, if you believe we need to strengthen the economy by reducing taxes, please consider voting for George W. Bush.

WOODRUFF: Ken Mehlman... MEHLMAN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: ... the chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign. We're going to be seeing a lot of you in the coming week.

MEHLMAN: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: Thanks for stopping by.

MEHLMAN: Thanks a lot.

WOODRUFF: We do appreciate it.

MEHLMAN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

Well, this Republican National Convention does feature a conservative platform, but moderate speakers in primetime. In just a minute, members of CNN's "CAPITAL GANG" weigh in on how that two-step approach is likely to play among undecided voters in those battleground states.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It wouldn't really be a political event if we didn't have the "CAPITAL GANG" here to talk about it, our Saturday night stars.

All right. Mark Shields, you're leading. But what I want to know from all of you is a couple of words to describe the mood of this convention.

MARK SHIELDS, "CAPITAL GANG": That is a great question, Judy. I would say, based upon the poll of delegates yesterday, 27 percent of them millionaires, I'd say rich and upbeat.

Bob Novak.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CAPITAL GANG": And optimistic.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

MARGARET CARLSON, "CAPITAL GANG": We are a family. We are neither gay nor straight, spenders nor non-spenders.

NOVAK: That's more than two words.

SHIELDS: Two words, Margaret!

CARLSON: We -- Kate.

SHIELDS: Kate.

KATE O'BEIRNE, "CAPITAL GANG": I'd say comfortable with where they are, by no means cocky, and lots of work ahead. SHIELDS: Albert.

AL HUNT, "CAPITAL GANG": Comfortable with their lot in life, as they should be, and cautiously optimistic about November.

SHIELDS: All, tell us about the -- the battleground states as you see them right now.

HUNT: Mark, there's not just four or five battleground states. There's probably -- there's probably a dozen.

There's two big states that matter. I don't see George Bush winning this election without carrying Florida. I don't think John Kerry can win without carrying Pennsylvania. And I think the one that carries Ohio is probably going to win. But there's a number of medium- sized states, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, New Mexico.

SHIELDS: West Virginia.

HUNT: Yes, that also are in place. So there's three big ones, but there's probably about another seven or eight that are important.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, your quick take?

NOVAK: I think it's very interesting that the president today was in New Hampshire.

SHIELDS: Yes.

NOVAK: New Hampshire usually doesn't see presidential candidates after March.

SHIELDS: Yes.

NOVAK: And -- so that's an interesting state. Nevada's an interesting state, too...

SHIELDS: Right.

NOVAK: ... because there's a big problem, whether you want to elect Nevada to clean up the nuclear waste and penalize the rest of the states, and maybe -- or...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... lose five electoral votes.

CARLSON: Right.

SHIELDS: OK. Tonight, we have Rudy Giuliani and John McCain speaking here. Tomorrow, John McCain leaves here with George Bush. Friday, after the convention, he leaves here to campaign with George Bush.

I mean, are we talking about John McCain being the de facto running mate for George Bush?

O'BEIRNE: No. I think this duo and the road trip has more to do with 2008 than with 2004. I think John McCain recognizes that he'll get a lot of credit for working for the team like this for George Bush in 2004. And clearly, George Bush likes having John McCain helping him make the case on Iraq.

SHIELDS: But Margaret...

CARLSON: It's not as if -- it's not as if Bush -- if McCain has asked Bush to be with him. Bush has wanted McCain to come along...

O'BEIRNE: It's usually beneficial (ph).

CARLSON: He's been seen as much as Cheney has on the campaign trail. And it helps with this family thing. It papers over the differences and it puts out this big tent, especially on the first night.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, you're shaking your head. But, I mean, tell us -- tell us...

NOVAK: I will tell you what's going on right now. This is a protection.

You know, the gangsters used to pay protection money. This is protection money from McCain. McCain last night had dinner with all his left wing media friends, including some from this network.

SHIELDS: Only three of us in this group.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: And it was good.

NOVAK: And Bush is scared to death that he's going to attack him. As long as -- as long as they're hugging and they're kissing each other, he won't attack him. But as his colleagues know in the Senate, you can never be sure with John McCain when he's going to turn on you, particularly if you're a Republican.

SHIELDS: Al...

HUNT: This will teach John McCain not to invite Bob Novak to one of his media parties. Two things John McCain will do tonight that I think are quite interesting. By the way, Dick Cheney is in a pro bowler store while the Bush-McCain ticket is campaigning around America.

