CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face The Nation, what about those McCain voters? Governor George W. Bush may have wrapped up the Republican nomination with big wins on Super Tuesday, but he can`t beat Vice President Al Gore without the McCain voters. Where will they go? How will Governor Bush deal with Senator McCain? Will party elder Bob Dole try to broker a peace? We`ll ask him.
And we`ll check in with Senator Warren Rudman, McCain`s campaign chairman and Karl Rove, the chief strategist for George W. Bush. Gloria Borger is here and will join in our political roundtable with Dan Balz, political writer from The Washington Post. I`ll have a final word on keeping fun alive.
But first the McCain factor on Face The Nation.
Announcer: Now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.
Schieffer: And we begin this morning from Nashua, New Hampshire, where former Senator Warren Rudman, the co-chairman of the McCain campaign is standing by. Here in the studio, our old friend Bob Dole who holds the record for most appearances ever on Face The Nation and I think, every other Sunday talk show that I know about. So nice to see you again, Senator.
Bob Dole, former U.S. Senator (R-KS): Thank you. Good to be back.
Schieffer: I want to ask you about a poll that Newsweek has just released this morning that is somewhat stunning. We`ve always known that a three-way race, if John McCain were in it, would be fairly close, at least polls up until this point have suggested that. But here this poll says, in a three-way race, if John McCain ran as an independent, George Bush would get 35 percent of the vote, John McCain would finish second with 32 percent of the vote, and 28 percent would go to the third place man, Al Gore. What do you make of that, Senator Dole?
Dole: Well, there are other polls that show a different result. But I mean, again it`s a snapshot. I think it`s an indication, you talk about the McCain factor, how important it is for both Governor Bush and Vice President Gore to somehow attract the McCain supporters. They`re out there, they`re real.
Much of my view, as a personal following because of the great story that John McCain can tell about - he didn`t tell about himself but that was out there.
Schieffer: Well, Senator Rudman, what do you think? Will this increase the pressure on Senator McCain to perhaps reconsider this idea of running as an independent?
Warren Rudman, McCain campaign co-chairman: I don`t think so. There is no question in my mind that John McCain will return next Tuesday to the United States Senate which is a pretty good bully pulpit, not as good as the White House though.
Let me simply say this about McCain voters: yes, Bob Dole is absolutely correct, they were attracted by the remarkable life story of John McCain, but they alo bought into his call for reform. At almost every place he went, he talked about giving the government back to the American people.
These are very independent-minded people, whether they be it independents or Republicans or Democrats. And I don`t think attracting them will be terribly easy for anyone. Although certainly this morning, it appears like the Vice President has decided to say that he was a sinner and now he is repentant and he`s going to make campaign finance reform the centerpiece of his campaign.
But I think Governor Bush has to think long and hard about talking to John McCain about things that are important to him.
Schieffer: When you talk about the Vice President, you`re talking about a very long interview he gave to The New York Times today. We`re going to talk about that in just a minute.
But first, Senator Rudman, I want to put something up on the screen
because I`m wondering how interested the Bush people are in making some kind of peace with John McCain. Here is what his director of communications said earlier this week. She said - that is Karen Hughes speaking - she said, "Negotiation? We hope Senator McCain would hope to enact the campaign reforms that Governor Bush laid out." She points out that Governor Bush won and she says that she hopes that supporters will realize that he is the one who is really for reform. What is your reaction to that?
Rudman: Well, that was a regrettable statement. I saw that statement. I hope that statement was, you know, the heat of the campaign just being over. I would hope that cooler heads in the Bush campaign would prevail.
There is no way that John McCain is going to step down from his core belief that campaign reform must be enacted. And you know, if they don`t want to work with him on that, then I don`t think he will do
anything to hurt the ticket, but I`m not sure how much enthusiasm he will have for the ticket.
Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report: Senator Dole, you`ve been talking to Senator McCain. Has he made it clear to you what George W. Bush has to do to make peace?
Dole: No, we didn`t discuss that. I just wanted to call John and just talk to him because we had been long-time friends. But I do, when I think about McCain coming back to the Senate, I mean, I see a different John McCain coming back to the Senate - not the Senator from Arizona, but suddenly he`s this national leader, this national figure, very well known. And every time he speaks, they`ll be a lot of people around the country listening.
