NOVEMBER 1, 1996
Four days before the big event, the NewsHour's political analysts Mark Shields and Paul Gigot discuss Bob Dole's 96-hour campaign odyssey, the Republican party's crucial miscalculations and both candidates' new found interest in campaign finance reform.
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, political analysis by Shields & Gigot, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot. Mark, Bob Dole 96 hours straight campaigning, right down to election day, and to where he will be in Russell, Kansas--the man is not giving up, is he?
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
Oct. 31, 1996
Three political cartoonists talk about the challenges they've faced drawing caricatures of Bob Dole and Bill Clinton this election.
Oct. 25, 1996
Shields & Gigot discuss Bob Dole's frustration in the final days of the campaign.
Oct. 24, 1996
Ross Perot discusses Bob Dole's efforts to have him drop out of the race and President Clinton's questionable finances.
Oct. 23, 1996
The NewsHour's regional commentators discuss the recent spat of negative campaign ads in the presidential race.
Oct. 21, 1996
Republican chair Haley Barbour and Democratic head Christopher Dodd debate their party's techniques.
Oct. 18, 1996
Four campaign experts look at the influence of money on modern elections.
Browse NewsHour coverage of Election '96.
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: He's not giving up, Jim. He's been in the business for 36 years. He's been enormously successful. He's been enormously successful, started in a rural district in Kansas, going from legion post to town square, to courthouse, talking to people, convincing ‘em. He's, you know, back there in that minus--if I could just get enough people, reach enough people, I can turn this thing around.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Is there--if--you know--miracles, as was discussed earlier by Maxine Isaacs and Marlin Fitzwater--miracles are possible--where would the miracle have to happen to Bob Dole, and how could it happen, do you think, Paul?
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: Well, right now it would have to happen in the narrow grouping of states where he is still competitive. There are a lot of states where the campaign's been over for weeks--New York State--Illinois--probably over in California now, but the people in the Dole campaign who are busy working on states like--you combine Tennessee and Ohio and Texas and Florida, and they all roll in, they all come up, you could see him getting 270.
JIM LEHRER: Where do you see the miracle coming from, if there was a miracle to come from?
MARK SHIELDS: In order for a miracle to come, Jim, it has to be cataclysmic at this point. I mean, it has to be something that dominates the news, front page of the paper, specials on it, of, of such magnitude to change it. Given--given the dynamic of this race at this point, Bill Clinton is in precisely the same position that Ronald Reagan was in, in 1984, on the verge of a sweep. He has 58 percent job approval on the part of the American people. That's exactly what Reagan had. People think the country's headed in the right direction, having thought that it was headed in the wrong direction previously. The economy is in, you know, every time he turns around, there's better economic news, and it's just, you know, I don't know what it would take. I mean, it would take almost a murder at the White House.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. He's running against more than just a candidate then. He's running against an environment.
MARK SHIELDS: He's running--I mean, it's been Bob Dole's bad luck in two presidential elections twenty years apart--running as Gerry Ford's running mate in 1976, he had to defend a very bad economy--double-digit inflation, the misery index--and he had to say it isn't that bad. In 1996, I think people are saying confidence is at the highest level it's been in the country in recent years, unemployment the lowest it's been in seven years--he has to say, no, no, it isn't that good, I don't care if the market did go through the 6000 point average, I don't care what else you're seeing, I don't care there's 10 million new jobs--it isn't that good. So, I mean, he's fighting in that environment. People for the first time all of a sudden think things are better not only for themselves but for the nation, and so he's fighting all of that sense that is working for an incumbent and working for all incumbents, not just Bill Clinton.
PAUL GIGOT: He has that bad luck, but I disagree with Mark on one thing. He's not running against Ronald Reagan. He's not running against an incumbent who's as admired as Ronald Reagan.
MARK SHIELDS: That's true.
PAUL GIGOT: And he's not running against a President who is as popular as Ronald Reagan. Now, the approval rating Mark talks about is correct, but, in fact, the, the event that is most notable this week is the degree to which Bill Clinton has been falling in the polls.
JIM LEHRER: Some of the polls.
