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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Allawi Helping Case For Iraq War?; Ad War Gets Uglier; Democrats Argue Bush Also A Flip-Flopper; The Women's Vote

Aired September 23, 2004 - 15:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: Iraq's interim leader in the spotlight in Washington. Is he helping President Bush make the case that the war was worth it?

GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The path to our safety and to Iraq's future as a democratic nation lies in the resolute defense of freedom.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president says that things are getting better in Iraq. They're not getting better. And we need to change the course to protect our troops and to win.

ANNOUNCER: John Kerry once again hits Bush on Iraq. Is he finding his voice?

The ad war gets uglier. We'll sort through new attempts by Bush and Kerry to ridicule one another.

Single women wanted. How are the candidates faring with unmarried females?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

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

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is promising Congress and the American people that elections will move forward in his country. Left unsaid, Allawi's role in the U.S. presidential election. Today, he provided backup for George W. Bush's claim of progress in Iraq and a rebuttal to criticism from John Kerry.

We begin with our White House correspondent Dana Bash -- hi, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.

And this wasn't from a swing state. Mr. Bush wasn't on the stump. He was in the Rose Garden. But everything that you heard and you saw from the president and the Iraqi interim prime minister was focused on rebutting these newly focused charges from John Kerry that President Bush made an incorrect decision to go to war in Iraq at that time and in his words really made inept decisions after going to war.

Now, the buzz word was the day was optimism. The president came right out and said what the strategy for this joint news conference was. That is essentially to tell the American people, if you don't believe what he says, meaning Mr. Bush, listen to the Iraqi leader.

Now, he, Mr. Allawi, said that everything is really on track, that the training of Iraqi troops is on track, they're moving toward elections on time in January. And it is that kind of rosy picture that John Kerry says is spin from the president and is proof that Mr. Bush is not leveling with the American voters.

Now, Mr. Bush said today you can be optimistic, but still recognize that things are hard, but that what John Kerry is doing with his statements is undermining the mission with his criticism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I understand that -- what mixed messages do. You can embolden an enemy by sending a mixed message. You can dispirit the Iraqi people by sending mixed messages. You send the wrong message to our troops by sending mixed messages. That's why I will continue to lead with clarity and in a resolute way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, in another dig at his opponent, Mr. Bush also said that insurgents would plot and plan elsewhere like America if the U.S. pulls out, vowed that that would not happen.

Now, as for Mr. Allawi, he said over and over Iraqis want to do things for themselves and that he doesn't see the need for more international troops. But he also seemed to take a jab at Senator Kerry, too, with some familiar messages.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IYAD ALLAWI, IRAQI INTERIM PRIME MINISTER: These doubters underestimate our country, and they risk fueling the hopes of terrorism. Mr. President, there are those who want to divide our world. I appeal to you, who have done so much already to help us, to ensure they don't succeed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, in another effort to explain that things maybe aren't that bad in Iraq, Mr. Bush said that a recent poll he saw showed That the question of right track/wrong track is better in Iraq, meaning Iraqis see things better off in their country than perhaps Americans do of the United States.

Democrats jumped on that, said that that was proof that he is unhinged with reality. But the president's spokesman came down and actually showed us the poll he was referring to which did show that, about a month ago, 51 percent of Iraqis said that they support what's going on in Iraq. That is better than what you see in the United States, Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Dana Bash, thank you very much for the very latest from the White House.

Well, John Kerry says that Iraq's interim leader is trying to put the best face on the Bush administration's policy, contradicting the reality on the ground in Iraq. Suffering from a cold, Kerry cut back on campaign events. But he went ahead with an appearance in Ohio. There, the Democrat suggested it is unrealistic to think that Iraq will be able to hold an election in January.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I hope democracy will take hold. I want democracy to take hold. But, at the moment, at the moment, I think most people would tell you that the United States and the Iraqis have retreated from whole areas of Iraq. There are no-go zones in Iraq today. You can't hold an election in a no-go zone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: We'll have a full report on John Kerry's day later on INSIDE POLITICS.

Well, the fight over Iraq is playing out on many campaign fronts, including the TV airwaves. Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" examined the latest round of Bush and Kerry ads, and what he saw wasn't particularly pretty. But was it accurate?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD KURTZ, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (voice-over): Two campaign ads hit the airwaves yesterday. One looks funny, the other deadly serious. Together, they amount to the sharpest exchange yet in the presidential ad wars.

First, the Bush spot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: In which direction would John Kerry lead? Kerry voted for the Iraq war, opposed it, supported it, and now opposes it again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Hold on. Kerry voted for military action against Iraq, but never opposed the war. He criticizes the way the president went to war, without the support of many traditional allies, and the lack of planning for the war's bloody aftermath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: He bragged about voting for the $87 billion to support our troops before he voted against it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: Well, sort of. Kerry supported a measure to fund U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. He then voted against the final $87 billion law in what he describes as a protest vote against the administration's Iraq policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: He voted for education reform and now opposes it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Kerry voted for the president's No Child Left Behind law. He now says Bush hasn't properly funded it and wants to replace it with a new law.

But more important than the words are the images, helped by some creative editing, of Kerry engaging in what red-staters might see as the pastime of wealthy Martha's Vineyard types. Within hours, the senator's camp produced a counterattack spot, aimed at making the current violence in Iraq, not Kerry's past votes, the issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: One thousand U.S. casualties, two Americans beheaded just this week. The Pentagon admits terrorists are pouring into Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Wait. Is Kerry saying these things are the president's fault? Not directly, but that seems to be the implication.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: In the face of the Iraq quagmire, George Bush's answer is to run a juvenile tasteless attack ad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Quagmire, that's a Vietnam-era word that Kerry's advertising hasn't used before. But how would Kerry get us out of the quagmire/

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: Get allies involved, speed up the training of Iraqis, take essential steps to get a free election next year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Well, the administration is already doing some of those things, such as training Iraqis. And many experts doubt Kerry will be able to recruit enough international allies to ease the U.S. burden in Iraq.

(on camera): Windsurfing and flip-flops, casualties and beheadings, this is pretty rough stuff. What's at stake is whether the campaign is about Kerry's nuanced positions on going to war or Bush's responsibility on what the war has become, a question that may decide the election itself.

Howard Kurtz, CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, the Bush campaign isn't the only group using pictures of Kerry windsurfing to portray him as a flip-flopper. The pro-Republican Progress For America Voter Fund calls its ad "Surfer Dude." And it accuses Kerry of surfing every direction on Iraq and other issues. The group is spending about $1 million to air this ad on national cable and in the showdown states of Iowa and Wisconsin.

