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Army Creates Armor Task Force; Democrats Search for Direction; Bush to Be Aggressive on Social Security; Will Iraq's Elections Lead to Civil War?

Aired December 10, 2004 - 15:30   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Have more on politics to come, but, first, we want to lead off with breaking news out of the Pentagon off of the controversy developing in recent days about whether there's sufficient armor on the equipment being used by some American troops.
Let's go quickly to our Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, CNN has learned that the Army is renegotiating a contract with the company called Armor Holdings of Jacksonville, Florida, to take advantage of an offer to increase production of armored Humvees from 450 a month, up to 550 a month.

The Army says it was unaware until the press reports that the company could possibly provide more Humvees. They were told that 450 was all the Army could by because the company had other customers.

But after a negotiation this morning, or a conversation this morning, between the Army's secretary, who called the CEO of the company, they worked out a deal where the Army is going to be able to buy up to 100 additional Humvees a month.

In addition, the Army secretary, Fran Harvey, who's only been on the job for less than a month, has created an armor task force to review contracts with other companies to see, again, if they can take advantage of increased industrial capacity or speeded up production lines in order to accelerate the purchasing of armor for troops in the field.

Again, the Army says it was unaware the company was able to provide more Humvees until the press reports that followed the question that Donald Rumsfeld was asked by a soldier in Kuwait earlier this week -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And Jamie, as I understand it, the company yesterday was saying that they had offered to make additional armor platings for these tanks, or equipment and that the Pentagon had not taken advantage of it.

MCINTYRE: Now, there are a couple of companies involved here. This one in that Florida said that they told the Pentagon they could make up to 550 armored Humvees, but the Pentagon's last understanding was that some of those were going to other customers. Again, that was ironed out this morning in a direct phone call from the Army secretary to the CEO. Now, there's another company in Arizona that makes ceramic armor. In that case, the Army says they already have a backlog of that armor they can't install now. So they're not sure they need to buy more of that at the moment.

But again, that's one of the things this armor task force that's just been created is going to look at, reviewing all the contracts for armor, armor plating, armor kits, armored Humvees, and see -- make sure they're taking advantage of all the capacity that the U.S. companies have to offer.

WOODRUFF: It will be interesting to know who those other customers for the armored Humvees would be. It would seem it wouldn't be that many in the world, but...

MCINTYRE: Well, I asked about that, and the -- the assumption here is it might be contractors, companies that are -- that are working in Iraq will also need armored vehicles, as well.

WOODRUFF: OK. Jamie McIntyre, thanks very much. We appreciate it, with some breaking news right out of the Pentagon.

And now back to politics and the Democrats. The signs around them may say "Welcome to Florida," but Democratic state party chairs meeting in Orlando know full well where they are, at a crossroads.

While some party leaders are trying to put the best face possible on election 2004, we are told many of the activists gathered in Florida have begun taking a hard, clear-eyed look at where they go from here.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): Vacationers at Orlando's many amusement parks may enjoy being in free-fall, but the Democrats meeting there sure don't. More than a month after their election losses, Democrats appear to be engaged in a battle for, as Pat Buchanan once put it for Republicans, the heart and soul of the party.

The liberal-leaning, Internet-driven group Move On clearly has a dog in that fight. In an e-mail to supporters, the head of Move On's political action committee blasts outgoing DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe as a tool for corporate donors and a professional election loser.

Elis Pariser say the grassroots contributors who made Move On a political powerhouse bought the party, own it, and now he says, we are going to take it back.

Move On favorite Howard Dean offered a similar message this week. He is likely to be a hot topic of conversation in Orlando as Democrats look ahead to their February vote for a new party chairman.

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way to rebuild the Democratic Party is not from the consultants down; it is from the ground up. WOODRUFF: Dean is one of many possible and official candidates for the job. The crowded field underscores the various party factions, and there are often opposing ideas about how to win again.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot be nationally competitive unless we feel comfortable talking about our convictions.

WOODRUFF: Some sage advice from a Democrat who knows a thing or two about making a comeback. But which convictions do the Democrats communicate to voters? Some want to compete on the GOP's faith and family turf.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our faith is enormously important to us; our family is obviously enormously important to us.

WOODRUFF: Other Democrats argue the party should stay true to its traditions and convince voters that issues such as equal rights, health care and education are moral values.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC PARTY STRATEGIST: We need candidates at all levels that connect head to heart with voters.

