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This Week in Politics

The Week's Political Events in Review

Aired March 09, 2008 - 13:00   ET


TOM FOREMAN, HOST (voice-over): The senator from New York...

FOREMAN: ... pounding on Obama, pounding on the media - "Queen Kong."

CLINTON: We're going strong, and we're going all the way.

FOREMAN: But "Barack-zilla" is still winning the war. Is his delicate armor unbreakable?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are on our way to winning this nomination.

FOREMAN: And look out for the Republican Party's pilot: John McCain, preparing to shock and awe the Dems.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

FOREMAN (on camera): We'll have all the secret details of their battle plans on THIS WEEK IN POLITICS right after a look at what's in the news right now.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Stephanie Elam.

Now in the news: Barack Obama overwhelmed Hillary Clinton in the Wyoming Democratic caucuses, winning 61 percent of the vote to Clinton's 38 percent. Obama won at least seven of the delegates that were at stake yesterday. Clinton won four. One is still outstanding.

CNN estimates Obama has now an overall 99-delegate lead over Clinton.

Next up: Mississippi. It will hold its primary on Tuesday.

A long-time Republican congressional district is now in the hands of Democrats. Bill Foster won an Illinois special election to fill the seat of former GOP House speaker Dennis Hastert. Hastert lost his post as speaker when Democrats took control of Congress in 2006.

Moving to Iraq: Contaminated water reportedly may have made U.S. troops sick between 2004 and 2006. The Pentagon's inspector general found water quality problems at sites run by the military and contractor KBR.

In Colombia: Hot tempers rule the day at a soccer game in Cali. Look at this. A disputed call by the ref touched off a melee. Police fired a tear gas at those trying to tear down fencing that was separating the fans from the field. At least 80 people were hurt, 18 of them with stab wounds.

Now back to Tom Foreman and THIS WEEK IN POLITICS.

FOREMAN: Another week, another turn. Who could have guessed it? It's like a great Hollywood thriller. So, grab your jujubes and butter and popcorn. It's show time.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Like King Kong, just as her opponents thought the senator from New York was caged, Hillary Clinton comes roaring back.

CLINTON: Well, this nation is coming back, and so is this campaign.

FOREMAN: "Queen Kong" captured three of the four states up for grabs with a triple attack.

ANNOUNCER: It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?

FOREMAN: Slamming Obama.

CLINTON: Senator Obama's whole campaign is about one speech he made in 2002.

FOREMAN: Slamming the media, even slamming herself -- anything to win.

JON STEWART, TV HOST: Tomorrow is perhaps one of the most important days of your life. And yet, you have chosen to spend the night before talking to me.

CLINTON: It is pretty pathetic.

FOREMAN: It all worked. Her campaign is climbing again on the tower of electability.

CLINTON: Who is really best able to be the nominee to win? I have no doubt that I am that person.

FOREMAN: But the other Democratic giant right now, Barack Obama, is saying she won almost nothing.

OBAMA: We have nearly the same delegate lead as we did this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you mistaken if you think your powers are a match for Mega Godzilla.

FOREMAN: The delegates are the armor for "Barack-zilla." He has won so many, she likely can't catch him without a lot of help from those superdelegates. So, she is attacking accusations that he misled voters about his trade policy. He is attacking the press.

OBAMA: Many of you in the press corps have been persuaded that you had been too hard on her and too soft on me.

FOREMAN: And most of all, he is attacking her.

OBAMA: The question is: What kind of judgment would you exercise when you pick up that phone?

FOREMAN: But look out. Florida and Michigan lost their delegates for moving their primaries up, but they voted anyway. And now, they insist the party must let them into the Democratic convention.

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST, (R) FLORIDA: They made their voice heard, and those delegates who represent them should be seated.

FOREMAN: It's a two-headed giant that could once again turn this clash of titans upside down.


FOREMAN: The only thing certain right now is you can't count anyone out of this race.

So, let's work the angle with CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin. She is joining us from the latest stop on the Barack Obama campaign trail, and with me in Washington, Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, superdelegate Donna Brazile.

A very good week for Hillary Clinton, a lot of strides, is this a good week for the superdelegates because it's coming down to you?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is a good week for the Democratic Party. What we saw this week, again, was record turnout in both Texas and Ohio. We saw enthusiasm. We heard that the two candidates raised $85 million.

So, it's good for Democracy, good for the Democratic Party. This is a very competitive race. We cannot coronate a queen or coronate a king.

What we can do is allow other states to get involved in this process. Some important states are coming up down the road, and at some point we'll decide.

FOREMAN: Some very dicey questions still out there for your party, though: What about Michigan and Florida? If you let them back in, one side is going to be unhappy if they lose, no matter which side that is.

