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Special Event

Bush and Gore Prepare for Debate Rematch

Aired October 11, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET

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

ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN election 2000 special presentation.

Round one, October 3rd, 2000.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm beginning to think not only did he invent the Internet, but he invented the calculator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You haven't heard the governor deny these numbers. He's called them phony, he's called them fuzzy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Sounds like the vice president is not very right many times tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: Those are code words, and nobody should mistake this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I cannot let this go by, the old-style Washington politics.

GORE: Can I make one other point?

BUSH: Wait a minute.

GORE: They get...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: It's on to a round two roundtable for Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush.

Tonight from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, we'll bring you that pivotal confrontation, and later, we'll hear voters react in the crucial swing state of Missouri at a CNN and "TIME" town meeting.

Now, from the CNN election desk, here are Bernard Shaw, Jeff Greenfield and Judy Woodruff.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. The location has changed, the format is different, but when Al Gore and George W. Bush meet on the campus of Wake Forest University one hour from now, the challenge for both men will be the same as last week: make the best case to the most people to build momentum toward election day.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: The biggest difference from the last debate will be obvious: The podiums are gone, replaced by a table and chairs. The close seating arrangement is appropriate for a race that literally could not be tighter.

The newest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup tracking poll of likely voters shows George W. Bush and Al Gore are tied, both men receiving 45 percent support among likely voters.

WOODRUFF: And Jeff Greenfield, with the numbers that close, the conventional wisdom that a second debate might not matter as much is...

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Turned on its head. It has been 20 years since we have had a campaign remotely this close with 27 days to go, and because the first debate raised as many questions as it may have answered about both Governor Bush and Vice President Gore, this second debate, far from being an anti-climax, now gets ratcheted up in importance.

Are the supporters of both candidates going to be reassured? Are these muddled millions who have yet to really make up their mind going to see something tonight that's going to lock them in?

It's actually one of those years where so many things are in play, so many voters, so many states that this second debate is genuinely more important than the one a week ago.

WOODRUFF: And evidence that it matters so much is that not only do you have that crucial several percentage point of people who are truly undecided, but you've got people who are saying, I'm soft in my support for George Bush -- George W. Bush or Al Gore, so soft I could change my mind -- Bernie.

SHAW: Well, and with that, let's go now to the scene of tonight's debate and two people who know these two candidates very well: CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley and CNN senior White House correspondent John King.

Candy, let's start with you.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, this evening is the most pivotal moment for the Bush campaign since, well, since last week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): If the stakes are higher in Winston-Salem than they were in Boston, it's because the election is a week closer, the polls that much tighter.

QUESTION: Governor, what do you have to say tonight?

BUSH: Tell people what's on my heart, what's in my mind.

CROWLEY: The governor is bracing for assaults on his Texas record, hoping for further discussion on education, Social Security reform and Medicare, and preparing for another go-around on his tax cut.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under Governor Bush's tax cut proposal, he would spend more money on tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent than all of the new spending that he proposes for education, health care, prescription drugs, and national defense all combined.

BUSH: I can't let the man continue with fuzzy math.

CROWD: No fuzzy math! No fuzzy math! No fuzzy math!

CROWLEY: Look for a more definitive Bush comeback in round two.

With Yugoslavia in flux and the Middle East roiling, the Bush campaign expects more questions on international policy, an arena thought to favor the more-experienced Gore, a perception the Bush camp says did not prove out in debate one.

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: When Governor Bush suggested that -- that the United States should encourage Russia to use its influence to tell Mr. Milosevic it was time for -- for him to go, the vice president sort of tried to pooh- pooh that idea and put the governor down when actually it turned out later, we found out, that President Clinton and the administration had been doing exactly that.

CROWLEY: Overall, the governor's task in this second debate is what it was in the first: Show he has the stature and the substance, and yes, the syntax, for the Oval Office.

Aides believe conditions are favorable for a competent performance from the governor. For one thing, they believe he performed well in the first debate. For another, his poll numbers are up and he'll be sitting down. Bush aides say the around-the-table setting is more comfortable for their less formal candidate.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: But if there is one certain lesson in campaign 2000 it is that this electorate can and has turned on a dime, and for either candidate there is not much comfort there -- Bernie.

SHAW: Candy, please stand by. Let's go outside to John King for the Gore report -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie, the Gore camp was confident, even cocky heading into the first debate, some top Gore advisers predicting a knockout punch. Well, we know that didn't happen. Some polls show the momentum swinging Governor Bush's way. For round two tonight, the watch words in the Gore campaign: caution and kindness.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): The vice president has two major goals: come across as more likable and trustworthy, and sharpen the distinctions with Governor Bush on taxes, health care and education.

