MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here at the Staples Convention Center in Los Angeles, the drama of the Democratic convention opened this week on a bittersweet note: President Clinton's final farewell address to the party faithful, who first gave him the nomination eight years ago.

This year the Democrats did not come to Los Angeles on the same triumphal note as 1996. Then, a popular president stood for reelection against the backdrop of a roaring economy. The Democrats were in high spirits. Four years later, the economy is as strong as ever, but Clinton fatigue has taken its toll. For months, Gore has been on the defensive, according to the surveys.

The Democratic challenge in Los Angeles was to rekindle the magic, pass the torch off to Gore and Lieberman, and convert Campaign 2000 into an incumbency race, one that that will keep the Republicans at bay for four more years. Did they do it?

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Who I truly am.

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE (Democratic nominee for president): (From videotape, assembled from different segments of the speech.) We're entering a new time. We're electing a new president. And I stand here tonight as my own man, and I want you to know me for who I truly am. (Cheers, applause.)

This election is not an award for past performance.

I'm not asking you to vote for me on the basis of the economy we have.

There's something else at stake in this election that's even more important than economic progress. Simply put, it's our values. It's our responsibility to our loved ones, to our families.

And that's the difference in this election. They're for the powerful. We're for the people. (Cheers, applause.)

I know one thing about the job of the president. It is the only job in the Constitution that is charged with the responsibility of fighting for all the people, not just the people of one state or one district; not just the wealthy or the powerful, all the people.

The price of freedom is sometimes high, but I've never believed that America should turn inwards. We must welcome and promote truly free trade.

I know my own imperfections. For example, I know that sometimes people say I'm too serious, that I talk too much substance and policy. Maybe I've done that tonight. But the presidency -- (chants of "No!" and cheers from the audience) -- but the presidency is more than a popularity contest -- (cheers) -- it's a day-by-day fight for people. (Cheers, applause.) Sometimes you have to choose to do what's difficult or unpopular. Sometimes you have be willing to spend your popularity in order to pick the hard right over the easy wrong. (Cheers, applause.) If you entrust me with the presidency, I know I won't always be the most exciting politician, but I pledge to you tonight, I will work for you every day and I will never let you down. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did Gore achieve what he needed to achieve with this speech? Michael Barone?

MR. BARONE: Well, I'm not sure, John. I think that he -- this was a good speech in the service of what I think is a losing strategy. I mean, it was written in the kind of clean, not ungraceful, prose of Al Gore that we saw in his book, "Earth in the Balance." He spoke rapidly, more rapidly than most people did, but they made him sound more friendly and less condescending than he usually does.

I think that the "people versus the powerful" theme, though, which, as he says, he got from his father, that resonated in 1938 when his father was elected to Congress, but the last time it elected a Democratic presidential candidate was 1948, the year Al Gore was born.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quick answer. Did he look presidential?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: Well, for Al Gore, this is as good as it gets. And I think it was quite good. First of all, he had energy and passion without shouting. And he was serious and thoughtful without droning. And so, stylistically, he did well.

I actually agree with Michael in terms of the emphasis on the fighting the powerful. I think he didn't have the neat division of labor that the Republicans had, where they gave the platform and the vice presidential pick to the right wing, and Bush is free to be the spokesman for the middle and to reach out.

Gore has a complicated task. He's got to rally the faithful and reach out. I'm not sure the speech did it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, what do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, this is very interesting. In comparing this or putting it in the context with Bush's speech, something interesting has happened. Both parties, through their presidential nominee's speeches, have shifted leftward. Bush has shifted from conservative to center, and in this speech, Gore has shifted from center to slipping some clicks to the left. He's had to do that, as you say, to solidify the base, which all week at this convention he was having trouble doing, so he had to do it in a speech. So this is a speech he had to deliver, not, perhaps, the speech strategically that he'd want to deliver.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see how many points the Democrats dropped, though, after Jesse Jackson spoke?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. That's part of the problem. The country isn't where the Democratic Party activists are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he looked presidential, Lawrence?

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, he definitely looked presidential, and he definitely did what he had to do, and especially according to the NBC News focus group, which rated this speech slightly higher than the other focus group in Philadelphia rated George W. Bush's speech. So he went in there and did exactly what he had to do.