WOODRUFF: Left or center? What about national security? Try to win back the red states or rebuild and expand the base? It's enough to make any Democrat's head spin.


WOODRUFF: While some Democrats are wringing their hands about the state of the party, outgoing DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe has a more upbeat take. I spoke with him just a short while ago and asked him to respond to Democrats who suggest the party is leaderless and virtually a mess.


TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Well, it's not a mess. I mean this party now, Judy, is in the best financial shape, best organized that we've ever been. As you know, after the election this party raised over $10 million after the election. We have no debt. The new headquarters and 175 million voters filed.

We have changed our party forever. I can lead this party. We out-raised the Republican National Committee, Judy, for the first time in the history of our country. And we now have a base in the party to keep this going forward.

What we have to do going forward Judy is we've got to make sure that our message is resonating across this country. And we've got to go into those red states and talk to them about the issues, the values and other thing.

But the tools, the infrastructure, which I'm in charge of, that's all fixed. Now we've got to really work on the message and make it resonate across this country.

WOODRUFF: Well speaking of that, you've got activists on the left, the far left. You've got activists more in the middle. They all have different prescriptions.

Some of them, the liberal group, for example, let me just quote what they put out in a statement. They said, "For years, the party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base."

They say of the party, "We bought it, we own it. And we're going to take it back."

MCAULIFFE: They didn't buy it and nobody should say that. Listen they are -- they're entitled to whatever their opinion is.

You know, in the Democratic Party we like to sort of form these circular firing squads. It's not my nature. I am very positive. I am very optimistic.

You look at the Democratic National Committee. We raised a quarter of a billion dollars this year from small donors. I would advise them that first of all, you can't take corporate money any more in the last few years. We worked hard the last four years.

When I became chairman four years ago, we were $18 million in debt and dilapidated headquarters and no voter files. Today 175 million-name voter file, very sophisticated technology to communicate. That's where we are.

We just need to make sure with our candidates that we're out talking them and helping them. I'm telling you, next year the Democratic National Committee will raise in excess of $75 million from small donors. That's going to help the new chairman immediately go out and help candidates who are running for office. We're in great shape.


MCAULIFFE: A lot of people whine and wring their hands, Judy. You know that's not my nature. We gave it everything we had in this presidential campaign.

Everybody was on the ground. Never before has an incumbent at war been defeated and let me tell you this: John Kerry came awful close.

WOODRUFF: But again, you're talking about money. You've got disparate philosophies in the Democratic Party. You know, I mentioned Move On. You've also got the Democratic Leadership Council. You've got John Edwards. You've got others out there saying the party does need to focus on values, on -- on connecting with people of faith.


WOODRUFF: Can this party win with so many different sets of views?

MCAULIFFE: Well, and you're wondering why I'm not running for chair again, Judy?

But, you know, this is the Democratic Party. What is great is our vast difference on ideas. And that's what makes us great. We are not one group. We have got to pull this party together.

But I've got to tell you, with 56 million people going out to vote for John Kerry, we came awful close. Now, in 2008, Judy, we will not be running against an incumbent president. We may still be at war. But it won't be an incumbent president.

But we had extraordinary gains. We knocked on -- the Democratic National Committee knocked on 11 million doors. We have millions of activists that are in this party.

We've got to come together with a core message about the values that this party stands for, our pro-economic, pro-health care, all the things that this party stands for, and we'll do just fine. We've got the resources. Now we need to work the message. And that's the challenge that we do have.

WOODRUFF: What -- what are the most important qualities in the next chairman or chairperson of the Democratic National Committee? Is it just fundraising ability?

MCAULIFFE: No. I've got to tell you know, we don't need a fundraiser any more, Judy. It's always important to raise money. It was important when I came in, because we had to pay the debt off, build the building, build the voter files, but that's all done. Our party now is in shape now to beat the RNC every year going forward.

What I just gave a speech to the state chairs, the mission of the next chair of this party is to make sure we're out early testing our messages, bringing the message development together.

And most importantly, we've got to go out into the states and build up our grass roots organization. We've got to fix our state parties to make them strong. But guess what? We now have the money for the first time ever to be able t do it.

So we need a chair who can go out and fire people up, fix the state parties and help us put this message development operation together.

