This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", July 10, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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BILL SAMMON, GUEST CO-HOST: I'm Bill Sammon, in for Fred Barnes.
MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, Bill, the hot story of the week is love bugs. For former rivals, John Edwards and John Kerry, Edwards being Kerry's new running mate, have bonded into a team quite swiftly, and the media has fastened on the selection of John Edwards (search) almost as lovingly as the two of them are acting toward, toward one another.
In spite of that, however, polls taken after the announcement show that the Edwards bounce is anywhere from just 2 to 8 points, not as big as Kerry or the Bush campaign expected.
Now, the new Democratic team has two basic themes. One is a kind of a positive populism that is not as offensive as the, "people versus the powerful" that Al Gore (search) used to tried out in, you know, in 2000. And the second is values, which sound actually as though they were borrowed from old Republican Reagan-Bush campaign themes of old.
Here's John Edwards talking about the values.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We share a vision, and we share a set of values. They're the same values that I grew up with in that little town out in the country in North Carolina — faith, family, responsibility, opportunity for everybody, not just a few who are at the top.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMMON: Mort, I don't care how much this guy smiles, I don't care how much he hugs John Kerry, and I don't care how much he takes on the mannerisms of an optimist. He has had throughout the primaries a theme of two Americas. And by definition, that is divisive and pessimistic.
Now, they can spin this that this is somewhat better than Al Gore's people versus the powerful during 2000, but to me it's a retread of that kind of rhetoric. And every mainstream Democrat, even Bill Clinton in his new book, has rejected that as a mistake. And yet the Democrats seem determined to make this mistake all over again. Populism doesn't work.
The other mistake that I see, I see that they're making all over again is this expectations game. Democrats and the press are raising expectations for John Edwards in the debate against Dick Cheney in October. You're already hearing these sound bites about what a silver-tongued trial lawyer, great debater John Edwards is going to be, how he's going to mop the floor with Dick Cheney.
I heard the same thing in 2000 when people said Al Gore was this brilliant debater who's going to just clean George W. Bush's clock. He was supposed to be this lightweight. What happened? Bush performed above expectations, and the expectations had been built up so high for Al Gore that he ended up losing the debates.
So much for the Edwards-Kerry strategy.
Now, as for the Bush-Cheney strategy, that brings us to our second hot story of the week, which is, on the attack.
Mort, I tell you, literally the minute that John Kerry stepped to the microphones to announce John Edwards as his running mate, the Republican attack machine strung — swung into action.
KONDRACKE: Beforehand, actually.
SAMMON: Even before. I mean, they were putting out advertisements, they were putting out surrogates, they were, you know, putting out these...
SAMMON: ... highly coordinated attacks between the Republican National Committee, the Bush campaign, even the White House. And I have not seen this kind of flood-the-zone coverage since when, since Kerry emerged as the nominee back earlier this year. Remember, they had a similar aggressive, multifaceted offensive to define Kerry.
And it worked. I talked to Matthew Dowd from the Bush campaign, their chief political strategist. He said, Look, these are two moments when the American people are actually paying attention to politics, when Kerry emerged and when Edwards is named. So they're trying to drive down Edwards' numbers in the same way that they drove down Kerry's numbers.
Now, even President Bush himself joined in the attack. Twenty-four hours after Edwards was named, the president of the United States names Edwards and singles him out during a visit to his state of North Carolina, and blasted him for essentially blocking his judicial appointments in North Carolina. Take a look at what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're the types of senators who are blocking the advance of these nominees. Take, for example, here in North Carolina. Senator Edwards will not allow two of the nominees to whom I referred to even get to the, get to the committee for a hearing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMMON: You know, it's interesting that Bush chose judicial nominees as the way to go after Edwards, because I talked to Karl Rove (search) earlier, and he told me that during the 2002 midterm elections, every time Bush went out stumping for somebody, he talked about judicial nominees. It's a red meat, hot-button issue. And Karl Rove thinks that that ended up being the deciding factor in winning Republican seats in North Carolina, South Carolina, and even in Georgia.
I think they're going to do it again this year. And, you know, the attacks against the ticket are not limited to Edwards. Bush is also going after Kerry, of course, who's at the top of the ticket. Take a look at this new ad by Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH-CHENEY '04, INC., AD)
ANNOUNCER: Leadership means choosing priorities. While campaigning, John Kerry has missed over two-thirds of all vote, missed a vote to lower health care costs by reducing frivolous lawsuits against doctors, missed a vote to fund our troops in combat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: Look, I question whether the judge, the judges theme is going to work for anybody but bringing out the, the Republican base. And moreover, I also disagree with you about the, about the new populism that these guys are pursuing. I think that they've softened it considerably from, from people versus the powerful, and, and they've made it not two Americas, but try, we are trying to build one America.
Now, and I think that's a winning theme.
Now, there's one other thing that, the Bush campaign has concentrated on the negative ... day after day after day after day. I still, and I'm, this is a major theme of mine on this show now, when are we going to hear from George Bush about what he is going to do in the second term? I think that's vital business.
SAMMON: I think there's time for that, but the negative works. It ... it ended up defining Kerry, and now it's going to end up defining Edwards.
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