Return to Transcripts main page
CNN CAPITAL GANG
The Presidential Campaign Enters Its Final Week; Polls Mostly Show Race A Dead Heat; Flu Vaccine Shortage Becomes Political Issue
Aired October 23, 2004 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson. Our guest is Republican congressman Tom Davis of Virginia, the chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform and a real authority on American politics.
Good to have you back.
REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA: It's great to be here.
SHIELDS: Thank you.
President Bush and Senator Kerry are criss-crossing the nation, stepping up criticism of each other.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You really get this feeling that if George Bush had been president during other periods of American history, he would have sided with the candle lobby against electricity. He would have been with the buggy makers against the cars and the typewriter companies against the computers.
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While America does the hard work of fighting terror and spreading freedom, he has chosen the easy path of protest and defeatism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Also this week, Senator Kerry borrowed a camouflage outfit and did some goose hunting in eastern Ohio.
Al Hunt, what's going on in this final week of campaigning?
AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: The goose vote is up for grabs, Mark.
SHIELDS: Didn't go after deer, you notice.
SHIELDS: No Bambi, yes.
HUNT: Listen, if -- what this is all about is what voters are going to be thinking about when they go to the poll on November 2. If they're thinking -- assuming they're all free to vote. If they're thinking about the threat of terrorism, George Bush wins. We did a poll this week, I think a great poll, and we asked, Who's better on terrorism, 52-28 Bush. If they, on the other hand, are thinking about domestic issues, Kerry wins. Again, the same poll, 48-32 Kerry on jobs, even greater spread on health care.
And what they both have to calculate in these last nine days is how positive, how negative do they get, what is their message? And they have -- because they have -- they both have conflicting goals. They want to energize that base. They want to bring out the African- Americans, on the one hand, evangelicals on the other. But they also want to appeal to that teeny, teeny band of undecided voters. And those two goals sometimes are in conflict with one another. That's what's going on.
SHIELDS: In conflict with one another, Tom Davis?
DAVIS: Absolutely. But I think this is the time to mobilize the base. You've already started voting in about half the country, at this point, and they're talking to their bases. And I think to the extent Kerry's going after Bush on international relations issues, terrorism, it's not to his advantage. These are Bush's issues. He ought to be talking about the economy.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson?
MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: But he should go after him on Iraq and get the conversation back over there because that's a failure. Listen, I don't think Kerry's scored any points by going goose hunting, but I think points are scored passively by Kerry because if you just read the paper, the stock market's down, oil prices are up, more bankruptcies by the airlines, more people losing pensions and drug benefits. All that news is not good for Bush.
And so I agree with Al partly if it's about terrorism Bush wins, but I think if it's about Bush and being on the wrong track, Kerry wins.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, when you talk about dress-up and John Kerry, this camouflage outfit -- at least he didn't dress up on an aircraft carrier...
ROBERT NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Oh!
SHIELDS: ... and in a flight suit, you know, and say...
NOVAK: Oh! Are you going to run the whole...
SHIELDS: No, it's just...
NOVAK: ... the litany of...
SHIELDS: We're playing dress-up.
CARLSON: Right. Yes.
NOVAK: ... of Democratic baloney? I'm so sick of that! I can't tell you. Let me tell you this. This was one of the most unedifying weeks at the end of a political campaign. This is a very close race. For people interested in the horse race, it's interesting. But it is very, very depressing, particularly Kerry with his long face. He gets out there and he's sour and he's complaining about this and he's doing wisecracks. I mean, I -- my first campaign that I covered was 1960, and John Kennedy had some inspiration. He didn't think a lot of Dick Nixon, but he never talked about him. He talked -- it was inspirational. There's nothing inspirational -- I think George Bush tries to be inspirational, but -- but Kerry doesn't. It's -- it's just -- what is the -- what is the nasty, mean thing I can say today?
I believe -- I really don't believe they're appealing to undecided voters. I think -- I think that the undecided voters have been turned off by both -- by both of them, and I don't think either one of them are appealing to them.
SHIELDS: Al, we'll get to the inspiration factor, but I -- this week, there was a sidebar that kind of occupied both campaigns. Teresa Heinz Kerry unwisely said in an interview that she didn't think that Laura Bush had ever had a real job. And televangelist Pat Robertson said in an interview with Paula Zahn on CNN that before the war, he had warned President Bush about the number of casualties, and he said the president smiled, said there won't be any American casualties. And the White House since has basically called Pat Robertson a liar.
HUNT: Well, both were probably stupid comments. Certainly, Teresa Heinz's was a stupid comment. She wisely tried to retract it right away. I don't know what the story was with Pat Robertson. But my guess is, Mark, that these sideshows aren't going to really matter in this election, that there's other issues. I agree with Bob, it's been rather pedestrian, but I think voters on November 2 are going to focus on those other big issues.
