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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Foreshadowing the Second Presidential Debate; Keeping an Eye on the Spin; DeLay Reprimanded by Ethics Committee; The Importance of Women Voters; Missouri Voters

Aired October 7, 2004 - 15:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: Get ready for round two. What can we expect from the Bush-Kerry slug fest in St. Louis tomorrow night?

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: He's punching much harder now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The stakes are much higher now. The expectations are higher.

ANNOUNCER: A tale of who Missouris, home turf to political opposites John Ashcroft and Dick Gephardt.

More crossfire over Iraq, the ongoing violence and a weapons hunter's report on WMD.

The House majority leader gets a second slap by the Ethics Committee and there's no delay in the partisan potshots.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The ethical cloud that has been hanging over the Capitol has burst.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Now, live from St. Louis, site of the next presidential debate, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us right here in the showdown state of Missouri. We are at Washington University along with the CNN Election Express to give you a front-row view of tomorrow's encore debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry.

Before the presidential candidates arrive in St. Louis later today, they are out testing lines for the town hall-style meeting. President Bush is due at a campaign event in Wisconsin in the next hour. Before leaving the White House, the president commented on the new report that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction stockpiled when he decided to lead -- to have U.S. forces invade Iraq last year.

Bush, once again, defended the invasion, while acknowledging the prewar intelligence was wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Duelfer report makes clear that much of the accumulated body of 12 years of our intelligence and that of our allies was wrong. And we must find out why and correct the flaws. The Silberman-Robb Commission is now at work to do just that, and its work is important and essential.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: The president spoke shortly before Senator Kerry issued his own statement on Iraq and the WMD report.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, joins us to talk about that and the next debate.

Candy, we just heard from John Kerry in no uncertain terms, I guess you might say.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We did.

You can always tell, Judy, as you know, that an election is getting near. We are hearing tougher and ever-escalating rhetoric from both sides. Certainly, in one single sitting, this is the toughest that John Kerry has been coming right off that report, as you mentioned at the top of the hour.

One of the things that really struck me listening to John Kerry was that he made, it seems to me, a little even harder push saying that the information, the intelligence information was used deliberately by George Bush, manipulated by George Bush to go from Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Remember -- remember the facts. Remember the truth. The facts and the truth are that the primary justification for going to war, the reason the Congress gave president authority to use force after he had exhausted all the other remedies was to disarm Saddam Hussein of the weapons of mass destruction.

We remember the pieces of evidence like aluminum tubes and Niger, yellow cake uranium, that were laid out before us, all overblown then. We said they were, and now completely known to be wrong, all designed, all purposefully used to shift the focus from al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, to Iraq and Saddam Hussein, all with the result that the president shifted the focus from the real enemy, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, to an enemy that they aggrandized and fictionalized, all put forward with an urgency requiring immediate action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So, again, Judy, it seems to me a bit of a step there forward for John Kerry, saying that this information was deliberately manipulated by the administration to go in after Saddam Hussein and, of course, aggrandizing, as he put it, Saddam Hussein, also said that the president was in full spin mode, that he and Vice President Cheney are probably the last people on the planet that don't realize what has been going on on the ground in Iraq.

Turning to tomorrow, you'll hear more of this obviously in the debate. Interestingly, the Kerry people and the Kerry strategists say the pressure really obviously is on the president here. They don't want to say, look, we're going blow him away tomorrow night or any of that. But they fully recognize that George Bush tomorrow is the one where all the eyes will be.

They seem very confident in their candidate and I think you will see more of this sort of aggressive kind of talk, both on the foreign policy side and on the domestic side, because, as we saw in that news conference, Judy, he also went in talking about No Child Left Behind, the education program, saying that George Bush is also misleading Americans about that.

A truth-telling, misleading, very -- walking quite up to, you know, he's lying line, that's been the basis of all the complaints that John Kerry and John Edwards have had, that the president and vice president are misleading Americans and are not telling the truth -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley traveling with John Kerry -- Candy, thank you very much.

Now snapshots of the presidential race on the eve of the debate. A new Marist poll of likely voters nationwide shows Bush leading Kerry by two points, 49-47 percent. An AP/Ipsos national poll shows Kerry leading Bush by four points among likely voters, 50 percent to 46 percent. When we average together the latest surveys, 10 of them in all, we find Bush leading Kerry by three points.

Back before the first presidential debate our, poll of polls showed Bush five points ahead of Kerry, underscoring the tightening of the race since then and the importance of tomorrow night's face-off.

Well, when President Bush takes the stage here in St. Louis, he is expected to echo the sharper attack on Kerry that Mr. Bush unveiled yesterday.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve listened in to Bush's speech and checked it against the facts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BUSH: You're not going to believe this. It's a true story, or kind of true.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush was talking about his wife, but some of what he had to say about John Kerry appears to be only kind of true, too.

BUSH: Last week in our debate, he once again came down firmly on every side of the Iraq war. He stated that Saddam Hussein was a threat and that America had no business removing that threat.

MESERVE: That isn't quite what Kerry said.

KERRY: I've had one position, one consistent position, that Saddam Hussein was a threat, there was a right way to disarm him and a wrong way, and the president chose the wrong way.

BUSH: On Iraq, Senator Kerry has a strategy of retreat. I have a strategy of victory.

MESERVE: Kerry has talked about starting to draw down troops six months after his election, but in the debate he said we have to win.

KERRY: We have to succeed. We can't leave a failed Iraq.

BUSH: Senator Kerry said our soldiers and Marines are not fighting for a mistake, but also called the liberation of Iraq a colossal error.

MESERVE: Kerry did talk about a colossal error, but was referring to his claim that Bush had turned his attention away from Afghanistan and towards Iraq.

KERRY: This president has made, I regret to say, a colossal error of judgment.

BUSH: In the middle of the war, he's chosen to insult America's fighting allies by calling them window dressing and a coalition of the coerced and the bribed.

MESERVE: Bush is right. Kerry has used these words.

BUSH: My opponent's alliance-building strategy, brush off your best friends, fawn over your critics.

