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CNN Late Edition

Polls Show Gore and Bush Maintaining Iowa Leads; Bradley Sinking and McCain Rising in New Hampshire

Aired January 23, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 11:00 a.m. here in Des Moines, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles and 5:00 p.m. in London. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special 90-minute LATE EDITION from Iowa, where the first official presidential contest of campaign 2000 takes place tomorrow night.

We'll get to our interview with Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes shortly, but first the latest from the campaign trail.

Both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are making a final push before tomorrow night's caucuses. CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joins us now live here in Des Moines -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from a very blustery rooftop here in Des Moines I can tell you there has been a Sunday blessing of sorts, at least of the editorial kind. Bill Bradley has won the endorsement of "The Des Moines Register," a very influential paper here in Iowa. And on the Republican side it is George Bush.

So these are -- certainly for the uncommitteds this could be a factor. A lot of people doubt whether newspaper endorsements mean much, but this close to the Iowa caucuses tomorrow night, there are some people who believe that the uncommitteds might pay attention to something like the endorsement of a paper.

Right now the front-runners in this race, of course, are still George Bush on the Republican side, and Al Gore on the Democratic side. Basically their M.O. is the same; they want to hit as many towns as they can, shake as many hands as they can, say as little as possible and make sure that all those people who were telling pollsters they will vote for them, actually show up at the caucuses.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I can't tell you how optimistic I am about our chances. Although there is a cautionary note. Somebody came up to me. said, Gosh, you look great in the polls. I said, Well, I appreciate you saying that. He said, You don't need my help. I said, Well, that's not exactly the way it works. The only poll that matters is when the people go to the caucuses.

ALBERT GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democrats win, Democrats win. America wins. Let's -- let's win first of all on Monday night. I need your help, 7:00 p.m., Democratic caucuses, bring your neighbors, bring your family. I want to fight for you, I need you to fight for me.


CROWLEY: So what's there for a front-runner to worry about here in Iowa? Well, Al Gore is worried about Bill Bradley. He would like to have a very big win to try to begin to end the Bradley insurgent campaign. And for George Bush, it is Steve Forbes. Forbes has consistently polled second here. He has a lot of money; he has a good organization. A good showing by Forbes could be seen as a weakening of Bush as he goes into New Hampshire, where he faces a very tough race against John McCain.

There is, of course, another race in the Republican Party, and that is really the race for the social conservatives -- Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer involved in that race as well as Forbes. What they are trying to do is to become, really, the spokesmen for the social conservative wing of the Republican Party. All three showed up last night at a meeting of social conservatives. It has been that particular group that they have been trying to rally to get them to come out on caucus night. It is generally believed that only one, Alan Keyes/Gary Bauer, can come out of this race and still survive in New Hampshire, so a very big race for that wing of the party, Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley, reporting from a very, very windy Des Moines. And congratulations to Candy Crowley on her producers, Mike Roselli (ph) and Chris Garino (ph), for this week winning the Alfred I. Dupont Award for excellence in broadcast journalism.

The final polls are now in. Joining us now to talk about where the candidates stand with the voters on this eve of the Iowa caucuses, CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He joins us now.

Bill, first of all, on the GOP side, here in Iowa, what are the polls showing?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we have the latest poll, which came out this morning from "The Des Moines Register," and it shows George Bush with 43 percent; Steve Forbes at 20; and interestingly Alan Keyes and John McCain tied for third place with 8 percent each.

Now, if that were to happen tomorrow night at the caucuses, I'd call it a pretty solid win for George Bush, more than 20 points ahead of Steve Forbes. And the issue in Iowa has always been, will conservatives give Bush any trouble in this campaign or will they buy into George Bush as their candidate?

The big surprise has been Alan Keyes. Last time he polled 4 percent in this same poll, "The Des Moines Register" poll; he ended up with 7. Last time Pat Buchanan polled 11 percent in this poll, and he ended up with 23. Keyes could be a big surprise if he does notably better than this poll showed, and of course, Mr. Forbes also, who is appealing to conservatives, might end up doing better than this poll shows. And also, of course John McCain has no campaign in Iowa. If he turns out to get 8 percent, he'll spin that into a miraculous victory because he has not done anything in Iowa.

BLITZER: We're getting some new numbers today in New Hampshire on the Republican side -- the Democratic side as well, but first the Republican side. What are we hearing about New Hampshire?

SCHNEIDER: Well, what we have is the first of our CNN/"USA Today" tracking poll in New Hampshire -- we'll be following this every day -- and that poll shows a big reversal. In New Hampshire, John McCain with 42 percent; George Bush down with 33 percent; Steve Forbes in third place with 13 percent.

You know, New Hampshire doesn't like anointments, and it suggests that George Bush may be facing problems from two directions. Could be a problem with conservatives, that could materialize here in Iowa, if they do better than "The Des Moines Register" suggested; but also from a candidate, John McCain in New Hampshire, who's not running on ideology. He's running on a platform of anti-establishment populism, doing very well.

John McCain's problem, of course, is he seems to have a lot of charisma, not a lot of resources. He's depending on winning and winning and winning and getting the media to carry his campaign forward.

BLITZER: All right, let's take look at the Democratic side. First of all here in Iowa, what are latest numbers showing in the contest between Gore and Bradley?

SCHNIEDER: Well, what it shows is bad news for Mr. Bradley. Despite "The Des Moines Register's" endorsement, Gore 56, Bradley 28 in their poll -- that's a solid win or it would be a solid win for Gore if it happens, two to one. Raises the question a lot of people are raising, was it a mistake for Bill Bradley to put a lot of time and money here?

Democrats like Al Gore. Bradley hasn't given them a reason not to vote for Al Gore, instead Gore came out first and gave Democrats a lot of reasons not to vote for Bill Bradley.

BLITZER: What about in New Hampshire?

SCHNEIDER: Well, we have our tracking poll in New Hampshire, and this is even worse news for Bill Bradley. Gore 52, Bradley 43 in a race that had been thought to be close. Again, New Hampshire Democrats don't like anointments. They may not like the idea that New Hampshire is anointing Al Gore, the Democratic nominee -- that Iowa's anointing Al Gore. Bradley is not really catching on there either. He got eaten up by Al Gore, and he didn't fight back and turn negative really when it was too late.

And there's one more wildcard in New Hampshire. Next Thursday night, five days before the New Hampshire primary, President Clinton gives his final State of the Union speech. Who's going to be sitting behind him?

Al Gore. That also is going to be aimed at those wavering New Hampshire Democrats, and I think Clinton knows that he will be trying to get that vote out for his vice president, Al Gore.

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds, Bill, but as far as the expectations game here in Iowa is concerned, it's one thing to see who gets the actual caucus votes but the other thing is the expectations. Explain to us what this is all about.

SCHNEIDER: Well, look, there's two ways to win a race. One is to win and people say, Wow, and the other way is to win and people say, Uh-oh. Gore and Bush look like they are likely to win New Hampshire, but what's going to be the second phrase after people report that he won?

Now, there is a lot of guessing and numbers. I'll just give you a broad outline that I see. If Bush wins with over 50 percent in a six-man field, I think most reporters will say, Wow, that was spectacular. Less than 40 percent, Uh-oh, he didn't even make 40 percent.