WOODRUFF: Do you know who that person is? Is there some dark horse name out there we haven't heard of?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I know they've eight or nine folks going to be speaking tomorrow. But I only know of one or two who've actually, Judy, at this point said, yes, I am, indeed, running for chair of the party. So I want to see who ultimately comes in.

You know what? I've got to tell someone out there, come on in. The party, the new chair is going to have unlimited amounts of money to really do build the glass roots.

You know, I think when I came in with the debt and all of that, the new chair is going to come in, he's got some great tools to work with going forward. So my message to everybody at INSIDE POLITICS, it's a great job. You've got money to spend. Let's run for chair of the party. Let's get it up to about 800 candidates.


WOODRUFF: It's going to be hard to beat the McAuliffe energy level.

In the meantime, over at the White House, the Bush team continues to prepare for its second term, knowing that Americans are politically divided.

The president's approval rating now stands at 51 percent, according to a new Associated Press/IPSOS poll. That's about the same as it was in the last survey last month right after the election.

Mr. Bush today nominated Samuel Bodman to replace outgoing Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. Bodman now is No. 2 at the Treasury Department. In naming Bodman, the president vowed to use his second term to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Also today, one of the president's departing cabinet members heaped praise on his own staff. In an end of the year speech, Attorney General John Ashcroft credited Justice Department employees with preventing another terrorist attack.

Exiting Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge commented today about a possible conflict of interest for his would-be successor. Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik reportedly made over $6 million by selling stock from a stun gun company that does business with the Homeland Security Department.


TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Bernie and I have talked since his announcement. I know that he was going through the same rigorous process of filling out disclosure forms that everybody who seeks to serve their company is required to fill out.

And I firmly believe that if there is a conflict of interest standing between my successor, and his ability to serve his country, that he'll do his best to resolve it. So I'm going to let the ethics folks make that decision.


WOODRUFF: There's been no comment on this from Bernard Kerik's office. The White House says that Kerik would avoid any possible conflict of interest.

Bush White House officials know full well they face many challenges ahead. Coming up, the political stakes in Iraq as the president heads into his second term and Iraqis brace for their own election.

Also ahead, a report from Bush country on a Democrat who beat the odds, and the president's campaigning against him.

And pigskin politics, not the amateur kind. We'll tell you about some real gridiron veterans, making campaign moves.


WOODRUFF: It turns out football is a recurring theme in our Friday "Political Bytes."

Nebraska Republican congressman and college coaching legend Tom Osborne says that he will not run for the Senate seat held by his long-time friend, Democrat Bill Nelson. Osborne says he will decide by June if he wants to run for governor or to run for reelection to Congress.

Pro football hall of famer Lynn Swann has been making calls to Pennsylvania Republicans, sounding them out about a possible run for governor there. Swann is now a television commentator, and he has no political experience, but this fall he often appeared with President Bush at campaign stops in Pennsylvania.

A potential showdown between Swann and incumbent Democrat Ed Rendell could pose a test of team loyalties. Rendell is a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan, while Swann is synonymous with the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1970s.

So, joining us now, three veteran political journalists. How's that for a segue? Peter Beinart on the "New Republic," Liz Marlantes of the "Christian Science Monitor," and Vince Morris of the "New York Post."

You all three played football is college, right?

All right. Moving on, we read -- we opened up the paper this morning to find out that President Bush is going to pursue an aggressive strategy right out of the box, pushing his domestic policy.

Peter, they're going to -- they're going to push Social Security, and they're going to do it in a way, you know, where essentially they're saying, it's our way or else. Is this a smart move on their part?

PETER BEINART, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Well, I think it's the way they operated in the first term. They've had success because they have a very disciplined group of House Republicans. Now they have a greater majority in the Senate.

I think their big concern, though, is who is going to be the spoke person for Social Security reform? There was a lot of talk that Secretary Snow was going to leave the Department of the Treasury because he didn't have a lot of credibility on the Hill. He wasn't a very good spokesman. They seem to have tried to get somebody else, not succeeded. And now they're back and he is, in a sense, weaker than he was before. So I think one of the concerns they have to have is who's going to go out there and sell this very controversial proposition to the public and on the Hill?

WOODRUFF: Is it a smart approach, Vince?

VINCE MORRIS, "NEW YORK POST": Yes. But I'm not sure that's really what their approach is. I think it's more a bargaining position. I don't think the president is really motivated.

WOODRUFF: They're just talking tough?

