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How serious is the ISIS threat and what should US strategy be? Plus, handicapping November's hottest races
Written by Chris Wallace / Published August 31, 2014 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Jessica Lewis, Rep. Mike Rogers, Bill McInturff , Mark Mellman
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," August 31, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm Chris Wallace.
President Obama admits he has no plan yet to go after is in Syria. But world leaders vowed to confront the jihadists.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to put the cart before the horse. We don't have a strategy yet.
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We need to tackle that ideology of Islamic extremist head on, at root, before it takes the form of violence and terror.
WALLACE: How serious is the threat? We'll ask former army intelligence officer and ISIS expert, Jessica Lewis.
What should our strategy be? We'll talk with the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers.
Plus, the White House struggles to get its message straight.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president was pretty explicit that he is determined to make sure that every element of his national security strategy is thought through.
WALLACE: Our Sunday panel weighs in.
Then, with the traditional start of a fall campaign this Labor Day weekend, will Republicans win back the Senate? We'll handicap this November's hottest races with two top pollsters, Bill McInturff and Mark Mellman.
And our Power Players of the Week: The guys making those "please don't touch" signs at the Smithsonian a thing of the past.
All, right now, on "Fox News Sunday."
WALLACE: And hello again from FOX News in Washington.
President Obama heads to Europe this week for a NATO summit where he hopes to develop a strategy he admits he does not yet have for attacking ISIS in Syria.
Today, we're going to look at the terror group and what we can do about it in depth. We'll talk with a top expert on ISIS and the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
But first, Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin has the latest -- Jennifer.
JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Chris, the U.S. military opened a new front its in effort to help the Iraqi military combat ISIS. U.S. warplanes conducted three airstrikes near Amerli, about two hours north of Baghdad overnight.
Senior U.S. defense officials tell me the latest operation will be limited in scope and duration. The president approved the operation late in the week. U.S. warplanes carried out three airstrikes against ISIS targets and used C-17 and C-130 transport planes to drop humanitarian relief to the Shia Turkmen, who had been trapped and besieged by ISIS for two months. The town of Amirli is 100 miles north of Baghdad.
For the first time, British, French, and Australian aircraft joined the U.S. as the Iraqi army began an operation Saturday to retake the town. This video shows Iraqi forces evacuating some of the nearly 15,000 residents of Amirli, amidst fears that ISIS fighters would kill them.
On Friday, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah echoed the tone used by British Prime Minister David Cameron, warning of ISIS, quote, "Terrorism at this time is an evil force that must be fought with wisdom and speed. And if neglected, I'm sure after a month, it will arrive in Europe, and a month after that in America."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Is the Pentagon on the same page as the White House in terms of the threat posed by ISIS?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, DOD SPOKESMAN: Yes. Next question?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: That was DOD spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby.
The Pentagon has been drawing up options for the president for weeks, plans that include attacking ISIS supply lines in Syria where U.S. surveillance drones began flying for the first time this week, gathering intelligence and mapping possible ISIS targets. Until now, the president had not authorized the U.S. Air Force to fly unmanned drones over Syria. The president has made no decision to target ISIS inside Syria, Chris.
WALLACE: Jennifer, thanks for that.
Joining us now at the map, the research director at the Institute for the Study of War, and former U.S. Army intelligence officer, Jessica Lewis, who's an expert on ISIS.
Jessica, you and I have talked about this before. Explain how bureaucratic the structure of ISIS is, how it almost has a corporate structure.
JESSICA LEWIS, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: Yes, so we were particularly able to tell earlier this summer when ISIS released its second annual report that ISIS does have the ability to document the attacks that are conducted by all of its local military organizations throughout its depths as depicted by this map with the ISIS controlled and operational areas designated in red, that controlling that campaign requires such a bureaucracy and being able to affect the campaigns in Iraq and Syria in a synergistic way really does indicate the organization has that kind of bureaucracy at its disposal. WALLACE: It also is for a terror group, especially, very sophisticated in its use of videos and social media, primarily to try to recruit new fighters.
LEWIS: Yes, I would say one of the more developed organizations within ISIS is its public relations arm, that they have been able to leverage social media, as you mentioned, also to be able to build a campaign of print media in many languages, especially in English, which means they're messaging the Western world.
WALLACE: All right, we have you at the map. Given this corporate structure, the fact that it has leadership and deputies and regional leaders, what challenges and what opportunities would that present to the U.S. were we to go ahead on airstrikes on both sides of the Iraq/Syria border?
LEWIS: Well, I think the challenge that is primary is that there are many different regional campaigns that ISIS is conducting and it's able to synchronize them. For example, in northern Iraq, ISIS is operating in a way that it can balance back and forth with how they're operating in northern Syria. If something starts to work against them in northern Iraq, they can surge in eastern Iraq or in northeastern Syria. We have seen them do this over the course of the last few weeks.
So, one of the challenges is affecting is throughout its depths at such a time that it actually disrupted their campaign planning and their flexibility. One of the opportunities we also have, as you mentioned, is to affect ISIS on both sides of the Iraq/Syria border. It could potentially be an assumption of ISIS going in that the United States and international community is more likely to become engaged in Iraq than in Syria and if that planning assumption ISIS were to fail, if they were to face airstrikes also in Syria, then that also presents a very significant opportunity.
