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'The State of the Union'; 'Promises, Promises'; '90-Second Pop'

Aired September 24, 2004 - 07:29   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: It's half past the hour now on this AMERICAN MORNING. In just a few minutes, we're going to take a look at the latest snapshot of the election. We'll go state by state with changes in the Bush and Kerry columns and see who the electoral map is shifting this morning.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: What about, 40 days and counting, are we, 39?


HEMMER: It's getting closer. Kelly Wallace is back today. Her series on election issues continues again today. We'll look at whether or not there is a plan on the table to improve health care for the 45 million Americans without medical insurance. We'll get to Kelly in a moment.

But first, she's doing other things across the room now with the headlines.

Good morning.

COLLINS: Good morning, girl.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Double duty today. Good morning again to you. Good morning, everyone.

U.S. officials are stepping up counterterrorism efforts, saying they are increasingly concerned about a potential attack from al Qaeda. Attorney General John Ashcroft held an unusual conference call yesterday with all 93 U.S. attorneys. He stressed the need to keep alert in the days leading up to the November elections.

A popular Muslim lecturer from Fairfax, Virginia, may turn himself in today after being named in a federal indictment. He is accused of encouraging at least five men to join the Taliban in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks. His attorney says he will deny all those charges.

In Florida, the woman at the center of a right-to-die dispute will be kept alive until a Supreme Court ruling is finalized. Yesterday, the court struck down what has become known as "Terri's Law." It gave Governor Jeb Bush the power to keep Terri Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged woman, hooked up to a feeding tube. The governor's office has until October 4 to request a hearing. And panic in Haiti. Desperate flood survivors fighting one another to get a share of emergency supplies. Riot police are now posted at several of the island's distribution centers. At least 1,100 people were killed. Nearly 300,000 people have been left with almost nothing by flooding from Tropical Storm Jeanne. The latest on Jeanne's forecast is coming up. Heartbreaking news coming out of Haiti.

Heidi -- back to you.

COLLINS: Boy, that's for sure. Kelly Wallace, thanks so much.

Today, we begin a weekly segment called "The State of the Union." We're looking at the political map in which states would go to President Bush and which ones would go to John Kerry if the election were held today.

CNN's newest research shows President Bush has pulled ahead in two key states, Iowa and New Hampshire, giving him 33 states, the red states, and 301 electoral votes, more than enough to win the election.

Iowa's seven electoral votes had been up for grabs. But this week's CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows the president has opened a 6 percentage point lead on Senator Kerry. Last August, the numbers were just the opposite.

The president has solidified his leads in West Virginia and Nevada, which together have 10 electoral votes.

And now to Florida. CNN's poll shows George Bush up by 3 percentage points among likely voters. The Quinnipiac University poll, also released yesterday, show the president 8 percentage points ahead of Senator Kerry among Florida's registered voters.

So, is CNN's new electorate map a red flag for John Kerry? We're going to talk now with two political experts to sort this out for us.

In Des Moines, Iowa, this morning, David Yepsen from the "Des Moines Register."

David, good morning to you.


COLLINS: And in Miami, Florida, Tom Fiedler, executive editor of the "Miami Herald."

Good morning to you as well.


COLLINS: David, I want to begin with you, if I could. Let's look at your state. As we just said, Bush has 301 electoral votes. Because Iowa, along with New Hampshire, flipped into the Bush column, what do you think happened? YEPSEN: Well, there are a couple things that are going on here. First of all, President Bush has been here a lot. Senator Kerry has not been here much. He had to cancel an appearance yesterday because of his sore throat.

I think secondly, it's -- President Bush is a better cultural fit for Iowa voters than is Senator Kerry, I just think the images of President Bush on the campaign trail, what he likes to do, you know, the way he talks to people. There are a lot more people in Iowa that use a chain saw than go windsurfing. And so, I think on cultural questions, I think President Bush is making a better connection here at this point.

COLLINS: All right. If we have time we'll get back to that windsurfing issue here in just a moment.