BUSH: ... Security surplus...

(GORE SIGHING)

KING: Image was a problem after round one. Aides concede Mr. Gore's audible sighs conveyed an image of arrogance, and the Bush campaign has honed in on several Gore misstatements to make the case the vice president can't be trusted.

The Gore campaign's public line is to shrug off any character controversy.

WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: That's all kind of sideshow stuff. The American people, I really do believe, are going to look at who has the plans that are going to affect their lives over the next four -- not only four years, possibly the next 40 years.

KING: But image was a major focus of the vice president's latest debate preparations.

DOUGLAS SCHOEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The vice president really faces the challenge of communicating to the people of the United States that he's a likable, affable, effective personality, somebody who can provide real leadership.

KING: Image isn't the only Gore challenge. The race is a dead- heat in part because Governor Bush is competitive on the issues Democrats had hoped would swing the race there way.

Take education, for example: Likely voters give the vice president only a narrow advantage over Governor Bush. President Clinton led on that issue by a 2-to-1 margin at this point four years ago.

SCHOEN: I think the vice president has to make it clear that there are clear issue differences between himself and Governor Bush, particularly on the tax cut, on education, on protecting Social Security, on Medicare and prescription drugs, patients' bill of rights.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Senior aides say the vice president is eager to draw those contrasts, even make the case that the governor's record in Texas does not match his compassionate rhetoric on the campaign trail. But look for any contrasts to be polite. The sitdown format tonight favors conversation over confrontation -- Bernie.

SHAW: John, please stand by.

Candy, in thinking about Governor Bush's challenge to clearly explain his proposals, will he be out to somewhat follow William Shakespeare, who spoke about "Speak the speech, I pray you/Pronounce it trippingly on the tongue"?

CROWLEY: Look, one of the things that I think that you see along the trail is while the governor does wrestle, in fact, with the English language at times, as even they will point out to you, most of the time he gives a very cogent explanation of this or that policy. Now, he's been practicing, as Al Gore has, for the last two weekends sort of nonstop. But they -- a lot of what helps George Bush is when he's in a comfort zone, and again, aides believe that that's why tonight you may see the man that often shows up on the trail. And that is someone who is comfortable, particularly on education -- as John mentioned, a very important issue. And they believe that on those issues, that he's going to be quite coherent and indeed the man that many people see along the trail.

SHAW: And John, will the vice president be out to refine, to refine his debate comportment and maybe, as Jeff Greenfield is wondering, use humor to kind of minimize the behavior that some people found irritating in the first debate?

KING: Some found it irritating, Bernie. Others found it downright arrogant.

At the beginning of the campaign, a lot of talk about Governor Bush's smirk. Some said he was smug. In this past week, that conversation has now been about the vice president. In his debate preparations, we're told, advisers pummeled him. Told him to try to be more funny, told him to relax, told him not to venture far from the truth at all.

They believe the vice president's strongest when he is very specific, tries to draw the governor into policy discussions. He will try to do that tonight. But certainly, image a major factor coming in here. The Gore campaign believes it won on policy points last week, but understands now, especially in the week of debates since, that it lost on style points.

SHAW: OK. John King, Candy Crowley inside. Of course, we'll come back to you -- Judy. WOODRUFF: All right. The suspense is building, and ahead on this CNN special debate preview, we focus on the states that are still up for grabs, and the voters still undecided. We'll talk with the Republican governor and a Democratic senator from the Michigan battleground. And later, a group of undecided Missouri voters joins our Wolf Blitzer and tells us what the "Show Me State" wants to hear in tonight's debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Live pictures of Wait Chapel on the campus of Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This building is the site of the second presidential debate, which will get under way less than 50 minutes from now.

And standing there very near that chapel, our camera will be focusing in just a second on two gentlemen from the state of Michigan -- Michigan, of course, being one of a handful of states that could hold the keys to the White House. And joining us, as we said, two distinguished guests: Carl Levin, a four-term Democratic senator from Michigan, and John Engler, the Republican governor of the Wolverine State since 1991.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being with us. You just told me you are standing there under a full moon, so that must bode well for -- for both sides tonight?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: We're all together on that one.

GOV. JOHN ENGLER (R), MICHIGAN: Make sure the werewolves stay away tonight.

WOODRUFF: You can help keep them away.

Senator Levin, to you first. I think the consensus among many of the observers, if you will, seems to be that the heavier burden going in tonight falls on Vice President Gore's shoulders -- that even though he may have won the -- last week based on debating points, that he did not win the aftermath of the debate: the perception, the image, the body language.