WALLACE: Now, as it moves back and forth between this basically nonexistent border between Iraq and Syria, were we to strike on one side or another, would targets become open, would supply lines become open for us to hit?
LEWIS: I believe so, yes. Some of the most critical supply lines for ISIS cross the desert, but because they have control of the roads, they're most likely adhering to them. So, it is likely that ISIS with its bureaucracy has repeatable processes and the more repetitions they have within their campaigns, the easier it is to target it effectively.
But I think one other point that we should consider is that there is also military training that is significant to ISIS. In Iraq and in Syria, ISIS is taking over bases and those also present potential targets set.
WALLACE: We have less than a minute left. We hear a lot about the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has almost formed a cult of personality around himself. How hard would he be to track down and how essential is he to ISIS? In other words, were we to hit him, would that kill ISIS or would somebody just replace him?
LEWIS: Well, I think he is very significant to this group. He is actually the personified caliph leading this caliphate. However, as we look at this bureaucracy and we see that this is a very functional institution, the institutional leadership, I would say the regional commanders within the ISIS military, especially are the most critical targets to disrupt them.
WALLACE: Jessica, thank you. Thanks very much. We're going to have you back to discuss this more in depth.
LEWIS: Thank you.
WALLACE: Now, let's bring in the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers.
Chairman Rogers, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me, Chris.
WALLACE: I want to start with what President Obama and his team have been saying this week. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I don't want to put the cart before the horse. We don't have a strategy yet.
EARNEST: The president hasn't yet laid out a specific plan for military action in Syria. And the reason for that is simply that the Pentagon is still developing that plan. He's still reviewing them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Congressman, what do you think of the president saying that he doesn't have a strategy yet and then his spokesman, Josh Earnest, basically, putting it all on the Pentagon.
ROGERS: Well, unfortunately, we find it consistent with his past policy and actions on foreign policy. And it shows -- I think exemplifies his foreign policy is in absolute freefall. If you look at China, you look at ISIS, you look at Russia, you look at Iran, North Korea, we have a serious host of problems presenting itself, and our traditional allies are now standing up and saying, well, maybe America is not the best ones to lead us through these troubles. That is an issue that we are going to have to deal with.
WALLACE: Do you believe Josh Earnest when he says we're still waiting on the Pentagon to give us options?
ROGERS: No, I don't. As a matter of fact, the options have been presenting itself.
Over the last year, we had our Arab League partners show up, Chris, and say help us deal with this. They weren't asking for troops. They were asking for intelligence, and coordination, and helping lead the effort of which folks to vet to give weapons and money in Syria and at least some strategic guidance in the region.
The president rejected that. That was his decision, and we watched it progressively get worse. And so, our Arab League partners decided, well, we're going to have to do this on our own. It was uncoordinated, not through the best intelligence, and at the end of the day, ended up helping in an odd way the very people we're going to have to face today.
So, there have been plans on the table. The president just did not want to get engaged in any way. That is a decision, that is a policy, that is a strategy, and it's not working.
WALLACE: All right. But the president is meeting with the NATO allies this week in Great Britain at a summit. He's going to try to get them onboard for military cooperation. Secretary Hagel, Secretary Kerry are going to the Middle East this week after the NATO summit, to try to get some of our regional allies in the Arab World either to help us with the Iraqi army or to help the Syrian rebels.
What's wrong with that, with taking some time, getting your ducks in a row?
ROGERS: The problem is, the clock didn't start with the beheading of American journalists. That was just a symptom of what was a long and growing problem for the United States. So, it's not wrong. It's just very, very late in the game. And it presents fewer options.
So, three years ago, we had really good options in Syria and how to stop their pooling in the east and going into Iraq. Two years ago, we had better options, not great options.
Today, our options are far more limited. Far more dangerous, and will call for far more engagement.
And we're spending a lot of time talking about what we won't do. That's the problem. The president talks about what he won't do. He's having a hard time putting the coalition together to talk about what they will do. You're not going to humanitarian aid ISIS out of Iraq and Syria. It's going to take more than that.
WALLACE: I want to talk to you about a specific threat, and maybe the most immediate threat to the U.S. and to the Western Europe, and that is the foreign fighters over in Iraq, over in Syria, fighting for ISIS, and then potentially coming back and committing acts of terror here.
Do you have a sense as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, how many Westerners are fighting with ISIS and do we know if any of them have come back either to Western Europe or the United States? And if so, are we tracking them?
ROGERS: Well, yes, we have a sense. The problem is there is no sure number. And for the intelligence community to say that they have exactly the right number, they won't do that because they can't do that.
So, we have -- there is a bit of an unknown in how many of those fighters actually got there and came back? Are they tracking the ones we can identify? Yes, they are trying to do that.
WALLACE: So, how many Americans do we think are with ISIS? Do we know or not?
ROGERS: Well, it's in the hundreds that we believe had, at least one time, traveled and participated and trained with them. And some of them have drifted back, some of them have gone to Europe. And what we have seen and why we started raising the alarm, me included, is you saw the Brussels event, attack on the Jewish museum. That was in -- we believe, an ISIL-led or inspired event. So, that was the first time they had attacked, we believe, outside their borders.
