This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", July 17, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, the hot story is values schmalues. But the fact, the basic fact of this, of this race at the moment is that 45 percent of the electorate is locked for Bush, 45 percent of the electorate is locked for Kerry, and there's really about 8 percent that's in play. So what each side is doing is trying to, you know, keep the base in order and then reach out to get the independents.

Now, the Kerry is doing something very smart to get the independent moderate vote. Most people want to be moderate, and what he's doing is something that I first heard suggested by Don Behr, former communications director...

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Yes.

KONDRACKE: ... for President Clinton (search), steal Bush's 2000 theme of being a uniter and not a divider, because Bush has not been a uniter, he's been a divider.

So what Kerry's trying to do is redefine the issue of values, instead of just God, gays, a guns, and abortion and stuff like that, include jobs and health care and good schools and stuff like that, redefining, broaden the issue of values.

Kerry's problem is, with the hotheads on, in his own camp, that's people like Michael Moore (search) and Whoopi Goldberg (search) and the rest of the Hollywood gang, and the haters at the NAACP (search), who turn people off when they see that. Anyway, here's Kerry's attempt to, to reach out to the middle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... values aren't something you talk about. Values are the way you act to make the lives of Americans better. And I am running for president because I believe that what matters most is not the narrow values that politicians cynically use to try to divide America. What's important are the shared values that we joyously embrace to bring us together and unite all of America to make our country stronger...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNES: But Mort, you don't think, you know, Whoopi Goldberg and her dirty jokes about, about George Bush are traditional American value? I mean, after all, John Kerry said that Whoopi Goldberg and those other Hollywood stars who appeared at the Kerry fundraiser in New York represented the heart and soul of America.

KONDRACKE: Yes, I can, I confess that ... that is a problem ... actually, that would, that statement there was not terribly uniting ...

BARNES: ... it wasn't, it wasn't ... And, you know, the truth is, Mort, big government, that's not a traditional American value either. But I agree with you that Kerry is smart to try to redefine the values debate, because it's been, in the past, it's been a killer for Democrats.

So far, that was a little more extensive for Kerry in that bite. But so far, he's just mainly used, said the word values a lot over and over again. It did prompt this response this week from Bush. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He came out here to the Midwest, and he said he was the candidate with the conservative values. No, no, I know, I know. I'm just quoting what he said. It's hard to square that when they said I'm liberal and proud of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNES: Now, the Bush campaign has also rushed out a quick ad, which you may have seen, Mort, but let's show it again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH CAMPAIGN AD)

ANNOUNCER: Kerry voted against parental notification for teenage abortions. Kerry even voted to allow schools to hand out the morning-after pill without parents' knowledge. He voted to take control away from parents by taking away their right to know. John Kerry has his priorities. The question is, are they yours?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNES: Yes, I think that trumps Whoopi Goldberg. But in any case... Yes. In any case, most Americans, I think, associate values, traditional values, American values, with family, home, religion, and marriage.

And while we're on the subject of marriage, that brings up hot story number two, which is far from over, by which I mean the debate over gay marriage and marriage itself, in the United States.

Now, Democrats hate this debate, but they succeeded in the Senate of blocking a vote on the constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. But the issue is not going away. Just look at what's going on in the states, Mort, you'll see on this graph ...

I mean, it, it starts out with 11 states are, are facing court challenges to their marriage laws. That's challenging them because they don't allow for gay marriage. At least 10 states on, are going to have amendments which Democrats have opposed in almost all of these states that would put a ban on gay marriage in their constitution. And then you can see there are other states doing, doing other things.

This issue is not going to go away. And Democrats, you know what they fear the most is a simple, one-sentence constitutional amendment that says marriage is between a man and a woman. And why do they fear it so much? Because a lot of Democrats like that sort of an amendment and will vote for it.

KONDRACKE: Yes, you know, I favor gay marriage, or something called civil marriage ... a new, a new ...

BARNES: The one-sentence thing would allow for civil unions.

KONDRACKE: Civil unions...

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: ... but, but I, you know, I would, I would go beyond that in any event. But, but I, I'll tell you, I am worried that the Massachusetts Supreme Court (search), by leaping into this process and forcing it ahead of its time is going to set back the whole cause.

The fact of the matter is that most Americans oppose a federal constitutional amendment on gay marriage, and a majority of the American people favor either civil unions or gay marriage, only a minority want to deny any legal rights.

And that's where things would naturally go, but these constitutional amendments at the state level, state constitutional amendments, I think might, might well pass, and then the foes of gay marriage will say, Aha, we're in the ascendancy, and you just might get a federal constitutional amendment, and I think that would be ... a terrible ... deface the Constitution.

BARNES: Would you rather have the people decide on an amendment, on voting in the states, or do you want four members of the Massachusetts...

KONDRACKE: I would...

BARNES: ... Supreme Court to decide ... this issue?

KONDRACKE: ... I do want the people to ... decide, and I want them to, to decide it gradually, and they will do the right thing.

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