Can I make one other point? And anybody can come back to these, if they want to. Bill Clinton -- Bill Clinton's going out on the campaign trail on Monday in Philadelphia, and I think Clinton actually will be an asset this time, as opposed to four years ago. But I'll tell you...
SHIELDS: Why do you think that?
HUNT: Well, because he is much more popular than he was four years ago, and I think he will energize that base. But I'll tell you something. If this is -- if this is a race decided by headquarters, Bush wins.
DAVIS: If you could...
HUNT: The Kerry headquarters was so stupid to put him in Philadelphia. That's a base that's going to turn out anyway. They should have put him in his home state of Arkansas, which would have been natural. It was really -- they ought to be sued for malpractice, it was such a bad decision.
NOVAK: I'd like to see the Bush voter who is going to vote for Bush and -- Gee, Clinton's out there, I'm going to switch to Kerry. That's going to...
HUNT: No, there won't be any...
HUNT: There won't be any Bush voters.
CARLSON: ... get out the vote.
NOVAK: Let me just -- let me just correct you -- correct you on something that -- I hate to do that.
HUNT: I know you do.
NOVAK: But Teresa Heinz Kerry -- I agree with you, it doesn't matter what the first ladies do. They shouldn't even be out campaigning, if I had my way.
CARLSON: There would be no first ladies.
HUNT: Tom is disassociating himself from you!
NOVAK: But Mrs. Kerry only apologized because she forgot that -- that Laura was a librarian and a school teacher. She didn't apologize for the fact that she had one of the toughest jobs in the world, and that's being a mother, being a home mother. And she never apologized for that! I thought that was offensive. Whether it -- I don't think it changed one vote, but it was very offensive.
CARLSON: Listen, I've been a working and non-working mother, and it's a minefield. You should never get into it. But the women settled it very nicely, especially when Mrs. Bush came back and said, I'm used to these trick questions. I forgive you.
SHIELDS: I thought she handled it very well.
CARLSON: And -- and no one was called a liar, as Pat Robertson was by Karl Rove and Karen Hughes.
SHIELDS: I -- I -- it can't be an easy job to be a librarian, dealing with reading and books all day and then go home to George W. Bush.
NOVAK: Oh! What a cheap shot!
(LAUGHTER) SHIELDS: But she had a real job. I mean -- Tom Davis, what about this campaign? Is it worse than others you've seen? Is it really that uninspiring?
DAVIS: It's a repeat of 2000, basically, and I think we're seeing the cultural components coming to a head once again. Kerry's problem is that he's still Massachusetts and he's not connecting to the South. Bill Clinton ought to go in the African-American areas because Kerry has still not connected with them. In fact, a lot of polls show that he is losing votes there, not performing as well. That's where they ought to send Clinton.
This is all about turnout the last 10 days. There are very few undecideds.
SHIELDS: What -- because you've got a deserved reputation for candor, what is George Bush's defect as a candidate in reaching 50 percent?
DAVIS: Well, he's -- he's the incumbent right now, at a time when the stock market has hit a yearly low and things aren't going well. Not his fault. Nationally, oil prices, internationally, oil prices are high. And he's just sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's -- that's -- that's his problem, at this point. But Kerry has not connected, and he's not made the sale under these circumstances, and...
NOVAK: Kerry is...
HUNT: Can I agree with Bob Novak, after he -- after he managed to correct me? Bob, you're right. I think Kerry needs some kind of an inspiring message in the last couple days, and it has been absent. And if he doesn't get it, I think it's going to be a problem.
NOVAK: Well, let me tell you something else. Going to people who whine about having to pay doctors' bills is not inspiring. And people who are really worried that much about health care, they're going to vote for Kerry anyway. I can't understand why he keeps harping on that issue.
SHIELDS: Well, I think -- I think it makes sense because he's trying to close the gap with women voters, where he has really been short. And that's a major concern with women voters, Bob, and I -- because I know you spend a lot of time with women voters.
Tom Davis and THE GANG will be back to look at how tight the presidential race really is in this final stretch.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. With only 10 days remaining until election, the latest CNN survey shows that if the election were held today, President Bush would win 277 electoral votes and Senator Kerry would win 261. In the most recent polls of likely voters, "Newsweek" shows a 2-point Bush lead, 48 percent to 46 percent. "Time" magazine shows a 5-point lead for the president, 51 percent to 46 percent. Bob Novak, is this race still too close to call?