Now, again, Europe has obviously stood up and said we have a huge problem. David Cameron came out and said not only do we have a problem, here's my plan to deal with it. And so, the United States seems to be in this malaise of not being that concerned.
I will tell you, I'm very concerned because we don't know every single person that has an American passport that has gone and trained and learned how to fight. And we're not sure that the Brits have a good handle on, they think it's about 500 in Britain. There's several hundred in Canada. What if one gets there and gets through? Now, they have a passport that allows them free travel to the United States of America.
So, the chances of error here are greater than I think our ability to track every single error.
WALLACE: And how serious of a threat is that?
ROGERS: It's a serious threat. It's a very serious threat.
Here's the other problem. ISIL would like to have a Western- style attack to continue this notion that they the leading jihadist group in the world. Send your people, send your money. So does al Qaeda.
So, we haven't even talked about al Qaeda. Al Qaeda, we know, is engaged in operational status to one degree or another for attacks in the west. We know that. We're tracking threats that are pretty serious.
And so, you have that threat stream and you have this threat stream, and we haven't even covered the rest of the world. That's why we're so concerned.
WALLACE: Let me ask you, you talked about British Prime Minister Cameron, his rhetoric, but also his plan. The British government is going to propose a measure tomorrow in the parliament that would make it easier to seize the passports of people believed to be ISIS sympathizers, ISIS fighters, so that they could neither go to the area or come back. Is that something you'd like to see in this country?
ROGERS: We'd have to be careful how we do it, not to restrict U.S. citizen travel, but I think there's a way through great means of collecting evidence to slow down these individuals. You could also charge them, by the way, when they get back, which we should be doing with vigor, with support, material support for terrorism. We have a law on the books. We should use it and we should be aggressively using it.
I think you have a few of those prosecutions up front, people get less interested in traveling overseas.
WALLACE: All right. I want to -- in the time we have left -- turn a very serious situation in Ukraine -- Russian troops, Russian military inside the country. The administration continues to refuse to call it an invasion, and they're also sending mixed messages.
Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Russia has to stop lying and has to stop fueling this conflict. The mask is coming off. In these acts, these recent acts, we see Russia' actions for what they are.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I consider the actions that we have seen in the last week a continuation of what's been taking place for months now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Congressman Rogers, simple question -- have the Russians invaded Ukraine? And best intelligence that you're getting, what is Putin's game here?
ROGERS: Well, it's hard to argue that Russian troops with Russian armor crossing the border into Ukraine doesn't fit the definition of an invasion. I don't think they're there on a sightseeing tour.
And this is -- I mean, they have escalated this because they were losing some ground in Ukraine, and I believe Putin made the calculation that he needed to up the game to at least continue to push back and allow his rebels, the little green men, as they're called in Ukraine, the opportunity to regroup and hold ground.
Again, this -- as odd as it sounds, it's all related. So, if the world perceives that the United States does not have a consistent foreign policy of saying what it means and meaning what it says, you're going to see more of this pressure. That's why the Chinese are engaging our pilots in a dangerous way in the international waters. That's why the Russians are upping their game. That's why ISIL is conducting the business that it is. We have got to come out -- this is an opportunity for the president, Chris, I think, to bring the country together so that we understand, look, this don't do stupid stuff policy isn't working. The fact that you're withdrawing from the world and saying it's too hard for us to get engaged isn't working.
WALLACE: OK. We've got less than a minute left.
You talk about we've got to do something about Putin. The European Union met yesterday and their declaration was we're going to impose tighter sanctions, tougher sanctions, but we're going to take another week to even come up with them.
Let me ask you. What can, what should the U.S. and European allies do, and will anything be enough to stop Putin?
ROGERS: Oh, I believe so. So yes, sanctions are a good start. Again, U.S. leadership with Europe would have been very helpful. If you have your own European allies saying -- well, maybe the United States isn't a leader in this issue, that's a problem for us. Reestablish that leadership.
And there are intelligence packages. The Ukrainians much like our Arab League partners a year and a half ago were asking for strategic help, intelligence packages, logistic training and arms. We ought to provide that, Europe ought to provide that. If we don't do small and effective now, you're going to get very big and very ugly later. And now is the opportunity to make that decision to not make the same mistake the president made in Syria.
WALLACE: Congressman Rogers, thank you.
ROGERS: Yes. Thank you.
WALLACE: Thanks so much for coming in.
So, what will President Obama do about ISIS in Syria? Next up, our Sunday group joins the conversation.
Plus, what would you like to ask the panel? Just go to Facebook or Twitter @FoxNewsSunday and we may use your questions on the air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What we're facing in Iraq now with ISIL is a greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: British Prime Minister David Cameron taking a firm stand against ISIS while raising the threat level in his country to severe. And it's time now for our Sunday group. Syndicated columnist George Will; Julie Pace, who covers the White House for the "Associated Press"; Michael Needham, head of Heritage Action for America; and Charles Lane of "The Washington Post."
Julie, what's going on here?
WALLACE: Is the president, as Josh Earnest suggested on Friday, waiting on the Pentagon for options? Or is this another case as we have seen before where the president is pushing back against his top advisers and all their talk about military action?