Do you agree he has a tougher job? And, if so, what does he have to do?

LEVIN: No, I think they both have some real obligation and opportunity here tonight. And what the vice president I'm sure will do will to be focus on issues, to focus on the unprecedented opportunity which we now have as Americans, with a surplus that we have.

And what are we going to do with that surplus, whether we are going to be using it, really, to help all of us, to help middle-income Americans, as he would do through his targeted tax cuts, through his protection of Medicare, through his paying down the debt -- or whether or not we're going to follow the lead of Governor Bush, who would use most of that surplus, a big, big chunk of it for tax cuts mainly benefiting the wealthy.

And I think that the lieutenant -- excuse me, that the vice president is going to just show what an unprecedented opportunity we have and that he is the right person with the right vision to help average families.

WOODRUFF: So -- so are you saying body language and the rest of it doesn't matter at all?

LEVIN: No, I think it does matter. And I think that the vice president, I'm sure, is conscious of that. But he's going to focus on the issues which matter to people, and let people who want to comment on body language do that, as is natural. But he is going to focus, I'm sure, on the issues which working families in Michigan and other states care about.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask Governor Engler: Our Candy Crowley was just saying, just a moment ago that what Governor Bush has to do tonight in show, in her words, that he has the stature, the substance and the syntax to be president. Would you put it that way?

ENGLER: Well, I think the stature question is pretty easy. You know, he's a two-term governor of the nation's second largest state. This is the same attack -- and Jeff Greenfield mentioned that '80 election -- you know, this is the stuff that was thrown at Ronald Reagan throughout the campaign, as though somehow that was going to move the electorate.

But they could see Ronald Reagan in the debate. They saw George Bush in the last debate. And they'll see him tonight again as a leader who's in charge. And he's someone that is used to making tough decisions, surrounding himself with terrific people. He's the kind of person that wants to inspire Americans, bring out the best and work together.

And I think Al Gore came across, as some of his citizen advisers told him a week ago, he was himself. And tonight, they are probably trying not to let Al Gore be Al Gore. And I think in the casual setting, the one thing that he is going to have to worry about is being casual with the truth, because it's hurt him. And I think he'll be trying to be dead-on accurate with his answers tonight.

WOODRUFF: Senator Levin, you agree that the vice president has to worry about -- quote -- "being casual with the truth"?

LEVIN: No, I think that the vice president is going to focus on specifics. For instance, when Governor Bush talks about big government -- he talks big government all the time like a mantra -- he says that the prescription drug program of the vice president is big government. That is a Medicare program.

So what we have is Governor Bush saying that Medicare is an example of big government. Well, the prescription drug program...

ENGLER: Well, Hillarycare, Carl. LEVIN: Excuse me, the prescription drug program, which the vice president offers is an optional program, number one. Number two, it amends Medicare. Unless Governor Bush wants to call Medicare big government, it seems to me he's off the mark.

ENGLER: But...

LEVIN: He's exaggerated that one. And it's that kind of exaggeration that Governor Bush has engaged in. And in his TV ads...

ENGLER: Judy, I...

LEVIN: ... saying that people are forced into -- force in.

WOODRUFF: OK.

LEVIN: Governor Bush says people are forced into a big- government program under the vice president's program is just simply worse than an exaggeration. It is a total distortion.

WOODRUFF: All right, Governor Engler, I want to get...

ENGLER: Oh, I'm going to jump in, Judy, and just say that I think Governor Bush will have plenty of chance to talk about that. But I thought the point that he made in the last debate: the fact that, under the Gore plan, you are forced at 64 1/2 to make this choice -- lifetime choice -- of which HMO is going to provide your benefit, that you have got much higher costs, that Bush has the catastrophic coverage.

And Bush has the tax plan also that we need to mention. Six million Americans watching tonight can count on paying no federal income taxes, as Governor Bush offers relief to those hardest hit, as well as across-the-board relief. In contrast, the Gore plan misses 50 million Americans. So I -- I think Governor Bush will be ready to talk about the issues that Carl and I are talking. And I think he'll do it very, very well.

GREENFIELD: Gentlemen, it's Jeff Greenfield.

Since I don't think we are going to get full consensus in the next minute, let me try a political question.

Senator, the vice president is part of an administration where the economy is doing well, where crime is down, where there's been welfare reform: all the issues that made Democrats out of traditional blue-collar -- made Republicans out of traditional blue-collar Democrats in your state. What is the problem Al Gore is having with those constituents?

