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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS

Battleground Iowa; Kerry Attacks Bush on Leadership; Fact Check; Condoleezza Rice's Role; Scare Tactics?

Aired October 20, 2004 - 15:00   ET

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


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Judy Woodruff, coming to you today from northern north central Iowa, Mason City.
Thank you for joining us.

This is a state, Iowa, where the Bush and the Kerry campaigns converged today. We are at the Northern Iowa Fairgrounds in Mason City. President Bush held a rally here just a short time ago, while Senator Kerry was appearing in Waterloo, just a little more than an hour's drive away.

As you may remember, we recently tagged along with the Kerry campaign in Florida. So, today, we are traveling with the Bush camp.

Now, more on Senator Kerry's attack on the president's leadership.

CNN's Frank Buckley is in Pittsburgh, Kerry's next campaign stop after his speech this morning in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Kerry went after President Bush on what polling shows is still a strength for the incumbent president, his ability to lead in Iraq and in the war on terror.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, the president says he's a leader. Well, Mr. President, look behind you. There's hardly anyone there. It's not leadership if we haven't built the strongest alliance possible and if America is going almost alone.

BUCKLEY: Kerry's criticisms coming amid a steady stream of pointed jabs from President Bush on Kerry's national security credentials and on his proposals for Iraq.

KERRY: Last month, I spelled out my specific strategy for how we could be successful. Now President Bush is running around the country trying to claim that my plan is what he's already doing. Well, ladies and gentlemen, he could not be more wrong or more out of touch with reality.

BUCKLEY: Kerry said, for one, he would establish an international advisory group for Iraq that would include key allies and Iraq's neighbors, something Kerry claims Bush cannot do because of the way other countries have been treated by this administration. KERRY: Instead of reaching out to allies to get their help in training Iraqi security forces, which should have been our most urgent priority, this administration issued a new order prohibiting countries that were not part of the original coalition from participating in any reconstruction contracts in Iraq.

That's almost like a schoolyard decision. You hit me; therefore, I'm not going to do this -- and things tumble downwards. You learn more in elementary school and high school than they seem to have implied in the conduct of this war.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCKLEY (on camera): Now, later, Senator Kerry will be here in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University for a rally. As you know, he was just here in Pennsylvania yesterday in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, among the top tier of battleground states.

Another indication of that coming today in a confirmation from the Kerry camp and from Bill Clinton's office that President Clinton is coming to Pennsylvania on Monday to appear at a joint rally with Senator Kerry in Philadelphia on Monday. President Clinton of course recovering from quadruple bypass surgery, but clearly the hottest rock star in the Democratic Party and someone who the Democrats believe can remind voters of the prosperity of the '90s, fire up the base, and also reach across the aisle to moderate, to swing voters, to soft Republicans, people who might consider voting for John Kerry with Bill Clinton at his side -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: I know the Kerry people wish they could get Bill Clinton to do even more than those visits to Pennsylvania, but it looks like that's not going to happen because of the time it's taking him to recover.

All right, Frank Buckley traveling with John Kerry now in Pittsburgh -- Frank, thank you very much.

Well, Bush and Kerry covered similar ground in more ways than one today. They both exchanged words about Iraq and about the war on terror. You just heard some of it.

Our White House correspondent Dana Bash is on the road with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With his opponent some 80 miles away saying the Iraq war proves the president is not the leader he claims to be, Mr. Bush veered from his speech on the economy and healthcare in rural Iowa to fire back.

GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iraq is no diversion, but a central commitment in the war on terror.

BASH: Diversion is what Senator Kerry calls Iraq. Trying to prove him wrong, the president seized on a new statement from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whom many call responsible for terror attacks in Iraq now.

BUSH: Zarqawi publicly announced his sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. If Zarqawi and his associates were not busy fighting American forces in Iraq, does Senator Kerry think he would be leading a productive and peaceful life?

BASH: Kerry aides says the president is missing the point, that terrorism is rampant in Iraq because of Mr. Bush's poor postwar planning. Mr. Bush also jumped on an oft-quoted "New York Times" article where Kerry advisor Richard Holbrooke called the war on terror a metaphor, like the war on poverty.

BUSH: Confusing food programs with terrorist killings reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the war we face, and that is very dangerous thinking.

BASH: All this at the first of three stops in blue state the president is determined to turn red. The last time Iowa and Wisconsin went Republican was 1988. Minnesota picked Jimmy Carter in 1976 and hasn't voted GOP since. But the Midwest trio adds up to 27 electoral votes, the same number as the coveted Florida, seven more than all- important Ohio. And polls show each state very close.

(on camera): The president's aides were well aware responding to Senator Kerry would step on their planned message of the day on domestic issues like healthcare. But Bush officials say if Senator Kerry wants to talk national security, he's playing on the president's turf and they are happy to engage

Dana Bash, CNN, Mason City, Iowa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Dana. Dana was with me here in Mason City just not too long ago.

Meantime, Kerry allies are talking about the battle plan for the day after the election, which is, essentially, do not repeat Al Gore's mistakes. Unlike Gore, Kerry reportedly will be quick to declare and to defend a victory on election night if there is a presidential standoff, as we saw in 2000. And the Associated Press is saying that Kerry would be prepared to name a national security team even before knowing whether he has actually won the White House in that interim period.

Another day, another round of presidential polls. A new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" survey shows a dead heat, with Bush and Kerry each at 48 percent among likely voters nationwide. The latest ABC News/"Washington Post" tracking poll gives Bush the edge, 51 percent to 46 problems. So, averaging those surveys together with other recent polls for a broader picture of the race, Bush comes out ahead at 49 percent to Kerry's 45 percent. This poll of polls has held relatively steady for the past couple of days, back to where it was last month, before Kerry's debate bounce.

Well, I flew in to Iowa today aboard the Bush campaign press plane, and that gave me a chance to chat with some colleagues who have been covering the president's reelection efforts -- their insights coming up.

Plus, when are campaigns ads not what they seem? Howard Kurtz will have the answer.