JULIE PACE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, I think this idea that he's waiting for the Pentagon to present him with options is not quite the right way to put this.
The Pentagon has a lot of options. They have been working on options. The president has seen some of these options. He hasn't decided where he's going to go on this yet.
I mean, in isolation, the comments that we saw from the president this week are not completely surprising. He is someone who tends to be cautious, takes his time on making foreign policy decisions.
But when you compare that with what we have heard, over the past couple of weeks from his own advisers, his military advisers and his political advisers in the White House who have been talking in a forward leaning way, that's where I think that people were a little surprised, it's (ph) different.
WALLACE: How do you explain that? Was he just digging in his heels against everybody around him?
PACE: I think so. I think that he felt a need to come out and say, even though you have heard from the Pentagon, even though you've heard from some people in the White House that we are going to be aggressive on this -- I'm the president of the United States, I have not made a decision yet, and I'm going to take my time and do this on my timeline.
WALLACE: We asked you for questions for the panel and we got this one on Twitter from Thelma Askey. She wrote, "Obama has options from DOD, Department of Defense, but not the one he wants. Is he insisting on a minimalist plan from DOD to, quote, 'cover' himself."
George, you share Thelma's skepticism?
GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, yes, I mean, caution, which is what he's being criticized for, is a nice defect to have after the first decade of the century.
On the other hand, the rhetoric has not been cautious. The president talked about ruling back ISIS, Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff talking about the need to destroy ISIS. That means liberate large cities that have been taken, which you can't do with F-16s and F-18s.
I think what the president is trying to do, and I sympathize with this, is to get the neighborhood to rally. I mean, look what's in the neighborhood. Saudi Arabia has 250 highly competent aircraft and an AWACS system to control it. You got Iran and Iraq, are enemies of ISIS, so is Syria, Jordan, and the Kurds who are, for all intents and purposes, a nation right now.
So, you got six nations in the neighborhood. If they can't do it, we shouldn't.
WALLACE: I want to pick up on that because it was something I discussed with Chairman Rogers, Chuck. And that is the fact that the president is going to be meeting with the NATO allies this week. He's sending Hagel and Kerry to meet with a lot of our "allies," in quotes, in the Middle East. Is he being deliberate or is he being weak?
CHARLES LANE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think he's being himself. This is -- this is the way he approaches pretty much everything.
And it's not an accident because he got elected president by being the Democrat who was against the Iraq war, who was -- if he stood for anything, it was get us out of Iraq, get us out of ground involvement in the Middle East and pivot to Asia and so forth and so on.
Now, here, ISIS has thrust him into a situation where there's really no way to deal with it without being in the Middle East and probably at some level being on the ground. Heck, we already have Special Forces on the ground.
And I think a lot of his hesitation could trace just back to that, that he simply doesn't want to face the fact that history or fate or whatever has thrust him into a situation where he can't have the presidency that he planned to have.
WALLACE: But there are dangers to that. And there's a new Pew/"USA Today" poll out this week. Let's put it up on the screen: 54 percent say Obama is not -- 54 percent of all Americans -- not tough enough in his approach to foreign policy and national security, 36 percent say his approach is about right.
Michael, does the public have it about right?
MICHAEL NEEDHAM, CEO, HERITAGE ACTION FOR AMERICA: Well, unfortunately, I think they do. And anyone who thought after the Bush administration, that a foreign policy of weakness and disengagement was the right way for America to go has seen what that looks like under the Obama administration.
And I think Chairman Rogers was right when he said, every year that goes by when you have a foreign policy that doesn't have American leadership in the world, the world gets a lot more dangerous. And so, what you have are a lot of mixed signals coming out of the White House, not just in the last week obviously, but you go back a year ago. Secretary Kerry giving the prosecutorial case for our action in Syria, President goes for a walk and he changes his mind. I think the public, just like foreign leaders, are picking up on those mixed signals and don't think it's the right path for us to be on.
WALLACE: You know, I guess the question and the surprise to me is this -- I mean, we at FOX News, I anchored a documentary in June, and certainly way after the fact, but after the taking of Mosul, about the threat from ISIS. I guess the question I have is, why are we now about to go into September and all this coalition building that could have been done in the last six months, they're now talking about doing it in real time while the world is watching?
PACE: And I think that's the heart of the criticism about the line about not having a strategy yet. Obviously, for a lot of Americans, ISIS is something they're just learning about. James Foley's horrific death has really pushed this to the forefront.
But inside the administration, this is not new. So, the idea that you don't have a strategy yet to deal with ISIS in Syria is not because this just popped up when James Foley was murdered. This is a longer term problem and I think a lot of people wonder why don't you have a strategy if this is something you have been warned about by your own advisers for months?
WALLACE: You know, I want to put on the screen. It was exactly one year ago today, as Michael mentioned, exactly a year ago today that Barack Obama went into the Rose Garden, his secretary of state had talked the week before or the day before, rather, about the tremendous threat from Syria. He was going to enforce his red line. Everybody thought he was going to declare air strikes and he said, you know what, no, we're going to go to Congress. As we all know, Congress ran for the hills and he ended up jumping on a Russian plan which ended up getting rid of Assad's arsenal of chemical weapons.