BRAZILE: Tom, you know, we have to play by the rules, and there's a rule that allows these states to come back into the fold if they comply with the other rules. That's rule 20.

FOREMAN: What rule could that be? The first rule was -- you're out.

BRAZILE: The rule that penalized you for going ahead of schedule also allows you to come back into the fold. In 1996, we had a situation where Bill Clinton had to deal with Delaware. Delaware decided to try to go ahead of New Hampshire. They penalized Delaware. Delaware got back in the fold. So, if they want to come back in the fold, the rules allow them to come back in the fold, but the Democratic National Committee will probably not pay for a do-over contest.

FOREMAN: Jessica, what are the Obama people saying now? Clinton keeps saying, she is more electable, and it if this comes down to the wire and it's a close call, the superdelegates need to give it to her for that reason. How is Obama responding?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they think that's absurd. I mean, it's not surprising that they'd say the superdelegates shouldn't be the ones making the choice. It should be the will of the people.

The problem is: This race is so exceptionally close that it looks like it will come down to either Florida and Michigan having a revote of some sort if we can find a way to pay for it.

And then, Barack Obama and Senator Clinton may be finding sort of agreement, but it would clearly take some sort of Democratic Party elders to sit them down and say, look, this is not going to be resolved on its own. You guys have to agree.

It could be that dream ticket, but neither one of them wants to think about that right now.

FOREMAN: Donna, do you think that's really possible, that one of these is going to say I'll be the vice?

BRAZILE: No, not at this hour. Look, this is a very competitive race. They're excited out there.

The only issue that I -- that I am concerned about, of course, is that the two candidates will tear each other up and give John McCain added momentum going into the fall. The Republicans have decided. The Democrats are still in a fierce battle for the competition.

There's no reason for Obama or Clinton to throw in the towel at this moment.

FOREMAN: Let's take a look at a graphic here real quickly about the electability of these folks here. If you look at this, Clinton against McCain: 50 percent to 44 percent. Obama against McCain: 52 percent to 40 percent. It's almost even.

Jessica Yellin, one of the questions about the electability of Obama is whether or not he can really take these body punches. He got hit hard this week, and there was a lot of criticism that he didn't hit back hard enough. Is that changing?

YELLIN: Well, even he acknowledges that they've made that mistake and need to hit back harder, and the answer is yes. I mean, we've already seen the candidates getting much more aggressive with each other, and the campaigns getting much more petty, and that's coming from Obama's campaign too, with sort of digs at Senator Clinton that you might not expect or wouldn't have heard about a month ago, but you have to really drill down into these electability numbers and see where they stand state by state.

There are states where Senator Clinton really outdoes John McCain. Both parties are saying, whichever candidate gets it, people want a Democrat in office right now. That's the mood of the country, and they think that, especially Obama's team, they think he'll overcome any electability issues if he becomes the Democratic nominee because there's so much anger at the Republican Party. That's their line at least.

FOREMAN: Donna, that seems to overlook one point however, which is that the public overall still has a very low opinion of both parties. Yes, they like the Democrats better, but they really don't think well of politicians. With this kind of fighting that we saw this week and these kinds of shots, how much do you worry that either party might win the battle and lose the war?

BRAZILE: I'm very worried. Look, I mean, I have to be worried. Democrats want to win the White House. We also would like to expand our majority in the Congress. Therefore, the two candidates must be very careful at how they go forward.

In this debate, they need to talk about the war. They need to talk about trade. They need to talk about the economy. But they can talk about that without resorting to what I call "lowball tactics" where they talk about each other in very nasty ways.

So, I think the concern is warranted, but I also believe that in the end of the day, Senator Clinton is a leader of our party, Senator Obama is a leader of our party -- they will conduct themselves in a way that this will end on a positive note.

FOREMAN: Jessica, quickly, how is Obama going to keep those superdelegates corralled so that they don't rush to her side if she wins some more state?

YELLIN: By winning. I mean, he wants to win here in Wyoming, and he wants to continue to make his case, and they think if they can make the case and remind everyone why they got in this contest to begin with and remind them of the enthusiasm he's generating, bringing so many new people into the party, that in itself will at least keep any of the superdelegates from staying undecided. And it will keep things as it stays it is (ph), until they can work this out further, see how he does further down the line, and remind them that he's had this remarkable run. They should go with him. (INAUDIBLE).

FOREMAN: Jessica and Donna, thank you both for being here very much. We've got to run.

Hang on. We've got serious trash talking and big spending coming up. Sounds like the NBA but it looks like a new reality show, "Survivor: White House."

And later: Our list of the worst political blunders of all time.