And, later, the first lady of Iowa, an early Kerry supporter, Christie Vilsack, shares her take on the state of the race here.

With just 13 days until the election, this is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: This is a look at the place where, not too long ago, about a couple of hours ago, President Bush was speaking to a crowd of hundreds of supporters here in northern Iowa. These are the Northern Iowa State Fairgrounds, the All Seasons building. It's all cleared out now. But a few hours ago, it was jampacked with people, some of them standing in line since 3:30 in the morning to get in, even though they had picked up their tickets a few days ago.

Our journey here to Iowa with the Bush campaign began bright and early this morning back in Washington. Actually, it wasn't so bright. We traveled before sunup to Andrews Air Force Base, home to Air Force One, outside the nation's capital, where I boarded the press plane that accompanies the president on his travels.

During our flight here to the Midwest, I had time to talk with some of the reporters who have been covering the president's campaign from the beginning. Here now is some of my conversation with Ed Chen of "The Los Angeles Times," Dana Milbank from "The Washington Post," and CNN's own White House correspondent Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Let's start out by talking about how you think the Bush camp is feeling right now. The debates are over. We've 13 days to go.

Ed, what do you sense from them?

ED CHEN, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, I think, one, Judy, they're relieved that the debates are over and that Bush is getting back to his most comfortable environment, which is speaking to invited guests at these rallies that look like public events, but, in fact are very strong Bush supporters only.

WOODRUFF: Dana, are they -- I mean, are they feeling confident? What do you sense from them?

DANA MILBANK, STAFF WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You never get really a straight story on whether they are confident or not.

But based on the schedule, they're taking a pretty light schedule. The president was back at the White House last night before 6:00. He's apparently taking off this Sunday. So he's not been carrying on a blistering pace on the campaign trail. They have reason to be optimistic. When you look at the aggregate polls, they're up.

But if you look at these individual states, he's got some troubles. He's got some troubles in Pennsylvania. It's not at all clear what's going to happen in Ohio and Florida. So, if they are feeling an excessive sense of confidence, that's probably not warranted.

WOODRUFF: Dana, what are you hearing? What do they -- you've been covering them for a long time? How are they coming across?

BASH: Judy, it was really interesting. The night of the last debate, right before the debate started, I heard a word from one of the top aides that I had never heard before, nervous. He actually said, we are really nervous. We're scared.

And it was something that really I hadn't heard at all before. Since then, as they've both said, the president definitely feels more comfortable. They are looking at the polls. They see that the president has nationally gone up a little bit. But they also, like all campaigns, sort of pick and choose where they want to see the bright spots in the polls. They see his leadership on the war on terror is still 22 points up in CNN's latest poll.

And they do see a slight edge in some of the key states. But certainly they know -- and just look at what the president is saying and how he has acted even in the last 24 hours on the stump, that he knows he can't let anything go unanswered from John Kerry. And he defended himself.

WOODRUFF: What do you get to see of President Bush that we might not see on television? I mean, is there anything else that you get to see?

CHEN: Well, not really.

You know, after watching the first debate, I was home for that and watched it with my wife. And, afterwards -- this is the debate where the president looked peevish, petulant, made all those faces. And I turned to my wife and said, I saw a Bush tonight that I rarely ever see, which is the side that most people don't see. But what we see on the trail is the Bush that everybody does see.

MILBANK: You know, Judy, I think we see a lot less than you would see at your studio in Washington or Americans might see at home being out here. We call this the bubble. So, by definition, we are insulated. We only see the most partisan Bush supporters.

We hear the same speech over and over again. Sure, we get e- mails from the outside world. But it's very difficult to tell what's going on. Most of the strategists even are back in Washington. So there's a way of getting captured up in the message here, which is, I think, sometimes frustrating, even to our editors, because we have trouble balancing that with what the other candidates are saying. And it's a little Stockholm Syndrome. (LAUGHTER)

WOODRUFF: So, given that, how do you all keep perspective, Dana? I mean...

BASH: You really -- it's hard. It's hard.

And you really have to sort of -- when you hear what the president says and you hear what his AIDS say, you sort of make a conscious decision to take a step back, think about it in the context of a broader campaign and what Senator Kerry is doing, in the context of the state where he is and who he's speaking to and what his potential liabilities are there.

But it's really important. And it is sometimes hard to remember to make that conscious decision and to do that, because, as Dana says, we are in the bubble and we are traveling with the president and his aides and at these rallies where there are only very vocal Bush supporters.

WOODRUFF: Ed, why is that? We have read so much about how the crowds are carefully screened to make sure they're Bush supporters. People who end up showing up even with T-shirts that are critical are asked to leave. Why are they so careful? What are they worried about?

CHEN: I think it go is back to the president's personality, to start with. He very much likes to be in control. He doesn't like to hear negative messages. And that's what these hecklers are.

MILBANK: It's about beaming that message without interruption into Americans' homes through television.

BASH: The president really plays off the crowd. The second time he used the phrase, he can run, but he can't hide, the crowd, they were all chanting it along with him. So he really plays off it. And it helps him get more comfortable. And it is why, as many people have said, he is so much more comfortable in a place like a rally and on the stump than he is at the debates.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Talking to Dana Bash, CNN's White House correspondent, Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post," and Ed Chen of "The Los Angeles Times." And we thank them all for chatting with us on the flight out here to Iowa this morning.

Well, checking the latest state polls in the presidential race, a new American Research Group survey in Wisconsin finds the race is now a dead heat in the Badger State. Bush has 47 percent. Kerry also has 47 percent, Ralph Nader receiving 2 percent. And a reminder. Results of the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll in Wisconsin will be released tonight at 8:00 Eastern on "PAULA ZAHN NOW."

In New Mexico, another ARG poll finds Kerry has a slight two- point edge over Bush, 48 percent to 46 percent. And in New Hampshire, an ARG survey finds Kerry leading Bush by a single point, 47 percent to 46 percent. Ralph Nader picks up 1 percent.

