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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Candidates Continue Debate Preparation; Reaching Out to Showdown State Voters
Aired September 28, 2004 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: The presidential debaters of 2004, will all their training today pay off on Thursday night?
KAREN HUGHES, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I believe at the end of Thursday night, we'll have a full debate of the issues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a volunteer on behalf of President Bush.
ANNOUNCER: Phoning it in. We'll go behind the scenes to see how Republicans and Democrats are reaching out to showdown state voters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like some information on Kerry, ma'am?
ANNOUNCER: They've got the issues. We'll calculate the bottom lines of the Bush and Kerry economic plans.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
While the presidential candidates work on their debating skills behind closed doors, they're letting their allies and their latest ads speak for them publicly.
With just two days to go until the first Bush-Kerry face-off, we begin with CNN's Frank Buckley. He's been traveling with John Kerry in Wisconsin.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator John Kerry remained out of view at this resort in rural Wisconsin as he prepared for Thursday's debate.
SUSAN RICE, SENIOR KERRY FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: He's marshaling the facts. He's marshaling the arguments. And the American people are going to be very impressed when they see him on Thursday night.
BUCKLEY: While Kerry prepared, his running mate, Senator John Edwards, campaigned in Pennsylvania, Edwards pressing the campaign's effort to try to frame the upcoming debate as a critique of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know what needs to be done in Iraq, but the honest truth is, in order to do it, we're going to have to have a fresh start with a new president. It cannot be done. George Bush made this mess and he can't fix it.
BUCKLEY: The Kerry campaign also began airing an ad in battleground states featuring President Bush on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: There he goes again. George Bush said Iraq was mission accomplished. Sixteen months later, he still doesn't get it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUCKLEY: And while new polling suggests a majority of Americans believe things are going badly in Iraq, it also suggests voters may not be quite ready to change commanders in chief. When asked who they trust more as commander in chief, 56 percent chose President Bush, while only 40 percent chose Senator Kerry. Kerry advisers say the debate will sway voters their way when the senator appears side by side with the president.
RICE: President Bush has given the American people no idea how he's going to get us out of this mess. It's that reality that the president is trying to obscure by making up ridiculous charges about John Kerry's past and his positions on Iraq. The public knows what's going on. And when they have a chance to see the two of them face-to- face, it will be absolutely crystal clear that the president has just been playing games.
BUCKLEY: We're told by Susan Rice that Senator Kerry is fired up, as she put it, as he prepares for this debate behind closed doors. The campaign believes this is yet another opportunity to put President Bush on the defensive about Iraq. And they believe this is an issue that, despite what some recent polling shows, is still a winner for them.
Meanwhile, as we say, Senator Kerry not making any public appearances here in Wisconsin today. He continues his debate prep, Judy, behind closed doors -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Frank, are they giving you any information about how he's preparing, any details of that?
BUCKLEY: Well, just some stuff that we've talked about previously, that he's been doing a lot of reading, looking over speeches that President Bush has made in the past. He's looked at some videos of past debate performances involving President Bush, and then engaging in some of that mock debate that both sides always engage in, in this case, Greg Craig, the former White House, Clinton White House special counsel, and playing the role of President Bush, Bob Shrum playing the role of Jim Lehrer, and Senator Kerry playing the role of Senator Kerry.
WOODRUFF: OK. We're going to be watching and trying to figure out everything we can right up until debate night. Frank, thank you very much.
And now to President Bush's debate training regimen and how Republicans are testing lines of attack.
CNN's Elaine Quijano is with the president in Crawford, Texas.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Judy.
President Bush is spending time at his ranch here in Crawford, Texas, a place where aides say it gives him a chance to clear his head and crystallize his thoughts in advance of the debates.
Now, the president, we understand, is no longer doing the formal sessions, that he had a few of those over the weekend, where he had the help of New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg, who was playing the role of Senator Kerry, as he did four years ago during the debate prep against Al Gore. But we are told that the president now really is sort of in an informal conversational preparation mode, going over questions, we understand, with adviser Karen Hughes.
But just a short time ago, we actually learned about a change to the president's schedule, White House spokesman Scott McClellan saying the president is going to take a tour of some of the affected areas, the latest areas to be affected by the latest hurricane, Hurricane Jeanne.
Now, this, unfortunately, is getting to be a familiar routine for the president. He's done this before, visiting these ravaged areas with Hurricanes Frances, Charley and Ivan. So the president will be making that stop before he heads off to the debate on Thursday.
Now, in the meantime, the Bush campaign launching a new ad today, a new ad called "Peace and Security," this ad essentially saying that John Kerry tried to cut billions of dollars for intelligence budgets and trying to reinforce the idea that John Kerry would not be an effective leader in the war on terrorism. Now, the Kerry camp charges that the Bush team is using the politics of fear, they say, to cover up what they say is the administration's mistakes in Iraq.
Now, the back-and-forth continues today. Also, White House spokesman Scott McClellan criticized John Kerry for putting a time frame on withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is the wrong message to send to our allies and to the Iraqi people and most importantly to the enemy. All the enemy would have to do is wait until we would withdraw troops and then the next day, they could continue their efforts to disrupt what is going to in Iraq. (END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: Now back to the debate preparations.
Aides say that the word they used to describe how the president is feeling is comfortable, specifically comfortable with the pace of how these preparations have been going on. This is not a sort of rushed feeling. The president has been preparing since about June, when the beginnings of the research was going on, the president now very comfortable, Judy, we understand from aides, with the rate at which things are going. And now they say it's just a matter of fine- tuning -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: So, Elaine, this trip to Florida, this is, in essence, moving up earlier the trip was going to take anyway for the debate. Is that right?
QUIJANO: Well, we don't have all of the details, but we understand that some time Wednesday, obviously, that would be the time frame. They've been concerned about not wanting to, as they put it, overload the president in those days, those moments before the debates.
But, obviously, this is something that the president wants to show there is strong leadership on, that the federal resources are in place and will be in place to help the victims there -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: OK, Elaine Quijano in Crawford, Texas, thank you very much.
Speaking of Crawford, Texas, we can tell you about a snub for the president in his own backyard. The small weekly newspaper that serves Crawford and bills itself as Bush's hometown paper is endorsing John Kerry. In its editorial, "The Lone Star Iconoclast" cited its concerns about Bush policies on Iraq, the economy and Social Security, and it praised Kerry's political and combat experience. The newspaper endorsed Bush in 2000 and previously editorialized in support of the Iraq war.
Checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily," John Edwards and Dick Cheney both have multiple stops today on the campaign trail. As we reported, Edwards held a town hall this morning in Pittsburgh before heading to New Jersey for two events later today. New Jersey has been a reliable Democratic state in recent elections, but a poll there lately showed a close race between Bush and Kerry.
Dick Cheney is visiting the Midwest battlegrounds today. He had a stop this morning in Dubuque, Iowa, and from there, he headed to an evening rally in Wisconsin.