But straight ahead: How sweet it is to be John McCain.

THIS WEEK IN POLITICS will be right back


FOREMAN: How you feel about the election?


FOREMAN: Really?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Number one, women over 40 don't like him, so, it makes me feel young.




FOREMAN (voice-over): For a guy who has had more than his share of tough times, victory.

MCCAIN: I will be the Republican nominee for the president of the United States.

FOREMAN: Now: John McCain gets it all -- the support of his opponents.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I extended to him not only my congratulations, but my commitment to him and to the party, to do everything possible to unite our party, but more importantly, to unite our country.

FOREMAN: The resources of the Republican National Committee and an enthusiastic embrace from the commander in chief.

PRES. GEORGE BUSH, UNITED STATES: I wish you all the best. I'm proud to be your friend.

FOREMAN: And if revenge is sweet, John McCain tasted that as well. In the 2000 race, a vicious rumor campaign in South Carolina wiped out McCain's shot at the White House. Political support for his opponent came hard.

MCCAIN: I think you take the medicine now is probably a good description.

FOREMAN: Eight years later, the president's support is John McCain's to accept, or to reject.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FOREMAN: John McCain clinched the deal, and that gives him what is shaping up to be a really long head start on his Democratic challenger, but does that matter?

Let's ask senior political writer Jonathan Martin who is standing by in the offices of "Politico"; and Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a former communication director for the Republican National Committee.

Cliff, does it really matter that he has such a big head start, and what does he do with George Bush?

CLIFF MAY, FMR. RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: A couple of things. One is -- does it matter? Yes. He's got a challenge, and he's got an opportunity. The challenge is he's got to keep himself in the news. He's got to have the cameras on him when most of the action is going to be in the Democratic side because there is a hell of a good fight going on there.

The opportunity is, he has time to explain to the voters who he is, what he believes, why he would be a better president, and he needs to go out there and reach to them and shake a lot of hands. People have to say, I knew John, I met john, and he's got to ask for their vote.

FOREMAN: Does he keep George Bush in tow?

MAY: I would say he keeps George Bush carefully in tow. He uses him only -- I think, look, he's got his endorsement, he shook his hand. There are a few places where he wants George Bush's endorsement, but, no, he has to be his own man.

He cannot be running for a third Bush presidency. That will be the Democratic attack on him. And so, actually he's got to give him a hug and then say, got to go.

FOREMAN: Jonathan, that's a challenge, isn't it? No matter how he looks at it, he's the Republican nominee.

JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO: Of course and it's always difficult to win a third straight term, regardless of if the incumbent is popular or unpopular. So, there's no question that McCain's got his work cut out for him.

But, look, two other things that this period allows him to do. First of all, to raise money. He is woefully behind right now in the fundraising chase. He's going to have months now to bring in cash to start building up a war chest for the fall.

Secondly, he's got a bare-bones organization. With that money, he can hire more staff, put together a national operation, a state operation in some of these key places. And so, he really does have an important head start here that he desperately needs.

FOREMAN: Well, the Democrats certainly don't want him to run away with that head start. I want to take a look at a commercial that is currently being run by a liberal group already on the attack. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Where does John McCain stand on the issues? $1 trillion in Iraq over the next 10 years: McSame as Bush. A millionaire who's for tax cuts for millionaires: McSame as Bush.


FOREMAN: Is this going to stick, Cliff? Obviously, he'd like it not to, but it's a thing he has to shake, and he does have some similarities in the things he's viewed as policy.

MAY: It's not so much a thing he has to shake as a thing that they need to try to put on him. Most people do not think that John McCain, who has been known all his life as a maverick, is just the same as George Bush. I don't think that's the impression.

In fact, you have more Democrats right now supporting McCain than you have Republicans supporting either Obama or supporting Clinton.

So, they'll try to put this label on him, and I think it's very important that he go out there and say, look, I have always been different than other candidates. I have crossed the aisle. My opponents have not to the extent I have. Here's who I am.

And here's who I -- this is a McCain campaign more than it's a Republican campaign, and in an odd sort of way, the fact that McCain is attacked regularly by Rush Limbaugh and by other Republicans and by the conservatives, let's -- it gives license to a lot of people to say, huh, he's not just another Republican, another conservative.

FOREMAN: Jonathan, what is McCain trying to stick on the Democrats then?

MARTIN: Well, that they are not ready for prime time, essentially. In a dangerous world, you need a steady hand at the tiller, neither Clinton nor Obama have the experience that he does.

But let me just reiterate what Cliff is saying. I talked to McCain folks this week. They want to take that red-blue map and tear it up and stomp all over it. They really want to campaign across the country, and that implicitly is a rebuke of the Bush model -- go to places that Republicans have not been to.