NOVAK: Mark, if you look at the numbers and study them, the internal numbers, it isn't too close to call. This looks like a win for President Bush. Some of the private polls I've particularly seen, he is over 50 percent. And incumbents over 50 percent in approval usually wins. Senator Kerry has been dropping in likability. He's over -- negatives are 50 percent. All these things are -- are -- are going higher. And you say, No, it looks like it's a win for Bush. Except there's one problem.
SHIELDS: What's that?
NOVAK: They're not exactly sure who's going to vote. And that's what all -- where all this modeling falls down. If -- and you hear this. I don't know if it's true. If you're really going to get a tremendous outpouring of young voters, who are anti-Bush and non- Caucasian votes, who are anti-Bush, it would be too close to call. But who knows whether these people are going to vote or not?
SHIELDS: Tom Davis, there's a traditional rule in American politics that negative energy is stronger than positive energy, and there seems to be more negative energy against President Bush on the part of those disaffected with him.
DAVIS: I don't think that's right.
SHIELDS: Do you think that affects turnout?
DAVIS: Well, the outs are always more energized than the people that are in office. That's a standard adage, at this point. But what you -- what the Bush administration and the campaign has done so well is portrayed Kerry as someone who is out of touch, and he is non- competitive in almost half of this country. So they have forced this onto a playing field where the president can win it. And if you look at the polls the last week, even in a number of the blue states, the president is ahead in some of them outside the margin of error. So he has some momentum going into the last week.
The problem, though, as Bob says, it's turnout. Who are these new registrants? They tend to be a little more Democrat than Republican when you look across the board. And can they get them out? And will they, in fact, vote Democrat?
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, in the "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll, 13 percent of the voters were registrants this year, and Kerry led by a double -- double-digit margin among those people. What's your own -- I mean...
CARLSON: Right. The big increase...
SHIELDS: ... own take?
CARLSON: ... in registration has been in those areas of Democratic voters. Now, every year, Democrats say, Oh, you know, our people don't get polled, as if all their voters are phoneless. This year, however, young people on cell phones are not polled, and that is a huge group that might vote. And they will vote for Kerry. And the new registrants -- it's harder to register than it is to actually go out and vote, so those new registrants are more likely to vote than not. So I think that's why the old models don't apply as much.
DAVIS: I think it's easier to register than vote.
SHIELDS: Yes. I...
CARLSON: Than go vote?
DAVIS: You go to DMZ, you're registered.
CARLSON: That's the DMV.
DAVIS: The DMV, the department -- the division of motor vehicles.
DAVIS: You get food stamps. They register you now.
CARLSON: Boy, when I go to...
CARLSON: ... the DMV, it's never easy, so...
SHIELDS: Well, that's because of your record, Margaret.
DAVIS: That's because you're in the District of Columbia.
SHIELDS: Go ahead.
HUNT: Margaret cited our poll, which I think is the best, which does show it even and is at variance with the polls that Bob cited. Let me tell you the problem. And I don't know what the answer is. The "Time" magazine poll that showed a 5-point advantage for Bush and at 51 percent -- what that assumes in that poll is there's an equal number of Democrats and Republicans voting, 35 percent apiece. Now, the exit polls last time had 3 or 4 percent more Democrats voting. That's what most people think will happen this time. If they are right, then the "Time" magazine poll is wrong. If you make that assumption, it's dead even. We don't know. We really don't know.
But I'll -- and I'll tell you, if you look at the states, I think there's a simple formulation. You take Florida and Ohio, and if Bush wins both of them again, he wins. If Kerry wins one of them, I think he's got a real shot. And they talk about this -- you know, the Ronald Reagan-Jimmy Carter election, the William McKinley election. This is, I think Tom would agree, the Woody Hayes election. Woody Hayes was three yards and a cloud of dust. This is the ground game, whoever has the best ground game in the last couple days.
NOVAK: I disagree with you. I think it is possible for Bush to lose either Florida or Ohio, and that -- but here's one of the...
HUNT: But unlikely (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
NOVAK: Here's one of the interesting things, I think, that is in Bush's favor. He's doing very well in these battleground states, Iowa, Wisconsin...
NOVAK: ... Minnesota. And the big -- the big leads by Senator Kerry are in states that used to be battleground states but aren't anymore. He has a huge lead in Illinois, a huge lead in New York, a huge lead in California. And that adds up to his national vote, but it -- it's irrelevant. So I think -- I think...
HUNT: Works the other way, too. Bush has a huge lead in Texas, huge lead in the South. I mean, I think they almost are a wash.
DAVIS: You know, Kerry...
SHIELDS: The only region of the country where there's a double- digit lead by either candidate is in the South. Go ahead.
DAVIS: Well, Northeast, Kerry is really strong, and that's threatening the Republicans in some local elections and some congressional elections.
SHIELDS: That's right. Connecticut, for example.