It is that time and the election-year polls are coming fast and furious. Let's look at some of the new numbers, first, a national matchup. Bush leads Kerry by four points among likely voters in the new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll. Turning to showdown states in Florida, a new Quinnipiac poll of registered voters suggests Bush has widened his lead over Kerry. The survey has Bush at 49 percent, Kerry 41 percent, Ralph Nader 5 percent. We'll see if that jives with our new Florida poll coming out tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on CNN's "PAULA ZAHN NOW."

On to Wisconsin, where two new surveys give Bush the advantage. He is four points ahead of Kerry in the Badger State poll of registered voters. And Bush leads by six points in an ABC News poll of registered voters in Wisconsin. Another Bush lead to report in Arkansas. The ARG poll of likely voters shows Bush with 48 percent, Kerry with 45 percent.

Well, from the polls, the ads and the debate over Iraq, there's plenty for top campaign officials to talk about. My interview with Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot next. Then Kerry campaign senior adviser Tad Devine joins us for the other side of the story.

Also ahead, we're following the money to find out who's covering new ground and who's on the retreat in the ad war.

With 40 days exactly until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: President Bush is focusing his attention on another battleground state today, scheduled to attend a rally in Maine about one hour from now.

Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot joins us now for more on what has been a busy day for the president.

Marc Racicot, governor Racicot, good to see you again.

MARC RACICOT, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: It's good to see you, too. Thanks, Judy. WOODRUFF: Let's talk first about Iraq, the president, Prime Minister Allawi both today again sounding upbeat about what's going on. But Americans turn on their television sets, they pick up their newspapers, they see reports of more people dying. They see fire bomb attacks, more terrorists. The situation appears to be getting worse, these so-called no-go zones.

Are you worried about a perception that the president is either not leveling with people or is ignoring the reality?

RACICOT: I do believe that the American people understand precisely what's going on. And I think the president does, too. He has great confidence in them.

The fact of the matter is, this is hard work. It's work that has involved grievous losses that we mourn virtually every single day. But at the same moment in time, I know the American people believe as I do, that, in fact, if we don't do this today, if we don't root out and address terrorism today, our children are going to have to do it tomorrow and our grandchildren thereafter. So there's reason to be optimistic.

You have people from Iraq, for heaven's sakes, the prime minister, on the ground, an eyewitness watching every day, nothing to be gained other than to tell the American people precisely what it is that's going on there and saying we should take heart. We should see this through. It's important for the remaining history of the world that we do this now in a way that roots out terrorism once and for all.

WOODRUFF: Senator Joe Biden, Governor, was quoted last night as saying that his criticism of the president's policy is not partisan. He said Republican senators join him in pointing out what is going on, on the ground. And he said, instead of the president debating the points that Democrats and others are making, that your campaign has put up an ad of John Kerry windsurfing, in effect, saying that's your answer to their criticism of the Iraq policy.

RACICOT: No.

I think what the ad does -- it's a very serious ad that points out that his campaign and his policies are rudderless, that, in fact, there's no sense of direction that you can predict or understand. The fact of the matter is, he has had multiple different positions, as many as seven, eight, nine, 10, on Iraq. And then he comes out this week and says he has an entirely new position, but that he's only had one position. And the position that he takes, of course, is one of defeat and retreat and also in essence says that we would have been safer, the world would have been safer if Saddam Hussein had remained contained within Iraq.

And so the fact is that that ad speaks to the notion that he is absolutely rudderless because he changes his position every time he turns around and he doesn't have the consistency or the conviction to lead this nation and the world, the free world, in addressing the issues of terrorism. That's what that ad is about and that's what this campaign is about in large measure.

WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of changing positions, "The Washington Post" today, a front-page story reporting that, over the last four years, it says the president has -- quote -- "abandoned positions on issues such as how to regulate air pollution, whether states should be allowed to sanction same-sex marriage, changed his mind about the merits of creating a Homeland Security Department, about whether there should be an independent 9/11 Commission" and so on and so on.

The question it raises is, is President Bush every bit the flip- flopper that John Kerry is claimed to be by the campaign?

RACICOT: Well, I think the American people understand that's not even remotely close to accurate.

The fact of the matter is, there are different moments in time in the production of a decision or a vote. And, of course, you go through a public discussion and the marketplace of ideas is considered and then you take a position. The senator and the president have had exactly the same opportunities to take exactly the same positions at virtually every moment in time in reference to Iraq. The senator votes for the use of force aggressively. He votes against the appropriations.

He claims to be an anti-war candidate. He claims then it's the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place. And then he in essence says we're going to admit defeat and retreat from Iraq because we would be safer had it been the other way from what it is that I voted throughout the course of this past several months.

So the bottom line here is, Judy, these are two entirely different people who reflect two entirely different capacities to be leaders and to take this nation to a position of being safe and secure.

WOODRUFF: Governor Marc Racicot, chairman of the Bush campaign, thank you very much.

RACICOT: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate you talking with me. Thank you very much.

Well, up next, we're going to hear from the other side. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry begs to differ with the Iraqi prime minister. And he's lashing out at President Bush. We'll have details when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(FINANCIAL UPDATE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Before the break, we spoke with the chairman of the Bush campaign. Now time to hear from the other side. Joining us is Tad Devine, Kerry campaign senior strategist.

Thank you for joining us.

We just heard from Marc Racicot. And what we've heard from Republicans all along is that whenever John Kerry talks about the war in Iraq, they turn it right back and say, how is your plan for Iraq any better than the president's? And, in fact, Tad Devine, the polls show President Bush still comes out on top when you ask people who is better able to manage this war.

TAD DEVINE, SENIOR JOHN KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, Judy, I don't think that's surprising.

The president is, after all, the commander in chief. I think the American people, though, are seeing the mess in Iraq today. They're seeing the $200 billion being spent there, money desperately needed here at home. They've seen the death toll in Iraq surpass 1,000 American troops. I think people understand that the president has created a mess in Iraq because he rushed to war without a plan to win the peace.

And I think, as the debates come up, we've got the first debate on foreign policy. I think the American people are going to have a chance to size up these two men, to hear about their plans. John Kerry offers a fresh start in Iraq. That's something that George Bush simply cannot offer. And I think, as they hear the details of his plan, they'll be impressed that he can lead us out of the quagmire we're in today.

