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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
NASCAR Personalities Promoting Bush; Election Reforms; Schwarzenegger Supports Stem-Cell Research
Aired October 19, 2004 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's close to voting time, and I'm here to ask for your vote.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ANNOUNCER: Two weeks' notice. President Bush takes the fight to keep his job to Florida.
Kerry's closing arguments. The senator pleads his case in Pennsylvania, as decision day draws near.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That choice simply couldn't be clearer than it is today, 14 days before America goes to the polls.
ANNOUNCER: Gentlemen, start your engines. NASCAR stars hit the road in support of the Bush campaign. We'll ask Darrell Waltrip why he's so revved up about the race.
Fighting words from Arnold? We'll tell you why Governor Schwarzenegger risks angering the Bush camp so close to Election Day.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Judy is off today.
Remember Florida may be a battle cry for Democrats, but Republicans are equally determined to put that symbolic state front and center with Election Day just two weeks away. That's why President Bush is making his 14th trip to Florida this year alone.
He's been offering a little something for everything, several key constituencies, in fact, including a promise that the government is working hard to make scarce flu shots available for those who need them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We have millions of vaccine doses on hand for the most vulnerable Americans, and millions more will be shipped in the coming weeks. We're stockpiling more than four million dose of flu vaccine for children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our White House correspondent Dana Bash, she's traveling with the president in Florida.
Dana, what is the Bush camp trying to do in Florida right now?
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the primary goal, of course, is to do what Senators Kerry and Edwards did here yesterday, which is take advantage of the early voting.
The president here at a rally that just ended did what he did at two other stops on this bus tour, which is say that he needs the people, the faithful to go out and vote, to get their friends to go out and vote. Certainly, that is the primary goal that he and his brother the governor are trying to do here. But the main message at all three stops is something that is noteworthy, because the president was on the defense on several issues.
Now, most of the campaign,the president's aides have tried to prevent him from being the one to directly respond to attacks by Senator Kerry, instead letting others do that. That is the way they think they've been able to control their message. But today, the president defended himself, as we just heard, not only at Kerry's suggestion that perhaps the president and his policies are responsible for the shortage of the flu vaccine.
Also, he defended himself against Senator Kerry's suggestion that the president wants to reinstate the draft and defended himself against charges that Senator Kerry says the president himself told a reporter, at least is reported to have said he wants to privatize Social Security.
Now, whether or not this is proof that Bush aides think that Senator Kerry's attacks, particularly here in Florida, are working, it certainly is proof that this is going to be very much a ping-pong match for the next two weeks until Election Day, Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana, do you get a sense that there's a strategy emerging for the Bush campaign in these final two weeks?
BASH: Well, in terms of the electoral strategy, I can tell you that the president is obviously here in Florida today. He will be here three times, three full days in just one week.
They say that they're, again, taking advantage of the voting. But there are some Democrats, even some Republicans who are questioning why the president hasn't been to what they think is an equally important state, which is Ohio, in two weeks. Now, the president will go there on Friday, but he's just making one stop, and people are sort of questioning it. The Bush campaign says that they are very much in play in Ohio. They're definitely going to be there several times before the end of the election.
But it is interesting to look at where the president has gone and is going these last two weeks, to Democratic states, even some Hail Marys, if you will, like Wisconsin and Minnesota. The president went there last week. He's going there this week. So they're not giving up on their effort to turn some of those blue states red -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana Bash at a lively Bush campaign rally down in Florida -- Dana, thanks very much.
John Kerry also reaching out to older voters today in another key battleground state, namely, Pennsylvania. Speaking in Wilkes-Barre, Kerry again accused the president of having, in his words, a secret plan to privatize Social Security, a characterization the Bush campaign rejects as a scare tactic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: My fellow Americans, on November 2nd, Social Security is on the ballot, a choice between one candidate who will save Social Security and another who will undermine it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Traveling with the president, CNN's Frank Buckley. He's joining us now live.
Is the Kerry campaign strategy in Pennsylvania part of a broader strategy, or is it well honed to that specific state, Frank?
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's part of the broader strategy, and that strategy being twofold.
One, the Kerry campaign wants to make Senator Kerry the choice for the middle class. You heard John Kerry today say, I am the champion of the middle class. So, he will be speaking every day on a topic of interest to average Americans, positioning himself as the champion of the middle class on those particular issues, the campaign calling this the closing arguments of the campaign.
Now, simultaneously, the campaign is doing its best to respond to these blistering criticisms that are coming from President Bush on Senator Kerry's national security credentials, on whether he is the best suited to help America in the war on terror, to help America in Iraq, one senior strategist saying that this 48- to 72-hour period right now is a very critical period, the campaign believing that if it can adequately answer the question for American voters that in fact Senator Kerry is the best equipped to handle the country in a time of war, that it will be in a good position to win this election.
So that is the twofold strategy that's taking place, and part of it you heard here, the issue of the day, Social Security and economic responsibility -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Frank, yesterday, we heard the senator railing against the Bush administration over the shortage of the flu vaccine shots. I didn't hear that today, but maybe I wasn't paying that close attention. Is he still speaking about that or was that yesterday's address? BUCKLEY: That was yesterday's message, or part of yesterday's message of the day, today, concentrating on Social Security, invoking the name of Franklin Roosevelt, who Senator Kerry said visited this state 72 years ago to the day, and using that point to make the point that, 72 years ago, before FDR took over, that it was Herbert Hoover and that President Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover to suffer a net job loss during his administration.
BLITZER: Frank Buckley in Pennsylvania for us -- Frank, thanks very much.
The Kerry campaign already thinking ahead to after Election Day and planning for the prospect of victory. According to senior advisor Mike McCurry, former Clinton Labor Secretary Alexis Herman already has been appointed to Kerry's transition team. So has Jim Johnson, who led Kerry's vice presidential search. While transition planning often goes on behind the scenes, at this stage, it is by some accounts rather early for the Kerry camp to be naming names.
Though the presidential race remains extremely close, more polls out today suggest it is Bush who has a slight edge heading into Election Day. Bush leads Kerry by one point in a "New York Times"/CBS News poll of likely voters nationwide. Bush has a three-point lead in the ABC News/"Washington Post" tracking poll of likely voters.
