This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, December 6, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: And the hot story number one, is dazzling data. I'm obviously talking about the economic numbers that show an economy. You can look at them here. They're going to pop up on the screen in a moment, Mort, and you can even read them. But I think you've seen them. They're all ...

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Unemployment, down ...

BARNES: Yes, you don't need to read them, but look at one of them. Manufacturing, that number doesn't mean much to you, and it's actually not a percentage, even though we have one there. It's an index of manufacturing activity. And it jumped so much, The Wall Street Journal said it showed in November, last month, the most robust economic, manufacturing, rather, activity in two decades. That's not two months or two years. Two decades. That's really remarkable.

The economy is roaring, not just recovering, so manifestly that President Bush has changed his tune. You know, just a few weeks ago, he was defensive, sort of saying, you know, I'm doing all I can to help the economy. Now he is on offense. Listen to this. This was Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American economy is strong, and it is getting stronger. Today they've released some more statistics that show the economy is strong. Unemployment dropped from 6 percent to 5.9 percent. More jobs are being created.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNES: Do you like that? These weren't statistics, these were Statistics. And, he really emphasized that. Now. There is a simple political proposition that is relevant here, and I'm going to tell it to you. It is that Bush can probably not win reelection if the economy is bad. Democrats cannot defeat Bush in 2004 unless the economy is bad. The economy, Mort, is not bad.

KONDRACKE: Well, there is the Iraq factor, which you left out, you know...

BARNES: Well, it's because I was talking...

KONDRACKE: ... conceivably...

BARNES: ... about the economy.

KONDRACKE: Well, I know, but that could change the election picture, and your syllogism doesn't necessarily work. Anyway, you left out one other piece of good economic news, and that is that the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index is up to 93.7, which is ahead of the pace of Ronald Reagan in 1983, and Bill Clinton the year before he ran for reelection.

Now, I do feel compelled, however, to say that the one weak spot in the economic picture was the job creation number, which was only 57,000 last month. And if you do the math, Bush needs some acceleration of job creation ... in order to even out the 2.3 net job loss during, during his administration. So ...

BARNES: Lagging indicator.

KONDRACKE: I know, lagging indicator. But you and I were together at a National Association Manufacturers function this week where one official said that more jobs have been lost in manufacturing than Bush won the state of Ohio by, in the year 2000.

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: That isn't good. He's got to eat that and make that up.

BARNES: Yes, sure.

KONDRACKE: OK. The other hot story is dissing Dean. Now, the Howard Dean's (search) rivals are all getting very anxious about catching up to him again. The latest New Hampshire poll shows that Howard Dean has a commanding lead of 30 points over John Kerry (search).

In Iowa, Dean's regained a slight lead over Dick Gephardt (search). He was down a point in October. Now he's up 4 over Gephardt. And in South Carolina, Dean is up 2 points over basically the field, but John Edwards, you can see, would be the natural candidate to be his main opponent.

So can anybody stop Dean? They are ...

BARNES: Probably not.

KONDRACKE: ... they are all trying. Here's an assemblage, a little montage of attacks from various candidates. Watch.

BARNES: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Howard Dean does not have experience in foreign policy and military affairs, security affairs. I believe it'll make a great difference.

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Dean, 1996, said we should send Medicare (search) to wholly managed care program. We've got to have a candidate up against the president who can argue this in the most effective way.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This battle in the Democratic primary is a battle for the heart and soul of the party.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should be angry with George Bush. But we can't just be a party of anger.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KONDRACKE: The problem is that Dean ... has got everything going for him ... including mainly money. I mean, Dean announced, just this week that he was going to start right away taking ads out for the duration, till the February 3 primary in South Carolina and New Mexico, and a week or so hence, going to take out more ads through February 3 in Arizona and Oklahoma.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: Nobody can match that kind of stuff.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: If there's any chance of stopping Dean, I think it lies in Dick Gephardt stopping him in Iowa, and then all the other candidates getting behind Gephardt.

I don't think it's going to happen.

BARNES: Yes, I don't either, really. But did you notice how lame all those criticisms were of Dean? I mean, look, I'm no fan of Dean. But the, nobody's going to defeat him with that stuff. The truth is, people go for a candidate not because of experience, not for, because of what he said about Medicare in 1996, not whether he's angry or not. It's because they like him, they agree with him, and they're inspired by him.

And Dean has all those things, and you know, John Kerry saying, He doesn't have my experience and so on, that gets him nowhere, Mort. I don't know why they waste their time doing that. Attack him hard on the issues, and not that stuff.

KONDRACKE: Oh, you're just building him up so he'll be the weakest opponent for Bush.

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