So he`s going to be a major player in the Republican Party, and in fact, in the entire Senate.
Borger: So how does this affect, for example, what the Republicans in the Senate are willing to do on banning soft money -large soft-money contributions, which is something Senator McCain feel very strongly about. What will happen?
Dole: Well, I don`t think we know. I hink that has to be discussed with Governor Bush and McCain, and they`re going to work this out. I mean, if I know the two of them, they`re both good people, they`ll work it out.
But, you now, John McCain`s not going to go back to the Senate and say, well, here I am, just, you know, whatever we want to do, we want to do. I think he made his beliefs well known. He does believe in what he has said, and I think it`s going to have a big impact. There will be a lot of members running for reelection are going to want John McCain in their districts - or in their states in Congress.
Schieffer: Even though they didn`t endorse him.
Dole: Well, but that - yes, but - that`s behind us now. This is the future. And the future is winning, and that means not only endorsing - an endorsement from McCain, but a lot of his ideas are going to have to be looked at.
Rudman: You know, Bob and Gloria, I truly believe that if John McCain were to go on national television tonight and say, "I now endorse Governor Bush in everything that he believes in," that would do very little good. I mean, if John McCain is known for anything, he is known for candor and honesty and his deep core beliefs.
And these two men must work this out in the interests of this party, and I think it`s up to Governor Bush and John McCain to sit and talk about these issues.
And I believe that Bob Dole is quite right. I think they will and I believe they will work it out.
Schieffer: But specifically, Senator Rudman, what does John McCain want from George W. Bush?
Rudman: I think a commitment to true campaign finance reform.
And you know, sitting in your New York studio is a man who`s a dear friend of mine, who I watched virtually destroyed by soft money from the time he won the primaries until the convention. By the time Bob Dole, you know, got to run for President after the convention, he had already been defined wrongly by the Clinton-Gore campaign.
And I think certainly Bob Dole would have to agree that these soft money abuses have to stop. John McCain believes that very deeply and he will not back off from that belief.
Schieffer: What about that, Senator Dole? Here you have the Vice President today in an interview about a yard and a half long in The New York Times saying, "Look, I now realize that I made a mistake when I made those calls to raise that soft money from the White House, I now realize I should not have gone to that Buddhist temple. "
There was a time when he said, you know, he didn`t even know that was a fundraiser. Now he says he realizes he made a mistake. He says he`s not going to make campaign finance reform the centerpiece of his campaign. As Senator Rudman suggested, it`s almost like the preacher who goes to Las Vegas and gets caught playing dice, you can`t preach against sin, the preacher said, unless you know what it is. That seems to be what Vice President is sayintoday. What about that?
Dole: Well, Gore knows what it is, I mean, no question about that.
I must say I was surprised when I read this story. I thought somebody`s made a mistake here, I mean, they`ve got a typesetter - I don`t know what they do anymore on these papers.
Apparently Gore feels this is an issue, again, McCain, one of his strong suits, about 25 percent of the people voted for him because of reform. But it seems to me - I`m not active anymore - but I think - I would hope that maybe Fred Thompson`s committee might call us up there again. I`d be happy to go up and volunteer to testify what I did in `96, and I`m certain Jack Kemp. And let Al Gore and the President come up and we can resolve this quickly.
Borger: Senator Rudman, is there any possibility right now that in the end Bush will not get the McCain endorsement?
Rudman: Well, I just can`t answer that. I cannot speak for John McCain to that kind of detail. But let me say this...
Borger: Well, it`s not a detail, it`s kind of a big...
Rudman: Well, that`s in detail, and I have not discussed that with John. After all, you know, this is only this week this all imploded on us.
But let me just end up by saying this: John McCain is a good Republican. John McCain wants a Republican in the White House. John McCain is not going to, however, set aside his principles. I don`t know what endorsements are worth unless they are sincere. And an endorsement by John McCain of someone who does not agree with his core beliefs, it`s going to be very difficult to make and very difficult to believe.
Schieffer: Would John McCain ever consider being on a ticket as the running mate with George Bush, should he be asked?
Rudman: Well, you never say never, Bob, but I would find that almost incomprehensible.