WOODRUFF: Well, what do you say to voters like -- and "The Washington Post" leads off a story. She's 66-year-old Judy Rodino (ph). She's a lifelong Democrat living in New Jersey. She agrees with John Kerry on domestic issues, but when it comes to Iraq, she says, "I think Bush is more knowledgeable in how to handle the war." She says: "I don't think Kerry is aware of the foreign programs. He isn't assertive. I'm watching and reading. I'm not there yet."

How do you make the sale for voters like this?

DEVINE: Well, I think it's important for voters like her and others to, first of all, watch the debates. We're going to have three presidential debates. I don't think the president would have agreed to three presidential debates unless he and his campaign believed that they needed those debates to win this election.

I think the president sees the same race beneath the surface of the horse race that we do, one where this country, most people in this country think we're headed down the wrong track, one where his disapproval outweighs his approval, for example, in today's "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll, one where the American people say they don't have confidence in this president's leadership and they'd rather elect someone else than reelect him.

So those people, I think, are going to have a chance to see John Kerry on the same stage with the president debating these issues, and when they do I think they'll see that John Kerry is offering a new direction for America.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about another issue that is not necessarily bringing good news to John Kerry, and that's the economy, supposed to be a good issue for your campaign, especially in those states that have lost jobs. But we've had some new numbers out of West Virginia, very good example here, 72 percent of respondents rate the economy in the state of West Virginia as poor or only fair, but President Bush is leading in West Virginia by six points among likely voters, nine points among registered voters.

What happened to your advantage on this issue?

DEVINE: Well, Judy, I think West Virginia is a good example of a state that has, actually, at least in our research, closed a lot in recent days.

We made a decision months ago that we were going to save the bulk of our resources in terms of paid media and television advertising until the end of the campaign. Now, that was costly to us at the front end, and I'll be the first to admit it. But it's going to give us an enormous advantage in the closing weeks of this campaign. We think these independent swing voters, people really who pay attention late, really want to be in a position to receive that message when they're deciding.

Our campaign is going to be able to deliver a powerful message on the economy. The fact of the matter is that West Virginia has suffered because of the policies of George Bush. He broke his promises to that state, specifically as it relates to clean coal technology. We think we're going to be able to compete there. That was a surprise state for the Republicans. I think we're going to get it back this time.

WOODRUFF: Karl Rove, who, as you know, is a senior political adviser to the president, telling "The Washington Times" that the Bush campaign, in his words, running Kerry out of states that had been considered battlegrounds.

Yesterday, the Kerry campaign, indeed, canceled plans to begin a $5 million TV ad buy in Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Missouri. Is Karl Rove right?

DEVINE: No, he's not, Judy.

The surprise of this election is all the states that we're in, places like Colorado, where we began this week an ambitious media buy. I don't think anyone expected Colorado to be in play six or eight months ago. It's very much in play today. States all across this country, Ohio, Florida, these are big major battlegrounds. The president right now is either tied or behind in these places. So it's the red states that we're competing in. And we hope to be able to expand the playing field even further.

So I would say to anyone on the other side who thinks that we're not going to expand this playing field that the president is in deep trouble in a number of red states, particularly big states that he won last time. And if he loses any of them, he's going to lose this election.

WOODRUFF: John Kerry having trouble, though, in some states that were purple or even blue, though, right?

(LAUGHTER)

DEVINE: Well, listen, Judy, four years ago, we had, you know, we had tough races. We were behind in Wisconsin in the tracking polls the day before the election by three points. We were nine points behind in Wisconsin four years ago two weeks before the election. So we had tough battles in places like Iowa and Wisconsin. We think the race is going to be tight and tough in those states. But I think we're going to win both of those and others this time.

WOODRUFF: All right, Tad Devine, sounding optimistic, thank you very much.

DEVINE: Good to be with you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Speaking of the ads, the ad wars. Up next, we're going to take a look at what the presidential campaigns are spending on TV commercials in all showdown -- in the all-important showdown states.

Plus, when Karl Rove speaks, people listen, apparently. We'll tell you what the president's top political adviser is saying now. We just heard a little of it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, nervous friends and family members awaiting word on the fate of the British hostage, Kenneth Bigley. We'll have details. And an Iraq reality check.

A new report from the Department of Homeland Security raising serious questions about airport screening and recommends better training and technology. We'll have a report.

And they're calling it a miracle. Two people survived a plane crash in the Montana mountains and a two-day walk through the wilderness. We'll have details.

Those stories, much more, later today on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS," 5:00 p.m. Eastern, 90 minutes from now.

Now back to JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: President Bush stands shoulder to shoulder with Iraq's interim prime minister. This hour, the president heads back to the campaign trail in Maine. John Kerry, in Ohio, charges Bush's policies in Iraq are confused and disordered.

Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff, back here in Washington today. Well, the two campaigns are making crucial decisions now about where to buy time for their TV ads. We just talked about it a little bit with Tad Devine. But CNN's -- or rather CNN consultant Evan Tracey of TNS Media Intelligence is with me now. His firm tracks ad spending in the nation's top 100 media markets.

All right, Evan, first of all, let's talk about an overview of where Bush and Kerry are spending their money.

EVAN TRACEY, TNS MEDIA INTELLIGENCE: Right. Well, the Kerry campaign has, since the Republican convention, really sort of picked and choose the states and even the markets within the state that they have been in. They've been in about 11 of these battleground states.

A lot of their spending is in the places you would expect, Florida, Ohio, states that obviously they need to do well in. But they're also ignoring some of the markets, like Mobile and the Panhandle, and that -- and places in the state of Florida.

The Bush campaign, on the other hand, has been using -- really the accelerator has been all the way down on their ad spending. They've been up in all 17 of the battleground states, as well as on cable.

They're also concentrating on a lot of the suburban markets, like Philadelphia and Detroit. Their buys seem very heavy for those. So it seems right now that Kerry's trying to stay competitive in the states that they know they need to be in so he can make really end- game decisions and have resources left to do it in the states as we get closer to Election Day.

WOODRUFF: So some pulling back on Kerry's part? I just talked to Tad Devine about this. How do you see that? And is he getting any outside help?

TRACEY: Well, it was reported that they've pulled down in about four states. And those four states, he's already invested over $10 million. And so it's hard to believe he won't come in some or all of those states as you get closer to Election Day.

But really, the DNC has been spending very heavily in actually 19 states. I mean, they are in all the battleground states, plus North Carolina, and have been on consistently since the summer and spent about $7 million since the end of the Republican convention.