PAUL GIGOT: Right. Now the way Dole has been rising. Perot and the undecided have been rising, but the degree to which Bill Clinton is falling--and I think Bill Clinton--the Clinton campaign is quite concerned now that he is not going to get 50 percent even if he wins, which would be the first president since Woodrow Wilson to be reelected without getting that 50 percent, and that would affect the mandate that he would have in a second term and the congressional vote potentially.
JIM LEHRER: So your reading of some of the polls now --there's no consistency in these polls.
PAUL GIGOT: No.
JIM LEHRER: And there's a lot of these tracking polls ask slightly different questions, so it's really hard to--
PAUL GIGOT: Sure.
JIM LEHRER: I mean, you've got some apples and a lot of oranges and pears in there, but, um,--uh, you're suggesting then that, for instance--in some of these Perot is going up--that that shouldn't be seen as pro-Perot, that should be seen as anti-Clinton, just a place for people to go, rather than to Dole?
PAUL GIGOT: Yeah. I think that's right--in part because of the critique that Ross Perot has started to level, and people maybe are focusing more. The people--some people are peeling off the President and moving either into undecided or Perot, and I think that that is a sign that this President is not as, uh--he's no Reagan. He's no FDR running for a second term. He's no Eisenhower.
MARK SHIELDS: Two points, and just not to quote Paul--but to use the Wall Street Journal poll which I think Paul has great respect for, as I do--uh, Bill Clinton has a three to two favorable rating on the job rating, it's fifty-eight to thirty-six. He's fifty-eight to thirty-six personally, his personal rating. That's very high. Uh, in 1984, uh, 12 years ago, when Ronald Reagan was running for reelection, Fritz Mondale, uh, whom he beat in 49 states, had a 55 percent favorable rating on election day, even though he lost forty-nine of the fifty states.
JIM LEHRER: They liked him but they didn't want him to be President.
MARK SHIELDS: That's right. Bob Dole has never broken 40 in a favorable rating. Bob Dole has a higher unfavorable than he has a favorable. So Bill Clinton--Bill Clinton is in a very comparable position in terms of how people see their job, the country, the economy, their own lives, as it was in 1984. That's why I say it's been tough for Bob Dole. As far as Ross Perot was concerned, this has been Ross Perot's issue. Ross Perot I thought had a great sense of issues--
JIM LEHRER: You mean the campaign finance thing?
MARK SHIELDS: The campaign finance--he's been off it all year. It should have been his issue from the beginning because neither of the other guys could talk about it believably. Bob Dole's attacked the press more vehemently the last two weeks. This is a press story, came from the LA Times, came from the Wall Street Journal, it came from the Washington Post, uh, and he brought it up for debate, and Bill Clinton didn't answer it in the second debate, and it's been--the past week it's been a bad story every night for the Democrats. And the irony, of course, is that it's going--the support is going to Perot, rather than to Dole.
JIM LEHRER: Because people really do see that here of the two men that were in places to do something about campaign finance reform, Bob Dole in the Senate and President Clinton as President, and now they've suddenly decided to do something--is that the problem here--at least the perception of it?
PAUL GIGOT: I don't think it's campaign finance reform per se.
JIM LEHRER: You don't?
PAUL GIGOT: That is doing it. I think it's a metaphor for doubts people have about Bill Clinton, the incumbent, because these stories are basically hitting the incumbents. The Democrats are trying to use the plague on both your houses defense to try to deflect attention from what our real story is about the Democratic Party, and this White House in this presidential campaign, and I think Perot is hitting them. He's just a great speaker and--
JIM LEHRER: Well, we ran that speech again. It's the same speech essentially he gave a couple of days ago. We ran it then. He really--he just zeroes in.
PAUL GIGOT: He zeroes right in. He has great populist instinct of how to make it understandable to people. He's funny, and, uh, he's driving it home in a way that Bob Dole has never found a way to be able to drive it. But I think it becomes a metaphor for the uncomfortable way people think--a lot of people think about Bill Clinton in particular when he says, if we reelect this person, we'll be reelecting a troubled second term because all of these things are--kick beyond the election. I think that's a very powerful argument for a lot of people.
JIM LEHRER: And that's the one Perot is essentially making.
