Rumors on Dem Campaign Trail

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", Feb. 18, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: The buzz in the press is that John Edwards (search) surged a lot in Wisconsin and John Kerry (search) sagged a bit, because Kerry did poorly in the debate on Sunday and John Edwards always seems to surge in the late going.

But was there another factor in Wisconsin that nobody seems to want to talk about? One veteran, Democratic strategist thinks so. She's Fox News contributor Susan Estrich, who joins us tonight from Los Angeles.

So Susan, what do you think?

SUSAN ESTRICH, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I could not get over the fact, Brit, that last week when rumors started flying, I heard from Democrats across the country who said to me no not again.

HUME: You are talking about the rumors about John Kerry and the possibility that he may have had a dalliance. Now denied by him and by the other alleged party to this, which may be the thing that broke it into mainstream press, first in the tabloids and then elsewhere, was the denial. But there it was by week's end.

ESTRICH: Right. And the story got out, does John Kerry have, as we Democrats like to call it, a Clinton problem? And if it weren't for Clinton, it probably wouldn't be an issue. It didn't make it to Fox News. It didn't make it to a lot of the mainstream media.

But if you look at the election season, you see the jitters that happen along the elite can translate to voters really quickly. So what I've been hearing in the last week, and it remains to be seen, maybe this was all a Republican dirty trick. Maybe there's no truth to it.

But I think one of the factors that may have been playing in Wisconsin was the jitteriness among primary voters that maybe we don't know everything we need to know. If there is any truth to this, we don't want to go down this road again, particularly when we have got a situation with John Kerry where he doesn't have a wife of 30 years who's going to stand by her man, like Hillary did or Maria Shriver did. When we have this more complex situation where his wife has said I will maim him if I catch him cheating. That got Democrats nervous.

HUME: Well, he -- so far, he doesn't seem to show any bruises or the results of any attempts...

ESTRICH: No, he's sitting. You know, there was a story about five years ago in Boston that made the press then about some other, you know, late night drop off of a resume at John Kerry's house. This was public record at the time. He said she was just dropping off a resume.

I remember at the time says, we have got to see if John Kerry is still sitting after this story hits the paper because then we'll know what Teresa has to say. I mean John Kerry has a very attractive, interesting wife, but it's not one where the public, or I think, the wife in particular, is going to go, well, for any allegations of infidelity. I know in both of them hope there's no truth to it, we march on.

But I've got to tell you, Brit, it was a lousy weekend for people in the Democratic Party who've lived through the Clinton business for a lousy, couple of days.

HUME: But if we look at the exit polling it showed indeed, that late deciders broke for Edwards, as late deciders have in some other states.


HUME: But it also showed that the late -- that the Kerry -- excuse me, Edwards got a lot of his votes from Independents and Republicans, who crossed over to vote in this Democratic primary. If your thesis is correct that it was jittery, elite Democrats, he seemed to do fine with them.

Although, we did say that high-income Democrats voted for Edwards, but he seemed to do fine with Democrats and won by a healthy margin. It was Independents and Republicans that he lost. Does that fit your thinking?

ESTRICH: But he's not getting 51 percent, Brit. And that's what gets the Edwards people saying they're still in the game and what has some Democrats at least saying it's not over yet. I mean if you look at the mainstream media and the sort of conventional wisdom, this thing should be over. He's done. He's got all the endorsements. He should be at 51 percent.

So the question becomes, well, why isn't he getting 51 percent? Why are these high-income Democrats, who are the ones who, by and large, are following the Internet gossip and the mongering. Why aren't they just saying, OK, we're done? We have got Kerry- Edwards. It's not even March yet. Lets be finished with this thing. That's what we're all supposed to be doing.

And the curious thing to me is we're very clearly not done yet. And If you saw John Kerry, as you and I did last night, he was a lot more restrained than he's been in the past. And all of a sudden, he is now criticizing Edwards', you know, cherry picking strategy.

I don't know. I don't think it's about cherry picking. I'm still putting my money on Kerry and Edwards. But I do think there is this sense with Kerry because he emerged so quickly as the frontrunner. And because of these other factors, just a little nervousness. We'll see what happens.

HUME: Got you Susan. Thanks again.

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