MESERVE: Kerry doesn't phrase it that way. He talks about building broad coalitions to support military action and rebuilding.

KERRY: The Arab countries have a stake in not having a civil war. The European countries have a stake in not having total disorder on their doorstep.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (on camera): Language is often interpreted in different ways, but campaigns of every stripe can and do twist it to their advantage. That's why we'll be casting a critical eye at other speeches and ads in the coming weeks, including those, of course, those of John Kerry -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: My. All right, Jeanne Meserve, thank you very much.

Well, the vice presidential candidates continued their debate over Iraq today during separate campaign events. On the trail in Florida, Dick Cheney argued that the Iraq weapons inspector's new report on WMD justifies, rather than undermines the president's decision to go to washing. Cheney dismissed the finding that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons stockpiles as old news, referring to focus instead on parts of the report more favorable to the administration's justification of the war.

In response to that, John Edwards accused Cheney of using, quote, "convoluted logic." Edwards spoke today about national security in New Jersey, with 9/11 families who have endorsed the Democratic ticket on hand. Edwards and Cheney pulled in an impressive audience for their one on only debate on Tuesday night. More than 43 million viewers tuned in on the broadcast and cable networks. Only 29 million viewers watched the vice presidential debate back in 2000.

Well, now we turn to a source of political debate back in Washington, and that is the House Ethics Committee's latest reprimand of Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Here now, our Congressional correspondent Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An extraordinary rebuke of Tom DeLay less than a month before the election, and Democrats pounced.

PELOSI: The ethical cloud that has been hanging over the Capitol has burst. The repeated abuses of power by the Republican majority leader have earned him three rebukes by the Ethics Committee in a single week, bringing dishonor to the House of Representatives.

HENRY: The No. 2 Democrat in the House called on the Texas Republican to resign and said the GOP should be swept out of power in November.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MINORITY WHIP: I think he certainly ought to step aside as leader at this point in time. It is time for the American people to clean this House.

HENRY: An aide to DeLay said those comments prove this is a, quote, "political witch-hunt." But that case may be hard to make because the ethics panel consists of five Republicans and five Democrats and reached its decisions unanimously.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm very pleased that the Ethics Committee and these honorable people that serve on that Ethics Committee have dismissed the frivolous charges brought against me.

HENRY: The Ethics panel found it objectionable that DeLay had a golf fund-raiser with energy company officials while Congress was working on energy legislation. It also found DeLay improperly used the FAA to track the movement of Texas Democrats who fled the state during a redistricting battle. It put off action on a third charge that DeLay funneled illegal corporate contributions to Texas Republicans.

Three people associated with DeLay's PAC were indicted last month on money-laundering charges. This all follows last week's finding that DeLay had acted improperly during the Medicare vote by trying to get a colleague to switch his position in exchange for a political favor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera): Congressman DeLay does feel a bit exonerated here because the committee stopped short of any kind of formal punishment, like a censure. And Republican lawmakers are privately saying that they think DeLay is safe, at least for now, staying on as majority leader, though, if he had any hopes of moving up to speaker of the House some day, those hopes could be dashed, because he has become such a lightning rod and Republican aides are saying privately they think it's good for DeLay's political health that the House is adjourning on Friday.

They think once members of both parties get out of town, everyone cools down, that could be very good for DeLay -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Ed Henry, all this happening just a matter of a day or two before they at least try to adjourn. All right, thanks very much, Ed.

And we're going to have more on the political fighting over DeLay right ahead.

Coming up next, Iraq flash points and how they're playing in the presidential race. Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile face off.

Plus, women voters here in Missouri tell our John King what they're looking for in the presidential debates and in the candidates.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: It's just part of coverage of the political scene in this showdown state on the eve of the next debate.

With 26 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Coming to you from St. Louis today, the site of tomorrow night's debate on the campus of Washington University.

Well, joining us now from that other Washington back East, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile, and here in St. Louis with me, Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.

Bay, we just heard John Kerry come out and in very strong language say the president is in a way not living in the real world. He and Dick Cheney are about the only people he said on the planet who don't realize how badly things are going in Iraq and won't acknowledge that the rationale for going to war in Iraq didn't exist.

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: You know, I think Kerry is hurting himself now. He's taking it one step further. He actually suggested that the president deliberately manipulated this information on WMDs in order to get us into war. That's an outrageous statement, entirely responsible.

The president has made a strong case out there. He's defended his position and his decisions. He's made us stronger. He's let us know we're going to be moving toward elections. We are transferring power. If you want to disagree with that and you have a different plan, fine, but this is a man that just wants to say everything is wrong and my plan is the same as his. I can just do it better.

That's nod good enough for the American people, I do not believe, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Donna, is John Kerry going too far by saying George Bush fictionalized some of the reasons for going to war?

DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Absolutely not.

Look, the facts are the facts and you can't change the facts. The facts speak for themselves. And what John Kerry is doing is, he's telling the American people what are the facts. He's leveling with the American people.

We know what's happening in Iraq, many of us. If you're not watching TV, then turn it on. The situation there is deteriorating. And with regard to the weapons of mass destruction, Bay, if George Bush won't fire someone who gave him bad information and basically exaggerated the truth, then the American people will have to fire George Bush and his team on November 2. That's the facts, Bay.

BUCHANAN: You know, Donna, if that's the facts, if the president really made this up, fabricated this information, why is it that Al Gore thought the same thing? Why is it that Bill Clinton thought the same thing, that the British, the French, the Germans all also believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction?

"The Washington Post" said they did. "The New York Times" said they did. Donna, everybody thought they did. This is clearly an indication to me that John Kerry is willing to lie in order to

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Excuse me?

BRAZILE: Bay, whenever Republicans get in trouble, they want to then bring in, you know, Al Gore, Bill Clinton.

The fact is that George Bush used this as his principal case for taking this country to war. He invaded another country because he said they had weapons of mass destruction. And Dick Cheney and others went so far as to say that they had nuclear capabilities and ties to September 11. So, you cannot erase history.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: I recall listening and hearing him saying it.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: It's categorically false.