The fight for control of Congress is nowhere more bitter than in the Dallas area. We are going to update you on a race between two Texas incumbents that has included plenty of red meat. That's coming up after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: INSIDE POLITICS coming to you from Mason City, Iowa, north central Iowa, this Wednesday.

Off to the state of Texas right now, though. Redistricting in the Lone Star State has left two incumbent congressmen facing each other in the Dallas area. Thirteen-term Democrat Martin Frost is locked in a tight race with four-term Republican Pete Sessions. The two of them square off tonight in their fourth of five debates.

Ed Lavandera brings us up to date on the race.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These two candidates are the main course in a campaign that is serving up the Atkins diet of politics, massive amounts of raw red meat for voters to digest. And don't expect the message to change.

REP. PETE SESSIONS (R), TEXAS: Any time my opponent does something that's an ethics violation or a violation of the law, that's fair game to talk about.

REP. MARTIN FROST (D), TEXAS: My opponent from the very beginning has set a very ugly tone and has wanted to talk about anything other than the issues.

LAVANDERA: Here's a sample of the lower moments in the moments. Fliers proclaiming Martin Frost invited a child molester to sing at a campaign fund-raiser were circulated among some voters.

Then there was the story of Pete Sessions admitting he joined in a naked streaking prank as a college student.

(on camera): It's rare to find incumbents forced to run against each other. But after the dust settled after last year's redistricting battle in Texas, Frost and Sessions ended up in the same district. Each campaign will spend more than $4 million, making this one of the most expensive congressional races ever.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I know Pete well.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): That money is being used to spell out what each candidate says are stark differences. Sessions is a Republican. You will find Rudy Giuliani in his campaign ads. He has the support of the business community. He preaches lower taxes and fiscal conservatism. SESSIONS: When you have a tax cut, businesses take that cut and they buy new equipment. They hire new people and they give pay raises. And that is what makes our economy stronger.

LAVANDERA: Frost talks homeland security and vows to fight the outsourcing of American jobs. But in a Dallas area district that strongly supports the president for Texas, Frost describes himself as a centrist Democrat. You won't find John Kerry in his campaign ads, but you'll find plenty of Republicans.

FROST: There's no mistaking that I'm a Democrat. Everyone here knows that I'm a Democrat. But I have crossed party lines to support the president when I thought he was right.

LAVANDERA: The latest poll shows Sessions has a six-point lead, a tight race, which means voters in this district can expect a lot more red meat on their plates between now and Election Day.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: More INSIDE POLITICS live from here in Iowa.

Ahead, did John Kerry's speech today about the president's wartime leadership ring true? We will check his facts.

And the Kerry camp is pouncing on showdown state appearances by Bush National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Are her trips appropriate?

(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up in about 90 minutes, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, Americans continue to seek the flu vaccine. Now there are allegations members of the United States Congress may be getting preferential treatment.

U.S. warplanes continue to keep up the heat on Abu Musab al- Zarqawi's forces. They pounded more targets in Falluja today.

At least 18 have been killed in a commuter plane crash in northern Missouri. Five others are still missing.

All those stories, much more, coming up later on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS," 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Now back to JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS today in Iowa.

WOODRUFF: President Bush barnstorming through the Upper Midwest, through Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin today, mixing his economic message with a defense of the war in Iraq. Senator Kerry is hopscotching from here in Iowa to Pennsylvania, then to Ohio, taking aim at the commander in chief's leadership.

Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff in Mason City, Iowa, where the president was just a few hours ago.

John Kerry used his speech this morning in Waterloo, Iowa, to mount his toughest attack yet on George W. Bush's actions in Iraq. Kerry's rhetoric was harsh. Was it consistent with the facts? Our Jeanne Meserve takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While throwing punches at President Bush's on national security, John Kerry delivered a few blows to the facts. Kerry said Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, the man behind the beheadings in Iraq, could and should have been eliminated before the war.

KERRY: Zarqawi was operating out of no-man's-land in northeastern Iraq. He and his terrorist allies were reportedly producing ricin, a horrific biological weapon. And you know what? We could have but did not take them out.

MESERVE: Pentagon officials say there was no real-time intelligence that would have justified attacking the facility and no guarantees Zarqawi himself would have been killed. When U.S. troops did get to the lab, they found no conclusive evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

KERRY: Global terrorism is increasing, not receding. Since 9/11, the number of significant terror attacks has jumped to the highest level in 20 years.

MESERVE: The number of significant attacks is at its highest level in 21 years, but the State Department also reports that the total number of incidents, large and small, was the second lowest in 20 years. On peacekeepers for Iraq, Kerry said...

KERRY: Unbelievably, we just learned that the president rejected an offer by Arab and Muslim nations to provide those troops.

MESERVE: Monday, the State Department was asked about those reports.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: I don't know that there was ever a concrete proposal made for a group of troops and a commander, and a structure, or anything like that. It was an idea that had been floated.

MESERVE: Kerry also trotted out a claim he has made over and over in this campaign.

KERRY: When Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, remember that? The president should have sent the best trained forces in the world, the United States military, not Afghan warlords to surround the caves. MESERVE: The man responsible for that operation, retired General Tommy Franks, wrote this week in "The New York Times" that the senator's understanding of events doesn't square with reality, that bin Laden may not have been in Tora Bora. But Tommy Franks is hardly an independent expert. He has endorsed John Kerry's opponent, George W. Bush.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: And we want you to know just two weeks ago we did a similar fact check on a speech given by President Bush.

Checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily," aides to President Bush are working to bring a little star power to Ohio in the days before the election. Senior Republican officials say plans are in the works for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to join Bush on the campaign trail, probably in Ohio. Schwarzenegger has been largely absent from the presidential campaign since his prime-time speech at the GOP convention.

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson says he tried to warn President Bush that there would be casualties in the war in Iraq. But, Robertson says, Bush disagreed. Robertson made his comments on CNN's "PAULA ZAHN NOW," as he described a meeting with Bush in Nashville before the war started.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ROBERTSON, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: He was the most self-assured man I ever met in my life. You remember Mark Twain said he looks like a contented Christian with four aces. I mean, he was just sitting there like, "I'm on top of the world."

