Hot Stories for the Week of January 26 - 30

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, January 31, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, the hot story of the week is almost there, with big victories in Iowa and New Hampshire and his rivals running out of money, John Kerry (search) is that close ... that close...


KONDRACKE: ... to having the Democratic nomination all locked up, and his rival candidates just blew it on Thursday night, in South Carolina, they had their last chance in ... a debate to tackle John Kerry. And this is about as feisty as it got. Watch.


HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Kerry's the front-runner. I mean him no insult. But in 19 years in the Senate, Senator Kerry sponsored nine bill -- 11 bills that had anything to do with health care. Not one of them passed.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, one of the things that you need to know as a president is how things work in Congress, if you want to get things done.


KONDRACKE: Meaning no disrespect, of course. Right.

I mean, what, the fundamentals of this is that Dean and the rest of them got shell-shocked by what occurred in Iowa, where Gephardt and Dean indulged in fratricide and ruined each other's chances.

So, so now everybody's, everybody's making nicey-nice. Kerry therefore gets no practice in answering all the charges that he will face...


KONDRACKE: ... when the Republicans get to him.

And Ed Gillespie (search), the chairman of the Republican National Committee, started out this week with a long list of items in Kerry's national security background. He said that he'd been a distinguished veteran, but that his national security program would make America weaker.


KONDRACKE: Now, if you'd like to, I can recite that list, but I think I'll let you talk instead.

BARNES: Well, you know, it was a, I can go down that list too, of things he opposed, the B-1 bomber, the B-2 bomber, the Apache helicopter, the Abrams tank, the Patriot missile, anyway, I can go on ...

BARNES: ... a host of war planes.

KONDRACKE: The intelligence budget.

BARNES: Ah, right.

KONDRACKE: Nuclear freeze ... the Bradley fighting vehicle, the 1991 war. Nonetheless, Kerry says, Bring it on.


KONDRACKE: And you know something? It will be brought.

BARNES: Yes, yes. It'll be brought on. Now, you had exactly right ... about the debate. I don't understand it. Now, is there some reason why these other candidates don't want to win? Why would they just let Kerry win the debate by default? I mean, and by far the toughest question, and that wasn't very tough, was that one by Howard Dean. I mean, that's what that is.

However, I do think John Kerry made a couple of mistakes, a small one and perhaps a larger one in that debate. You know, he said he'd never claimed that it was a mistake for Democrats to focus on winning Southern states.

In fact, he had said something to that effect. More important, he claimed that the Bush administration is exaggerating the war on terrorism, and that it shouldn't really be regarded as a war, that primarily terrorists should be fought by law enforcement and intelligence.

Now, maybe he forgot that radical Islam has declared war on the United States.

Now, the other hot story is death knell. You know who I'm talking about, of course.

KONDRACKE: Howard Dean, Dr. Dean.

BARNES: Howard Dean, yes, Howard Dean for sure. He is acting like a loser. And, you know ... maybe because that's because he has been losing.

The truth is, he is desperate for a win in any primary or caucus, hoping that that will touch off a wave of victories, a streak of wins, the way it did with Ronald Reagan (search) in 1976.

But he's not following the right strategy. What he's doing is following a pick- and-choose strategy, and he's decided that the seven primaries next Tuesday, I can forget those. I'm going to focus on February 7 when in Michigan and Washington.

The problem is, the best way to do well in Michigan and Washington is to do as well as possible with the limited resources you have in the primaries on Tuesday. If you announce, as he had, that basically I'm skipping those, it will depress not only the Deaniacs in all those states, it will depress his vote, and it will mean that he will wind up doing the worse in Michigan and Washington on Saturday a week from now.

KONDRACKE: I mean, well, there's an easy explanation for the February 3 strategy, and that is that he's out of money. I mean, you're right, he should not have...

BARNES: Yes, he can't ... in those states.

KONDRACKE: ... yes, yes, right. Well, he is going to, you know, wander around.

BARNES: But not much.

KONDRACKE: But he's not putting ads on ... he can't afford them. He blew his wad in Iowa and New Hampshire, and it didn't work, and now, as you say, he's going to these, to the February 7 and, and Wisconsin on February 17.

And ... so that's his strategy. He also changed campaign managers this week, which didn't do him a lot of good. I mean, Roy Neel (search) ... is supposedly a good manager, but he sort of undermines Dean's case that he's an insurgent, you know, not a Washington insider. He can't get much more inside than, than Al Gore's former chief of staff and a telecom lobbyist.

BARNES: Yes, I know.

KONDRACKE: So what Dean is fundamentally hoping for is that some huge scandal ... unnamed ... will blow Kerry out of the water ... or that Kerry will make one mud, some gaffe.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: And I don't think that's going to happen.

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