John -- but what he's going to do tonight, McCain is going to do two things. Number one, he's going to really knock Michael Moore, which will go over big at this hall. And secondly, he's going to call for civility and comedy in American politics. That may not go over as big, Mark.

SHIELDS: And I'll say one thing. NOVAK: Well, I have never cared for civility.

HUNT: I know you haven't.

SHIELDS: Bob, you sold civility short in 1947.

But let's get one thing straight. On the kissing, on the kissing, it was George Bush doing the kissing.

CARLSON: Right.

SHIELDS: The same day he came out against gay marriage.

CARLSON: And by the way, Mark -- Mark, McCain explained to me, you are kissed. You cannot push the kiss away.

SHIELDS: That's right.

NOVAK: Well, what I'm trying to explain to you...

SHIELDS: Yes, sir?

NOVAK: ... that when he's kissing him, he thinks that McCain won't turn on him. And I thought I could explain that to you.

CARLSON: Wait. It's Fredo in the boat in "The Godfather."

SHIELDS: Now, is Rudy Giuliani -- I mean, are we talking real potential national ambitions?

NOVAK: Absolutely. Rudy Giuliani has to go to Damascus and get his son out of (UNINTELLIGIBLE), or he's never going to get nominated by the Republican Party.

CARLSON: Well, they're all going to change the convention.

CARLSON: Well, they're all -- Rudy, Arnold and John McCain, all presidential material.

SHIELDS: Arnold? You're going to change the Constitution?

CARLSON: Yes. We're going to change it.

SHIELDS: Oh.

CARLSON: Henry Kissinger is going to change it for us.

O'BEIRNE: Rudy Giuliani is setting the table tonight, the first election since 9/11. And the embodiment of 9/11 and the death of 3,000 Americans in this dangerous world is Rudy Giuliani. .

HUNT: But I think...

SHIELDS: Go ahead.

HUNT: I think the Republicans have four litmus tests: gay rights, pro-choice, tax-cutting, and guns, and Rudy is wrong on three of the four. That's going to be hard.

NOVAK: That is hard.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak told me that tax cuts trump abortion. Is that right?

NOVAK: Tax cuts are the most important thing for a Republican.

HUNT: For the world.

NOVAK: I don't see how you can be a serious Republican and be against all tax cuts, as my friend John McCain is.

CARLSON: What about the moral issue of abortion? Mammoth.

NOVAK: Tax cuts.

SHIELDS: Tax cuts -- Judy, I don't know how to thank you for this opportunity. I know your viewers are happy that you have it back.

WOODRUFF: Well, by the end of the week, we want the "CAPITAL GANG" members all kissing each other.

SHIELDS: Oh, OK.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: That's asking too much.

CARLSON: Yes.

WOODRUFF: All right.

When INSIDE POLITICS comes back, more on Giuliani, more on McCain, and on the Democrats' counter-mission at this convention.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: Welcome to my New York, your New York, our New York.

ANNOUNCER: Are there two very different stories here in New York? We know what's happening on the stage. But what's going on behind the scenes?

One on one with the man in tonight's spotlight.

WOODRUFF: Do you think this country is going to remain divided after this election no matter who wins?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The way this campaign is going, yes.

ANNOUNCER: Stick around for more of Judy's interview with Senator John McCain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from the Republican National Convention in New York, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Welcome back to Madison Square Garden, where folks know a thing or two about close contests and giving it your all, down to the buzzer.

The Republicans are here. The convention has been gaveled to order, and George W. Bush has been renominated for the highest office in the nation. The evening session gets under way in less than four hours with Rudy Giuliani and John McCain as the opening night stars.

Giuliani and McCain are just two voices of moderation Republicans will feature in the days ahead. Our podium reporter, John King, joins us now with more on the convention message and the Bush camp's moves behind the scenes.

Hi there, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Judy, from the podium.

Like any convention, we saw this at the Democratic convention a month ago. Essentially, there are dual track strategies. You have the strategy the party tries to present on the podium, and you have all those meetings behind the scenes, the delegate breakfasts, the caucuses, the private sessions with key members of the party.

Same thing here. You noted Mayor Giuliani, Senator McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger tomorrow, an effort by the Bush/Cheney campaign to reach out to independent minded voters, perhaps undecided voters, perhaps even some Democrats who might be persuadable to come vote for the Bush/Cheney ticket. That will be the message from the podium.

Already this morning behind the scenes we see the most important effort from the perspective of top Bush political adviser Karl Rove and, we are told, the president himself. And that is making sure every delegate goes home here and gets involved in voter registration and voter turnout efforts.