And I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, "Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties."

"Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties." Well, I said, "You know, it's the way it's going to be."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Pat Robertson in an interview last night. And a short time ago, Kerry advisor Mike McCurry issued a statement in which he said the president needs to answer what he called a simple question, "Is Pat Robertson telling the truth when he said you didn't think any casualties, or is Pat Robertson lying?"

Well, President Bush's national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, has kept a more public profile in recent weeks, especially here in the United States. CNN's Bob Franken reports that Democrats are accusing the president's national security advisor of blurring the line between politics and policy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By definition of the job, the president's national security advisor focuses on matters international, including the world's battlegrounds. But Condoleezza Rice's boss is facing a serious reelection challenge. Now critics are focusing on her appearances in domestic battlegrounds, battleground states.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: And because of the president's plainspoken and resolute leadership in combating WMD...

FRANKEN: This was Rice last week at Cleveland City Club. Cleveland is in Ohio, the much heralded all-important to the election Ohio. She has also spoken since Labor Day in Oregon and is expected twice this week in Pennsylvania. Then, still going.

The thing is, critics charge, it's unprecedented, blatant politics in a time of so many crises. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan deflected the criticism, saying the speeches that she has given are engagements that she was invited to attend.

Clinton national security advisor, Anthony Lake, gave two speeches during the 1996 election season, both in Washington. And his successor, Sandy Berger, gave one during the 2000 campaign, also in D.C. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who held the job for President Carter, made two out of town. But speaking for the Kerry campaign in a conference call, Brzezinski told reporters that Condoleezza Rice has gone too far too often.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I'm afraid that represents, at least in my book, excessive politicization of an office which is unusually sensitive.

FRANKEN: For their parts, secretaries of Defense and State, Rumsfeld and Powell, have pretty much cooled their domestic jacks about the president's world view during the election season, pretty much.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: And it is a vision that he will take into the next term of office with him. I can assure you with that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN (on camera): But that speech was made in Washington. Condoleezza Rice has hit the road. And critics say she strayed too far from the House, the White House -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bob Franken, looking at what Condoleezza Rice has been up to. Bob, thank you very much.

Straight ahead, Halloween's still 11 days away, but it's already getting scary out here on the campaign trail. From talk of terror attacks to secret plans to gut Social Security, our Bruce Morton considers the frightening scenarios from both candidates.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Here in north central Iowa, with the CNN Election Express bus, we are in Mason City, where President Bush was earlier today.

Checking in now on the two presidential running mates, Democrat John Edwards is spending most of this day in Ohio, where he discussed jobs with voters in Canton. He is scheduled to meet with steel workers and their families this hour in Steubenville.

Republican Dick Cheney is campaigning in Michigan. He met with community leaders in Clio, before he headed for an afternoon rally with supporters in Traverse City.

In recent days, the Bush and Kerry campaign have accused each other of using scare tactics to win public support. Our Bruce Morton reports on the competing claims that the candidates are trying to frighten the voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scare tactics? They are using scare tactics?

RICHARD CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The biggest threat we face now as a nation is the possibility of terrorists ending up in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than have ever before been used against us.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dick Cheney described -- and I'm paraphrasing him now -- but described once again the possibility of some terrorist getting their hands on a nuclear weapon and attacking a major city or cities in the United States of America. And then he went on to say -- he went on to say that George Bush would protect against that -- against that, but he did not trust John Kerry to do it.

KERRY: And I believe that this president has failed, failed to make our country as safe and secure as we ought to be.

MORTON: Scare tactics? Really?

BUSH: My opponent's record is 20 years of out-of-the-mainstream votes instead of articulating a vision or a positive agenda for the future, the senator is relying on a litany of complaints and old-style scare tactics.

KERRY: President Bush and Dick Cheney are running around the country doing what they've been doing for quite a while now. They are trying to scare you. They are trying to scare you.

CHENEY: He will try to scare young people by raising the specter of the draft, when he knows the only people who have supported the idea of bringing it back are in his own party.

KERRY: On George Bush's watch, America is more threatened than we were before.

MORTON: The four major candidates, Bush, Cheney, and Kerry and Edwards, are all accusing each other of using fear, scare tactics on the voters. The four major candidates are all right about this, that is what's going on.

We have quoted them mostly on terror, but the Democrats also try to frighten seniors with tales of what Bush might do to Social Security. Not change it, he says.

The Republicans frighten voters with tales about Kerry's plan for government-run healthcare. He doesn't have one.

(on camera): Is it working? Who knows. We do know city dwellers are more frightened of terror than other voters, and they're for Kerry. But city dwellers are more Democratic anyway.

We do know the scare tactics are likely to continue, and that's scary, of course. But take heart. We can all come out from under our dining room tables in less than two weeks now.

Bruce Morton, CNN Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: All right, Bruce. Thank you very much.

Well, with less than two weeks, as Bruce said, until the election, George Bush and John Kerry have narrowed their focus. Both candidates and their running mates are campaigning in battleground states today.

Joining us is now with opposing takes on this race, Republican strategist Ken Duberstein and Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, Jack Valenti.

Gentlemen, good to see both of you.

Jack Valenti, to you first. What about Bruce Morton's report that both of these candidates accusing the other one of trying to scare the voters? Is John Kerry over the top with some of his allegations that he's making?

JACK VALENTI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, this is politics. It ain't beanbag. This is not anything unusual.

To me, I think this is a new kind of election. I don't think that we have ever seen anything like this in the previous elections.

I have been in Washington for over 40 years, and I think one of the best kept secrets in this election are that polls are untrustworthy. And when you look at six or seven polls, and it's two points up for Kerry, to eight points up for Bush, you know they are wild and erratic.

And also, I think that young people are not reachable by pollsters because they are mostly on cell phones and they're getting most of their information from the Internet and, I dare say, from humor on television. That Jon Stewart may be reaching more young voters than all the paid ads combined. So this is a very different kind of campaign.

