This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, Jan. 12, that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: For more on the race in Iowa, now in the home stretch, we're pleased to be joined again by our friend. David Yepsen, political editor of the Des Moines Register and the top political correspondent in the state.
DAVID YEPSEN OF DES MOINES REGISTER: Good to be with you, Brit.
HUME: Compare for me, if you can, the level of organization, people flowing into the state from various organizations this year with caucus years past.
YEPSEN: Oh, it's much larger. There are more people, there are more candidates spending more money, staff, mail, phone calls. It is incredible. And you add on top of that the efforts made by the labor unions. It's just really an unprecedented amount of campaign effort that's being expended here in Iowa.
HUME: Is it possible to assess, based on what you can see, which organization appears to be the most muscular of the candidates?
YEPSEN: Dick Gephardt's. Dick Gephardt (search) has got a lot of support from, you know, about 20, 21 different international labor unions, they've got 95,000 member in Iowa. These people are organized. They know about organizing this. It's what they do for a living. And so I think most Democratic strategists I talk to say that they think Gephardt has got the best machinery on the ground.
HUME: It used to be said the Iowa caucus was not about having necessarily the most supporters, or the most people for you in the state of Iowa. It was about being best able to identify the people who were for you, go out, bring them to the caucuses and get them to participate. Therefore, suggesting, that polls like the current tracking polls showing Howard Dean (search) ahead by a few points over Dick Gephardt, may not be very meaningful. What's your take on that?
YEPSEN: I agree with that. I mean, I think these are an organizational test; and that is one of the things that it does measure in a candidate. I mean conceivably, if a candidate can organize to do well here, he or she can organize a presidential campaign elsewhere.
The limitation in a lot of this polling, Brit, goes like this. A lot of Howard Dean's supporters are very young. They don't have land-based telephone lines. They live off cell phones. It's very difficult for pollsters to find those people. It's also true that a lot of Dick Gephardt's union support comes from union members who are not Democrats, who are Independents. And so they don't show up on a lot of the lists that pollsters use when they take their surveys.
And so I have -- I love polls like everybody in politics, but there are some limitations to what the predictive value of these things. Because somebody can get a lot of people out on caucus night and throw those predictions way off.
HUME: Has your reporting suggested to you that one or another candidate might be over polling and another one under polling. And if so, which ones?
YEPSEN: Well, I don't know that they're all polling and doing tracking. It's just difficult to know who is going to be there. What's the weather going to be like that night? Some people are going to show up at the caucuses, they're going to see these huge crowds, and they may turn away.
Howard Dean, I think, while he may not have the best -- the same sort of machinery that Dick Gephardt has, I think has more people. That is shown in the polls. It shows up in Howard Dean's crowds. The question is...
HUME: You mean more people in terms of supporters, not necessarily more people in terms of organizers from out of state? Which...
YEPSEN: I mean Howard Dean's crowds are much -- are larger generally than the average Dick Gephardt crowd. But they're new people, so the challenge for the Dean campaign is to get those people who have never participated in this process and get them to the caucus site.
HUME: I guess it's one thing to go out on an afternoon and go to a rally where the candidate himself appears and whoop for him and hear him say the stuff you love to hear him say. And quite another to go out on a long evening on a cold night and stand in a corner somewhere, right?
YEPSEN: That's right. And it does tend to reward the people who are most committed, who are most enthused and energetic. And in that case these are the Howard Dean people.
HUME: Is there anything that has happened -- I mean there's been a welter of developments; least it feels like to me, in the last couple of days. You know, Dean appears to get mad at the guy who asked him questions. Other things happening out there, any new developments out there? Harkin sends an e-mail to somebody saying he really thinks Gephardt would be the better president even though he endorsed -- any of these things seem likely to make a difference? And if so, which?
YEPSEN: Well, all of them make a little bit of difference. There have been a lot of endorsements. Each day's news events are magnified in this media hothouse that's out here right now. And I think undecided Democrats are spending a lot of time weighing it all at the very end.
I mean, for example, Howard Dean. He seems to have peaked out in some of these polls. He has lost any support that you can see. But he's just not gaining a whole lot. And you talk to some of these undecided and they have questions about the things he says about the caucus bashing. It just makes people a little skittish. So Governor Dean's response in the debate last night and on -- is to sort of go to ground. Try to sit on a lead. Get cautious. And that sort of ruins the man's charm as a candidate, the very things that seem to make people so attracted to him.
So then on the stump today, he is out there turning up the jets again, attacking those of us in the media. Which is always a sign to a candidate that is having troubles. Shooting the messenger, we're popular targets. But you have seen that before. So all of these events, Brit, go in our one little ... piece of evidence that gets weighed by an undecided Iowa caucus goer.
HUME: One last thing. Al Sharpton was critical of Dean on the issue of race in his administration in Vermont. Not enough minorities, in Sharpton's view. Is that an issue that cuts very much in Iowa in your view?
YEPSEN: No. I don't think it does. Less than 5 percent of the caucus goers are minority members. I don't think anybody doubts Howard Dean's commitment to civil rights. If anything, Dean, should have responded directly to Al Sharpton instead of taken a shot like that. He kind of wimped out.
HUME: All right. David Yepsen, always a pleasure to have you. See you soon.
YEPSEN: OK, Brit.
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