LEVIN: Actually, he's doing very well in Michigan. He's leading the polls in Michigan, because he is focusing on the issues. And that's why I think he's going to carry Michigan. And that's why he's ahead in the polls in Michigan, because he is focusing on things that people care about. He's going to avoid the personal kind of character assassination and is going to talk about: How should we use the surplus? Is the prescription drug program -- which is an optional program -- nobody is forced to join it -- the fact that government is now smaller by 375,000 civilian employees than it was when George Bush -- President Bush -- left office.

He's going to focus on how we can do more with a smaller government for average families.

(CROSSTALK)

ENGLER: Can I have my minute?

GREENFIELD: Yes, Governor, in fact, you can. And I would like you to address this question. For a year-and-a-half, we've been hearing how the Republicans were going to wrap Bill Clinton around Al Gore's neck. Now it appears that the argument Bush is making is that Al Gore is not Bill Clinton. Why the shift?

ENGLER: Well, I think he's not Bill Clinton, especially on the economic issues. And I think that's why he's in trouble in places like Michigan, where, despite all you've just asked Senator Levin, we have a dead-even race, with the recent polls showing Bush ahead.

I think, Jeff, "Earth in the Balance," I've carrying this book around. This is Al Gore's own writing. He can't deny the book. He republished it in time for the campaign. This talks about 50 cents a gallon higher taxes on fuel. This is a devastating book for the auto industry and autoworkers. And UAW was very late to endorse -- and Teamsters, very late to endorse. They're worried about Al Gore's economics.

On economics, he is not Bill Clinton. And he certainly isn't George Bush. I think that tonight, some of the issues are going to get highlighted a little bit. And I'm looking forward to it.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: Well, Governor Engler...

LEVIN: The UAW and the Teamsters very strongly endorse Al Gore.

ENGLER: Not the rank-and-file. The leadership, yes, but not the rank-and-file.

(CROSSTALK)

LEVIN: No, rank-and-file -- take a look at those public opinion polls in your pocket. Rank-and-file people support Gore.

ENGLER: Rank-and-file are voting for Bush.

WOODRUFF: Gentlemen, gentlemen, it is a full moon and we're delighted to have both of you with us. And I see Governor Engler, that is a dog-eared copy of the vice president's book.

ENGLER: I carry it everywhere. WOODRUFF: I'm sure he's delighted you're there with it. Thank you both, gentlemen. Great to see you both, and we'll see you soon -- Bernie.

SHAW: The debate before the debate.

Up next, we're going to get the big picture with a look at the CNN electoral map, and a note from our colleagues at CNN interactive. They've created a page where you can give your opinion on tonight's debate. Just direct your browser to cnn.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: As we've been reporting CNN polling numbers show Gore and Bush locked in a tight race for the popular vote. But a check on the CNN electoral map shows a swing in Bush's favor over the past week. According to our analysis, Arizona and Ohio are now in the Texas governor's column. Those additional 29 electoral votes now give him a total of 205.

For Gore, we've had to do some subtraction. The vice president has the lead in 13 states and the District of Columbia. But he has suffered a loss of 30 electoral votes for a total of 185. Those 30 votes from Iowa and Pennsylvania move back into the undecided column. By our calculations, 148 electoral votes are up for grabs.

SHAW; Let's bring in two political observers to get their thoughts on tonight's Bush-Gore rematch, CNN political analyst Bob Novak and Cynthia Tucker of "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution." They join us from Winston-Salem.

The same question to both of you: Is substance uppermost tonight, and what will you be listening for, Cynthia?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, "THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": Well, I think it's pretty clear that the voters already know that Vice President Al Gore can show substance. I think the burden will be on Texas Governor George Bush to show that he can be more substantive, especially on issues such as foreign policy.

I think he was weak not only on the question about foreign policy in the last debate, but also, perhaps even more so, on the question about how he would handle an economic crisis.

Given that, Vice President Al Gore's performance has been widely satirized for his body language. Everybody expects him to tone it down, if he can.

In an interesting way, by the way, I think that Al Gore may have an advantage going into this debate that he didn't have the last time. I think the bar has now been lowered for Al Gore such that if he manages not to sigh, and not to roll his eyes, he may be accorded the victory by the pundits anyway.

SHAW: Bob -- Bob Novak. BOB NOVAK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Bernie, I think it depends what your definition of substance is. to paraphrase our president. Bernie, I think what Cynthia was talking about was not substance; I think she was talking about style. Substance is the ideology. We know what these people stand for, both of them. They're very different.

But what is going to be tested tonight is style. The style is going to be whether George Bush can convince people that he's not the dope on "Saturday Night Live" or can't understand who -- what's going on in Yugoslavia. And it's a style for Al Bush -- I mean, for Al Gore to make the people believe that he's not a mean guy, that he's not overpowering, overbearing and obstreperous, who interrupts.