As part of that planning, in April, they're going to do a tour as sort of a different kind of Republican tour. They're going to go to ghettos, barrios, places that most candidates on the Republican side typically haven't ventured to, to really drive this theme that he's going to really go to different kind of places.

FOREMAN: Cliff, there's a sense also that they may go after states that the Democrats consider safe states for them.

MAY: They absolutely can, because, again, McCain has crossover potential. He appeals to independents and he appeals to conservative Democrats. So, he absolutely should do that, and he should focus in on issues as well.

For example, there's a bipartisan bill passed by the Senate that would restore to intelligence agencies the authority that they used to have to survey, to bug terrorists and terrorist suspects abroad. Pass in the Senate bipartisan, would pass in the House, but Nancy Pelosi is not letting a vote come on it. Both Obama and Hillary have said, they're against this bill that would restore intelligence authority.

What McCain needs to explain, more simply than I just did, is, hey, they're not serious about intelligence. We are safe because we're listening in on the phone calls of terrorists and Obama and Hillary don't want us to do that.

FOREMAN: Jonathan, what is the bigger challenge for him right now? There's a lot of talk about this electability issue. Would McCain rather run against Hillary or rather run against Barack?

MARTIN: Why don't you take Hillary because her negatives are already baked in the cake, which is to say that she's already defined in the minds of 95 percent of this country? She's polarized and there are a lot of folks who'd just never vote for her. Obama is more of a blank slate. Now, you can define him, but it's not the same as is for Clinton who already, right now, in what would sort of turn off a lot of Americans.

And just as McCain could play in this some traditionally blue states, as Cliff was saying, Obama has the potential to play in some red states, places like Virginia and Colorado that have been more conservative leaning over the years, but in recent elections have shown a willingness to elect Democrats state-wide.

So, I think one of the most fascinating elements of this race, an Obama-McCain race, would be the turning of the page when it comes to that red-blue dichotomy.

FOREMAN: And we got to turn the page ourselves. Jonathan, thank you very much, Cliff, as well.

Coming up next: Blood and money -- the new fundraising frenzy: The rising tide of brutal attack ads and those terrible missteps that end political careers. Oh, the memories.

And speaking of memories, with John McCain now the winner, let's take a look back at some of the faces lost on the trail.


JIM GILMORE, (R) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I have a right and obligation to put forward my ideas.

TOMMY THOMPSON, (R) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You play the game. Some people win. Some people lose.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, (R-KS) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My yellow brick road just came short of the White House this time.

REP. TOM TANCREDO, (R-CO) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For the same reason that I launched the campaign, I must now end it.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, (R-CA) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I still have a chance to win this thing.

FRED THOMPSON, (R) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's never been about me. It's been about our country.

RUDY GIULIANI, (R) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, I'm officially announcing my withdrawal as a candidate for president of the United States.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not an easy decision. I hate to lose.

HUCKABEE: I'd rather lose an election than lose the principle that is got me into politics in the first place.


FOREMAN: $95 million is a lot of money. Of course, Tiger Woods may get as much as $100 million to put his name on Gatorade Tiger but to us mortals, $95 million is big money. And that's about what has been spent on advertising by the three presidential campaigns.

Joining me to talk about the hard cash that fuels our political system is CNN consultant Evan Tracy, founder the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Evan, has the money really played out? Early on we predicted that everyone with the big money would be the big winners. That hasn't totally been the case.

EVAN TRACY, TNS MEDIA INTELLIGENCE CMAG: No, not the case at all. If you look on the Republican side, Senator McCain has less than $10 million in spending. His ROI is excellent, his return on investment.

On the Democrat side, certainly Obama has spent almost $52 million at this point on TV ads. Senator Clinton about $35 million on this, and they're the last two standing. So, it's a little ti different argument with Democrats.

FOREMAN: Let's look at those totals if we can for a moment here. What they've actually spent on media up to this point: Obama over $50 million at this point; Clinton about $34 million; McCain about $9 million overall.

When you look at Obama's spending compared to her spending and to McCain's spending, you would think that he should be massively out front if money made all the difference. Why is he having to spend so much more to run even?

TRACY: Well, he's had to come from behind as far as his known commodity, especially running against the Clinton brand. So, in other words, what Obama's had to do is he's had to raise a lot, but spend a lot, to really make his case in this race. FOREMAN: It's hard to remember that six months ago many, many Americans had no idea who he was, but then, they knew who she was and they knew who he was.

TRACY: Absolutely. And to his credit, he is sticking to the strategy he started with six months ago, which is going into these states before Senator Clinton. He's stayed very on-message with his themes, and he's outspending her in these states.

