|NEWSMAKER: TAD DEVINE|
August 18, 2000
MARGARET WARNER: Welcome, Tad Devine. Thanks for joining us.
TAD DEVINE: Good to be with you.
MARGARET WARNER: Did you do in this convention what you had to do?
TAD DEVINE: I think so. I think we hit the marks. You know, we wanted people to get to know Al Gore better. He talked about himself, and he talked about his plans for the nation.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think you brought him out from under Bill Clinton's
shadow, which is
TAD DEVINE: I hope so. I think it's just a natural process for a Vice President to come on the stage for himself, to be his own man, really, for the first time. And I think the Vice President made enormous progress on that dimension.
MARGARET WARNER: Unlike the Republicans, you came into this convention without having even solidified your own base, self-identified Democrats. Have you done that now, or do you still have work to do there?
TAD DEVINE: I think we've seen tremendous movement already within the ranks of the Democratic Party. Remember, we've been the party in power, so I think our partisans aren't as anxious to have the White House back as the other side. So we've seen consolidation within this court, and you've certainly felt it in this hall during the last four days.
MARGARET WARNER: Where do you go from here? What do you have to do now?
TAD DEVINE: Well, we've got to continue to make the case that this election is about the fight for America's working families. That's really at the heart of it. Al Gore and Joe Lieberman want to stand up and fight for issues that matter to them. The other side, really, has a different agenda, and that's going to go be the focus of this campaign.
MARGARET WARNER: How much are you going to be talking about the other side's agenda? In other words, some would call it going negative.
TAD DEVINE: Well, I think there will be a debate about... Particularly about Governor's Bush's record in Texas. He has some problems on issues like the environment and health care. The voters want to know about both of these candidates. There's going to be a discussion about the respective agendas, whether it's Social Security, privatization, or his tax cut. But I think for the most part it's going to be a focus on issues that matter to people, and the working families, in particular, that are at the heart of this election.
MARGARET WARNER: So was Senator Lieberman's speech kind of the road map for how you're going to handle these attacks?
TAD DEVINE: I think so. They'll be a little needling going on, I'm sure, in the months ahead. But I think will we not make the mistake that they made, either at the convention or in the weeks ahead. They talked in personal terms. I think they tried to get to issues like character in other ways. They used the President as a foil for it. They tried to discredit the Vice President. This isn't going to be a personal attack from our side. There are real disagreements on issues. They will be made. The voters want to know about these disagreements, and I think that will be a big part of the campaign ahead.
MARGARET WARNER: Bush's chief strategist, his campaign manager, Carl Rove, says you all have to go negative, because Bush's personal popularity is so high, you're going to have to pull him down. Is he right about that?
TAD DEVINE: No. I think... You know, listen, the Republican National Committee last week was running an ad saying that Al Gore's a polluter, okay. (Laughs) you know, the attacks that they've made, both in their convention and also in their paid media, have been personal in nature. We're not going to go in that direction. There will be comparisons on issues, but for the most part, we're going to tell a positive story. That's what's this convention's been about; the story of Al Gore, the agenda of Democrats, and particularly the Vice President and his vision for the future.
MARGARET WARNER: Now the polls show that the public, at least, says they don't like attacks, yet obviously you want to make this comparison. How do you spread that needle?
TAD DEVINE: By talking about issues and not about personalities, or not, you know, negative information about someone's background or character. That's really what the Republicans have been doing in this campaign, and the voters are rejecting it.
MARGARET WARNER: Now what about your geographical focus? The Bush folks say that-- and the polls show-- that they... That Bush is even at a competitive advantage in some states that Bill Clinton won in 1992 and 1996: Oregon, Washington, California. The big states like, what, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio.
TAD DEVINE: Well, we've got a much bigger playing field to defend, that's because we've been winning landslides and presidential elections the last two times. So it's not surprising that, you know, some of these states that Democrats have won would be competitive. I think the electoral college has changed fundamentally in the last decade. The Democrats really now have the advantage. And Governor Bush, in a close race, is likely to lose an overwhelming... Have an overwhelming defeat in the electoral college. That's because some of his leads in states like Texas are enormous, and they can count for one or points in a national horse race. So all we've got to do is get this thing close. If we do, these Midwest battlegrounds; the East, which is pretty good shape; the entire west coast, I think, provide an enormous base for support for Democrats.
MARGARET WARNER: See, a lot of Republicans would say they have a natural advantage because they have a pretty solid south, Rocky Mountain West.
TAD DEVINE: Yeah, well, let's take a look at the states: California, the biggest state, I think we have enormous advantages. Governor Davis made the case in the convention about the fact that a candidate like George Bush just doesn't win statewide in California. New York: The Vice President is very well situated. Florida: You know, a big state where you would think George Bush would be in good shape. He's not in good shape there. One of the reasons that Florida was chosen to put Al Gore over the top is we're going to stay there and fight, because we think we can win in Florida. So three of the four biggest states are already problems with Republicans. I'd say they're in trouble.
MARGARET WARNER: What kind of a factor is Ralph Nader going to be in the end?
TAD DEVINE: Well, I don't think he'll be a significant factor in determining the outcome of this election in any single state. I think right now people are interested him as someone who they know. But I think as they get to know Al Gore better, both personally, and understand where Al Gore is on the issues, particularly as it relates to standing up to some powerful interests in this society, they're going to understand that a vote for Nader could, in fact, help George Bush. And I think that's the last thing a Nader voter wants to do.
MARGARET WARNER: Now what's Joe Lieberman's role going to be? Is it going to be the classic Vice Presidential running mate role of attacking the other side?
TAD DEVINE: No. He's going to... We're going to build on his enormous
strengths. He's going to campaign everywhere in this country. He's going
to bring the message of fighting for working families to everyone, both
based on his own career as an attorney general who stood up to powerful
interests, and as a Senator who's been in the mainstream of the Democratic
Party. I think he's someone who completely complements the Vice President,
both in terms his political goals and also his personality. So I expect
to see the two of them together campaigning, and also Senator Lieberman
campaigning, really, everywhere
MARGARET WARNER: The Republicans came out of their convention with a big bounce in the polls, as it's known. What kind of a bounce do you think he's gotten here?
TAD DEVINE: Well, I think the bounce back was really horse race only. You know if you look below the surface of it in terms of a perception of Governor Bush's agenda or his record-- there was very little information, his favorable didn't move at all-- I think they depositing very little long-standing, long lasting information. What we're trying to get is to build the story, not just of the horse race-- which I think will be close in the aftermath of this election, and certainly by Labor Day-- but also something for votes to hang onto. The story of Al Gore, who he is, that's important to us. They didn't want to do that on the other side. We're doing it deliberately in this convention.
MARGARET WARNER: So do you think, say, next week when the dust settles-- because they'll be a few sort of phony polls over the weekend-- but by the middle of next week, do you think you will have pulled even or do will you still be in the hole?
TAD DEVINE: No, I think that, you know, he's going to have an advantage in this race. I think part of that advantage comes from some places which are... Where he has overwhelming leads, but I think it will be a close race.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, thanks. Tad Devine.