MORRIS: Yes, it's more a sense of him trying to set a marker and say this is where we want to be. They do that -- they do it on every piece of legislation and they eventually come back. He always compromises on every bill.

And I think what he's trying to do is set the marks and say we're going to introduce something. You'll see it around the time of the State of the Union. And this is where we're going to stand. And eventually, he'll work back in order to get a deal. You need to, to get something past the Senate.

WOODRUFF: Is that a winning formula, Liz?

LIZ MARLANTES, "CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": Yes, I agree. And I think the other -- the other part of that, of course, is going to be Bush taking his pitch to the people.

You know, we've seen, certainly, during the campaign Bush is a good campaigner and when he wants to sell something, he's pretty good at it. I do think that they have a huge challenge in Social Security reform. And there are certain things they're going to have to do.

I think they will have to rebrand it a little bit from where it is right now. I think the word "privatize" is still something that most people associate with what Bush wants to do, and I think that's a word that they're going to want to get away from, like, you know, the way they turned the state tax into the death tax. They're going to want to come up with some version of that.

But I think -- I think that's something that Bush will actively do.

WOODRUFF: Is that what it will take, Peter?

BEINART: Yes, and the media has an important role of not letting them get away with it, if I can make a -- because in fact, the Cato Institute, which basically put together the first plan (ph) was called the commission on privatization. That's what they used to call it themselves until they realized it didn't poll well. That is an accurate description of what's gone on here, and those are the terms on wish they should be debated.

WOODRUFF: So it's all about -- to a degree, it's about semantics.

MORRIS: Yes, does that surprise you? It's just a question of who is going to claim, you know, ownership of it, who's going to shepherd it through the Hill. That -- that will be a big challenge.

But also, you know, the president has already taken a few things off the table. I mean, they're not going to raise the eligibility age. They're not going to increase payroll taxes. I mean, there's not, you know, too many areas in which to work in.

So really, they're going to be nibbling around the edges anyway. And I think the issue of privatizing, or partially privatizing the savings account, is the only issue that really a fight is going to center on.

WOODRUFF: Much more to talk about this, but we -- I want to ask you all about Iraq. We're going to take a very short break. We'll be back with more questions for our journalists. We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: Back now with our three journalist friends, Vince Morris, Peter Beinart and Liz Marlantes.

Liz, let me start with you on Iraq. The president determined to have those elections held at the end of January in Iraq. But today yet another warning from a Shiite leader, violence will continue.

What's at stake here for the administration?

MARLANTES: I think a tremendous amount, actually, particularly because politically at home, at least, this has become a marker. I think a lot of Americans -- if you look at public opinion polls on Iraq recently, it's been really interesting to note public opinion has not shifted very much at all in the last couple of months, really, on Iraq.

And I think one of the things that happens is there are these markers that people look to, like the elections where they're in a sort of wait and see mode, like, you know, OK, we're going to suspend judgment on this for awhile until we see that this happens.

And so I think in that sense, the administration -- it would be a huge blow in terms of how the public here views what's going on over there if they were to actually -- if they were forced to change the date for that.

WOODRUFF: That much of a blow, I mean -- I mean, just to move it a little bit?

MORRIS: Yes, but, I mean -- but my feeling is that the alternative is even worse. If they go ahead with elections right now at the end of January, I think it's going to be a disaster.

If I were advising the president, I'd say postpone it somehow. Because these elections are going to be a joke. There's no security in any of the cities. There's no way that the rest of the world will acknowledge the results of any kind of election where people are being blown up or shot at or intimidated into not voting and not participating in the process.

So there's no point in having an election. I think it would be better off, despite the hitting it would take, I think the administration would be better off getting someone on the ground in Iraq to say, you know, we decide we're going to try and push it back six months or something and try to bring a little stability to the country before you ask people to go out and vote.

WOODRUFF: But there's no sign they're going to do that.

BEINART: No. Look, the problem is that Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani has always wanted these elections as soon as possible. He -- they have hitched their wagon to his star. They have decided that they would rather go up against the Sunnis, than risk the prospect of more Shia violence, because that is the majority of the population.

And they have done a very good job. They've succeeded. It has tamped down the Shia violence that we saw earlier this year.

The problem is are we now headed for a Shia-Sunni confrontation, where we have a Shia-dominated government, Sunnis who feel no connection. They don't vote in large numbers. And we have the beginnings of a civil war.

