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Election 2000: Americans See Choice Between 'Two Establishment Figures' in Bush, Gore

Aired March 15, 2000 - 2:03 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: As you probably have heard by now, Vice President Gore and Governor Bush have sealed the deal. After yesterday's primary contests, Bush and Gore each have all the delegates needed to claim their party's presidential nomination. Governor Bush today is taking a break from campaigning, but he found a little time to speak this morning with CNN's Candy Crowley. On the health care issue, Bush said he supports the idea of a prescription drug benefit for older Americans.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm answering questions about health care all the time. I talk about the need to reform Medicare to make sure seniors have got a prescription drug benefits, for example. I talk about the uninsured, having medical savings accounts for the young uninsured, and then having an affordable health insurance plans for small businesses so that some of the working uninsured can have health care. I talk about expanding the CHIPs program we're doing in the state of Texas. There will be a formal speech at some point in time during the spring. But people are beginning to know that I've got a vision to make sure people have got access to health care.


ALLEN: Also this morning, Al Gore spoke with CNN. He was asked on CNN's "EARLY EDITION" about his new emphasis on campaign finance reform and alleged fund-raising abuses of the Clinton reelection campaign.


VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that it's contradictory at all to say, let's reform the system and change the rules and set aside this so-called soft money and not spend it at all unless the other side refuses to go along with it. That's the difference between reform and unilateral disarmament. But the point is, we need to give this back to the American people.


ALLEN: Gore is calling on his party not to spend money on so- called issue ads bought with party money unless the Republicans do it first.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: It took only a month and a half to determine these nominees because the biggest states decided to hold their contests early. For the Republicans, there are 20 contests still to be held -- 20 states and territories that lost any say in this nominating process because their contests come too late. On the Democratic side, the number is even higher: 24 states. Among losers in both parties, big electoral states like Illinois, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. So instead of a lengthy primary season, we get a longer than usual general election.

Joining us from Washington now, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

I imagine there'll be considerable angst about that and a re- noodling of the primary process, wouldn't you think?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Lou, it happens every four years, but this year had an unusual situation where we had a month of a serious primary race in which the voters really got engaged. I mean, the McCain phenomenon, there was a lot of excitement, there was higher than usual turnout in the Republican primaries. And then all of a sudden, last Tuesday the 7th, it was over because we had a national primary where New York and California voted, and that effectively shut the process down. So you've got voters in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and New Jersey saying, wait a minute, what about us?

WATERS: So is there any suspense left in the next eight months? George Bush says we're in for eight months of political distortion and personal destruction. Is there any suspense in this campaign now?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it looks like a very close race. What we know is this campaign is going to be extremely long, extremely close and extremely nasty, and we don't know how the voters are going to respond to that. Maybe they'll get enthusiastic because it's close and, perhaps, exciting between Gore and Bush. Maybe they'll get turned off, more likely, I think, because it's going to be very hostile and vicious and personal and negative, and they'll just shrug and say, who needs this? and pay very little attention, tune it out, literally. We hope not. We'll try to keep it interesting.

Or maybe they'll get angry and they'll demand a change in the process. That's what a lot of people are hoping for because they say it just doesn't work right the way it's been going this year.

WATERS: Are we going to see a third party challenge at all, do you think?

SCHNEIDER: Looks like there's going to be something from the Reform Party, but that doesn't look like a very interesting option for most Americans. Pat Buchanan is the only candidate running, and he's an old face and not the -- most Americans' idea of a reform in the political system. There might be pressure on John McCain, although he says he won't do it. But I think a lot of Americans are going to say, this is not the kind of political choice we deserve. We want a different kind of contest, we want new faces. It's just hard to say how they can possibly get them this year.

WATERS: Mr. Bush said here on CNN, "it's a little early to talk about vice presidents, but there's no question that a man of Colin Powell's stature would send a strong signal to America that I know how to attract the best minds in America." What do you make of that? That sounds provocative, don't you think?

SCHNEIDER: What I make of that is he would dearly love to have Colin Powell on the ticket, and most Republicans would. It would annoy the right wing of the party, some in the religious right, because they don't agree with Colin Powell's view on abortion. Some don't agree with him on affirmative action, but so what? He's the closest thing we have right now to a national hero and would be the best way to assure George Bush's election. Normally, people don't vote for vice president, but with Colin Powell on the ticket, it would make an enormous difference. The only question there is, would he do it?

WATERS: Are we going to see television ads in this campaign?

SCHNEIDER: I think I can safely say, yes, we will. We'll see a lot of them. Gore says he's going to hold off on having soft money spent by the Democratic Party until the Republicans do it first. They'll do it first, then the Democrats will do it, and it's likely to be pretty personal and pretty nasty. But what most Americans see is a choice between two establishment figures, Gore and Bush, both princes of the realm, Prince Albert, Prince George, both well-financed, backed by a lot of special interests, neither with any real credibility on the reform issue and a very nasty campaign in which they'll try to tear each other apart. That's not a very satisfying choice to most Americans, but the best news is things are still going pretty well in the country despite the gas price hike. Americans feel pretty good about the way things are going so maybe they'll just say, politics has nothing to do with our lives and just shrug it off.

WATERS: All right, we'll be talking more. Eight months is a long, long time.




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