Someone Who Can Turn Red to Blue

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", March 3, that has been edited for clarity.

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SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: The truth of the matter is that John Kerry (search) has what it takes right here to be president of the United States. And I for one intend to do everything in my power to make him the next president of the United States.




BRIT HUME, HOST: It is probably worth noting that John Kerry did one thing that John Edwards declined to do. That is he dipped into his personal finances, by mortgaging his house. John Edwards, believed to be worth something on the order of $36 million, decided not to do that. Which he would have had to do to keep going, got out of the race.

So the question is where are we now? Is this race a tie? Where does it now stand? For answers to that we turn to Larry Sabato, professor at the University of Virginia and director of The Center for Politics there. He joins us from Charlottesville.

So Larry, what is your sense now of -- first of all, let's talk a moment about Edwards. I think he apparently believes that he did the right thing in getting out and also by staying in as long as he did. What has he done for himself here? Is he now a major, national player among the Democrats or not?

LARRY SABATO, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, he's helped himself a lot. I don't know about Kerry; we can talk about Kerry in a minute. But he certainly helped himself. He's gone from being an unknown North Carolina senator, to having very high name I.D. and he connected with Democrats nationally. If things play out right, he might, might, be a presidential candidate again in 2008.

HUME: What about a vice-presidential candidate this year? Does he bring a lot to the ticket -- would he bring a lot to the ticket? Or what is your view on that?

SABATO: Given his performance in the campaign, I think he has got to be in the final six. I think Kerry would do that for him just to make sure that he's not embarrassed.

Frankly, Brit, I don't think he brings that much. I have a very, old-fashioned view of vice-presidential candidates. I think the only thing they bring are they only thing that matters in a presidential election, electoral votes. And I don't believe that John Kerry can carry north -- that is John Edwards can carry his home state of North Carolina. That's the only thing he could bring.

HUME: Just looking back on it, I've been trying to think of when we can really say that we last saw a vice-presidential who really brought a state. I suppose Lyndon Johnson (search) did in 1960, one-way or the other.

SABATO: Mondale in 1976 helped Carter quite a bit in northern states that were suspicious of his fundamentalist Christianity.

HUME: Since then, it's hard to put my finger on one. It seemed to me, for some time, that maybe a reason that has been less discussed is the idea of uniting your party and uniting your convention. Which has become, you know, a showcase where they don't want any arguments.

Who do you think would help most? I mean if you were Ker -- if you were Edwards and you wanted sort of the dream ticket, who would he get?

SABATO: Well, first of all, about uniting the Party, how can you unite a Party that hasn't divided? I mean this has been the biggest powder puff of the nomination battle I've ever seen.

John Edwards was almost afraid to suggest that, you know, John Kerry had had botox treatments, much less anything serious. So Kerry was never attacked, of course that vetting will come later, as you well know by the press and by the Republicans.

If Kerry were smart, I think he would look for somebody that can turn a red Bush state into a blue Democratic state, Evan Bayh from Indiana, John Breaux -- Senator John Breaux. Maybe Dick Gephardt from Missouri.

If you are polling, looking at Florida -- and I don't believe this necessarily going to be competitive, but not Bob Graham, necessarily. Look to the other Senator Bill Nelson, who is younger and he's an astronaut hero, matching the Vietnam. You can just see the ads. They write themselves.

HUME: Talk to me about the president and where he now stands. The latest Fox News poll, which is somewhat different from some others, has this race at about 45-45. You don't want to be under 50 percent in this stage of a race if you are the president.

On the other hand, John Kerry, as you've pointed out, has had quite a pleasant experience considering this was supposed to be a contested primary. What's your assessment?

SABATO: Well, considering the fact that John Kerry had nothing but good things said about him by everybody, that includes the press as well as the other Democrats, I'd be shocked if he weren't at least a half dozen points ahead of President Bush at this point.

Bush has had the toughest three months of his presidency. It's been awful. But you know, that's a chimera. It doesn't matter. It is not real. And the real campaign begins with the conventions and this is going to be a very close race, though not necessarily a squeaker.

HUME: Why do you say that? Who do suspect is going to emerge here?

SABATO: Because historically, we don't get two squeakers in a row, at least not since 1884 to 1892. So it could happen, but I doubt it. I think one candidate will break loose and win by two, three, four points.

You know, the president has to be rated the nominal favorite. He didn't get the candidate he wanted, Howard Dean. But he does have the most liberal senator in the United States Senate, according to the respected "National Journal." Hey, that's not a bad race to run, Massachusetts' senator with a very liberal record.

HUME: What about the issue that you keep hearing about with Kerry that has to do with adjustments in his positions on various issues? You know, against Gulf War I, but for it now; for Gulf War II, critical of it now, series of weapons programs that he's voted against, all of which are now in use. What's your take on what affect that will have?

SABATO: Well, it will hurt him. Remember, Gore was presented as somebody without real convictions, who was here one day and over there the next. And that will be the same tactic with Kerry.

Brit, I really believe what will hurt Kerry more than anything else is not some ridiculous, personal scandal. It's voting record.

He's opposed to the death penalty. He's made a recent exception for terrorists. What about child killers? You look at his record on -- well, he hasn't said anything about child killers. But if you are opposed to terrorists, what about child killers?

HUME: Larry, thanks very much.

SABATO: Thank you Brit.

HUME: Look forward to checking in with you again soon.

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