Hot Stories for the Week of January 19 - 23

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, January 24, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, HOST: We're live from the campus of St. Anselm's College (search) in Manchester, New Hampshire.

I'm Fred Barnes.

MORT KONDRACKE, HOST: And I'm Mort Kondracke.

And the hot story is King Kerry after his blowout victory in Iowa. He is blowing away the field again here in ...

BARNES: Certainly.

KONDRACKE: ... here, here in freezing New Hampshire (search).

The latest Fox News New Hampshire tracking poll was released just a few minutes ago, and it shows John Kerry leading the pack at 37 percent, Howard Dean at 19 percent, Clark, Wesley Clark, dropping a few points to 13 percent, John Edwards at 12 percent, and Joe Lieberman up 2 points to 10 percent.

They had a debate right here at St. Anselm's College last week, and with all the candidates now trying to avoid the fate of Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt, who went negative in Iowa ... everybody was, is making nicey nice, so nobody got in John Kerry's way, which, helps him.

And he was allowed to go on at length, I thought rather effectively, about his resume in public service. Here, watch.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am a veteran. I fought in a war. I've been a prosecutor. I've sent people to jail for the rest of their life. I have as a lieutenant governor helped to fight to create a national plan on acid rain to protect our rivers and lakes and streams for the future. As a senator, I've stood up for years and fought for fairness.

I've also voted for welfare reform. I'm a gun owner and a hunter since I was a young man...


BARNES: Well, that might have been effective, but it was also kind of amusing when he's had two big fights, right, in Vietnam and then the big fight ... the world war against acid rain? I mean, I think he had to reassure liberals that Vietnam, because he's proud of having fought there and should be, that didn't mean that he was not a liberal and a ... and so on.

But you're right, he is riding high. Now, Mort, in fact, when you win the Iowa caucuses (search) and the New Hampshire primary (search), that makes you heavily, heavily favored to actually win the nomination. In fact, over the last eight presidential cycles, all of which we've covered, anyone, Republican or Democrat, who won in Iowa and New Hampshire went on to win his party's nomination.

Now, Kerry is the favorite, but I think of all the candidates I've met during all eight of those cycles, he's the one that stands the greatest chance of not winning the nomination.

In other words, it's still open.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well, we'll see down the line ... and, you know, obviously. Well, now we have Howard Dean. Now, after blowing it twice in Iowa, once by finishing third ... and then raving before national television, Howard Dean was compelled to do ... pay obeisance and, and try to make himself whole again ... likable again.

And I think that performance, by the way, in Iowa on television will go down in political history as one of the worst moments by any candidate ever.

So now he's up to public relations 101. The first thing you do is to admit error ... and the second thing you do is to try to laugh at yourself.


KONDRACKE: So here he went on the "David Letterman Show"... and he did the Top 10 things, and this was his top 10 list of ... how to get out of the ditch. Watch.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Ten, top 10 ways I, Howard Dean, can turn things around. Number six.


LETTERMAN: Top 10 ways I can turn things around. Number four.

DEAN: Start working out and speaking with an Austrian accent.

LETTERMAN: Number two.

DEAN: Fire the staffer who suggested that we do this lousy Top 10 list instead of actually campaigning.

LETTERMAN: That's right, and it's about time.


KONDRACKE: And then step three ... in your political makeover process is to make yourself into a human being ...

BARNES: Yes, right.

KONDRACKE: ... again, if possibly can, which he did by appearing on Diane Sawyer's show along with his wife ... along with his wife, Judy. Now, Judy Dean (search) said at one point that she cannot remember a single time ... when Howard Dean has ever been angry.

BARNES: Yes, right.

KONDRACKE: I think she's got a memory problem.

BARNES: ... wait a minute ... I wouldn't be mean to Mrs. Dean. I think she's a very attractive, authentic person who would have actually helped her husband if she'd been on the stump with him some.

KONDRACKE: So why didn't she?

BARNES: Yes, well, I'm not going to, ...

KONDRACKE: You're not going there.

BARNES: I'm not going there.

Years ago, you'll remember, there used to be a month between Iowa and New Hampshire. Now, that might have given Howard Dean enough time to recover from that last Monday that is etched in my mind. I'll never forget it.


BARNES: I don't think ... a weekend is enough. And here's his problem. No one who didn't come in at least first or second in the New Hampshire primary has ever gone on to win the nomination, his party's nomination. So he has to...

KONDRACKE: And you're suggesting ... that he's not going to finish in second.

BARNES: Well, we'll, we'll get to that in a minute. But the ... let's move to General Wesley Clark, who did not have a good debate in New Hampshire a few days ago. Listen to Peter Jennings when he asked Wesley Clark about someone who's endorsed him.


PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS: At one point Mr. Moore said in front of you that President Bush, he was at, he's saying he'd like to see a debate between you, the general, and President Bush, who he called a deserter. Now, that's a reckless charge not supported by the facts. And I was curious to know why you didn't contradict him.

WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think Michael Moore (search) has the right to say whatever he feels about this. I don't know whether this is supported by the facts or not. He's not the only person who's said that. I've not followed up on those facts, and frankly, it's not relevant to me and why I'm in this campaign.


BARNES: Now, Mort, that was not the right answer ... and the problem was, there's an easy answer. All he had to say was, You know, I'm glad to have Michael Moore's endorsement, but when he said that, you know, it kind of got by me. Now that you've reminded me of it, I certainly repudiate it, and I wish he hadn't said that. And that would have been it.

Instead, instead, he's got it, but that's not his only problem. Coming to New Hampshire, he's gotten kind of rattled and paranoid and, you know, blaming the press, even Fox's Brit Hume, for asking the, a question about his Democratic credentials. He hasn't been acting presidential.

KONDRACKE: Well, the Michael Moore charge involved here is, refers to the allegation, never proved, that George Bush 30 years ago did not show up for National Guard duty in Alabama. Now, at the worst, that would be AWOL, absent without leave...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... which is considerably short of desertion, and General Clark knows it. Desertion is when you leave and you're never, and you're never coming back, a guy who spent his ... his whole life in the military would know the difference ... makes it all the more reason why he should have corrected.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: I mean, all this plays into this penchant, which I've referred to before ... of Clark, you know...

BARNES: Ad nauseam.

KONDRACKE: ... rumor, rumor mongering, you know.

BARNES: Yes, yes, I know he does it, OK.

Let's move to John Edwards, whose shtick is hope and optimism. Watch him at a leather factory, I think, in Concord, New Hampshire, today.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Cynics didn't build this country. Optimists built this country, people who believed in what was possible.


BARNES: You know, the good thing about ... the effective thing about John Edwards's personality, now, John Kerry's a bit pompous, I'm sure you'll agree. Dean is Dean. And Clark is a bit weird. But John Edwards is likable. It helps in politics. And, and no offense to you or to me, actually, women have sensed this, his likeability, and have responded better than men have.

KONDRACKE: Well, actually, Kerry's leading among women.


KONDRACKE: But, but, you know...

BARNES: Well, I know ... but Edwards is way up there.

KONDRACKE: The Washington Post editorial page made a great point that no one has really picked up on out here, and that is that John Edwards, alone among all the presidential candidates, will not reveal who is bundling for him, that is, collecting...

BARNES: Yes, yes, right.

KONDRACKE: ... all these hordes of ... $2,000 contributions ...  And, you know the suspicion would be that his bundlers are all trial lawyers. And he makes this great claim that he's the guy who's anti-special interest, anti-lobbyist ... and trial lawyers are a big special interest.

BARNES: Right, right.

KONDRACKE: Now, I thought that the very best performance -- I know this will shock you, Fred ... the very best performance in that debate the other night was from Joe Lieberman (search) ... who's been trailing the field, but I hope ... you know ... will show a little, a little action here.

Anyway, here's Joe Lieberman talk about the war.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only person on this stage who had unwaveringly supported the removal of Saddam Hussein and our troops who are there carrying out that mission which, yes, has made us a lot safer than we would be with Saddam in power instead of prison.


BARNES: You know, Lieberman is the candidate most feared by the White House, if he could get the nomination, of course. No one at the White House thinks he can get the nomination.

What he needs, if he wants to get somewhere in New Hampshire, is to get the independents who voted for McCain, and, of course, Lieberman is, worked a lot with McCain in the Senate. And that, what is it, a quarter to a third of Democrats in New Hampshire who actually are pro-war.

So far, he hasn't really cut into them. But he needs to.

Now, look at this ... if you want to see ... the Democratic race from a different direction, look, look at this from the Fox poll, how the leading Democrats are doing against President Bush right now.

See those numbers? Kerry is the closest. He's only 7 down to Bush, but he's just had the best five days in, in his political career. And that Clinton there, that's Hillary, not Bill.

KONDRACKE: Yes, I know. But, but, look, Bush has just had, this is the week after the State of the Union message, which gives Bush a big bump, and for him to be only 7 points ahead of John Kerry indicates that the Democrats have got a chance.

So here is how we think it's all going to shake out on Tuesday night. John Kerry will win big, followed by John Edwards, surprise, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, and Joe Lieberman. You know, we are taking a bit of a flyer with John Edwards ... if, you know, they're bunched up there.

But, Edwards ... does tend to, to rise at the last minute, and Wesley Clark and Howard Dean have been falling.

BARNES: Yes, I would say one thing. Watch Lieberman, because he's close enough to sneak up toward second place. OK.

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