He did not -- in distancing himself from the president, he, in fact, failed to distance himself from himself, that part of himself that is accused of not telling the truth, about things like inventing the Internet and so forth.


MR. O'DONNELL: This speech had more lies in it than you would want to hear at this point. For example, he is going to put Social Security and Medicare in a, quote, "lockbox," where, quote, "the politicians can't touch it." That's a lie. It's impossible to do that. It's a sentence that has absolutely no legislative meaning.

MS. CLIFT: Lawrence, Lawrence, wait a second. That's really being a purist. First of all --

MR. O'DONNELL: It's not a purist thing.

MS. CLIFT: -- that's conversation that's --

MR. O'DONNELL: He's lying. He will do nothing of the sort.

MS. CLIFT: No, that's not a lie.

MR. O'DONNELL: There is no legislative possibility to do that.

MS. CLIFT: The Republicans --

MR. O'DONNELL: You can't legislate --


MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.

Let Eleanor -- Lawrence, let Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: The Republicans and the Democrats have adopted the lingo of "the lockbox." And --

MR. O'DONNELL: Again, that's a lie.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me intrude here. Excuse me.

MS. CLIFT: You know, to transform that into a lie --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me.

MS. CLIFT: -- is really being persnickety and false on your part.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We want to keep it on the big picture. What he had to do was --

MS. CLIFT: It's an accounting gimmick.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Number one, he had to lay claim to the economic prosperity that exists. And secondly, he had to show that he was OOB, "opposite of Bill," in order to gain moral credibility. Now, oddly enough, at the outset of the speech -- and I think this was the biggest fib in the speech -- he said, "This election is not an award for past performance. I'm not asking you to vote for me on the basis of the economy we have." Well, everyone knows that this is an incumbency election and what he effectively has to do is give us a Clinton third term without the sex and without any criminal behavior.

MR. BARONE: I disagree with you, John. I think that he's made a calculation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His policies are exactly the same as Clinton's.

MR. BARONE: He's made a calculation that if the economy is not going to give him a lead in the polls over the last 18 months, it won't over the next 11 weeks, if they just try and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you account for that?

MR. BARONE: Because I think that -- you know, the Great Depression elections became all about the macroeconomic cycle. We're a long way past the Great Depression, John. Most people under your age don't remember it. I mean, the fact is that -- you know, the fact is that he's got the credit for it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll tell you why --

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, look --

MR. BARONE: Elections recently in Britain in 1997 and Mexico in 2000, the parties in power at a time of good economic conditions both were thrown out. Other factors ruled.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'll give you a simpler reason of why he can't get traction on seizing the prosperity as his own, and that is because we've had virtually 17 years of it, and it has survived president after president after president --

MR. BARONE: You read my column!

MS. CLIFT: It's terrifically --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And now it's dawning on the people --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's dawning on the people that, "Hey, the president doesn't have that much to do with it."

MR. BARONE: Right.

MS. CLIFT: It's terrifically elementary; elections are about the future. You can't say, "Elect me because the country's been going good." You have to say what else you're going to do, and I thought he did that very effectively.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, but -- but, Eleanor -- Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: He's saying we now close a very prosperous chapter and now we move ahead. And he did a very good job --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, I want to ask --

MS. CLIFT: Wait a sec! Let me finish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: He did a very good job --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me start! (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: He did a very good job of turning the page and saying, "What you see is what you get" and laying out an agenda, which Bush has not done. Bush is coasting on his rhetoric, and the only hope that Al Gore has is if this election turns to issues

MR. BARONE: No, Bush has laid out an agenda. Bush laid out a four-point agenda. Al Gore laid out a 20-point agenda. The problem with a 20-point agenda is nobody remembers any of the points.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get to the second point. The second point is --

MR. O'DONNELL: I think he laid out no agenda at all. There was an illusion of specificity.

MR. BARONE: A 20-point agenda is no agenda at all.

MR. O'DONNELL: The only thing he said is that he will raise the minimum wage, and everything else was language like, "I will crack down on tobacco companies." Someone tell me what "crack down" means.

