Transcript: Campaign Chairmen on 'FNS'

The following is an excerpt from FOX News Sunday, April 25, 2004.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Charges, countercharges, and tens of millions spent over the airwaves, and it's still only April. Where are we on the longest road to the White House ever [missing text] you with us.

JEANNE SHAHEEN, KERRY 2004 CHAIRMAN: It's nice to be here.

WALLACE: There have been some dramatic developments in the campaign in the last few weeks. Governor Shaheen, the president has had weeks of bad news in Iraq, the 9/11 commission, and yet Senator Kerry has failed to open up a lead.

Governor Racicot, the Bush campaign spent $50 million attacking John Kerry, and yet the [missing text]

MARC RACICOT, BUSH-CHENEY 2004 CHAIRMAN: Well, obviously the polling information reveals that this is going to be a very tight race, and we've believed that from the very beginning.

I think what's happened over the course of the last couple of weeks, if you take a real hard look at the numbers, there were very, very substantial changes in John Kerry's numbers as the American public has come to know him. And, obviously, as the president has spoken to the issues, his numbers have changed, too.

So, there are a lot of dynamics involved in this, Chris. When you come through the Democratic primary, there is not a lot of cross- examination by the opposition. There is by those you're running against in the primary. And there is a certain euphoria at the conclusion of the process that carries a certain amount of momentum.

But as we have proceeded and introduced, from our perspective, John Kerry to the American public, we have seen his negatives go up and his positives go down.

WALLACE: Governor Shaheen, some political observers say that even when the news is bad, when the focus is on national security it benefits the president because he is seen as the war president. Do you believe that?

SHAHEEN: No. And, in fact, the Bush campaign has outspent our campaign about three to one in attack ads against John Kerry. And yet, in the battleground states, those 16 states where this is going to be a very close race, John Kerry is a little ahead of George Bush.

The electorate is very divided, but I believe people are going to look at this choice come November. They're going see there is a very clear choice between George Bush and John Kerry, that John Kerry has proposals on the economy, on national security, on health care, on education that will make this a stronger country, and that they are going to decide it's in their interest to go for the candidate who's going to do something about the issues that they care about.

WALLACE: Fox News-Opinion Dynamics has come out with a new poll which shows some problems, frankly, for both of your campaigns.

Governor Shaheen, let me start with you. We ask Kerry supporters why they're backing him. By far, I repeat, by far, the biggest reason was that he's not George Bush.

After so many months of campaigning, why don't voters have a better sense of John Kerry and of his program for America?

SHAHEEN: Well, it's still very early in this effort, and John Kerry is out every day. He's going to be out in the coming week on a jobs tour going to West Virginia and Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, talking about the need to do something about the loss of manufacturing jobs, about the failure to enforce our trade policies...

WALLACE: But, forgive me, Governor Shaheen...

SHAHEEN: ... in a way that has hurt real Americans.

WALLACE: ... what do you make of the fact that 38 percent of those polled said the reason that they're for Kerry is he's not Bush?

SHAHEEN: Well, they're just finding out who John Kerry is, but they know who George Bush is. They know that, for the last three and a half years, we've lost 2.6 million jobs. We have a million people who can no longer collect unemployment. This president has done nothing about that. We know that the cost of health care has gone up 49 percent, and this president doesn't have a plan to do anything about that.

WALLACE: Governor Shaheen, let me bring Governor Racicot...

SHAHEEN: We know that more and more young people are being priced out of higher education, and he has no plan to do anything about that.

WALLACE: Governor Shaheen, let me bring Governor Racicot in here, if I could, please.

Let's look at what the poll had to say for Mr. Bush, if we could. His job approval rating, as you can see, is up from 47 percent last month, that was the lowest of his presidency. But three and a half years into his term, he's just at 50 percent, with 44 percent disapproval.

Governor Racicot, that's not a ringing endorsement.

RACICOT: Those numbers are very, very comparable to what you see from history with both Reagan and with Clinton, as a matter of fact. And, quite frankly, John Kerry has run a lot of negative advertising over the course of the last numerous months. He started in September of last year, spent millions of dollars, has run almost 30,000 negative ads against the president.