So Gore had to make some decisions in 2000...

WOODRUFF: Kerry. Oh, Gore, right.

TRACEY: ... in 2000. So I think, you know, we go back and looked at that. I mean, they actually will probably expand the playing field as you get closer. And I think the Kerry strategy right now is you've got the DNC covering you in all these states, have money left over to go in to these battleground states that are really going to decide this election in November.

WOODRUFF: What about the independent so-called 527 groups? What are they doing?

TRACEY: Right. It's almost starting to reverse itself from where we were in the summer, where you had the Democratic groups like Media Fund and MoveOn and others just blowing out the spending.

Right now, Republican groups have had the advantage over the last few weeks. Progress for America spent about $1 million in battleground states, Wisconsin and Iowa. And also you have the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who started off with a few hundred thousand dollars, have now managed to spend about $3 million on national cable, as well as in battleground markets, in places like New Hampshire -- excuse me, in places like Pennsylvania, in New Mexico and Nevada.

WOODRUFF: So the Swift Boat is spending more than any other 527?

TRACEY: Swift Boat has spent quite a lot of money since their initial small buys. They got all the attention. Clearly, their fund- raising has gone through the roof since then, and they've been able to stay in the air, using really national cable as their vehicle to get I think more or less a national anti-Kerry message out there and picking and choosing some of these smaller markets in some of the key battleground states.

WOODRUFF: In the few seconds we have left, Evan, what do you look for in the five-and-a-half weeks to go?

TRACEY: It will be a chess game. I mean, like I said, we -- when you went back and examined the 2000 data, you saw where Gore had to pull out of states like Ohio probably earlier than he wanted to. But he also had to go up in states like Tennessee and West Virginia and stay on the air in places like Illinois and Minnesota, states they probably didn't plan on.

So right now it's probably a little early to make, you know, final judgments on where people are and are not buying advertising. But it will be clearly something to watch to say what the campaigns really think about their chances.

WOODRUFF: OK. Evan Tracey, we'll want to check in you -- check in with you as often as we can. Evan Tracey, TNS Media Intelligence. Thanks very much.

TRACEY: Great to be here. Thanks.

WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.

And now checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," the two presidential running mates are on the road in the Midwest. John Edwards standing in for John Kerry this afternoon in an event in Davenport, Iowa. Dick Cheney is attending a rally next hour in the showdown state of Missouri.

The president's top political adviser, meantime, is sounding an optimistic note about this upcoming election. Karl Rove tells "The Washington Times" that the field of battleground states is shrinking. We talked about this a moment ago. He says John Kerry is being forced to defend states once thought to be safely in his column. Rove said he feels, "very good about Bush's prospects in New Hampshire and Nevada." He also said he feels "fantastic about Ohio."

Independent candidate Ralph Nader is vowing to take the fight to get his name on Oregon's ballot for the U.S. Supreme Court. Oregon's high court yesterday ruled against Nader, overturning a ruling by a lower state court. Nader has gained ballot access in more than 30 states so far, and his efforts in several more states remain in legal limbo.

The Bush-Cheney team often accuses John Kerry of changing his mind on major issues. Democrats argue Bush has changed his mind as much as Kerry, but that people just haven't caught on.

Well, John Harris wrote about the flip-flop claims in today's "Washington Post." He joins me now from "The Post" newsroom.

John, I did try to ask Marc Racicot about this a new minutes ago. He basically said you can't put the change of mind on the president's part anywhere near the same category of the flip-flops that John Kerry's made. So what's the basis of your reporting?

JOHN HARRIS, "WASHINGTON POST: Well, what we were trying to do is just remind readers that -- on one of these sort of central issues of the campaign -- you know, who is more resolute and strong. We were trying to make a judgment as to who's more of a flip-flopper, but I thought it was worth pointing out that on some critical issues the president has changed his -- both his rhetorical tune and changed his substantive position.

WOODRUFF: Why do you think that the Bush people, though, have been so better able to capitalize on this thing of changing minds?

HARRIS: Yes, I think there's a pretty clear answer to that. And that is that they recognized very early on that this was a potential vulnerability for Kerry.

And starting back last spring, they concentrated on it. They repeated the charge. They made it the focus of their advertising. Made it the focus of the things the president and his surrogates were saying. And they kept hammering.

A perception of this got fixed in people's minds. And as a result, it's been -- no question, it's been quite damaging to Kerry.

WOODRUFF: John, how much of this was Kerry just leaving himself open by changes that he's made, at least in the way he's portrayed his decision-making?

HARRIS: Yes. Well -- and by no means am I suggesting that the Bush-Cheney charge is a cheap shot. I think Kerry gave them quite a lot of raw material, particularly on the central issue of Iraq.

Kerry has had a hard time finding a rhetorical message that he's prepared to take into this campaign and stay with. I mean, he can argue that he was -- that there -- he's logically consistent on certain things, like, you know, did he support the $87 billion to go to the troops and so forth? But that explanation is confusing. And I think you don't have to look too hard at it to see that there is a fair amount of political calculation that's gone into it.

WOODRUFF: What about in the president's background, in his record? How much is -- is there any fertile territory there for the Kerry people to exploit at this late date in terms of the president's changing his mind?

HARRIS: Well, I think you put your finger on it by saying at this late date. The president -- and you can point to polls that prove this -- is seen as somebody who's very strong, resolute, to the point of stubbornness.

They tried making this accusation that President Bush is a flip- flopper also, and it just wasn't resonating with the public, because that is not how he's perceived. That's not to say, as I think my article made clear, that the president's perfectly consistent on everything. But political ground it's just not been terribly fertile for Kerry.

WOODRUFF: What has the president changed his mind on? I mean, most prominently.

HARRIS: I sort of put it in two categories. There's issues where he has substantively done what I think we'll call some tap dancing.

He's a free trader, and yet he did in 2002 impose steel tariffs for what looked like political reasons. Then later backed off that.

Things like the Department of Homeland security in 2002. He initially thought it was a bad idea. Then came around to support it. Those are sort of policy positions.

And then rhetorically, even where his goals have been consistent, some of his rationales for those policy goals have changed. Iraq is a great example.

It started off about being about weapons of mass destruction. Now, of course, it's more about democracy building in the Middle East.

Tax cuts is another place where initially the rationale was, because we got a surplus we can afford tax cuts. Then it became, because we've got a deficit and a lagging economy, we need them. So, anyway, there's examples there.

WOODRUFF: So, be that as it may, as you point out, it's John Kerry who's on the defensive on all this.