DAVIS: But Kerry is non-competitive in the South and most of the Rocky Mountain states.
SHIELDS: Well, I would -- but I think it's fascinating. I think Bob's absolutely right about Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota being in play. But all of a sudden, so are Nevada and Colorado is in play, and Bush is defending Ohio.
DAVIS: I think they're going to be fine. If you take a look at who's voting early in Nevada, it's the Republicans who are showing up, at this point.
HUNT: Is that right?
HUNT: Because the Democrats claim their people voted early.
DAVIS: No. No. The Nevada -- Nevada's (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
SHIELDS: I was told by a 3-to-1 margin, the request for absentee ballots in Iowa were from Democrats (UNINTELLIGIBLE) DAVIS: In Iowa, that's accurate.
SHIELDS: That's accurate. Hey, I take the word of Tom Davis.
Next on CAPITAL GANG: What does the flu have to do with presidential politics? A-choo!
SHIELDS: Welcome back. Republicans and Democrats blamed each other for the nation's flu vaccine shortage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: With senior citizens standing in line for hours, mothers frantic about how to protect their children, this president gave the public his solution: Don't get a flu shot.
TOMMY THOMPSON, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: During these challenging times, it is disheartening for me and for the department to see critics who have done nothing to strengthen our system try to lay blame where it doesn't belong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, could the flu vaccine shortage have some effect on this election?
CARLSON: It could. Gas lines did. Nobody died in the gas lines. I think the flu lines could have an effect. Listen, you know, Bush gave a very flippant answer during the debate. You know, he's -- he's a big guy. He's not going to get his flu shot. But this is exactly what government is supposed to do. Only government can now assure an adequate supply of flu vaccine. And the government knew because four years ago, there was a shortage. Last year, there was a shortage. But nothing was done. And this year, when half of it didn't come through -- and by the way, regulators are the ones who knew that it was contaminated, so government again protects people -- there was no plan B. Just like in Iraq, the president had no plan B to fix this -- the situation. And the Chicago Bears and members of Congress, thanks to Senator Bill Frist, were getting flu shots, and there are not that many under 2 years old and pregnant.
SHIELDS: Tom Davis, member of Congress, did not get a flu shot.
DAVIS: I did not.
SHIELDS: OK. How about this politically?
CARLSON: No girlie-man you.
HUNT: And he's been on top of this issue.
SHIELDS: That's right. DAVIS: Well, I mean, nobody's to blame, but this is a campaign, and when it's close like this and you're wherever you're sitting, you're going to take a hit. When it's this close, you know, everything matters. But the reality is, if you take a look at the policies, we have to change vaccine policy. Tort reform is a huge part of that. Companies are getting out of the business because there's no profit to be made in it. And we're going to need new policies after this.
But I -- you can't blame this administration any different than the Clinton administration. It was the British that shut the production down.
SHIELDS: But -- but isn't Margaret right, Bob, that it is the government's responsibility to make sure that there is a supply?
NOVAK: You know...
SHIELDS: Thirty-six thousand people died last year.
NOVAK: I think this...
SHIELDS: Every year.
NOVAK: This whole business -- I think Tom is right, that Kerry -- Kerry looks up in the morning and it's raining and he says, Oh, another -- another failure by Bush.
HUNT: With a long face.
NOVAK: Yes, with a long face. But -- but what depresses me about it is all this whining about no flu shots. There's no flu epidemic. The federal health officials say that it looks like, so far, it's even lower than usual. And immediately, the people are whining, say, Isn't the government going to help me out? You know, I've never had a -- I'm 73 years old. I've had about every disease known to man. I've never had a flu shot. All these people so worried about it. There's something wrong with people in this country if they really think that this is a -- this is a matter that is of great concern.
HUNT: I just wish -- I just wish the Chicago Bears were as tough as Bob Novak, you know? I really do.
SHIELDS: And Dick Cheney.
HUNT: Right. I think Margaret Carlson is absolutely right. She got it right. This -- the drug companies are in it to make a profit. That's what they're supposed to do. They have shareholders to worry about. And the government...
NOVAK: You'd like to socialize them!
HUNT: The government -- no, I would not. And the government is in it to protect people. And this is a case where, if they're not -- if it's not profitable enough, the government has an obligation to do it. Bob, 36,000 people died of influenza. Now, that -- some of them would have died anyway. You're absolutely right. But not all of them, by any means, and...
HUNT: And so therefore, without flu vaccines, that number could -- you know, could -- could hold or go up. And that is a government responsibility...
NOVAK: Can I ask you a question?
HUNT: But could I yield to Tom Davis...
DAVIS: ... end of the day, they're going to find a vaccine. They're going to -- they have the mists. They have other...
