Dean's Concession Takes Center Stage

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, Jan. 16, that has been edited for clarity.

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HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma, Arizona, and North Dakota, and New Mexico. And we're going to California and Texas and New York. And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan! And then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Yes!




BRIT HUME, HOST: It was one of those moments in politics when you realize that even though there's been a big story before that, this itself was a big story, the reaction of Howard Dean to his third-place finish in Iowa last night. It was a very unusual concession speech, if I might suggest that, to Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard.

Bill, welcome.


HUME: What about this? What likely effect? What do you think of this?

KRISTOL: I think it could turn out to be one of those memorable, meltdown moments that sometimes happen in politics. Senator Muskie (search), in New Hampshire in 1972, crying or allegedly crying, in the snow outside the Union Leader, after they attacked his wife. And Muskie's campaign collapsed after that.

Bob Dole (search) in 1988, having just lost New Hampshire, having won Iowa before that, being asked by Tom Brokaw, on national television, whether he had anything to say to President Bush. Brokaw expecting Dole to say congratulation, we'll see you in the next state. And Dole snapping, "Tell George to stop lying about my record." Dole was really fantastic. You know, I miss Bob Dole. But these moments do define -- we remember them today.

HUME: I guess we can include in 1980 in the Nashua, New Hampshire, debate in which George H. W. Bush was trying to have a one-on-one debate with Ronald Reagan. And there was a dustup about the other candidate showing up and Reagan says, "Stop. I paid for this microphone," and a terrible embarrassment for Bush and a moment for Reagan.

KRISTOL: Right. Absolutely. So I think this really could be a moment. And I wonder whether -- well, Dean basically said he has to win New Hampshire, and we'll see if he can hang on to the lead that we see that he's had had until last night.

I agree with you, losing Iowa is one thing. Losing Iowa because you're viewed as too prickly, too angry, unable perhaps to beat President Bush. And then letting all the viewers in New Hampshire and in the other primary states see you on television. If they didn't see it last night they will be still have seen it tonight. See you on television and get the e-mail of the audio and video all around the country, you just looking like a madman, that can't be good for Dean.

HUME: Now, it's interesting to wonder what was at work. One sense, perhaps, that Dean has been urged to tone his delivery down, to change his appearance, putting on a sweater, and to be a milder, mannered fellow. Even his late commercials in Iowa were relatively mild in tone, urging people to come out and vote and so on.

Whether he might have thought as he sat there watching the results last night that that hadn't worked. And that this new, easygoing, softer personality wasn't working that he was going to go down and give some more the, you know, the old time 100 proof religion to the audience and get back on track. Could that have been?

KRISTOL: Maybe. You see your supporters there. Remember, it's a ballroom with his own supporters, who worked awfully hard, disappointed. You want to pump them up. They're screaming and yelling. They love you.

He may have had in mind, I was thinking about this, McCain in 2000. Remember when he lost South Carolina on that Saturday, very, very important primary? And he went out Saturday night, and he was nothing like Dean, he didn't lose his cool. But he was angry. He was angry. He said I was treated badly in South Carolina. I don't accept this. We're going to reverse this in Michigan. A kind of a harsh indictment of what happened in South Carolina.

Some people thought it was a mistake of McCain. It wasn't the normal, gracious concession speech. But actually it worked. The Michigan voters saw it and decided, ooh, maybe we don't like what happened in South Carolina. People way up in Michigan probably don't think so well of South Carolina, and McCain was able to win Michigan.

Dean might have in mind that based on that example; it's better to go down fighting than graciously. But McCain had a plan. And I think, did it in a deft way. Dean just looked out of control. I think this could be the moment. I really wonder whether Dean will not win -- I don't think he'll win New Hampshire.

HUME: Can -- really?

KRISTOL: Oh, yes.

HUME: Isn't it possible that the electorate in Iowa is different? I mean obviously Iowa winners have done -- have had rough seas in New Hampshire?

KRISTOL: They have, but you would think the electorate in Iowa would be better for Dean. I mean these are the people who go to the caucus go to the trouble to go to the caucus, are more activist, probably somewhat more ideological. They've seen Dean all this time and to get 18 percent of the vote? Gore, Bradley, Senator Harkin behind him, the public sector unions behind him, and he gets 18 percent of the vote. I wonder if he'll do better than 18 percent in New Hampshire.

Now, the big caveat to all this is there's an awfully, important debate Thursday night. I think the debate Thursday night in New Hampshire, which I guess, I think you're moderating on the Fox News Channel, making a little commercial; will be the most important debate in the presidential nominating process, since the one we just mentioned, Reagan and Bush in 1980. You have a lot of New Hampshire voters who have half formed opinions of these candidates. But they're open to changing their mind. They're all going to be watching Thursday night.

HUME: Bill, great to have you. Thanks very much.

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