Smoke-filled room
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Political Experts Answer Your Questions ... In The Smoke-Filled Room - CBS

James Carville

In the premiere edition of the Smoke-Filled Room, CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante took readers' questions and bounced them off Democratic political consultant James Carville

Plante : Several viewers asked if, as a Democratic strategist, you are concerned that a McCain-Gore race would drain Democrats away from Gore to McCain?

Carville : Sure. But, I think Ifm concerned about everythingcBut I also feel like it probably would depress Republican turnout, toocit could be a bad or good thing right now.

Plante : Would it be better for Gore to run against Bush or McCain?

Carville : You know, be careful what you wish for in politics, you might get it. You know, Ifve studiously avoided that question becausecI honestly donft know. It seems that most of the politicians donft like the idea of running against McCain. Most of the consultants I talked to like it a little better, but I donft know if therefs a real consensus there.

Plante : Questioner Beth Brotherton has a theory about George W.fs popularity and wants to know if you think that shefs out in left field. She asks gare some Americans willing to embrace G.W. because they feel guilty about ousting his father?"

Carville : Some, but not many. I think most of the people that are for him were for his father. I mean, most of them were Republicans. But, uh, I donft think hefs gonna get many election votes to speak of because people felt guilty about what happened in f92 c These people were gonna vote Republican anyway, from the get go.

Plante : So it wouldn't be Republicans trying to right what they see as a wrong?

Carville : The folks that would say that would be folks that would vote Republican anyway and voted Republican in f92. I mean if hefs (Bush) gonna win the general election hefs gonna have to get everybody who voted Republican in f92 c

Plante : All right, Janiece Adams, self-described loyal Democrat, asks if Al Gore - her candidate, by the way - is being overadvised, which gets him into trouble. hShouldnft they just let Al Gore be Al Goreh she wonders?

Carville : Well, I would say Ifve never seen a presidential candidate or campaign that ever suffered for a lack of advice.

Plante : So, IS Gore being overadvised?

Carville : I donft think so. It doesnft matter how much advice you give someone. It matters how much the candidate takes. And I think hefs been a lot improved and lot more disciplined than he was earlier.

Plante : So, letting Al Gore be Al Gore, what do you think?

Carville : I think hefs done, sort of much better. I think he runs on adrenalin. I think they have him out there doing things, that hefs enjoying himself, that hefs doing a lot better job. But again, I go back to my point, that all the campaigns, particularly presidential campaigns, are all overadvised. But the question is how much advice the candidate takes and if the advice he listens to is the real thing.

Plante : The next questioner, Nick Perrone, heard you say in a Cherry Hill, New Jersey speech that the most "positive or optimistic candidate" would win the election. So after hearing from the four principal candidates, who fulfills that criterion?

Carville : Well, what I said in the Cherry Hill speech was thatfs something that developed over the period of the campaign. Itfs too early to tell, but I think Bush started out and was pretty much knocked off of his game. Right now I guess itfs McCain and Gore, a little bit that are doing it, but you canft tell this early in the campaign. Itfs something that becomes instinctive over the period of the campaign.

Plante : A viewer named Nathan wants you to address what he describes as the grightward drift of the Democratic Party.h He gives as an example - a Pentagon budget being increased at the expense of programs to assist the unfortunate - and adds that the largest public works project in the nation is massive incarceration and prison construction.

Carville : I think that, therefs no doubt that the Partyfs moved somewhat to the center, but I think thatfs one side of the story. The other side of the coin is that the Republican Party has moved massively away from the right since 1994 and the truth of the matter is I think the American people by and large are moving away. I thinkc (Clinton) has done a really good job of repositioning the Party.

If you look at whatfs happening in the McCain candidacy, (McCain is) actually questioning the premise of the Republican Party. The President doesnft question the premise of the Democratic Party, but he did question some of its policies and moved it towards more balanced budgets and the death penalty and that type of thing. Therefs no doubt about that.

Plante : How could Bradley make a comeback at this point?

Carville : Itfs kind of late now. I think he should have made his campaign more about people and less about himself. And, would probably have done better to exhibit greater vigor and passion in talking about the things he wanted to do. I think the election got away from him, because it got very personal to him.

And he also suffered a little bit of bad luck in McCain. Given the nature of the country and the press, you now know, we now know itfs pretty hard to sustain more than one insurgent. Itfs news, budgets and everything. A reporter from a major newspaper, just before I spoke to you, told me that therefs just three press people with Bradley - thatfs because the story is McCain.

I mean, McCainfs earned it by, you know, winning by 19 (in New Hampshire). I mean therefs not, I donft think itfs a conspiracy or anything. Itfs just the way it is.

Plante : But it is the way it works?

Carville : Yes, it is the way it works.

Plante : Who is the ideal choice for VP for Gore?

Carville : Bob Rubin (former Treasury Secretary) is my candidate for Gore. I think if you want to remind people about the recovery you do it in the least subtle, most obvious way you can.

Plante : How about McCain or Bush?

Carville : You know, Bush has got to go with a senator, I think. He needs to go with somebody, with a little (experience in) Washington. McCain: the question here is does he pick another insurgent? cMy guess is hefs being pulled a little bit. McCainc may be the first nominee that wefve seen since Goldwater (in 1964) that doesnft run toward the center. He have to run to the right, which would really be odd. He may need to reassure these republicans to get gthem back on the reservationhhere.

Plante : Who would be good for that?

Carville : Maybe somebody like Dan Coates (former Indiana senator)cI donft think youfd go with a Fred Thompson (Tennessee senator). Or he might go with a big Bush supporter. He may go with a John Engler (Michigan governor) to repair any divisions he may have in the party.

Plante : Ed Brown and Melissa Bowman want to know if you are going to play any role in HillaryEsenate race?

Carville : I am going to support her, but not in any professional role.

Plante : There were questions from Tim Main, Scott Hines and others who wanted to know if you and Mary were going to write another book about the Clinton years and also about how you put up with each other's politics.

Carville : No plans, and shefscwith me right now. We have no plans to write another book. Sometimes shefll say itfs hard to put up with my politics and Ifll say itfs hard to put up with her politics. But wefre doing all right. We fve been together nine years, seven years married.

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