Gore, he's running at about 60 percent in the polls. If he wins over 65 percent, that is if he beats Bill Bradley, his only competitor by two-to-one, the result will be, he won, and, Wow, that's a big win for Gore. Under 55 percent, that'll be called close, and then the response will be, He won, but uh-oh.

BLITZER: All right, Bill Schneider. We'll be watching. You'll be here for next the few days and throughout this political campaign season. Thanks for joining us.

And joining us now is the Republican candidate expected to finish second here in Iowa: Steve Forbes. Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Mr. Forbes. Good to have you on our program.


BLITZER: Here is what "The Des Moines Register" editorial said this morning in endorsing George W. Bush: "We favor George W. Bush for the Republican nomination for president. The choice was between Bush, the governor of Texas, and John McCain, U.S. senator from Arizona. Three others who are running lack the requisite experience. They have never served one day in elective office." That would be you, of course.

FORBES: Well, I think that is typical of politics, as usual. And if you want politics as usual, George Bush will give it to you. And you'll get the kind of record that politics as usual will give you.

For example, in Texas, his tax cuts are more apparent than real. Most Texans never got them. He has been increasing spending at twice the rate of Clinton and Gore. And in education, his reforms again are phantom; educational standards in Texas have gone down. On SAT scores for example, since he has been goes governor, SAT scores in Texas have gone from 40th in the nation to 46th in the nation.

So if you want that kind of performance, you will vote for politics as usual. If you want a real change, I put more bold strong proposals on the life issue, health care, education, Social Security than all of the other campaigns put together. Those people are rallying to me because they want a real change.

And you see this same kind of dance that politicians do on the life issue, where he refuses -- he just does a dance. He's not firm on it.

BLITZER: We're going to get to that. I'm hearing that the next few days, once campaign moves to New Hampshire, your campaign is going to be stepping up the so-called negative advertising against George Bush?

FORBES: We're going to go and have gone on record and substance issues and ideas. He said look at his record in Texas. When you look you find, there's not much there; it's all facade and no house. On the spending issue, the tax issue, education, the life issue, it's still more politics as usual. And people are tired of that.

BLITZER: You know that Governor Bush was interviewed yesterday on CNN's "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS," and he was specifically asked about the way you're handling the campaign -- the so-called "negative campaign." Listen to what he said about you.


AL HUNT, CO-HOST: What do you think of your other chief rival, Steve Forbes, personally, and what kind of a president would he make?

G. BUSH: Well, I don't know him that well. I have been a little disappointed at the kind of attacks that have been taking place. I have been worried about him doing to me what he did to Bob Dole in 1996. The good news is the Republican Party's going to reject that kind of campaigning.


BLITZER: He is worried that you are going to do to him what you did to Bob Dole.

Bob Dole, as you know, after the campaign blamed you for getting Bill Clinton reelected.

FORBES: Well, the people of Iowa, Wolf, want a real discussion and real debate on real issues. They don't want to find out they have a nominee and then find out that nominee isn't what they thought he was.

And so, on issues like the life issue, where he's refused to take a firm stand on judges, refused to take a firm stand on a running mate, has danced around on Roe v. Wade, danced around on the plank in the platform, people ought to know that now. And he said look at his record as governor of Texas, and you look at it, and you find out there's not much there. People ought to know that before the nominating convention rather than after so they can make informed choice.

BLITZER: But as a good and loyal Republican, are you concerned that by beating up on George W. Bush, you may make it easier for Al Gore or Bill Bradley to be the next president of the United States?

FORBES: Again, people want a true honest debate so they can choose a candidate that reflects their values, and that can have a positive message to win in November. And the last two presidential elections, the reason why we lost, was a lack of substance. We didn't have that kind of clarion message that Ronald Reagan had, a clear distinct and a positive agenda. No message, no victory. And in a case of George Bush, we don't want the same old same old. He made a pledge to cut -- not to raise taxes in Texas. He broke that pledge, his own party had to rescue him from it. These are things that we ought to know now.

I am offering a true conservative platform. I am the true conservative candidate.

BLITZER: You know, your home-state governor, Christine Todd Whitman, from New Jersey, was on "CROSSFIRE" here on CNN Friday night, and she was also asked about you and the kind of campaign you're engaged in. I want you to listen to what she said, a fellow New Jerseyite and get your reaction.


GOV. CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN (R), NEW JERSEY: He's got a lot to offer, and it really is sad, I think, to see someone who could be a good positive force in the Republican Party, tearing down other Republicans, making them more vulnerable when we get to a general election.


FORBES: Well, by her criteria, Wolf, Abraham Lincoln was negative going against Steven Douglas, on issues such as the extension of slavery.

People want a real debate. Who is more likely to cut taxes and get rid of this tax code? Who is more likely to move the life issue forward? Who is more likely to make real changes on health care, education and Social Security? And that's what people want to know now.

And if George Bush is afraid of a vigorous honest debate, if he doesn't want people to look at his record, if he wants to dance around issues, that's not the way you win elections, it's politics as normal.

BLITZER: If George Bush gets the nomination, will you support him, will you endorse him? FORBES: Well, since I am going to get the nomination, I think the question is how vigorous will his support be for me? And the Republican voters are going to make that decision, and I think we're going to have a very strong showing here on Monday night, because the voters, again, want something not just the kind of sizzle and spin that we've had in the last seven years. They want something true. And I've got the boldest and strongest platform of any Republican candidate -- conservative platform, and that's what's going to win this election.

BLITZER: Are you prepared to say, though, you'll endorse whoever the Republican nominee is?

FORBES: Well, since I am going to be the nominee, I will be supporting my candidacy in November.

BLITZER: It doesn't seem like that you're going to be all that enthusiastic if George Bush gets the nomination.

FORBES: Well, I think, since I'm going to get the nomination, the key is bringing the rest of the party on board. And since we will have gone through the primaries, and the voters will have made their decision, I'm very confident we'll have a strong united party the way Ronald Reagan did. That's the way you win, you win with principle, not mush and Texas two-stepping.

BLITZER: All right, Mr. Forbes, we have to take a quick commercial break, but we a lot more to talk about. When we return, your phone calls for Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes. LATE EDITION from Iowa continues right after this.



FORBES: Tweedle-Dum, Tweedle-Dee. Same old same old. Why not get to the heart of the problem, which is the tax code?


BLITZER: GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes challenging the tax-cut proposals of his Republican rivals, Governor George W. Bush and Senator John McCain.

Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION from Iowa. We're continuing our conversation with Steve Forbes.

Mr. Forbes, Governor Bush, this past weekend on CNN's "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS," went further than he has in the past, promising that he would support the 1984 Republican Party platform against abortion. Listen to what he had to say on the program.


G. BUSH: I want to keep the platform the same. My position has not changed. Republicans must decide which of us can best lead toward an understand of a culture that respects life. Which of the candidates has got the capacity to convince people that life is precious?


BLITZER: That seems to be a very strong statement. Is that good enough for you?

FORBES: I'm delighted he at least made that statement, because when I asked him in a debate a couple weeks ago that very same question, he hedged.