So I think it is a stylistic question, and it really requires a tremendous effort on both parts. I think it requires a personality change on Al Gore's part, which is one of the hardest things, and on George Bush's part, I think he has to come over as one of the smartest guys in the class, which has never been his bag.

SHAW: Well, Bob and Cynthia, we'll be looking for all that. We're fresh out of time. But we're going to come back to you later this evening.

NOVAK: Thank you.

SHAW: You're welcome -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And after this coming break, we're going to take a look at today's other news. But first, a reminder: You can join the real-time spin during the debate, get live commentary from our Tucker Carlson and Bill Press on our Web site at cnn.com.

And later, the spin room comes to your screen. Press and Carlson take your calls and chat room questions, and that's at midnight, Eastern here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: And at this point, we take a break from our pre-debate coverage to get an update on this day's other top stories. For that, we go to CNN's Joie Chen -- Joie.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Bernie, thanks. Here's a look at some other stories in the news at this hour.

Peace-making efforts pick up speed in the Middle East after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan spent two days meeting separately with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak. A spokesman for Annan says that they have agreed to convene a meeting of the so-called Trilateral Commission: top security officials from the U.S., Israel and Palestinians. That could happen as early as tomorrow.

While the violence has eased overall, there were flare-ups today. In the West Bank, a Palestinian gunmen fired on a funeral procession for an Israeli who was killed earlier in the week. Israeli troops returned fire. At least 93 people have died in two weeks of fighting, most of them have been Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.

Some more trouble for the Ford Motor Company. In an unprecedented move today, a California judge ordered the recall of nearly 2 million cars, trucks and vans, saying that the automaker covered up a dangerous design flaw. At issue here is an alleged ignition defect that causes cars to stall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE MICHAEL BALLACHEY, ALAMEDA COUNTRY SUPERIOR COURT: This case was about concealment of a dangerous condition, and that it's inarguable that a car stalling -- I mean, I just think it defies common sense to suggest that if you put -- take your car out on the freeway and go 70 miles an hour and turn the motor off and tell me that that's safe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: The recall affects 1983 through 1995 model-year vehicles. Ford denies the defect exists and plans to appeal, holding off the recall until then. The judge's ruling comes two months after tire problems with Ford vehicles were implicated in dozens of highway fatalities.

The FAA says it will take a closer look at the safety of aging aircraft. In tests conducted on six recently retired jetliners, engineers found an average of four instances of cracked or missing insulation for every 1,000 feet of wire examined. The FAA says the findings are of concern, but do not pose an immediate safety hazard.

NASA's 100th space shuttle mission is launched with a roar from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four, three, two, one, booster ignition, and liftoff of Discovery, making shuttle history and building our future in space.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: It was NASA's fourth attempt at getting this mission off the ground. The shuttle Discovery is hauling two new segments to the International Space Station. During the 11-day mission, astronauts will attach a truss and a docking port. It's expected to take four spacewalks to do the job. Discovery has a female pilot and a Japanese astronaut among the seven-member crew. The flight was nearly a week late because of weather and technical problems.

Now for more of CNN's pre-debate coverage, here's Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Joie.

We are just about exactly half-an-hour away from the second presidential debate.

And in this atmosphere, Bill, polls all over the place -- Republican pollster Bill McInturff quoted saying as saying, "This has not been a good year for polling."

SCHNEIDER: Yes. Well, you know, just in the past week, in our poll, we had Gore in the lead, then we had it neck-and-neck, then Bush surged into the lead, and now it's neck-and-neck again. I mean, what is going on here?

I think all that smooshing around in the polls actually does reveal something. I think it reveals that the voters are really not deeply engaged in this contest. I mean, there is no crisis in the country. There is no overriding issue in this campaign: no war, no economy. So a lot of people think not a whole lot is at stake and it doesn't make a whole lot of difference who gets elected. So they could vote for either guy.

When there is no big issue driving the outcome, then small things make much more of a difference.

WOODRUFF: Sighs and other things like that? Those kinds of small things?

SCHNEIDER: Sighing

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: Sighs?

SCHNEIDER: Well, yes. I mean, look, I would compare it with the 1960 election. You are a little too young to remember that one. But the cliche in 1960 was Kennedy or Nixon?

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

SCHNEIDER: You know, Arthur Schlesinger wrote a book for liberals called: "Kennedy or Nixon: Does it Make a Difference?" That year, you know, Nixon didn't wear enough makeup. And that seemed to have a big impact in the polls. That was another election at a time of peace and prosperity, when people didn't think a whole lot was at stake.