If he watches television, Cheney will see a new Democratic National Committee ad now airing in Iowa and Wisconsin. The spot tries to highlight the failure to capture Osama bin Laden by using news media headlines and actual quotes by the president.
Political ads, we know, crucial weapons for the candidates, but the campaigns also are calling up reinforcements in the showdown states.
CNN's Dana Bash watched the recruitment process in action in Ohio.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is southwestern Ohio. This is Bush country.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I not only want your vote. I want your help.
BASH: It's what Mr. Bush calls fertilizing the grassroots at a rally of 45,000-plus in West Chester Township.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voter registration, change of address.
BASH: Outside the gates, volunteers follow a Bush formula, take advantage of all these energetic Republicans, pools of phone bankers with scripts and cell phones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just calling on behalf of President Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seventy-two hours before the election...
BASH: Kevin Perkins (ph) served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After going through the military, I think everyone should get out there and vote and do their part.
BASH: He registered to vote and volunteer for the president on his way into the rally.
(on camera): This is all part of what Bush adviser Karl Rove calls the mobilization election, with so few undecideds, keep in contact with voters on your side. Then make sure they actually vote.
BASH (voice-over): The president won Butler County by 30 percent last time. Winning as big if not bigger here is essential to winning Ohio this year. West Chester is a booming excerpt wedged between Cincinnati and Dayton, ranches morphing into housing developments, fields into office parks, construction everywhere, a population explosion in GOP territory.
Republicans are mobilizing hundreds of volunteers at events like this last weekend to stuff envelopes and go door to door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're supporting the president. We're coming out trying to turn out the base.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the presidential election were being held today, for whom would you vote?
BASH: There is competition. Democrats know they're outnumbered in this part of the state, but they're fighting and organizing nonetheless. Their Butler County headquarters are next door in Middletown, a more depressed town. Al Gore pulled resources from Ohio and lost. Kerry aides promise a fight to the end. In Butler County, the Democrats' goal is keeping the Bush margin down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we can't take Butler County, we can add enough votes to help the state of Ohio for Senator Kerry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is everyone registered to vote?
BASH: The calendar is a driving force. Back at the Bush rally, looking to register every last prospect before a fast-approaching deadline and get people red for a lot more of this, that final Election Day turnout push just five weeks away.
Dana Bash, CNN, West Chester, Ohio.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Dana.
Well, voting by absentee ballot began today in Ohio. Nationwide, our new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll suggests more Americans may vote early this year; 1 percent of likely voters surveyed said they have already cast a ballot and 17 percent said they would vote before Election Day. Of course, most Americans still plan to vote, they say, the old-fashioned way on November 2.
As the presidential candidates prepare to face off over homeland security, among other things, is Congress doing its part to make America safer? We'll have an update on the political maneuvering over intelligence reform.
Also ahead, a sequel of sorts to "Journeys With George." Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi talks about turning her lens on the Democrats.
Up next, Republican Mel Martinez on his Senate bid in Florida. Can he help deliver the state for his party?
With 35 days until the election, exactly five weeks, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
WOODRUFF: Several new polls out on Florida. The latest Quinnipiac poll indicating the Senate place in Florida between Democrat Betty Castor and Republican Mel Martinez is a virtual tossup.
Last week, I spoke to Betty Castor about her bid to replace Democratic Senator Bob Graham, who is retiring.
Joining me now back here in Washington, Mel Martinez.
Thank you for coming by. We appreciate it.
MEL MARTINEZ (R), FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Great to be with you. Good to be with you.
WOODRUFF: Your state is hit four times now by hurricanes, devastation across the state. So many people, a number of people have been killed. People have lost power. They've lost their home. Are people even able to focus politics?
MARTINEZ: And if they are, it would be crazy. I think it's impossible for people right now, under the circumstances, to be thinking about politics.
In 40 years, over 40 years I've lived in Florida, I've never seen anything like this. It's been unbelievable. And the level of human tragedy is really great. And so I think it is going to take a few days for people to get back to normal and then begin to pay attention to politics.
WOODRUFF: How do you cut through at a time like this?
MARTINEZ: Well, you really don't try. At this time, by the time we start campaigning, we have to stop because people's minds are on something else. And obviously the safety and all those kinds of issues really come first. So it's been really difficult to do an earnest campaign.
WOODRUFF: I mentioned the Quinnipiac poll last week which had this race a virtual tossup. Separately, there's a CNN/"USA Today" poll which has her, Betty Castor, running about five or six points ahead of you. Where do you see this race right now?
MARTINEZ: I think it's a virtual tossup. I think, no matter how you slice it, it's about even. And I think that it will be decided over the next 30 days, obviously, about 35 days until the election.
So -- and I think really that as people -- she's a little better known than I am having, been in the statewide office before, which I've never held. And so I think it is understandable that she is going to be a little bit ahead. But I think it's either a tossup or with her with a slight lead.
WOODRUFF: When I talked to Betty Castor last week, I asked her about the differences between the two of you, asked her about some of the ads that you're running. She said the main difference between the two of you is that she is an independent. She's going to vote independently. In fact, she said she sometimes agrees with President Bush. And when she does, that will be her position.
MARTINEZ: Well, I don't think that that's exactly her record in public life.
But, at the same time, I think I am someone who is reasonable, who in the primary was accused as being once a Democrat and too supportive of Democrats over my lifetime. So the fact is that I think I'm not someone who is going to be painted into a corner of being unreasonable and being not a traditional Florida senator, which is going to be someone who is going to reach to all Floridians. So I'll be able to represent all Floridians. WOODRUFF: Mel Martinez, something that came up on the campaign trail in recent days, you called the federal agents who seized Elian Gonzalez armed thugs. And this was in an e-mail.
MARTINEZ: No, no, no. Let me be clear about that.
WOODRUFF: Your campaign has backed away from this.
MARTINEZ: No, no. I never said that. And it was something that was put out by someone in the office and immediately withdrawn, as we saw what had happened.
WOODRUFF: So it wasn't your words.
MARTINEZ: Absolutely not my words and never would be my words.
WOODRUFF: How did this happen?
MARTINEZ: Well, it's someone who was writing for the campaign. And it's inappropriate that they should use those words. Those are inappropriate words. I would never have used them.
And I was in public life when that event took place, and I never used language like that. Those were law enforcement officers. I could have disagreed with the policy judgments that were made, but never with the officers carrying out their responsibilities.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about the issue of the minimum wage. You have opposed raising the minimum wage. But we know that, on November 2, there is going to be a ballot measure raising the minimum wage by $1 an hour. Supporters say this would benefit something like 850,000 Florida workers, but could this affect your race given your position, because you've got a lot of organized labor on the other side of it?
MARTINEZ: Let me say, first of all, that I'm someone who came up the hard way and I know what it's like to work for a minimum wage job.
