Trail Dust: Big Spender?

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," April 10, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: John Kerry (search), trying to shed his image as a liberal big spender, is the topic of this week's trail dust.

In the second of three economic speeches, Kerry tried to recast himself as a deficit hawk. His plan, reduce the deficit by half in five years by scaling back President Bush's tax cuts to the wealthy and cutting social spending, including some of his own campaign promises. Listen to this.


KERRY: In contrast to George Bush's $6 trillion in unpaid-for spending, my plan returns to a concept known as pay as you go. We can do all of this if we set clear national priorities and make the tough decisions, not just about the programs of others, but about our own proposals.


FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Yes, well, you know, I can't help but chuckle and think of this as one of John Kerry's more stupendous flip-flops. I mean, here's the guy ... who in the campaign just a few months ago was chewing out Howard Dean as a balanced budget freak, as someone who wrongly was trying to slow the growth of Medicare (search).

He voted against the last three budget resolutions because they didn't spend enough. And he proposed all these spending programs.

And he acts like he's just discovered that there's a big deficit, you know. It was around when he was proposing all this spending back in the primaries now, so it's phony for that reason, and the other thing that's wrong with it is, it won't work.

I mean, the numbers just don't add up. Bill Power of Fortune magazine asked a bunch of economists unaffiliated with either of the campaigns if you did this, if your goal is to cut the deficit in half, and you want it to retain the middle-class parts of Bush's tax cut, and the ... Kerry says he wants to deepen those tax cuts for the middle class, and you were faced with his health care plan that would cost $900 billion, and he didn't even add in all the other spending that Kerry has proposed, could you do this, could you pay for this by only raising taxes on those in America who make over $200,000 a year?

And the answer was, you wouldn't even come close. You're not even in the ballpark. I mean, it's ridiculous. The numbers just don't add up.

KONDRACKE: Well, I mean, this could change, but the latest Fox poll does show that Kerry at the moment has a 5-point edge over President Bush (search) on the question of who would manage the economy better.

Now, Kerry has a very mixed record on economics. I mean, he -- at one point he...

BARNES: He does?

KONDRACKE: ... was -- yes ... he back in the '80s, he was in favor of the Graham- Rudman-Hollings bill. He was a, he was a co-sponsor of it. And then, of course, he's got a record as a big spender.

This ... this document ... 275 pages long, is what the Bush-Cheney campaign will send you if you ask, you know, for the Kerry economic record. I mean, it takes longer to print out than you have time to read. I guess I'll spend the weekend doing it.

But in any event ... what Kerry is doing is planning to cut only domestic discretionary spending, which is exactly what Bush is going to do. He's not attacking Medicare, Social Security, or any ... And then he's got a problem of what happens if the tax cuts that he does favor, extend beyond the year 2011.


KONDRACKE: Yes, as you say, it just won't add up.

BARNES: It won't add up at all.

As promised, we're continuing to keep on top of polls in key battleground states. Here's this week's batch.

We begin in Florida. President Bush is over the 50 percent mark in the latest Mason-Dixon poll. He's at 51 points to Kerry's 43. In Michigan, Kerry leads Bush by 10 points. Gore won that state by 5 in 2000. And it's close in Ohio, a pivotal state. Bush leads Kerry by 1 point there. Bush won that state by 4 points back in 2000.

KONDRACKE: And so, what does this all mean? Well, we've come up with an electoral college scoreboard for you based on 2000 results and Bush's advantages in states that he lost last time but he's winning this time. Here's how it stands. If the election were held today, President Bush would have 314 electoral votes to Kerry's 224. That's based on...

BARNES: Right, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... Bush winning Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico.

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