WOODRUFF: But what about the scare tactic business, Ken Duberstein? What about when the president or Dick Cheney starts talking about it's a more dangerous time for the United States if John Kerry is elected president? Is that over the top, or is that appropriate?

KEN DUBERSTEIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I really don't think any of this is over the top. I think this is part of the American political scene.

You know, for years and years, we have always had these closing arguments. But what has surprised me is -- with John Kerry, is that he's relentlessly negative in talking about tearing down President Bush. You know, I think John Kerry made some strides for himself when he was, "presidential" during the debate. But he didn't make the sale that Bush is scary. And what he has done ever since the debates is go after relentlessly negative against President Bush. And I don't think that it's selling...

WOODRUFF: So you think that John Kerry...

DUBERSTEIN: I don't think that's selling with the American people.

WOODRUFF: You think John Kerry has been more negative -- you think -- Ken Duberstein, you think John Kerry has been more negative than the president and Dick Cheney have?

DUBERSTEIN: Oh, I absolutely do. Whether it is on working on vaccines, or talking about some of the war on terrorism, he has consistently gone negative.

And I think what this is all about, and what the presidential election should be all about is the future. What are you going to do if you're elected? What happens on November 3? And I don't think you are hearing very much of that, certainly from the Kerry campaign.

WOODRUFF: Well, Jack Valenti, what about that? Do you agree that John Kerry is more negative than the president in this campaign?

VALENTI: No, I don't. And when Ken was working for President Reagan when he ran against President Carter, he was pretty negative against Carter.

This is the normality of a political campaign. Ken and I have been through a lot of them. And this is nothing unusual.

This is blood sport, though, when you are trying to win the presidency. So you have both sides going negative and both sides trying to scare the other side. But it's perfectly normal. I think the -- the big unknown here is how people are reacting. I believe, based on my long experience, that people -- most people vote viscerally and not intellectually. That is, they vote with their heart and not their head.

And that's why I think that these debates were very important, because it allowed people to see how the candidates -- how they sounded, how they looked, how they comported themselves. And that's how a lot of people vote, whether I like this person, I trust this person by the way they present themselves to me on television.

WOODRUFF: Well, Ken -- Ken...

DUBERSTEIN: And, you know, just picking up on Jack's point, you know, remember -- and I agree with him -- that America likes to like their presidents, whether it is Ronald Reagan, or even Bill Clinton as a likable rogue. We like to like our presidents. And that's why I think that Bush has the slight upper hand here as we head into these last 12 or 13 days.

VALENTI: Well, let me just -- let me come in to say that I have vast respect for the (INAUDIBLE) of Ken Duberstein, but neither he nor I, nor anyone else in this country can tell you how this election is going to come out. I think that this is a dead heat.

And the big, big question mark is Ralph Nader. If he pulls one percent of the vote, that's minuscule. But if he pulls four or five percent of the vote, that's a big problem.

DUBERSTEIN: And just to agree with Jack, while it's dead even, I think the trend lines are starting to move ever so slightly toward President Bush. But it is, in fact, a dead heat.

WOODRUFF: Jack Valenti, if this election is more about personality and visceral feeling, you know, Ken Duberstein just made the point that works to George Bush's advantage, because polls show he seems to come across more likable to people.

VALENTI: I think on the whole that's probably true, except in the first debate. I think that the great asset for John Kerry was, to quote Ken Duberstein, is he looked presidential. I think the best asset for President Bush is -- in the next two debates -- he was better than he was in number one.

But what no one can certify, or with any precision, declare, is how people feel emotionally about each of these men. I have been all over this country in the last month speaking to various groups, and I find this country totally polarized.

There's anti-Bush and anti-Kerry, and pro-Bush and pro-Kerry. There's only about, in my judgment, maybe four to five percent of the people who haven't made up their minds. And that small segment of the American voting population is what this campaign is all about. And which way are they going to go? No one knows.

DUBERSTEIN: And they are concentrating on just a handful of states, Jack.

VALENTI: That's true.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: They sure are. And that's where you find the candidates. All right. That's where we are.

All right. Jack Valenti, Ken Duberstein, good to talk to both of you. We're going to hear from both of you next week. We will be that much closer to the election.

It's 13 days away now. It will be about six, seven days away the next time we see you. Thanks very much.

VALENTI: Thank you.

DUBERSTEIN: Thanks so much, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Still to come on INSIDE POLITICS, when President Bush goes on the attack, the Kerry campaign hits back with a rapid response. Part of that response, TV ads that sometimes don't make air. A look at these phantom ads when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Coming to you from Mason City, Iowa, this day.

You know, throughout this long and intense battle for the Oval Office, Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" has focused on the campaign ad wars. Today, he looks at the so-called phantom ads, some of them released by the Kerry campaign, ads aimed more and influencing the news media than the voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD KURTZ, "RELIABLE SOURCES" (voice-over): For the Kerry campaign, it's almost like clockwork. When President Bush airs an attack ad, say one slamming the senator's healthcare plan...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rationing, less access, fewer choices, long waits.

KURTZ: ... Kerry's campaign rolls out a counter-attack spot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: George Bush's attacks on John Kerry's healthcare plan are called not true, outright fabrications.

KURTZ: When the president portrays Kerry as buffeted by the wind...

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

KURTZ: ... a Kerry spot ridicules the president's approach. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the face of the Iraq quagmire, George Bush's answer is to run a juvenile and tasteless attack ad.

KURTZ: But the Kerry ads you've just seen have never been aired as commercials. Instead, they have appeared in part in news segments on various national TV outlets, including CNN, and in "The Washington Post" and other newspapers. But the reality is that these are phantom ads, produced as video news releases designed to generate headlines and news reports about how the Democratic nominee is fighting back.

More than half a dozen times in the last seven weeks, the campaign has released ads, but not paid a dime to run them on either cable networks or local stations in the battleground states. Kerry advisor Tad Devine told me the campaign wasn't trying to be disingenuous. "They make these ads as part of their rapid response," he said, "but decide later, based on polling and focus groups, whether to buy time to broadcast them." But he didn't deny that generating headlines and free air time is part of the goal.