MS. CLIFT: I'm sorry -- I'm sorry. Extending health care to children by 2004 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let me get out. Aside from the exaggeration of the rhetoric, and aside from the fact --

MS. CLIFT: -- and universal health and universal preschool are concrete proposals. That is not an illusion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, it was a laundry list, and these laundry list speeches --

MS. CLIFT: They work. They work just like Clinton's State of the Union did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- including those on both sides of the aisle, as you know, they're like Chinese food, they're with you for three hours, and then you can't remember a thing of what he said.

MS. CLIFT: No, the rhetoric here is like Chinese food! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is no political discourse today, it seems, that develops a theme or two themes or three themes.

MR. BARONE: The theme was the people versus the powerful. The problem is that most people in America are not sitting around thinking they are helpless victims of giant conglomerations of wealth, they're busy accumulating wealth of their own. Half the voters are stockholders now, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. There's another big question here, and that is did he disassociate himself enough from Bill Clinton? Note that he emphasized his family --

MR. BLANKLEY: Who? (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and he emphasized the values. And they were all over the place, right?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that seems to suggest that his values are different than Clinton's, correct?

However, 18 months ago, when the Democrats in the Congress voted -- in the Senate, that is, voted against impeachment, they simply postponed the day of reckoning. The day of reckoning is here, and Al Gore is being crushed by the guilt of Bill Clinton. Is that true? And what has he done to get out of it?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think he has overreacted psychologically to the Clinton moral problem and has tried to distance himself. I think the big kiss with Tipper at the beginning was probably to try to show that he was a family man, unlike the man he's trying to replace.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean that extraordinary demonstrativeness that he exhibited toward his wife?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it was overdone, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Just little bit, yeah, I think probably so.

MR. BARONE: John, I think the picture of Al Gore as a human being, that was painted by members of his family and Tommy Lee Jones, was attractive, and I think it's in line with what I know to be reality.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that he has got this albatross around his neck and he's not going to be able to get it off?

MR. BARONE: I think that that is going to remain something of a problem for him. But the fact is he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this a big problem, or is the big problem that he is simply dull and stiff?

MR. BARONE: What he tried -- he did do, he made a choice. He's been running two themes -- progress and prosperity on the one hand, people versus the powerful. He's chosen people versus the powerful. He's getting a less muddled message --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. We've got to get out.

Combining style with content, grade Gore's speech A to F.

Michael Barone? One letter, please.



MS. CLIFT: B-plus.

MR. BLANKLEY: It would be an A-minus except that strategically the content puts him in a bad position to win the election. That gets him a C-plus.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You rate him that hard?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I thought personally, for him, it was as good as he can do, just about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: It was great on style, but the substance, the untruths about the record and about the process --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what do you give it?

MR. O'DONNELL: It's a C.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: C. You're correct, it is a C. The delivery was robotized in my view. It was conversational, but it was robotized, it was too fast, it was not oratorical. He didn't give the audience a chance.

And secondly, the content was a laundry list. They've got to get away from that and go with one, two, or three themes.

When we come back: Vice President Joe Lieberman?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: "Lieber-mensch."

SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT, Democratic vice presidential nominee): (From videotape, assembled from different segments of the speech.) Is America a great country or what? (Cheers, applause.)

Two weeks ago, our Republicans friends actually tried to walk and talk a lot like us. (Laughter.) Did you notice? (Applause.) Yeah. But let's be honest about this. We may be near Hollywood tonight -- (cheers, laughter) -- but not since Tom Hanks won an Oscar has there been that much acting in Philadelphia. (Cheers, applause.)

Their tax plan operates under that old theory that the best way to feed the birds is to give more oats to the horse. (Laughter.)

And I've also tried to see America through the eyes of people I've been privileged to know.

And I've also seen America through the eyes of my wife and her parents. By now, most of you probably know Hadassah's story. Her family was literally saved by the "Greatest Generation" of American GIs, who liberated the concentration camps. (Cheers, applause.) And then her parents escaped communism and were welcomed as immigrants to America and given a new life here.

I believe that the time has come to tear down the remaining walls of discrimination in this nation, walls of discrimination based on race and gender and sexual orientation. (Cheers, applause.)