Tom, I want to get to you now. A brand new poll, a Florida poll that is, that shows President Bush leading by a slim margin in your state as well among likely voters, ahead 49-46. Why? I mean, does this -- do you think it has anything to do with the president's performance in the aftermath of the hurricanes there?

FIEDLER: I absolutely I think it certainly has an impact there. The president has been careful to come down here in the immediate aftermath in each of the three hurricanes so far. And, of course, we have another one headed our way for this weekend, or at least a strong chance of it.


FIEDLER: So to the extent that this gives him the opportunity to exercise the symbols of leadership, it's certainly helpful.

One of the internal questions in that Quinnipiac poll that you referred to showed that, I believe the number was 78 percent of those surveyed said they had a positive impression of President Bush's handling of the hurricane. That has got to help pull up the rest of his numbers.

COLLINS: Yes, it's interesting looking at some video of him helping with handing some relief supplies there.


COLLINS: Let me get to the issue, if I could, gentlemen, of Iraq now. We saw yesterday interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi addressing the joint meeting of Congress. The reception was quite good. He did address the problems in his country, but pretty much pointed to progress and how democracy will win out there. Of course, that's what President Bush has been saying all along.

Kerry came out, though and said, no, that's not the case, and that's not what is happening in that country. Then we also heard Cheney say he was appalled by the disrespect that he thought Kerry showed to the interim prime minister.

How big of an issue is Iraq really going to be when voters physically walk into that voting booth? Let me begin with you, David.

YEPSEN: I think Iraq and terrorism are huge issues. The polls all show that that issue is either on a par or even above the economy and jobs as an issue voters are scared about.

You know, Heidi, I think one thing that's happened here that's affecting the American election were the terrorism incidents in Russia. When those images of those children being killed occurred, I think that resonated with Americans. Here in Iowa, people were sending their kids to school at that same time. I think it scared Americans...

COLLINS: Well, they were calling it Russia's September 11.

YEPSEN: Exactly. And I think it had an effect on America. I think it raised the profile of the terrorism issue. I think it made people more concerned about it. That's an issue that President Bush has always held the high ground on against John Kerry.

And so, I think that helped President Bush solidify his argument that he is better capable of dealing with the security questions. Iraq is part of that.

COLLINS: All right, Tom, let me get to you quickly about the debates coming up. Obviously, the debate will be in Miami, the first one as a matter of fact. How big of a difference do you think that's going to make, at least in your state?

FIEDLER: Frankly, I think it's going to be decisive. Floridians, as you know, haven't been paying a lot of attention to the back and forth of the campaign because of the hurricanes. And to the extent that Kerry is just starting to -- he is restarting his campaign here this week. I think he is going to have to put a lot of chips in the middle of the table on the debate.

Floridians will, I believe, pay particular attention to it, in large part because it's down here in Florida. And I think it's the best opportunity that John Kerry has to start clawing his way back up to even in the race. It's absolutely, I think, the lynchpin on which this election could swing here in Florida.

COLLINS: Well, gentlemen, we certainly appreciate your time this morning. The first installment of "The State of the Union" for us today. David Yepsen and Tom Fiedler, once again, thanks so much.

YEPSEN: Thank you.

FIEDLER: Glad to be here.

HEMMER: One of the biggest complaints of voters during a presidential election is that they do not hear enough about the issues. Today, we conclude our series, "Promises, Promises." And the focus today is health care.

Once again, Kelly Wallace back with us here.

And good morning.

WALLACE: Good morning.

Health care, a top issue for voters, and with good reason. Would you believe this? Health care costs are rising five times as fast as wages are growing.

And so, our question today: What is each candidate promising to do about your health care? And can they keep those promises?


WALLACE (voice over): Neither candidate can dispute these facts: 45 million Americans without health insurance, health care premiums skyrocketing, up 64 percent since 2000, ammunition for the challenger.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president has had four years to just talk to you about it, but he doesn't even have a plan.

WALLACE: The president fires a few shots of his own.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I'm running against a fellow who has put out a health care plan that is massive. It is complicated. It is a blueprint to have the government control your health care.