Bush media advisor Mark McKinnon says his campaign, which makes fewer ads than Kerry's, has never announced a commercial without paying to air it. Though he says sometimes these are lighter buys, such as only on national cable.

Sometimes the Kerry campaign makes only a token buy, such as this ad that ran on just one Washington, D.C. cable station.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Despicable politics, an un-American way to campaign, the latest Bush-Cheney attacks against John Kerry.

KURTZ: Advertising analyst Evan Tracey calls this political product placement, and says the Kerry camp is getting away with it.

Not all the phantom ads are responding to Bush assault. On Sunday, Kerry released this spot...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth is coming out. George Bush has finally admitted that he intends to privatize Social Security in a second term.

KURTZ: But the truth is that this ad hasn't aired yet either.

(on camera): The media love negative ads because they create controversy and provide good video. But journalists need to be a little more wary about being used by pretend advertising that, in essence, is made just for them.

Howard Kurtz, CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Howard, thank you. And we did, in fact, report on some of these ads here on INSIDE POLITICS, as we have with many ads by both campaigns. We reported them because we were told by the Kerry campaign in conference calls and releases that these were new campaign ads, presumably to be aired as commercials on local and national TV outlets.

Well, here in Mason City, Iowa, we were able to watch President Bush in action on the campaign trail. And next, we will talk to one of his top advisors, Karen Hughes. What does she see ahead in the final day of the race?

And we will talk about the campaign scene here in Iowa with first lady and Kerry supporter Christie Vilsack.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As the markets close on Wall Street, I'm joined now by Lou Dobbs in New York for another installment of "The Dobbs Report." Hi, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Hi, Judy. Thank you. Oil prices closing sharply higher once again, back near the record levels after two days of declines. Today's surge coming after the government's latest inventory report raising new consumer concerns about supplies this winter.

The report showing a smaller increase in crude stocks unexpected and a bigger decline in heating oil inventories. Crude oil shot up $1.63 in New York trading, just under $55 a barrel today.

Higher fuel costs, lower earnings reports sending the Dow Jones Industrials down. As the final trades are being counted now the Dow is down just about 11 points. It had been off nearly 100 points earlier in the day, now off 11.38. The Nasdaq Composite is actually bucking the trend and is up by just about nine points.

JP Morgan's profits down from a year ago hurt by costs tied to its merger with Bank One. And investors unimpressed by the higher earnings from both United Technologies and Honeywell today. Delta Airlines, like the rest of the airline industry, in trouble. Posting a quarterly loss of $646 million.

And as I've been reporting now for nearly two years here on CNN, the quality of jobs in this country being created is simply deteriorating. A report from the University of California at Berkeley now shows jobs being created in industries with low-paying positions but in fact, declining in industries with higher paying jobs. The UC Berkeley research shows full-time positions created are on average now paying almost $4,000 a year less than the jobs lost.

Meanwhile, many older Americans are being forced to delay their plans to retire. A new survey by Gallup and the brokerage firm UBS shows they're pushing back their retirement plans. 57 percent of investors saying they're putting off retirement until after the age 62. And more than half of those surveyed are very or somewhat concerned that they'll outlive their retirement savings.

Coming up at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," democracy at risk. We're focusing on the challenges facing our national voting system and how it's holding up. Several activist groups on both the left and the right are calling upon the United Nations to provide international observers. Critics however say the move would put the United States on par with third world countries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INST.: It's not just ridiculous, but it blurs that distinction between countries that have established democratic procedures and those that don't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Also tonight, why the Bush administration doesn't want to deal with the invasion of nearly three million illegal aliens in this country this year. Tonight's face-off, we debate Proposition 200, a ballot measure in Arizona that would prevent illegal aliens from taking advantage of state services in Arizona. It could well be a template for the entire country. Critics, however, are putting up a lot of money. They say that measure would cost the state of Arizona too much money.

And political fear factors. Both campaigns relying heavily now on scare tactics to swing this close election. From terrorist warnings to nuclear attacks, we highlight some of the worst examples of fearmongering from both the Bush and Kerry campaigns. Now back to Judy Woodruff -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Lou, what about those so-called scare tactics. We've been looking at that, too, today on INSIDE POLITICS. This is not something new in American politics, is it?

DOBBS: It's not new, Judy, as you well know. But the intensity of this -- these scare tactics being employed, I think, is certainly unprecedented in my memory. Some are even suggesting it goes back to something in the neighborhood of almost 200 years ago. Both campaigns indulging in what is, frankly, wanton disregard for common sense, and some would say stability itself and respect for the intelligence of the voters.

WOODRUFF: Lou Dobbs. We're going to be seeing him with "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" coming up in two hours. Thanks very much.

DOBBS: Thanks, Judy. Good to see you.

WOODRUFF: INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Going for a trifecta. How three showdown states could decide the presidential horse race.

All about Iowa. Both White House contenders return to the place where the campaign season began.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Now, live with the CNN Election Express in Mason City, Iowa, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.

WOODRUFF: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS and the fairgrounds here in Mason City, Iowa, where President Bush held a rally earlier today. This state, which is so important in the primary season, is also a presidential battleground this fall with recent polls showing the contest neck-and-neck.

Both President Bush and Senator Kerry held campaign events here in the state of Iowa this morning. In Waterloo Kerry stepped up his attacks on Bush's actions in Iraq, charging that the president's failures there have made America weaker in the war on terror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: Mr. President, it is time for leadership. It's time to implement the real 9/11 intelligence commission that were passed by the Senate. And Mr. President, if you don't do it now, I'll do it in January.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Here in Mason City, the president tried to turn the tables on John Kerry, charging the senator is incapable of winning the war against terror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Senator Kerry was recently asked how September 11 had changed him. He replied, "it didn't change me much at all." And this unchanged world view becomes obvious when he calls the war against terror primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation rather than what I believe. A war which requires the full use of American power to keep us secure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: After Iowa, the president headed to Minnesota, and then on to Wisconsin, while Senator Kerry left for Pennsylvania and Ohio. A few weeks ago, we traveled to Florida with the Kerry team for an inside look at his campaign. Today we've been on the road with President Bush. We are joined now by senior Bush advisor Karen Hughes. She is in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, another stop today for the president.

