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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Gore scores.

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) My friends, they don't call it Super Tuesday for nothin'! (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Al Gore won it all, a stunning 13-state sweep over Bill Bradley. As de facto Democratic nominee, Gore lost no time in courting John McCain voters -- Republicans, Independents and Democrats -- and in throwing down the gauntlet.

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: (From videotape.) Like John McCain, I bring a commitment born of personal experience to the battle for campaign finance reform. I've learned from my mistakes. I know it's time to change a broken system. We need tough, uncompromising campaign finance reform. (Applause.)

I will challenge the Republican nominee to join with me right now in banning so-called "soft money."

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (Presidential candidate): (From videotape.) The first thing he needs to do is debate Bill Clinton on soft money. It was just last week that Bill Clinton was bragging about how much soft money he had raised. This is an old ruse, it seems like to me. It's an attempt to divert the attention of America away from what has been going on in Washington, D.C. for seven years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Gore a credible reformer?

Lawrence Kudlow.

MR. KUDLOW: I don't think so. I don't think he has any of those credentials. For one thing, one of his top campaign fund-raisers is going to jail.

And then for another, on policy issues, it's a government solution for education, it's a government solution for health care, it's a $125 billion a year in new budget spending. You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say it looks like Great Society spending liberalism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No reform there, right?

MR. KUDLOW: Don't see much reform there.


MS. CLIFT: Well of course there's a defensive element to what Gore is doing because he knows the Republicans are going to come after him on the Buddhist Temple issue.

But if John McCain could convert his experience as one of the Keating Five to become the Elmer Gantry of campaign finance reform, surely Al Gore can go through the same conversion. And everybody's a hypocrite on this issue, and it will only get reformed when the hypocrites unite.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of the brazenness of Al Gore in taking over -- trying to take over this campaign reform issue in the light of his background?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it's very impressive, and Bush and his team ought to be concerned, because although he is a ludicrous claimant to the mantle of reformer, he is going to grab that mantle, he's going to talk about it every day. And if Bush doesn't watch out, you know, three months from now, people are going to have forgotten about the last seven years and they're going to be listening to Gore every night.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Gore reminds you of a prostitute who has become a nun? In other words, you like her preaching rhetoric, but you can never forget how she used to make her living? It won't go away with him, do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: (Chuckles.) Well, there is an element of that. But, you know, he is very credibly in favor of campaign finance reform, the McCain and Democrats' brand of campaign finance reform which, of course, is advantageous to Democrats and hurts Republicans in fund-raising, so that's easy to be in favor of.

But he must harp on this thing, John, day in and day out because that will be his defense every time that George Bush, who every day will be attacking him on his sleazy campaign finance practices of the past, his defense is going to be, "I'm in favor of campaign finance reform now."

MS. CLIFT: Well, you know, George Bush doesn't have much claim to be a reformer. He comes into this election as the anti-reform candidate. And frankly, if Al Gore wins the election, John McCain may well be his point man --

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a second! There's --

MS. CLIFT: Wait! Let me -- let me finish!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor finish, please.

MS. CLIFT: If Al Gore wins the election, John McCain will be the point man in the Senate for campaign finance reform. That wouldn't happen if George Bush gets elected! (Chuckles.)


MR. BLANKLEY: George Bush and his team have not raised one illegal penny. Al Gore has raised millions of illegal dollars. To say that he doesn't come in with clean hands I think is to just totally misrepresent history.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, and also, George Bush had his "Jesus moment," right?

Okay. Bradley 2000 -- "requiescat in pace."

("Taps" is played.)

BILL BRADLEY: (From videotape.) The vice president and I had a stiff competition, and he won. I congratulate him. He will be the nominee of the Democratic Party, and I will support him in his bid to win the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The former New Jersey senator announced on Thursday what had been apparent for weeks and undeniable now in light of his failure to win a single state in Super Tuesday's 13 primary races. Bradley's "Hail Mary" candidacy simply missed.

In his withdrawal, Bradley endorsed Al Gore, though he did not surrender the 412 delegates he had won. Gore says he is a stronger candidate because of Bradley's campaign and because of the challenger's call for racial unity.