BRAZILE: Now, Saddam did not have the capability of having it. And so, this is what the American people -- the Bush administration is losing credibility. Every day, we're learning new information about what really happened. And what we know now is that they listened to information from some characters who themselves should be thrown in jail.

WOODRUFF: Bay, the other thing we're hearing is President Bush just flat out said in his speech yesterday that the world is a -- will be a more dangerous place if John Kerry's elected, that his election would weaken America. Is that fair game?

BUCHANAN: That's quite legitimate.

It is fair game that he says it now because of what John Kerry said in this last debate. John Kerry said that we're going to start pulling out troops in six months. That is a clear indication that we will abdicate what's going on there. We will leave these good people, the Iraqi people, and that that will be -- that -- nothing but encourages the terrorists in what they're doing.

So, I think that he was quite -- I think that's a solid statement. It's tough, but I think it's an accurate one. And it's really -- it's a good issue on which we can debate.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: And Donna, how does John Kerry -- go ahead.

BRAZILE: Well, that is the sound of desperation. That's the sound of a desperate president, a failed president, who cannot tell us what he'll do over the next four years because he has no record to run on.

And when you hear the president of the United States basically call into question someone's patriotism and saying that this guy who sacrificed for his country, went out there and fought for his country, is not going to keep you safe, you know that they're basically at the bottom of the barrel when it comes down to their magical tricks.

BUCHANAN: You know, Donna -- Donna, the key issue in this campaign is, should the American -- the American people want somebody they can have faith in and trust as commander as chief.

This is a legitimate issue. The president of the United States has watched John Kerry. He's seen his record, 20 years in the Senate. He's seen he votes against every dog-gone system whatsoever. He makes up answers. He creates information to make his case here. He is somebody that has been on all sides of the issue of the Iraq war.

This is not somebody that is focused and that is really determined to lay out a plan that will be different than the president's. He offers nothing but words, no action at all on this issue.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: But Bay, I can level the same criticism against George Bush and his administration and four failed years in his White House.

What John Kerry's making this election is about the future. And that's where I believe this conversation should take us. And what John Kerry has done is laid out a credible plan on what he intends to do to keep this country safe and secure. And he's going to level with us. He's going to tell us the truth. That's something this administration has forgotten to do.

WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. Donna Brazile, Bay Buchanan, we always love seeing you both. Thanks very much.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: This is not a dull campaign.

Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Well, four years ago, the buzz was about soccer moms. This time around, it's the security moms, so-called. Just ahead, how are they looking at this upcoming election?

Also, Israel and the Palestinians, the one topic that seems to be missing from the Bush-Kerry debates. Bill Schneider will explain why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Security is on their minds, but that's not all these women voters are worried about. We'll hear their concerns when we come back.

Plus, the fight for the showdown states. We'll take a look at the latest poll numbers in some crucial battlegrounds.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: You're looking at live pictures of Mount St. Helens, the volcano in Washington State. We are told that there are steam releases, steam coming out of Mount St. Helens, a signal that we may see a larger eruption of some sort.

We're watching it, keeping an eye on it, as we have over the last few days since a pretty significant amount of ash and steam came out a few days ago. The scientists are watching it. They don't know whether there's going to be more coming out. We're watching it, too.

Now back to INSIDE POLITICS.

On the road to St. Louis, President Bush once again defends his decision to attack Iraq. This in the wake of a critical weapons report. John Kerry takes a break from his debate preparations to outline his very different views on the war in Iraq.

Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff, live at Washington University in St. Louis, right before tomorrow night's presidential town hall debate.

Well, George W. Bush -- as you can hear, we've got a pretty lively crowd of students on both sides of the political divide. Both Bush and Kerry right now working hard to make gains among women voters in particular.

CNN's senior White House correspondent John King reports that the conventional issues that are often used to appeal to women still matter, but for some of them one issue appears to rank above all others.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fifth grade in the St. Louis suburbs. Casey Clear is no fan of the president's educational policies. But how she explains a big word in class offers a window on why she's likely to vote Republican anyway.

CASEY CLEAR, TEACHER: What's annihilate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Destroy?

CLEAR: Yes, destroy. That means to just get rid of it.

KING: Terrorism is her first test, and she worries about John Kerry.

CLEAR: I believe that Bush, his response to 9/11, it may have seem rash to some, but it made me feel safe. I felt like someone is in charge, not someone who is trying to pass the global test.

KING: Security is hardly the only issue for these suburban women, but all agree it weighs more on their vote now than it did in presidential elections before the 9/11 attacks. Listen to this group, and it's clear Mr. Bush would have more trouble with suburban moms bike Debbie Baldwin, who see a Republican Party tilting far too right on social issues, but put security first for now.

DEBBIE BALDWIN, SUBURBAN MOM: I feel safe walking into a mall with my children right now, and that's why Bush has my vote right now.

KING: Michelle Harris was a Gore voter four years ago, conflicted now.

MICHELLE HARRIS, UNDECIDED VOTER: Things like education, gun control, gay marriage, choice, the economy are all in kind of one bucket, and foreign policy is in another for me.

KING: She's not sure Senator Kerry is tough enough.

HARRIS: That's a post-9/11 way of thinking for me, yes.

KING: Undecided voters are harder to find than this time four years ago. And those not quite sure yet said personal crises might trump global concerns.

KATIE FORD, SINGLE MOM: I love the way Bush, you know, handled Iraq and the war.

KING: But Katie Ford is newly divorced, a single mom who says she has to choose between car insurance and health insurance, and isn't sure if she could afford to vote Republican this time.

FORD: But I don't see any concentration on how people in my position, who, you know, have come from middle class to scraping for pennies and possibly, you know -- and beg for food stamps until I get my three children fed and find a job that I'm qualified for.

KING: Susan McGraw voted for Bush four years ago, but her health insurance premiums are way up, her brother has cancer and her Republican doctor is giving political advice.

SUSAN MCGRAW: He said, you know, "I hate to say it," he said, "but the only way health insurance is going to change is if you vote Democratic."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm looking for Dean.