Karen Hughes, what about this increasing sense on the part of some in the media that we're seeing scare tactics, so-called scare tactics being trotted out by both campaigns, that the rhetoric has gotten increasingly hot and in some cases it's gone over the line?

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISOR: Judy, I think it's very clear from our side that what President Bush is talking about is the fundamental difference in how you approach perhaps the most important issue in this election, and that is the war against terror.

I've said for 18 months, I think when you interviewed me many, many months ago, that when it comes down to voting this November that I really believe that most people in the first presidential election after September 11 are going to vote based on the safety and security of their families. And I think that's the case.

And I think it's very important that President Bush continue to point out the differences between the way he would wage this war against terror and that of Senator Kerry who views it as a much more limited scope. He's called it a law enforcement, an intelligence gathering operation which is after all the way we looked at it before September 11 when al Qaeda was plotting the very attacks of September 11.

And so in our view, that's a very dangerous way of thinking. And the next president is going to have to lead this war against terror in a way that makes the American people more secure. And we're arguing, I think, absolutely rightly, that President Bush is the commander-in- chief who can lead and effectively lead that war to victory.

WOODRUFF: Karen Hughes, the television evangelist/broadcaster Pat Robertson said last night on CNN that when he talked to President Bush before the war in Iraq and raised the likelihood of casualties, he says that the president told him there will be no casualties. Did the president say this to Pat Robertson?

HUGHES: Judy, I cannot imagine that that conversation would ever take place. I've never heard the president say anything of the sort. Of course he knows that wars result, unfortunately, in the loss of lives. That's one of the reasons it makes it such a difficult and agonizing decision for a president to decide to commit troops. And of course, at the time that conversation took place, we had already lost casualties in Afghanistan, in the war against terror. So I just can't imagine what -- whether he misunderstood, or what happened. But I'm certain that the president did not say that remark.

WOODRUFF: So Pat Robertson is lying or wrong or something?

HUGHES: Well, again, Judy, I don't know. Perhaps he misunderstood. But I've never heard the president say any such thing, and I can't imagine that he ever would. Because obviously at the time that he's alleged to have said that we would have already experienced casualties in Afghanistan and he would certainly have known that committing troops -- remember, in the buildup to the war in Iraq, there was a lot of discussion about the huge battle that we expected to take place with the elite Republican guard. And there was a lot of concern that there would be a very large number of casualties. It just doesn't sound consistent with the facts as I knew them at the time.

WOODRUFF: Karen Hughes, there's also a report today about the president's national security advisor Condoleezza Rice making a number of appearances, speeches in the political battleground states, an apparent break with precedent. Zbigniew Brzezinski who was Jimmy Carter's national security advisor today, said, quote, "this is excessive politicization of an office which is unusually sensitive." How do you explain Condoleezza Rice's activities?

HUGHES: Well, Judy, I think it's very important that the national security advisor, we're a nation at war, and it's very important that she talk with the American people and with newspaper reporters such as yourself, with newspaper editorial boards who want to ask her questions about that war.

I know when she's traveled to different places, different states, and she's been to a lot of states where the president is not campaigning, I know to make speeches about this war because we are a nation at war. We are facing a threat that's unlike any, as President Bush has said throughout this campaign, unlike any that our nation has faced in the past.

And I think it's appropriate and important for her to speak out. And I travel with her so I know how careful she is to try to stay away from political events. It is part of her job, however, to explain the national security situation and to explain this war against terror in which we are engaged at this moment while this campaign is already under way.

Judy, I wanted to mention also the remarks that Teresa Heinz Kerry apparently made in an interview that's being discussed today where she questioned whether our first lady Laura Bush had ever had a, quote unquote, "real job." Being a librarian is a real job. Being a teacher is a real job. A real hard job, as I think teachers across the country will tell you.

And so is being a mother. Being a mother is a real job. And I think it's just -- these kind of comments are an unfortunate way to try to drive a wedge between women who work at home and women who work outside the home. And I think it's just unfortunate to try to disparage women who have made the choice of making their families a priority.

WOODRUFF: Karen Hughes, just quickly, it's my understanding that today Teresa Heinz Kerry issued a statement saying that she had forgotten that Mrs. Bush had worked as a teacher and a librarian, and she said there's no more important job than teaching children. Do you accept -- does your campaign accept this apology?

HUGHES: Well, I think it's very nice that she apologized, but in some ways the apology also made the comment worse because she seems to have forgotten that being a mother is a real job. And again I think her comment threw a very inappropriate wedge between women who choose to work at home and women who choose to work outside the home.

And I think most women, and most men will be offended by that because most women want to be able to choose to do what's right for them, whether it's to stay home with their families and work at home or to work outside the home pursuing a career.

WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to have to leave it there. Karen Hughes, traveling with President Bush throughout the upper Midwest today. Karen, thank you very much for talking to us today from Wisconsin.

HUGHES: Thank you for having me, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, Iowa, where I am, is a top battleground state. But some others may prove more crucial on Election Day. The story of the big three ahead.

And since we are here in Iowa, we'll get a view of the race from the state's first lady, Kerry supporter Christie Vilsack, the wife of the governor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: We are in Iowa today. And you know, even as the candidates travel from one showdown state to another, they know that all presidential battlegrounds are not created equal.

Here's our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Among the 14 battleground states, three stand out -- Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio. They're the biggest, each with 20 or more electoral votes.

Political insiders say, whoever wins at least two of those three states will win the election. In 2000, George W. Bush carried Ohio and Florida. Al Gore took Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has a lot of socially conservative voters, anti-abortion, pro gun rights.

BUSH: Good to be in a part of the world where people like to hunt and fish.

SCHNEIDER: Pennsylvania also has a large population of seniors. John Kerry is counting on them.

