Archive: Jane Clayson

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Veteran CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante is the host of's Smoke-Filled-Room. Each week, Bill invites a top political expert into the Smoke-Filled-Room to answer your questions. This week Bill has been joined by some of his CBS News colleagues in special daily election editions of SFR. Today’s guest is The Early Show’s Co-anchor, Jane Clayson.

Plante: Our first viewer, Mark Lesley writes, "Is it possible that Ralph Nader's recent rise in the polls is due to the fact that they (the polls) now are more accurately reflecting his popularity, as opposed to an actual change in it?"

Clayson: As the election gets closer, people's opinions become more defined and more cemented. And in some states Ralph Nader appears to be benefiting from that. He appeals to the voter who is concerned about environmental issues and corporate responsibility.

Ralph Nader obviously won't win the race, but he could decide, in some key states, who wins. Both sides agree a vote for Nader is a vote for GWB. And so, the GOP, in places like Oregon and Wisconsin, have begun running what are, essentially, pro-Nader ads. With a presidential race this close, EVERY vote counts.

Plante: Both George W. Bush and Al Gore talk about helping the middle class. Yet when they are asked to define it, they never give a specific income level. Why is that? Do they not know, or is it they don't want to tell you? TEC is curious.

Clayson: It makes sense that if the "middle class" is more broadly defined, a candidate is able pitch a bigger tent - and lure more voters.

Plante: "What has happened to the issue of gun control?" asks Neil. He notes, "After the Million Mom March there was a lot of talk about new gun control regulations. But now it seems that the issue has faded off the radar screen."

Clayson: For some reason gun control has not been at the center of political dialog this election year. I believe that's because candidates tend to focus on the issues that - polls show - people are most concerned about - ie: Education, Social Security, Prescription Drugs.

Gun Control in way down the list.

Also, Al Gore and GWB don't have terribly opposing views on gun control. Gore, of course, is from the south where there are a lot of hunters. He supports trigger locks and gun registration. Bush believes we should enforce the gun laws we already have.
But for the most part, politically, there's not a lot to be gained on this issue, so they're focusing their attention elsewhere.

Plante: "Do you think women voters are using the issue of abortion as a litmus test for Presidential candidates, and why?" asks Carmen.

Clayson: I called our polling unit to get the expert analysis on this. Interestingly, our numbers show that abortion is iportant to many women - but other issues are MORE important. So, more often than not, abortion is NOT used as a litmus test.

Plante: "During the 1992 and 1996 Presidential elections there was a lot of talk about Bill Clinton and did he, or did he not inhale," writes Junice Horgen. "Why hasn't this been more of an issue this time? Both Al Gore and George W. Bush admit to illegal drug use. It seems with all the law and order talk there is a double standard."

Clayson: There's always shock value the first time you hear a presidential candidate talk about whether he "inhaled" - like Bill Clinton did in 1992. So this election, we didn't flinch when Al Gore admitted he'd "experimented" with drugs or when "W." told us he'd had a problem with alcohol. It seems we get past things as a culture. This is just another example of that.

About Bill Plante
Bill Plante is a three-time Emmy Award winner who joined the CBS News Washington Bureau in 1976. He has been covering national elections since 1968. In 1984, he was part of a CBS News teamthat captured an Emmy for coverage of Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign. Plante is one of the most knowledgeable and respected political correspondents in Washington. (He'll do just about anything, including bungee jumping, to get a good story.)