WOODRUFF: Is that something that Iraq will survive as a stable country, I mean, if that's what happens?

MORRIS: I don't think so but it's not a stable country now. And I think the situation could get much worse if you try to have an election where you legitimize, you know, one party or one faction, and then have the rest of the country, you know, not -- not acknowledging or not participating in the results.

WOODRUFF: Quickly, any -- any information you're getting about how long troops stay? Is it just open-ended?

MARLANTES: I think it is open-ended at this point. Although again, I think -- I think public patience -- public patience is there right now. And fortunately, the public expectations are -- are decent for the administration. The public isn't expecting troops to come home any time seen, nor are they expecting a democracy in Iraq any time soon, which is a good thing.

But -- but I do think that that is not going to last forever, and I think if -- if the elections gets postponed, if there's a sense that this is not happening, we might start to see public opinion shift very quickly.

WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. Liz Marlantes, Peter Beinart, Vince Morris, thank you all. We appreciate it.

On that serious note, Democratic politicians in Texas, they seem to be a dying breed. Next up we're going to meet a congressman who was targeted by Republicans in last month's election and came out a winner.

Plus a link between the Martin Luther King legacy and the fight over same-sex marriages? We'll explain, coming up later on INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: It's just after 4:00 on the East Coast. And as the markets close on Wall Street I'm joined by Lou Dobbs in New York with the "Dobbs Report."

Hello, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Judy, hello. Stocks on Wall Street today closed in flat on the session just slightly lower for the week. As the final trades are now being counted, the Dow Jones Industrials down just about 9 points. The Nasdaq is virtually unchanged. Oil prices tumbling nearly $2 a barrel today, below $41 a barrel in price for the first time in...


DOBBS: That decline comes despite OPEC's decision to cut production marginally. Traders see that as a sign of weakness on the part of the cartel and as a result traders have pushed prices lower. Crude oil futures lost almost 27 percent since late October when they topped $55 a barrel.

Sprint and Nextel reportedly in merger talks, a deal that could be valued at more than $30 billion. A combination, if it occurs, would create the third-largest mobile phone service provider in the country. Cingular became the largest operator when it merged with AT&T Wireless just six weeks ago.

The legislation passed by Congress to overhaul our intelligence agencies includes a new job for the Treasury Department. Built into that legislation will be permission for the Treasury Department to print paper money, postage stamps and even passports for foreign governments. That program is designed to help developing countries who lack the appropriate technology to get money and documents that are tough to fake and thereby helping in the war on terror. The Treasury says it will also help sharpen its own anti-counterfeiting skills.

"Consumer Reports" is hoping to educate consumers about some of the prescription drugs they take. The non-profit group has launched a free Web site at It offers ratings on three kinds of widely used drugs. Heartburn and acid reflux products, cholesterol-fighting drugs and a category in the spotlight since the withdrawal Vioxx, anti-inflammatory drugs. That Web site boils down medical information on those drugs and compares side effects and prices.

Coming up on CNN at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," the top 100 science stories of this year. Steve Petranek, the editor-in- chief of "Discover" magazine joins me. We'll be covering everything from space tourism to the bird flu. And a wrap-up of the week's headlines with our panel of top political journalists. We'll cover the controversies swirling around the equipment provided our troops in Iraq. And in our series of special reports, "Culture in Decline," we'll be taking a look at the challenges in marriage and whether this weakened institution is part of our declining culture. Please join us.

Now back to Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: All right, Lou. You brought it up. That series you've been doing all week on our "Culture in Decline." It has been so interesting. You just talked about the focus on marriage. Do you think it's an institution in decline?

DOBBS: Well, it's certainly an institution under assault, Judy, and alarming. Those who are fighting so strongly against, for example, gay marriage, because they see it as an attack on modern marriage, the institution of marriage itself, many of them, unfortunately, are also ignoring other assaults.

In point of fact, one-third of all births in this country of out of wedlock. Forty percent of all first-born children in this country are born to -- out of wedlock. And it looks as though about half of all children will at some point in their lives be living in a one- parent home.

These are significant, serious challenges to marriage and creating huge problems for our society. And it's one of the aspects that we'll be covering tonight in our special report, "Culture in Decline."

WOODRUFF: Something that all of us should give a lot more thought to.

DOBBS: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: Lou, all right, thanks, we'll be watching tonight at 6:00.