The question I guess I have is, where do you see this turning out? Do you think in the end he's going to maybe kicking and screaming, be dragged into leading a coalition to go after ISIS in Syria?
PACE: I think it's an open question right now, but if the president does make a decision to go into Syria militarily, it will be with a coalition. I don't think you're going to see a situation where he goes in completely on his own.
WALLACE: Well, that wouldn't be the worst thing, would it?
WILL: It will be an excellent plan. Again, there's -- we're talking about 10,000 people. Now, they're ruthless and they're clearly and they're telegenic, but they're not militarily formidable. We know where they are and they are in the neighborhood of heavily armed adversaries. Lets the adversaries have at them.
LANE: Well, the adversaries -- you know, that would be a good theory, George. The problem is, the adversaries have already been routed. Remember, the Iraqi army who we had trained and spent, you know, billions and billions and billions to stand up, they melted like, you know, a late spring snow when ISIS showed up.
And so, I think, you know, the idea, it's true. We have to have everybody onboard politically and so forth in that neighborhood, but the idea it could be done militarily without the U.S. playing a heavy role, I don't think is going to fly.
And they -- the people of the neighborhood won't act unless they think we're going to be out in front.
WALLACE: All right. Panel, we'll see you a little later.
What do you think about the ISIS threat and how should the U.S. deal with it? Join the conversation on Facebook with other FNS viewers.
Up next, Labor Day weekend is the traditional start of the fall campaign. Two top pollsters join us next to break down Republican chances to win back the Senate.
WALLACE: With a traditional Labor Day start to the fall campaign, we want to discuss the big question in these midterms. Will Republicans win back the Senate? The current alignment is 55 senators voting with the Democrats and 45 Republicans. With Vice President Biden as a possible tie breaker, that means Republicans need a net pickup of six seats to control the Senate for the first time since 2006. Joining us now, Bill McInturff who is polling for Republicans in five Senate races and Mark Mellman who is polling for Democrats in six Senate races. Gentlemen, welcome.
MELLMAN: Thank you.
WALLACE: All right, there are, we'll get straight to it, three open Democratic seats in red states. You can see them right there. Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Currently held by Democrats, but the incumbents aren't seeking re-election. Generally considered safe Republican pickups. Bill, any doubt about those going Republican?
MCINTURFF: Short answer -- no. West Virginia right now, the Republicans, 17 points ahead. The Democratic candidate dropped out in Montana, and in South Dakota, we have the Republican Governor Mike Rounds running.
There would be an extraordinary shift in sentiments that something happened in those states.
WALLACE: OK. So, if they pick up those three, then they have got to pick up three more. There are six more Democratic states, many of them -- Democratic seats, many of them in red states that the GOP is targeting. Let's go through them. Louisiana with incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu. Arkansas with Senator Mark Pryor. North Carolina with Kay Hagan. Further west, an open seat in Iowa, incumbent Mark Udall in Colorado, and Mark Begich in Alaska. Mark Mellman, you're polling for Landrieu, Udall, and Begich. How confident are you about the incumbents holding on in those three states?
MELLMAN: Look, I think the incumbents in all those state are going to end up winning at the end of the day.
WALLACE: All six of them?
MELLMAN: I think there are going to be tough close races, but the reality is, we have the strong Democratic candidates with deep roots in those states, we have lack luster Republican opponents, and the Republican brand is in tatters in those states and across the country. So, I think these Democrats with the very deep routes, done a lot for their states, who are going to end up coming up on ...
WALLACE: I've got to tell you. The real clear politics average, the Republicans are leading in some of those states, in some, the Democratic incumbent is leading, but by a very narrow margin. Bill, your read?
MCINTURFF: Well, I don't want to be a Democrat in the South in 2014. I think Senator Landrieu is an impressive ...
WALLACE: In Louisiana.
MCINTURFF: In Louisiana, I think she's an impressive political figure, but in Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina the president's job approval's literally in the lower 20 percent among white voters. Alaska, I do work in Alaska, Mark. It's its own world. It operates in a very different way than the rest of the country, it doesn't have a national (INAUDIBLE) the way the country does, and Colorado is the perennials up for grabs seat. But I believe that the Democrats are at this point going to lose the Senate primarily because they're trying to defend too many seats in the South to really believe all that's going to come together for them on Election Day.
WALLACE: Now, we should point out, again, what the Republicans need is a net pickup of six seats. Which means if they lose one of their seats, that then they would need seven Democratic seats to go to the Republicans. And in fact, there are two Republican seats that are generally considered pretty vulnerable. Let's put those on the screen. Georgia is an open seat that the Republicans are trying to defend, and then you've got Kentucky. And in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell is running against Alison Lundergan Grimes. And let me ask you, Mark now, maybe because you're polling for Alison Lundergan Grimes, are you going to knock off the Senate Republican leader?
MELLMAN: Look, I think so. Mitch McConnell is a symbol of everything that is wrong with Washington. He's a man who calls himself the proud guardian of gridlock, he's somebody whose campaign manager resigned in mid-scandal just on Friday. So, this is Mitch McConnell's somebody who is not well liked by his constituents in Kentucky and is a symbol of everything that is wrong with Washington. That race is really on its own dynamic and I think Alison is going to prevail.
