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CNN Today

Election 2000: What Impact Will Elizabeth Dole's Endorsement of George W. Bush Have?

Aired January 4, 2000 - 2:06 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Here's a bit of news that may have escaped your attention during all the millennial hoopla: An election year has just begun, and in only three weeks, the presidential candidates confront their first big test: the party caucuses held in Iowa.

Right now, Republican front-runner George W. Bush is trying to bolster his standing in Iowa after picking up a potentially-important endorsement. It came from former rival Elizabeth Dole, who quit the Republican race weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH DOLE (R), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that Americans want a president who will earn their trust by putting his trust in them, trusting them and not Washington to invest their own money, choose the best schools for their children and select the best health plan for their families. George W. Bush is just such a leader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATERS: So, the presidential campaign is in full throttle.

We're joined now in Washington by CNN political analyst William Schneider.

Bill, the importance of an endorsement from Elizabeth Dole for George Bush?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, George Bush hopes this can really save him and help reverse some of the polls that show him slipping behind John McCain in some crucial states, like New Hampshire.

Elizabeth Dole has two appeals, and it's funny because they rarely go together. Her name is Dole, that's the Republican establishment. But she's a women, the first woman to run a serious campaign for president, and she reached out to a lot of voters outside the normal Republican ranks, a lot of women, professional women, particularly, a lot of people who don't normally vote in primaries, and both of those could help George Bush crucially in states like New Hampshire.

WATERS: And in Iowa, Elizabeth Dole's rather popular, is she not?

SCHNEIDER: She is popular in Iowa. Her husband, of course, represented Kansas, a nearby state, and that could also be influential there, where he's trying to score a big victory so that if he loses New Hampshire it may not hurt quite as much.

WATERS: And reporters, of course, immediately leaped on the possibility that because Elizabeth Dole is supporting George Bush that perhaps George Bush is considering her as a running mate.

Let's listen to what George W. Bush had to say when asked about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, it's premature to talk about my running mate, and I'm going to select somebody who, should I be the nominee, select somebody, first and foremost, who could be the president, and no question she is a qualified, capable friend -- yes, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATERS: There you go, Bill, "a qualified, capable friend." Does that sound like a ringing endorsement to you?

SCHNEIDER: It sounds like she's very much on the short list of likely contenders for the vice presidential position. I would say no matter who the Republican nominee is, it's likely to be either Bush or McCain -- they're the front-runners at this point -- and Republicans always need help, these days, with women voters. Women tend to vote more -- more Democratic than Republican for president. So, any -- whatever man is the Republican nominee, and they're all men right now, Elizabeth Dole is likely to be right at the top of the list.

WATERS: Of course, one side benefit of being endorsed by Elizabeth Dole, today, has taken attention away from John McCain. What does it look like on that side of the street?

SCHNEIDER: Well, McCain has been making some big gains in New Hampshire, and also he's running very hard in South Carolina. He's trying to score a series of upsets, running a stealth campaign without nearly as much money as George Bush has.

What Elizabeth Dole does is it creates some attention to George Bush, a kind of excitement about his campaign, particularly among voters outside the ranks of traditional rank-and-file hard-core Republican loyalists, because her support went beyond those ranks. It's interesting that Bush -- the endorsement was today rather than a few weeks from now, because it indicates that Bush realizes he needs some help now and very, very quickly, because the McCain threat is a lot more serious than he must have counted on.

WATERS: All right, Bill Schneider in Washington.

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