WALLACE: The rhetoric from both men exceeds the reality, but still two very different approaches: a limited role for the federal government from Mr. Bush versus a more expansive one from Senator Kerry.

KERRY: I have a plan that will lower the cost of health care for all people who have it today.

WALLACE: The senator pledges to slash health care premiums by up to $1,000 per year by having the federal government pick up the tab for the most expensive claims, making federal health plans available to individuals and small businesses, and offering a 50 percent tax credit to small businesses providing coverage.

The reality? A hefty price tag: $653 billion over 10 years according to the Kerry campaign, $1.5 trillion according to Kerry's critics. And some economists say the Kerry plan might not encourage Americans to be more price-conscious about health care.

BUSH: One way we can control health care costs is to allow small businesses to share risk.

WALLACE: The president promises to lower costs by pooling together small businesses, providing tax-free accounts for families to save money for out-of-pocket medical costs, and offering tax credits of up to $3,000 to help low-income families purchase coverage.

The reality? Mr. Bush's plan is cheaper, costing 145 billion over 10 years, but far less reaching, covering just 11 million not- now-insured, fewer than half the newly-covered under Kerry's proposal. And the president's plan could result in healthy and affluent consumers taking some of their money out of traditional insurance and putting it in private tax-free accounts. Critics say this could raise costs for everybody else.


And also to turn those promises into policy, both men must contend with Congress, a $42 billion deficit, and then this reality, Bill: that rising health care costs show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

HEMMER: It's been a good series. You know, so often we hear, hey, let's get to the meat of it. And we are here. So thanks for that, Kelly.

WALLACE: And the response, I'm hearing from people, people want to hear about issues. People are watching.

HEMMER: Yes, they want to know.

WALLACE: They want to know.

HEMMER: Forty days and counting.


HEMMER: Also, the first of three presidential debates is taking place next Thursday night, a week from yesterday, September 30 at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida. Our live coverage will start that evening right around 8:00 Eastern Time. But also CNN's AMERICAN MORNING will be in Florida. We'll be in Ohio. We'll be all over the place for the coming election.

Here is Heidi.

COLLINS: Not we; you! Correct that a little bit.


HEMMER: In a moment here, should you be going to man's best friend for medical advice? Only their nose knows. So we hear. And we will explain.

COLLINS: Yes. Oh, look at them!

Plus, the 90-second poppers look at Martha Stewart's post-jail TV career. Do you think we have a new Donald Trump-like star in the making? We'll check it out coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


COLLINS: Man's best friend might be a better friend than we thought. Some dogs can smell cancer. Researchers have known about cases where a pet dog identified its owner's cancer long before medicine caught up with it. Now, British scientists have tested that theory by training dogs to identify urine samples containing cancer. Dogs were right more than half the time.

HEMMER: Wow! Who needs Gupta?

COLLINS: Aw! We need Gupta.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Or those -- what do they call them? Those body scans? They cost thousands. You just go next door to get Fido to sniff you.

HEMMER: That's right. Come on over here, buddy.

COLLINS: It's a 50-50 chance.

CAFFERTY: There you go.

We have not heard a lot from Mrs. Kerry since she told a reporter to "shove it" back there right before the Democratic Convention. She got a little quiet after that.

But all of a sudden, she's everywhere. She is saying, for example, it wouldn't surprise her if Osama bin Laden was caught in the next month or so just in time for the election. A little cynicism there, I think.

She says she's embarrassed about receiving tax cuts advocated by President Bush. Ironically, her husband, Senator Kerry, could have voted against extending those tax cuts yesterday, but instead the senator from Massachusetts didn't vote at all, despite voting against the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. But he didn't bother to vote at all yesterday. But I digress.

The question is this: Is Mrs. John Kerry helping or hurting her husband's campaign? A few opinions on this deal.

HEMMER: I bet!

CAFFERTY: Harris in East Hartford, Connecticut: "She's a plus to Senator Kerry's campaign, and she's got what it takes to be a first lady: money."

