Hot Stories for the Week of March 1 - 5

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", March 6, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Ah, the hot story is the World Series (search). The playoffs are over, the big matches have started, and all the polls, including the Fox News poll, shows that Bush and Kerry all tied up at 44 percent. And it's going to be a long slog.

Bush is not going to be helped by this week's -- last month's, I should say, pathetic job growth number, 21,000 jobs created, when you were expecting 200,000.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: No, I wasn't...

KONDRACKE: And so...

BARNES: ... I was hoping for 200,000.

KONDRACKE: ... you were predict...

BARNES: ... I didn't predict it.

KONDRACKE: All right, OK.

BARNES: Anyway, go ahead.

KONDRACKE: Well, in any event, independent of that, Bush took his first pokes at John Kerry this week by name. Here watch.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to be an interesting debate on the issues. My opponent has spent two decades in Washington, and he's built up quite a record. Fact, Senator Kerry's been in Washington long enough to take both sides on just about every issue.


KONDRACKE: That's a theme you'll hear ... a lot in the future. And Bush went on the air with his, with his first ads...


KONDRACKE: ... distinctly positive. Watch that now.


ANNOUNCER: The last few years have tested America in many ways. Some challenges we've seen before, and some were like no others. But America rose to the challenge.

What sees us through tough times? Freedom, faith, families, and sacrifice.


KONDRACKE: I find that, that ad a little dark and a little ... you know, not very upbeat. In any event, that little brief evocation of 9/11 has got some victims' families and the firefighters' union, which, of course, endorsed Kerry, and the Democrats screaming, you know, that, that...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... it's exploitative. But, look, the fact of the matter is that if Kerry can use his Vietnam record, and he can criticize George Bush for lacking homeland security preparations, then George Bush is surely entitled to, make something of the success that he -- in his leadership after, after 9/11.

But what I want to know is, when is George Bush going to start telling us what he is going to do in his second term? If this is a referendum on the future ... you know, he better tell us what the future's like...


KONDRACKE: ... and I, I, maybe you know the answer to that. I don't.

BARNES: I do know the answer of what he's going to advocate. I don't know when he's actually...

KONDRACKE: Tell me, tell me, tell me.

BARNES: ... I'll, I'll tell you. In a word, choice. And I don't mean the choice to kill an unborn child or not, but a choice of how to use your Social Security payroll taxes, whether or not you want to invest that money on your own rather than just leave it with the government, a choice of how you want to save your money without paying taxes on it, a choice for four people to go to better schools for their kids if they choose to.

And then, of course, will continue the crusade for democracy around the world, which I know you think is a good idea now.

About those complaints, those very trumped-up and cynical complaints about the Bush ad, I think practically no one is sincerely angry about those ads and the fleeting, dark thing -- picture of ground zero.

In fact, this -- some of the complaints have been scripted. You could tell, because a couple of women on NBC said exactly the same thing, and it was nasty. They raised the question, where was Bush on 9/11? He was down talking to a bunch of school children in Florida, as if he was indifferent to what happened at the World Trade Center and, and the Pentagon.

Now, so what Democrats are trying to do is eliminate 9/11 as an issue so Bush can't tout it, because they know that helps Bush, and, and as a result of that, hurts Kerry. OK.

I want you to listen to this Kerry zinger, and I have a question for you about it.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got veterans waiting maybe, what, 40,000 strong, waiting months to see a doctor for the first time just to get prescription drugs, let alone the several hundred thousand who've been denied coverage altogether.

I'll tell you, the first definition of patriotism is keeping faith with the people who wear the uniform of our country. And we deserve a president who understands that.


BARNES: That was John ...

KONDRACKE: I can answer the question...

BARNES: Well, let me as ... Was John Kerry implying ... that Bush is unpatriotic?

KONDRACKE: ... no, no, no.

BARNES: Well, Democrats always blame Republicans for implying that. OK. I'll, I'll move on...

KONDRACKE: Never mind ...

BARNES: ... I, I, I'll move on.

Hot story number two, states' rights. Mort, as you all know, is obsessed with national polls. But like the primaries, it's the state polls that count. So we're going to keep you up to date on the closely contested states from 2000 and give you the latest polls from each, as they become available.

We begin in Florida. Bush won that state by a hair in 2000. The latest poll shows a virtual tie with Kerry, ahead by 1 point. In Missouri, Kerry leads by 3. Bush won Missouri by 3 points over Gore. This poll was taken by a Democratic firm in mid-February.

In Iowa, Gore beat Bush by 1 point. A Des Moines Register poll from a month ago shows Kerry beating Bush in Iowa by 7. In Michigan, Gore beat Bush by 5, this poll, taken in late February, shows Kerry beating Bush by 5.

In Pennsylvania, Gore edged Bush, also by 5 points. A poll taken in mid-February shows a horse race. Kerry's up by a point. And finally, in Nevada, Bush beat Gore by 4 points. He's up over Kerry by only 1 point in a poll taken in mid-February.

KONDRACKE: Well, the jobs, the jobs issue is going to be big in several of those states, Missouri, Michigan, and Pennsylvania for sure. How do you defend, or how is Bush going to defend, this horrible job number?

BARNES: Well, I think he can point to the other survey. You know, there are two surveys. One asks employers about jobs, one asks households about jobs. Many more households are asked. That shows that there are about two million more jobs have been created during the Bush years, people that are self-employed, people that are consultants, people that are contract employees.

And that's not listed in the one that ... we see the employer survey, which gets all the attention.

Eventually, the household survey catches up, up with the other one, or it catches up with the household survey. So Bush is, is doing a lot better.

KONDRACKE: Got to tell you, I have never heard the Bush administration even mention the household survey. You know, they are doing a lousy job of defending themselves if that's a legitimate measure.

BARNES: It is a legitimate measure, and they are doing a dreadful job, you're absolutely right.

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