And that also is why I continue to say, when it comes to affirmative action, "Mend it, but please, don't end it."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Would Lieberman have been picked if Clinton had not misbehaved, Tony Blankley?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think obviously not. This was an attempt to give himself a moral bath. That was the only reason he was chosen. It was still a mistake to have chosen him, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why a mistake?

MR. BLANKLEY: Because I think he is a detriment to the ticket.


MR. BLANKLEY: I think he'd have trouble campaigning in the South, in parts of Michigan, New Jersey, where there are high Muslim populations --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the black community?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, that -- and that too's going to be a problem. Illinois may fall because of that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Arab Americans, 7-1/2 million Arab Americans?

MR. BLANKLEY: Those are what I'm talking about -- the concentrations in Michigan, New Jersey. This is a mistake for a nomination --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A lot of unknowns.

But on the basis of that speech, don't you feel that he's a heck of a lot stronger than you ever imagined?

MR. BLANKLEY: Not at lot. I thought his opening mother-in-law joke was wonderful, and it worked. And it's the first time we've heard a mother-in-law joke in many years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he --

MS. CLIFT: But Joe Lieberman has an old shoe quality about him. He's going to sell just fine out there on the campaign trail.


MS. CLIFT: And secondly, the fact that the Democrats brought real diversity to their ticket, instead of just talking about it, gave the opportunity --

MR. BLANKLEY: But look, if --

MS. CLIFT: Wait a second.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish. Let her finish. Let her finish.


MS. CLIFT: Wait a second. Wait a sec --

MR. BLANKLEY: You did this last time. You did this last time. I'm going to go -- (inaudible). I'm not going to -- (inaudible). I can go just as long --

MS. CLIFT: I'm sorry. It's my turn to finish, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I'm going to finish --

MS. CLIFT: If we're going to have a staring down contest --

MR. BLANKLEY: You did this --

MS. CLIFT: -- I'm not backing down. I am not backing down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish. Let her finish. Quickly. Quickly. Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: He did exactly what was intended, and that is to give the country a second look at this ticket and get the media to give Al Gore a little bit of respect that doesn't just pander -- the way Mr. Blankley does -- to the GOP.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, look, look, let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Let Tony talk.

MR. BLANKLEY: Fifteen seconds. Fifteen seconds.

The problem of his nomination -- and we saw it in the first three days of this convention -- with the base of this party -- the unions, the educational unions, and the people in favor of affirmative action in an uproar, and that's why Gore had problems getting control of this convention. And it's all because of Lieberman was too far to the right for this party, and he had to start dissembling his way back to the left.

MS. CLIFT: Gore is too far to the right then, Tony, by your definition. (Chuckles.)

MR. BARONE: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: I want to know whether the inconsistencies between Lieberman and Gore will catch up with Lieberman and Gore both -- for example, privatizing Social Security, which Lieberman favored and now has retrenched from. What else? Vouchers, which he also favored, and Gore does not --

MR. BARONE: Well, John --

MR. BLANKLEY: Free trade --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or are these -- are these negligible?

MR. BARONE: John, what these differences, present or past, do is it makes it much harder for Al Gore to come out with the tone. He likes the vitriolic criticism, the "anybody who suggests that we do this to Social Security is a swine and a hog," and so forth. You cannot say that when Joe Lieberman has given statements -- strong statements in favor of the same principles before.

And I think that we noticed that Gore did not engage last night, in Thursday night, on the kind of vitriolic criticisms he usually does. He has finally taken note of the fact that voters of year are in a consensus-minded rather than a confrontation-minded sort of mood, and he is hampered from doing that, calling things "risky schemes."

MR. O'DONNELL: Voters are accustomed to these kinds of differences.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. I want all intervention to be shorter, and please don't fight the floor -- that is me. And I want you --

MR. O'DONNELL: Voters are accustomed to those kinds of distinctions in the ticket, and Lieberman's speech was the best speech of the Democratic Convention. Stylistically it was great. He -- and, unlike others who got up there, he's the only one who told no lies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to -- I want to make --

MS. CLIFT: And I might point out that the Democrats out-niced the Republicans. There really weren't any digs from the podium, from the leaders, at the other party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Told no lies? Told no -- wait a minute.

MS. CLIFT: Not like Philadelphia. (Laughs.)