KING: She closes on a big real estate deal Friday, and then will tune into the debate, leaning the president's way because of his wartime leadership but not quite ready to settle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING (on camera): About half of these women were women we talked to four years ago, Judy. Quite interesting how 9/11 has changed their thinking about politics. But they're also not happy with either candidate.

The Kerry voters say they're not thrilled with him, the Bush voters say they want more from him. We'll have more of our conversations in this show tomorrow.

Most of the moms say this: they're really busy and hear the candidates talking about the same things over and over and over again. They say, "If we can multitask as mothers, why can't the candidates?"

WOODRUFF: Is there a way to sum up how their thinking is different from some of the male suburban voters you've talked to?

KING: Well, men tend to go more quickly to security issues, and men tend to think -- men tend to support the war more than the women. A lot of these women who say they're going to vote for Bush do not like the war in Iraq at all, but many still like his leadership skills.

It is clear that the Bush campaign succeeded early on in painting Senator Kerry as wavering, although some of these women said they watched the first debate and they're beginning to think again and come around. So, they are watching; they're just not happy that it's all about the war and all about taxes. They want to hear more about health care, stem cell research. And of course, these next two debates, they should cover some of that ground.

WOODRUFF: And a lot of the questions that we haven't heard raised -- hear yet. All right. John King, thank you very much.

Well, now, checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily," with our friendly and noisy crowd behind us.

There's another round of showdown state polls to report, with still more evidence of a tight race for the White House. We start in Ohio, where a new poll by the American Research Group gives John Kerry 48 percent and George Bush 47 percent. Ralph Nader was included in the poll, but he will not be on the Ohio ballot.

In Pennsylvania, Kerry again receives 48 percent and Bush comes in with 46 percent in another survey (INAUDIBLE). Two other Pennsylvania polls released today give Kerry, though, leads of six points and seven points respectively.

In Florida, there is positive news for Bush. He leads Kerry by four points in a Mason Dixon poll. Ralph Nader picking up 2 percent in this survey.

And in Arizona, Bush appears to be pulling away from Kerry (INAUDIBLE). You can hear our crowd of students reacting to those poll numbers.

Well, as geography is -- as well as diversity, the State of Missouri makes a fitting site to host a presidential debate. Our Bruce Morton takes a look at why Missouri represents middle America for so many different reasons.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Missouri is a sample of America, a big city like St. Louis, whose arch marks the gateway to the West, they say, and it is where Lewis and Clark began their search for a water route to the Pacific 200 years ago.

It's got rural areas, lots of those, a big-time tourist attraction, Branson, whose country music and soft rock shows draw seven million visitors a year.

And in fact, the actual population center of the United States is in Missouri. Lots of history, too. It was the northern-most slave state, for instance.

MARK WARREN, ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY: We do represent Eastern interests, Western interests, Southern interests and Northern interests, so to speak, all in one state. We are just about 50-50 urban-rural.

MORTON: You can tell a lot about the state from its two best- known politicians, Democrat Dick Gephardt, terms in the House, an old- fashioned kind of Democrat, worked hard to win trade union support, conservative on social issues, like his district, until he ran for president, first in 1988 and briefly this year. And Attorney General John Ashcroft, former senator and governor, religious, son and grandson of ministers, anti-abortion, anti-gambling. And as a senator, he used to sing.

Look at this map. Al Gore carried the St. Louis metropolitan area, Gephardt's home, 53-45. Carried the Kansas City metro area 54- 43, lost the rest of the state, Ashcroft country, you could call it, 58-39 to George W. Bush, who won statewide, 50-47. Though Ashcroft was losing his Senate race 51-48.

Many think the state is shifting right. Warren thinks it's this president and his issues.

WARREN: He's connected with Missourians more than he would connect on those issues, those moral value issues and those flag- waving issues, or patriotism issues, more than in other parts of the countries.

MORTON: Maybe others simply see a more suburban, more conservative state. Dick Gephardt is quitting Congress this year after 28 years. Attorney General John Ashcroft? It may depend on how the election turns out.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Well, more now on tomorrow's debate and the battle for votes in this showdown state. Joining me now here in St. Louis is Jo Mannies. She is the political correspondent for the "St. Louis Post- Dispatch."

We just heard Bruce Morton talking about what Missouri voters are looking for. What's your sense of it, as a reporter who follows politics in this state? Where do you see the race right now?

JO MANNIES, "ST LOUIS POST-DISPATCH": Well, I think the race has gotten closer just in the last few weeks, probably in part because of the first debate and in part because more voters here, just like elsewhere in the country, have been paying closer attention. Missouri is a closely divided state, just like the country is. And people are concerned about terrorism and national security, just like on the national level.

A lot of the -- a lot of the people I talked to are concerned about those issues. The war in Iraq is a very key issue. We have a number of soldiers over there.

WOODRUFF: What makes you think it's close? There was a poll done, I guess, the middle of September, the last one I've seen, before the first presidential debate, that had Bush ahead five, six, seven points.

MANNIES: Well, some of it is just what you see from all the activists and stuff. And while we haven't done any independent polls this -- since then, I've seen a lot of internals from both parties that have shown it tightening somewhat.

Both sides acknowledge that. I mean, that's -- that's a given. Both sides expected it.

WOODRUFF: Jo Mannies, what is it that voters are looking for in these debates? I mean, from your conversations with them, and from what you're hearing from the campaigns and the polling, what do they want to know, what do they want to hear that they haven't already heard? And how many persuadable voters do you think are still out there?

MANNIES: Well, as far as what people want to hear, I think they want to hear clarity. I think they want to really get a sense from both candidates what exactly they're proposing to do for the next four years and how that would affect them.

People hear a lot of rhetoric, a lot of attacks, there's been a lot of stuff on TV. But I think they really want to get a sense of what the candidates are proposing to do beyond the simple sound bites.

WOODRUFF: And what about how many voters are still out there who are either soft or completely undecided? Any sense?

