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CNN News From CNN - Transcript

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August 31, 2004 Tuesday

HEADLINE: Socially Conservative Senator to Kick off Tonight's Speeches; Will War on Terror Decide Election?

GUESTS: Sam Brownbeck, Roy Blunt, Frank Pallone

BYLINE: Wolf Blitzer



BLITZER: You obviously think, like all Republicans here, that this is the winning issue, the war on terrorism, for the president.

REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MO), MAJORITY WHIP: I think it's a critically important issue. I think that's why people like former-the Democrat mayor, Ed Koch, are supporting the president. There are reasons that lots of Democrats are supporting the president in this very non-traditional, non-anticipated environment and this war on terror.

I think people like the president's commitment. They like his courage. They like the understanding that the other countries in the world know that he's going to do everything he can to accomplish what he says we're going to set out to do.

BLITZER: I spoke with Ed Koch yesterday, the Democrat, the former mayor of New York City, and he said, you know what? This is the first time he's ever going to vote for a Republican for president because this war on terror is such a central issue to him. Everything else you've got to put on the sidelines.

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: I think the opposite is true. I think that people are focused on the economy. That's what they're concerned about. They're hurting. There's the so-called middle class squeeze where people are not making up money or they've lost their jobs.

They're concerned about health care. They're concerned about education. They think that President Bush has failed with regard to the economy, and that's what's going on make the difference in November.

BLITZER: When people are asked are you better off today than you were five years ago on economic issues, economic issues, job security, job creation, health care, these kind of issues might not play that well for the president.

BLUNT: Wolf, I don't know. I've been at 20 congressional districts in August. From-I didn't go any further west than Arizona. From the East Coast to Arizona, everywhere I went, people thought this economy was headed well on the way back.

And it wasn't just seeing Republicans; it was seeing reporters. It was seeing lots of people.

I think the president's policies, particularly the tax policies that let families keep more of their money, let small businesses and big businesses try to figure out how to grow this economy and produce the right result. There's no-I don't think you could argue that this economy is not better off than it would have been if we hadn't done the policies.

BLITZER: Not necessarily better than it was four years ago, though.

BLUNT: Better than it was four years ago. Four years ago today it was absolutely flat four years ago today. Better than it was eight years ago today, no.

BLITZER: You're shaking your head.

PALLONE: I disagree with Roy. I mean, every economic indicator is bad right now in terms of job losses.

BLITZER: Job growth is...

PALLONE: But if you look at it over the last four years, the number of jobs that have been lost is over two million jobs. The number of uninsured keeps going up. Recent statistics said it's now 45 million uninsured.

People can't afford to pay for their college education. You know, gas prices, the list goes on.

And I don't see any way that the president can make an argument that things are better than they were four years ago. People don't buy it.

BLITZER: What do you say, Congressman?

BLUNT: The unemployment number's exactly the same as it was in that great economy that our friends on the other side were talking about when Bill Clinton was reelected, 5.4 percent.

Clearly, we had a downturn coming out of the Clinton administration.

PALLONE: We lost over two million jobs in that four-year period.

BLUNT: And we gained back-we gained back most of those jobs.

PALLONE: No, we did not, and the jobs that we gained back are jobs that are not paying as much and don't provide the same benefits.

BLUNT: The Congressional Budget Office-I mean, the Joint Tax Committee report that came out right before we left Washington said 71 percent of the new jobs were in the top half of the job brackets.

PALLONE: If you go out and talk to people...

BLUNT: Those cannot be, by definition, the worst jobs.

PALLONE: If you go out and talk to people they're all hurting. Either they lost their job or they got a job that's not as good as the one they had.

They're worried about their benefits. Either they're losing benefits, their pensions, health care. The cost of health care keeps going up. College education keeps going up.

We all know that if you look at the actual cost of living versus the amount that you increased your income over the last four years, it's weighed heavily that you're not keeping up.

BLITZER: We're going to take a break, but I'm going to let you respond when we come back. We have other issues we want to discuss, as well. Much more with our congressmen from the CNN Convention Diner here in New York when we come back.


BLITZER: There he is. Bob Novak, he's another co-host from CROSSFIRE, CNN's CROSSFIRE. He's eating. He's enjoying himself with gusto here at the CNN Convention Diner.

Welcome back to our continuing coverage. We're just across the street from Madison Square Garden. We're talking about the presidential race with two members of the U.S. Congress, majority Republican-the House majority whip Roy Blunt and New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone.