Karl Rove visiting, among the delegations he visited today, Ohio, a critical state, where the president is behind right now. He will go see the Pennsylvania delegation tomorrow, trying to convince people they must leave here with energy and they must try to reach out to those beyond those already signed with the campaign and get those people out to vote.

Now tonight when you hear the message, yes, Mayor Giuliani is someone with appeal among Democrats and independents. Yes, Senator McCain the same.

But their goal tonight is to reinforce what the Bush campaign believes is his greatest strength and the reason the convention is in this city, his leadership in the war on terrorism and especially trying to re-ignite the support that almost all Americans had for the president in those days immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

That is the carefully scripted message, Judy, on day one: focus on the president's strength, they believe, in leading the war on terrorism.

Interestingly, as carefully as this convention is scripted, it is the candidate who perhaps veered from the script a bit. I know you mentioned earlier in the show this interview with NBC's Matt Lauer, where the president said he didn't know if you could win the war on terrorism. You can just keep attacking the source on it and try to reduce the incidents of terrorism by giving hope to those in the areas where terrorism comes from.

Campaign officials are rushing to say what the president meant, as Ken Mehlman said earlier on the show, is simply that al Qaeda is not going to surrender. You're not going to sign a treaty with the terrorists. But Bush aides do conceded that was poor choice of words by the president and a bit off their very careful script -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, separately, what are you hearing about what the president's going to say Thursday night? How much new ground are we going to hear?

KING: You will hear some new ideas based on existing themes. He will talk about expanding access to healthcare.

He will talk about more choices for retirement, including an idea from the last campaign about some privatization, the right to take some Social Security money and invest it in private accounts.

He will also talk about keeping taxes lower and making them more simple and say Senator Kerry would have a very different approach. That is in the big speech that comes Thursday night.

The president had a run-through of that speech this morning in the theater at the White House. We are told it will run about an hour with applause. They say it's a little shorter on paper than that, but they expect, especially because the president will be down on the floor here in the Garden, they expect quite a bit of interruptions from applause. Again, it should run about an hour, Judy.

As of now, the president is on draft No. 20. Aides say the speech is essentially done. He is reading through it now just to see if there are any words that trip him up, the stylistic. They say any changes from here on out would simply be to make it more comfortable for the president's delivery.

WOODRUFF: Done on Monday. That's pretty good. Sounds like they're ahead of the game.

KING: Yes.

WOODRUFF: John King, we'll be seeing a lot of you this week, as well. Well, one name we've been hearing a great deal about because he's one of the main speakers tonight, Arizona Senator John McCain. I did sit down with Senator McCain a little earlier this weekend.

And as you heard him discuss earlier in the hour, he talked about his relationship with President Bush and with John Kerry. I went on and asked him what kind of president he thought John Kerry would be.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCCAIN: I have every reason to believe that John Kerry would be a good president of the United States.

I am convinced, however, that the president's performance leading this country after 9/11 has made it absolutely clear that he deserves our reelection, because he has led with strength and clarity.

WOODRUFF: President Bush said in an interview over the last few days with regards to Iraq, that he underestimated the affect that the speedy success of the military would have in Iraq and miscalculated the chaos out of that.

Today, the Kerry/Edwards campaign is criticizing President Bush and saying, in effect, he's criticizing his own military for moving so fast when it was supposed to be all about shock and awe anyway.

What's -- help us get to the bottom of this.

MCCAIN: Sure. There's a number of mistakes that were made. The worst thing about conflict is that mistakes are made. In the Korean War, General McArthur told Truman the Chinese wouldn't invade North Korea.

The key is to fix those mistakes and adjust to the realities of new situations.

War is many things. One of them is unpredictable. And so I have my criticism of the Defense Department in not more rapidly adjusting. But that doesn't change the fact that America, the world and Iraq are better off for having overthrown Saddam Hussein.

WOODRUFF: One last question, Senator, you -- there are all kinds of, frankly, Republicans and Democrats who say one of the reasons you're working so closely with President Bush right now is to, in I next, curry favor with Republicans to put you in a strong position, should you decide to run for president in 2008.

MCCAIN: Well, I'd like to make a couple of comments about that. One, I've been campaigning for President Bush's election in 2000 for all candidates of the Republican Party in 2002. I was the most asked for to come and campaign in congressional and Senate campaigns.

I am running for reelection to the United States Senate, and I intend to devote my efforts there.