Averaging those surveys with several other recent polls, Bush has a four-point advantage over Kerry nationwide. That effectively puts the race back to where it was before the presidential debates, with Kerry's gains from his widely praised performances apparently fading, at least for now.
Checking in with the vice presidential candidates, in Ohio today, Dick Cheney raised the possibility of terrorists using nuclear weapons to attack U.S. cities. He questioned whether Senator Kerry would combat such a threat, which Cheney called a concept you've got to get your mind around.
In New Hampshire, John Edwards again accused the Bush administration of failing America and the world in Iraq. And he cited unsecured nuclear weapons abroad and unprotected ports at home as evidence of what he calls Bush's incompetence.
Two campaigns and two weeks left to get their messages out. Up next, a verbal duel between campaign big guns, Ken Mehlman of the Bush camp, Joe Lockhart of the Kerry camp. They're standing by.
Also ahead, another check of an electoral map that's red and blue and still in flux.
And later, a former NASCAR champ tells us about his new drive. That would be to try to keep President Bush in the White House.
With 14 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: With just two weeks until America votes, both campaigns focusing in on key battleground states, as well they should. George Bush is in Florida, where the latest Insider Advantage poll gives him a two-point lead over his Democratic challenger. In Ohio, where John Kerry will be attending a rally later today, Kerry holds a two-point lead,according to the latest numbers from the Ohio poll.
Joining us now from the Bush campaign, the campaign manager, Ken Mehlman.
Ken, thanks very much for joining us.
KEN MEHLMAN, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Wolf, how are you?
BLITZER: Are you surprised by this latest poll in Ohio? Because I've noticed the president hasn't really been in Ohio a lot lately.
MEHLMAN: Wolf, the numbers I'm seeing in Ohio are very different.
What's interesting is, this recent poll I think you're talking about was taken before the debates, before the third debate had occurred. And, certainly, since the third debate, as you pointed out a few moments ago, we've seen a tremendous amount of momentum toward the president.
BLITZER: What about the national polls? How much importance are these polls with two weeks to go?
MEHLMAN: Well, obviously, Wolf, we've always said we felt the election will be close. I think you made the key point a few moments ago. If you average the public polls, there's about a four-point lead for the president. He's come out of the debates where he went into the debates, which is with a slight advantage, but we expect a close election.
What I think's interesting is the extent to which the voters watched those debates, listened to the candidates discuss in those debates, and the president appears to have the momentum. I think that's a very important consideration.
BLITZER: Are you concerned, though, especially in a state like Florida, where there are a lot of seniors and many of them waiting in long lines or not even able to get a flu shot right now, that they're going to say, you know what, the president is responsible for this; let's give John Kerry a shot?
MEHLMAN: Well, Wolf, I think that the folks in Florida who are dealing with that situation understand this president is providing leadership, working to solve this problem. They also understand we have a systemic problem here.
One of the reasons that in 2003 Congress passed the Healthy -- or considered the Healthy Act -- was because we need to have more than two manufacturers of these vaccines. John Kerry and John Edwards missed the vote, but were against the legislation to fix the problem. And the problem, Wolf, is this. Every time they've had a chance to choose between standing with doctors and with patients and with public health on the one hand or standing with trial lawyers on the other hand, John Kerry and John Edwards have stood with trial lawyers.
I can't imagine the American people are going to think that's the kind of approach to improve our public health.
BLITZER: But, as you know, there have been many reports that -- there was a warning as far back as three years ago inside the Bush administration that the nation could face this kind of crisis. I don't know if it's a real crisis yet, but it's certainly a serious, serious matter right now.
Someone has to take responsibility for the failure of half of the expected doses. Who should accept that responsibility?
MEHLMAN: Well, Wolf, that's why this president led the effort to massively increase funding for flu preparedness. Ultimately, our goal is not to affix blame and to point fingers.
The thing we've got to do is solve the problem. And that's why it's so important that you have someone in the White House like the president who stands on the side of doctors and patients and public health, as opposed to John Kerry, who will take the special interests of trial lawyers before the public interest of good health.
BLITZER: Another health-related question out there. The governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself a strong supporter of the president, no doubt about that, but today -- yesterday, actually -- breaking ranks, saying he's going to support a ballot initiative in California that would fund stem-cell research beyond what the president wants, those existing stem-cell lines. How much of a setback is this? It looks like Schwarzenegger joining ranks with Nancy Reagan, with Ron Reagan, and opposing the president's policy.
MEHLMAN: Well, Wolf, look, the president is the first president ever to fund stem-cell research, as you know. The president, because of the combination of adult stem cell and embryonic stem cell, our administration will spend more than $200 million funding this. We've doubled the budget of the NIH.
But when it comes to embryonic stem cell, the president thinks the right approach is to increase this funding, but also balance the ethical concerns that millions of Americans have and that he has, that it's wrong to create life in order to destroy life. So I think this balanced approach, the first administration ever to fund this, is the right approach, and I think that most Americans will agree on that.
BLITZER: Well, I want to come back to the Schwarzenegger decision in a moment, but I want to take a quick commercial break.
When we come back, also Joe Lockhart from the Kerry campaign, he'll enter this conversation.
Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS.
We're continuing our conversation with Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman. Also joining us, Joe Lockhart, senior advisor to the Kerry campaign.
We were talking, Joe, before you got there, with Ken Mehlman about the flu, the flu vaccine shortage, the president today accusing your candidate, the Democratic candidate, of engaging in scare tactics by accusing the Bush administration of doing something wrong. Wasn't this simply a problem that could not have been envisaged?
JOE LOCKHART, KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Absolutely not. It was envisaged, Wolf.
There's a GAO report from the year 2001, the first year of the Bush administration, that warns of this exact problem, that warns of over-reliance on a few manufacturers to make the flu vaccine. In 2003, the regulators here in the U.S. and the regulators in the U.K. knew of this problem with this British -- with this American company that produces the vaccine in the U.K. Now, look at the contrast between the two countries.
The U.K. government, the Labor government there, got ahead of it, and they don't have a shortage. We did nothing. So we have a shortage now. So I think it is a metaphor for overall inattention to the country's problems.
BLITZER: All right, let's let Ken Mehlman respond to that -- Ken.