WALLACE: Bill, your thoughts about -- I mean this would be pretty interesting because Mitch McConnell has wanted for his whole career to be the Senate Majority Leader, the running of the Senate. And there is a possibility here that the Republicans could take over, but he could lose.
MCINTURFF: First, let's go to Georgia real quickly. That's what I'm saying. It's been a long time in Washington since we have been talking -- Michelle Nunn, she's trying to win in the deep south as a first-time candidate. Again, Kentucky is this really compelling battle if you're a political junky between the horses that Mark is talking about versus again a deeply anti-Obama state. What I believe is this is a one or two-point race. And what I say good humoredly, I think there's a lot of science to what Mark and I do, but when you get down to try and bring (ph) it a point or two, it's tough. It's that close. But Senator McConnell is there because he survived every year since 1994. And just based on candidate experience and strength, I still think the tilt goes to Senator McConnell.
WALLACE: OK, let's talk about some general questions now. We have seen big wave elections where dozens of seats, talking about the House, not the Senate, has swung from one party to the other. In 2006, in 2008, in 2010, but there doesn't seem to be much of a wave this time. Let's put this up on the screen. In 2010 at this particular point in mid-August, Republicans led Democrats by seven points in the generic Congressional poll, who would you like representing you? Republican or Democrat? Republicans won by seven points, they went on to huge victory in the November election. Now, Democrats lead Republicans by one point or four points. Bill, what happened to the wave?
MCINTURFF: Here's the important point. You don't need a wave for Republicans to pick up seats in the House. And to gain the U.S. Senate. All you need to do is Republicans to hold Republican seats to pick up the Senate. Wave elections don't have a high turnout. We are not seeing that in the primary. There's normally a break to one party. We're not seeing that yet. So, I think there's a lot of things that say the wave, quote wave, is not there, but it's very important to say, guess what, Republicans pick up seats in the House and I believe the Senate without "a wave," and I think that's the key to the cycle. Last very quick point is money. Mark and I have been doing this a long time. There's never been $100 million campaign in Kentucky. The scope of which money is being spent means there will be a national kind of zeitgeist, but in these very, very competitive states, there is so much money, we might see very unusual things we haven't seen before.
WALLACE: I want to ask you about another big issue, and that immigration, because for weeks, the president and the White House have been talking about the possibility that he would take major executive action to delay deportations for millions of illegal immigrants. Take a look at what he said this week?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It continues to be my belief that if I can't see congressional action, that I need to do at least what I can in order to make the system work better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But now we learned just yesterday the White House is seriously considering putting off any executive action on immigration until after the midterms. Question, Mark. There's been a lot of reporting that red-state Democrats did not want the president to delay deportations for millions of illegals. As the pollster in a bunch of those red states is -- would the idea of executive action be good or bad for those candidates?
MELLMAN: Well, look, I don't think it's a positive, honestly, but the reality is there's much more ...
WALLACE: So, executive action ...
MELLMAN: Executive action, I think, would not be a positive for those candidates, but the reality is there's much more at stake here. The president -- you know, the Senate passed an immigration bill. Mitch McConnell didn't join the rest of the Republicans in voting for it. But the reality is, Republicans voted for it, Democrats voted for it, House has refused to take it up. So, there's a need to do something here, but the Senate Republicans have said if you take executive action, we're never going to agree to a comprehensive immigration reform bill. So, there's a lot of moving parts here that the president ...
WALLACE: But it's the strict matter of politics. If you're going to do it, you would rather have it after the mid-terms rather than before?
MELLMAN: I would, but I do politics, not policy.
WALLACE: All right, and Bill, your thoughts about that, is it smart politics for the president to put this off until after the midterm?
MCINTURFF: Chris, you said two important things. One, the generic votes, tied nationally into the Democrats have put themselves in a position seat by seat to be competitive in the U.S. Senate. We're sitting here with a question about whether it goes Republican or Democrat. If you own Mark's points what you don't want is the unpredictable. They have fought hard to get to where they are with 70 plus (ph) states left. They don't want to implode their own campaign with an unpredictable national event, for which they have no, no bearing. You don't want that in your campaign.
WALLACE: All right. I have got less than a minute left. I want a quick answer, yes or no and a sentence, is Barack Obama at this point a plus or minus for senate candidates. Mark?
MILLMAN: The reality is in every midterm, except three since 1862, the president's party has lost seats in the House. Probably not going to be an exception this year.
MCINTURFF: The president is a major problem for the Democrats, especially when the territory they have to defend to win the Senate.
WALLACE: Bill, Mark, thank you both so much for coming in today. We'll stay on top of this right to Election Day. Thank you, please come back.
Up next, we invite the panel back and give them a shot at handicapping some of this November's hottest races.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The bottom line is America deserves a raise, but until we have got a Congress that carries about raising working folks wages, it's up to the rest of us to make it happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Obama kicking off the fall campaign by trying to pivot back to the economy and calling on Congress to follow 13 states in raising the minimum wage. And we're back now with the panel. Julie, how worried are White House officials about these midterms and why, at least there's a lot of reporting over the weekend, do they seem to be changing their mind about executive action, and maybe putting it off, executive action on delaying deportation for millions of illegals, putting it off until after the midterms.
