Hot Stories for the Week of February 9 - 13

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", February 14, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, the hot story is exhibition game. That is what the Democratic presidential contest has turned into. And for the umpteenth time, and until I get full credit from the whole wide world for this analogy, John Kerry (search) is now the Harlem Globetrotters ...

and John Edwards (search) and Howard Dean (search) are the Washington Generals, the team that used to go around and -- or still does...


KONDRACKE: ... I guess, and goes around and always loses ...

BARNES: Mort, I've given you credit before, you know...

KONDRACKE: Oh, yes? OK. Well ... the world hasn't. All right? OK.

So they're going on and on through primary after primary, and so far, Kerry has won 12 out of 14. The game is almost over.

Wes Clark (search) threw in the towel this week, and endorsed Kerry. And now, Dean is still fighting as though this is for real. He doesn't know that he's dead. And, Edwards is going through the motions, at least, and supposedly talking to Kerry quite regularly, about what, I don't know.

Anyway, here are Dean and Edwards displaying their wares.


HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think Senator Kerry's clearly not the best person to carry the banner of the Democrats in this race, because he's behaved so much like a Republican, both in his voting record and in his, now his political practices fund raising. It's just what we don't need heading the Democratic Party.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And thank all of you, all of you, the voters who voted today in the election, for saying to the country that we're going to have a campaign and an election, not a coronation.


BARNES: Boy, those are rousing.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well...

BARNES: Yes, spare me.

KONDRACKE: ... look, Kerry, Kerry's going to win two more in ... Nevada and Wisconsin, but the game will go on until ... March, at least March 2 ... when, you know, there are 10 primaries and Kerry will go, get a lot of headlines saying, won, New York ... won California ... won Ohio, et cetera, et cetera.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

No, look, this is the Kerry phase of the campaign. That's obvious.

And, Edwards and Dean seem to be consciously playing along and being ... merely the patsies, the Washington Generals, as you would have it, of John Kerry. They're helping him. They're helping him produce wins. If, if nobody else is in there, he doesn't win. He gets the delegates...


BARNES: ... but he doesn't win.

Now, I wouldn't be surprised if they play along long enough so there will be the slugfest in Samoa on March 8 and the pitched battle in Puerto Rico on June 6, and, look, here's what's surprising to me. The press is playing along with this as if there's some drama and tension over who's going to win the nomination, the Democratic presidential nomination.

There's no tension. There's no drama. I mean, Kerry's got it. And, and no amount of building up of Dean and Edwards could change that.

KONDRACKE: I mean, unless, of course, there's some huge scandal, as re, you know rumored around ... the world about Kerry developed ... but has not developed.

BARNES: It is not developing, OK.

But already, already, Mort, and I suspect you noticed this too, we have seen rumblings of the real campaign, and that is Kerry versus Bush, hence hot story number two, the real race.

Now, when we get to that race, you know, nobody is more depressed than Republicans. Republicans, who are whining and moaning and flagellating themselves about the possibility that Bush may lose to Gore, to Gore, well, he beat Gore, lost the popular vote. Wrong election, wrong candidate, may lose to Kerry.

And, and look, indeed, these have been tough times for Bush, most recently with this flap, this silly flap, I think, over his National Guard duty. But there's been a press feeding frenzy over that.

But the good news is, John Kerry says he will have nothing to do with that. He will just not dwell on that issue at all. Listen to him and see if you think he's being sincere.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've asked surrogates not to, in fact. When I've heard of a surrogate doing that, I've said, Please don't. I -- it's not an issue to me, and I've never made an issue in the course of my entire career out of what choices anybody made about where they served.


BARNES: Well, good for John Kerry. Now, Mort, I know you're going to show some polls that say that Bush is doomed forever. But, you know, this is the Kerry phase. When the primaries are finished, the contested ones, it will be the Bush phase. And I would advise these Republicans who are so depressed, just wait. The Bush phase will be different. There'll be different poll numbers.

KONDRACKE: You disparage them, but ... nonetheless, they exist, and...

BARNES: Oh, yes, no, I'm not...

KONDRACKE: ... and here they are.


KONDRACKE: See the Friday's Washington Post poll shows that President Bush's approval rating as a 50 percent, down 8 points since July, January.

Bare, barely a majority, 52 percent, say that he's honest and trustworthy, down 7 points since October. And in a head-to-head match up with John Kerry, Bush loses to Kerry by 9 points.

BARNES: You think those 9 point, you think that's predictive?

KONDRACKE: No, of course not ... I mean, you know, there, this is going to go through we don't know who's going to ... win the election ... This is a snapshot ...

BARNES: I know.

KONDRACKE: ... of the -- You do?


KONDRACKE: You're sure?


KONDRACKE: You're ready to have bet money on Bush?


KONDRACKE: Well, I'm not.


KONDRACKE: OK. All right. But look, you know, Bush will have his comeback ... and there will, there will be a tussle...


KONDRACKE: ... and Bush sort of set the framework for how he's going to play the game on the positive, the negative is yet to come. Watch this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I look forward to a good campaign. I know exactly where I want to lead the country. And I've shown the American people I can lead. I've shown the American people I can sit here in the Oval Office when times are tough and be steady and make good decisions. And I look forward to articulating what I want to do the next four years if I'm fortunate enough to be their president.


KONDRACKE: Yes, so he's going to run on his record, and he's going to run on Kerry's record. And Kerry's record has a lot of points of vulnerability, and, you know, you may end up being right. But...


KONDRACKE: ... you know, it's going to be tough.

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