I also know that that's not the answer to anyone's problems or life dream, would may be to own a home, maybe to build a family life. The fact is, at a time when we're trying to grow jobs, to increase the minimum wage would have the effect of thwarting that and not keeping up with the kind of job growth we want to see in Florida.
So it's not out of a lack of compassion for the difficult lives that many people in Florida have. In fact, in a tourist-based economy, it's a difficult thing, because too many people work at minimum-wage jobs. What we have to do is, through training, through education, to help people get a better life, have a better opportunity, to move along in life. Head of households that are working on a minimum wage will never, regardless of whether it's $1 more or $1 less, are going to be able to fulfill the dreams of their families with a minimum wage job.
So we have to move people, transition them into a better life.
WOODRUFF: You're not concerned this is an issue that could work against you on November 2?
MARTINEZ: Well, if I was something who didn't care, who didn't have a heart for this, who didn't him in his own life know what it's like to work for minimum wage, put myself through school, to know what a difference education can make, that might be a different story.
But I'm not going to be one of those insensitive, uncaring people. I know what it's like. And I understand the need for people to improve their lives. But I just believe that to create all of a sudden a situation where fewer jobs were available, that's even worse than having to work for a minimum wage.
WOODRUFF: Mel Martinez, candidate for the United States Senate in Florida, thanks very much for coming by today.
MARTINEZ: Good to be with you. Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Good to see you.
MARTINEZ: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
And now a quick check of some other closely-watched Senate races. In North Carolina, a Research 2000 survey of likely voters shows Democrat Erskine Bowles nine points ahead against of Republican Richard Burr. They're vying for the seat now held by vice presidential candidate John Edwards.
And in the Oklahoma Senate race, Democrat Carson is five points ahead of Republican Tom Coburn in a KWTV poll of likely voters. They are running to succeed retiring Republican Don Nickles. Coburn, a doctor-turned-politician, has been battling allegations that he sterilized a young woman without her consent.
As the presidential candidates prepare for their debate on security matters, we'll report on their economic strategies. In part two of our series "They Have Issues," our Bob Franken focuses on jobs and taxes. That's coming up.
WOODRUFF: The latest CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll asked Americans how President Bush is handling the economy; 49 percent of respondents said they approve of his performance; 48 percent said they disapprove.
Pocketbook issues have been overshadowed, we know, by security concerns in election 2004. But as part of our series "They Have Issues," our national correspondent Bob Franken tells us how the candidates plan to deal with the economy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Have a seat, sir, OK? And it will be a little bit of time, OK?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Want to get confused? Listen to takes on the very same job numbers.
BUSH: Last Friday, the jobs report for August showed we added 144,000 new jobs. That's 1.7 million over the last 12 months.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the first president of the United States since the Great Depression, since Herbert Hoover, who has presided over the loss of jobs.
FRANKEN: Both are accurate, but does that mean the economy is in the tank, as the Democrats contend, or has President Bush turn it around thanks to his tax cuts?
BUSH: In order to keep jobs here, in order to make sure people can work, we've got to be wise about how we spend your money in Washington and we must keep your taxes low.
FRANKEN: Making taxes low, says Kerry, for rich people.
KERRY: While he's been doing that, the tax burden of average working people in America has actually gone up.
FRANKEN: Kerry would roll back tax cuts for the wealthy, cut tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas, and cut middle-class taxes. His economic plan would include training for high-tech jobs. The Bush plan includes job training, too. His tax policy will involve still undefined changes in the fundamental way it's collected.
One of the proposals rattling around, a so-called flat tax. That would be controversial. So would his recommendation to supplant overtime with more comp time and flex time, part of an ongoing campaign to modify the overtime rules of the wage and hour laws. As a backdrop, there's the federal budget, a record surplus before the Bush administration took over. That's a record deficit now, still another contributor to an overall uncertainty.
MICHAEL MANDEL, CHIEF ECONOMIST, "BUSINESSWEEK": This is the situation where the economy is middling, it's OK, but there's a lot of fear, which is very different.
FRANKEN: A fear from not knowing what has to be done for Americans to avoid losing this economy. And the Democrats and Republicans each have the same solution: Elect them -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: It does boil down to that, doesn't it? (LAUGHTER)
FRANKEN: Yes, it does.
WOODRUFF: OK, Bob, thank you very much.
Tomorrow, Bob is going to tackle health care. We know that 45 million Americans don't have it. What are President Bush and Senator Kerry's prescription?
And for more on where the candidates stand on the issues, check out our online special at CNN.com/issues.
In the last presidential election, Al Gore easily won the women's vote, but this time around it's a different story. Coming up, we'll take a look at the latest numbers and speak with some so-called security moms. More politics in a moment.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer Washington.
Coming up in about 90 minutes, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, three weeks after they were kidnapped in Iraq, two Italian women have now been freed. We'll have the latest.
The British prime minister, Tony Blair, was heckled at a meeting of his own political party earlier today for his stance on the Iraq war. We'll go there.
And after about 20 years, Mount St. Helens showing signs of life again. Is an eruption on the way?
All that, plus the latest on that earthquake in California. All that coming up on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS," 5:00 p.m. Eastern.
Now back to JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: George W. Bush and John Kerry are keeping similar schedules today. Both candidates are off the campaign trail, huddling with advisers and preparing for Thursday night's presidential debate.
Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington, where it is now just five weeks until Election Day.
Looking ahead to November, John Kerry faces what some might say is an unexpected challenge from one of his party's most loyal voter groups. Joining me now to talk about this, Chuck Todd, editor in chief of "The Hotline," an insiders' political briefing produced every day by "The National Journal."
All right, Chuck, normally Democrats -- I don't want to say take for granted, certainly -- you know, they wouldn't agree with that -- but they can count African-Americans in their corner. And polls do show that most African-American voters who answer the polls are going to vote for John Kerry. Why, then, is it even an issue at this stage?
CHUCK TODD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE HOTLINE": Well, it's sort of -- in multiple states, it's sort of -- the big issue is intensity. I mean, you know, yes, they can win African-Americans in Pennsylvania and some of these key states, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Missouri. They'll still win African-Americans 90 to 10, but if, for instance, the percentage of the electorate in Florida is only 10 percent African-American, rather than 15 percent African- American, then that costs them votes.
So there's some intensity problems that they're having in some of these states. Florida, they don't have this intensity issue because the 2000 election is serving as the intensity. But in some of these industrial Midwest states, where they just haven't been talking to African-American voters enough, it's shown up in some polling.
WOODRUFF: Now, I gather Wisconsin is one example of where you see a problem. What's going on there?
TODD: Wisconsin is a bigger problem than just intensity. Wisconsin is a place that Republicans are doing remarkably well with African-Americans. In Milwaukee, over the last couple of years, a voucher program has been experimented on in Milwaukee, and African- Americans have been very supportive.
WOODRUFF: School vouchers.
TODD: School vouchers -- of these school vouchers. And apparently it's become fairly popular, particularly among African- American men. And there are a couple of polls that I've gotten a sneak peek at that have Bush has 40 percent of African-American Democrats.