Reg in Thunder Bay, Ontario: "If she helps anymore he'll have trouble being elected dog catcher."

Virl in Hertford, North Carolina: "Teresa Kerry is a wonderfully frank and honest person. True, an oddity in the political realm. What is hurting John Kerry is stupid questions from the likes of you."

Heidi in Jacksonville, Florida: "Teresa Kerry has been a radical activist of some sort all of her life. Look it up on Google."

And Chris in Columbia, Tennessee: "There are several more she should have told to 'shove it.' She should start with you, Jack."


HEMMER: We knew you were going to touch a nerve with that one.


HEMMER: Yes, you knew it.

CAFFERTY: That's why I have thick skin.



CAFFERTY: And I've been told that before, just in case you're interested.

COLLINS: I like that you read a lot.

CAFFERTY: A time or two.

COLLINS: Because you don't have to do that. I like that you read those.

CAFFERTY: Hey, it's what the people are -- it's the voice of the people.

HEMMER: Listen, I'm going to be -- I'm not going to watch football this weekend. I'm going to wait for your program with Andy Serwer.

CAFFERTY: Oh, well, good.


CAFFERTY: And since you bring it up, and I had totally forgotten to read this thing, the -- well, what do you want, you know?

HEMMER: That's what I'm here for.

CAFFERTY: I'm an old person. The state of American politics -- thank you, Bill -- is sometimes described as laughable, as are certain portions of this telethon in search of a disease that we do between 7:00 and 10:00 in the morning. That's why the folks over at Comedy Central's "Daily Show" like politics.

On "IN THE MONEY" this week, we're going to talk with one of the nutcases from that program, Stephen Colbert. He is a correspondent on "The Daily Show," a funny guy.

HEMMER: Oh, yes.

CAFFERTY: And he's written this book, and he's got some thoughts on this CBS thing. And I'm looking forward to talking to him. Saturday at 1:00, Sunday at 3:00. Please tune in, I need the money.

COLLINS: All right. We'll do that. Jack Cafferty, thanks so much.

Still ahead this morning, it's Ben and Jen, part two. But this time J.Lo has been replaced. "90-Second Pop" is coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


COLLINS: It's "90-Second Pop" for a Friday. The round-up of the usual suspects now. Jessica Shaw from "Entertainment Weekly," B.J. Sigesmund, staff editor for "US Weekly," and "New York" magazine contributing editor, Sarah Bernard.

Guys, good morning.




COLLINS: It's Friday, thank goodness.

Sarah, let's start with you. Martha Stewart, OK, she hasn't gone to jail yet.

BERNARD: Not quite.

COLLINS: But she has been talking already about what will happen afterwards, which would be could be some sort of reality TV thing.

BERNARD: This is my favorite story that we've had in a long time.

COLLINS: You are comparing her to Donald Trump already.

BERNARD: I know. See, it's like they've skipped over the jail part, and they're going right into her success afterwards...


BERNARD: ... which is exactly what she wants. Oh, you think it's her hair?

SHAW: Yes.

BERNARD: Well...

COLLINS: A lot of people are going to be upset about this.

BERNARD: Well, you know, I think we predicted this on this couch a couple of months ago when we said that the only thing left for her to do was to try to resurrect herself with a reality show. And she has so smartly teamed up with Mark Burnett, the guy behind "Survivor" and "The Apprentice."

COLLINS: He's kind of successful.

BERNARD: He's a little successful. But the thing is this is not necessarily going to be a reality show. He has said that he signed on to revitalize what she already does. So, he might just sort of figure out an interesting way to have her still as the how-to homemaker expert.

And the amazing thing about this is how good it has been for both of them. Her stock has risen 5 percent this week. And he, believe it or not, has been wanting to get out of the reality show ghetto for a while. He actually has two shows coming up this season that are scripted shows for WB. So, he's actually trying to move on in another direction.

SIGESMUND: I have to say, I do I not see this happening. I do not believe this news. I just...

BERNARD: Why not?

