How Is Campaign 2004 Shaping Up?

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, June 28, 2003, 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.

Joining us to give us his thoughts on how campaign 2004 is shaping up, our favorite political science professor, Larry Sabato (search) of the University of Virginia. His crystal ball Web site is a must-read for political junkies.

Welcome back, Larry.


KONDRACKE: Now, on your Web site,, you have a projected electoral college map for 2004, and when you parse out the projected electoral college results, you've got it surprisingly close, probable or and leaning for Bush, 278 electoral votes, probable Democratic, leaning Democratic, 260.

Now, this sort of ratifies the Karl Rove (search) thesis that this, that this election is going to be more like 2000, close, than 1984, the Reagan (search) year, when there, when there, there was a swamp. If, if you agree with Fred that all the stars are in alignment for George Bush, then how come it's going to be so close?

SABATO: Because stars can come unaligned, planets can come unaligned. And I basically agree, if the election were held now, I think Bush would win fairly handily. I think he'd get up to 330 electoral votes, somewhere in that general vicinity, 270 being needed for election.

But let's remember, I was looking to find a way that this election was going to be competitive for the Democratic candidate. This assumes that the economy is not doing that well, and that at least in Iraq, perhaps the stuffing is coming out of the seams.

So a couple of things have to go right for the Democrats for this map to happen.

KONDRACKE: Well, but if, if things go bad in Iraq, and the economy does not recover, the Democrat's going to win, no? I mean, is -- isn't that likely?

SABATO: Well, it's probable, but it'll still be close. Believe me, when you, when you look state by state, what you discover is that hardly anything has changed since 2000. That is, the map created in 2000 is similar to a number of maps created by the voters in American history. Essentially, once a generation, you have an electoral map that proves durable. And I think 2000's electoral map is going to prove durable.

Even if Bush gets 45 states, Fred and Mort, I think the percentages in the states will be relative to how well he did in 2000 in those states.

KONDRACKE: Well, you ... so which of the states that are up for grabs, and Florida's obviously one of them, and if Bob Graham's on the ticket, doesn't that mean that the Democrats under that scenario should win?

SABATO: Under, under good conditions for Democrats, they ought to win Florida. But look, you've also got a number of other very close Gore states being hotly contested by Bush, including Wisconsin and Minnesota and Iowa and Oregon, possibly Washington state. There, there are others there that Rove has been constantly trying to expand the playing field, and he's very wise to do that.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Do you have any blue state, Gore state, going for Bush right now?

SABATO: The only blue state that I would lean toward Bush, and I didn't have it on that particular map, but I think, I think if I had to pick one of the ones that I've just mentioned, I'd probably pick Oregon.

BARNES: Larry, you have not included Howard Dean among your list of five clearly electable Democratic presidential candidates. Watch this Dean ad and see if you might change your mind.


DEAN: I'm Howard Dean. I'm running for president because the only way to beat George Bush is to stand up to him. I opposed the war with Iraq when too many other Democrats supported it, because I want a foreign policy consistent with American values.


BARNES: Well, how about it?

SABATO: No, it didn't change my mind, Fred.

BARNES: Well, why do you not include Dean? I mean, Dean's the hot, the hot candidate at the moment, the press loves him.

SABATO: The press loves him, although they're getting to love him less...


SABATO: ... as they get to know him better. You know, I think Mort is right in suggesting that Howard Dean has moved into the first tier. I think he's right below Gephardt and Kerry. He could win the nomination if his organized hordes flood those caucuses and primaries.

But I'll tell you something, in the White House, they have got to be hoping that Howard Dean is the Democratic nominee. He is a maple-flavored McGovern. Believe me, this is -- the Deanies are very much like the McGovernites. They're very intense, they believe strongly in their candidate, and they're likely to lose at least 45 states.

KONDRACKE: So, so who do your bones tell you is going to be the Democratic nominee? And why?

SABATO: Look, if I had to guess today, and I'm guessing, I would guess it would be either Kerry or Gephardt. They're the most likely ones. I also would see a scenario whereby a Graham or an Edwards or a Lieberman could come to the fore. It's certainly possible.

But Dean has the most excitement there, and I think it's going to come down to Dean and one of those other two major candidates, Gephardt and Kerry, depending on how Iowa and New Hampshire turn out.

Hey, remember, the Democratic establishment is horrified by the idea that Howard Dean is going to be the nominee. They see more House seats going, more Senate seats going down the drain. They're going to do everything in their power to stop Dean once he emerges as one of the top two, if he does.

BARNES: Doesn't it make sense to have Senator Bob Graham of Florida on the ticket as the vice presidential running mate? I mean, wouldn't, I mean, Florida's essential, Democrats have to win it. That would not guarantee it, but give Democrats a pretty darn good chance.

SABATO: Absolutely. I think the Democratic nominee is going to be nuts if he doesn't put Bob Graham on that ticket. That doesn't guarantee Florida, but that's their best shot at winning Florida and putting them into the real race for president.

BARNES: Larry, thanks a lot.

SABATO: Thanks so much.

BARNES: When we return, our farewell to Strom Thurmond.

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