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) I have learned from his passion for it. (Cheers, applause.) Tonight, I salute Senator Bill Bradley and Ernestine Bradley, his wife.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Bradley has not left the vice president unwounded. He hit Gore hard where the VP is most vulnerable, his honesty.

(Begin video clip.)

MR. BRADLEY: In politics, sometimes people make misleading statements because they don't know any better.


MR. BRADLEY: You know better.

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: -- some personal matter?

MR. BRADLEY: You know better. And you continue to do what you know is untrue. Why should we believe that you will tell the truth as president, if you don't tell the truth as a candidate?

(End video clip.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: These words are already fueling Republican attacks.

Question: Was Bill Bradley's run a net plus or a net minus for the Gore Campaign, and by how much, I ask you, Lawrence O'Donnell?

MR. O'DONNELL: It was a very big net plus because Bill Bradley inadvertently taught Al Gore how to campaign. Al Gore started off really terribly in this campaign for a sitting vice president with all that advantage. And if he had to learn starting now how to campaign, he would not have a chance --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bradley shook him up. Gore looked fat from eating doughnuts and fries, and he was ill dressed. And Bradley "leaned" him up, didn't he?

MR. KUDLOW: Well, I'll grant you the low-carb diet has been helpful.

But I don't really think Bradley did much to Gore at all. These guys were both running left, left and more left; government, government and more government. There are so many unchallenged policy assertions that Gore has been making and Bradley was incapable of answering because he refused to run.

MR. O'DONNELL: But Bradley made Gore look like a --


MR. KUDLOW: And the point I want to make is, when he runs against George Bush -- this is going to be a big surprise. Everyone believes Gore is "Terminator 3" in these debates. And, yeah, he is a tough debater. But you know what? George Bush whipped McCain in the last two debates. And when he challenges Gore on truth-telling and policy, I believe Mr. Gore is going to have a problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony? Tony, I have a question for you. Will Gore be able to erase the negatives owing to the attacks on his character and on his honesty, made by Bradley?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it's interesting; looking at Gore's negatives, they are around 45, 48 percent, which are very high. And I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can he erase them?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think they are crystallized. I think that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He is stigmatized?

MR. BLANKLEY: It's a reflection of seven years of the public judgment accentuated by the Bradley attack. I think he is not going to go below about 43 percent negatives, no matter what he does.

MS. CLIFT: Okay. People --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he doesn't score very high on the OOB Register, "opposite of Bill" --

MS. CLIFT: Ah, wait a second.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- right?

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.) I trust not.

MS. CLIFT: In the state of Florida, which is Bush country, Al Gore's negatives are lower than either George W. or Jeb Bush. The polls now show George Bush and Al Gore running neck and neck. Al Gore came out of these primaries successful, with a personality, and competitive in the election. He is not a loser.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's --

MS. CLIFT: And Bill Bradley elevated --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you're going right to the exit --

MS. CLIFT: -- issues --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- but no -- wait -- hold on -- (laughs) --

MS. CLIFT: -- elevated issues that are favorable to Democrats --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She is going right to the exit --

MS. CLIFT: -- health care, racial unity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I am sorry. She is going right to the exit question --

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- which is a fratricide scale. "Fratricide," you have heard of that, I am sure, Lawrence? You are looking at me strangely. (Laughter.) A fratricide scale of zero to 10, zero meaning "zero fratricide, not even a nose bleed"; 10 meaning "absolute fratricide, a cold body on the floor, Cain slaying Abel." How fratricidal was Bill Bradley's campaign towards Al Gore?

MR. KUDLOW: I think it's one, barely a nose bleed. And this is why all the Democrats flocked to the Republican primary votes. And this is another weakness for Al Gore.


MR. CLIFT: "Fratri-boost." It was a benefit. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Fratri-boost"? (Laughter.)


MR. BLANKLEY: I think it was about a .7, yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Point seven?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think it was one, and you see it on that billboard, that single quote of Bradley's saying, "How can we know you're going to tell the truth as president?" That you'll hear for the rest of the campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is more than welts and bruises have been left. There are some deep scars, particularly from the attacks on his character by Bradley. The answer is, on the fratricide scale, it's a three. (Laughter.)