I think this is typical of the Republican establishment. First they attack an outside challenger like me, who is a true conservative -- you saw that in the early part of this program. And then they make some verbal gestures to the conservative wing of the party and hope that'll get them the nomination in the general election. And then the tendency is after the election, they just simply discard the pledges made. And we've have had that in the past.

But again, why did he now suddenly just on eve of Iowa caucuses make a statement that he refused to make two weeks ago? And he still has not been firm on Roe v. Wade, he still has not been firm on judges, and he still has not been firm on a running mate. So as I said in that clip you showed, same old same old.

BLITZER: Well, you know, his people say that the position he's taking is very similar to the position that you took four years ago when fight abortion was not the main pillar of your campaign. The main pillar was the flat tax, eliminating the tax code. There wasn't a whole lot of emphasis on abortion four years ago in your campaign, as opposed to now.

FORBES: Well, four years ago I got in the race very late, but I did get out a good broad-based agenda. And on the life issue, I have been consistent supporting the life amendment.

What I pioneered in '96, which I think now people see real merit in, is how do you move the issue forward. And I put forth a plan of action in '96 and since then of a step-by-step approach to move people toward the human life amendment. And I have been on the trenches on the life battle. I fought my own governor in New Jersey when she did not want to ban partial birth abortions. I helped lead the charge against it. New Jersey's now the only state in the Northeast that has banned partial birth abortions. And so I have been on the trenches on that.

And on the tax issue, I have been on the trenches. He hasn't. His two so-called tax cuts -- George Bush's tax cuts in Texas, his own lieutenant governor called the first one illusory, and his own education department pointed out the other day that six out of 10 Texas districts, either the rates have stayed the same or gone up. It's a Bill Clinton kind of tax cut.

BLITZER: Mr. Forbes, do you think you are going to come in second in the Iowa caucuses? FORBES: I think we're going to come in second. I think I'm going to emerge as the true conservative candidate and that's why I think I'm going win nomination.

BLITZER: What would be a good -- what would you be satisfied with Monday night?

FORBES: I'm not going to put a number on it, but I am going to emerge as the conservative candidate. And that's why I think we are going to go distance. The party wants a real strong agenda, a real strong message. That's what I'm offering, like on the tax issue, getting rid of the tax code which I pioneered also four years ago. If you want real things done, I'm the one to do it. If you want politics as usual, George Bush and others can do it for you.

BLITZER: Bill Dal Col, your campaign manager, yesterday sitting in this seat here on CNN, predicted that, after Iowa, George Bush would come in third in New Hampshire, behind John McCain and Steve Forbes. Are you willing to say what your campaign manager said?

FORBES: I trust his judgment on it. I think we'll have a good campaign in New Hampshire. And it wouldn't surprise me if George Bush finished third.

BLITZER: OK, let's take a caller from Long Island. Please go ahead with your question for Steve Forbes.

QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Forbes, how are you?

FORBES: Fine, thanks. How are you?

QUESTION: I'm good, thank you. I'm a conservative. I support the Republican Party, always have, always will. I agree with you on abortion, you know. I'm pro-life, obviously.

My question is, I've only been really following politics for a couple of years now. But can you explain the discrepancies between McCain's and Bush's tax plans and yours as it pertains to Social Security and the debt? I will hang up and hear your answer. And thank you for taking the call.

FORBES: Well, concerning the tax cuts, both those of George Bush and John McCain preserve the current tax code, preserve the IRS as it is, do these little nips and tucks and little tax cuts. They neither get to the heart of the problem, which is the tax code itself. We need a simple, honest and fair tax code. Throw the old one out and give working people a real tax cut and do it now.

A family of four, under my tax plan, would save upwards of between $1,500 and $2,000 a year right off the bat, do it now. We'd get rid of the capital gains tax, get rid of the death tax, and we'd get rid of the marriage penalty. George Bush preserves it for stay- at-home moms, and that's not fair.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller from Dallas, Texas, please go ahead with your question. QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Forbes. I'm actually pro-choice, but I'm supporting you, and...

FORBES: Thank you.

QUESTION: And the reason I'm supporting you is because of your tax proposals and your Social Security proposals. I'm wondering how you're going to use Governor Bush's pathetic record in Texas against him on the national platform. His father was...

BLITZER: All right, let's go ahead and answer that question.

FORBES: Well, you're right about the governor's record in Texas. You see it on spending, where his spendings increased at twice the rate of Clinton and Gore since he's been in office, the education record is very poor. As I mentioned on SATs, Texas' gone from 40 to 46. And on the tax issues, as you know, most Texans haven't seen those so-called tax cuts. As I said, that's only a tax cut that Bill Clinton could love.

There's no real record there, and that's again, the difference between a true conservative outsider and politics as usual.

BLITZER: All right Mr. Forbes, we only have a few seconds. You've spent, over the past four years -- what? -- about $60 million out of your own money, to get involved. Any regrets, any sense -- some people say, "Maybe he should have spent the money more productively," as opposed to what some regard as a futile effort to become president of the United States.

FORBES: Well, I am going become president and we've already changed the political landscape with these issues on life, taxes, health care, education, Social Security. And so, that's the way you make difference. And by the way, what isn't much known, is that in Iowa, this time George Bush has spent more than I have. But we've got a true message and that's why we are going to do well tomorrow night.

BLITZER: All right, Steve Forbes on the campaign trial here in Iowa. Thank you so much, for joining us on LATE EDITION.

FORBES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And when we come back, John McCain skips Iowa focusing his attention on New Hampshire. We'll talk about Bush versus McCain with Bush supporter and former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, and McCain supporter, Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel when this special LATE EDITION from Iowa continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION from Iowa.

Joining us now to talk about the latest in this heated contest are two guests. In Washington, McCain supporter and Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel; and here in Des Moines Bush supporter and former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION. Let me start with Governor Branstad. You were governor for 16 years until recently. You know this state well. Give us your prediction what is going to be the result on Republican side tomorrow night?

TERRY BRANSTAD (R), FORMER IOWA GOVERNOR: Well, I think that George Bush is going to win a solid victory here.

BLITZER: How solid?

BRANSTAD: I think he's going to beat Forbes probably close to two-to-one, by 20 points. I think the surprise may well be third place. McCain, I think, has made a big mistake by not campaigning in Iowa. Latest Iowa poll that came out, in this morning's "Des Moines Register," shows McCain support is dropping.

Alan Keyes is coming on. Alan Keyes may come in a very strong third. And that's a big surprise because I thought he might be behind Bauer, behind McCain. But Keyes is coming on. He has a big rally scheduled this afternoon. He's bought television time and he has done very well in the debates.

I think that Governor Bush has done well as well. He's spending a lot of time here. He's working hard. He is working the crowds. He's not taking anything for granted and I think he's going to win a solid victory tomorrow night.

BLITZER: All right, Senator Hagel was it a big mistakes for Senator McCain to skip this state, come here to the heartland -- you're from the heartland -- and just focus in on New Hampshire for the time being?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: No, I don't think it was at all, Wolf. Being a Nebraskan and loving Iowans as much as I do, McCain had to early on make a strategic decision. We don't have the multi- million dollar war chest that Governor Bush does, so the priorities of where Senator McCain was going to place his focus -- South Carolina, Michigan, Arizona, New Hampshire -- really directed our energies and our strategies.