I have learned over the years that you've got to do what you think is right. That has earned me criticism from virtually every sector of political positioning, geography in the United States. I'm doing this because I think it's right, and my ambitions right now are to be reelected to the United States Senate. And I hope that people that know me well would not accept that I'm doing this for any crass political motivation.

WOODRUFF: Have you given any thought to '08 in running for president?

MCCAIN: I've given thought to '08, '12, '16, '20. But not really. I have given only thought to my reelection efforts in the state of Arizona. I'm confident of reelection. I will not take it for granted. I think that would be a disservice to the voters of the state of Arizona.

WOODRUFF: Do you think this country is going to remain divided after this election, no matter who wins?

MCCAIN: The way this campaign is going, yes. But if I were President Bush, as soon as I'm reelected I would make my top priority trying to bring this nation back together.

This is the worst, most partisan environment that I've seen in 22 years in public office. And I deeply regret it. I deeply regret it. We are friends; we're not enemies. We have a common enemy. Maybe we ought to start work together to address that challenge.

WOODRUFF: And whose fault is that?

MCCAIN: I think it's both sides' fault. I think there was bitterness over the impeachment of President Clinton. I think there was bitterness over Florida. I think there's bitterness over different agendas.

And I think both parties by trying to drive up and motivate their base rather than the traditional move to the center have probably exacerbated the situation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: John McCain.

You know, when they're not pegged as moderates, both Rudy Giuliani and Senator McCain often are referred to as mavericks. Still, Republicans believe their tag team performances tonight will cast this party in a favorable light.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF (voice-over): John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, often at odds with their own party. Tonight, united in support of its standard bearer.

MCCAIN: For the president of the United States, George W. Bush.

WOODRUFF: Top draws on the campaign trail, working tirelessly to promote the president. Particularly notable for two men with careers punctuated by clashes with the Republican establishment.

McCain insists there is no linger bitterness from the bruising primary of 2000.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Mario Cuomo would be a far better governor.

WOODRUFF: Giuliani, who ran for mayor on a fusion ticket with two Democrats has put his 1994 stunning endorsement of Democrat Mario Cuomo far behind him.

Still, the former New York mayor and long-time friend, the Arizona senator haven't been party line people. They've broken with the GOP on issues like gay marriage and campaign finance.

But that is a large part of their appeal. The call it as they see it style has served them well. Their compelling life stories give their words weight.

Giuliani's 9/11 credibility adds heft to his critique of John Kerry as...

GIULIANI: Senator Kerry voted against it, as did Senator Edwards. Only among four Senators who have voted for the war and against the appropriation.

WOODRUFF: McCain's heroism as a prisoner of war lends depth to his praise of the president.

MCCAIN: This president on September 11 rose to lead this nation with moral strength and with clarity.

WOODRUFF: In a sense, this campaign has tamed the two famously pugnaciously pols, perhaps collecting chips for future White House runs.

McCain and Giuliani try not to talk about it, but it's clear the show's far from over for these maverick stars of the political stage.

Meanwhile, President Bush is making his way to this GOP convention via showdown states that could decide the election. Today's stops: New Hampshire and Michigan.

Vice President Cheney already here in New York. And he was on hand when convention delegates began the process of renominating the Bush/Cheney ticket.

After spending trail -- time on the trail this weekend, John Kerry is lowering his profile for this GOP convention week, taking it easy a bit in Massachusetts.

But his running mate, John Edwards, went on the attack today in his home state of North Carolina, blasting the Bush administration administration's foreign policy.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: At the Democratic convention, we remember a political star by the name of Barack Obama was effectively born. Up next, how is his rival at the Illinois Senate race being treated at the GOP convention? I'll talk with candidate, Alan Keyes.

Also ahead, the Democrats' rapid response operation in New York. What are they doing to compete with the Republicans?

Plus, Ground Zero three years later and its connection to the convention.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Two-time Republican presidential hopeful Alan Keyes is here in New York for his party's convention. Keyes, we know, was recently chosen by Illinois Republicans to face Democrat Barack Obama for a vacant Senate seat.

It's good to see you again.

ALAN KEYES (R), ILLINOIS SENATE CANDIDATE: Good to be back.

WOODRUFF: Thanks for coming by.

KEYES: Sure.

WOODRUFF: All right. Alan Keyes, you are well known to be a conservative, true blue conservative member of this party. Alan Keyes, the main speakers at this convention, Rudy Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John McCain, is this the face of the Republican Party you know and love?