And you really see it in prime time television, where it's the most expensive TV to buy, and there's no barrier for Obama, that's where the advantage is showing up.

FOREMAN: He and Hillary Clinton continue to raise a tremendous amount of money. John McCain has not been in the same league with them in terms of money-raising. What happens when we get to the general election because sooner or later we will decide on a Democrat?

TRACY: We hope. But yes.

FOREMAN: Who knows?

TRACY: John McCain, remember, he's got to use his time right now to restock the cover. He's got the advantage now of using the RNC, who's got some money waiting for him. They're going to probably have to put that money to work just to keep his name relevant.

I mean, the problem he's got is he's got to raise money, but he's also got to stay in the dialogue. It's very easy to get caught up in the Clinton-Obama race and sort of forget that we have a Republican nominee.

FOREMAN: The Republicans have a lot of money. How come he doesn't have more?

TRACY: Well, it's just been the ebbs and flow of this campaign. I mean, he's just has not had that advantage. And he's raising $12 million in a month that Barack Obama has raised close to $55 million.

So, right now, it's where the excitement is, it's where the momentum is. McCain's got to spend the next, you know, month or two getting that momentum on his side and getting donors fired up to give to his campaign. Otherwise, he's going to be at a disadvantage this entire campaign.

FOREMAN: How is he going to do that? I mean, there's a sense that some Republicans don't like him much, and there's a lot of enthusiasm on the Democratic side for Obama, for Clinton. That may split once they finally pick a candidate. But for right now, it's there.

TRACY: He needs some momentum. He needs to get some good positive stories on his side. He needs a few weeks in a row of really good press. He needs to get the base fired up. The base is the ones that start to write the checks.

New voters, new donors start to come in after they see those fundraising tools (ph). They want to be involved. That's what Obama has. That's what Clinton has. That's what McCain has not yet got.

FOREMAN: He's going to have sure to get them. Evan, thanks for coming in. We appreciate your time.

In a minute: Attack, attack, attack.

But first: Another chapter in our growing collection of dancing politicians. This was President Bush waiting to welcome John McCain. Not sure what that was all about. Perhaps he's practicing for a new career now that he's a lame duck, which, of course, brings us to our weekly political side show.


FOREMAN (voice-over): It must be lame duck season in Vermont. The neighborly residents of Brattleboro voted to arrest President Bush and Vice President Cheney "on sight" for crimes against the Constitution. Town officials admit they don't really have the muscle to pull it off and not everyone approves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think it's a very silly idea. I think we've got more important things to do with our time than that.

FOREMAN: Luckily, President Bush hasn't visited Vermont in years, but you could consider Dick Cheney armed and dangerous.

Watch your mouth. A town in California has outlawed cussing. South Pasadena proclaimed the first week in March from here on out as No Cussing week. Hey, sunshine, beautiful streets, flowers. What is there to cuss about?

And Hillary Clinton is so chummy with reporters right now that they're slamming back brewskies together.



FOREMAN: Then, again, maybe it's not so cozy. Check out the press center the Clinton campaign set up for reporters at one stop on the trail.



STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN, ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Stephanie Elam. "Now in the News," in Pakistan, opposition leader vowed to return disposed judgment to the bench. President Pervez Musharraf sacked most of the Supreme Court and other judges during last fall's state of emergency. Many remain under house arrest. Their supporters say Musharraf feared the judges would rule against the legitimacy of his third term.

Palestinians accused Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of putting a "stick in the wheels of the peace process." Today's reaction came as Olmert gave final approval to expand a West Bank Israeli settlement by 330 housing units.

And in Afghanistan more than 1,000 students in the streets burning flags and chanting anti-western slogans. The latest protest against an upcoming Dutch movie some Muslims say is anti-Islamic. They're also upset over Danish newspapers republishing a cartoon that depicts the prophet Mohammed wearing a bomb-shaped turban.

Now back to Tom Foreman and THIS WEEK IN POLITICS.

(MUSIC PLAYING) I get knocked down but I get up again you're never going to keep me down I get knocked down but I get up again.

FOREMAN: It seems increasingly clear that the winner of the presidency this time may just be the candidate who gets up one more time than he or she is knocked down. The campaign is clearly taking a tough turn with the attack ads now rearing their heads with force, and if history is a guide, you ain't seen nothing yet.


(MUSIC PLAYING) I love the governor of Illinois.

FOREMAN: OK. She's a little scary, but that's basically a positive ad. This is negative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, zero. We must either love each other or we must die.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The subtext? Vote for me or die. For decades there have been variations on this theme.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a bear in the woods. These people want to kill us.