So this is a long time process. Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and on down the road, so whatever votes we can get at that caucus tomorrow night, we're going to be grateful for. But Iowa is important but we're we are saying that this is a process that is more than just about an Iowa caucus or a New Hampshire primary.

BLITZER: You know there's a lot of people, Governor Branstad, who think the real contest in New Hampshire -- you heard Steve Forbes predict basically that Bush, your candidate, might come in third in New Hampshire. In fact, "The Concord Monitor," one of the newspapers in New Hampshire has an editorial that is out today. Listen to what "The Concord Monitor" says in endorsing John McCain in New Hampshire. The editorial says: "Bush came to New Hampshire with a familiar name, a fat wallet and a thin resume. Win or lose he will leave here in the same condition." BRANSTAD: I think premature to predict the outcome before the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary, because the New Hampshire primary voters, a lot of times, make their decisions relatively late and the state has been known to be a very independent state.

But I'm very hopeful that Bush's solid win in Iowa will give him momentum into New Hampshire. He's going to have to do in New Hampshire exactly what he has done in Iowa: campaign hard. I think his focus on the tax reductions and his record in Texas reforming welfare, improving education, I think resonates with the people. They want -- Republicans want somebody that can win somebody that can win, somebody that can win the White House back and George W. Bush is that is candidate.

BLITZER: Senator Hagel, if Steve Forbes and Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes do well here, relatively speaking, in Iowa, does that help McCain ironically in New Hampshire by showing that Governor Bush is vulnerable?

HAGEL: Well I don't know, Wolf. You know, McCain is focused on what he believes and what he thinks is important to the future of our country, the world, what kind of president he would be. What happens in Iowa, happens in Iowa.

But I would just make one observation. You know the two major candidates -- major as measured by polls -- are Bush and McCain, and I would think that Governor Bush has got to get at least 50 percent of that vote, if for no other reason in Iowa than one of those two major candidates isn't even playing in Iowa.

So we'll see what happens, but I think Terry's right: We've got a ways to go here. And we have been in this right from beginning to go to the end. So Iowa's important and we go to New Hampshire and on down the line.

BLITZER: OK, Senator, Governor, we have to take a quick commercial break, but when we return, your phone calls for Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel and former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. This special LATE EDITION from Iowa will be right back.


BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of the Iowa state capital here in Des Moines, where tomorrow night the first votes will be cast in the race for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation now with Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a supporter of Arizona John McCain; and former Iowa governor Terry Branstad, who's backing Texas Governor George W. Bush.

Let's take some phone calls. We have one caller from Charleston, West Virginia. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Yes, Senator Hagel, how are you today, sir? HAGEL: Good, thank you very much.

QUESTION: Good, I was calling to get your opinion on Alan Keyes. Do you believe there is a possibility he may jump out in front of Senator McCain in the Iowa primary?

HAGEL: Oh, I think anything's possible. And I think Mr. Keyes has campaigned tirelessly. He has a strong message. He's been there, many, many, many days and weeks. Senator McCain has had very little presence only really in the debates, so it's very possible that Mr. Keyes could defeat Senator McCain in the Iowa caucus.

BLITZER: And Governor Branstad pointed out he wouldn't be surprised if Alan Keyes did in fact come in third.

Let's take another caller from San Antonio, Texas. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Thank you. Good morning, everyone. Governor, isn't the fact that the party is trying to keep Senator McCain off the ballot in New York a sign of Republican mean-spiritedness?

BRANSTAD: No. This is the New York rules and it is a problem. I remember, you know, the problem it was for Bob Dole to get on the ballot. So it is a difficult -- it is a difficult thing to get on the ballot in New York. They have some very arcane and difficult rules to follow.

In fact, in Iowa we have an open situation and everybody's invited to come in and McCain has made a huge mistake by not campaigning here.

I don't think you can run for president of the United States and pick or choose a state or two you want to campaign in. I think you've got to really run a nationwide campaign in all 50 states. That's what Governor Bush is doing, and I think he's going to do well because he is in fact, appealing to a broad cross-section of Republicans, and he's got a record in the second-largest state in the country of having, reduced taxes, improved education, reformed welfare, and attracted a lot of support from none traditional voters for Republican.

BLITZER: All right, let's take a...

HAGEL: Wolf, some of these...

BLITZER: Yes, Senator, go ahead.

HAGEL: If I might add, I find Terry's explanation very intriguing. That, in fact, is what Senator McCain is trying to do, compete in New York. I might also add that three key supporters of Governor Bush in New York, the mayor of New York City, Mr. Giuliani, and former Senator D'Amato, and Congressman Peter King, all three Bush supporters, are saying the same thing that we're saying, is let Senator McCain on those ballots. So, it's not to be dismissed as some arcane structure. BLITZER: All right, Senator and Governor, both of your respective candidates have promised not to engage in, sort of, negative advertising, but I want you to watch and listen to this sample of campaign ads both of the campaigns have put out and we'll get your reaction.


MCCAIN: I guess it was bound to happen. Now my opponent has started the political attacks after promising he wouldn't. Mr. Bush's attacks are wrong. When I began this campaign I promised you something better, that I wouldn't engage in attack politics. I'm keeping my pledge.


BLITZER: And now listen to George W. Bush's response in his response in his campaign ad.


G. BUSH: My opponent trusts the people of Washington to spend money. If he says something I don't agree with I'm going point it out. I don't agree with leaving money in Washington, D.C., and I darn sure don't agree with, you know, saying that you're going to take $40 billion employer-related benefits and have people pay tax on them. I think that is mistake.


BLITZER: Is it a mistake, Senator Hagel, for these two candidates, these two Republicans to be attacking each other, as they are?

HAGEL: Well, I think first of all you have to understand we should put some definition into what "attack" means. On the McCain side, I'm sorry that Governor Bush's people have arbitrarily taken a $40 billion number that came out of nowhere other than the Bush campaign, and said this is the number. Obviously Senator McCain had to respond to that. I understand that this going to be resolved.

I might add one other thing, and I suspect Terry agrees with this. Republicans need to stay fixed on something very clear and that is we can't allow ourselves to get into the mud-wrestling ring and the swamp that the Gore-Bradley people have. The objective is to get a nominee that can win in November against probably Gore. So I think we've resolved this problem and I hope we can go on and not have any more of it.

BLITZER: Governor Branstad, your response?

BRANSTAD: I think Governor Bush and Senator McCain have been basically running positive campaigns.

There are some differences on some of the issues, but they're both focused on winning the election and attracting a broad base of voters.

My biggest concern is Forbes. He ran attack ads here against Bob Dole last time. He's got some pretty vicious and inaccurate unfair attack ads on the air right now. I think it'll backfire. I do not think it's going to help him. I think, in fact, we may see a lot of those people that he might have attracted, instead going to Alan Keyes because he's got a positive message, and his message is one of being a real moral conscience for the country.

BLITZER: OK. Governor Terry Branstad, Senator Chuck Hagel, always good to have both of you on LATE EDITION. Thank so you much for joining us.