MANNIES: Well, I think the general sense is that those voters, we're talking maybe 12-15 percent of the electorate, based on our poll, based on the people...

WOODRUFF: That much?

MANNIES: ... who had kind of shifted, from a poll that we had done in July, there was about a 10 percentage point shift between the poll that we did near the end of July and the one we did in September.

WOODRUFF: So, more softness than some people had been left to believe.

MANNIES: Yes.

WOODRUFF: Maybe more, a lot more than those of us sitting in Washington thought, anyway. Jo Mannies, we're going to have to leave it there, the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch." It's great to be in your town.

MANNIES: Well, thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: Thanks for coming over. We appreciate it.

MANNIES: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Well, we'll have more on Bush and Kerry and their debate preparations later in the program. Up next, Congressman Tom DeLay's leading critic. I'll talk with Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as DeLay's supporter, Congressman Roy Blunt, the House minority leader. We'll be right back.

I'm sorry, minority whip -- majority whip. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Back here at Washington University in St. Louis, as we mentioned, House Republicans and Democrats are now engaged in a dispute over whether majority leader Tom DeLay should step down from his position. The furor is over three Ethics Committee rebukes of DeLay in a week.

We're going to hear from House Majority Whip Roy Blunt in just a moment. But joining me now is one of DeLay's harshest critics, the minority leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

Congresswoman Pelosi, Tom DeLay says that he is very pleased by the decision of the Ethics Committee because he said it has dismissed what he calls these frivolous charges.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Well, how sad for the Congress and how sad for the country. The fact is that Majority Leader DeLay has been rebuked three times in a week, and this would be the fourth rebuke for Mr. DeLay and his unethical conduct. He's not contrite, as you can see. In fact, I think he holds the whole ethical process in contempt.

WOODRUFF: Well, he says that he has been exonerated on every charge, that this was the mildest statement that the committee could have made about him.

PELOSI: He's so in denial. This Ethics Committee is bipartisan, as you know. And they came to a conclusion not to dismiss but to rebuke him on three counts, deferring one until the state -- Texas courts resolve the issue, where three of his associates, two employees of his campaign and one consultant to his campaign, are under indictment for laundering money and undermining the redistricting process in Texas, giving a criminal basis to the redistricting in Texas and that representation in the Congress of the United States.

That's what's so sad about it, is this corruption has an impact on representation in Congress and on public policy in our country.

WOODRUFF: Well, here's something else Congressman DeLay just said, Congresswoman Pelosi. He said the Republicans are focused on preventing another 9/11, they're focused on keeping America safe, while, he says, the Democrats are focused on something like this.

PELOSI: Well, the fact is, is the Republicans have fallen fall short in protecting the American people when it comes to homeland security, real-time communication among our first responders, buying up the plutonium, uranium in the world to keep it out of the hands of terrorists, whether it's about protecting our ports and waterways, screening our cargo coming into the ports and on to planes. So, that's a false claim. He is in denial. The fact is that we have a responsibility to the public to uphold a high ethical standard.

On four charges, a bipartisan membership of the Ethics Committee rebuked Mr. DeLay and warned him that they could consider an accumulation of violations if this behavior continued. They found his behavior wrong. They warned him not to continue it.

And in a bipartisan way they issued their rebukes. Not once, not twice, not three times, not -- but four times. And in one of those that related to the prescription drug bill, the consequences to America's seniors were very, very serious.

Instead of a guaranteed, affordable prescription drug bill under Medicare, we have a boondoggle for the HMOs and the pharmaceutical companies, care of Mr. Tom DeLay. So, his unethical conduct affects policy as well.

WOODRUFF: The other thing we're hearing from Congress -- Congresswoman Pelosi, the other thing we are hearing from Tom DeLay is that -- from his allies -- is that you are now somebody in the House leadership who is just constantly calling for Republicans to step down. They point out you called at one point for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to step down.

PELOSI: I did, indeed.

WOODRUFF: Ray LaHood of Illinois said this is just the latest call for a step-down from Nancy Pelosi.

PELOSI: Well, I think their behavior has been -- doesn't measure up. I think the secretary of defense should have stepped down. I think he's responsible for many deaths and injuries in Iraq, and somebody should be accountable for that policy. If it isn't Rumsfeld, then it's the president of the United States.

But this is all a diversionary tactic on their part. The fact is, is that Mr. DeLay's behavior is not up to an ethical standard that the American people expect and deserve. He should answer for that.

It's up to the members of his caucus, of the Republicans in the House, as to whether his unfitness ethically for leadership is something that's acceptable to them. If they find that acceptable, four rebukes, three in one week, then I think they should answer to the American people for their standard of ethical conduct.

WOODRUFF: All right. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who is the House Democratic leader, we thank you very much.

PELOSI: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Well, as you can hear from my questions to Congresswoman Pelosi, the Republicans are fiercely defending their man. Coming up, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt joins me with his take on Tom DeLay's fight with the Ethics Committee.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We are in St. Louis today looking ahead to tomorrow night's debate on the campus of Washington University. You can hear some pretty excited students out there. They're looking forward, as we are.

What we were talking about in the last segment, the House Ethics Committee's rebuke of Majority Leader Tom DeLay. We heard from the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi. We are now joined by the House majority whip, Roy Blunt.

Congressman Blunt, it's good to see you. And thank you for talking to me.

REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MAJORITY WHIP: Good to see you. Welcome to Missouri, Judy. Welcome to Missouri.

I wish I was there with you today for that debate. We like our politics in Missouri, and we're very competitive. And it's a great site for the debate.

WOODRUFF: We wish you were here, too. I want to ask you about the Ethics Committee. I want to ask you about his Ethics Committee move. For the second or, by some accounts, third time in a week, the bipartisan House Ethics Committee has admonished your leader, the Republican leader in the House, Tom DeLay, and said it is necessary for him to temper future actions.

Is he acknowledging this admonishment by the committee? What is his response to it? We heard basically a few minutes ago or an hour or so ago he said he was very pleased by what the committee had done.