DOBBS: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: Five Lone Star State Democrats were targeted by Republicans. Only one was re-elected.

REP. CHET EDWARDS (D), TEXAS: I was the only Texan in Congress targeted by redistricting that actually survived. So I do feel like a "Titanic" survivor.

ANNOUNCER: So what's Chet Edwards' recipe for success?

He's leaving. So who will replace Terry McAuliffe as head of the Democratic Party? TERRY MCAULIFFE, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CMTE.: We need a chair who can go out and fire people up.

ANNOUNCER: We'll speak with two men who think they should run the party.

Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: Welcome back. We are talking a lot today about the Democrats' search for direction as state party chairs ponder that same topic at their meeting in Orlando. In their quest to rebound after the '04 election, some party members are studying fellow Democrats who were winners on November 2nd. They just might learn a thing or two from Congressman Chet Edwards of Texas.

Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chet Edwards is the type of politician you might describe as an endangered species. Anglo, moderate congressional Democrats like him are disappearing fast from the Texas landscape.

The redistricting battle led by Republican leader Tom DeLay was supposed to be the final blow to make Edwards and four other Democrats politically extinct.

EDWARDS: They wrote the district in a way that I wasn't supposed to have a chance of winning.

LAVANDERA: When those final district lines were drawn, Edwards found himself in a district that included President Bush's hometown, cities like Waco and College Station with two conservative universities and a massive chunk of rural Bible Belt.

BUSH: And that person is going to be Arlene Wohlgemuth.

LAVANDERA: The president was campaigning for their candidate, Republicans felt confident, but after Election Day...

EDWARDS: It appears that the predictions of our political demise were greatly exaggerated.

LAVANDERA: It was the Democrat left standing.

EDWARDS: I was the only Texan in Congress targeted by redistricting that actually survived. So I do feel like a "Titanic" survivor.

LAVANDERA: In a presidential election year that left Democrats wondering what to do next, Edwards has something to say.

EDWARDS: Maybe ours is an example of the kind of campaign where Democrats can learn. You can win in so-called red states.

LAVANDERA: This week, Chet Edwards is in his district thanking voters for supporting what he jokingly calls the Bush-Edwards ticket. At one of his favorite stops in Waco...

EDWARDS: Howdy, howdy! How are you doing?

LAVANDERA: ... we sat down with the congressman to hear him lay out what he thinks Democrats must do to regain credibility in all of those red states.

EDWARDS: Republicans are far better marketers than Democrats.

LAVANDERA: The battle, he says, begins with a little political jujitsu, meaning Democrats need to take a Republican strength and turn it against them. He talks about family values, which Edwards argues has been defined by Republicans as anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage.

EDWARDS: Go out and ask an average person, aside from politics, forgetting elections, what really do you care about in your day-to-day life and the life of your family? It's not all of these hot button issues. It's a job. It's education. It's health care. It's retirement security. Those are mainstream values.

LAVANDERA: In his campaign, Edwards attacked his opponent for supporting state budget cuts that forced thousand of poor children to lose health coverage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her bill cost Texas taxpayers half a billion dollars and cut 147,000 children off CHIP health insurance.

LAVANDERA: Edwards says Democrats should frame the family values debate around issues families actually talk about.

EDWARDS: If we would talk more about those being our mainstream values and our family values, then I think people would pay less attention to the hot button issues.

LAVANDERA: Of course, Republicans say it really won't be that easy. M.A. Taylor leads the Republican Party in Waco. Democrats, he says, must shake off a stigma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems to me they're going to have to distance themselves from the northeastern liberals, as it were, and Hollywood, because they just don't relate to the folks here.

LAVANDERA: Edwards says it would be a mistake for Democrats to become more liberal. He suggests finding voters in the middle of the road.

EDWARDS: Democrats cannot be a national party in Congress much less the White House if we don't have a message that appeals to people in the heartland of this country.

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Waco, Texas. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Democrats may be eager to chalk up many more victories over Republicans, but before they can confront their political rivals, they need to compete among themselves. Coming up, I'll talk with two of the Democrats vying to lead the party into its next showdown with Republicans.


WOODRUFF: We just heard about one Texas congressman who won reelection to his seat. Well, outgoing Texan Martin Frost is among the Democrats in Florida this weekend who've expressed an interest in becoming the next chairman of the National Democratic Committee. Representative Frost is with me now from Orlando. So Congressman Frost, you're definitely a candidate?