FOREMAN: And when that has not been effective enough, some campaigns have moved from the world is scary to those other guys are really scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can a party that lets the country get bogged down in an endless war.

And now he wants to be our commander in chief. America can't afford that risk.

Dole's risky economic scheme.

He betrayed all his shipmates. [ laughter ]

FOREMAN: And when campaigners fail to make their opponents look scary enough, and sometimes they just try to make them look stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wondered if you could give us an example of a major idea of his that you have adopted as a role as the decider and final --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don't remember, because.

AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDEINT: I took the initiative in creating the internet.


FOREMAN: Time and again voters say they don't like these attacks. Scary, stupid, or otherwise. So, why do they keep coming up? Well, because the positive ones don't always work. Just ask president Adlai Stevenson.

(MUSIC PLAYING) Adlai, love you madly.


FOREMAN: Joining us are two political veterans who bare the scars of tough campaigns. In 2004, Stephanie Cutter was a spokeswoman for John Kerry's race for the White House and GOP media consultant Alex Castellanos was producing some biting ads for the other side. You're both watching all of this, and you are smiling. Are you proud of this kind of thing, because a lot of voters think this is a disaster. Stephanie.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I was hoping Alex was going to get that first. Are we proud of it?


CUTTER: Sure. If you win.

FOREMAN: Is this a good thing for our country, however? It's a good thing for winning a race, absolutely. Is it a good thing for the country?

CASTELLANOS: It's an important thing. It's a good thing. We have an obligation to help voters make an informed choice, and, look, how much of what's on the news is positive? You, What CNN does is inform voters. You know, airplanes flew that weren't checked for safety. It wasn't exactly a positive story, but it's an important story and brings change, and how are you going to bring out the differences in candidates so voters can make their informed choice.

FOREMAN: Is it just about bringing out the differences and going on the attack, because I think a lot of voters would say there is a difference.

CUTTER: Well, I think there are a couple of things you need to consider that we're living in a mass media culture. People's attention spans are very small, and you need to -- your advertisements need to catch that attention span in a small window that you can possibly capture that. So, the ads are getting more and more cutting. You know, the fairness is in the eye of the beholder. We didn't think that the ads run against John Kerry were fair. We thought there were distortions, but they clearly cast a lasting impression on the voter.

CASTELLANOS: But there's a judge and a jury out there. It's called the American people. Just as we can sit around here and say, you know, this ad is fair and this ad is unfair, let's put a little faith in the American people because at the end of the day I think they do discern this is fair, this is good, this is right.

There is a dirty secret and there's also the news media that plays cop out there.

FOREMAN: There's a dirty secret in all of these. The news media plays cop but also as you pointed out, very often these attack ads run once or twice in some obscure place.

CUTTER: Right.

FOREMAN: And they take on a whole life of their own because we put them on the air and we ask for reactions.

CUTTER: Right. In 2004, we often would cut attack ads on George Bush and just run them on the internet, but the end result is that it drives a narrative in the earned media, in the press.

FOREMAN: You wanted to create a buzz out there, and also, because it only ran on the internet, if gave you some distance. If it didn't go well, you would say, well, that was just something we put on the internet.

CUTTER: The press covered it. We drove a narrative and you know, captured a storyline.

CASTELLANOS: But you have an obligation to get out there and help voters make that choice. For example, when CNN says they have the best political team.

FOREMAN: Well, that's a fact.

CASTELLANOS: Now, which is a fact.

FOREMAN: That's a fact. I'm not even going to discuss that.

CASTELLANOS: That means somebody else does not, but --

FOREMAN: That's also a fact.

CASTELLANOS: But we're helping viewers make an informed choice.

CUTTER: That's a contrast.

FOREMAN: Let me ask you about the down side or the danger of this. Hillary Clinton ran this ad, which is the biggest attention-grabbing attack ad currently, the 3:00 a.m. thing. Are your kids safe if the call goes to the wrong person? Listen to Hillary Clinton from just a couple of years ago talking about the republicans.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're doing it to us again. If you are paying attention, you saw two weeks ago Karl Rove in a room like this telling the National Republican Committee, here's your game plan, folks. Here's how we're going to win. We're going to win by getting everybody scared again.


FOREMAN: Well, I saw some changes in the hairstyle there. Look, she's saying right there, you shouldn't go around scaring people. All the campaigns say that. And then they roll these ads out. Don't they open themselves up for people doing just that, running the clip and saying do you mean it or not? Are you trying to scare America or not?