HARRIS: Right.

WOODRUFF: Is it your sense from reporting on this John, that John Kerry can change the impression out there in a significant way between now and Election Day?

HARRIS: I don't know that he can change the impression. I think his challenge is to change the subject.

In other words, by making his case about Iraq that he's been making on the campaign trail in recent days, and saying that Bush's policies have been a failure there, I think that's what he's basing his campaign on, rather than trying to get in an argument of whether he is a flip-flopper or isn't, or whether President Bush is as big a one as he is -- as big a flip-flopper as he is or not.

WOODRUFF: Well, we are going to leave it there.

HARRIS: OK. Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: John Harris, some interesting reporting in today's "Washington Post." Thank you. We -- thank you. Always good to see you.

HARRIS: Yes.

WOODRUFF: Well, Bush and Kerry compete for a crucial voting bloc. Up next, which candidate has the edge in the battle for support among women voters?

A new poll in the Florida Senate race. We'll gauge support for Democrat Betty Castor and Republican Mel Martinez.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Joining me now with a look at the all-important women's vote in this election, particularly those women who are married and those who are single, Chuck Todd, the editor in chief of "The Hotline," an insider's political briefing produced daily by "The National Journal."

All right, Chuck, we've talked about the gender gap, women versus men. But you're specifically looking today at the differences inside the women's vote, married and unmarried.

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE HOTLINE": Well, it is interesting how you can really break down the women's vote in these two categories. Unmarried women are heavily more Democratic voters. Married women, very much are more of a swing voting group. But there also are more married women that participate in the election.

Thirty-three percent of the entire electorate was married women in the 2000 election. Just 19 percent of the entire electorate was unmarried women.

Among those, Al Gore won by almost a two-to-one ratio among unmarried women. But there again a smaller chunk of the electorate. While actually Bush won by a point among married women. So there is a distinct way that both campaigns are targeting these.

WOODRUFF: So how -- how are they going -- how are Bush and Kerry going after married and unmarried? What are the appeals?

TODD: Well, first, you know, the appeals are -- have as much to do with sort of the security and the safety issue. Married women are more likely to be -- are more likely to be security and safety and mothers and stuff like that, and worry about children. So the safety issues and the war on terror definitely is something that Bush has had some appeal, and has helped close the gap.

The hard part is on the Kerry side when it goes after unmarried women, because the war on terror and Iraq don't move these voters. They're harder voters to track down.

Issues that do motivate them are economic issues and health care issues. But tracking these voters are much harder. And it's been -- it's been very difficult for the Kerry campaign.

WOODRUFF: You're saying for single women, the war on terror, Iraq, is not as big an issue?

TODD: Correct. Well, it's economic issues.

WOODRUFF: Because they don't think...

TODD: These are more transient. They don't think about it. And they're more worried about economic issues.

WOODRUFF: So what are the candidates doing? I mean, how exactly are they...

TODD: Well, there's three states that each candidate is targeting of the other's bloc that will tell us who's having success among married and unmarried women. On the Bush side, where they're going after to increase their advantage among married women, the three states are Iowa, Wisconsin and -- Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Those are three of the highest states of married people, married women that Al Gore carried.

On the other side, where John Kerry -- Bush's most vulnerable states are places -- are places where the high -- where the single women are the highest percentage of the electorate in those showdown states. It's Nevada, Florida and Ohio. And how they do among each of those groups will tell us I think a lot of which way those states are going to go.

WOODRUFF: So that may be where this election is written?

TODD: It could be. Especially if they do -- either side increases turnout among those two groups.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, just -- can you -- can you be any more specific in terms of the numbers in these states? I mean, are we just going to have to wait until Election Day to see?

TODD: Well, especially because the single women thing is very hard to track, these unmarried -- it's a transient thing. The Kerry campaign, and Democratic politics, they know they do well if they -- among that voting group. They just don't know how to get the voting group out and they don't know how to target it yet.

WOODRUFF: One thing we've talked about in the polling is that so many single voters, men and women, have cell phones. They don't, you know...

TODD: Harder to find them. And it's going to be much harder to poll them until the election.

WOODRUFF: Hard to poll and hard to reach. OK. Chuck Todd, "The Hotline." Thank you very much.

TODD: Thanks.

WOODRUFF: Appreciate it. "The Hotline," an insider's political briefing produced daily by "The National Journal." You can go online to nationaljournal.com for subscription information about "The Hotline."

And don't forget, for more on "The Hotline," visit nationaljournal.com. You can click on "The Hotline" icon for subscription information.

Up next, we turn our attention to the Sunshine State, where we were yesterday. There are new poll numbers on a close race in Florida. And we're not talking about the presidential candidates.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking in now on the Florida Senate race between Democrat Betty Castor, who we talked to yesterday on INSIDE POLITICS, and Republican Mel Martinez. The latest CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll gives Castor a six-point lead among both likely and registered voters.

As I said, we spoke with Castor yesterday on this program. Tomorrow I plan to interview Mel Martinez.

By the way, CNN will release its latest Florida presidential poll tonight at 8:00 Eastern on "PAULA ZAHN NOW."

President Bush is gearing up for a Maine event. Coming up, a live report from a Northeastern state with an historically strong Bush connection.

And a dramatic attempt to get some campaign bounce.

INSIDE POLITICS continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Points.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president rushed to war without a plan to win the peace.

ANNOUNCER: And counterpoints.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can embolden an enemy by sending a mixed message.

ANNOUNCER: So which message on Iraq are Americans buying?

A Capitol Hill clash over your taxes. Will current cuts be extended? And if they are, can the government afford them?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

With Iraq's interim leader at his side, President Bush acknowledged today that like or not, the war and its aftermath are part of the 2004 presidential race. Now the issue ultimately plays on Election Day and may depend to a large degree on whose vision of Iraq voters buy. Here now, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Polls seem to matter in this campaign, and not just in the United States.

BUSH: I saw a poll that said the right track-wrong track in Iraq was better than here in America. That's pretty darn strong. I mean, the people see a better future.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats are challenging that assessment.

KERRY: Iraq is in crisis. And the president needs to live in the world of reality, not in a world of fantasy spin.

SCHNEIDER: Some Republicans, too.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: It's complicated. It's difficult. A lot of problems.

SCHNEIDER: Voters see two realities. One horrifying.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Islamist militants have now killed two of the three hostages they kidnapped from an upscale Baghdad neighborhood.

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Soldiers say the streets they're patrolling are safer and more prosperous than they've been.