GREENFIELD: But the polls weren't nearly as -- I mean, our poll, in particular -- to be blunt about it -- has swung 19 points in three days. I mean, at some point, do we have to say: Something is odd maybe with the numbers, with our numbers, with other people's numbers?

SCHNEIDER: Well, one effect, of course, is there are more polls. Nobody did tracking polls in 1960. There were about six polls in the whole campaign. And they were sort of back and forth. But it was always pretty close. So I think if we had done tracking polls -- if someone had done it in 1960 -- we probably would have come up with what we have now. I do think there is something driving the voters. I think John McCain figured it out, when he named his bus the Straight Talk Express. After eight years of Bill Clinton, people want straight talk. So what Gore has to prove in this debate is that he's a straight talker: no evasions, no embellishments. And I think Bush has to prove that he can talk straight.

WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, Jeff Greenfield and Bernie and I -- and when all of us come back: a review of Missouri's track record. The Show-Me State almost always sides with the winner. CNN's Wolf Blitzer speaks with some voters who have yet to be persuaded by either candidate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: We shift our focus from tonight's second presidential debate in North Carolina, and we move to Missouri, which will host the third and final debate next week at Washington University.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer is in the Show-Me State to speak with some undecided voters and to take a look at Missouri's role in presidential politics -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, we're here in Lemay, Missouri, which is right outside of St. Louis. We're actually in St. Louis County. But by some quirk, the city of St. Louis is not in St. Louis County. We're at a beautiful lodge: the Lodge at Grant's Trail right here in Lemay.

We've come here to talk to those undecided or persuadable voters. Some of them may be leaning one way or another, but they have not yet completely made up their minds. These voters -- we were helped in getting these voters by the Gallup Polling Organization, our sister polling organization. They helped us find them. We've spoken to them. We're going to talk to them a little bit before. We're going to talk to them a lot after the presidential debate to find out if they did in fact make up their minds, and if there were specific issues that helped them make up their minds.

Now, we've come to Missouri because this state has voted for every presidential winner in every election since 1900 -- only two exceptions: 1900 itself and 1956. The polls show the contest this time here in Missouri, at least for now, remains a toss-up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BUSH: And I know what is going to happen in Missouri come November.

BLITZER (voice-over): The candidates have been regular visitors to Missouri.

GORE: Thank you. Thanks very much.

BLITZER: At stake: 11 electoral votes, which in a neck-and-neck battle, could be decisive.

PROF. KEN WARREN, ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY: I think that Missouri is the best bellwether state, because its demographics reflect the nation as a whole quite well in terms of its urban rural mix, in terms of its percent of minorities.

BLITZER: The minority population is centered in the major urban areas of St. Louis and Kansas City, which are typically Democratic, as is much of the northern part of the state. In contrast, the Ozarks in the southwest lean Republican. The southeastern part of the state historically has been split.

LARRY HARRIS, MASON-DIXON POLLING: Gore has got the urban areas of Kansas City and St. Louis leaning his way, not surprisingly. And the battleground for Missouri in that battleground state is going to be the southern part of the St. Louis suburbs, Gephardt's district, as well as the southeastern part of the state.

BLITZER: House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt has helped mobilize organized labor for Gore. And the unions are influential in getting out the vote out in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas, which represent about half of the state's voters. That helps explain why Bill Clinton beat George Bush in this state by 44 to 34 percent in '92, with Ross Perot capturing 22 percent.

Clinton beat Bob Dole four years ago 48 percent to 41 percent, with Perot taking 10 percent of the vote. What could further help Gore this year is the extremely tight battle for the U.S. Senate between Republican incumbent John Ashcroft and the popular Democratic governor, Mel Carnahan.

GREG FREEMAN, "ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH": Neither of them has ever lost a race. And they are involved in a tooth-and-nail campaign.

HARRIS: They don't like each other in particular. And you could not find a better example of a disparity between positions. And that may help increase voter turnout.

WARREN: Lower socioeconomic-type voters tend to vote less than higher socioeconomic voters: the more affluent, the more educated. So the more you can get voters to turn out, and the more you can get voters who do not normally turn out to vote, the better it will be for the Democratic Party.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Still, the presidential race here in Missouri remains very much up in the air, just as it in the nation as a whole. In part, that's because people here in Missouri disproportionately discover that they have a lot of independent roots.

And let's talk to some of those independent voters.

What are you expecting to hear? What do you want to hear tonight in this presidential debate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Wolf, I don't really feel that the candidates have adequately discussed foreign affair policies. I think we have got a great economy out here. But a poor policy with foreign affairs can totally wreck the economy. I'd like to know what their feelings are on let's say the recent inroads we've had with foreign trade -- or free trade with China.

