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Democrats View Dick Cheney as Vulnerable on Guns, Abortion, Environment

Aired July 25, 2000 - 3:51 p.m. ET


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: A short while ago, 50 minutes ago in an address carried live by CNN, in Austin, Texas, the governor, George Walker Bush, announced that his running mate would be Dick Cheney. He said, "I believe you're looking at the next vice president of the United States." He said during the selection process he looked closer and closer at Cheney, was impressed by the thoughtful and thorough way in which he approached his mission. Cheney then spoke and had some nice things to say about the governor.


DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's shown an ability here in Texas to bring Republicans and Democrats together in the public interest. I watched him put his compassionate conservative philosophy to work in this great state with tremendous results. He's has proven himself a leader of consistency and conviction.

I look forward to working with you, governor, to change the tone in Washington, to restore a spirit of civility and respect and cooperation. It's time for America's leaders to stop pointing the finger of blame and to begin sharing the credit for success.



SHAW: Cheney also looked at Governor Bush, and said, "I look forward to campaigning with you for the next three months and serving with you for the next eight years" -- unquote.

CNN correspondent Chris Black joins us now. What are the Democrats making of this?

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, Democrats are breathing a lot easier today than they were yesterday. There's a real sense of relief among Democrats that Governor Bush did pick Dick Cheney instead of someone like John McCain or Tom Ridge, the governor of Pennsylvania, two candidates that they thought would have given them real trouble.

They say that Cheney is a sort of conventional choice, one also who provides a big juicy target for the Democrats because of his conservative voting record. You're already hearing some of those attacks coming today: They're focusing on three issues: his opposition to abortion rights; his opposition to gun control; and his environmental record. And we're going to hear a lot more, Bernie.

SHAW: OK. What about Al Gore and his selection process? What does that do to his weighing?

BLACK: What Democrats are saying to me today is this really opens up the opportunity for Al Gore to pick the person he really wants. He doesn't -- going to feel the need to match a dramatic choice with another sort of long ball from the Democratic side, and somebody frankly that would have been a little more difficult to do.

So today, there's a lot less talk about George Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader, and a lot more talk about senators in the Senate, Senator Durbin of Illinois, Senator John Kerry from Massachusetts, Senator Graham from Florida, and people like that.

SHAW: Chris Black, I know you've got to hustle to get a report ready for "INSIDE POLITICS," which is coming up in 66 minutes, so I'll let you go. Thanks very much.

Well, according to a new Gallup poll, Dick Cheney is well- respected and liked, but he's not regarded by many as Mr. Excitement.

With a report on the Gallup poll, let's go to editor and chief Frank Newport in Princeton.

What do the numbers show, Frank?

FRANK NEWPORT, GALLUP POLL: Well, we were out last night, Bernie, asking Americans about their reaction to this choice today by Governor Bush. You're right. We said, "Are you excited by it?" and just about a third of even Republicans said they were excited by the choice.

But basically, Governor Bush said that he was outstanding, and the American public says Cheney at least is all right in terms of favorable opinion. They said he's qualified. Americans say certainly he's qualified.

But is he a winner? Well, as I'll show you in a moment, so far they're doing all right, but no major change on that so far.

Here's the basic favorables, Bernie, our class kind of political measure we do on political figures. And you can see over here importantly about 40 percent of Americans said they didn't know enough about Cheney to rate him at all. He is still pretty well-known, based on his Gulf War notoriety from early in the '90s.

But you can see only 11 percent an unfavorable opinion, mostly favorable of those who have an opinion. So certainly there's no real negatives that come with Dick Cheney, at least so far, as of last night. A couple of possible flies in the ointment we tested last night don't look like they're major issues. His health: 70 percent of Americans say they're not concerned about that. And about these ties to the oil industry that both he and Governor Bush have had, you know, almost three-quarters of Americans say they're not worried about those at all.

Interestingly, the overall choice does get a positive rating from Americans: 55 percent say they approve of George W.'s choice. We went back in history: The same question was asked about judge -- George Bush the elder's choice of Dan Quayle. Then it was more negative back in 1988: 52 percent, a majority, said they didn't approve.

So the son has done better with his choice at least, in the first reaction, than the father back in '88.

Finally, Bernie, I mention the ballot: Bush-Cheney are ahead of Gore at this point and Buchanan and Nader by about an eight-point margin. That's a little better than we had been seeing, but roughly that's in the territory we've been seeing all spring and early summer. So I would say so far the jury's still out on whether Cheney's going to have any major impact.

When we ask the voters, Bernie, they say no, really not going to have a major impact.

That's where the public stands -- Bernie.

SHAW: Very interesting numbers. Thanks very much, Frank Newport.

Now quickly to our man Jeff Greenfield in New York. Jeff, Chris Black reporting that this makes it less likely, some people believe, that a George Mitchell might be Al Gore's selection.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I think, Bernie, that the problems that George W. Bush and Al Gore have, or where they need to get to, are so different that the choice of Dick Cheney doesn't really do anything to Al Gore's choice. If the problem with George Bush is that some people didn't regard him as a serious enough fellow, that is certainly not the problem with Al Gore. It's a different kind of problem: leadership, independence, probity. Is he a straight-shooter?

And it's very hard for me to think about the kind of vice presidential candidate who will address that. I think Chris is exactly right, that had it -- and so is Barbara Boxer. Had it been from George Bush's point of view a really remarkable, eye-opening choice -- Olympia Snow, Colin Powell certainly, John McCain -- that might have put a lot of pressure on the vice president. But now he gets back to his original question: Who do I pick that might (a) help me electorally in a big state or (b) alter the way some folks look at me as a potential president?

And I don't -- I don't -- you know, the obvious ones on the electoral side are Senator Graham of Florida, Durbin of Illinois, a couple of others. The second thing: How do you change the impression of a presidential candidate by the vice president you pick? That's much tougher.

SHAW: You know, Bill Schneider said something to me privately just a short while ago. He said, you know, we don't know what kind of campaigner he'll be. When he was from Wyoming, he never had to campaign. We've not seen this man campaign.

GREENFIELD: Well, first of all, it's not private anymore, since you just shared it with the public. But he's absolutely right.

You know, there are a lot of -- this is 24 hours, or 48 hours depending on when you count the story leaking -- having leaked. There are a lot of things we don't know.

Is there something about Dick Cheney that is yet to surface? Health? I mean, did he ever hire, you know, an illegal alien?

SHAW: Careful.

GREENFIELD: We don't know these questions: We're going to find out.

SHAW: OK, Jeff Greenfield, look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia on Thursday.


SHAW: Thank you.



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