Okay, Last week we asked, "Was John McCain's attack on conservative Christian leaders Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, A, effective; B, unimportant; or C, disastrous? (Laughter.) Get this: 14 percent, effective; 7 percent, unimportant; 79 percent, disastrous.

When we come back, it's the economy, stupid. Are we back to that?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Bush seals the deal.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): (From videotape.) Tonight we have good news from sea to shining sea. (Cheers, applause.)

We promised a national campaign, and tonight we have a national victory. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Texas Governor George W. Bush was victorious indeed, basking in the glow of a major Super Tuesday win -- seven out of 11 states, including mega-delegate states New York and California, racking up 466 delegates in one night, plus the 178 delegates Bush already earned. He enters the final stretch two-thirds of the way to the 1,034 delegates need to wrap up the nomination.

Another 340 delegates are his for the taking on Super Tuesday South, when voters go to the polls in six states this coming Tuesday: Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and G.W.'s Texas and Jeb Bush's Florida.

So next Tuesday Bush will have cemented his Republican nomination for president. But has he emerged unscathed? Hardly. Bruised and defunded after an acrimonious and protracted fight with John McCain, Bush's substantial lead over Al Gore, 19 points two months ago, has shrunk to a statistical dead heat in one poll, an eight-point lead for Bush in another.

Question: Based on what we have seen in the GOP primaries, how formidable will George W. Bush be against Al Gore, Tony Blankley?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think it remains to be seen. But he has done something which is a little surprising and is useful for him. He has activated the conservative base in a way that I haven't seen certainly since '94, when Newt ran, or before that, '84, when -- Reagan's reelection. I've not seen the base as energized and ready to come out and vote. And of course, that's what happened. We saw an awful lot of conservatives coming out and vote in this primary season. So he is in a pretty good position to start foraging for independent votes, because he's got his base where he needs it now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he turned out to be a scrapper, didn't he?

MR. BLANKLEY: And so I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you say he's tres formidable? (Laughter.)

MR. KUDLOW: You know, he's -- Bush, in many ways, is the most underrated politician right now, because he took McCain out of play, despite what everyone else in the media was talking about.

And the other point I want to make is, Tony is exactly right about energizing the base. And the message is a reformist message. He's going to move strong for tax reform. I guarantee he goes strong for Social Security reform, with private retirement accounts. He's going to go strong for education reform.

MR. CLIFT: Can I --

MR. KUDLOW: And he's going to strong for a new economy budget reform, bringing in Michael Dell to transform the U.S. bureaucracy from a vertical up-and-down to a horizontal. He's going to knock out all those middle layers of bloated bureaucracy. You wait and see.

MR. CLIFT: Right. Larry -- (laughs) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The new economy, right?

MR. KUDLOW: The new economy will come to Washington.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you making news here with Michael Dell?

MR. CLIFT: No. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now wait a minute.

MR. O'DONNELL: Michael Dell as secretary of Commerce?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you making news?

MR. KUDLOW: Michael Dell ought to be whatever Cabinet position he wants, because he's the guy who's transformed Ford Motor Company.


MR. CLIFT: Yeah --

MR. KUDLOW: He's the guy who's transformed the automobile exchange for the Internet. But I'm just saying Bush is going to have a reform message that is underrated.

MR. CLIFT: Yeah, this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence, thank you for committing news on this program.

Eleanor, quickly.

MR. CLIFT: I think that was Lawrence auditioning for a job in the Bush administration, actually. (Laughter.)

MR. KUDLOW: I can't afford it.

MR. CLIFT: Look, a little reality here. He comes out of the primaries tethered to the right, McCain voters are furious at him for sliming their candidate, he's campaigning on a tax cut that most people are not clamoring for, and he's a terrible debater, and people wonder whether he's ready for the presidency.

MR. KUDLOW: You're wrong about the debating forum.

MR. CLIFT: He hardly looks formidable. But I don't think Democrats should underestimate him.

MR. KUDLOW: Eleanor, he took McCain out on those debates.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How big a fissure -- quickly. How big a fissure did McCain male in the Republican ranks, do you think? Major? Minor? It will go away? It won't go away? What would you say?