MEHLMAN: Wolf, as I said a moment ago, the fundamental question is, what do you do about the fact that there are so few drug manufacturers, two, in this case? We think the solution is to create more. The way you create more, Congress agreed, was through legislation which reduces the liability for those manufacturers.
George Bush supported that. Most in Congress supported it. Once again, John Kerry and John Edwards stood with wealthy trial lawyers, as opposed to standing with public health and the American people. And that's the fundamental difference.
BLITZER: What would he do differently...
BLITZER: I'll let you respond, Joe, but what would he do differently if he were president to deal with the current situation?
LOCKHART: John Kerry would have -- let me take those in order, because the wealthy trial lawyers, the president stood next to one of them this morning in Florida, the Republican Senate candidate, and talked about how they were going to fix the med mal problem. I guess he hadn't checked out his background. Anyway, how we fix this is, you need to incent (ph) these companies into it. You need to make sure that they don't take huge losses. On the HHS Web page, the government's own Web page, they say that medical liability -- or liability here -- had nothing to do with the shortage. So it's not that. That is a smokescreen. And it's a smokescreen to cover up that on one more issue, this administration was incompetent, didn't put the people first, and there's a very simple and easy way to do this, and you've just got to make sure that the companies have incentive to get into this business.
MEHLMAN: Wolf, in fact, the Web page says something very different. That statement that he's just making was taken out of context.
If you look at what the Web page says broadly and what the report says quite broadly, the issue of liability is a very important issue to deal with. And the fact is, on issue after issue when it comes to this question, John Kerry has not stood on the side of improving public health. And medical liability and the flu shot is just one example of it. There's a number of examples of it.
LOCKHART: You know, Wolf, the Bush campaign would have you believe that, whether it's jobs, healthcare costs out of control, the uninsured, the flu vaccine, that they haven't been president.
The president in the debate when he was asked about healthcare insurance premiums said, God, I hope no one blames that on me. Well, you know what? The American public is smart. They know who's responsible. It's this president. And they're the ones who have to stand up and be accountable. You can't go through a four-year term and say, I can't think of one mistake I made. This is a mistake.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on. I want to get Joe to weigh in on the article that retired U.S. Army General Tommy Franks wrote on the op-ed page of "The New York Times" today.
Among other things, he suggested that what John Kerry is saying in these debates and around the country is not true. Let me read to you specifically: "Contrary to Senator Kerry, President Bush never took his eye off the ball when it came to Osama bin Laden. The war on terrorism has a global focus. It cannot be divided into separate and unrelated wars, one in Afghanistan, another in Iraq. Both are part of the same effort to capture and kill terrorists before they are able to strike America again, potentially with weapons of mass destruction."
Let me get your response to what General Franks, a strong supporter of the president, is saying, Joe.
LOCKHART: I think it was spoken like a true strong supporter two weeks before the election. But this isn't what the military was saying privately and to newspapers and magazines.
There was a long story about this in "TIME" magazine contemporaneously about military leaders who were highly frustrated that the best U.S. troops weren't used to go find Osama bin Laden. Paul Wolfowitz is on the record as saying that we knew where he was, in a general area, but instead we used Afghan warlords, not our special forces.
And, listen, you know, two weeks before the election I expect a good surrogate to go out and put a best face on it, but it doesn't match reality.
MEHLMAN: Wolf, I think that, fundamentally, the Tommy Franks' article, it raises two issues.
First, it rebuts the false and ridiculous charge that Senator Kerry's made about the 10th Mountain Division. But, secondly, there is a fundamental difference. There's a pre-9/11 world view and a post-9/11 world view. George Bush and Tommy Franks understand we need to do more than just respond after we're attacked. We tried that in 1993. We tried that after the Khobar Towers. We tried that after the USS Cole.
Each time America was attacked, we tried to respond. What the president believes we learned on September 11 was that, unless you realize we're at war and take the battle to the enemy before we're attacked, our country won't be safe. That's why John Kerry disagrees with George Bush and Tommy Franks. And that's that's the fundamental question on November 2nd. Do you take the battle to the enemy or do you wait until we're attacked?
LOCKHART: Well, the real fundamental question here is...
BLITZER: I'll give you the last word, Joe, but go ahead very briefly.
Joe, go ahead.
LOCKHART: Well, listen, the real fundamental question here is, are you competent enough to know who the real enemy is? We took our eye off the ball, moved forces out of Afghanistan before the job was done and invaded Iraq, a country with no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to 9/11 or al Qaeda, and no imminent threat to the United States.
I don't disagree with the overall concept of how you fight the war on terror. This president hasn't matched his rhetoric with actions. And, you know, the public has made a judgment on that, and that's why I think we're going to be very successful in two weeks.
BLITZER: Joe Lockhart and Ken Mehlman, a good debate, as usual. Thanks to both of you for joining us.
MEHLMAN: Thanks. Thanks, Wolf.
LOCKHART: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: If the presidential election were held today, who would win? Coming up, we'll take a look at "The Hotline's" latest electoral map.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think what you're going to see on Election Day in Florida is our version of an election war zone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We'll spotlight the bitter battle in the Sunshine State and elsewhere over voter registration -- all that coming up.
(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up in about 90 minutes, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, the U.S. government is trying to get flu vaccine from Canada. I'll speak live with Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman.
Spain releases dramatic new pictures of the March commuter train bombings. We'll take a closer look.
And an official of the international aid group CARE has been kidnapped in Iraq.
All those stories, much more coming up later on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." But with Judy Woodruff off today, we continue now with INSIDE POLITICS.
President Bush on the trail in Florida tells seniors the government's doing its best to get flu shots to the elderly. Senator Kerry in Pennsylvania tells Keystone State voters he would never privatize Social Security.
Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. Our second half-hour begins right now.
The Bush campaign today kicked off a two-day, 14-stop tour, featuring NASCAR drivers and owners who've endorsed the president's reelection campaign. Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliott, Mark Martin are among those taking part in the tour which features stops in Michigan, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Waltrip, a former driver now turned broadcaster, joins us now live from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He's a three-time Winston Cup champion, and he won 84 Winston Cup races during his long career.
Thanks very much, Darrell, for joining us.
From the race track now to politics. Why are you getting involved? Why are you getting involved in this campaign?