Now, look, African-Americans in Wisconsin make up just three percent of the electorate. But to understand the importance of it, George Bush beat Al Gore among 97 percent of the electorate, which was -- which is white in Wisconsin, 49-47. But Al Gore won the state, and he won the state because he won -- the three percent of African- Americans, he won it by a huge number.
If Bush continues to make these gains in the Milwaukee area among African-American men, there is just -- it's almost mathematically impossible for Kerry to carry Wisconsin. So it starts to explain some of the problems that they have in Wisconsin.
WOODRUFF: Talk, Chuck, about some of the things that the Kerry campaign is doing or should be doing to turn this around.
TODD: Well, what they have been doing is, all of a sudden, in the last two weeks, we've seen African-American surrogates show up in these industrial battleground states.
Carol Moseley-Braun suddenly is a favorite of the Democratic nominees. She's been in Pennsylvania. She's been in St. Paul. She's been in Missouri, where there are enclaves of African-American voters that they want to turn out tremendously.
Barack Obama, the nominee for U.S. Senate in Illinois, he's been in Pennsylvania.
WOODRUFF: He's got an easy race back home, so he can...
TODD: He's got an easy race. He's become a -- they're now going to ship him to Milwaukee.
It's not very far. Milwaukee is practically an excerpt of the Chicago area. And since their problem is African-American males, in particular, in Milwaukee, I think they're counting on Barack Obama to do more than just one stop in Milwaukee. We may see him as much in Milwaukee as we do in other parts of Illinois if Wisconsin stays this close.
WOODRUFF: You had also said earlier, mentioned the name Jesse Jackson to us. But, you know, it wasn't so long ago I remember talking to Jesse Jackson and his being somewhat critical of the Kerry campaign for not reaching out to African-American voters.
TODD: It is -- you know, as the campaign has shifted to Iraq, I've been hearing from some African-American voters. It's like, well, they're not talking economic issues, they're not talking, you know, African-American women, who want to support Kerry 90-10.
They want to hear about domestic issues, they want to hear about health care, they want to hear about a jobs plan. And so when the center of the debate is about foreign policy, sometimes African- American Democrats don't feel like the Kerry campaign is talking to them.
So that's sort of a little bit of a disconnect issue that I think Reverend Jackson and his son, Jesse Jackson, Jr., who has also been very vocal, but also very supportive -- he's shown up on the trail for Kerry in places like Akron, Ohio, for instance, this weekend. So...
WOODRUFF: Quickly, Chuck, when did the Kerry campaign realize they had a problem with this?
TODD: Well, it depends. I think in Wisconsin they've been seeing it over the last six or eight months. They knew they had that problem.
The intensity stuff, you know, some Democrats will say, you know, what? There's always an intensity problem with African-Americans in September. And somehow, by late October, we'll figure it out. I think that that's what they think they are in now. You know, we'll figure it out, but we'll see.
WOODRUFF: We will see. All right. Chuck Todd with "The Hotline." We know it is an insiders' political briefing produced daily by "The National Journal." You can go online to nationaljournal.com for subscription information about "The Hotline." Thank you, Chuck. Appreciate it.
Presidential polls from a couple of showdown states lead the headlines in our second edition of "Campaign News Daily."
The battle for Pennsylvania remains tight, while polls in Oregon and North Carolina give both candidate reason for optimism. In Pennsylvania, a survey by Temple University in "The Philadelphia Inquirer" gives Kerry 49 percent and Bush 47 percent. Ralph Nader, we should note, will be on the Pennsylvania ballot, but he was not included in this poll.
Out West, in the Oregon battleground, Kerry's lead is more significant. A Research 2000 poll gives him a seven-point edge over Bush, 50 percent to 43 percent.
Down South, in North Carolina, home to Kerry's running mate John Edwards, George W. Bush has the lead. Another Research 2000 survey gives Bush 50 percent to Kerry's 44 percent.
The editor in chief of the Gallup Poll is defending his organization's research methods following criticism from a liberal political group that supports John Kerry. MoveOn.org purchased this full-page ad in today's "New York Times" which questions the methodology behind the Gallup surveys.
Gallup's recent polls have shown George W. Bush leading John Kerry. And MoveOn.org claims that Gallup's polling techniques exaggerate Republican support.
Editor in chief Frank Newport responded to the group's criticism.
FRANK NEWPORT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GALLUP: Well, it's not at all unusual to find people criticizing polls or other information that they don't like, they disagree with the results of. Gallup's had that from both sides through the years when we show results that look like they're favoring one side or the other.
But certainly, this ad seems to have more misstatements of fact and misunderstanding than most. And it's good for us to be able to respond to it.
First and foremost, they put in quotes from George Gallup, Jr., who is a revered member of the Gallup family, worked here for 50 years, he's now retired and spent the last 20 years of his life focusing mainly on the study of religion and American attitudes towards religion. Why quotes from George Gallup about religion have anything to do with political polling makes no sense to us here at Gallup.
Second, there is no longstanding problem with likely voter methodology here at Gallup. In fact, this methodology has been exceedingly accurate election after election, when we look at who actually wins the popular vote. Third, is they state that Gallup somehow is predicting that there will be a certain percent of Republicans or Democrats or result of the election on Election Day itself. Not so. We never predict.
We say, as of today, if the election were held today, these are the results that we would find. Now, we by no means are predicting. We all know, particularly with debates ahead of us, that there can be significant change between now and Election Day itself.
They talk about poll results from us here at Gallup as phantom. We, of course, resent that. Any result that we put out is not phantom. It's an accurate assessment to the best of our ability of where the electorate stands as of that point in time when we do the voting.
And finally, they seemingly come up with some data, we're not sure from where, saying, oh, the average seems to suggest right now that Bush has just a three-point lead over Kerry. That doesn't seem to be the case.
Most observers now say it's a six to eight-point lead. That's what recent polls are showing. Our most recent CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll shows just that, an eight-point lead for George W. Bush.
All in all, again, we're used to it. We certainly have found people from both sides who criticize polling or any other information they think is not agreeable to their side. This ad seems to be somewhat more egregious than usual, and it's good to be able to respond to some of the inaccuracies.
WOODRUFF: Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll, responding to that ad critical of Gallup in today's "New York Times." That ad sponsored by MoveOn.org. As most of you, our viewers, know, CNN and "USA Today" have partnered with Gallup for polling information during our coverage of this 2004 election.
Straight ahead, the latest on intelligence reform legislation. We'll head to Capitol Hill for an update on the divisions that could delay final approval until after the election.
Also, a return to the days of the Democratic primaries. A first look at a behind-the-scenes documentary.