BLUNT: Well, we care about the ethics of the House, we care about the rules of the House. I know Tom DeLay shares my commitment and the commitment of our entire conference, and I think virtually all members of the House.

I think what we do have here is a crisis that is created and then -- for political reasons -- and then it's hard to walk away from exactly what the Ethics Committee is saying. You know, words do matter. And they matter -- I heard my friend, Nancy Pelosi, say Tom DeLay's been rebuked a number of times.

In fact, he was not rebuked. That's one of the things the Ethics Committee could do. Something that's so low on the list of things available to them it's not even on the list is to admonish a member, admonish a member without a hearing.

If the Ethics Committee would have thought these charges were serious enough to be sanctioned or rebuked, they would have called Tom DeLay in and said, "We'd like you to respond to this." They didn't do that.

They issued a report, they said, here's what happened, we think Tom DeLay should be more careful in the future. I'm going to look at that report, as I'm sure Tom is, and see if that's good advice. But they don't say he violated anything, or they would have actually had a level of sanction available to them, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, does he take this seriously?

BLUNT: I'm sure he does. In fact, I know for a fact that Tom DeLay has spent lots of money hiring lots of lawyers over the years to be sure that he was always on the right side of the campaign finance law and on the ethics laws.

I know he takes it seriously. I think, frankly, we all have to take it seriously. I don't know a whole lot about tracking airplanes or some of the things that are mentioned here. I do know a few days ago there was an admonishment about whipping on the House floor.

I do know something about that. And I do also know that the kinds -- that the line that the committee's drawing here appears to be a new line, and we need to be sure exactly what they're saying. What -- what happens when something matters personally to a member, in this case asking -- or talking about endorsing his son for Congress, as opposed to something that matters professionally?

I know in the not too recent past -- or not too distant past -- on the other side we were trying to get a vote on a bill, and one of their members was given a appropriations seat so he'd vote with them instead of us. I think we all have to be thoughtful about where those lines are. And we don't want to create a crisis, but this is an election season and I think we're seeing some election-year politics playing out right here in front of us, as we come near the end of a year where we're doing -- we're doing lots of hard work.

WOODRUFF: So, you're calling -- you're saying...

BLUNT: I'm saying what, Judy?

WOODRUFF: You're saying it's election-year politics even -- you're saying it's election-year politics even though the Ethics Committee is half Republicans and half Democrats?

BLUNT: They're half Republicans, half Democrats who chose not to even have Tom DeLay come in and say, is there -- do you want to defend yourself before we really give you one of our serious admonitions or rebukes, or do you want to just be more careful -- say look at this, be more careful in the future? That's what an admonition is. You know, when you rebuke one of your children...

WOODRUFF: All right.

BLUNT: ... that is a much, much worse thing than when you say, "Be careful about what you're thinking about what you're doing in the future" when you're doing that.

WOODRUFF: All right. We appreciate your joining us. Thank you very much. Roy Blunt, he's the House...

BLUNT: Good to be with you. Enjoyed the debate.

WOODRUFF: ... majority whip. We appreciate -- we will. Thank you very much.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: The road to St. Louis. President Bush and John Kerry get ready for tomorrow night's town hall showdown.

President Bush won Colorado pretty handily in 2000. But do we have a Rocky Mountain battle on our hands this time around? We have some new poll numbers out this hour.

KELLY RIPA, CO-HOST, "LIVE WITH REGIS & KELLY": I've already cast you. Tom Cruise is going to play you in the movie.

ANNOUNCER: So what do you think? Is there a resemblance?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Now live from St. Louis, site of the next presidential debate, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS coming to you from a lively campus of Washington University. Missouri, the latest showdown state to host a debate in the race for the White House. It is going to be Bush versus Kerry. Part two right here in St. Louis tomorrow night. We try to compete with them. (INAUDIBLE).

John Kerry went before cameras an hour ago with new ammunition for his charge that the Bush administration, quote, "won't face the truth about Iraq." CNN's Dan Lothian is with Kerry in Colorado -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Senator John Kerry did take a break from his debate preparations here at this resort in Englewood, Colorado to respond to attacks by the Bush administration and also respond to a couple of developments this week specifically comments made by Paul Bremer, the former U.S. administrator in Iraq about the number of troops on the ground there and also to respond to the CIA report yesterday about the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when the United States attacked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: The president this morning was in absolute full spin mode about the CIA report. He cited several new reasons for taking America to war and reiterated the belief that he would do everything exactly as he did it even knowing what he knows now. My fellow Americans, you don't make up or find reasons to go to war after the fact. That's not how it works in the United States of America. That's now how it should work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Kerry advisers say that even though tomorrow's debate will be focusing on domestic issues, they expect that he'll continue to go after President Bush on the issue of Iraq. He'll continue that theme that he's been peddling throughout the entire campaign that the Bush campaign has not been straight with the American people. As to whether or not he's prepared for tomorrow night's debate, he deflected that question at the press conference today and said in fact I'm ready for some exercise and enjoying the good day -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK. Dan Lothian, keeping a close watch on John Kerry. President Bush is set to take part in a campaign event in Wisconsin this hour. After trying to beat (INAUDIBLE) the punch with his take on the new Iraq weapons of mass destructions report.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is traveling with the president. Hi there, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Despite the fact that the administration's own report shows that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. invasion, that being a principal rationale for going to war, today President Bush used selected portions of that report to defend his case that he made the right decision to go after Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Based on all of the information we have to date, I believe we were right to take action and America is safer today with Saddam Hussein in prison. He retained the knowledge, the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction. He could have passed that knowledge on to our terrorist enemies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Anticipating that his opponent Kerry was going to make remarks about the report, President Bush made those comments before even leaving the White House before coming to this rally here in Wisconsin. The main theme here, the debate that seems to be shaping up as the center piece of this reelection campaign is who is best fit to be the next commander-in-chief for the war on terror.

It's an argument the president has been using in his revamped campaign speech. He's been making the argument as we anticipate he'll make here today that he believes Senator Kerry is unfit to be commander-in-chief and that his policies are bad for the economy and part of the strategy is actually to use Kerry's own record against him.