SHIELDS: "They" -- the government's going to find it?
DAVIS: Yes. At the end of the day, we'll get it. It's just -- it's clumsy the week before the election because they don't have it yet.
NOVAK: Can I ask a quick question?
SHIELDS: You may.
NOVAK: ... Al, that at the end of the day, you would like to see the government take over everything but "The Wall Street Journal"?
HUNT: No, that's not true. I wouldn't like to see them take over THE CAPITAL GANG. I wouldn't like to see them take over your column.
NOVAK: Everything else, though.
HUNT: Some days I would.
SHIELDS: Tom Davis, I want to thank you so much for being here. You brought wisdom and insight to us. I wish you luck on election day. I know you got a hell of a tough race.
SHIELDS: Coming up on the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, our "Sidebar" story is the Alaska Senate race with Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski defending her seat, the one to which she was appointed to by her father. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to look at close races there for the Senate and for the presidency to Florida. And our "Outrages of the Week." That's all after these urgently important messages and the latest news headlines.
SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG. In Alaska, appointed Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is fighting to hold onto her seat battling the Democratic challenger, former Governor Tony Knowles. They debated earlier this week over who could better open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY KNOWLES (D), ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE: You'd have to work across party lines. I believe that we can convince (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the middle of both parties to join and address America's needs, not a partisan, secret pork-filled bill that's now lying dead on the floor of the Congress, but one that addresses the oil and the gas needs of this country, which Alaska certainly through ANWAR and the gas line would play a substantial role in providing.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R) ALASKA: There are 43 Democrats in the 108th Congress that oppose opening ANWAR. Tony's got to pick up 11 Democrats. That's a tall order. We needed two votes last go around, folks in the Republican-led majority, we did on the agenda. We pick up these seats. We have George Bush in office and we have ANWAR next year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: In the latest, KTUU poll of likely voters conducted by a Democratic firm, Tony Knowles leads Senator Murkowski 47 to 45 percent. Bob Novak, why? Alaska, which George W. Bush carried by 31 points, is a Republican senator in trouble?
NOVAK: That's an easy answer.
NOVAK: Lisa Murkowski was named to the Senate to fill the vacancy left by her father Frank Murkowski when he was elected governor. It's outrageous. Whether she's qualified or not, but the turn around, the backfire is that he's proved a very unpopular governor so she gets it both ways. She was picked by him and then the Murkowski name wasn't very good. On top of that, Tony Knowles was very popular Democratic governor and the interesting thing is not that it's just about a toss up, the margin of error, it's not the why isn't Tony Knowles way ahead? The reason why he's not way ahead is that this is a very conservative Republican state and it's incredible for Tony Knowles to say he's going to bring in Democrats to vote for ANWAR when all the tree-hugging Democrats in the Senate are going to be against it. So to me, the amazing thing is that it's still close, not that she may lose.
SHIELDS: You think she will lose?
NOVAK: I don't know who's going to lose. I think it's a very close race.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: She is going to lose.
NOVAK: Well, I'm glad you know that.
CARLSON: I do know. The - it's the new frontier and you can't have a hereditary seat in a place like Alaska and not have people remember and resent it. And then on top of that, I think Frank Murkowski was going to appoint Senator Ted Stevens' son if Ted Stevens, who's 81, resigned. They really don't like that in Alaska. And you know, Tony Knowles is a kind of middle of the road guy doing ANWAR and other things. So he really fits the state. He's not an unacceptable alternative even in a state as conservative as Alaska.
SHIELDS: Al, it's really, I mean ANWAR is a no issue in Alaska, I mean in the sense (UNINTELLIGIBLE) shoes (ph) and lobsters in Massachusetts.
HUNT: Mark, I was in Alaska two months ago on a family vacation, but always thinking of THE CAPITAL GANG, I did a lot of reporting while I was up there and Bob Novak is absolutely - Bob Novak is absolutely right. This could be - the whole state could be an echo of Yankee stadium the other night, who's your daddy? I mean that's what it's all about. It's about Frank Murkowski. He's very unpopular. They don't like him. They don't like the fact he was appointed. That's why I think Tony Knowles will win. I'll tell you something. If she had not had been appointed by him, if he appointed a caretaker and she had run, I think she might have won this race.
SHIELDS: But giving Tony Knowles credit, this is a guy who has prevailed on that landscape, a heavily Republican landscape and twice been elected governor.
NOVAK: He has always - the one thing that is in her favor, he has always run against a divided Republican party. It's not divided.
SHIELDS: Big libertarian - exactly. So you pick Murkowski?
HUNT: No, no, I think that Knowles wins. I think Murkowski would have won if she hadn't been appointed.