MR. BARONE: No, they were pretty deft. They were pretty deft.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Told no lies? What about on affirmative action where he says, "Mend it, don't end it."

MR. O'DONNELL: That's his position. That's been his position.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was not his earlier position.

MR. O'DONNELL: It is -- has been his position.

MR. BARONE: You can make a logical consistency. I attended the Congressional --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A logical consistency?

MR. BARONE: I was -- I was at the Black Caucus meeting where Lieberman spoke, which was really provoked by these comments by Maxine Waters, who always likes to be on television and get a lot of notice. The fact is that he has skinned back. His statements that he made when he was talking about California Proposition 209 in 1996 were that racial quota -- that affirmative action has sometimes become racial quotas. He's taken the Clinton position that he's against quotas, but affirmative action never is racial quotas. They're not intellectually sustainable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I don't know -- Fortunately for him, these differences with Gore don't amount to anything.

MS. CLIFT: Right. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you recall what George Bush said about Ronald Reagan's economics?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes. Voodoo economics.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Voodoo economics. It's nitpickers, well, like you and the other members of the press corps who exaggerate these differentials. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Exactly. You got it!

MR. BARONE: I said it was -- (off mike).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit. On a running-mate political asset scale, zero to 10 -- zero meaning zero political asset, even a liability: Ferraro in '84, Stockdale in '92 --

MR. BARONE: I don't agree with that on Stockdale at all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- 10 meaning a metaphysical asset, no drawbacks whatsoever: Bush with Reagan in '80, Gore with Clinton in '92 -- assign an asset rating to Lieberman.

MR. BARONE: Seven.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Seven. Positive asset.

MS. CLIFT: I'll give him an eight.


MR. BLANKLEY: He's a wonderful man. I give him minus three.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Minus three!

MR. BARONE: Oh, you're wrong, Tony.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Too many unknowns.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think he's a -- he is not an advantage to the ticket.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: I don't see -- given the short list, I don't see any disadvantages right now at all to him. I'm going to give him a nine, but I'm going to watch it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think there are so many unknowns at this time. If he gets a lot of display, he will sell himself, because he's of such manifest charm, integrity, and faith.

MR. BARONE: Authenticity --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Authenticity?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But I think that I can't go beyond a five because of the unknowns.

Issue three: Clinton in his tunnel, forward and backward.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) At this moment of unprecedented good fortune, our people face a fundamental choice. Are we going to keep this progress and prosperity going? (Cheers, shouts of "Yes!") Yes, we are!

Let's remember the standard our Republican friends used to have for whether a party should continue in office. My fellow Americans, are we better off today than we were eight years ago? (Cheers, applause.) You bet we are!

To those who say the progress of these last eight years was just some sort of accident, that we just kind of coasted along, let me be clear. America's success was not a matter of chance. It was a matter of choice. (Cheers, applause.)

I was born in a summer storm to a young widow in a small Southern town. America gave me the chance to live my dreams, and I have tried as hard as I knew how to give you a better chance to live yours.

My fellow Americans, the future of our country is now in your hands. You must think hard, feel deeply, and choose wisely.

And remember, whatever you think about me, keep putting people first. (Cheers, applause.) Keep building those bridges! (Cheers, applause.) And don't stop thinking about tomorrow! (Cheers, applause.) I love you! (Cheers, applause.)

(Playing song from Clinton-Gore campaign, with the words, "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow," and "Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone.")

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You see, Gore didn't do any of that. He didn't have the timing. He didn't have the phrasing. He didn't have the audience contact. He just raced through it.

Exit: It's widely considered this speech was not the most direct send-off for Al Gore. In fact, he said Al Gore is terrific, but he never developed that theme at all. What was Clinton really trying to do? I ask you.

MR. BARONE: Well, a prominent Democratic pollster I saw immediately after that speech said it was all "I, I, I." I thought it was all "Me, me, me."

MS. CLIFT: Bill Clinton can't dictate who the people are going to vote for, but he called Al Gore a profoundly good man. I thought he gave him a nice send-off. But look. This was a political moment. This was like watching Babe Ruth hit a home run or Billie Holliday sing a song. You're not going to see that again in your lifetime from anyone.