CUTTER: And that was Barack Obama's response. As soon as that ad came out, he was - you know, he charged that she was playing the politics affair. I mean, there is a risk in running these ads that there could be a backlash with voters. There are anecdotes of people that went to the polls last Tuesday in Texas and Ohio that said it was a politics affair. Whether or not it had a lasting impression, particularly on those late deciders, people that were making up their minds over the weekend, it's a little bit unclear, but you have to come down on the side of yes, it did.

CASTELLANOS: It's not just so much the message as she challenged Barack Obama -- not his experience, but his strength, his strength of character. She went at him, and his response was, well, almost nothing. He just kind of turned the other cheek. And if you don't have the strength to deal with this in a campaign, how are you going to have the strength to deal with it as president? I love to see Barack Obama get on TV, do a 30 or 60 second ad and say, look, this election is going to be about change or the status quo. This is the old politics. We can do better. And throw - he's got to hit the ball back over the net.

CUTTER: But he did respond in kind --

CASTELLANOS: In kind. He didn't take it up to another level, which I think is a mistake.

CUTTER: That's true. I mean, he went back in her voting for the war.

FOREMAN: Speaking of taking it to another level, is the question I've got here. What's off limits? What can you not do? If you can do this, you can push it further, you can scare people about this, then why not attack family members or why not attack old relationships from long ago? Why not attack religious beliefs?

CASTELLANOS: Politics is not this unique thing that exists in a vacuum. It's real life lived somewhere else. And if you don't do it in real life, if you wouldn't do it with your friends and your neighbors, don't do it on TV.

FOREMAN: Most people wouldn't do this in real life. They wouldn't say about their neighbor, let me just point out that he was divorced four years ago.

CASTELLANOS: Actually, you'll turn on your TV. If you'll go comparison shopping at the grocery, what you do in real life is you draw fair differences on benefits, real things that matter.

FOREMAN: Yes, one candidate's cream corn is not attacking the other candidate's cream corn.

CASTELLANOS: Actually, they are all the time. Turn on your TV. Cable.

CUTTER: We're talking about the highest office in the land. We're talking about the president of the United States. So, the stakes are pretty high, so whether or not somebody is ready to be commander in chief is a legitimate question to ask.

CASTELLANOS: And cream corn does attack cream corn. Cable tacks --

FOREMAN: There were the great creamed corn wars in Iowa years ago but it doesn't matter. Let me ask you one last question. And quick assessment here. As we move toward the general election, based on what you have seen so far, are we going to see a much more biting attack-filled campaign, or are we more likely to see the candidates saying, OK, the public has had it, they're not real happy, let's back off from that? What do you think, Stephanie/

CUTTER: Well, I think the public has to make it clear that they've had enough of that.

FOREMAN: By voting against it.

CUTTER: By voting against somebody that's running negative ads or making it clear that you know enough is enough.

FOREMAN: And briefly, Alex.

CASTELLANOS: I think the Clintons are all about the politics of personal ambition, and they're going to take the next -- this campaign to a new level. She's more than willing to burn the village to save it, and you know, it's hard to really raise her negatives higher than they already are. She has nothing to lose. So, a long, tough campaign against Obama is what I think is ahead for the democrats, which is good for republicans.

CUTTER: I have two points to make to that. One, you know, I do think that Barack Obama is up to it to respond. Not just in kind, but above. They can continue to up the ante. Two, democratic voters are looking for someone who can beat John McCain in the general electorate. So, they're looking for somebody who's tough so the gloves are going to come off.

FOREMAN: And with that, thanks so much. I'll let you both go back to sharpening your knives.

Remember, for all the negative ads, often politicians turn out to be their own worst enemy. Our list of the best, or depending on your point of view, the worst career-ending blunders. It's coming up. Stick with us.


THOM THOMPSON, OHIO VOTER: We're on the same boat together and I guess that's where I am with electing somebody from party. I want us to be in command of the boat, but we're all on the same team, and we're all in the same boat together.

FOREMAN: Who is us?

THOMPSON: Us, the democrats. I don't want - I don't want somebody else. I don't want republicans. I've never seen a democrat -- or I've never seen a republican ever do anything for me other than the two republicans that raised me.


FOREMAN: A gentleman that I talked to out in Ohio. Emotions and feelings about this presidential race really are running remarkably high but superdelegates aside, we, the voters, are supposed to decide who is going to be the next president. All the more reason for us to check out the word on the street.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm hoping it doesn't get decided by the superdelegates.

FOREMAN: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I think people will feel cheated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they both should kind of join together.

FOREMAN: You like the idea of a joint ticket?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I'm not decided on who should be the frontrunner, though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they're both saying filthy things about trade. Not horrible things, but dopey. But they in Ohio, so got to say dopey things about trade in Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I also with like it not to drag on forever through the summer, to the convention.