KEYES: Well, I think first of all we have to look at the platform, which truly conforms, I think, in most respects to the kinds of things that I believe. The people who put that platform together came from all over the country and represent, I think, the real grassroots heart and majority of the party.

The podium is put together in light of the decisions of a few people about what will best serve the interests of the president as he faces reelection.

And as I said to someone earlier today, you have to fit the armor to the individual. Right? Saul -- David didn't try to fight in Saul's armor. I wouldn't try to fight in armor that's made for G.W. Bush.

What I believe is the approach that's best for Alan Keyes in Illinois may not be the best approach for G.W. Bush as he confront national election, from his point-of-view.

WOODRUFF: But do you think it's an honest face for the party to put on to -- to showcase these individuals who have some important views on issues from abortion to tax cuts, something you care deeply about, to gay marriage, global warming, go on down the list. KEYES: You raise a very valid point. The fellow I'm up against in Illinois, Barack Obama, they put a mask on him at the Democratic convention. He's actually a hardline, hardhearted deeply pro-abortion person who even favors infanticide. If a baby's born alive in the course of a botched abortion, Barack Obama believes they should be allowed put that baby aside to die and has voted for that in the state of Illinois.

Obviously, they put a mask on him. And I think that's a bad idea. I think we ought to present ourselves honestly and sincerely to the voters, as I will do to the voters of Illinois. And that to do something other else is, as Phyllis Schlafly and others have observed, a mistake. And I think they're right about that.

WOODRUFF: Barack Obama get enormous attention at the Democratic convention. Do you think the press is fawning over him too much? Has he gotten too much uncritical coverage by the press?

KEYES: The Democrats had to hype him up because he's an obscure senator who had basically been from a very narrow Senate district in Illinois, wasn't well-known even throughout the state. They had to hype him to pretend that he is some national figure with a national base.

I am already an established national figure with a national reputation. People can see just now, I'm sitting between McCain and President Bush in a debate in the course of the last Republican primary.

WOODRUFF: But the fact is...

KEYES: I don't need the hype, because I'm a real candidate. He's a fictional one.

WOODRUFF: But the -- But he's really running. He's really -- Alan Keyes, but the fact is the polls show him well ahead of you, and you've got two months.

KEYES: Actually, that's nonsense. They're phony polls where they won't even tell you what the sample is because it's probably so biased against Republicans it shouldn't be taken seriously.

The real poll is taken among the Democrats themselves. They just tried a corrupt maneuver on Friday to remove my name from the ballot in Illinois. Did you know that? And the truth is, if they had confidence in this guy and thought he could win, why are they trying to steal the election by cheating? They know he can't stand a fair test.

WOODRUFF: Quick last question. Only six percent of the delegates here are African-American. You comfortable with that?

KEYES: Well, how many delegates are Roman Catholic? How many of the delegates are strong and deeply believing Christians?

I believe that we have to reach out to all people. I represent black, Republican, Roman Catholic, Christians of deep belief. I think that these people are watching the race in Illinois, deeply concerned that the president and others should be supporting what is, after all, an historic event in the history of the country. And I think that's going to be important.

WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there. Alan Keyes running for the - for the United States Senate in state of Illinois. It's great to see you again.

KEYES: Appreciate it.

WOODRUFF: Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Just ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, while the Republicans soak up the spotlight here in New York, the Democrats are watching and they are responding. We'll check the view from the other side when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As Republicans did in Boston, Democrats are keeping a close watch on their opponents' national convention.

Here now, CNN's Ed Henry with a look at what the Democrats are saying today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED GILLESPIE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: ... in session and call it to order.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On opening night of their convention, Republicans will showcase President Bush's handling of national security.

But so will Democrats, who jumped on the way the president answered a question about whether the war on terror can be won.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think you can win it, but I think you can create conditions so that the -- those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world.

HENRY: Democrats, who have a rapid response team in place in New York, pounced.

GOV. TOM VILSACK (D), IOWA: This is a president who doesn't believe he can in with the war on terror. I know John Kerry believes he can.

HENRY: A Bush/Cheney official said the comments are being taken out of context. Nevertheless, the Bush official said quote, "We couldn't be more delighted by this line of attack."

With Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, heading to the podium to tout the president's security credentials, this is a battle Republicans relish, but Democrats are not shying away from the challenge. GEN. MERRILL MCPEAK, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Iraq is a mess. It's a bigger mess than we were promised and a bigger mess than it needed to be, if he had been competent to the task at hand.

HENRY: That message reiterated in a new TV ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No weapons of mass destruction costing $200 billion and counting. No plan to win the peace. Mission not accomplished.