WOODRUFF: On Capitol Hill, two competing bills are designed to reform the way that government gathers and processes intelligence information. Our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry, reports, however, that getting a final bill to the president's desk before the election is a far from done deal.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congressional Republicans privately say they're determined to get the intelligence reform bill to President Bush's desk in late October. This would give the president a Rose Garden signing ceremony right on the eve of the election and could undermine John Kerry's claim that the president has not done enough to address intelligence failures.
But there are deep divisions between the Senate and House which could prevent the reform from passing. Some 9/11 family members believe the House version has been loaded down with poison pills that will scuttle the legislation.
MARY FETCHET, VOICES OF SEPTEMBER 11: This inertia is especially troubling since three years have passed since the death of nearly 3,000 in the 9/11 attacks and our country remains vulnerable.
HENRY: Fetchet and members of the 9/11 Commission have endorsed the Senate bill which would create a national intelligence director with vast budget authority. The House version gives the NID less sway, letting the Pentagon keep some power over the nation's $40 billion intelligence budget.
The House bill also includes a provision that would allow new CIA director Porter Goss to get an immediate promotion to national intelligence director without Senate confirmation, a move opposed by Democrats. The House bill would also increase government power to conduct electronic surveillance of terror suspects and deport immigrants. Those provisions are not in the Senate bill and have raised the ire of civil libertarians.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay fired back that these extra provisions are critical, saying, "Some people are trying to take the easy way out. An easy way is just doing an NID, a counterterrorism center, and then we all can go home and say we enhanced our national security in this country. Well, this is too important to just take the easy way out."
HENRY: Despite all of the bickering, the Senate sponsor of the legislation, Susan Collins, today expressed optimism that both sides can bridge their differences. In fact, she quoted the Beatles, saying we can work this out -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: But Ed, how long is it going to take to work it out? We know the clock is ticking on a congressional adjournment before the election. What does it look like?
HENRY: The plan right now is to have the House and Senate pass each version of their own bill by the end of next week, then get it into a conference committee. Rank and file members go home for the election, but leaders stay behind here to work out the differences in D.C.
And then the rank and file members get called back into town right at the end of October with an eye to getting this to the president's desk right on the eve of the election. Republicans think that will be a major political winner. Democrats say that if that happens, they will make the case that the president should have acted much sooner rather than doing it at the last minute -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: OK. Ed Henry reporting from the Capitol. Thank you, Ed.
The so-called soccer moms got a lot of attention in past elections, but this time around it looks like security, not soccer, could be the dividing line when it comes to the women's vote. CNN national correspondent Kelly Wallace has more from New York.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Judy Gartman is a mother of two who strongly favors abortion rights and stem cell research. So you might assume, then, she's voting for the Democrats. But she tells us she's undecided because of doubts about John Kerry.
JUDITH GARTMAN, UNDECIDED VOTER: I guess I'm kind of swaying from one side to another. It's much more a -- I'm looking for leadership.
WALLACE: Voters like Judy illustrate a problem Democrats don't usually have. After all, in the last election, Al Gore won the women vote 54 to 43 percent. But in the latest CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll, Kerry is actually behind President Bush by two points with women voters, 21 points behind on the question of who can better handle terrorism.
Why? Political analysts point to the Republican convention's emphasis on national security and the Russian school massacre in Beslan.
SUSAN CARROLL, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: The focus recently has been on security issues. And the polls have consistently shown that that's the single area where George W. Bush does best with voters, both men and women.
WALLACE: Kathy Bunta is a mother of three and a solid Kerry supporter.
(on camera): Now, what is your advice that you would give Senator Kerry that he needs to do between now and the election, do you think, or you hope he will do?
KATHY BUNTA, VOTING FOR KERRY: Well, I don't -- fight fire with fire, you know? Their obviously -- the Republicans are doing something right about drilling the message home.
WALLACE (voice-over): The senator clearly has gotten that message. He's making the rounds on the daytime talk shows and on the stump, trying to appeal directly to women. His challenge?
(on camera): What is the most important issue for you and your family? Is it security?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I think living in the New York area and living through 9/11, it has to be security.
WALLACE (voice-over): Winning over voters like Carrie Morelli (ph), who voted for George Bush in 2000 and will do so again unless she hears something from Senator Kerry in the debates that changes her mind.
(on camera): The stakes are certainly high. President Bush is expected to do better than Senator Kerry with male voters, and so it could be the women who make the difference.
Kelly Wallace, CNN, New York.
WOODRUFF: Kelly, thank you.
Well, a new documentary takes an inside look at the political process. The video diary of a political tourist who went inside the Democratic primaries, we will talk to the filmmaker.
WOODRUFF: "Journeys with George," they called it. A video diary shot with a hand-held camera took an intimate look inside the Bush campaign four years ago. The filmmaker, a network news producer, followed the Democrats during this year's primary season.
Alexandra Pelosi's "Diary of a Political Tourist" debuts tonight and will air on HBO next month.
And you're here to talk about this film -- this film and whatever it represents. Alexandra Pelosi, thank you very much for coming by.
ALEXANDRA PELOSI, FILMMAKER: Thanks for having me, Judy. Good to be here.
WOODRUFF: Now that the candidates, they know what you did four years ago with George. Was there skepticism this time on the part of the Democrats?
PELOSI: It was much harder this time because the candidates were aware of what a digital handy cam could do, and that this footage could be out. And so I spent a year and a half on the campaign trail following all of the Democrats that wanted to be the nominee, this time trying to document what it takes to try to be the nominee of the party.
WOODRUFF: What kind of access did you get?
PELOSI: Well, it was different from candidate to candidate, you know? Some candidates were really receptive to having me stalk them. Others weren't so happy to have me around.
WOODRUFF: All right.,
PELOSI: So it varied from campaign to campaign. WOODRUFF: We've got a clip that we want to show the -- our audience. And I want you to set -- this is you on John Kerry's plane. Set up the context.
PELOSI: I assume what we're showing is when after Kerry became the nominee, I sat down with him to say, "What did you do that none the other candidates did? How did you become the nominee?"
This was the post-mortem of the entire movie, the primaries on the road, the final closing scene of being on the campaign trail for a year and a half.
WOODRUFF: All right. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: I want to ask you, have you had fun?
PELOSI: Grueling. The grind, it's killing me.
KERRY: Now what's -- let me see this thing for a minute. Come here. Can I ask you, I mean, what makes you do this?
PELOSI: Well, I'm trying -- what I'm trying to do with this movie is I'm trying to show the other side. There's -- I'm trapped -- I'm not in the press corps, and I'm not working for the candidate. I'm in between, and there's this dance between the candidate, his staff and the press. And I'm trying to show that dance.
Do you understand?
KERRY: I do. Is this the kind of dirty dancing I've heard about in New Orleans?
PELOSI: OK. But here, do you understand what I'm saying? Like I'm not the enemy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: So he was making it hard on you to do your job?
PELOSI: Yes. I guess he wanted to be the -- everybody wants to be a filmmaker, Judy. Well, yes, that's the beauty of the handy cams, is everybody wants to take them and get in on the action.