And up next, we'll turn to the Democrats: Gore versus Bradley. Is the New Jersey senator -- the ex-senator still a threat to the vice president? We'll hear from Gore strategist Bob Schrum and Bradley press secretary Eric Hauser, when this special LATE EDITION from Iowa continues.



GORE: Bring your family. I want to fight for you. I need you to fight for me.

BRADLEY: There are a lot of things to worry about in life. One of them should not be health insurance.


BLITZER: Vice President Al Gore and his challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bill Bradley, on the campaign trail here in Iowa.

Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION from Des Moines.

We now hear from both the Gore and Bradley camps. Joining us from Washington is Gore strategist Bob Schrum, and in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is Bradley campaign press secretary Eric Hauser. Gentlemen, always good to have you both of you on LATE EDITION.

Bob Schrum, I woke up in Des Moines this morning, I read "The Des Moines Sunday Register," and as you probably have heard by now, the bad news for your candidate, Vice President Gore, is that "The Des Moines Register" decided not to endorse Al Gore, instead endorsing Bill Bradley and made this point. Let me read to you a little excerpt.

"Bradley's vision is compelling. Of the two candidates for the Democratic nomination, Bill Bradley has the better appreciation of the possibilities and the right kind of leadership to realize them."

What do you think about that?

BOB SCHRUM, GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: First of all, I'm not going to debate "The Des Moines Register," but I'll tell you that I think what's happened in this campaign is that Al Gore has set out a more compelling positive vision for the country. What he has done is talked about moving ahead on some fundamental issues in a way that builds on our progress, instead of a way that destroys it; moving to universal health care the way Senator Kennedy, who's really the father of it in this country recommends, which is step by step, preserving Medicaid, not starving Medicare, and not spending the whole budget surplus, so that we can invest in education. Al Gore has proposed the single largest investment in education since the GI bill.

BLITZER: All right, Eric Hauser, the other item I noted on the front page of "The Des Moines Register" this morning was their latest poll, and despite the fact that Bill Bradley has spent more days in Iowa than any other candidate, the latest poll here has Al Gore at 56 percent; Bill Bradley at only 28 percent. What happened to Bradley's support in this state here in the heartland?

ERIC HAUSER, BILL BRADLEY PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think, Wolf, what happened is, we came here a year ago, unknown completely, state- wide, and spent a year getting to know the people of Iowa, we've done a good job at it. A lot of enthusiasm a lot of support, we had a great couple days in eastern Iowa and the last few days, but it's always tough in Iowa, when your facing, you know, establishment power as the vice president has. It's a tough battle in a caucus state to face a vice president and the power of incumbency and the power of the White House behind that, and the DNC.

We're having a good time here. We're doing fairly well, we're getting some good support. And I would note -- I'm sure Bob would have a lot of readings to do today if he wanted to read all the newspaper endorsements of Bill Bradley today. In addition to "The Des Moines Register," "The "Lawrence Eagle Tribune" in Massachusetts, the "National Telegraph" and the "Valley News" all in New Hampshire, endorsed Bill Bradley largely for the reasons "The Des Moines Register" articulated: someone's who's a leader, someone who's going to bring decency back to politics, and bring us forward in a very bold way.

BLITZER: Bob Schrum, you know, I covered the White House, as you know for many years, one of the surprising things here, just before a critical caucus vote in Iowa and a tight race, an important race, one person missing here in this campaign someone not invited to come in, the president of the United States, a strong supporter of Al Gore. Why has the Gore campaign decided not to ask Bill Clinton to come in here and campaign for the vice president?

SCHRUM: You know Wolf you ask that question, like, every couple of weeks, and I think you get the same answer every couple of weeks, which is the vice president feels, and I think he's right, he needs to go out and establish himself with people, people need to get to know him, they're voting for him for president. And obviously President Clinton is going to be very helpful to us as we go through the general election, and as we take on George Bush, or John McCain, and attempt to hold the White House for the Democrats.

BLITZER: Is he going to go into New Hampshire before the primary in nine days?

SCHRUM: I think the president is a little busy with the State of the Union message right now and I suspect that's what his focus is going to be the next few days.

BLITZER: Eric Hauser, a lot of people think that Bill Bradley lost big time when he didn't respond right away to the tough questioning -- the tough statements that Al Gore made in that first debate going back a few months. Was that a mistake for Bill Bradley not to be more combative and assertive in responding to the accusations against him?

HAUSER: No, I don't think so.

I think we answered the question about flood relief the next day. I think what you're seeing there is a very clear choice between are you going to run positive campaign that tries to bring everybody forward at once and lead on the basis of conviction, or are you going to run a negative campaign, which the Gore campaign has essentially done for four months?

It's interesting on that point alone, they put an ad up here in Iowa about 10 days ago that was sharply criticized as negative by the Associated Press, by "The Washington Post," by "The Des Moines Register," here in Iowa, as a misleading advertisement. They took it down, put it back up a couple of days ago. It's pretty clear that that kind of campaigning is something they can't stay away from, and I think that is one of the things that gives voters such a choice in this election. One candidate is going to stay positive and be very constructive about the problems we have and how leadership is going to solve them, and the other one isn't.

BLITZER: All right. We are going to take a quick break.

SCHRUM: Wait. We have never run a single ad that mentions Bill Bradley's name, not a single mailer, not a single radio ad. And they're running out of things to say, so now they want to have a campaign about the campaign.

HAUSER: Bob, I'll tell you what. Let me send you the three articles I just mentioned. Maybe you haven't read them

SCHRUM: I've read them, and there is not a single ad -- Eric, have we run a single ad where we have mentioned Bill Bradley's name of any kind?

HAUSER: When you distort facts...

SCHRUM: Have we run a single ad where we mention Bill Bradley's name?

HAUSER: When you distort facts, Bob...

SCHRUM: That was the standard he set in the "Meet the Press" debate. He said, "Vice President Gore, will you promise that you won't run an ad that mentions my name?" We have not run a single ad that mentions his name.

HAUSER: Put in some fax paper, Bob. I have a lot to fax you. That's not true. BLITZER: All right.

SCHRUM: You can't deny it's true unless you're going to tell me an ad where we mentioned his name. It's ridiculous.

BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, we have to take a quick break unfortunately. We'll get back to this. Also your phone calls for Bob Schrum and Eric Hauser when LATE EDITION from Iowa continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION from Iowa. We're talking about the race for the Democratic presidential nomination with Gore campaign strategist Bob Schrum -- he's in Washington -- and Bradley press secretary Eric Hauser -- he's in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Let's take a quick caller from Jackson, Mississippi. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. My question is to Mr. Schrum. Mr. Schrum since Al Gore is on a momentum swing, can Bill Bradley really withstand him all the way to the March 14th Super Tuesday in the primary? And does Bill Bradley have anything that the Southerners can get behind like Al Gore does?

SCHRUM: Well, I think you can't take anything for granted in this process. I think you've got to fight hard in Iowa. We're going to go on to New Hampshire where Senator Bradley has led in the polls most of the way. And that's going to be a tough fight. New Hampshire voters are very independent. So I'm not going to make any guesses about the future. In fact, if Wolf asked me, I'm not even going to make guesses about percentages tomorrow night.