JULIE PACE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, they're certainly worried about the election broadly. I mean the prospect of finishing out Obama's presidency with a Republican led House and Senate is obviously pretty unappealing to them. When you talk about immigration specifically, I think Mark Mellman summed this up when he said that taking executive action before the midterms would not be good for vulnerable Senate Democrats. These are candidates who have been saying to the White House for some time now, actually, that this is not something that they want and you can get either the sense that the White House is coming around to this notion that they actually through this executive action could put the Democrats' chances of holding the Senate into even more jeopardy than it already is.
WALLACE: One reason that the White House was reportedly considering executive action was to try to goad Republicans into a fury in which they would refuse to pass a continuing resolution, put the government into another shutdown, and thereby block what the administration was going to do on immigration and obviously have a voter backlash, they hoped. Now, Michael, your group, Heritage Action, has actually said that if the president went ahead with unilateral action to delay deportation for millions of immigrants, shutting down the government would be a reasonable response. Really?
NEEDHAM: No, Chris, I think the people talking about a government shutdown are the Democrats. President Obama ...
WALLACE: Your organization is talking about it, too.
NEEDHAM: The question that -- the question that you get is, that you are getting at this, what tools does the Congress have to represent itself as a coequal branch of government, against an executive who has no respect for the separation of powers that have cost -- that have worked for our country for the last 200 years. Can you imagine if Mitt Romney had won the presidency and said you know what, we're just not going to enforce the capital gains tax this year because we don't have the resources to get it. Everyone would rightly be infuriated. Nancy Pelosi would be taking action against it, and that's what you have going on with this situation. Nobody is calling for a government shutdown except for President Obama who is trying to find the hail Mary pass he can throw with the Senate landscape that looks terrible for his party, and rightly so, his policy has been terrible for the country.
WALLACE: George, would a government shutdown, another one, particularly after the experience of last fall, would it be suicidal? I mean I was thinking this might be a classic case of grabbing defeat out of the jaws of victory.
WILL: It would be suicidal, and I think almost everyone recognizes that. I think they recognize that the disaster of last October's shutdown enabled them to be rescued only by the bad rollout of Obamacare, and they don't want to do this again. The question right now, the stark fact is that every Democrat running for the Senate has to run 10, 12, 13, 14, sometimes more points ahead of the president's job approval in their states. The old axiom is all politics is local, the question now is, how much of any politics is local anymore? Now that it becomes a referendum on the president, among great national issues like foreign policy and immigration. But there aren't local ingredients. North Carolina, the question is what the Republicans have done in the state government deeply unpopular with some people. In Arkansas, Tom Cotton, the Republican candidate voted against the farm bill in an agricultural state. In Kansas, there's a third party person, an independent running that scrambled us. So, there's lots of local variables, but the primary driver of this is the president's job approval.
NEEDHAM: The problem the Republican Party has, of course, right now, is too many people are sitting around, waiting for a wave to take them across the election. If you want to catch a wave, you have to paddle. And I think the Republican Party over the next couple of months can do great things to show the American people that it's a party that stands for opportunity, for all Americans in favor of just -- (INAUDIBLE) one of them. The Export/Import Bank, which the president of the United States has called a fund for corporate welfare, comes up for reauthorization. The Republican Party should stand strong and say we are the party that gives you last control, we'll make sure that it's all Americans who are taken care of and not lobbyist that the president of the United States plays golf with. Now, you can't do that by keeping your head down, you can't do that by not standing for something. I think that's what everybody out there is waiting to see. So that we can have this wave election and I think we'll deliver 52, 53, 54 seats if you actually fight and try to catch the wave.
WALLACE: Chuck, traditionally, the sixth year of a two-term president, and that's what we're in here now with -- President Obama, is tough for the party of the president. The party that holds the White House. How do you read this election and the chances for Republicans to take back the Senate for the first time? I was -- I didn't realize, that since 2006.
LANE: Well, I think you'd still -- if you're a betting man, you would still bet on a Republican win, maybe 51, possibly 52 seats, but on the other hand, if I were a Republican, I would be worried that they aren't pulling away in more of these red states. Kay Hagan is hanging in there in North Carolina. The polls show that Mark Pryor is slightly ahead, I think, of Tom Cotton in Arkansas. Mark Begich out there in Alaska -- seems to be -- I mean no one can poll Alaska. There just aren't enough people and pollsters to meet up out there, but ...
WALLACE: The preceding comments about Alaska ...
WALLACE: Chuck Lane.
LANE: I love Alaska, it's just partially fluctuated, and it's hard to get good data on Alaska, but Mark Begich seems to be hanging in there. And, you know, after a certain point, you start to say, well, gee, at what point do the Republicans actually put this thing away? It hasn't happened so far, and the immigration thing was going to be sort of a trap for them, as you say, to get them to overreact and either try to impeach the president or shut down the government or something like that to rile up the Democratic base and get them to turn out. I think one reason the president may be delaying his decision on that is that the Republicans have done one wise thing which is not really to fall into that trap or not to announce that they're going to fall into that trap so far.
