This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, September 21, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.
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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Welcome back to The Beltway Boys.
Election day is only seven weeks out, and all eyes are on the razor-thin battle for control of the Senate. The man on the front lines of the battle on the Democratic side is veteran political operative Jim Jordan, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Welcome to the show, Jim.
JIM JORDAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEMOCRATIC SENATORIAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: Afternoon, guys, thanks.
KONDRACKE: Now, you have been quoted as alleging that at least the timing, if not the policy, of — on Iraq, the president's policy, is political. How far are you willing to go with that? Do you think it's just the timing of this whole thing? Or do you think the, the policy is a sort of a wag-the-dog?
JORDAN: I don't think that's the case at all, I don't think this crisis has been invented for political reasons. I do think there's a feel to the rollout of this, to the timing, to the sudden urgency of it, to the vote, which House leaders, at least, were trying to push as far back before the elections as possible. It has a political feel to it.
I think we're seeing the ads sprout up on TV now having to do with Iraq, some of them with a sort of increasingly nasty tone to them.
I mean, Republicans are fairly desperate to change the subject this cycle, to get off the domestic issues that are working for Democrats and against them, and to talk about the war.
KONDRACKE: Well, if you were going to have to go to war sometime in the winter of, of next year, because of the, because of the, the temperature in, in the desert, wouldn't you have to try to get a, a resolution from Congress sometime this year? I mean, so — doesn't, doesn't ... the military situation sort of dictate the timing?
JORDAN: Of course it does, and I'm not here because I'm a policy guy. I can just attest to what I feel, and that's the, that's the politicization of this. I mean, Karl Rove said six, nine months ago that the Republicans needed to be running on the war, that that was their strength ...-
KONDRACKE: That was the war on terrorism.
JORDAN: ... sure. But I think I think, I think in the public's mind, these two things run today.
And deservedly, they, they seem to be linked by the administration. We've seen communications from my counterparts on the Republican side that, that military issues will play a prominent role from here on out, and that Democrats' records on those issues are fair game. I have no problem with that, and neither would Democratic candidates. I think...
BARNES: Yes, but Jim, yes, but, you know, Jim, wait a minute. Didn't more Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and even a few Republicans, demanding in August that the president make the case for doing something militarily against Iraq, and then when he starts to do it in September, Democrats say, Well, wait a minute, why are you doing it now?
JORDAN: That's, that's a fair point, and I think the Democratic leadership in the Senate, visible Democrats in the Senate, have done a very effective job in pushing the administration to handle this in a certain intelligent way. All I can attest to is what I'm seeing, what I'm hearing, what I'm increasingly seeing on TV, and that's the war is politics for Republicans.
BARNES: If Iraq is the major issue during the campaign, does that really help Republican candidates?
JORDAN: It's unclear. First of all, it doesn't seem to be the major, the major preoccupation of the nation, at least not in — it's not in voters' minds as a voting issue. What, what we're seeing is a really distinct and neat cleavage in the minds of voters, that is, they're concerned about the war, they're concerned about terrorism, but they think that that's George Bush's job, that it's his job to handle that.
They're looking to Congress to handle the domestic agenda, to face up to what the — face up to the problems they have in their daily lives, ..., the cost of health care, their kids' schools, their retirements, the prescription drug costs their parents have to battle each day.
That's what voters are looking, looking at in this election, and that's an agenda that favors Democrats.
KONDRACKE: Where do you see, in particular, what should the Senate how — close Senate races, the, the Republican candidate is trying to make the war the dominant issue in the campaign?
JORDAN: Well, the, the Republican committee has run, I think, sort of pitiful and ineffective ads attacking Democrats for taking modest contributions from the Council for a Livable World, a military reform group. That's the leading edge, I fear, of ads that are going to be increasingly nasty and have sort of a Joe McCarthy tinge to them.
I have the feeling that this election's going to ... get ugly soon. We had folks in Minnesota yesterday attacking Paul Wellstone, you know...
KONDRACKE: Saying what, saying what?
JORDAN: Well, soft on military, worked to dismantle the military.
BARNES: He does vote against the military budget frequently.
JORDAN: As do many, and, and, and...
JORDAN: ... and looking for military reforms is not the same thing as being against our fighting men and women, or being against a strong America.
BARNES: Jim, that is one of the most, one of the closest races in Minnesota, where Paul Wellstone's running. Would it hurt him if he voted against an Iraq resolution favored by the president?
JORDAN: I don't know. Obviously I don't know where, where Senator Wellstone's thinking. I mean, I, I think that — voters in Minnesota who know him very, very well would find that that fit into his — the context of his career and his persona. That wouldn't be new information, I don't think.
KONDRACKE: What, it — back in 1991, Democrats — 45 Democrats voted against President Bush's ...
KONDRACKE: ... authorization for war against Saddam, and only 10 Democrats supported it. Now, if — do you expect the balance to be like that this time? And if it is, if Democrats overwhelmingly oppose the president, will that hurt your candidates across the board?
JORDAN: I'm not part of the Democratic ... proposition, I haven't counted noses. ... like you two, I suspect, I don't think it's going to be anything like that. Depends on what the final resolution looks like, I think. I mean, obviously there are some misgivings about it, an enormously open-ended resolution.
But we'll see what the final, what the final resolution looks like.
BARNES: Jim, Jim, give a prediction, just a number ... Democrats lose or gain net on November 5?
JORDAN: I think we'll pick up one or two seats.
BARNES: Good. Jim, thanks a lot.
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