NOVAK: If the election were held today and Tony Knowles would win. This is a very close race and I'm sure that Margaret was up there tramping through igloos and all things like that.
CARLSON: The Eskimos, I shook a lot of Eskimo hands.
HUNT: Bob, when you rubbed a few noses up there every day.
SHIELDS: Coming up on THE CAPITAL GANG classic, the revelation about George W. Bush and the final days of the 2000 campaign. ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week. Who was Tommy Knowles fraternity brother at Yale? A, George W. Bush; B, Bill Clinton; or C, John Kerry? We'll have the answer right after the break.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. Five days before the 2000 election, it was revealed that Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush had been convicted of drunk driving in 1976. Your CAPITAL GANG discussed this on November 4, 2000, just three days before Election Day.
NOVAK: It's a reporter's story. I don't believe there's an impact on it and of course it all cooked up by the Democrats.
HUNT: If George W. Bush had simply told the truth about this, this 24-year old drunk driving arrest when he was only 30 years old, nobody would have cared. But he didn't Margaret. He basically tried to cover this up.
CARLSON: Polls are showing people don't care. There might even be a backlash. It's a dirty trick. He gave a non-answer in the past. He hasn't lied about it and I think he handled it well.
SHIELDS: This is not a dirty trick. A dirty trick, a dirty trick is a smear. A dirty trick is an (UNINTELLIGIBLE). A dirty trick is what Richard Nixon's henchmen did, breaking into people's offices, savaging their reputations.
CARLSON: A non-answer is untruthful in the standards we have, which is that you have to put - there are sins of omission. You have to put this stuff out there and when you're asked, you must say or it's considered a lie.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, four years later, did the drunk driving charge influence the 2000 election in any way?
CARLSON: How did you like my lecture on sins of omission?
SHIELDS: I did. I did like this.
HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your Catholic education.
CARLSON: It is. It dampens enthusiasm, because you don't want to go vote for a guy who didn't answer it right. And drunk driving among the base is not an appealing characteristic. Karl Rove thinks it's depressed turnout, especially among evangelicals, whom he's done everything he can do this time to get them out, from the gay marriage to George Bush prays his way through the presidency.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak, do you think in retrospect, it affected the turnout in 2000? NOVAK: It affected the turnout and I think it changed (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for once and this is very rare, I was completely wrong about that when I say it had no impact and Al was completely right when he said that it wouldn't have been a problem if George Bush had 'fessed up. President Bush admits that privately and he says he did it because he didn't want to embarrass himself in front of his children. He thought he'd get away with it. Of course it was a Democratic dirty trick. They held it in their pocket, but I think it damn near won the election for Al Gore and I really believe that these roadmaps, you know what a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I think they have great effect and that's why the next 10 days are going to be interesting.
HUNT: I certainly appreciate.
SHIELDS: Now how does it qualify as a dirty trick when it's the truth?
HUNT: It wasn't a dirty trick and I appreciate Bob Novak's nice compliment and I'll pay you, I'll return a compliment. You were right back in 2000. It didn't have much of an effect. Karl Rove has enormously exaggerated this - Karl Rove had to justify why he was so wrong when he talked to reporters and contributors the day before the election, said we're going to win by 3 or 4 million votes and it became easy. The drunk driver kept all the evangelicals at home. I don't think that happened and so I don't think it mattered much.
CARLSON: Well, how about this time?
SHIELDS: Last word, Margaret Carlson. Next on CAPITAL GANG, beyond the beltway looks at the battleground state of Florida, with Brian Crowley of the "Palm Beach Post" who joins us from Miami.
SHIELDS: Welcome back. In Florida, the Republican Senate candidate, former Bush housing secretary, Mel Martinez, assailed his Democratic opponent, former state education commissioner Betty Castor this week. Quote, if Betty Castor had had her way, Saddam Hussein will still be butchering the people in Iraq and enslaving his own people and creating problems in the Middle East, end quote.
In their first debate earlier this week, the candidates clashed over ads about an alleged terrorist who had taught at the University of South Florida, where Betty Castor was its president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETTY CASTOR (D) FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: ... Martinez has spent several millions dollars on ads that depict me and the situation at the University of South Florida, when I was the president. I think they're unfair. I think they are dishonest and I think they're hypocritical.
MEL MARTINEZ (R) FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: These are people who are actually utilizing one of our fine state universities as a cover, as a terrorist front for several years under her watch. I thought it was a failure of leadership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: The Insider Advantage poll shows a 4 point lead for Betty Castor, while Quinnipiac has the Senate race tied. In the presidential race, Insider Advantage shows the candidates tied. Quinnipiac has a 1 point lead for George Bush. Joining us now from Miami Beach is Brian Crowley, political editor of the "Palm Beach Post." Thanks for coming in Brian.