WOODRUFF: Now that you've spent time, Alexandra Pelosi -- and your mother, by the way, Nancy Pelosi, who's the Democratic leader in the House -- do you have a more cynical sense of politics? I read one clip of a newspaper writer who talked to you and came away thinking you're pretty cynical about the process.
PELOSI: Well, I think in the end the conclusion that I came to was, in the end, this democracy, this crazy little thing called democracy, that every four years somehow or another we manage to pass the torch of democracy, in the end the conclusion is sort of bittersweet.
It's a little bit like, you know, it's tough, this game, this running for president thing. It's not supposed to be easy. But I also have a lot of respect for all of the candidates having endured the log, hard slog of life on the campaign trail.
WOODRUFF: There's one quote that this writer picked up from you, where you apparently said, "The key to politics is saying nothing and doing it in a positive way."
PELOSI: Well, that's what I'm trying to do here. I mean, what I'm trying to do -- I came today to say, "Diary of a Political Tourist" is airing on October 11th oth HBO, watch it." Anything else, I'll just get myself in trouble.
That's all I came to say. So I have to say that and smile, right?
WOODRUFF: But seriously, in terms of these candidates out on the trail, I mean, to say that what they're doing is saying nothing, but saying it in a positive way, do you really believe that's what they're doing.
PELOSI: I genuinely do believe that if you're going to run for president of the United States, less is more. I think you have to -- there's a fine line that I think Howard Dean taught us all, that the more you say, the more trouble you can get yourself into.
And I think that's a dangerous line. I think that Dean, I'm sure, would say he got burnt in that game. So I do think that it may sound cynical to some, but it may seem really realistic in the political climate that we live in today.
WOODRUFF: So do the American people get the debate, the genuine debate and the choice that you deserve, do you think, out of this process?
PELOSI: I really think that the media undermines democracy a lot of the times. I mean, I don't mean to go too deep on you, but I really feel like a lot of times the media psychoanalyzes and examines really deeply every word that comes out of the candidates' mouth. And it leads the candidate into this position where they're not really allowed to say much because it's going to get them in trouble if they do.
So I don't feel like in the end the candidates are allowed to be honest. Because if they are, the media will destroy them.
WOODRUFF: You spent time with all of the Democrats, and you were open later in one interview. I saw you acknowledged you voted for Dick Gephardt because you thought he was the best among the Democrats.
Was there any one of the candidates, though -- and let me ask you -- let me back up and ask you specifically about Kerry. Watching him, did you come away thinking, this is a guy who can win the general election? Or did you come away with questions about his ability? I mean, you've watched Bush and you've watched Kerry. What did you think?
PELOSI: Well, in the end, it didn't come down to every qualified man or woman over the age of 35 that could run for president. It came down to this pool of 10. And of the pool, I think the Democrats did make the right choice of nominating the person they thought had the best chance against Bush. Maybe not my choice, but I'm sure they made what they felt was the best choice.
WOODRUFF: And so you came away thinking George Bush will have a contest on his hands?
PELOSI: Well, doesn't he? I mean, I don't know what the media's telling you, but I still think that he does.
WOODRUFF: All right. Alexandra Pelosi, the film is "Diary of a Political Tourist." It debuts tonight. It will be airing on HBO.
PELOSI: Airing on HBO October 11. Don't forget to watch, Judy.
WOODRUFF: October 11. All right. We won't. Alexandra Pelosi, great to see you again.
PELOSI: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thanks very much.
Anticipation is building, by the way, for that other event this week. The first Bush-Kerry debate. Will the Florida face-off go off without a hitch? We'll get a political veteran's take on what has been agreed to and what hasn't. Plus, we'll set the stage for media coverage of this event when INSIDE POLITICS continues.
ANNOUNCER: The debate expectations game. No matter how the campaign plays it, voters already have set the bar higher for one presidential contender.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he goes again. Weakness against those who will do us harm.
ANNOUNCER: Reading behind the lines. Another day, another round of campaign ads to fact check.
A billionaire and political activist adds his two cents to the debate over Iraq and the war on terror.
GEORGE SOROS, PHILANTHROPIST: It's not an ordinary election but a referendum on the policies pursued by President Bush.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Welcome back.
It surely isn't often that you hear the Bush and Kerry camps say good thing about their opponents. But in the countdown to Thursday's leadoff presidential debate, both sides are eager to tout the other guy's debating skills.
As our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider explains, it's all part of the campaign to influence voter's expectations.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): In a debate, unlike an election, you don't necessarily have to win. You have to do better than expected. Both campaigns are trying to lower expectations for their candidates.
Even the late night talk show hosts have gotten into the act.
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Kerry tried to lower expectations of himself. He said today, he said that Bush had never lost a debate and he was a formidable opponent. And then Bush lowered expectations of himself said, "What does 'formidable' mean?" So you see, they're trying to lower it.
SCHNEIDER: It means what Republicans are saying about John Kerry.
STUART STEVENS, REPUBLICAN MEDIA CONSULTANT: John Kerry is very, very experienced. He was a prosecutor. He's a trained lawyer.
SCHNEIDER: The debate gives Kerry an opportunity to turn the campaign into a referendum on Bush's record, particularly on Iraq.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The debate now is whether or not you have a plan to win. And whether or not you are facing the realities on the ground in Iraq.
SCHNEIDER: Right now a narrow majority of voters believes President Bush does have a clear plan in Iraq, despite the continuing attacks. By better than 2-1, voters don't think Kerry does, despite his widely publicized four-point plan for Iraq.
Kerry has one more chance to turn those projections around in this week's debate on world affairs.
The Bush campaign is doing its part to build up expectations for Kerry. Of course, he's a good debater, they say. That's his job.
KAREN HUGHES, BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISER: That's what Senators do. They stand on the floor of the Senate and they debate.
SCHNEIDER: But Kerry's people point out that world affairs is the centerpiece of Bush's reelection campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously, this is a foreign policy debate. So it's something that the Bush campaign wanted to start with. It's George Bush's strong suit.
SCHNEIDER: Four years ago voters did not have high expectations for Bush in the debates with Al Gore. But things have changed.
This year expectations for Bush are higher. Why? Well, duh! He's the president of the United States.
Bill Schneider, CNN, Dallas.
WOODRUFF: Well, meanwhile, President Bush and Senator Kerry are holed up on different ends of the country, honing their debating skills.
Bush is at his Texas ranch, preparing for Thursday's 90-minute exchange on homeland security and foreign policy.
Kerry is doing his debate training at a resort in Wisconsin. Aides say he is pouring over facts to bolster his arguments against the president.
Well, we're in the thick of a fall campaign, and the presidential polls, they keep on coming. A new Pew poll released this hour shows President Bush eight points ahead of Senator Kerry among registered voters nationwide.
Also out today, a "Washington Post"/ABC national poll of likely voters shows Bush six points ahead of Kerry.