And I really think what's happening here, Chris, is this: That John Kerry doesn't know himself completely. I mean, he has, if you think about it for a moment, taken virtually every side of every issue.

And that's what the American people are understanding when they contrast the president of the United States, even in difficult times, compared to John Kerry, they see one with a clear vision, with strength and conviction, who says what he means, and they see a man who really does not articulate his positions with consistency.

I mean, he takes one position on the war. He takes another position on providing the funding necessary to carry on the war. He takes a position even on his own SUV, whether or not he owns an SUV or not. And these kinds of things are not in isolation. Huge issues, things like that. But they say something about John Kerry.

WALLACE: I don't mean to cut either of you off, but we have limited time here, and I don't want you to give us your stump speeches, either of you.

SHAHEEN: And that's just wrong. Governor Racicot is just wrong about that.

WALLACE: That? Why?

SHAHEEN: Because the fact is, John Kerry has been clear about what he believes. He has a plan on Iraq that is what George Bush is actually sounding like, the more he talks. He's moved toward John Kerry's plan on Iraq to get the international community more involved.

WALLACE: All right. Let me — I don't mean to cut you off, Governor Shaheen, but we do have limited time here. Let me ask Governor Racicot a question.

This week, the Kerry campaign released records of his military service in Vietnam. When you look at all of those records, didn't he show extraordinary valor in combat?

RACICOT: You know, we've never said anything other than to voice our respect for John Kerry's service to this country. Absolutely nothing. We would never question his patriotism.

WALLACE: So your campaign, you don't need to see — because the RNC's been pushing for it — you don't need to see anymore records?

RACICOT: We have from the very first point in time talked about the fact that John Kerry served this country honorably.

But his positions — I mean, we're talking about somebody who wants to be commander in chief here. And when you vote for the use of force in Iraq and months later vote against the money that's going to be used for that, and then just last week said you'd think about providing funding if another funding bill came forward, that says something about the quality and character of leadership he would bring to his job as commander in chief.

WALLACE: Governor Shaheen, you get a chance to respond to that in the interest of fairness and balance.

SHAHEEN: Chairman Racicot, you're just disassembling. The fact is the Bush and the Republican attack machine has been out there calling into question John Kerry's courage and his commitment to the military. And that is unconscionable. John Kerry served with honor, with valor. What we have seen from all of the military records is that all of his superiors said that.

So for you to be out there questioning his military service and his commitment...

RACICOT: We haven't.

SHAHEEN: ... to our men and women in uniform, it's just unconscionable. It needs to stop.

RACICOT: We've never done that, Jeanne, and you know better than that. That's the truth of the matter.

SHAHEEN: Oh, you are doing it on a regular basis. And the fact is that this — if you want to debate this issue, then I would then go back to the challenge that we issued to you and to the campaign about a month ago. Let's get out, let's debate between John Kerry and...

RACICOT: What I would say to you, Jeanne, is...

SHAHEEN: ... their positions on Iraq on the military.

RACICOT: Senator Kerry should come to a decision about what he believes first before he starts debating other people.

And you know the debate schedule is going to be set in the part of the tradition of this process anyway.

WALLACE: Governor Shaheen, even the New York Times now says that Mrs. Kerry should release her tax records. Simple question: Will she?

SHAHEEN: She has complied with all of the requirements during her years as wife of a senator. It's information that's available.

You know, and frankly, I wish that the Bush administration and his campaign would spend as much concern about what's in the pocketbooks of the American people as they've spent about what's in Teresa Heinz's pocketbook, because that's what's important to the American people.

WALLACE: But, Governor Shaheen, just to clear this up, I take that, that the answer is no, she's not going to release her tax returns.

SHAHEEN: Well, what she said is that they've been available...

WALLACE: Her tax returns have been available?

SHAHEEN: ... complied with the law.

WALLACE: I'm sorry, her tax returns?

SHAHEEN: That the information about her holdings have been available as the result of the disclosure forms that she files. That information is public record.

WALLACE: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Governor Shaheen, Governor Racicot, thank you both so much for coming in. We hope to talk to you more as we go down the campaign trail.