This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume," July 12, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIAN WILSON, GUEST HOST: Well, what if there is an attack against the homeland just before our national elections? Some believe the government might want to make preparations to delay the elections. There's been a lot of reporting and some misreporting on this issue.
Joining us from Charlottesville, Virginia, to talk about the issue and help us separate fact from fiction, is professor Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
Professor Sabato, good to have you with us. Let me see if I can just throw a couple of things out there. This all came up after "Newsweek" reported this weekend, that the Justice Department had been asked to look into this question. We contacted the Justice Department today and, at a very high level, we're told that, as far as they knew, it was not being investigated.
Nevertheless, it raises the question: What happens if there is an attack? Would there be an inclination to perhaps, at the last minute, try to do something that would slow down the election? What's your judgment?
LARRY SABATO, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, Brian, it would only be prudent to have a plan ready in the terrible eventuality, and God forbid this should happen. But remember, on September 11, New York was having a primary and the same thing happened. You had to delay it. I think it's not only possible, but it would be probable that that would happen.
But it would be critical to have it done in a bipartisan fashion. It would be very important to have Democrats and Republicans, President Bush and Democratic nominee Kerry, agree that the election should be postponed. And I assume that that is what would occur if the need were there.
WILSON: As it stands right now, that would take some action by the Congress, wouldn't it?
SABATO: Well, yes. Technically, he would need legislation preferably in advance. But you know, the executive powers of president would probably be sufficient, given the emergency to delay the election. And that would especially be true if it were a bipartisan agreement.
WILSON: You know, we heard Secretary Ridge there talking about Al Qaeda's planning and that they would like to disrupt our democratic process. And they believe they can have impact on our resolve. If there were, God forbid, an attack on the homeland just before the election, what would be the political impact? Some people have suggested that Al Qaeda probably doesn't care much for President Bush, but that an attack might bolster his chances in a national election.
SABATO: It would be a gamble on Al Qaeda's part, if they even cared to participate in electioneering in that way. They did it in Spain, of course, and it had the affect they desired, which was to throw out the incumbent party that had been friendly to the United States and involved in Iraq, and put into place a socialist government that quickly withdrew all Spanish troops.
Now look, the American electorate is very different. It's not going to react the same way as the Spanish electorate. I'm not sure exactly how the American electorate would come down in that situation, but I doubt seriously that it would turn tail on the incumbent government. That would give too much solace to the terrorists.
WILSON: All right. I want to ask you about another question. John Edwards has been picked as the vice president. Many people said that helps Democrats in the south. Bush did well in the south last time around. What's your read on that?
SABATO: Well, you know, this is a case where you can combine the two. I think it does help the Democratic ticket in the South. But under our Electoral College system, as long as you have a one-vote plurality in the state, you get all the electoral votes. So, President Bush may win most of the southern states with a far smaller plurality, or a somewhat smaller plurality than he won in 2000, but I suspect he'll still get the electoral votes.
Maybe North Carolina will end up being close. Florida may be very close. It's possible that Louisiana and Arkansas might be close, West Virginia. But on the whole, this is Bush's strongest area. It's his base, and I would expect him to carry most or all of it in November.
WILSON: NAACP, they're being very critical of the president for not coming to their convention. Listen to what Kweisi Mfume had to say today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KWEISI MFUME, PRESIDENT, NAACP: And so, Mr. Bush, and to your spin masters who will spin this message, you can't avoid meetings. You think you can. And maybe you will, but you can't avoid the issues. We will be there at every polling place, in every battleground state in every community we can get to. We will ride, we will push, we will drag. We will carry registered voters with us. We will remember!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILSON: Now, there you have Kweisi Mfume making a very impassioned speech to members of the NAACP, because he is upset that the president did not come to speak. Would it have been a good thing for the president to go? Many say the deck would have been stacked against him there.
SABATO: Boy, that's an understatement, Brian.
Look, we just saw why the president didn't go. The president's advanced staff, the president's political advisers obviously never want to put any president of either party in a situation where he is likely to be booed. Remember, that would automatically be the lead story on every network. That's a terrible thing for a president running for re-election.
The NAACP has been closely aligned at least under the cover with the Democratic Party for many years. It's strongly anti-Bush. Leaders such as Mr. Mfume -- who, after all, is a former liberal Democratic congressman -- are hardly sympathetic to President Bush's job and prospects in November.
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