You'll hear some of that this evening. You'll hear it in the debate tomorrow. Part of the strategy Bush aides say they concede that there was a lackluster performance by the president the last time around in Florida. He's preparing for it. Very secretive about how he's preparing for it this time.

But you can bet he'll not only use Kerry's own words, his own record against him but he's also going try to capitalize off of what he perceives as an advantage among the middle class voters when it comes to the economy and he is also going to put the war on terror front and center in that debate.

WOODRUFF: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, traveling with President Bush on this day before tomorrow night's debate. Some other flash points today in the political war of words over Iraq. Insurgents waged a brazen attack on a Baghdad hotel where western journalists and contractors are staying. There was no immediate word of any casualties.

Here in the United States, the Political Action Committee for the anti-Bush group MoveOn is spending $1 million to air this ad in Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. The spot features the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq accusing President Bush of not being honest about the war.

Let's talk more about Iraq and the heat of this presidential election with two influential senators, Democrat Chris Dodd of Connecticut, and Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Senator Dodd, we are hearing today and yesterday from President Bush that if John Kerry is selected it will be a more dangerous world and that his election would weaken America. How does John Kerry defend himself from this sort of attack?

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: I think the better question is how does the president defend himself. These reports are pretty startling that come out not just the reports we've seen in the last day or so but Paul Bremer's comments and even the Prime Minister Allawi's comments back in Iraq saying things are not going well despite the remarks he made here.

We now learn that we didn't have weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the president says as Dick Cheney did the other night, I would do nothing differently. That's disturbing. Not just because of their unwillingness to accept circumstances that were different at the time but also about where they would take us from here.

If we maintain the status quo in Iraq, don't do anything differently than we have been doing, then I think we're in for a long haul, a difficult problem for the United States and for the Iraqi people.

We need new leadership. We need a change in direction. We need a national leader that will build different coalitions, do the training necessary, and really give us a chance to emerge from Iraq in far better shape than we are today. That takes a new start for America, and John Kerry offers that new start. The president needs to answer those questions.

WOODRUFF: Senator Hatch, does the president run of the risk of seeming out of touch with what's going on when he, number one, ignores this new report that says the evidence is -- there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, and in essence says the report bolsters his reason for going to war? SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, of course, he didn't ignore the report. The report was there were weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein probably had an intent to get rid of the sanctions, actually let them die off and then would have brought them back.

In fact, even the Iraqi leaders around Saddam Hussein believed that he had weapons of mass destruction. Small wonder that all of our leaders, including Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and the House, believe that there were weapons of mass destruction, as well.

But the Duelfer Report also says that there's no question that Saddam Hussein was going to try to get rid of the sanctions so he could resuscitate his program of weapons of mass destruction.

I think the president has done exactly what he should have done. I don't think he's backing off at all. I don't think that he's saying that anybody had the benefit of absolute perfect intelligence. Intelligence by its nature is imperfect. It only becomes perfect after the facts. And of course, we now are after the facts, so I think our colleagues on the other side are trying to say that even though John Kerry relied on this, as well, that, you know, President Bush is at fault here. Not at all. I think he's done what he should have done.

WOODRUFF: Senator Dodd, you've got President Bush basically saying John Kerry has a September 10th mindset that wouldn't keep this country safe. I want to ask you again, is this -- here we are this late in the election. If John Kerry hasn't dispelled the idea that he isn't going to keep the country strong, how in the world does he turn that around in the next 26 days?

DODD: Well, I think he did the other night. I think he made it very clear, and I think the polls indicated that the country heard someone they hadn't really focused on before when he talked about focusing his attention on the real threat America faces, and that is Osama bin Laden and the terrorist organizations and made the point very, very clearly the other night that by diverting our attention to Iraq away from the real threat that America faced.

Saddam Hussein did not attack on us 9/11. Osama bin Laden did. And the president tries to morph those two characters into one. There's a difference there. John Kerry said, as clearly and loudly and strongly as he can, that under his administration we will focus attention on America's real enemies and that we shouldn't have diverted the attention to someone who posed no real threat immediately to the United States.

WOODRUFF: Senator Hatch, just quickly, I mean some would describe what the president is saying as scare talk -- in essence saying the world is more dangerous with John Kerry as president. Is this kind of talk necessary, do you think, for the president to win reelection?

HATCH: I certainly think so -- not to win the election, but it's necessary to tell the truth. You know, Senator Kerry's been in the Senate for 20 years. I don't think you can point to one substantive thing that he's accomplished in that whole time.

The fact of the matter is now he's going to be president and we're going to take his glib remarks and assume that he's going to be tougher than this president, who has had the strength and the energy and the courage to do what has to be done?

What Senator Kerry seems to saying is that we have to have perfect intelligence and then we can act if we have the approval of the international organizations and countries. Well, President Bush doesn't agree with that.

He thinks we have to sometimes protect ourselves, regardless of what others think, and he knows that intelligence may be imperfect, but certainly the intelligence bears out that this man knew about weapons of mass destruction, had them, probably did away with them so that he could bring them back later after the sanctions were lifted, and of course would have used him. There's no question about it. And would have perhaps -- and I think it's a pretty good bet -- would have given them to terrorists around the world.

WOODRUFF: I don't think you senators are any closer together on this than Bush and Kerry are. Thank you very much. Senator Orrin Hatch, Senator Chris Dodd, it's good to see both of you. Thank you very much.

HATCH: Nice to see you.

DODD: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Well, you won't be surprised to know John Kerry has been warming up for the next presidential debate -- not here in St. Louis, but in Colorado. Coming up, we'll get an update on the horserace in the Rocky Mountain State from our colleague Paula Zahn.

Plus, the conflict that is not getting much attention by the presidential debates -- at least not so far.

And later, who would you cast to play John Edwards in a moving version of this campaign?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Back here in St. Louis. CNN's Paula Zahn, though, is in Racine, Wisconsin, where she's hosting a town meeting tonight with undecided voters. You can see it tonight right here on CNN starting at 8:00 Eastern.