SIGESMUND: I just feel like Martha Stewart spent decades building and controlling her image. She is the most controlled woman. Why would she let Mark Burnett come in and tape her life and create a show around her?

BERNARD: But I don't think that's what they're going to do.

SIGESMUND: No, no, no. Donald Trump -- remember, Donald Trump basically has a cameo every week on "The Apprentice." He's like the host of that show. You cannot -- the show is not built around him. It's all about those -- the competitors on the show.


SHAW: I think the only thing that would make Martha interesting would be if he actually went and covered her life as a reality show. I mean, I don't really want to see her baking cookies anymore.


SHAW: I want to see life in jail.


BERNARD: Well, that's what I was saying (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about that.

COLLINS: That's a different story. All right, let's get back to another issue now. Do we actually really have another Bennifer case going on?

SHAW: It seems that we do.

COLLINS: I mean, seriously, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner is who we're talking about.

SHAW: Yes. I don't think it's going to be nearly as scandalous as the former Bennifer situation. Jennifer Garner is obviously from "Alias." And they met on the set of "Daredevil," which was his mediocre superhero movie. And they are together. Their cars have been spotted in the same driveway. And so...

COLLINS: So people still very much care about this kind of thing, right?

SIGESMUND: What is so interesting about this to me is that Ben Affleck learned from his relationship with Jennifer Lopez about the media and how they were going to cover him incessantly. In this relationship with this Jennifer is a complete 180 from the last one. This one it's all about privacy. It's all about I'll meet you at your house or I'll park my car...


SIGESMUND: ... a little ways away from your house.

SHAW: About four blocks away, yes.



SIGESMUND: And Ben Affleck...

COLLINS: I guess that's what you have to do.

SHAW: But, you know, it's the most important lesson. That's -- I mean, both of them will not benefit from a relationship that is covered so much in the media. It can only hurt your career.

COLLINS: maybe they'll just stay together. There is an odd concept.

BERNARD: No, they won't, because they date every single co-star each one has. So, I don't really think...

COLLINS: That's not a good history then, you're right.

All right, let me end with you, B.J. Some interesting front-page news today...


COLLINS: ... about Cynthia Nixon of "Sex and the City." Tell us what's going on. "Sex and the City," of course.

SIGESMUND: There is breaking news with Cynthia Nixon. On both the "New York Daily News" and "New York Post" this morning is a report that Cynthia Nixon is involved in a relationship with a woman.

SHAW: Clearly front-page newsworthy, because there is nothing else going on in the world, you know.

COLLINS: I was just going to say. Is that it? SIGESMUND: Yes. No, this is it. The "Daily News" has a quote from Cynthia Nixon that they got yesterday or they asked her about rumors that she was involved with a woman. You know, Cynthia Nixon won an Emmy earlier this week, so there has been a lot of talk about her this week.

COLLINS: That's right.

SIGESMUND: And she said, my private life is private, but I have nothing to hide. And I will say this: I am very happy. It was pretty much a confirmation. And the "New York Post" has also run with this story. And so, it's out there. We have another gay actress.


BERNARD: Too bad "Sex and the City" is over.

SHAW: I don't know. I'm surprised this is making such huge news. This is -- she's in a relationship. Big deal.

SIGESMUND: Well, people's sex lives are always interesting, and that is obviously...

COLLINS: If you're a celebrity.

SIGESMUND: ... what drives a lot of entertainment and celebrity journalism.

SHAW: It's not like she's dating Ben Affleck or anything.

COLLINS: It will be interesting. You're right. OK, Jessica Shaw, B.J. Sigesmund and Sarah, Bernard. Thanks as always, guys. I sure do appreciate it. Have a great weekend.

Bill -- back over to you.

HEMMER: And, Heidi, speaking of that weekend, a lot of news on the weather over the weekend. Ivan is taking another swipe at the Gulf Coast. And meanwhile, Jeanne is still out there in Florida yet again maybe in the sights for yet another hurricane. The National Hurricane Center, we'll go there live at the top of the hour here. There are new coordinates on this storm. We'll get to it after this.



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