Schieffer: Senator Dole, can you think of a stronger ticket at this point? And I say that because these polls suggest that right now, if it were a two-man race, Al Gore would get nearly half of the people who voted for John McCain in the primaries. Is there a stronger ticket?
Dole: I think right now it looks good, now what may happen by the time we get to convention, you never know. It depends on what happens with Governor Bush and John McCain, their personal relationship, what their both willing to do. And again I think they`re both willing - they want to win in November and it`s certainly in Governor Bush`s interests and McCain`s interests to work together. They`d be a great ticket.
Schieffer: I guess you would also say there might be another ticket there that might be a pretty good one.
Dole: That would be a Dole-Rudman ticket, right now.
Schieffer: What about that?
Schieffer: Thank you very much, both of you. When we come back, we`ll talk about to the Bush campaign top strategist Karl Rove in a minute.
Schieffer: And joining us now from Austin, Karl Rove, who is the chief strategist for the Bush campaign.
Well, Mr. Rove, you`ve heard what Warren Rudman and Bob Dole said. First, I want to ask you about this statement that Karen Hughes made when she said: Negotiate? We won.
Senator Rudman said that`s a fairly regrettable statement. He says he hopes that was made in the heat of the campaign. What do you say? Is that the attitude of the Bush folks?
Karl Rove, Bush Campaign Chief Strategist: Well, look, that quote was made before the Tuesday night vote in reference to last week`s victory in Virginia, Washington State and North Dakota. We really think it`s - thought before Tuesday night it was inappropriate to be talking - forecasting or talking about the future before we`d won Tuesday night. And frankly, we still have next Tuesday to go through and maybe the Tuesday after that before we get to 1,034 delegates and secure the nomination.
Schieffer: So that was inoperative, that quote?
Rove: Well, it was a quote made on the airplane before we won on Super Tuesday before...
Schieffer: But does it reflect the attitude of the Bush campaign?
Rove: Look, our attitude is, is that we are going to reach out to Senator McCain and his supporters and ask for their support. We understand that`s a process. None of the other candidates have withdrawn and then immediately thrown their support to Governor Bush. It`s taken a reasonable period of time.
And we are reaching out. One poll indicated that the day after our victory on Super Tuesday, by the night of the 10th of March, the polls were already indicating that we picked up a third of the support that had previously gone to Senator McCain. And that was before his withdrawal on Thursday.
Borger: Mr. Rove, Senator Rudman said that there`s no way that John McCain could step down from his core beliefs. Obviously one of those core beliefs is a complete ban on so-called soft money. Do you see a possibility that Governor Bush would adopt Senator McCain`s version of campaign finance reform?
Rove: Well, I don`t think anybody, even Senator McCain, would suggests that Governor Bush has to abandon his core convictions either, and Governor Bush has made it clear he want to ban corporate soft money, he wants to ban union soft money, and he also wants to require union leadership to have to get the permission of their members before spending union dues on politics.
That last, incidentally, is the largest source of soft money in American politics, literally amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars per election cycle, spent by the unions without the approval of the people, the working people, from whom that money comes.
Borger: So the answer to that is no, then?
Rove: Well, Governor - and I don`t think Senator McCain -anybody has suggested that Governor Bush hato surrender his long-held principles. Maybe their place is where they can find steps to work towards the goal of campaign finance that both can agree on.
I think I`ve just outlined three that I think they do agree upon, and maybe that`s a good starting point, the places where they agree. And they agree on a lot of issues.
Schieffer: Why would he not say, well, let`s also ban contributions from individuals?
Rove: Well, he believes that there`s a First Amendment right that people have. We live in a democracy. You`ve got a right, CBS has a right to run news programming, The New York Times has a right to write editorials, and as messy as it is, people in groups with voluntary contributions have the right to express their opinions.
Look, Governor Bush doesn`t like it when NARAL, National Abortion Rights Action League, runs television ads attacking him. He doesn`t like it when the Sierra Club runs ads attacking him - both groups that have endorsed Vice President Gore. However, that`s their right under the First Amendment. And he has a very serious constitutional concern about the limitation on voluntary expenditures by individuals.
But this concept of soft money, money being taken from stockholders by corporate contributions, no stockholder`s been asked for their permission to give that money. Union money going into political parties. Nobody in the union`s been asked for their permission to send that money to a political party.