BLITZER: All right, Eric Hauser, can your candidate make it that long do you think?

HAUSER: Oh, absolutely. We're going to have a great week next week. We're going to finish up well here in Iowa tomorrow. I think next week, people are going to see some very clear differences between these two candidates, one who is committed to a new politics; committed to campaign finance reform in a fundamental way that is the key to doing the big things that need to get done; to finishing the unfinished business of the country; to getting universal health care to everybody, which the vice president does not; to registering every hands gun in America, which the vice president is not in support of.

I think you're going to see a great race next week in New Hampshire, and a great race after New Hampshire leading up to March 7th.

BLITZER: How is Senator Bradley feeling given the reports of four episodes of irregular heartbeat over the past month? HAUSER: He feels great. He's in tremendous health. We were campaigning 14, 16 hour days. It's a nuisance at best. It's really got zero effect on him, the campaign schedule or anything.

BLITZER: Is that an issue -- a political issue in this campaign, the fact, Bob Schrum, that Senator Bradley does have this irregular heartbeat?

SCHRUM: Absolutely not. The issue in this campaign is how do we best get to universal health insurance? As I said earlier, Senator Kennedy, who's fought for it longer than anybody else in this country, says the right way to do it is Al Gore's approach.

And the extent campaign finance reform is an issue, which it is, Al Gore has fought for it for 20 years, beginning with a bill for public financing of elections. It took Bill Bradley 6,000 days in the Senate before he even introduced a bill for campaign finance reform. And now it has become central to his presidential campaign.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Eric Hauser, your response.

HAUSER: The biggest political speech in his entire career running for president of the United States this summer, Al Gore issued 25 proposals, what he was going to run on to win as president. Not a single one was campaign finance reform. It's so clear who is committed to this and who isn't, and Bob probably knows it, too. I think we'll have a good debate next week on a lot of contrasts. We look forward to it.

SCHRUM: Don't tell me -- Eric, don't tell me what I know. What I know is that Al Gore, during that period of time, was putting a huge amount of effort into trying to pass the McCain-Feingold bill in the Senate, which is what you're for as well.

HAUSER: But it didn't get done Bob, and the issue that for example, a couple of...

SCHRUM: But every Democrat voted for it. Every single Democrat.

HAUSER: That's not good enough, Bob.

SCHRUM: I know it's not, but when you get Al Gore...

HAUSER: A couple of the endorsements in the New Hampshire...

SCHRUM: But when you get Al Gore as president, and you keep fighting for it, we're finally going to pass it. You can't tell me any special virtue Bill Bradley has that is going to persuade Republicans to do this. You're going to have to fight it out in the country.

HAUSER: Well, that's certainly not the case.

BLITZER: All right, Eric Hauser, quickly, you have the last word. HAUSER: Well, I'll tell you two newspapers in New Hampshire today endorsed Bill Bradley for exactly this reason because he can get things done in Congress, because a leader is a leader that people can look up to and follow because they know where he's coming from and his commitment to his convictions is abundantly clear. That's going to come through in the rest of the campaign.

BLITZER: OK. Bob Schrum in Washington, Eric Hauser on the campaign trail in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Always good to have both of you on LATE EDITION. Thanks for interrupting your Sunday and joining us.

SCHRUM: And interrupting each other. Thanks, Wolf. See you later.

HAUSER: Bye-bye.

BLITZER: Thank you so much. And for our international viewers, "WORLD NEWS" is next. Thanks very much for watching. For our North American audience, stay tuned for another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION. We'll check the hour's top stories then. We'll check in with our LATE EDITION roundtable on the campaign trail here in Iowa, plus Bruce Morton's "Last Word." It's all ahead when this special LATE EDITION from Iowa continues.


BLITZER: Welcome to LATE EDITION from Iowa. We'll get to our roundtable in just a moment, but first here's Gene Randall in Washington with the hour's top stories -- Gene.


BLITZER: Thanks, Gene.

And now time for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me here in Des Moines, Susan Page, White House bureau chief for "USA Today;" Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News and World Report;" and Tucker Carlson, political writer for "The Weekly Standard."

Steve, these endorsements, "The Des Moines Register" endorsement, the endorsements in New England -- in New Hampshire that we're seeing, are they -- do they have any impact in terms of voters?

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Very little, I think. I do think that here in Des Moines, the "Register" is a very respected paper and perhaps will have a marginal effect. But I think the people who are going to be swayed by endorsements are not going to bother to go out in the middle of the winter and get to the caucuses.

So I think -- you know, you've got to remember how small the electorate is here. It places a high premium on activism and organization. I don't think the endorsement's going to make much difference.

BLITZER: Well, that's a point, Tucker. There's 1.7 million registered voters in Iowa, and only about 100,000 Democrats and 100,000 Republicans are expected to show up at these caucuses. So tell me, how significant is the whole thing?

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, in Bradley's case -- and that was of course a surprise the "Register" endorsed Bradley -- I don't think much. I mean, consider the sort of person who forms his judgments on the basis of a newspaper editorial. It's likely the person who's -- the Democrat who's probably going to be voting for Bradley anyway. Bradley support among Democrats is high among, you know, Democrats who make over $100,000 a year. Gore's is with the rest. And I think those people have made their minds up already for Bradley.

BLITZER: Do you think everybody's already made up their minds here in Iowa already?

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: When you got out on events with these candidates, you do find a lot of people who make up their minds pretty late, who are still making up their minds.

But I do think the importance of the Iowa caucuses gets greatly overstated. You know, if you look back in history, in contested Iowa caucuses, the candidate who came in first has never won the presidency. And I think the New Hampshire primary -- which comes just eight days later -- is a much better indicator of success down the road.

BLITZER: Well, Jimmy Carter in '76...

PAGE: Came in second to uncommitted.


BLITZER: Yes, well, uncommitted was not necessarily going to be president of the United States.

On the issue of the polls here, everybody says that given the fact that these caucuses are so unpredictable, all these poll numbers that we're seeing may not be very reliable, and there could be a huge surprise tomorrow night. Is that possible?

ROBERTS: I don't see a huge surprise. I do think -- again, if you look at the history, some small-market candidates in effect, people who have a core of very determined supporters -- Pat Robertson, here in Iowa did that in '88. And so you have a possibly of someone like Alan Keyes or others who really can get their relatively few numbers out can do better than expected. And the larger-market candidates, the ones with broader but perhaps less committed supporters, maybe not do so well.

That's the only surprise I see. I don't see a big change from the established...


BLITZER: Tucker, a lot of people think the big battle will be for third place, that George Bush will come in first, Steve Forbes will come in second. Who will come in third? CARLSON: Well, I -- I mean, judging from what I've seen, I think Alan Keyes has a very good shot. I mean, I spent last week with him. He's, as every one knows, one of the great -- whatever one thinks of his politics -- one of the great orators. But he also seems to have a fairly sophisticated organization: very disorganized, but broad in Iowa, sort of surprising, and I think that matters actually to Bush.

I mean the Bush people are in this kind of subtle way have been talking up Keyes. He's going to beat Bauer, that brings them sort of psychic pleasure. On the other hand, if Forbes and Keyes do take a sizable percentage, then it reduces Bush's and Iowa is what you make it, it's what the spin becomes, and if Bush comes far under 50, I don't think it's helpful for him.