FOREMAN: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because frankly, because I'm a democrat, and I would like -- I just think it's not going to help the democrats get elected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, there is a lot of dislike towards republicans. And I guess especially just because of the Iraq war, but I think if you go past history, people become conservative towards the end, and I think that in the long run, I think McCain will tip either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton a pretty good fight. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sure how the things that Clinton or Obama, what they want to do. I'm not sure what they can get done.

FOREMAN: Are you more democratic, more republican, more independent?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More republican, I have to say, but maybe leaning towards more democrat.

FOREMAN: Even though you are a republican?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, because I'm not sure about McCain. Not sure what he is bringing to the conservative side, you know what I'm saying?

FOREMAN: Who do you think will be in the White House one year from now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would tend to hedge my bet on McCain, but right now I think, you know, it's pretty much anybody's game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do I think? Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm looking at Ron Paul. Ron Paul is going to be president.

FOREMAN: Really?


FOREMAN: How do you think that's going to happen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a ninja, and I think he is just going to sneak on in. He's got the skills like that.

FOREMAN: Really.

UNIDNETIFIED MAALE: He is just going to -- run across the street.

FOREMAN: Have you seen him do that?



FOREMAN: Those magical ninja powers let him down. For all the extraordinary passion and fundraising, Ron Paul generated, he said late this week presidential victory will not come his way this time, but that primary vote in Texas strongly suggested he will keep his congressional seat for the lone star state. So ninjas, hold on to your shots. The ancient secrets of the fast track coming up. Everything you need to survive, the "Next week in Politics."


FOREMAN: Howard Dean came out of his cave. He's out of his shadow. We have six more weeks of campaigning. It's like groundhog day. On top of the "Fast Track" with CNN senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. We got another primary coming up on Tuesday. What do we expect?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Mississippi, it's heavily African-American, and it's a state that Hillary Clinton appears to have insulted. Obama is using that against her. She is not expected to win.

FOREMAN: We have a long dry spell after that until April 22nd with Pennsylvania. Another big state comes weighing in. What should we expect in the meantime?

SCHNEIDER: Oh, there will be a lot of fighting in the next six weeks. Hillary Clinton won in Ohio and Texas by getting tough with Barack Obama, so he is now determined to fight back.

FOREMAN: On the republican side there's all this talk that John McCain could win the presidency and still not get it. What's that all about?

SCHNEIDER: The constitution says in order to be president, you have to be a "natural-born citizen." What does that mean? John McCain was born in the canal zone to military parents. So the bill would enable him and people like him to become president, and it's being co- sponsored by, guess who, Barack Obama. Pretty gallant, but, you know what, it won't help Arnold Schwarzenegger.

FOREMAN: Big surprise. Possibly going out of Panama. Hey, Bill, what is your favorite political blunder of all time? You have seen plenty of them.

SCHNEIDER: I think that would be Dan Quayle in a debate in 1988 when he compared himself to John F. Kennedy. That wasn't the smart move.

FOREMAN: I know Bill Schneider. Bill Schneider, he is my friend. I'm no Bill Schneider. Thanks for joining us. And now let's turn real quick to our late night laughs.


STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDY CENTRAL: Shame on you, Barack Obama. For having the media not attack you. Well, the press has finally called you out on the press not calling you out. Your game is over.

CRAIG KILBORN, LATE NIGHT SHOW: John McCain, of course, won the republican nomination last night, and as an award he got a visit to the White House today. Mike Huckabee finished second. His reward is a hunting trip with Dick Cheney.

JON STEWART, COMEDY CENTRAL: In short, this election could come down to a lawsuit involving Florida. How precedented. How absolutely heard of.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) FOREMAN: With all three candidates running strong now, quite simply what each camp is waiting for, in part is for an opponent to stumble because that can de deadly.

As promised, here is our list of the top five political blunders of all time, and we start off with Richard Nixon's decision to stiff-arm the makeup lady before his debate with John F. Kennedy. He wound up sweating like a stevedore, and it wasn't very presidential.

How about the day Michael Dukakis agreed when some aides say yes, hop in the tank. You'll look strong. It will be great. Gary Hart said if anyone wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be bored. they did. They weren't. Gerald Ford suffered a slight slip of the tongue that cost him dearly.


GERALD FORD: Union, I don't believe that the polls consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union.


FOREMAN: And, of course, there is the battle cry of all who might stumble in the political arena. A sound that probably still echoes in the ears of Howard Dean.


FOREMAN: He might just as well have yelled adios. And that's what we have to do now. It's time for us to stumble on out of here. Join us next week at the same time for "This week in Politics." I'm Tom Foreman. Thanks for watching. Straight ahead, CNN's "Ballot Bowl."