Governor Bush beliefs the concept of involuntary soft money ought to be...
Schieffer: Are you going to just cede this issue to the Vice President? Because today in The New York Times, we`ve just been talking about it, this very long interview where he now says he realizes he shouldn`t have made those calls from the White House to raise money, he realizes he shouldn`t have gone to the Buddhist temple.
And he says he`s going to be the one for reform here, he`s going to be the one that`s going to overhaul the campaign finance system.
Rove: Bob, think about the logic behind that for a moment. He`s saying, "I`m the guy who`s best at violating the current campaign laws, so give me a chance to define the new ones." Look, that`s a joke.
The Vice President of the United States has very serious questions about the Buddhist temple fundraiser. Remember, he denied that he knew it was a fund-raiser, and yet we know the Secret Service knew, the Democrat National Committee knew, Maria Hsia, who`s now going to jail, knew, the woman who organized the fundraiser.
Even the Vice President sent out an e-mail in which he acknowledged that he knew it was a fundraiser, and now magically he says he can`t remember if it was fundraiser.
Think also about those calls. He said he couldn`t remember what was discussed at the meeting. And then he said, well, they were discussed only in passing. The current - the past White House chief of stff,
Leon Panetta, who was in the meeting, it now turns out told federal investigators that they discussed it in detail.
Gore`s own deputy chief of staff David Strauss said he was very attentive there. We now know there are photographs of the meeting in which we can determine - the vice president ought to release them. We can determine whether or not he was attentive. Was he looking at all the papers? Was he participating in the meeting? His defense is, "I can`t remember the meeting because I drank a lot of iced tea." Most people, if they go to a meeting, remember the substance of the meeting, not the fact that they drank iced tea at it.
Borger: But he`s apologizing for it.
Rove: No, he`s not.
Borger: He said he made a mistake.
Rove: He said he made a mistake but these aren`t mistakes. These are potential violations of law. People are going to jail over this. Eighty-three people have taken the Fifth Amendment. Nineteen people have fled the country. Twenty-three have failed to cooperate with Federal investigators on it, and he tries to pass this off as a minor little boo-boo. It isn`t.
It`s potential violations of law and actual violations of law with people going to jail. Fifty-five thousand dollars in illegal contributions, many of it from foreign nationals, given through straw names and the names of monks and living the life of poverty at that fundraiser. It`s more than a mistake.
Borger: Karl, the Vice President has challenged your candidate to two debates a week and he said if we`ll do that, we`ll also ban all paid TV ads. Why not take him up on it?
Rove: Look, he plays all these kinds of games. He wasn`t serious about either one of these offers. He also...
Borger: How do you know?
Rove: Well, he also offered at the same time he said, "Let`s ban soft money." And yet last week they were boasting that the President of the United States was making a fabulous tour for them in California, raising millions of dollars. And we know that at the moment that Al Gore said, "Let`s ban soft money," he had authorized a plan to go out and raise $35 million of it.
Borger: But why not have two debates a week to talk about issues like soft money?
Rove: I`m confident in the fall there`re going to be plenty of debates, far more than people probably want. Right now, the American people are saying enough is enough. Let us get back to real life for a little while.
But the Vice President is tossing out these neat little ploys, gimmicks, to hide the fact that he has very serious problems with violations of the current federal election laws that he is trying now to cover up and paper you. There are damaging reports this week in the newspaper about efforts where he got special treatment with regard to his violations of the law or potential violations of the law in both instances of the Buddhist temple and the calls frm the White House.
Schieffer: All right. Karl Rove, thank you very much. We`ll leave it there. We`ll be back with our roundtable in just a minute.
Schieffer: And to keep talking a little politics with us is Dan Balz, our friend who covers politics for The Washington Post. Dan, what do you make of suddenly Al Gore says, "I`m the reform candidate? I`m the one that`s going to overall campaign finance reform?"
Dan Balz, The Washington Post: Bob, I think Vice President Gore does not want to replay 1996 in the campaign finance scandal and the best defense is a good offense, and he`s going to try to get out front on this issue and try to make the fight with Governor Bush over what should happen now with campaign finance reform as opposed to what happened in the past.