BLITZER: And it does give -- supposedly if Forbes and let's say Alan Keyes do well, it indirectly helps John McCain in New Hampshire because it shows George Bush may be a little vulnerable.

PAGE: I think you're going to see a kind of one-two punch here with Iowa and New Hampshire when it comes to George Bush. We don't know how vulnerable George Bush is. He's been very strong in the polls from the beginning, but if Steve Forbes can do pretty well against him here, and then John McCain can even beat him in New Hampshire, I think that it's possible that that will raise some questions about whether he is in fact the inevitable nominee.

BLITZER: I just want to point out in these national polls, not Iowa, not New Hampshire, our latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, among registered Republicans, still has George W. Bush at 63 percent; John McCain at 19 percent; Steve Forbes at 6 percent; Gary Bauer at 2 percent; Alan Keyes and Orrin Hatch at 1 percent.

ROBERTS: And that points up one of the potential threats for Bush, if Keyes and others social conservatives do well here, because that pressures him to satisfy conservative orthodoxy. He said this weekend -- on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS," George Bush said he supports the plank in the Republican Party on abortion, which is -- for constitutional amendment which a very small percentage of Americans really support. The danger here is McGovernization in reverse, with -- and I think that this is -- and I think that this is a -- a big threat to Bush.

PAGE: You know, Steve, and this is not something George Bush wanted to do. You know, just last week in an interview with you on LATE EDITION, he seemed baffled or befuddled when it came to questions about what the Republican plank actually said on abortion. He said, You're going to have to help me out here on that, Wolf. He has been pressed by these social conservatives this week in Iowa, by Forbes, Keyes and Bauer, and yesterday was forced to finally say, "Yes, I support keeping the plank in the platform," even though it goes considerably farther in banning all abortions without exception than he has gone himself.

CARLSON: Yes, but I don't think there's any evidence that Bush is going to wind up as a John Bircher or something complaining about Florida and the water. (LAUGHTER)

I mean, he's not -- temperamentally, he's not that sort of politician, and I don't see his opinions shifting dramatically. I think it's been very helpful, it's made him define what he thinks.

ROBERTS: But the Democrats are going to love to take these clips and show them in the fall and say, This guy is for a position on abortion which very few Americans support, particularly the suburban women voters in the swing states. It's going to be -- he's going to have to defend a position which works for social conservatives in Iowa. It's not going to work in the suburbs of Philadelphia in November.

CARLSON: I guess I don't see the evidence that that issue abortion and Bush's position on it moves numbers of voters. I just don't. I mean, it excites small groups on either side, but I don't see it as being terribly exciting.

BLITZER: You know, Bush is responding to some of the criticisms -- the so-called "negative ads" that both he and McCain are engaged in. Their battle over tax funds. Listen to what George Bush said earlier today on ABC's "This Week."


G. BUSH: We just have a difference of opinion. John's a good guy, and he is a friend, and we're going to keep the campaign non- personal. But I think I have every right and he has every right to analyze our respective tax-cut plans and bring the deficiencies and/or the strengths to the surface. That's exactly what I did.


BLITZER: So this sounds pretty civilized, the way that he and McCain are dealing with these issues.

PAGE: You know, I would look for a very tough week coming up, a very tough eight days between George Bush and John McCain on the issue of taxes -- an important issue in New Hampshire. New Hampshire is a state always been very sensitive and anti-tax, and I don't think you're going to see two guys who seem to like each other. You're going to find two guys who are fighting very hard. The New Hampshire primary is going to do a lot more to shape the Republican contest than the contest we have on Monday night.

BLITZER: You know, on the very sensitive issue of whether the Confederate flag should fly over the South Carolina capital, Steve, the Texas governor says it's up to the people of South Carolina to make that decision, although his wife, Laura Bush, was willing to explain her opinion on this very sensitive issue. Listen to what she said earlier this week.


LAURA BUSH, WIFE OF GOVERNOR G.W. BUSH: It's not a symbol of racism to me. I grew up in the South like everyone else here in Texas. And it's just a symbol of the time in our history that we can't erase really. The Civil War, you know, there's -- that's the symbol of the Civil War, I think.


ROBERTS: Not a good idea. I don't think that's a smart thing for her to be saying, and her husband knows better. Because one of the reasons why her husband and his brother have done so well in gubernatorial races in Texas and Florida is they have gone out of their way to appeal to minority voters. George Bush got a quarter of the black vote, half the Hispanic vote. One of the things that really frightens Democrats about a George Bush candidacy, you don't want to give Democrats ammunition to say, See? Really, all minorities should be Democrats.

CARLSON: But to put it in some perspective, I mean, it is a debate over a flag. I mean this not, you know, this is not deep policy here, and I think it's -- first of all I think what Mrs. Bush said is true, technically speaking, it is a symbol of the state's history whether you like it or not. And (b) it was direct. And I found it sort of refreshing. And I just find it very hard to believe that anybody's going to change a vote over an issue this small.

BLITZER: All right, Laura Bush speaking her mind and Tucker Carlson speaking his as well. All right, we have to take a quick commercial break. When we come back the Democrats. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our LATE EDITION roundtable.

Susan, this week there was a scare I guess -- at least a political scare if not a medical scare -- about Bill Bradley's heart -- the irregular heartbeat. That can't be good news only days before an election for the public to learn that the candidate's had these four episodes.

PAGE: Very bad timing for Bill Bradley. It meant that in his last few days before the Iowa caucuses he's forced to defend his good health as opposed to talking about the issues or the case he wants to make against Al Gore.

And I think also the -- you know, I think none of us think that this problem of an irregular heartbeat is medically particularly serious, but I think it does raise some questions about his candor and how he's disclosed it. This came around the first time we heard about his irregular heartbeat, and I think candidates are generally better served by being pretty open about issues of health.

ROBERTS: Could not have been -- his heart couldn't have gotten any better after he read the CNN polls, too, because -- down nine points to Gore in New Hampshire.

And you have a sense -- I was in New Hampshire this week, and you have a sense of Bradley starting to fade a little bit, that he is not -- in the end has not provided a real reason to galvanize strong support.

You know, I think it was after the taking. I don't think Gore has run a particularly good campaign, I don't think there's a lot of enthusiasm, but Bradley has not provided an alternative magnetism, is my sense, and I think he's starting to fail.

CARLSON: Whereas the Gore people, led by Bob Schrum and Carter Eskew, have provided plenty of reasons to be afraid of Bill Bradley, and so I think one of the lessons of this race between the two is that negative advertising and attacks work, and they should.

I agree with you, there's really a sense that the Bradley campaign -- a friend of mine who covers it said that the prevailing feeling when you watch Bradley is sort of pitchfork into a beach ball, you know...


... that he is deflating.

BLITZER: But the former New Jersey senator is still trying to project this above-the-political-fray mode. In fact, early today, on CBS's "Face The Nation," he was once again trying to be the special kind of politician. Listen to this excerpt.


BILL BRADLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a big boy. I know how politics as usual is practiced, and that's precisely what's going on. Attack ads and negative attacks -- that's basically what politics is about and has been about for over a decade in this country. And I think that's why voter participation is dropping.