DARRELL WALTRIP, FMR. NASCAR DRIVER: Well, I've always been involved. I campaigned for 41, President Bush, and I've known the family a long time. And I am a strong believer in President Bush, the person.
I believe that, you know, you've got to be a good, honest person, you've got to have integrity and all those good things in order to be a president. And George W., our president, current president, meets all that criteria. He's a man's man. When he shakes your hand, he looks you in the eye and you know that you can believe him and you know you can trust him.
I'm not a huge issue guy. I know the issues, I know what they are, I know what the American people want to hear. But I also know that you've got to have a good person that's compassionate and caring and wants the best for everybody to be in the White House to get any of those issues resolved. And I love the president.
BLITZER: Well, what about John Kerry? What do you think about him?
WALTRIP: Please don't ask me that. You know, the president is down to earth. And I think the debates kind of showed what the president's like and what John Kerry is like.
John Kerry will say anything right now. He'll say anything about the president. He'll promise the American people anything in order to get elected.
The president's not that way. The president's an honest, hard- working -- he cares about America. I'll tell you a good example, Wolf.
Last year at Thanksgiving, when I sat down to eat my Thanksgiving dinner, and there was the president in Iraq, unannounced, in there eating dinner with those troops, what a thrill that must have been. I think that shows the heart and compassion of the president and how he feels.
I've heard him say a million times the hardest thing a commander in chief has to do is send people into war. And I know he feels that way. He doesn't -- that's not lip service. And the president, he never -- he talks the talk, he walks the walk.
BLITZER: Well, when he had the chance to go volunteer and fight in Vietnam, he didn't do it then. John Kerry did. What do you say about -- about that? The Kerry supporters say that this is a guy who put his life on the line, as opposed to joining the Texas Air National Guard.
WALTRIP: So are -- I don't -- I think that if I was in the National Guard I would be very upset with that statement.
BLITZER: But you're old enough, Darrell, to remember. You're old enough to remember, in those days, if you joined the Air National Guard or if you joined the Reserves, you were almost certainly not going to be deployed to Vietnam, as opposed to now, where 43 percent of the Guard and Reserve -- 43 percent of the forces serving in Iraq are Guard and Reserve forces. But during Vietnam it wasn't like that.
WALTRIP: Here's what I can tell you. I trust George W. Bush. I trust him to lead this country in the direction it needs to go in. I don't trust John Kerry.
George Bush is a straight shooter. And that's why people like him. He communicates with people like me. He looks me in the eye. He tells me the truth.
I don't know where John Kerry's coming from. I'll tell you the difference in the two. John Kerry's got a mansion in Nantucket. George Bush has a farm in Crawford, Texas. That's the difference.
BLITZER: Well, it's not exactly a farm. I've been down there. It's hundreds and hundreds of acres that he has, worth a lot of money. He's a multimillionaire, just as John Kerry. They're both very, very rich guys.
WALTRIP: Yes, I know. And of course I hear Kerry talk about, you know, we're going to work on litigation, we've got to do something about all these frivolous lawsuits. And you've got two attorneys on the ticket.
So I don't know. There's differences there, buddy. I'm not here to make George W. Bush look good by making John Kerry look bad.
I'm just here to tell you that George W. Bush is the best man for the job. I hear about this as the wrong war as the right time. Well, we've got the right president at the right time to protect us and keep us safe. I can tell you that.
BLITZER: All right. We hear you loud and clear, Darrell Waltrip, race car driver extraordinaire. Thanks for spending a few moments with us.
WALTRIP: Thank you, sir.
BLITZER: Florida voters encountered some bugs in the system yesterday when the state kicked off its early voting period. Computer glitches temporarily slowed the voting in Palm Beach, Orange and Broward counties, among others, but there were no major disruptions reported. CNN's Gary Tuchman reports there have been major changes in the nation's election laws since the 2000 election, but he found that Florida remains the center of attention.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Emma Diaz is a new citizen, who recently registered to vote. But earlier this month, the 22-year-old got some unexpected news.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's unfair.
TUCHMAN: The Miami-Dade County Elections Office sent her a letter saying she neglected to mark a spot which would have indicated she was not, "mentally incapacitated" with respect to voting. (on camera): Why didn't you check that box?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I -- it was a mistake.
TUCHMAN: Are you mentally incapacitated?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But Emma's mistake means that, for now, she cannot vote. She received her warning letter after the deadline for registration. So she is now a plaintiff in one of a number of lawsuits against the state of Florida and its secretary of state, Glenda Hood.
GLENDA HOOD, FLA. SECY. OF STATE: A lot of individuals, and groups and political parties feel that the only way that they can get media attention and get some attention to through litigation.
TUCHMAN: More controversy, four years after Florida's election bunch card ballot fiasco introduced the nation to hanging and pregnant chads. And the so-called butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County, Florida, where many voters accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got a call the next morning from Japan, Grandma, what did you do? what happened there? I says, I don't want to talk about it. He says who did you vote for? I'm not talking. Because I was so confused.
TUCHMAN: In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which instituted some changes. As a result, Florida no longer uses punch card voting. Here in Miami Dade County, election workers are testing new touch screen machines. Another change nationwide, provisional ballots, which will allow people to vote, even if there are questions about their registration.
JANE ERVIN, LEHIGH CO. ELECTIONS BOARD: Provisional ballots will be counted after it's ascertained, after the election, whether or not a person is actually registered to vote.
TUCHMAN: But here in Lehigh, County, Pennsylvania, and many other places, huge numbers of absentee ballots and new registrations are overwhelming the system.
ERVIN: This is preparing for a mini disaster. The last thing I want is for Pennsylvania to be the next Florida.
TUCHMAN: And those sentiments are being expressed around the country, where punch card ballots are still being used, including Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where early voters are already jabbing their punch card ballots.
MICHAEL VU, CUYAHOGA CO. ELECTIONS BOARD: We suspended any movement towards any type of voting system other than the punch card because we knew that there would have to be a massive public education effort. TUCHMAN: Despite the Help America Vote Act, election reform is a work in progress, and that has left many worried, particularly in Florida.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think what you're going to see on Election Day in Florida is our version of an election war zone. There will be more people on the ground scrutinizing this vote than ever in history.
TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.