KERRY: My fellow Americans, on November 2nd, Social Security is on the ballot.

SCHNEIDER: Four non-partisan polls taken in Pennsylvania this month all show Kerry in the lead. Average the four polls and you get Kerry 49 percent, Bush 45.

Florida has a popular Republican governor named Bush and a good economy.

JOHN MERCURIO, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: They have one of the best job markets in the country.

SCHNEIDER: The devastating hurricanes this year enabled President Bush to campaign without seeming to campaign. But Florida remains a wild card because of the state's rapidly growing ethnic minorities.

KERRY: Vous-etre (ph), Haiti. D'accord.

SCHNEIDER: In six Florida polls taken this month, Bush leads in four, Kerry in one, and one shows a tie. The average? Bush 48, Kerry 45. That leaves Ohio, where the economy over the last four years has not been good.

KERRY: The net bottom line is 1.6 million private sector jobs lost, 237,000 of them right here in Ohio -- 173,000 manufacturing jobs.

SCHNEIDER: In 2000, the Gore campaign pulled out of Ohio in the last few weeks. Kerry doesn't intend to do that.

MERCURIO: Kerry campaign, on the other hand, last week was running this bus tour through some very rural, southern, conservative parts of Ohio.

SCHNEIDER: Five nonpartisan polls this month in Ohio show a close race. The average? Kerry 48, Bush 47 -- statistically a dead heat.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera): So, if you want to spend the last weeks of this campaign at political ground zero, buy yourself a ticket to Ohio. It may all come down to the Buckeye State -- as opposed to the Hawkeye State, Judy, where you are right now.

WOODRUFF: Indeed. But I'm going to buy my bus ticket to Ohio, Bill. You know that.

SCHNEIDER: OK.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Well, meantime, speaking of the Hawkeye State where I am, it is going down to the wire here. Just ahead, we'll have another perspective on the presidential race here in this state from the state's first lady, Christie Vilsack.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Coming to you in Mason City, Iowa, this Wednesday. As we've been telling you, the struggle between George Bush and John Kerry for Iowa's seven electoral votes seems to be going right down to the wire.

I spoke about three hours ago with Christie Vilsack. She's the wife of Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and a long-time Kerry supporter. I asked her first how she sees the race shaping up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIE VILSACK, WIFE OF IOWA GOV. TOM VILSACK: Well, I've been traveling all over the state, and what I feel is the surge that's happening out there. I've been through several close elections with my husband, and I've been through a lot of campaigns. And you can begin to feel the momentum building.

It's great being out there in the crowds and seeing new voters, young people voting for the first time, a lot of activists from all different parts of the state really excited. And so, I know what a surge feels like, and this is a surge.

WOODRUFF: If it's so close, though -- Ralph Nader's on the ballot. Is that a worry for John Kerry, for his campaign?

VILSACK: What we're concentrated on is registering new voters, getting our vote out. We already have 80,000 Democratic votes in the bank. We've got ground troops here. They are very, very committed, and we're really excited. And you should have seen the rally in the streets we just had here today. People are really pumped up. And we know how to get our vote out in Iowa.

WOODRUFF: Christie Vilsack, President Bush was here in Mason City here this morning telling a very large and enthusiastic crowd that he's going to defend America no matter what, while he said John Kerry has what he called a very dangerous pre-9/11 mentality, an attitude toward terrorism.

Is that a message, though, that's sinking in with Iowa voters?

VILSACK: I don't really think so. You know, I supported John Kerry because I wanted to feel safer. And I like knowing that the commander-in-chief is willing to listen to people, is willing to sit down at the table, to seek advice and then take action.

And John Kerry today, when he was making the speech today, was presidential. We saw the next president of the United States, that he was resolute and very strong. But you know, it takes -- the president needs to be able to do more than one thing at a time, and he needs to not only fight terrorism abroad, but he also needs to deliver flu shots at home and take care of seniors and their prescription drug needs.

I've been out over this state over the last two weeks in 16 different places, 1,500 miles, talking to hundreds of seniors. And they want generic drugs on the market, and they want Canadian prices, and they want the power of the federal government behind reducing the cost of prescription drug prices.

And so, they need a commander-in-chief -- we all do -- who can take care of a lot of different issues that we all have. And certainly, if you had been here today in the audience and heard senator -- the senator talk about homeland security and with the force of quite a few military people behind him, you would have seen how resolute he is about that.

WOODRUFF: But in essence, the president is saying, John Kerry -- it would be dangerous to elect John Kerry, that he doesn't recognize the threat that terrorism poses to this country.

VILSACK: Well, John Kerry has looked death in the face, and he's been in a war. He's fought in a war. He has saved his band of brothers from danger. And so, I have every confidence that John Kerry will fight terrorism, that he will be resolute in his fight against terrorism abroad. But he will also be resolute in making us feel safe at home. And I'm interested...

WOODRUFF: Well, the other...

VILSACK: Sorry.

WOODRUFF: I was just going to say quickly, the other point the president hammers away at is that he says John Kerry is a liberal. He quoted Kerry as having said he's a liberal and he's proud of it.

VILSACK: John Kerry is interested in the issues that all of us care about here in Iowa. He's interested in healthcare. He's interested in fixing the education system. He's interested in making sure seniors are taken care of. You know, we have more seniors over the age of 85 than any other state in the nation.

And so, what he's interested in is making sure that we feel safe at home and safe abroad. And that's what I'm interested in.

You know, we have a lot of National Guard men and women abroad, and he's going to do whatever he can to get this war taken care of and get them home. And I think a lot of people here are really focused on that. But they want to make sure that we have our domestic issues taken care of, as well.

And right here in Waterloo, there's no better place to talk about jobs. If you don't feel safe in job security, then you don't feel safe. And I think the domestic issues, as well as those issues abroad, are really important.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Democrat Christie Vilsack -- she is the wife of Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: It's great being back in Iowa, if only for a day. But that's it for INSIDE POLITICS from here in Mason City. I'm Judy Woodruff.

"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

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