SCHNEIDER: The interim prime minister's visit to Washington is clearly intended to pain an encouraging picture.

AYAD ALLAWI, INTERIM IRAQI PRIME MINISTER: We are succeeding in Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: John Kerry is astonished at the administration's effort to portray Iraq as a success.

KERRY: With all due respect to the president, has he turned on the evening news lately? Does he read the newspapers?

SCHNEIDER: The Iraqi leader argues that the current reality in Iraq is better than the past.

ALLAWI: Iraqi citizens know better than anyone the horrors of dictatorship. This has passed. We will never revisit.

SCHNEIDER: What about the future?

ALLAWI: The insurgency in Iraq is destructive, but small. And it has not and will never resonate with the Iraqi people.

SCHNEIDER: But this reporter on the ground sees problems, nevertheless.

JOHN BURNS, "NEW YORK TIMES" If you have voters lining up outside a polling station, what reason would these insurgents not have to drive suicide bombers right into the midst of them, as they do now into crowds elsewhere?

SCHNEIDER: Kerry argues American voters have to assess the future in Iraq.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president says that things are getting better in Iraq and we must just stay the same course. Well, I disagree. They're not getting better and we need to change the course to protect our troops and to win.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: In most elections, voters make a judgment about how things are going in this country. But in this election, voters also have to judge how things are going in a country thousands of miles away.

WOODRUFF: Bill, why do you think John Kerry has not been able to capitalize more politically on the problems the administration is having in Iraq? Whatever the story says, you still have terrible news coming out of that country almost daily.

SCHNEIDER: Terrible news. Now well over 1,000 Americans being killed. I think because the administration has pursued the line that Iraq is part of the war on terror. And that we are safer, the United States is safer with Saddam Hussein out. John Kerry would argue, wait a minute, the United States is not safer because Iraq has become a haven for terrorists. But that point doesn't seem to have come through quite as dramatically.

WOODRUFF: Any sense of why not? SCHNEIDER: I think the president had a big podium at the Republican convention and he made that argument. I think John Kerry now is arguing that reality in Iraq -- he's arguing too the reality that people are seeing on their screens and I believe that he feels as these stories continue to come out, people will begin to listen him to more carefully.

WOODRUFF: We shall see. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

The Kerry campaign is rolling out a new ad to press its charge that the president's rhetoric on Iraq doesn't match reality. The spot focuses on terror attacks and U.S. deaths in Iraq and promises that Kerry would, quote, "fix the mess and provide new direction."

The Kerry camp says the commercial will be rotated into its current ad buy in battleground states.

John Edwards is substituting for John Kerry on the campaign trail in Iowa now to help the Democratic presidential candidate or nominee get some rest for his clearly ailing vocal cords. As CNN's Bob Franken reports, Kerry did manage to get a few words out about President Bush and Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He had canceled the Iowa part of the day's schedule when he could only speak in a raspy whisper. But John Kerry kept this appointment in Ohio and his voice recovered enough to let him take care of some pressing business.

A response to the upbeat address by Iraq's interim prime minister before the U.S. Congress.

KERRY: The prime minister and the president are here, obviously to put their best face on the policy. But the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations, and the troops all tell a different story.

FRANKEN: The setting was a firehouse, familiar territory, where Kerry could give voice to his recurring theme.

KERRY: America needs leadership that tells the truth.

FRANKEN: Truth and leadership about Iraq, Kerry says again and again, that has been lacking in this administration. From here, he traveled to the neighboring battleground of Pennsylvania for a few other events, larynx willing.

KERRY: Who is this little firefighter right here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Nick.

TAD DEVINE, KERRY CAMPAIGN SR. STRATEGIST: He's got to be campaigning actively as he has been for more than a year now and I expect we'll be seeing a lot of him on the campaign trail right to the end.

FRANKEN: Actually, we'll be seeing a lot less of him in the next several days. He'll be hunkering down at home in Boston and then in Wisconsin. He'll somehow combine resting his vocal cords with intense preparation for the first debate.

Of course, it could have been worse. At least the throat problems hit him a week before the debate. Bob Franken, CNN, Columbus, Ohio.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: President Bush is in the state of Maine this hour for a campaign rally in Bangor. CNN's Elaine Quijano is traveling with the president. Hello, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Judy. Bush aides say that Maine is a competitive state and they call it an example of one of the states where John Kerry should be strong but where they feel they have an opportunity to win. Now, why is that? Let's take a look at four years ago. Back in 2000, Maine went to Al Gore and the percentage at that time was 49 to 44, Al Gore winning by five points. Four electoral votes by the way up for grabs. Then the same is the case today.

But back then, the Bangor area here, as well as rural parts of this state, supported President Bush quite strongly and now the campaign is counting on their support once again. Now part of the reason they believe they can win is because the polls are showing a very tight race. In fact, neck and neck, according to a recent poll by the local papers here. Both John Kerry and President Bush garnering 43 percent. Ralph Nader getting 3 percent.

But at the same time, Bush aides are also pointing out that if President Bush does not carry Maine completely, he still has the opportunity to get at least one electoral vote. They say that is because in the state of Maine, each congressional district gets one electoral vote. There are two congressional districts here and the statewide winner in Maine carries two electoral votes as well.

So Judy, the president's visit here to Maine really underscoring just how close this presidential race is. The president here aggressively campaigning, pushing hard for each and every single vote -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: That's right, Elaine. In fact, only two states in the country where those electoral votes can be split that way. The other is Nebraska, which is very likely to go Republican. Elaine, thank you very much.

Now, another batch of showdown state polls. Our new survey from West Virginia shows Bush leading Kerry by six points among likely voters and by nine points among the wider pool of registered voters. Survey out last week suggested a tighter race.

In Iowa, Bush is two points ahead of Kerry in a Research 2000 poll of likely voters. Bush had a 6-point lead in Iowa in our CNN poll last week.

Is North Carolina a battleground or not? You judge from the latest poll of likely voters that shows Bush with a five-point lead over Kerry in John Edwards' home state.

New tax cut legislation looks like it's headed for victory. Next, bills extending earlier Bush tax cuts are sailing toward passage. We'll have the latest from Capitol Hill.

The political debate here at home over progress in Iraq. I'll talk with our regulars, Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile.

Later, taking a leap for reelection. A Congressman goes over the edge in a new TV ad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With me now here in Washington, former Gore campaign manager, Donna Brazile, and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.