BLITZER: One more state where a legal battle looms over ballot procedures. Attorneys from the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Rutgers University plan to file suit today to try to block the use of 8,000 electronic voting machines in New Jersey. The suit claims the machines are unreliable and that there's no way to verify votes cast on the machines.
With us now to talk more about the race for the White House, potential voter turnout in key states, other subjects, Chuck Todd. He's the editor-in-chief of "The Hotline," an insider's political briefing produced daily by "The National Journal."
Chuck, thanks very much for joining us.
Two weeks out exactly. What is the electoral college map that you're looking at look like right now?
CHUCK TODD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE HOTLINE": Well, we have it -- we use just polls, but reliable polls that we trust to make our map. And our map has been pretty stable over the last few days.
We've got Bush leading in 27 states worth 227 electoral votes, Kerry leading in 17 states worth 214 electoral votes. And we have seven states where we've seen disputed polling data worth 97 electoral votes.
And I'll just read you the seven states, because they read like the battleground: Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. I mean, those seven states, maybe one or two others get tossed in. These are basically the only seven states the candidates are traveling in at this point.
BLITZER: So basically, it's about as tight as possible.
TODD: Absolutely. Even the lean states have seemed to have moved in the directions that they're supposed to go, and we are down to this thin slice of...
BLITZER: Should we stop as a result, paying attention to the national polls and only look at the key battleground state polls?
TODD: I -- here's why I wouldn't do that, is because if you had taken all the battleground state polls and added up the vote totals, it mirrored the national vote totals. So you're going to miss something. If you don't pay attention to what's going on in the national numbers, you're going to miss movements.
Now, maybe -- maybe stuff will be off by a point or two, but you'll miss movements. Just like in 2000, we saw a last-minute movement to Gore, and then all of a sudden we saw that in the swing states as well.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about some ballot initiatives that are out there that potentially, I think, could move voters on the national level, the presidential case, specifically Amendment 36 in Colorado. What's that all about?
TODD: Well, that's the mother of all ballot initiatives. I know that INSIDE POLITICS was in Colorado yesterday, did a big story on it. This is the one that would split electoral votes proportionally based on what would happen.
So in Colorado, nine electoral votes if this initiative passes. Whoever won the state would get five, whoever loses would get four, because nobody would win the state more than a 55-45 at best split.
That state's a tight state as it is. Forget whether this ballot initiative passes or not. You know, forget all the Florida legal problems. Colorado becomes ground zero for the lawyers if this passes and if the split of electoral votes moves, because it would be retroactive in that...
BLITZER: Is it true that the polls in Colorado, the most recent ones, show that it probably will go down to defeat?
TODD: Well, now it seemed to slip. You know, when you read this -- this is one of those initiatives where the average voter reads it, it makes perfect sense. But the more attention it's gotten, the more Coloradans realize, boy, this is a Pandora's box and we'd better be careful. I know a lot of states are hoping this thing doesn't pass because they're worried about legislators trying to do that in their own states.
BLITZER: Chuck Todd, as usual, thanks very much.
TODD: You got it.
BLITZER: This note to our viewers: "The Hotline" is an insider's political briefing produced daily by "The National Journal." Go online to nationaljournal.com for subscription information, you political news junkies out there.
If you don't read it, you should be reading it by now. Otherwise you're not a political news junkie, like I am.
Overshadowed but not forgotten. We'll update the Florida Senate race just ahead.
Also, can they reach a deal by Election Day? The showdown brewing on Capitol Hill over intelligence reform. Stay with us.
BLITZER: House and Senate leaders are to meet tomorrow to try to resolve differences on intelligence reform legislation. The White House is hoping for a compromise that would allow the president to actually sign a bill before the election.
For an update, we're joined now by our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry, with the lay of the land.
What's going on, Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, last month, in reaction to the 9/11 Commission's bipartisan recommendations, the House and Senate each passed bills putting forth real major intelligence reform. The problem right now, though, is that it's hit a bit of a bottleneck because Republicans had been wanting to get it to the White House, as you mentioned, get a major Rose Garden signing ceremony right on the eve of the election. They think this could undercut some of the arguments that John Kerry is making out on the stump right now, that he's alleging that the country is not safer now, and that under President Bush's watch the country has actually become less secure.
The bottleneck revolves around the fact that the Senate bill has a much stronger national intelligence director, a much stronger national counterterrorism center in terms of budget authority, personnel power than we're seeing in the House version. And the House version has added some provisions dealing with immigration and surveillance that has really tripped up a lot of critics, particularly civil Libertarians.
And what's happening right now is a lot of pressure is building on Congress by some of the 9/11 families who've been on Capitol Hill lobbying, and they're concerned. People like Beverly Eckert, who lost her husband on 9/11, they're saying that Congress has been not moving quick enough to deal with this conference committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEVERLY ECKERT, 9/11 WIDOW: We thought when we got here we would see members of Congress and their staffs hard at work. We thought people would be able to tell us that they had copies of the bill in hand and were meeting on that bill.
What we discovered yesterday instead was somewhat disturbing. A conferee list had not been finalized. Congressmen and senators were not meeting. In fact, they were not even here. They were off campaigning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: The situation has gotten to the point that Tom Kean, the Republican chairman of the 9/11 Commission, which was widely respected for putting forth a bipartisan final report, he's now saying there's only a 50-50 chance at best that this can get done before the election. He's urging President Bush to get personally involved, really try to prod Congress into action.
Here's what President Bush said on the stump yesterday in New Jersey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: These reforms are necessary to stay ahead of the threats. I urged Congress to act quick so I can sign them into law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: But some 9/11 families are saying the president is not putting a firm deadline on this action, that he's also -- he has endorsed only pieces of the House bill, pieces of the Senate bill, has not made it clear which version the White House really wants. Other 9/11 families, though, are coming forward and saying they believe the president has already done a good job on intelligence reform, that in fact by executive order he's already reformed some of the intelligence system. And they're saying having an arbitrary deadline of two weeks of getting this done before the election may not be wise -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I spoke to the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, on Sunday. He really wants to get it done. We'll see if they can reach a compromise. Ed Henry, thanks very much for that.
HENRY: Thank you.
BLITZER: The presidential candidates are not the only politicians talking about terrorism in Florida. Just ahead, we'll update you on a very tight Senate race in that state, and we'll tell you why terrorism has become a central issue.