REP. MARTIN FROST (D), TEXAS: Yes, and, Judy, I'm looking forward to tomorrow, because we're each going have a chance to speak and take questions from the state Democratic chairs who are here. You know, the Democratic party has got to be a national party. We can't just run in 18 states on the East Coast and the West Coast. We have to run in all 50 states and we have to rebuild the party and that's what this is all about.

WOODRUFF: You lost your bid for re-election to Congress. Is that a hindrance for you?

FROST: Well, Judy, actually, as you know, Tom DeLay forced the Texas legislature to redraw the districts. My attitude was that I wasn't just going to hand my seat over to Tom DeLay. I took a 65 percent Republican district and made it into a 54 percent Republican district. I knocked 11 points off the normal Republican vote. But it just wasn't enough. They stacked the deck, but I think it's very important for Democrats to stand and fight.

WOODRUFF: What -- why do you want to be chairman of the party?

FROST: Well, Judy, as you know, I've already chaired one of the three national party committees. I chaired the Democratic congressional campaign committee for the 1996 and 1998 elections, and during those two elections, we picked up 14 seats in Congress. That's more than anyone else has picked up since 1990. In fact, in almost every election since '90, Democrats have either lost seats or broken even. So I know what to do, and I think it's important that we reinvigorate the party and elect people to the legislature, elect people to congressional seats, elect people statewide as governors and other office holders. We elect people on the county elections all over this country so that we are, in fact, a national party so that we get ready for the next presidential election. Democrats have a lot to say to the American people. But we can't just be a bicoastal party. We can't just concentrate on the East Coast and the West coast.

WOODRUFF: You of all people would have a good idea of what it's like to be a Democrat in a red state. How did Democrats overcome their minority status in so many states? FROST: Well, a lot of Democrats have done that over the years. I mean, we have elected governors in some very interesting red states recently. And we can win those kind of elections by listening to people and by having a message that is tailored to the particular part of the country. And also to have a variety of national spokesmen. Not just to have one person who's speaking for the party in all the cases. We have very competent elected officials from all over the United States. We have very competent people. You just had Chet Edwards on from my state who is an expert on military and veterans affairs. We need to showcase people like that because traditionally the Democratic party has stood for a strong America. Chet Edwards has been a leader on veterans affairs. A lot of Democrats have spoken out on terrorism, such as Jane Harmon. We have a number of very competent people on this party. We have figure how to showcase those people and emphasize things that are important in people's lives.

WOODRUFF: With all due respect, you make it sound easy. The fact is, to outsiders, the Democratic party looks like a very splintered party. You have Moveon on the one hand blasting the leadership in the Democratic National Committee now saying it's enthralled business lobbyists and so forth. The DLC, various factions of the party fighting to figure out what the message is going to be.

FROST: Judy, the pendulum in this country swings back and forth. You've covered politics for a long time. Sometimes the Republicans are on top. Sometimes the Democrats are on top. We're not in a permanent minority status by any means. We've come very close in the last two presidential elections. We have to figure out how to carry some of the red states in the next presidential election. We aren't going to carry all of them but carry some of them. We are very close in the House of Representatives. We actually picked up seats in the House of Representatives outside of the state of Texas. If it hadn't been for Tom DeLay's illegal redistricting in Texas we would have gained seats in the House this time. We have the chance to be a majority party in the not too distant future but we have to speak to issues that affect people's daily lives, we have to speak to middle America. I believe this party can do it.

WOODRUFF: How liberal can the Democratic party be and win?

FROST: The Democratic party has to be true to its basic values. We've been the party of civil rights. We're not going to walk away from that, but we also have a history of having supported a strong America. And we've been a party that has stood for improvements in healthcare, that has stood for the environment. We have to pick issues that people, as I said, that affect people's daily lives. You heard your interview with Chet. He said it very clearly. The Democratic party has a lot to say to people. But we have got -- that message has gotten lost in recent years and it's time that we find those members of the Democratic party, those elected officials, those governors, senators and others who can articulate that.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Martin Frost, candidate for the chair of the Democratic National Committee. We thank you very much talking to us from Orlando.

FROST: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.

The debate over gay marriage collides with a legacy of the civil rights movement. That story coming up.

Also, after another White House loss, are Democrats looking in a new direction? More on the search for a new party chairman.