Bay, Donna, we've been talking about Iraq throughout this hour. On the one hand, President Bush saying things are getting better. Prime Minister Allawi of Iraq saying things looking strong.

But we look at the news in this country, and Americans wonder. Bay, John Kerry is now going after the president more aggressively. Is he going to be able to make any headway on this issue?

BUCHANAN: He's doing the right thing, I think, politically, because he knows that this entire election is going to come down on this war. And if he does not cause the people to start questioning Bush's strength as a commander-in-chief, he'll not win.

But I don not think he'll be successful. I think the American people have made their decision. They know it's a war. They believe the president did the right thing. They want to see the president stay with the Iraqis during this tough time.

So, we get up to the elections so that they have a chance of self-determination. So, I think they're with the president and they know it's war, and they know it's very tough times. But I don't think John Kerry can successfully undermine the president's strength of the American people.

BRAZILE: Well, the American people don't have blinders on, Judy. They can see for themselves that the situation in Iraq is still dire and bleak and that our soldiers are still facing insurgents in many of the big cities, including, you know, Baghdad.

So, it's clear to me that this administration want to paint a rosy picture until after the election, and then, at that point, they'll probably say, oh, we got to retool our game plan in order for the Iraqis to hold elections.

But they need to take the blinders off. John Kerry's doing the right thing by saying that George Bush is going in the wrong direction. We need more troops. They've now announced today that they're going to train more troops to go in there.

But Bay, in the last 10 months, we've lost well over half of our so-called coalition of the willing. Those countries are going home; 3,000 troops are going home by the end of the year. So, we're losing support in Iraq. We're not gaining support in Iraq.

BUCHANAN: The president's plan has been very clear. He said, in the beginning of this year, he wants to transfer the powers to the Iraqis. He's done that. We've got a very strong prime minister over there. The Iraqi people have really stepped forward. They're fighting. They're coming from behind, but they're trying to build so that they are strong and that they will have these free elections.

BRAZILE: That's the news that you all want to hear. That's not the news that...

BUCHANAN: ... he's not faltered once in the plan. Everybody said...

BRAZILE: Bay, that's the news that you want us to hear. That's not the news that's taking place on the ground.

BUCHANAN: ... prime minister. Do you think...

BRAZILE: That's not the news that we hear on the ground.

BUCHANAN: Should we withdraw? Should we pull our support...

BRAZILE: No one's saying we should withdraw. What we're saying is that we should redouble our efforts to make sure that we have enough people.

Look, months ago, John Kerry said we should secure our borders. Months ago, John Kerry laid out a detailed plan. He laid it out again this week. Perhaps the president will listen this time and go ahead and put in place a plan that we can win the peace.

BUCHANAN: You know, all the experts out there who are talking about this say the best thing that the Americans do is keep getting further and further behind the curtain so people cannot see them over there. Support them, but let the Iraqis do the fighting. Not to put more American troops, but to get us out of the front lines. And that is what the president's been doing...

BRAZILE: But we have to train those Iraqis.

BUCHANAN: And we've been training them, and it takes time.

BRAZILE: And look, I get my information from Senator Lugar, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator McCain and and Senator Hagel and Senator Graham. I mean, they're the ones who are saying to us this situation is growing dire and bleak.

WOODRUFF: Is any of this Republican criticism, Bay, going to wear through, going to cut through? BUCHANAN: Obviously, it gives fodder to the Democrats. But -- and I don't think the president does not, in any way, deny that there is trouble over there and there's difficult things and things happen. But that's war. We all know that. Totally unpredictable.

And I think the president is trying to work with these people, with the Iraqi leadership, to give them what they need. I don't think he has to go on national television and announce each and every...

BRAZILE: ... we're willing to tell the truth and level with the American people. Look, you cannot win a war with half troops. You've got to know exactly what you're facing on the ground so our troops will have everything they need to bring that situation under control.

BUCHANAN: I think the American people know that the president is on top of this. He knows exactly what's happening. We have the prime minister here this week. He's talking to him. He has his generals he's talking to, and we're moving ahead.

WOODRUFF: Let's talk about flip-flops and these new ads out there. I talked to John Harris of "The Washington Post" a little while ago about his article today saying George Bush has changed his mind, too, but it's John Kerry who is very much on the defensive for flip-flopping.

Donna, you've got this new ad out there by the Republicans. There's a 527 independent ad, both of them showing John Kerry windsurfing, in effect saying he changes his mind with the way the wind blows.

Has an indelible impression now set in with so many voters that this is somebody who doesn't stick to what he believes in?

BRAZILE: You know, four years ago, we had the same situation in the Gore campaign where the Republicans successfully managed to say that Al Gore could not be trusted.

Look, I think the American people just got to look at this and laugh at it and say: Why is George Bush running away from his record? Why is George Bush not telling us what he's done over the last four years?

There's no question these ads are very, I think, you know, hurtful to the Kerry campaign, but I think Kerry can ride this wave and to -- and to sort of turn back the tide against these Republican attack ads.

BUCHANAN: You know, you say the president's run away from his record. The president has been absolute resolute about this war. He knew that he wanted -- he's taken full responsibility for it. He never backed off. And you say he's run away from his record?

John Kerry had a four-day...

BRAZILE: Today, he had 13 positions on why we went to war -- 13 different positions. BUCHANAN: Donna, he has always supported that decision. But I'm telling you, we had four days of a convention where John Kerry didn't mention anything about 20 years of...

BRAZILE: No matter what, he wanted to go to Iraq. That's right. No matter what the circumstance. I understand that, Bay, but John Harris's piece today was absolutely correct. You should read it.

BUCHANAN: Senator Kerry has not even talked about his record in the Senate, because he knows the more that record gets out there, the less likely people will vote for him.

BRAZILE: The more -- you know what, I'm willing to have a debate on his record, because I think his record in the Senate shows once again that this guy has taken tough positions on the environment, tough positions on issues that the American people care about.

BUCHANAN: I think it's...

BRAZILE: He voted for the balanced budget, Bay.

BUCHANAN: I think that's great.

BRAZILE: ... Republicans have...

BUCHANAN: I think it's great that -- I think it's great that you would debate it. I think it's great that you'd debate it. It's too bad that your candidate doesn't wish to debate it.

BRAZILE: Because this election is about the future and Bush still doesn't have a plan about the next four years.

WOODRUFF: But basically, you're saying that these ads, that he -- that the Bush campaign can get away with this.

BUCHANAN: Get away with it? They're completely accurate. They're completely accurate. These same ads were out there, Judy, six months ago. And it's clear...