BLITZER: In Florida, the presidential race isn't the only tight political battle going on in the state. There's also an extremely close Senate race. And as with the presidential contest, terrorism now has become a key campaign issue.
CNN's John Zarrella has details.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sami al-Arian tenured university professor, indicted in 2003, awaiting trial, charged with fund-raising for the terrorist group Islamic Jihad. And oddly, a focal point of what's become an ugly fight for the open U.S. Senate seat in Florida.
TIM RUSSERT, "MEET THE PRESS": One person who's played a dominant role in this campaign is not here tonight. His name is Sami al-Arian. ZARRELLA: It was the first subject tackled in the debate between Republican Mel Martinez and Democrat Betty Castor, who was formerly the president of the university where al-Arian taught. Martinez has been running ads saying Castor did nothing to have al-Arian removed, even after she knew of his suspected terrorist ties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As university president, Betty Castor's lack of strong leadership allowed a dangerous situation to get worse. Stopping terrorists takes aggressive action, and Betty Castor did not deliver.
ZARRELLA: Castor said her hands were tied because it took years before al-Arian was charged. She called the ads hypocritical and ran her own showing President Bush with al-Arian during the 2000 campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As chair of George Bush's Florida campaign, Martinez allowed suspected terrorist Sami al-Arian to campaign with Bush, years after al-Arian was suspended by Betty Castor.
ZARRELLA: During the debate both were asked if they would pull their negative ads.
MEL MARTINEZ (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm going to tell you tonight that I am not going to make the strategy for my campaign here tonight under these lights.
BETTY CASTOR (D), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'd be happy to go out on the issues with a positive campaign.
ZARRELLA: She agreed to pull her ads, but only if Martinez does. It's a discussion that's overshadowed much of the talk about other issues. Martinez, the president's former Housing secretary, has played to his Cuban roots and an American dream theme.
MARTINEZ: I just want to say how proud I am that Rudy Giuliani is on my side.
ZARRELLA: The former New York mayor has also helped Martinez build law enforcement support. Castor has talked a great deal about prescription drugs.
CASTOR: I favor re-importation of Canadian drugs because they cost less.
ZARRELLA: Next week, the candidates face off again, which begs the question, will a jailed terror suspect still be dominating the campaign?
John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.
BLITZER: We have full reports ahead on the presidential campaigns and their campaign day.
Plus, the first lady, Laura Bush, and her would-be successor, Teresa Heinz Kerry, share their thoughts on keeping a president happy and in line.
Also this: find out why Arnold Schwarzenegger may have irked the president, as well as his own wife. All that when INSIDE POLITICS continues.
BLITZER: As the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined now by Lou Dobbs in another -- for another installment of "The Dobbs Report" from New York.
Lou, what's going on?
LOU DOBBS, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, good afternoon.
Social Security payments going higher next year. Millions of Americans will receive those higher benefits. The Social Security Administration says it will raise those benefits by almost three percent in 2005. The cost of living adjustment is in line with the overall rate of inflation, and equates to just about an additional $25 a month.
Medicare alone is expected to eat up more than half of that, however. Premiums set to rise by almost $12 a month. The Social Security increase goes into effect January.
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan says the record level of household debt in this country is not -- is not a serious threat to the economy. Greenspan today told the Community Banking Conference that most households could handle the Fed's interest rate increases because they are, in his words, "in reasonably good shape." Greenspan also sought to play down concerns about a housing market bubble by saying the market is just too big to bottom.
Apparently, the Fed chief isn't concerned about a lot of issues that are on the minds of many consumers and middle-class working people. Last week he said rising energy prices with gasoline prices now above $2 a gallon were just a short-term problem that wouldn't have a major impact on our economy.
The investigation into the insurance industry is now widening. That investigation has spread to consumer insurance policies. At least two major health care insurance providers are now being questioned about their compensation arrangements with their brokers. Cigna says it has received a subpoena from Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general, and reports say Aetna has, as well.
Meanwhile, California's insurance commissioner says he could also file lawsuits against insurance companies that have been engaging in what he called rigged bids on personal insurance policies. As a result, investors today sold off health care stocks. Aetna dropping more than $11 this year. WellPoint fell $9 a share. Cigna down seven. And that set the tone for the entire market upsetting some good news from IBM which rose $3.5 a share after posting strong earnings late yesterday. The closing bell has been just wrong. Just down about 58.70. These are not the final numbers but we're settling in here with the close. The Nasdaq down almost one percent.
Coming up tonight here on CNN at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" we take a look at Proposition 200. A controversial ballot issue in Arizona. A ballot initiative designed to protect communities from the ever rising expense of illegal aliens. If passed, the measure would require proof of U.S. citizenship to vote, imagine that, as well as to receive public benefits. But the proposal facing tough criticism and opposition. Tonight at 6:00 Eastern we investigate.
Also tonight we'll be profiling several U.S. congressional candidates running on anti-illegal immigration platforms and see how they are faring with the voters. Most people are now focusing on the race for president but there are plenty of close battles in Congress and in the Senate. Tonight we take a look at the swing state races for control of the Senate and the House.
Plus historian and author Douglas Brinkley will be my guest. We'll talk about the controversy over his book, "Tour of Duty, John Kerry and the Vietnam War." Coming up at 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Now back to Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much. Quick question. Those of us who watch your show every day and read your articles, I read your new book, a good new hot book indeed, want to know this question. How do you feel about the fact that the United States is now going around the world, to Canada, elsewhere basically searching for some flu vaccine given what has happened with this British plant that was supposedly going to manufacture 50 million doses for America?
DOBBS: I think it is a failure of public policy over the course of the past decade not just simply the recent years in which we have permitted the offshoring of production for pharmaceuticals, in which we failed to attach great significance to certain public policy interests, national interest issues and public health is one of them. I am obviously very critical of the offshoring and outsourcing of medical care in any form in this country.
COOPER: So if you had your way, you would want to make sure that the manufacturers stay right here in the United States and manufacture this vaccine and other vaccines right here as opposed to cheaper labor markets around the world?
DOBBS: As opposed to cheaper labor markets and the failure on the part of both Congress and the White House to understand that there are clear national interest issues that require domestic production in pharmaceuticals and I believe in a host of other industries, as well. But certainly in every area involving national security and our public health and safety.