What are their feelings on the dependency of oil with OPEC? How about issues such as illegal immigration? I haven't heard anything about that.

BLITZER: Right, those are important issues. Let's talk to the woman next to you. What would you like to hear tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to hear about education and health insurance, especially like for disabled people. And I have four children, so the issue of education is very important to me.

BLITZER: Education is a big issue for a lot of Americans.

What about over here? What would you like to hear in this debate tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Education is another very big issue.

BLITZER: Could you get that microphone a little closer?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry. Education is a big issue, as far as I'm concerned.

BLITZER: Specifically, why is education so important to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, because I know children. I do some volunteer work. And I know some children that can't read. And they are in second, third, fourth grade.

BLITZER: We'll be talking a lot more about that after the debate.

What about over here? What are you looking for specifically tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you permit of bit of an aside. Go Cardinals.

BLITZER: Gee, here people in St. Louis who will not be watching that game. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a parent over the last few years, I have not enjoyed explaining some of the intricacies of interpersonal behavior to my children. I'm looking for some indication from the candidates tonight that we can see a new level of behavior in the White House, something on a little higher level than what we have seen in the past.

BLITZER: That's obviously an important issue for you.

What about over here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I'm looking for prescription drug plan for the seniors. And I'm kind of worried with Gore's ties to Clinton. I've never been a big fan of Clinton.

BLITZER: Prescription drug plans: You don't look like you are about to be a senior, though. Why is it that important for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have two parents -- my parents and my mother-in-law are struggling with Social Security and prescriptions.

BLITZER: So these are issues that really hit home. What about the woman next to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think education is the main reason. And then the second is Social Security issue, even though I'm not that old. But still, it's the main issue. That's the main important thing that I'm looking for today's debate.

BLITZER: OK. What about over here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I also have a main concern about the education and about what the president plan to do as far as helping our students to get a better education and stuff like that. And it seems like what we need to do is start like at the grassroots of the education. And also another concern -- a real concern I have is the abortion issue. And I would really like to see something done about that this time. And I mean, let's -- let's solve that problem.

BLITZER: Which problem -- how would you want to solve that problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I myself am against abortion. And I really think that we need to get something done about it.

BLITZER: You mean, in other words, make it illegal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Let's make it illegal, yes.

BLITZER: All right, what about you? How do you feel about that issue and other issues?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am more concerned -- I am concerned about Social Security. I think, at the last debate, the vice president said he wanted to keep it as is, not have taxpayers invest part of the money that we're putting in. Bush says take one out of every $6 and let the taxpayer invest it.

I would like to see a little compromise, and let the vice president, if he becomes president, let him say: OK, we'll bump it up and take $1 dollar $7 and let the taxpayer invest it. If the taxpayer doesn't feel astute, then let the government invest and get 2 percent or whatever we get.

BLITZER: In other words, to let the voters have that choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or at least a fraction of it. I think we can do as could as the government on investing.

BLITZER: All right, could you pass the microphone to the gentleman behind you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to chime in on the education format. We have got to talk more, and we have got to get more in depth with education.

BLITZER: But do you really believe that the federal government can have that kind of impact on local schools, public schools?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so. I think we've been doing that historically with allotments for highways and so on and so forth. And I think that can continue, and that at least begin the process of getting the ball rolling. I would, however, like to speak against my -- my city mate here, that I think abortion should not be an issue.

I don't think it should be discussed in the vernacular of politics in any way, shape or form. And I don't think that men should be discussing abortion, period.

BLITZER: Should be left up to women to make that kind of choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: What about over here? What do you feel about -- what are you going to be looking for in this 90-minute debate that is upcoming?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm recently retired, Wolf. And Governor Bush has a plan of diverting some Social Security funds into private investments. I want to know how he's going to do it, how he's going to make up the difference in the shortfall. As you know, money is coming up in monthly, paid out every other month. So how do you pull this off? So I'll be looking carefully to see if this can work.

BLITZER: One of the -- one of the issues that -- that people say one of the criticisms of Governor Bush is he may not be up to the job, may not have the experience. Do you feel that he does or he does not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he's -- I think he uses the example from Texas. But my guess -- and I don't know -- is that a vast majority of people -- well, not a vast majority -- but a number of people in Texas may be conservative. So working with a conservative legislature, Democrat or Republican, is not as difficult as going to Washington and dealing with a couple of New England liberals or whatever.

So it -- I think that issue comes out when you get beyond Texas.