Paula's with me now with the results of a new CNN poll on the presidential race in the battleground state of Colorado, where -- a state we've been talking about. Paula, what does it show?

PAULA ZAHN, HOST, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": Well, it's interesting. As a lot of folks who follow us closely know, Colorado was a relatively easy win for George W. Bush back in the year 2000. And that is, of course, when he finished nine points ahead of Al Gore. But our new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows that, as of now, the president has a real challenge on his hands. Among likely voters, Bush and Kerry are tied at 49 percent among all registered voters, and then they are tied at 48. Ralph Nader is on the Colorado ballot and could be a factor, as well.

Both campaigns have been advertising in Colorado, and Kerry chose the state as the site of his debate preps this week. And Bush will likely visit next week.

Now, Judy, this is where this gets even more interesting. Because right now, the winner in Colorado gets nine electoral votes. But there's this ballot initiative that is being considered and, if it passes, then the state's electoral votes would be split proportionally. So, whoever finishes second could still pick up some electoral votes. And if that had happened back in 2000, Al Gore probably would have won the presidency. So, Colorado shaking things up this year.

Now, another thing that could affect the presidential race is the hotly contested race for an open U.S. Senate seat in Colorado. And take a look at these numbers. Our polls shows Democrat Ken Salazar ahead of Republican Pete Coors. Salazar has an 11-point lead among likely voters and a 10-point lead among all registered voters. The seat is currently held by a Republican -- that is Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who is retiring. So, there is a possibility of a turnover here -- Judy?

WOODRUFF: And Paula, what about the state where you are? You're in Racine, Wisconsin, for that town hall, but what about Wisconsin?

ZAHN: Well, we're going to have some special numbers that we're going to unveil tonight during our town hall meeting. I won't give you any more than that, Judy, but we should remind ourselves that Al Gore won this state just by a quarter of a percent back in the year 2000.

And I think you'll see from the questions you're going to get from our audience here tonight. There are a lot of people still on the fence. We're going to have an audience made up probably about a third of undecided voters, folks that purport to vote for -- or will say they'll vote for President Bush and those that'll say they'll vote for John Kerry.

So, you'll have a pretty good cross section of the nation here tonight. And these folks are going put representatives of both the Bush and Kerry campaigns on the spot. And we will be here covering it live.

WOODRUFF: All right. We'll be watching, 8:00 Eastern.

ZAHN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Paula, in Racine, Wisconsin, with some undecided voters. Thanks very much. There is one issue so far missing from these presidential debates for the most part. Just ahead, why Bill Schneider -- or rather, Bill Schneider on why Bush and Kerry are saying very little about the Israelis and the Palestinians.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: For years the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been one of the most contentious issues for American presidents. It is the one issue that has received little mention as we've noted in the Bush-Kerry fight for the White House. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider looks at why it is something both candidates apparently prefer not to debate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): This campaign seems fixated on the Middle East but the core issue of Israel and the Palestinians is getting almost no attention even though the peace process has collapsed. And the violence is escalating. The issue was barely mentioned in last week's debate and then only in the context of Iraq.

BUSH: A free Iraq will secure Israel.

KERRY: I'm going to get it right for those soldiers because it is important to Israel and to America.

SCHNEIDER: In the vice presidential debate, Dick Cheney made this claim.

DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I personally think one of the reasons we don't have as many suicide attacks today in Israel as we had in the past is because Saddam is no longer in business.

SCHNEIDER: One close observer of the Middle East is skeptical.

JANINE ZACHARIA, "THE JERUSALEM POST": The Israelis will tell you that they are thwarting scores and scores of attacks every day, every week. So people are still trying to carry them out.

SCHNEIDER: President Bush has been a staunch supporter of Israel and of the so-called road map which is currently going nowhere.

BUSH: Our vision is two states living side by side in peace.

SCHNEIDER: And Kerry's vision?

KERRY: The only solution is a Jewish state of Israel living side by side in security and peace with a democratic Palestinian state.

SCHNEIDER: Kerry appears to be concerned that Bush, who only got 19 percent of the Jewish vote in 2000 will make gains with Jewish voters this year. ZACHARIA: This past weekend in Florida the Kerry campaign arranged a plane full of very senior political figures to go to Florida and court the Jewish vote.

SCHNEIDER: Jews are not the only ones constituency deeply committed to Israel. This week a leading Evangelical Christian issued a political threat to President Bush.

PAT ROBERTSON, FOUNDER, CHRISTIAN COALITION: If he touches Jerusalem and really gets serious about taking east Jerusalem and making it a capital of a Palestinian state, he'll lose virtually all of evangel support. They'll form a third party before they support that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (on camera): Put together a hot button issue and two intensely mobilized constituencies and what do you get? No debate -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And we'll see whether it comes up in one of two, well, it would have to be in this debate tomorrow night because the third presidential debate is on domestic issues only. Thank you very much, Bill.

He's not a Republican but he played one on TV. Up next, Michael J. Fox tapes a commercial for John Kerry. We'll have a first look in our second edition of our campaign news daily.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines now in our second edition of campaign news daily. Actor Michael J. Fox has taped a new TV commercial on behalf of John Kerry. Fox who joined Kerry at a rally on Monday suffers from Parkinson's Disease. In the ad Fox says he backs Kerry because Kerry strongly supports stem cell research.

GOP Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has reached the one-year mark since his victory in California. A year ago today he won the recall election that forced Democrat Gray Davis from office. Schwarzenegger is spending the day campaigning against two gambling measures which appear on the California ballot next month.

John Edwards made the rounds of two morning talk shows today including "Live With Regis And Kelly." Edwards said he liked his host's idea that Tom Cruise portray him on the big screen. He also said he had an image of himself in the movie "A Few Good Men" during that famous confrontation between Cruise and the character played by Jack Nicholson or in this case Dick Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Cheney, Cheney, you need me on that wall.

RIPA: That scared me to death. EDWARDS: And me saying, you can't handle the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Is it art imitates life or life imitates art? You figure it out.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Thursday in St. Louis. I'm Judy Woodruff.

"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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


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