MR. BLANKLEY: It was a masterpiece of self-adoration.

MR. O'DONNELL: It was a defense of the Clinton governing record, which was very well put, including distortions about they did welfare reform -- which they didn't, the Republicans did -- and created the surplus, which was a Republican creation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it was a minor strategic plus for Gore, but barely so.

We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction. The poll-favored candidate, and the margin, Labor Day, two weeks.

MR. BARONE: Bush, plus-six.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush, plus-six.

MS. CLIFT: Bush, plus-three, within margin of error.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush, plus-three.

MR. BLANKLEY: Bush, four, within margin of error.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush, four.

MR. O'DONNELL: I agree with Eleanor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You agree with Eleanor.

I will say Bush, five.





MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Camelot came up a lot.

In Los Angeles this week, the Democrats relived the dream of Camelot. It was in L.A. at the 1960 Democratic convention that Jack Kennedy was nominated. And it was eight years later, in 1968, in Los Angeles, that Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA): (From videotape.) (In progress) -- that I have supported candidates for president as early and as enthusiastically as I have supported Al Gore. Two of them were my brothers. (Cheers, applause.)

CAROLINE KENNEDY SCHLOSSBERG: (From videotape.) As I look out across this hall and across this country, I know that my father's spirit lives on. And I thank all of you. (Cheers, applause.)

ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR. (?): (From videotape.) The last time that I was in Los Angeles for a convention was in 1960, when I was six years old. At that convention, our party launched the New Frontier with a Democratic president.

KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND: (From videotape.) We made history by summoning the best of our country, challenging Americans to serve, and insisting that everyone have a place in that new frontier.

REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D-RI): (From videotape.) We need to carry on the fight of John Kennedy. We need to carry on the fight of Robert Kennedy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Four years ago, the late John F. Kennedy, Jr., the obvious Camelot heir, spoke at the Democratic convention. Did anyone match his match his magic in L.A. this week, do you think? Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: Among the Kennedys?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Among the Kennedys.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has a bright political future, but I wouldn't put her on a par with where her uncle was 50 years ago. Look, the Kennedy night was about trying to revive the Camelot magic and trying to excite the Democratic base. It was curiously flat, because I think a lot of people in that hall are too young to really have been around to fully experience the feelings of Camelot the first time, and so they can't get excited the second time around.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, do you think that anyone in this Kennedy generation could succeed the Camelot mantle?

MR. BLANKLEY: Probably not. If there was one, it would probably be Caroline, but she seems to show no interest in it at all, which is part of what makes her so charming. I thought that she did -- I was in the hall. I thought she did touch a sentimental -- sentiment in the meeting, and I think there was emotion and feeling at that point. The other ones didn't.

MR. BARONE: The hall went kind of quiet when Caroline Kennedy --

MR. : Yes. Absolutely.

MR. : -- spoke, which is always a sign that people are somehow moved. It was moving. Obviously, she's not a pro at public speaking and doesn't care for it, and I think that it made it even more poignant.

But I think that Eleanor is right in the sense that 40 years is a long time. They didn't -- there wasn't much celebrating of Franklin Roosevelt at the 1972 convention 40 years after he was nominated. That was all about George McGovern and Hubert Humphrey and people like that. And the names kind of get lost. I think the Kennedys now are important celebrities. Some of them are minor politicians. One of them, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, may become a major one. But the country's not eager for them as --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's get to the final question. Is Camelot, A -- this is multiple choice -- A, in the morgue; B, in a cryonic bath; C, in a convalescent home; D, on the way to full recovery; or is Camelot hale and hearty, running in the Boston Marathon?

Exit question. I ask you.

MR. O'DONNELL: The one sign that you could not get at the end of the convention was the "Caroline" sign, which everyone took home. All the other signs were thrown all over the floor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So where is Camelot?

MR. O'DONNELL: Caroline is the only one who has the magic at this point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Camelot is in the morgue, but Townsend could become a major figure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Camelot in a cryonic bath?

MS. CLIFT: It's a nice memory, but I agree, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend may be the next Kennedy to reach the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BARONE: I think it's in People Magazine, instead of one of your tasteless alternatives.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Pause.) I'll let that end the program. We must. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.