PAUL GIGOT: That's the one that Perot is making.
JIM LEHRER: Is that a powerful argument, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I, I don't think it's moving a lot of people, I really don't. I think, I think it is the question of money and influence and power; that I'm not heard as an ordinary citizen, that ordinary people aren't heard, that big money, $35 million from organized labor, Republicans raising hundreds of millions of dollars from corporate sources, the President raising money from foreign sources. I mean, I think it all is of the piece--and, uh, I don't think--I don't think it's a question--the doubts about Bill Clinton's character have been there. They aren't reinforced. I mean, the problem is Bill Clinton's negatives have gone down in this campaign. Uh, he has lower negatives. I mean, his negatives are 35 points lower than Newt Gingrich's, so I mean, he--he really--I mean, he's a controversial figure with a lot of people at a lot of country clubs and a lot of corporate board rooms, but he is not, uh, the polarizing figure in the country that I think those of us in the press who cover politics somehow imagine him to be. He--he's--no one wants to put him on Mount Rushmore, don't get me wrong.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah.
MARK SHIELDS: I mean, no one's confusing him with George Washington, but he is--he's not the polarizing figure, I don't think, that--
JIM LEHRER: That he was even two years ago.
MARK SHIELDS: Exactly.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah, yeah, at least according to the polls. Do you see any signs--going back to a conversation that Margaret had earlier with Marlin Fitzwater and Maxine Isaacs--do you see any signs in--in what Bob Dole has seen in doing this, or that he's come to any conclusions about, hey, I want to--I may lose but I want to help the party, I want to help the local candidates, I want to keep the Republican Congress, or do you perceive anything?
PAUL GIGOT: I don't perceive any resignation at all. I perceive a man who's going to go down fighting. I perceive a man who has always been in political terms a team fighter. With Dole, there's always been there's your team and there's my team. And ideology matters less than you're on my team, you wear the same uniform, you lace up the same shoes, you wear the same helmet; let's go to battle. And I think he's--you know, he's doing this in this 96-hour marathon. He's stopping in South Dakota, for example, to help out his Senate colleague, Larry Pressler, who's in trouble. He's stopping in Nebraska. It's going to be a run-away Dole state, but he's stopping there because of--
JIM LEHRER: There's a close Senate race.
PAUL GIGOT: --it's going to help the close Senate race. So he is--and partly the decision to, to compete in California, which he's not going to win, was done to help out the House races, and Newt Gingrich argued, you know, strongly, you can really help us there as a party man even if you don't win, uh, so--
JIM LEHRER: You think those kinds of realistic conversations are being held.
PAUL GIGOT: Well, I mean--I think Gingrich and Haley Barbour, the Republican Party chairman, would both say California was a good decision for you too, Sen. Dole, but they also made these other points, and he's the--Bob Dole is the consummate party man, and I think he's--he's doing his party a loyal service here by fighting as hard as he is.
JIM LEHRER: What do you read in this?
MARK SHIELDS: I think the acceptance has set in. He--I think he's accepting a defeat, or impending defeat, likely defeat. Uh, and I think Paul is right, that he is trying to energize the base of his party. Nobody wants to go out, uh, having brought down with ‘em the ceiling upon his political party. Michael Dukakis in 1988, uh, the last two weeks of the campaign, all he did was campaign to try and energize the Democratic base--I'm on your side, I'm on your side, I'm on your side. He did it with great discipline, great determination, and had the same kind of last 96-hour flight--go everywhere, do as much as you can--it's to energize your own people--that's what attacking the press is about--it's energizing your own people.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
MARK SHIELDS: I think that he'd be better off, quite frankly, better served not to be with George Bush and Gerry Ford, who really are reminders of an earlier era, but to be with Susan Molinari, J.C. Watts, and Colin Powell.
JIM LEHRER: This is the last Friday night before the election. I wanted to ask each of you, beginning with you, Paul, just to get a head start, who do you think will win the New Hampshire primary in the year 2000, both Republican and Democrat?
MARK SHIELDS: John McCain on the Democratic side--no, no--
JIM LEHRER: Thank you. We'll see you on Tuesday night and other nights to come. Thank you.