WALLACE: Julie, what is the president's strategy between now and Election Day? What's he going to do, apparently not immigration. Where is he going to go, and what is he not going to do and where is he not going to go?
PACE: I think what he's not going to do and where he's not going to go is actually probably the more important component of this. Democrats described this strategy to me this week as a do no harm strategy. So, they see a couple of places where he can go ...
WALLACE: Don't do stupid stuff.
PACE: Don't do stupid staff. Right, on politics. If you call places where he can go, but mostly in states where you either have clusters of House races, Illinois, California, New York. States where he's won in presidential elections that have gubernatorial races, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, but he's not going to be going to Arkansas, North Carolina, Alaska, certainly. The one caveat to that, though, is if we get to the week or two before the election and Democrats feel like sending the president into one of these states, Louisiana is another one, and his presence could mobilize young people, African-American voters, there is a chance you could see him going there. There are also other ways they could feel like they could affect that voting population. But that's really the only possibility of seeing it.
WALLACE: George is right, if you look at it historically, the president's popularity rating is one of the best indices in whether it's above or below 50 percent on whether the other party makes gains and how big the gains are. This president's approval rating is about 40 percent.
PACE: And in these states where the tough Senate races are, it's even lower, which makes it even harder for him to go in there.
WALLACE: I was astonished. Bill McInturff saying 20 percent among white men in some of these Southern states, who urge (ph) anything the president can do in two months about that?
WILL: No, there are very few undecided voters in this country about Barack Obama after six years. I would just suggest watch Colorado. Colorado is the quintessential purple state right now and it's the only state in which immigration, if the president did this before the election, might help.
WALLACE: All right. Thank you, panel. See you next week. And obviously, this conversation about the election to be continued for the next 65 days.
Up next, our "Power Player of the Week," bringing the Smithsonian not just into your home but into your hands.
WALLACE: The Smithsonian Institution has been called the nation's attic. 19 museums, 9 research centers, and the National Zoo. But as we first told you in March, now through the magic of cutting edge technology, you can see highlights from the collection like never before. Here are the power players of the week.
VINCENT ROSSI, SMITHSONIAN DIGITALIZATION OFFICER: Our 3-d program, what we're able to do is sort of take down the walls of the Smithsonian. ADAM METALLLO, SMITHSONIAN DIGITALIZATION OFFICER: The museum experience will always be relevant, but now you can complement that with being able to look at something online or 3-d print it and actually hold it in your hand.
WALLACE: Adam Metallo and Vincent Rossi are digitalization officers at the Smithsonian. But their colleagues call them laser cowboys. They capture some of the collections 137 million objects and put them online in 3-d, allowing you to experience them in ways you can't even in person. Take, for example, this mask of Abraham Lincoln.
ROSSI: I'm at the optimal distance to create a 3-d scan.
WALLACE: They take an arm scanner and paint a laser beam across the maps.
ROSSI: This is all handheld.
WALLACE (on camera): Oh my gosh. And here it is showing up. That is unbelievable.
ROSSI: So you can see an object like this, like the Abraham Lincoln life mask would take maybe 15 or 20 minutes for you to scan.
WALLACE (voice over): Now if you go to the Smithsonian website, you can manipulate the object and see things you can't see in the museum.
(on camera): You're able to manipulate this just with a regular mouse?
METALLO: Yep. I can actually pull up the two life masks that were taken of Lincoln in office and while he was still alive, so on the left here, the one spinning, this was taken in the remaining months of the Civil war, and this is a life mask that was taken just before the Civil war.
WALLACE: And what can you really see is how much he had aged in those years.
WALLACE (voice over): They started this program three years ago and so far have put 21 objects online. The original Wright Brothers flyer, an intricately carved limestone Buddha. It's impossible to make out the design in person, but online --
METALLO: If we zoom in here, this is what the stone looks like in real life in the gallery. I can actually remove the color information and then pull out the areas of high curvature and now you can see everything that's happening.
WALLACE (on camera): There's so much greater detail than you could if you were a foot away from it. (voice over): And remember the Lincoln mask? You can download the computer image and get an exact copy on a 3-d printer in your home or classroom.
ROSSI: It's almost as magical process where you can scan an object without touching it and then bring it back into the real world through 3-d printing.
WALLACE (voice over): Vincent was a sculptor. Adam, a painter. They used to help create exhibits for the collection.
ROSSI: Sort of on the side in nights and weekends, we started supporting research projects around the Smithsonian.
METALLO: The scanning technologies and software that was developed with Hollywood in mind or CT scanners that were developed for the medical industry, we're trying to apply that to the museum world now.
WALLACE: So far, the process is slow and labor intensive, but the laser cowboys have big plans.
ROSSI: Perhaps we're going to start introducing robots and assembly lines into the system. We want to move first to digitizing hundreds of objects at a time, and then we can start thinking about thousands of objects per year.
WALLACE: Pretty cool. To experience Smithsonian X3-d, please go to our home page at foxnewssunday.com where we have a link. And that's it for today. Have a great Labor Day weekend. And we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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Sunday—we’ll get the latest on the battle over Trump’s cabinet picks and a preview the first orders of business for the 115th Congress from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It’s a Fox News Sunday exclusive.