HENRY: Democrats think the "Today Show" interview is one in a series of recent gaffes by the president. Mr. Bush told "TIME" magazine the war in Iraq was a, quote, "catastrophic success" and told "The New York Times" he had miscalculated in war planning.

MCPEAK: I see more evidence of planning here in New York City in connection with holding this convention than the administration ever did before they went to war in Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill told CNN today that she'll be listening very closely to all the convention speeches. She wants to see how Republicans explain the president's recent statements on Iraq and the war on terror.

She also said that while Senator Kerry's numbers have slipped in recent days in some key battleground states, she said those numbers have stabilized. Kerry campaign aides believe that is because the swift boat ads have backfired on the Republicans.

And I can tell you, the Kerry campaign is insisting and vowing that they will be keeping the heat up on the Bush campaign and on the Republican Party all this week in New York, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. Ed Henry reporting for us about the Democrats and their counter arguments. Ed, thanks very much.

And now we want to tell you about a story just in to CNN within the last hour. A former aide to New Jersey's governor, Jim McGreevey, says that he will not -- will not file a sexual harassment suit against the governor.

As you remember, the governor announced a few weeks ago that he will resign his office later this year, and he acknowledged having had a gay affair. He apologized for that.

But Golan Cipel, the man who was involved with the governor is saying that by resigning, McGreevey has admitted his wrongdoings. Quote, "This was never about money."

Turning now to another story as he deals with new sexual assault allegations, William Kennedy Smith, a nephew of Senator Edward Kennedy, has resigned from the group that he founded to assist victims of land mines. A former employee of William Kennedy Smith filed a civil suit last week, claiming that he sexually assaulted her in 1999. Smith denies the allegations. He held a news conference a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM KENNEDY SMITH, ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ASSAULT: I did have a consensual relationship with Audra Soulias in 1999. It lasted for about five months. It was in no way forced or coerced. I cannot dignify her allegations by repeating them, even to deny them. So all I can say is that they are false.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The woman who filed the lawsuit used to work as William Kennedy Smith's personal assistant. He was cleared of rape charges in Florida in a separate case in 1991.

Well, it is a sight that brings out strong emotions. When we return, some Republican delegates took time today to visit Ground Zero. Bruce Morton will tell us about it.

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(STOCK REPORT)

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WOODRUFF: In less than two weeks, Americans mark the third anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and here in New York City, Ground Zero is getting a lot of attention from Republican delegates.

Here's CNN's Bruce Morton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): People come every day, of course. They stare. They wonder. It is a very American place, Ground Zero.

This week, some of the visitors are attending the Republican National Convention. But here it's not about politics. It's about paying tribute.

SPENCER STOKES, UTAH DELEGATE: A very reverent feeling for all the people who lost their lives here on September 11. It's -- to me it's like Arlington Cemetery in the middle of a bustling city.

CARLENE WALKER, UTAH STATE SENATOR: It's very touching to me. It really hits home. But I have had people say, "Well, how can you even come back and look here? How can you even come back to New York?"

And I realize that we let the terrorists win if we are fearful.

RON WAIT, ILLINOIS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: It's an awesome sight to see it on TV and then to be here in person. I mean, it just takes your heart back to, you know, what happened here.

MORTON: Is there a lesson, a moral in this place?

DAVE SYLVERSON, ILLINOIS DELEGATE: The moral story is that we need to be strong on defense. We need to know who our friends are and who our enemies are.

SCOTT BORGEMENKE, OHIO POLITICAL CONSULTANT: I think the lesson is that we always have to be reflective of history, but we have to think forward, though. We can't just stop because of bad things that have happened to us. And that's it. I'm all choked up about it.

MORTON: Some mourn, some weep, some pray.

BARBARA ORTEGA, CALIFORNIA DELEGATION GUEST: You see what was here in pictures and then you come see what is now no more and it's very emotional.

VALERIE GALLAGHER, ILLINOIS DELEGATION GUEST: Time for reflection, to reflect on all that is what we stand for and what these people stood for, to come over and say thank you, thank you to the men and the women who were trying to save so many. And to make sure that we restore everything for them.

ORTEGA: We're making sure we say thank you to every policeman on the corner this week.

MORTON: They come, they look and think long thoughts. And an old man, as he often does in this place, plays an old hymn.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Ground Zero.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And that's it for this Monday edition of INSIDE POLITICS. We'll be here tonight. Now, it's time for "CROSSFIRE." Thanks for joining us.

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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