MR. O'DONNELL: Within the Republican ranks, it's minor. But if you include what he did with independents, it's a major factor. And George W. has to find a way to get those independents back. I would expect, for example, him to be visiting at least one or two members of the Log Cabin Republicans within two months or so, moving as much as he possibly can away from the right, the base that he has cemented, as Tony said --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. John "McQuit." Two days after his crushing Super Tuesday loss to Governor George Bush, Senator John McCain suspended his White House bid. And though gracious to rival Bush, McCain stopped short of an official endorsement.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ, presidential candidate): (From videotape.) He deserves the best wishes of every American. He certainly has mine.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McCain will keep the 231 delegates from the seven states he won in the primaries. The lack of a Bush endorsement means McCain hopes to hold leverage over Bush, who is wooing those independent voters who had flocked to the Arizona insurgent. Senator McCain wants Governor Bush to follow through with the political reform that McCain vowed to fight for.

SEN. MCCAIN: (From videotape.) Millions of Americans have rallied to our banner, and their support not just honors me but has ignited the cause of reform, a cause far greater and more important than the ambitions of any single candidate. So I will take our crusade back to the United States Senate, and I will keep fighting to save the government, to give the government back to the people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What's the likelihood that McCain will run as an independent? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think it's unlikely, because he's going to decide that he can't win that way and I think the energy has gone out of his message. But look, his relevance is only just beginning. He's going to have a say in the convention and the Republican Party better kowtow to him or they're going to be in real trouble.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, I gather from her drift that she thinks that McCain can make mischief for George Bush. Is that what you gather, and do you believe it?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, well, I think she's hoping he'll make mischief --


MS. CLIFT: He's hoping, too!

MR. BLANKLEY: But what has in fact happened -- and by the way, the answer is he is not going to leave.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, the mathematics are not good enough.

MR. BLANKLEY: And Senator Rudman in his circle is a strong voice for staying in the Republican Party, so I don't think he's going to leave the party. What he has done, interestingly, is he has collared a lot of independent votes, which, if it's played right, can be brought into the Republican ranks. Now, it's got to be played right both by Bush, who had better be getting his act in gear over the next few days to start coordinating things a bit better, but I think the potential is there for them to bring those votes into the Republican Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We all agree that he's not going to make an independent run, am I correct?

MR. O'DONNELL: I would assert that it's the silliest speculation of the entire campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What, that he'll make an independent run?

MR. O'DONNELL: No -- no Senate chairman would ever leave his party under any circumstances.

MR. : Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, can we all agree on this, that John McCain definitely brought down his own candidacy?

MR. KUDLOW: Oh, absolutely. It was a kamikaze mission. The last few weeks he was completely off message. His anger was running that campaign, not his message. But the reality is, apart from campaign finance reform, which I still don't believe is such a great issue, the differences between Bush and McCain were never all that great, and I don't think it'll be that difficult for Bush to not only embrace McCain, but to bring the independents into the calculation.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, Bush spent $65 million to smother John McCain's candidacy. Let's not forget that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's that?

MS. CLIFT: Bush spent $65 million to smother John McCain's candidacy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, that's not true, Eleanor, because I told you before and I will tell you again, and this time I hope it penetrates your rind -- r-i-n-d -- (laughter) -- which is around the cerebellum.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Under my hair.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The $65 million was spent largely and predominantly in the outer reaches of the primaries, because he didn't know how far it was going to go, well beyond where McCain ran against him.

MR. KUDLOW: I think it's amazing that we were told --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit. On a fratricide scale of zero to 10 -- we're back to fratricide -- zero meaning zero fratricide, not even a fat lip; 10 meaning absolute fratricide, a cold body on the floor, Romulus slaying Remus -- how fratricidal was John McCain's campaign towards G.W. Bush, quickly? Lawrence.

MR. KUDLOW: I'd say it's about a two and a half, but it'll heal.

MS. CLIFT: Seven point nine.

MR. BLANKLEY: About a three and a half or four.

MR. O'DONNELL: I think it's a four and a half, exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's a two at best, or at most.

Issue three: Over OPEC's barrel.