BLITZER: All right. We've got a lot of different points of view. We -- we're just getting a flavor of what these persuadable voters are going to be looking for. We'll talk to them at much greater length after this presidential debate to see if any of them -- how many of them have made up their minds. Some of them are leaning one way or another. Maybe they will decide after this debate if they are going to vote for Al Gore or George W. Bush.

For now, back to you, Judy. WOODRUFF: Thanks, Wolf. Fascinating.

I've been making notes on what they were saying. I'll be very curious to see how much of this comes up in tonight's debate. We'll certainly be going back to them later.

Well, for more, up next, Mike McCurry and Mary Matalin: debate insight from two analysts who have been there before. And once the debate begins at the top of the hour in about 15 minutes, pick the winners, you can, on each issue in real time. Go to cnn.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The first lady of the state of Texas, Laura Bush, coming into the Wait Chapel there. She was just hugging Colin Powell, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. She's there. It looked like Jeb Bush, although I'm not sure about that.

The wives of the candidates are arriving. We've just been watching the moderator, Jim Lehrer, there on stage giving some last- minute instructions to the audience. This crowd, there at Wake Forest, no doubt excited because we are just minutes away, a little more than 10 minutes away from the start of this debate.

And now for more on what we can expect from candidates Bush and Gore at the top of the hour, we're joined by two veterans of past presidential campaigns: former Clinton Press Secretary Mike McCurry and the co-host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE" Mary Matalin.

All right, you two, I don't -- I want you to assume that you are part of the campaign staff and you are giving these guys the best advice you can. Mary, you're whispering in Governor Bush's ear. What are you saying to him, and what are you worried about just before tonight's debate?

MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST, CNN "CROSSFIRE": I don't think that they are worried. The burden of proof, if you will, has shifted back to Gore. It was in the first two debates on Bush and to a large extent on Cheney. Now tonight, that burden -- Gore has got to show that he can get through 90 minutes, through an hour and a half devoid of arrogance or self-aggrandizement or gratuitous negativity. And here -- there's been no display of that in the primaries or going back to '88. So the burden tonight is more on Gore.

What Bush has to do is to just continue breaking through on the bigger picture, which is there's a philosophical divide here, and he has to break through. And he is starting to break through, the polls are showing, on this notion that Gore wants to expand government at three times the rate that Clinton did.

WOODRUFF: So Mary has no worries whatsoever. Mike McCurry, you're advising Al Gore. Any worries if you're on his staff?

MIKE MCCURRY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Judy, the first thing I'd do is make sure that absolutely nobody is whispering in the candidate's ear right now, just give him some time to be by himself.

But you know, this is about electing a president of the United States. It's not a personality contest. And at the end of the day, what's going to help the vice president is to stick with the substance of the proposals that he's putting forward.

We know that the American people think more highly of the positions that he's put forward on so many issue: health care, education, retirement income security, the things that I think really matter to the voters that we've been talking to even in this hour. And if he sticks with substance and not spin, he'll do fine.

He's been in the public light for 25 years. Right now, he should not try to do a personality makeover on stage tonight.

WOODRUFF: We've just been watching -- both of you, we'll keep talking, but we do want to point out that Tipper Gore, the vice president's wife, and I believe that's Karenna Gore standing there next to her, she's just come into the chapel. They're at Wake Forest University.

Mary, so if they stick to substance and stay away from spin, that's all she wrote?

MATALIN: But you know, it's not a personality contest. Mike is right. But voters want to see a comfort zone, they want to know that these men are comfortable with themselves. And the reason all the embellishment and the exaggeration has stuck to Gore is because he's displayed throughout this campaign a discomfort with himself, from changing his clothes, to the alpha male business. And people -- voters understand that. When these guys are going to under enormous pressure, they have to reach down to themselves. And they don't know who Gore is. Bush is comfortable with himself, comfortable in his own skin. And to that extent, it is a personality contest.

MCCURRY: Judy, I think the voters also want to know that these guys are comfortable with the demands of this awesome job, and I think Governor Bush has got some work to do tonight to demonstrate to the American people that he's up to the task. I mean, he looked a little bit lost on some of subjects in the first debate, and this is a format, frankly, for all the talk about what Gore has to prove tonight, this is not an easy format for Governor Bush, even though it's the one that he picked for his own choosing.

He's got to really sit there and be able to engage and show some depth on issues that I think Jim Lehrer will want to explore tonight. So there's a lot riding on this for Governor Bush as well.

WOODRUFF: All right, Mike McCurry, Mary Matalin, and we'll be checking in with you all a little later this evening. Thank you both -- Bernie.

SHAW: And CNN's live coverage of the Bush-Gore debate begins just moments from now, and this reminder: During the debate, you can join the real-time spin room at cnn.com.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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