Including those surveys, we have seen eight national polls released in recent days showing Bush leading by various degrees. We put them together for a poll of polls and found on average Bush leads Kerry by six points, 49 percent to 43 percent.
Every day seems to bring new campaign ads into the mix and more questions about accuracy and fairness. CNN's Jeanne Meserve has been looking at the latest ads and the facts.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fact. Slip and slide and at tit-for-tat TV ads from the Bush and Kerry campaigns.
In his ad, President Bush sketches John Kerry is soft on national security.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weakness invites those who will do us harm. Unfortunately after the first World Trade Center attack, John Kerry and congressional liberals tried to slash $6 billion to intelligence budgets. MESERVE: It is correct that after the 1994 attack John Kerry proposed cutting the intelligence budget, but it was a small fraction of the overall budget. Even the head of the CIA at the time said it wouldn't gut the agency. And some Republicans were proposing cuts in the intelligence budget, too.
The Bush ad says Kerry weakened the nation in other ways, as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And tried to cut or eliminate over 40 weapons now fighting the war on terror.
MESERVE: In the 1980's Kerry did oppose some weapons system, and he voted against Pentagon spending bills containing funding for others in 1990, 1995 and 1996. But he voted for those bills in 16 of the 19 years he was in the Senate.
The Bush ad makes one last allegation against Kerry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And refused to support our troops in combat with the latest weapons and body armor.
MESERVE: Kerry did vote against the 2003 Iraq-Afghanistan Reconstruction Bill, which included a request for state of the art body armor. But there was no specific up or down vote on that item. And at the time, the Pentagon top brass said there wasn't enough of the best grade stuff to go around any way.
The responding Kerry ad has its share of distortions, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he goes again. George Bush said Iraq was "mission accomplished." Sixteen months later, he still doesn't get it.
MESERVE: In reality the sign said, "Mission Accomplished." The president said something quite different.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have difficult work to do in Iraq.
MESERVE: The Kerry ad continues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today over 1,000 U.S. soldiers dead; kidnappings, even beheadings of Americans. Still, Bush has no plan what to do in Iraq.
MESERVE: Of course, Bush does have plan for Iraq. It includes national elections, handing over security responsibility to Iraqis and building more international support. In fact, John Kerry's plan sounds an awful lot like it -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: But there are some differences. We're not going to go into those right now.
MESERVE: Certainly, three are. And we'll see them accented, I'm sure, Thursday.
WOODRUFF: You are going to be looking at some ads that come out in the days to come.
MESERVE: That's right. You bet.
WOODRUFF: Jeanne Meserve. Thank you very much. Thanks.
Financier and political activist George Soros has helped fund anti-Bush groups and their political ads. Now he's also putting his mouth where his money is.
CNN's Bruce Morton has more on Soros and what he's trying to accomplish.
SOROS: I consider this the most important election of my life.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Multibillionaire George Soros, age 74, announcing a personal campaign to defeat George Bush. What a road brought him to this podium.
Born in Budapest in 1930. The family assumed non-Jewish faith identities during the Nazi occupation. Then to London, age 17, then to America in his 20's, a U.S. citizen in 1961.
A money manager, maybe the greatest ever, speculating against the pound sterling in 1992, and made $1.1 billion in a single day.
Moved into philanthropy. Endowed a university back in Budapest, aid for Solidarity in Poland, new textbooks for post-Soviet Russia, help fighting AIDS in Africa, aid for schools in New York City.
And more controversial causes: needle exchange programs, support for medical marijuana. In total, about $450 million a year.
This year he's already given more than $10 million to MoveOn.org and other anti-Bush organizations. Now, a book, a pamphlet and speaking tour.
He charges the administration with smearing anyone who disagrees with the president and saying they give aid and comfort to the enemy.
SOROS: All I can do is try to get my message out and hope that people will actually consider my arguments instead of just writing me off as Satan.
MORTON: Will he succeed, really affect the campaign? Hard to know. But his sincerity is not in doubt.
SOROS: I spend $450 million a year on my foundation, promoting the principles of open society. And I think that if I could contribute to repudiating the Bush policies, I think it would be the greatest good deed I could do for the world.
MORTON: George Soros, with a fortune and a quest.
Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: And we're going to be hearing more from George Soros in the next day. He is on CNN's "NEWSNIGHT" tonight. And he will be a guest right here on INSIDE POLITICS tomorrow.
Once George W. Bush and John Kerry debate later this week, voters will decide who won and who lost. But the news media will play an important role in perceptions about the debate. We'll talk about the coverage and the rules of exchange ahead.
WOODRUFF: When George W. Bush and John Kerry meet for their first presidential debate this Thursday night, how they perform will matter, of course. But so will the news media's coverage of what they said and how they said it.
Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" joins me now from the "Washington Post" newsroom.
Howard, we know these debates don't occur in isolation, in a vacuum. A whole lot of media, a lot of words are spilled and spoken on TV and radio in advance.
What about the expectations that the media plays a role in getting out there?
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Well, of course, all of America is waiting to see what you and Wolf have to say after the debate, Judy.
But more important, perhaps, is that people underestimate the role of the press, because what sound bites are we playing over and over again after the debate, what various pundits and commentators and pontificators have to say, what controversies reporters focus on in terms of any misstatements or exaggerations or charges and countercharges and the spin of the campaigns themselves, as trumpeted in the media.
All that in the 48 hours after the debate help shape our perceptions about who won, who lost and who didn't do so well.
WOODRUFF: So it's -- it's mainly, you're saying, what the media does and says after and not so much any expectations? Because both of these candidates are obviously busily lowering expectations for their own candidate.
KURTZ: I think people are pretty sophisticated these days, and they can probably see through these games of everybody saying that the other guy is the greatest debater since Cicero.
But what I think is important, and the classic example of this was four years ago in the first Bush-Gore debate. The instant polls showed a lot of people thought that Vice President Gore had won.
But the Bush team did a very skillful job of turning into a controversy, which the press then vacuumed up, various misstatements, rather minor in retrospect, that Gore had made. And that changed the whole story line to Gore had exaggerated to the point that he had to actually apologize in the second debate.
So the role of the press here is crucial, because the debate doesn't end when the candidates walk off that stage in Coral Gables.
WOODRUFF: But now you've got the campaigns very aware of this media role after the debate, and they're working hard to shape the media impression, aren't they?
KURTZ: They're absolutely going to be working the referees. I've been in these rooms during the debate. You often have campaign aides come out and distribute fact sheets, challenging what somebody said five minutes ago. It all happens in real time now. It happens on the Internet.
But I still think that the role of journalists, not just in scoring it as if they were theater critics, or to change metaphors, you know, covering some kind of boxing match.
But what are the controversies that are going to be in the second day headlines? What would you be covering the day after the debates and the day after that?
That is going to have a lasting impact as such as the people watching. And keep in mind a lot of people don't necessarily sit through all 90 minutes. They may dip in and out, and so the press coverage is going to influence their view of who was able to score points and who was able to get their issues out. Obviously, Kerry and Bush have very different goals in terms of framing Iraq and foreign policy in that first debate Thursday.