I don't think politics has to be that way. I think you can tell people what you're for and not trash your opponent.


BLITZER: Yet, Susan, a lot of people think he was hurt badly when Gore attacked him early on -- a couple of months ago, three months ago -- and he did not attack back.

PAGE: He has not responded effectively to some very specific attacks that go to, number one, the heart of his health care plan -- which is his biggest proposal; and, two, to some specific Iowa issues, including some additional flood relief.

The Gore campaign now believes they will win big in Iowa, they believe they will win in New Hampshire, and then I think you're going to see a dynamic where the Democratic Party ties to convince Bill Bradley not to make Al Gore spend all his money if he's in fact going to be the nominee.

BLITZER: And let's take a look at this, our latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll nationally among registered Democrats, Al Gore at 60 percent, Bill Bradley at 27 percent.

ROBERTS: Let me say a word in praise of politics as usual. Steve Forbes used the exact same phrase in your interview with him, Bradley used the same phrase. The fact is in many ways people want politics as usual. The economy is so good, consumer confidence is as high as it's ever been in this country, and one of the things people want is a steady hand. They want experience, they don't want outsiders this year. This is not a year for outsiders. They want people who know what they're doing and it can keep -- it keeps things on the right track. And I think politics as usual is what a lot of people want.

CARLSON: Well, clearly the Gore people feel that way. I mean, the -- is the subtext to every Gore comment on Bradley is: This guy is scaring, he's wacky; don't give him the helm, he'll run it into a tree. And I think it's been very effective for that reason. And also I think politics as usual -- politics evolved this way for a reason. It's not random. The system just didn't get this, you know, because some drunk guy thought it up in an afternoon. There's a purpose to it.

PAGE: Let me say a word against politics as usual.


(UNKNOWN): Oh, no.


PAGE: ... resulted in declining voter turnout. Less then half the American people go to the polls to bother to elect our president. Part of that is because you have this rat-a-tat-tat that doesn't go to issues but goes to side issues or plays gotcha politics, and I don't think it's a good thing in this country.

ROBERTS: Well, I do think -- I agree with you that a lot of this campaign has gotten off course, that people are talking about issues they do not care about. The Confederate flag we just talked about -- that's not an issue most Americans care about. Ethanol here in Iowa -- frankly, no one cares about ethanol except a few grain farmers.

I was in New Hampshire talking to voters in the last few weeks, and the thing that pops out that really bothers people in the midst of all this prosperity is health care, because that's the thing that really affects a lot of families, even when they have money. Money cannot buy peace of mind in many places, and it certainly can't buy good health.

But a lot of these candidates are not speaking to what voters think about around the kitchen table.

BLITZER: Yes, Tucker, you noticed this during my interview with Bob Schrum who's an Al Gore supporter. What really rubs a raw nerve whenever you ask any Gore person out here, or Washington or any place else, Where is Bill Clinton? Why isn't he campaigning out here? They hate that question. CARLSON: That's why I love to ask it, again and again and again. I mean, not he's not here because, I mean if you were Al Gore would you want Bill Clinton looming around in the background reminding voters of what turns them off about the last seven years? No, of course not.

PAGE: You know the CNN/"USA Today" poll has a question about whether his association with Bill Clinton helps -- makes you more likely to support Al Gore or less likely. And it's dominantly -- most people say it doesn't matter -- but of those who say it matters, disproportionately they say it makes them less likely to support Al Gore.

But you know, Thursday night we're going to see Al Gore standing right behind Bill Clinton at the State of the Union address, and we're going to see Bill Clinton try to do some things to help him.

BLITZER: All right, we have to leave it right there. Thursday night the State of the Union address. Of course, CNN will be bringing that to the entire world live. Thanks for joining us. Here in Des Moines, on to New Hampshire, next week. Coming up next: Bruce Morton's Last Word on the Iowa caucuses.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is arithmetically true that no one has been nominated in years without finishing in the top three here. But you could say so what?


BLITZER: Bruce looks at whether the Hawkeye State really makes or breaks the presidential campaign. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Time now for Bruce Morton's Last Word on the real impact of the Iowa caucuses.


MORTON (voice-over): Well, they're good for the state, all those reporters and technicians, all those satellite trucks and rented cars, steaming around and spending money. But do they matter? Well, they can. It is arithmetically true that no one has been nominated in years without finishing in the top three here, but you could say "so what? "

The first year Iowa had early caucuses, 1972, a handful of reporters showed up, and we all wrote that George McGovern had finished a surprisingly close second to then front-runner Ed Muskie. That helped McGovern, who was even closer in New Hampshire, won Wisconsin, and never looked back.

Four years later, in 1976, Jimmy Carter won here and went on to be the nominee. He couldn't have done it if he'd had a job, but he was an unemployed ex-governor, and he came here and lived. "Jimmy slept at the house, you know," folks would tell you.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH: And I promise you this if the momentum you have given me, the inspiration that you've given me, the part of yourselves that you've given me. We're not going to forget it. We're going to take it into New Hampshire.


MORTON: In 1980 on the Republican side, George Bush, the Texas governor's father, beat Ronald Reagan, but Reagan was the nominee. Democrat Edward Kennedy's insurgent challenge to President Carter fell far short, Carter won renomination.

In 1984, Walter Mondale clobbered Gary Hart here, something like 51 to 16 percent.


WALTER MONDALE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I hear your new ideas I'm reminded of that ad, "Where's the beef?"


MORTON: But Hart somehow went on to win New Hampshire. Backward bounce, maybe. Mondale won the nomination, but only after a fight. In 1988, George Bush finished third here, behind Bob Dole and the Reverend Pat Robertson, but Bush was the nominee. Michael Dukakis finished third and was the eventual Democratic choice.

In 1992, the Republicans had an incumbent president, and no Democrat wanted to spend money here to finish second to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who was running.



BOB DOLE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're charged up, getting in the home stretch.


MORTON: Bob Dole won here and won the nomination, though it was South Carolina that really sent him on a roll.

(on camera): So, the caucuses often don't pick the winner, but they do winnow the field some. I remember a candidate in, I think, 1976 exalting, "The winnowing has begun and I've been winnowed in."

My eight-grade grammar teacher, Edna Anderson, would have explained to him that was wrong. Things got winnowed out, not in. And she'd have been right in another sense -- out was exactly where this guy wound up a primary or two later.

Still, it does make money for the state and it's fun, let the winnowing begin. I'm Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Thanks Bruce, and when we return, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.


BLITZER: Time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Three very different topics this week.

"TIME" calls it the mad dash with four candidates on the cover and a look inside the race for the president.

A report on Alzheimer's and how science is offering new hope is on the cover of "Newsweek."

And "U.S. News" offers its new vision of Hell with the devil on the cover.

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, January 23rd. Be sure to catch a special edition of "CROSSFIRE" tonight live from here in Des Moines at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. And of course, CNN will provide full coverage of the Iowa caucuses tomorrow, beginning with a special edition of "INSIDE POLITICS" at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Next Sunday LATE EDITION will be in New Hampshire to preview that state's presidential primary. Among our guests: Arizona Senator John McCain.

For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Des Moines.


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