BLITZER: Lou Dobbs, thank you very much. We'll be watching. 6:00 p.m., "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANNOUNCER: The Nader factor.
RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let us compete honestly for the Independently minded voter in America.
ANNOUNCER: Two weeks out. Is he likely to sway the Bush/Kerry race one way or another?
Arnold's payback. Being a two-party family apparently has its down sides.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: There's no sex for 14 days.
ANNOUNCER: Now live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer sitting in today for Judy. With election day fast approaching the Kerry campaign appears to be returning to tried and true campaign hot button issues including the so-called third rail of politics.
That would be Social Security. It is a bread and butter issue in states with many older voters such as Pennsylvania where John Kerry stomped once again today. And once again here is CNN's Frank Buckley.
BUCKLEY (voice-over): Senator John Kerry invoked the name of Franklin Roosevelt on his visit to Pennsylvania 72 years to the day he said after FDR visited the Keystone State. Kerry saying President Bush was the first president since the one Roosevelt replaced to lose jobs on his watch.
KERRY: And as Roosevelt said back then, President Hoover's policies have jeopardized, quote, "the wealthier of our people and the credit of our country" and so has George W. Bush's.
BUCKLEY: The Bush campaign points to other indicators that they say show the economy is growing. Still Kerry criticized President Bush's economic policies and claimed Bush has plans to privatize Social Security.
KERRY: On November 2nd, Social Security is on the ballot. A choice between one candidate who will save Social Security and another who will undermine it.
BUCKLEY: The Bush campaign called Kerry's claims on Social Security false and faceless, President Bush calling them shameless scare tactics in an interview with the AP. But as Kerry pressed the case against President Bush on domestic issues, he also responded to sharp attacks from President Bush on his national security credentials.
KERRY: I believe that we need a president who defends America and fights for the middle class at the same time.
BUCKLEY: The campaign also released two new ads on Iraq and national security including this one featuring a woman whose husband was killed on 9/11.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I spent the last three years trying to find out what happened to make sure it never happens again. I fought for the 9/11 commission, something George W. Bush, the man my husband and I voted for, didn't think was necessary.
BUCKLEY (on camera): And the campaign ads part of what the Kerry campaign believes is an aggressive response to President Bush's criticisms on Senator Kerry's national security credentials. A senior strategist telling us that this is a very critical 72-hour period of the campaign.
This advisor saying, quote, "if we can answer it or at least neutralize it," talking about President Bush's attacks, "we'll be in a strong position in the closing days of the campaign" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Frank Buckley, thank you very much for that report. President Bush had his own outreach effort to senior citizens today in the showdown state of Florida. As our White House correspondent Dana Bash explains President Bush emphasized what could be a life and death issue for older voters.
BASH (voice-over): Just minutes into his first Florida rally of the day, the president tried to stop a potent Kerry attack line from sticking, that his policies are responsible for the flu shot shortage.
BUSH: I want to assure them that our government is doing everything possible to help older Americans and children get their shots despite the major manufacturing defect that caused this problem.
BASH: The problem affects crucial voting blocs like seniors who promised more vaccine is coming. For much of the campaign the Bush team tried to stay on their message by letting others not the president respond to John Kerry. No more.
BUSH: My opponent will say anything that he thinks will benefit politically at the time.
BASH: Senator Kerry has been slamming the president for reportedly saying he wants to privatize Social Security, a red flag for elderly voters. President Bush in St. Petersburg.
BUSH: We'll keep the promise of Social Security for all of our seniors.
BASH: Senator Kerry has been stoking the idea that Mr. Bush plans to reinstate the draft. The president later in New Port Richie.
BUSH: We will not have a draft. We will have an all volunteer army.
BASH: And a day after the Kerry campaign accused Mr. Bush of using scare tactics in talking terrorism, the president's kicker...
BUSH: On November 2nd, if people of America will reject the politics of fear.
BASH: The stepped up defense perhaps from fear Kerry's lines here are working or sure proof that presidents can't leave anything to chance with these 27 electoral votes. Floridians are already casting ballots in early voting even down the road from this event.
BUSH: Get your friends and neighbors to go to the polls.
BASH: So the primary goal, rally the faithful in areas he barely lost last time to get people to the polls now.
(on camera): And the president has three full campaign days here in Florida in just one week. It shows that this day could be -- probably will be just as important to him now as it was four years ago. But Wolf, some Republicans are concerned that all of the president's attention here comes at the expense of other battleground states like Ohio. And Bush aides say that they can and will do it all -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Dana Bash reporting for us. Thanks, Dana, very much.
Some other new clips today from the campaign ad reel. A pro-Bush group is spending a whopping $14 million to air a new ad featuring a 9-11 family talking about the way the president comforted them after their loss. The spot by the Progress for America Voter Fund is scheduled to run in eight battleground states and on national cable outlets through Election Day.
And the League of Conservation Voters is launching a $3 million ad buy in Florida markets. The spot accuses Bush and Cheney of being big oil's best friends, by, among other things, supporting oil drilling off the Florida coast.
Checking the headlines now in our "Campaign Daily News (sic)." Three new presidential polls give John Kerry the edge in two states. Kerry leads Bush by four points in New Jersey according to the latest survey of likely voters by Quinnipiac University. A Rutgers University poll, however, gives Kerry a wider lead. According to this survey, Senator Kerry has a 13-point edge over the president in New Jersey.
In the New Hampshire battleground, meantime, a Suffolk University poll gives Kerry a five-point lead, 46 percent to 41 percent. Early in the campaign, some Republicans made a tongue-in-cheek effort to criticize John Kerry by saying he, quote, "looks French."
Last night in Florida, Kerry put his language skills on display before an Orlando crowd that included French-speaking Haitian immigrants.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: We should be doing more -- (speaking in French).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: John Kerry speaks fluent French, as you just saw, but he has rarely used it since beginning his run for the White House.
U.S. astronaut Leroy Chiao will be aboard the International Space Station on Election Day, but he will be able to vote from 225 miles above the Earth thanks to a Texas law signed by then-Governor George W. Bush. Chiao will be able to vote by using a secure e-mail connection. Chiao arrived at the Space Station last weekend aboard a Soviet spacecraft. Good luck to him.