Schieffer: Well, can he get by with saying look, "I know now I shouldn`t have made those calls from the White House." Those things that, remember, we went through that no controlling legal authority business, he`s saying, I know now I shouldn`t have gone to the Buddhist temple. Can he get by with that?
Balz: I doubt it and I think the interview with Karl Rove suggested that they are loaded for bear to make the opposite argument and that they`re going to try to litigate 1996 as much as the Vice President is going to try to say, "Well, I`ve changed, I`ve reformed, I`m a new man." I`m not sure he can get away with that but he will try at every turn to try to keep taking the fight to Governor Bush.
Borger: Obviously this is all about those McCain voters we`ve been talking about. I think pretty soon we`re going to see Al Gore ask John McCain to run with him on the ticket if this is the way he can get those voters. My favorite quote from the Times was, "Like John McCain, I bring the passion that comes from personal experience to the battle of campaign finance reform." He is reinventing himself one more time.
Schieffer: When Karen Hughes says, "Negotiate? We won," Warren Rudman obviously didn`t like that very much and John McCain won`t like that very much. Was that just something said in the heat of battle here? Can these two ever get together do you think?
Balz: I don`t know. I`m sure eventually they can get together, but I think it will take a long time. And I think that quote from Karen Hughes is an indication of the problem that Governor Bush and his people do feel that they won this contest and that therefore, Senator McCain ought to be moving somewhat toward them, but the McCain people feel quite the opposite, that they created a constituency for a reform message inside the Republican party and it behooves Governor Bush to try to reach out to them to try to bring that into his constituency.
Borger: I think what Bob Dole indicated is very interesting which is that you`re going to have McCain coming back to the Senate. It`clear that he`s going to push his version of campaign finance reform. He`s the new 900 pound gorilla in the Senate. What does that do to Trent Lott and the other Republicans who may be pushing George W. Bush`s version of campaign finance reform? And I`m wondering whether you`re going to see the war in the Republican party over that play itself out over these next few months when we have kind of a lull in the campaign.
Schieffer: You know, that is very interesting. When Dole said that, it struck me. You know, so many of the people we have known as giants in the Senate, the well known people, have retired over the last couple of years.
You have Senator Ted Kennedy, who sort of has a national constituency, but beyond that, most of them are sort of famous in their own states, and it doesn`t go much beyond that. John McCain now is a different John McCain, as Dole pointed out when he comes back to the Senate this time.
Balz: He is a different John McCain. He is known now nationally and he is known as the leading advocate of these reform measures. And the Republican senators who have tangled with him and disliked him and hope very much that he would lose this, now have to reckon with somebody who has a constituency that he can bring to bear in these that he`s never had before.
Schieffer: Do you think this is going to be a close election in the fall, Gloria?
Borger: I think it`s going to be a very close election, I think it`s going to be a very mean election, and I`m afraid we`re not going to have the kind of turnouts that we had in these primaries when people were really engaged and excited by the politics they saw.
Balz: I don`t know whether I would predict that about the turnout yet, I think it`s too early, but I agree with Gloria, that we`re headed for both a nasty and very close election.
Schieffer: OK, thanks to both of you. I`ll be back with a final word in just a second.
Schieffer: Finally today, on Wednesday morning, even before John McCain and Bill Bradley had folded their tents, the talk was everywhere: the fun is over, get ready for BOOOORRRRRING.
Bradley and McCain, especially McCain, had generated more political excitement than this country had seen in 40 years. But they`d been done in by two plain vanilla sons of the Establishment and the people they`d energized were sick about it. So were a lot of other people who were enjoying a good political story after the drab and seamy politics of recent years.
The mavericks had entertained us all and made politics fun again, but Bradley never really got a good speech together until his concession statement. And McCain`s reform talk made his own party too nervous to nominate him, so they lost.
Which raises question, will the people they turned on turn cynical and tune out? Well, let`s hope not because we may be on the verge of something really unusuala campaign about the issues. It may get dirty, but from gun control, abortion and campaign finance reform, to foreign policy, education, gay rights and tobacco, this time there really are differences. So there`s still plenty to talk about.
Having said that, it was fun, these past couple of months, wasn`t it? Well, for continuing political coverage, visit our Campaign 2000 and Face The Nation web sites at cbs.com. That`s our broadcast, we`ll see you next week right here on Face The Nation.