BRAZILE: Unfortunately they're childish, but they will get away with it.

BUCHANAN: Say whatever you want about them, they are truthful. Nobody is suggesting he hasn't taken all these position.

BRAZILE: You know, I'm going to ask John Kerry to teach me how to windsurf so I can just ride over waves like...

BUCHANAN: But would you wear one of those ridiculous looking outfits that...

WOODRUFF: ... mistake by letting...

BRAZILE: I'm sure it was not purchased at Wal-Mart, Bay.

WOODRUFF: Did he make a mistake in going out there? BRAZILE: You know, I mean, whatever rocks his boat. I mean, if he likes to windsurf...

BUCHANAN: Listen, the president's father had the same mistake of always on that golf cart or in those fancy boats and hit hurt his image. This man's image is hurt, as well.

BRAZILE: We need an ad with the president digging for brush. Maybe we can find the weapons of mass destruction and the budget surplus. That's what we need from...

BUCHANAN: He says it doesn't matter.

WOODRUFF: All right. Why don't they take advice for the two of you?

All right. The women's vote: John Kerry has been well ahead, Donna, with the women's vote most of this year -- and especially, even with married women. Now, we see, and we just had a report from Chuck Todd of "The Hotline," that married women are now, by a significant number of votes, supporting George W. Bush.

What has happened, and is there any way John Kerry can turn it around?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. National security: That's a very important threshold for married women, as well as single women. I think that John Kerry will continue to run strong with women.

He's not winning with women, but he's not losing their support. He doesn't have enough to put him over the top in several of these key battleground states. He will come back and win these women and win their support this fall.

BUCHANAN: You know, it was two months ago he was running eight points ahead with women. And today, he's five points down. George Bush is running five points better with women.

The issue is security. They're concerned about their families, and they will not risk giving their vote to somebody that gives them the feeling thank can't trust in the position of commander-in-chief.

BRAZILE: But they're concerned about their pocketbook, and they know under George Bush...

BUCHANAN: No, they are not voting that, Donna.

BRAZILE: ... it's running on empty. They will, Bay. John Kerry will make that pivot back to the domestic issues, but first, I agree, national security is a very important issue.

BUCHANAN: It's the number one issue, and they will always vote...

WOODRUFF: Donna?

BUCHANAN: ... that first if they feel...

BRAZILE: But there's a (INAUDIBLE) economic security and retirement security, and they know that George Bush leaves them broke and bankrupt.

BUCHANAN: Doesn't look like it...

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Donna, I read a quote in a newspaper yesterday, I believe, where a woman voter said I really wanted to vote for John Kerry, but when he didn't defend himself against those Swift Boat ad, I thought he's not going to defend me and my children against terrorism or whatever.

BRAZILE: Well, you know, I have to agree with her. And that's why you see John Kerry now coming on strong. He's found his voice again, Judy.

BUCHANAN: He's found his voice?

BRAZILE: Absolutely, you know, it went out for a half a day, Bay.

BUCHANAN: Listen, he's got 40 days...

BRAZILE: His political voice. His political voice.

WOODRUFF: His political voice, all right.

BUCHANAN: He's in real trouble...

BRAZILE: No, he's not.

BUCHANAN: ... because security and terrorism is the issue in this election.

BRAZILE: Bay, don't go to sleep. The next 40 days will turn the world upside down.

BUCHANAN: It's going to have to.

WOODRUFF: We hate for them to stop talking. We always hate for them to stop talking. Bay Buchanan, Donna Brazile, see you next Thursday.

All right. Well, it looks like an election year tax cut victory for the president. Up next, extensions of earlier tax cuts look like they're headed for success. Joe Johns reports from Capitol Hill next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Well, despite a ballooning deficit, a five-year extension of several popular middle class tax cuts appears headed for congressional approval. Election year dynamics could certainly come into play for the House and Senate upcoming votes.

CNN congressional correspondent Joe Johns has more from Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Extending the so-called "family friendly" tax cuts would be a victory for the president and his allies in Congress and a potential crowd pleaser during an election year, even with record setting deficits.

REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MO), MAJORITY WHIP: If you give people more of their money to invest in their own future, that's going to grow the economy and that's the way to work out of the deficit.

JOHNS: The bill extends the $1,000 a child tax credit, keeps tax breaks for married couples in place and preserves the 10 percent tax bracket for low-income couples. The bill would cost $146 billion over five years.

Democrats released an analysis they requested from the Congressional Budget Office, adding in administration tax and spending proposals plus the cost of the war. The total, a 10-year deficit of $3.3 trillion. Republicans dismissed the analysis as politically motivated.

Still, some Democrats fought and lost a battle to pay for the tax cut extensions.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: One of the most important things that Americans are missing, and the majority doesn't care about, is who pays for these tax cuts.

JOHNS: But Democrats also face the political reality that it can be risky to oppose tax cuts for the middle class weeks from an election.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: This is political. You know that. My advice to my colleagues is, when they're dealing politically on the floor, you deal with it any way you need to deal with it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: This is the fourth substantial tax cut plan of the Bush presidency and it is moving very quickly. Congressional negotiators finished work on it just last night. Already on the House floor today -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Tax cuts, election year. The two seem to be synonymous. How quickly, Joe, can this get to the president's desk for his signature?

JOHNS: Well, it certainly looks like they're going to try to put it on his desk very quickly. As I said, the House working on it this evening. Also, there's potential at least for the United States Senate to take it up this evening as well. That's still a bit uncertain. It could spill over into next week. Of course, the signing of that bill is up to the president and his advisers. And they'll probably do it in an advantageous time -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And as you point out, it's the Democrats joining the Republicans in getting this passed.

JOHNS: That's right.

WOODRUFF: All right, Joe, thank you very much.

Well, politics sometimes makes men do strange things. We have a prime example coming up. Here's a small preview and a hint. You can use the words "bungee jump" now and "candidate" in one sentence. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

WOODRUFF: A new political ad has a candidate reaching new heights, or is it sinking to new depths? Any way you look at it, there's lots of altitude and attitude involved. Take a look at this. The ad stars Congressman David Wu, a Democrat from Oregon who is seeking reelection. He opposes privatizing Social Security, comparing such a move to jumping off a bridge.

Wu obviously subscribes to the "action speak louder than words" philosophy. He takes a leap off of a bridge himself to illustrate his point. We believe he survived. And we wonder how many takes the ad took. Let's find out and tell you tomorrow.

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

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