In an already uncertain presidential race, Ralph Nader certainly a wild card, very much so. Up next, will his candidacy make much of a difference on Election Day?
Plus, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger breaks with the president on a fiercely debated campaign issue.
And later, the first wives club -- Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Heinz Kerry chat it up on the talk show circuit. Stay with us.
BLITZER: The Ralph Nader factor: How important could it be two weeks from today when America chooses between George W. Bush and John F. Kerry? Our Bill Schneider takes a closer look.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2000, Ralph Nader got more than 97,000 votes in Florida. Bush carried the state by 537.
How worried should Democrats be this year with Nader averaging less than two percent in the polls? Not all of Nader's votes come at the Democrats' expense. In 2000 exit polling, roughly half of Nader's supporters said they would have voted for Gore if Nader's name had not been on the ballot. Just over 20 percent said they would have voted for George W. Bush. Thirty percent said they would not have voted at all.
This year we're seeing a similar pattern. If forced to choose between John Kerry and Bush, about half of Nader's current supporters say they would vote for Kerry. A quarter would vote for Bush. The rest wouldn't vote for either one.
Not all Nader's votes come from Kerry, but Nader takes more votes from Kerry than from Bush. Nader's running mate says Kerry and Bush are nearly one and the same. PETER CAMEJO (I), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Kerry gave George Bush 18 standing ovations in January. That's hard to do with somebody you don't like.
SCHNEIDER: Nader's running mate in 1996 and 2000 doesn't agree. She recently endorsed Kerry, saying "he is a rational alternative to the most destructive administration in recent memory."
Right now, Nader is on the ballot in 34 states and the District of Columbia. How many states look like potential Floridas? Those are states where Nader is on the ballot, Kerry is not leading in the polls, and Bush's lead is smaller than Nader's vote.
Those conditions hold in four states right now: Arkansas, Iowa, West Virginia, and Florida. The new Florida could be Florida! In a race this close, even a diminished Nader could cost the Democrats victory -- again.
Nader's response? "If the race is that close, it's not my fault."
NADER: The Democrats should be landsliding George W. Bush. He's stands for everything that represents greed, power, domination, and autocracy by giant corporations.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): A historian once said, "Third parties are like bees -- they sting, and then they die." Ralph Nader is haunting this race like the undead.
BLITZER: And he said to me on Sunday he's staying in until the end. There is nothing, he said, that could get him out of this contest between now and then. So, he's fact of life.
SCHNEIDER: Apparently not. But there is a Web site trying to bribe him to get out of race saying we're going to raise money, a whole lot of money to give to Nader's organization if he withdraws from the race.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
Arnold Schwarzenegger breaking with his own party on a very contentious issue. Still to come on INSIDE POLITICS, the California governor goes against the GOP in support of embryonic stem-cell research funding beyond what the president has already approved.
That story just ahead.
BLITZER: California's Republican governor is running the risk of angering some members of his own party. Arnold Schwarzenegger has thrown his support behind a bond measure that would fund embryonic stem-cell research. The California GOP strongly opposes the measure and Schwarzenegger's endorsement puts him at odds with President Bush as the battle for the White House heads into its final days.
(voice-over): He's doing it again.
SCHWARZNEGGER: I'm very much interested in stem-cell research and support it 100 percent.
BLITZER: Arnold Schwarzenegger, breaking from his party on an issue John Kerry is trying to turn into an election year wedge, endorsing a California ballot initiative to earmark state funds for embryonic stem-cell research, research that goes far beyond what George W. Bush supports, studies of existing stem-cell lines.
BUSH: I made the decision to balance science and ethics.
BLITZER: The president has refused to fund research on new lines which would involve the destruction of human embryos.
BUSH: I had to make the decision, do we destroy more life? Do we continue to destroy life?
BLITZER: But Kerry charges Bush is blocking progress, pandering to religious conservatives and ignoring potentially huge medical advances expanded stem-cell research could bring.
KERRY: But I think it is respecting life to reach for that cure. I think it is respecting life to do it in an ethical way. And the president has chosen a policy that makes it impossible for our scientists to do that.
BLITZER: And now at least on this issue the Democratic candidate has a Republican strong man in his corner. Asked about the president, Schwarzenegger demurred, saying: "I'm much more in the center and maybe the president is not as much to the center." He says he'll still vote for Bush and he'll still help him but the election is just two weeks off, just 14 days left for the superstar governor who is no stranger to battle to parachute into a battleground state.
(on camera): In the Schwarzenegger household, by the way, there's apparently a personal price to pay for giving a speech backing President Bush. The governor told a group in Monterey, California, that his speech at the GOP convention drew a quick response from his wife, the cold shoulder treatment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHWARZENEGGER: There was no sex for 40 days.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Everything comes with side effects. That's just the way it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: No sex for 14 days in the Schwarzenegger household. Schwarzenegger's wife, of course, is Maria Shriver, part of the Democratic Party's Kennedy clan.
The wives of the presidential candidates may not be quite as candid as Governor Schwarzenegger, but they did open up at least a bit about their roles on the morning talk show circuit earlier today. That story just ahead.
BLITZER: The Sinclair Broadcast Group has just announced that it will air this anti-Kerry documentary on the Vietnam War this Friday night, October 22, on many of its Sinclair broadcast stations, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. They will air a one-hour version of the documentary, not necessarily the entire documentary itself, entitled "Stolen Honor." They say they have reached out to the Kerry campaign for a response. The Kerry campaign has declined. But they're going forward this Friday night on many of the Sinclair Broadcast stations around the country.
Moving on now to the presidential candidate's wives reaching out to women voters today on a couple of those chat shows where hosts and guests alike sometimes say the darnedest things. Laura Bush visited with "Regis & Kelly" while Teresa Heinz Kerry chatted with the women on "The View." Neither dished any dirt but they did talk about being a supportive spouse whether on the campaign trail or in the White House.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This note, please join me at the top of the hour, 5:00 p.m. Eastern for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Among my guests coming up, the health and human services secretary, Tommy Thompson. I'll ask him about the flu vaccine shortage. And please be sure to catch INSIDE POLITICS tomorrow. Judy will be back, she'll be live from Iowa as the president campaigns in that showdown state, 3:00 p.m. Eastern, noon Pacific only here on CNN.
In the meantime, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.
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