Let's talk about Missouri for a moment. This-this is a key battleground state right now. What's your bottom line assessment? Where does it stand, the snapshot right now?

BLUNT: We have voted for the winner in every presidential election since 1904 with one exception. We are the ultimate battleground state. I think we reflect the country pretty well.

We may be trending a little more Republican because the president has continued in all of the polls to have a slightly, not a big lead, but a consistent lead.

BLITZER: Within the margin of error, though.

BLUNT: Within-But if you do 10 of these and they're all within the margin of error, but they're all two or three points, the margin of error diminishes dramatically.

It's clearly going to be a race, even in a landslide presidential race.

BLITZER: It's a horse race in Missouri right now?

BLUNT: The president winning by four points would be a huge win, and I believe he's ahead in our state right now.

BLITZER: Everybody assumes New Jersey is simply going to go for Kerry. Is that an assumption that we can make?

PALLONE: I think so and again because of the economy. Kerry is going to win because of the economy. Many people in the state are hurting, and we've lost jobs to overseas. The outsourcing issue is a big issue. Even Bush's trade policies did not go over well.

BLITZER: Has New Jersey done as badly as some of the other Rust Belt kind of states like Ohio or Michigan?

PALLONE: New Jersey has been doing better only because it's more service oriented, and the manufacturing sector is not as important as it used to be, but now those service sector jobs are also being lost. A lot are overseas again. So, the outsourcing is a big issue.

And I think Kerry's position where he says that he want to provide tax credits to keep jobs at home and not have jobs shipped overseas, that plays very well.

BLITZER: What do you make of the Republican point, as exemplified this week, where you have moderate, so-called moderate Republicans, like Schwarzenegger and Giuliani, giving major speeches even though their positions on abortion rites or guy rights are very different than many other Republicans including Congressman Roy Blunt's.

That this is a majority party and it's a big tent and there are-there's room in the Republican Party for all these diverse views.

PALLONE: Well, I don't think that's true. And I think the interesting thing is they're not talking about the economy. I mean, if you listen to Giuliani or you listen to McCain, they didn't talk about the economy.

BLITZER: Schwarzenegger, I think, tonight, is he going to be speaking about it tonight?

PALLONE: He may. He may tonight.

BLUNT: He will look at themes of the night, and I think the point you're making is a good point, that this is a big party. It's a big enough party that we're willing to talk about all the points of view.

And I think what people in our party, particularly Rudy Giuliani and John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger, admire about the president is they know that he's for what he says he's for. And if they agree with 90 percent of that, 90 percent is a win in politics.

BLITZER: What does Kerry have to do to win right now?

PALLONE: Well, I think the main thing he has to do is point out how he's going to improve the economy. And whether it's dealing with the outsourcing issue or he has plans for health care, which I think are very good, to try to get more people insured. To provide for a way for people to pay for a college education.

I mean, these are the kind of bread and butter issues that I think people want to hear about. And they believe that Bush has failed us as far as the economy. Kerry can get out there and point out what he's going to do differently. He will win.

BLITZER: I'll give you the last word.

BLUNT: I think the president's grown in strength every day since the Democrat convention, and I think he's going to continue to do that right on tour.

BLITZER: It's not over yet. There's still some debates coming up, as you well know.

BLUNT: The president is going do fine in the debates. Circumstances are the things that this president has to be concerned about. This race is about Bush versus circumstances, not Bush versus Kerry.

BLITZER: All right. We'll leave it right there. Frank Pallone, thanks you very much for joining us.

PALLONE: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Roy Blunt, thanks to you, as well.

BLUNT: Great to see you. Great to see you.

BLITZER: I know you guys are getting ready to have some good lunch over here.

PALLONE: I'll go with you. You're leading (ph).

BLITZER: Much more coverage coming up from the Republican National Convention. You can also log on to You'll find everything you need to know about the schedule of events, CNN's convention blog, interactive guides to the convention areas. It's all there. If you haven't been there, go there:, check it out. You'll have a good time.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: I'll be back later today, every weekday, 5:00 p.m. Eastern for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Our coverage will continue here at New York City at 5:00. I'll be at Madison Square Garden, on the floor, ringside, there. Among my guests, the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card; the education secretary, Rod Paige and the chairman of the Democratic Party, Terry McAuliffe.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Convention Diner. "LIVE FROM" with Kyra Phillips and Miles O'Brien is coming up next.


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