WOODRUFF: Howard, you write today that these debates have tended in the past to reinforce voters' previous impressions. How do we -- how do we know that?
And I just want to bring in a poll, our own poll this week. Seventy percent of the respondents said they're not going to be swayed by any debate. They've already got their mind made up.
KURTZ: Well, obviously, debates can change a few minds, because there's a huge audience, probably the last time that both candidates will have this kind of national audience. And of course, sometimes it can help a challenger to be seen on the same stage as an incumbent president.
But having gone through many of these in past cycles, you know, we in the press tend to get a little bit breathless and say this is going to be the crucial make or break event. And the people who like George Bush will probably think that he did pretty well, and the people who like John Kerry may -- may come away with the same impression. But again, I'm reminded of the 1976 debate, Ford and -- and Jimmy Carter. Here's a "Washington Post" story from that time. It says, "Carter sharply attacks Ford on foreign policy."
It wasn't until the next day that Gerald Ford, prematurely liberating Poland, saying that they didn't believe that Eastern Europe was under Soviet domination became such a huge issue in the campaign.
So sometimes, we all take a deep breath and see how the debate plays out. It's hard to know exactly at 10:30 on Thursday night how the public perceptions will sort themselves out.
WOODRUFF: We take the temperature one hour after, 12 hours, 24 and on down the line.
KURTZ: You might as well do it every few minutes.
WOODRUFF: OK. Howard Kurtz of the "Washington Post," thank you very much. We appreciate it.
Well, the first presidential debate, as we've been telling you continuously, is just two days away, along with its 32 pages of rules. Coming up on INSIDE POLITICS, on the debate agreement and potential debate disagreements.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican members of Congress, plus 300 candidates in November's election, deciding a platform of promises, orchestrated by a leadership eager to take over Congress.
Students and other supporters protested a University of California Berkeley ban on political activity by marching into the administration building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to have real classes up there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Just two days before the first presidential face off, the 32-page document has been released, crammed with rules and regulations.
The Commission on Presidential Debates says that it will enforce many of the stipulations, but it will not sign the official document.
For more insight on this debate and this agreement, Ed Fouhy, former executive director and founder of Stateline.org. And I want to add, former network news executive...
ED FOUHY, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, STATELINE.ORG: And a friend of yours.
WOODRUFF: ... dear friend of mine and former executive producer of presidential debates.
Ed Fouhy, what's the significance that the commission -- you've been involved and advising this commission in the past. They're not signing this agreement. What's the significance of that?
FOUHY: I don't think that they should. I think this is an agreement, really, between the candidates. And for them to demand that the commission sign it, seems to be superfluous, and to have the journalists sign it, that's preposterous. No self-respecting journalist is going to do that.
It's just way too much work that's been done by two super lawyers to try and take all the risk out of it for their clients.
WOODRUFF: How different is this agreement between Kerry and Bush, the Kerry-Bush camps, and the agreements that we've seen in the past?
FOUHY: I talked to one of the lawyers who's been involved with the negotiations, and he said it's about 80 percent the same as it was in 1992. So I think your question is a very good one. It's not a whole lot that's different here. What's different is the level of detail, I think, Judy.
WOODRUFF: For example?
FOUHY: The lights should be visible. Each camp should have...
WOODRUFF: You mean the signals...
FOUHY: Right, the signals.
WOODRUFF: ... when they run out of time?
FOUHY: Yes. We always had lights. But they weren't intrusive in the shots. Maybe on one of the cameras, they may have been seen. But it wasn't something that was covered in the debate agreement and should not be.
Those -- those are details of television production that lawyers really don't have any knowledge of, and they shouldn't be involved in doing that. But I think they get into these kinds of negotiations, and they sort of don't know where to stop.
WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about that thing, this whole notion. We -- it's been reported that the Bush camp wanted visible lights so that not just for candidates but the audience knows...
FOUHY: Knows, right.
WOODRUFF: ... when somebody has gone over time. What's the -- is that going to be observed?
FOUHY: It's nonsense.
WOODRUFF: OK. FOUHY: I suppose one or the other of the lawyers thought that it would give his client an advantage. But I must say, I don't see it.
WOODRUFF: There is also a stipulation, apparently -- I read the agreement. There's no follow up questions?
FOUHY: No follow up.
WOODRUFF: The moderator is only able to extend the discussion by 60 seconds.
FOUHY: I can't imagine that a good journalist, and all four of them are very good journalists. You know them. I know them.
FOUHY: I've worked with three out of the four. These are very good journalists. They're not going to agree to do those kinds of things. That's a journalistic matter for them. And they're journalists of integrity. They're people of principle. So I can't imagine that they would sign that agreement.
WOODRUFF: That's going to be reassuring to a lot of people. What about the notion of no -- no cut away shots? There's a stipulation here that the television networks can't show the other candidate reacting.
FOUHY: Always -- always has been in the agreement. As far as I've known the agreements going back to 1988.
But again, this, the first debate, as I recall, Fox is the pooling network being that maybe you want to explain to the viewers what that means.
WOODRUFF: That means that they will be in charge of the immediate coverage of the debate.
FOUHY: Right. Right.
WOODRUFF: But they'll send the signal out to all the others.
FOUHY: Right. And they've already announced in a -- in a certainly the kind of statement you would expect that they're not going to abide by that. They know how to produce television programs. That's what they do every day. So do you. And for these lawyers to get in there and get to that level of detail is simply nonsense.
WOODRUFF: Ed Fouhy, you've heard the same criticism as I have, that this is not a genuine debate because of all these restrictions. Despite what you said, there are restrictions on times and questions and for the other candidate.
Somebody said to me, well, this is just parallel news conferences. It's not a genuine debate.
FOUHY: Let me just say first that now that I've been knocking the agreement, the agreement is important because it gave a framework where the lawyers were able to start. If there hadn't been a framework, which the commission provided, incidentally, these guys would still be arguing on the morning of election day.
And -- and the public has a major interest in this. This is the one time when you see them unfiltered and when we voters can see how they think on their feet.
And contrary to what Howard Kurtz said earlier, I don't agree with that. I think people come to judgments very quickly. Maybe some of them will listen to you and to Wolf and other people who will come on afterwards and be influenced by that, but I think people are pretty smart. And they'll make up their own minds about that.
So I -- I think the agreement does have some merit to it, and it guarantees that we'll have debates. But here again, people have been saying that about the debates as long as I've known anything about them.
And I think this is a perfect example of where the perfect is the enemy of the good. We didn't have debates back in 1980, and that's why this whole process was started. And sure, there are better ways to do them, but will the candidates ever agree? I don't think so.
WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there. Ed Fouhy, shedding light on this fascinating process. Thanks very much.
INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.
WOODRUFF: That's it for today's INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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