ALAN GREENSPAN (chairman, Federal Reserve Board): (From videotape.) In the United States, even as we have experienced a very dramatic reduction in the importance of oil in our economic production, it's still a large enough and pervasive enough force within our economy that should we get one of these very severe spikes, it would have a major negative impact on economic growth.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. economy is see-sawing. Since its record-setting highs of January, the Dow average has retreated 15 percent, to fall below 10,000. Home heating oil prices are up a budget-busting 66 percent. Gasoline prices average $1.50 a gallon. And the Clinton administration warns, by summer, motorists will pay $2 a gallon for gas.

The culprit is OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which last year cut world oil output by 7 percent, sending oil prices skyrocketing 150 percent.

OPEC ministers meet in Vienna on March 27th. Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer, is said to favor pumping more oil, but only 750,000 to 1.5 million barrels a day, not enough to make up the global shortfall of 2.5 million barrels a day. What will OPEC do on March 27?

ABDULAH BIN HAMAD AL-ATTIYAH (crown prince of Qatar, OPEC president): (From videotape.) For sure, you know, this surprise is surprising all of us. And I believe this is a very high price. I believe strongly that OPEC, it will work in the utmost to stabilize the oil market.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even if OPEC increases its production quotas next month, there is no immediate relief in sight -- why? -- because there is a lag time between increased oil volume and when refined petroleum products reach consumers.

Question: So are we back to a one-issue election, "It's the economy, Stupid," I ask you, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't think we are. And I hope we're not because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we headed that way?


But I'll tell you what this does do. It opens a real line of attack on Gore. Gore, in 1993, was in favor of a 50-cents-a-gallon increase in the gas tax because he said we drive too much. If you raised the price enough, then people won't drive as much. Now, with the oil price going up, it gives Bush the chance to focus on the extremism of the Gore environmental policy. And I think it's a very useful line --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Independently of what he just said, is it not true that this high price, and climbing apparently, of gasoline at the pump and oil is a -- major negative for Al Gore in this election?

MR. O'DONNELL: Not yet, because we have had a very warm winter so that the home-heating oil price hasn't really hurt the way it might otherwise. And we don't really yet know what's going to happen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, you're from California?

MR. O'DONNELL: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you know how those Californians like to drive their cars.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, we do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think you'll like --

MR. O'DONNELL: But we never notice the price of gas, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you'll like two bucks a gallon?

MR. O'DONNELL: Come on. Yeah, well, it's not up there yet. It's -- you know, it's about a buck eighty a gallon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think -- but if it continues, is it bound to hurt the Democratic candidate?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes; if it does, yes. If it holds into the summer and gets up over two (dollars) for a month, yeah, that will --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Now, this is Bill Richardson, whom I know you know very well. And this is what he has to say about the lack of prescience, any kind of foresight, on the part of the administration, quote: "It's obvious that the federal government was not prepared. We were caught napping. We got complacent."

Is that another reason why this is all going --

MR. KUDLOW: Okay --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to rub off negatively on Gore?

MR. KUDLOW: That by itself is a praiseworthy honest statement to Mr. Richardson. (Laughter.) I just want to make that side point.

MR. BLANKLEY: He took himself out as vice president --

(Cross talk.)


MR. KUDLOW: The Clinton administration was sleeping at the switch. But you know, sometimes I wonder: OPEC at home is Alan Greenspan's interest-rate hikes; OPEC overseas is the threat that oil prices might not come down. Both of them right now are risking the stock market. And with 80 million investors, and they are going to vote, that's the Achilles heel of the prosperity issue.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Nobody is trading in their SUVs yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Lawrence?

MR. KUDLOW: New York Governor George Pataki has moved to the short list of vice presidential candidates for George Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And I think you'd agree he'd make a good one?

MR. KUDLOW: I think he would make a good one.


MS. CLIFT: The Gore Campaign feels so good about California that they are going to wage a real campaign in Florida, the heart of Bush country.

MR. BLANKLEY: George Bush will be endorsing a compromise campaign finance reform bill-- probably Senator Hagel's -- and it will work wonders with the independent vote.

MR. O'DONNELL: If Trent Lott allows it to come to a vote in the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Finance Committee will almost unanimously approve "permanent normal trade relations" with China.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From my conversation before and during the show with the president of OPEC, I will say that OPEC will raise production by at least 2 million barrels a day, bringing the price per barrel down from $33 to $24, in late August.

Happy St. Patrick's Day. "Erin go bragh." Bye-bye.