BRIAN CROWLEY, PALM BEACH POST: Glad to be here.
SHIELDS: Brian, is Mel Martinez' heated rhetoric a sign of some desperation?
CROWLEY: Well, it's a very calculated thing. They feel that they can win and win big on the terrorism issue. I think you're seeing the same thing on the presidential level. They think that Betty Castor's particularly vulnerable on that issue and candidly, I think just by their presence, they feel like he's male. He's this tall strapping guy and they think they portrays this image of toughness that Betty Castor doesn't.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: Brian, these polls are over the lot in Florida, both the president and the Senate race. Tell us what the consensus is among the politicians who - people who know just privately, whether they think who's going to win the Senate race and who's going to carry it for president.
CROWLEY: I think the consensus is they really don't know. Obviously the candidates themselves and their strategists tell you publicly that they think they're going to win, but privately there's some doubt on both sides. I would say that the most confident campaign on the Senate level is clearly the Martinez campaign. I think they feel like Betty Castor has not caught her stride in this race and I think the Bush people are fairly confident in the state as well.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Brian, how about the fairness of the vote down there after what happened in 2000? The secretary of state, Glenda Hood is partisan like Katherine Harris, provisional ballots aren't going to count unless you cast them in the right precinct. The purge of the felon seems to have been overly enthusiastic. What do you make of this? Does this look unfair? Does it look as if partisan politics has entered into this?
CROWLEY: Well, partisan politics has always been a part of our elections here. The secretary of state, up until the last election, was always an elected position. So you either had a Democrat as you had for most of our history in the state or a Republican as Katherine Harris was, elected to that position. In this case, there's a patina of independence because the governor appoints and supposedly that person would be independent. But obviously Glenda Hood comes from a party background. She's very loyal to Glenda Hood, I'm mean, I'm sorry, to Governor Bush and if you're a Democrat, you're not going to look favorably on anything that Glenda Hood does.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: Brian, let's stay with that subject for a second. It was your paper I think who 3 1/2 years ago had a tremendous post-election piece that showed Florida voters that their intent had been taken into account. If you hadn't of had those holocaust survivors who because of the flawed ballot, voted for Pat Buchanan, that Gore would have won the election. Are those kind of problems going to recur this time or have we at least resolved that type of ballot deficiency?
CROWLEY: Well, we don't have the hanging chad potential anymore. We're completely electronic in this state and I would also add that we've had some elections since we've gone with this electronic system. We had the 2002 governors race. It went fairly smoothly except in two counties. We had the presidential primary in March. We've had city elections in March and we've had the statewide primary in August and for the most part, those elections went pretty well. The big test this time is that we're going to have far larger group of voters showing at the polls and I think that the elections offices could be a little overwhelmed and there's some concern about glitches just because people not understanding what's going on with the new machines.
SHIELDS: Brian, on the Senate race, the primaries were interesting. Betty Castor won a surprisingly easy Democratic primary, but on the Republican side, Mel Martinez' primary victory over Congress Bill McCollum was really quite bruising, featuring a last- minute implication by the Martinez campaign that Bill McCollum was the captive of gays and maybe even suggesting something about the congressman himself. Has there been any lingering problem for that, for the Republicans in the general?
CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely. Mel Martinez went into the race earlier this year considered a moderate Republican, a generally nice guy. By the time he got down with a pretty harsh primary, much of it on his side, his reputation had become tainted as being basically fairly nasty. "St. Petersburg Times" withdrew its primary endorsement of him. He got some very harsh criticism, editorials all around the state and now that's sort of sticking to him and some of the charges that he's laying on Betty Castor at this stage are not getting quite the weight because of what he did in the primary.
SHIELDS: Bob Novak.
NOVAK: Brian, a lot of Democrats are saying that the Cuban- American vote down in Florida is not going to be as solidly Republican as it has been past years and that - this is the president I'm talking about - but Kerry's going to get some. Two questions, is that true? Do you think there's going to be a fall off? And secondly, wouldn't that be a - in a closely contested state, wouldn't that be a disaster for President Bush even if it were true?
CROWLEY: Well, I think by and large, the Cuban vote will go to the president. There's another generation of Cubans however who were born in this country. They're in their 20s and their 30s. They're not part of that intense exile community that cares about everything that happens to Fidel Castro every day and they tend not to vote as their parents did and I think there's a chance for John Kerry to pick off some of those votes. But I think overwhelmingly, the Cuban vote will still go for the president.
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Brian, it's been such a negative race that Tim Russert, when he was moderating the debate, asked the pair of them, to pledge not to do any more negative ads. Betty Castor said yes. Mel Martinez did not. Has that hurt him at all?