WOODRUFF: As we continue our look at the potential successors to Terry McAuliffe as chairman of the DNC, I'm joined from Orlando by another candidate for the chairmanship, Donnie Fowler, a longtime organizer and party strategist with experience in six presidential campaigns. Donnie Fowler, thank you for talking with me. Why in the world would anybody want to be chair of the Democratic party right now?

DONNIE FOWLER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it's a great opportunity to be chair of the Democratic party. We are in a place where we need to change what the national party is doing, and take it out of Washington and away from the aristocracy of consultants and give the power back to the state parties, and to leaders who have won elections in the states. The Montana Democrats this year took over the state. We have Baker in Georgia, who's an African-American attorney general who's been elected twice and we have the first Hispanic U.S. senator in Colorado. There's a lot of lessons to be learned from the state parties, Judy, and the national party could do well by learning those lessons.

WOODRUFF: But a lot people look at national party, Donnie Fowler, and say there's something seriously wrong with it, because it hasn't been able to elect a president in the last two presidential elections. It's into an even deeper hole in the House and in the Senate. How do you turn that around?

FOWLER: Judy, I am unwilling to give up on the Democratic party and I'm unwilling to give up on the progressive movement. If you see how many new people have come into the party from the grassroots level, they're hungry for leadership and hungry to have a voice in the Democratic national party. The reason I'm running at the end of the day, Judy, is because I got on a plane at the end of the Kerry campaign and I asked myself, when are they going to figure out? When are they going to do something different? I could have gone back to California where I've been living, after growing up in South Carolina, but I just couldn't. I was frustrated and wanted to do a change, wanted to bring the party back to where the voters live which is in the states, over the Internet, on talk radio, in local newspapers.

WOODRUFF: Are the people who run Moveon, this very successful grassroots Internet-driven organization, are they right when they say the Democratic party is run by elite Washington insiders?

FOWLER: I think that there's some truth to say that the Democratic party is caught in a web of conventional wisdom, has, to some degree, been taken over by aristocracy of consultants. Moveon is an absolutely essential part of returning the Democratic party to power, and what I hope at the end of this process for a new chair is that we don't give up on the Democratic National Committee and start building around it, but that when all of the new activists, all of the new voices and all of the traditional leaders that have succeeded that they come to the Democratic national party and they rebuild it. So we can change it from the bottom up.

WOODRUFF: You've already got...

FOWLER: There's no reason -- go ahead.

WOODRUFF: I was going say you already have a prominent Democrat in Howard Dean, who appears to be actively seeking the chairmanship. Why not let him have it?

FOWLER: Well, I agree with Howard Dean on his philosophy. I am widely supportive of the grassroots movement that built up underneath him. You know, when I worked for Wesley Clark, there was a massive grassroots movement that moved up under him, and in the 14 states that I've worked in the past 20 years on the ground, I've gotten a feel for the grassroots and for what's happening in states and a voice, what the voices in the states are like. I think that I'm unique among everybody who's thinking about running for chairman in that I've worked in four presidential cycles on the ground for governors, lieutenant governors, Congressmen, legislators with state parties. I embrace the grassroots movement and I would love to have Moveon's and everyone else's support.

WOODRUFF: You said you worked 20 years in the party. You look too young to have done that. How old were you when you started?

FOWLER: Well, Ken Mehlman and I are the same age, Judy. He's I believe 38. I'm 37. Nothing wrong with starting early!

WOODRUFF: OK. Donnie Fowler, thank you very much. We'll be talking to you in the days to come. We appreciate it.

FOWLER: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

To another story -- gay rights activists are protesting an anti- gay marriage march scheduled to begin tomorrow near the tomb of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta. The march, which will promote a constitutional amendment against gay marriage and other issues is sponsored by a predominantly black church with 25,000 members. One gay rights activist calls the march a slap in the face to the legacy of Dr. King.

Still ahead, the political mystery of the man in black.


WOODRUFF: Whoever said candidates need to plaster their faces on posters and talk to voters until their throats are sore will consider the story of the mystery man who won a school board seat in Orange County, California. Steve Rocco never made a speech, never gave interviews and managed to defeat a heavily favored candidate anyway. No wonder hardly anyone recognized whim he showed up at his first board meeting last night. The black glasses and cap probably didn't help either. One way to run.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you for joining us this Friday. I'm Judy Woodruff. Have a good weekend. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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