CROWLEY: Well, they apparently don't think so. She made the renewed pledge just a few days ago to withdraw her ads and said she would. Martinez said he was not going to do the same thing. He said that because of Emily's List and some other groups that are backing Betty Castor, who are running what he perceives to be negative ads, that he isn't going to quote, unilaterally disarm. But they are convinced that going after this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this issue of terrorism, hurts Betty Castor and helps Mel Martinez and there's just no sign they're backing away from that.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt. We have basically 30 seconds.
HUNT: Brian, very little time left. Tell us, what will the African-American vote be? Will it be larger than it was in 2000 or not as big or what?
CROWLEY: Well, let me be a little more generic. The voter turnout effort in this state is huge. It's huge on both sides. I think the African-American turnout will be significant and I think it will be overwhelmingly for Kerry.
HUNT: Bigger than last time?
CROWLEY: I can only guess, but I wouldn't be surprised. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) intense interest in this election.
SHIELDS: Brian Crowley, thank you for being with us. Thank you for being so informative. The GANG will be back with our outrageous of the week.
SHIELDS: And now for the outrage of the week. Just how dumb does George Bush really think we voters are? John Kerry pledges to roll back tax cuts only for those making over $200,000. So the president strangely argues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm just going to tax the rich. Well, the rich hire lawyers and accountants for a reason. That's to stick you with the tab. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIELDS: Now more than any president in U.S. history, George Bush has cut taxes on the wealthiest citizens. Now Mr. Bush insists the U.S. government is somehow impotent in the face of these muscular lawyers and accountants to enforce the law. Cynicism truly unsurpassed. Bob Novak.
NOVAK: John Kerry keeps saying President Bush lost the chance to capture Osama bin Laden by using Afghan warlords, not U.S. troops, against Tora Bora. Private intelligence analyst George Friedman writes in his excellent new book, "America's Secret War," quote, General Franks took one look at the intelligence on Tora Bora and realized that U.S. troops, not acclimated to climate or the altitude, would be cut to pieces if bin Laden's main force was actually in the mountains, end quote. Should Senator Kerry consider these facts, not just read political talking points?
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.
CARLSON: Mark, Bush is now bragging that he's the first president to fund stem cell research, when he's actually the first to restrict it. Clinton left office before acting on the Bioethics Commission's recommendation to Federally fund research using embryos. Bush could have agreed, but instead caved to extreme pro-lifers who believe a single frozen cell discarded from fertility treatments is equal to someone with Parkinson's disease.
The general public doesn't agree with Bush, so Bush is fudging the fact that he let a strident minority curtail life and death research for the rest of us.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt.
HUNT: As a kid in Philadelphia, one of my idols was Jim Bunning, the great Phillies pitcher. But the Kentucky senator is erasing those memories with his pathetic reelection campaign. First he hurled ethnic slurs at his opponent, Daniel Mongiardo, a distinguished doctor. Then this week he said he didn't know about the Army unit in Iraq that refused orders protesting quote, I have not read a newspaper in over six weeks. I watch Fox news, end quote.
It's time for the bluegrass voters to relieve the old right hander.
SHIELDS: The World Series is beginning. Who are we talking about? Any political fallout. The Boston Red Sox, Bob, John Kerry's home team against the semi, one-time battleground state of Missouri. Is George Bush, if he roots for the Cardinals, does it help him?
NOVAK: That's fairly nauseating, you know, to politicize something as nice as baseball. I know very well that there are people besides John Kerry and you who are fanatic Red Sox fans. My son in law Chris Caldwell is a conservative, is for the Red Sox. So don't give me this stuff about them being the liberal teams.
CARLSON: It's the underdog. My daughter's there watching.
NOVAK: I'm going to tell you something -- and you're outraged on taxes. Isn't it a fact -- aren't you outraged that billionaires Theresa is paying such a low rate of taxation because she is using tax shelters.
HUNT: It's because she's using tax-exempt bonds
CARLSON: She has a huge charitable, a huge charitable...
HUNT: I would do away with tax-exempt bonds, but as long as they're there, you're entitled to buy them to get a lower return.
NOVAK: That's what I call cynical.
HUNT: You probably use tax-exempt bonds but I've never been in that income strata.
SHIELDS: Al Hunt, you're getting the final word and it makes a lot of sense to the American people. This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Coming up next, CNN present "Immigrant Nation, a Divided Country."
At 9:00 p.m. Eastern, LARRY KING LIVE, Princess Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, Lord Charles Spencer, excuse me not lady, Charles, Chuck, Charlie. And at 10:00 p.m., the latest on efforts to free a kidnapped humanitarian work in Iraq. Thank you for joining us.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com