Bad News for President Bush?

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Aug. 10, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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LARRY SABATO, PROFESSOR, UNIV. OF VIRGINIA: Eventually we're going to have another Harry Truman (search). For all I know, that next Harry Truman is George W. Bush. But that's what it's going to take. He'll have to come back and be another Harry Truman to win in November.


BRIT HUME, HOST: That, of course, Professor Larry Sabato (search), head of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. And he is not the only expert who thinks that way. Charlie Cook of the well-regarded "Cook Report," said, "At this point, I believe, it's safe to say that unless something happens to change the dynamics and circumstances of this race, Bush will lose."

So are they right? Well, who better to ask than Fox News contribute Michael Barone, co-author for the "Almanac for American Politics" and also a senior writer at the "U.S. News & World Report?"

Before we get into this, Michael, I wanted just to ask you quickly about the McGreevey resignation, what you make of it?

MICHAEL BARONE, SENIOR WRITER, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Well, obviously it's an unhappy personal situation, and I'm not sure that it has any broader political impact. One thing Governor McGreevey did by dating his resignation to November 15 is he prevented a new election for governor being held this November. Under New Jersey law, as I understand it, if he resigned on or before September 15, there would have been a new election for the last year of McGreevey's governor term. And now they're going to have a Democrat...

HUME: And he's been in political trouble, so a Republican might have won that.

BARONE: Yes. It's conceivable. What if you had somebody like Tom Kean (search) come back and run, the head of the 9/11 Commission? Former governor. But the fact is that this holds the seat -- holds the governorship for the Democrats for another year until the regular 2005 election.

HUME: All right. Now, back to Mr. Bush and his apparent troubles. More bad news today, there's a Quinnipiac Florida, a state poll in Florida. A state where the president had for quite a time been doing quite well. This now shows a six-point Kerry lead, even with Nader in the race. So is this as bad as these other analysts are saying in your judgment?

BARONE: Well, it's a -- this is basically constant with the other -- there have been three other Florida post Democratic convention polls. Average them out; it's 48 for Kerry, 44 percent Bush; this in a state that Bush carried by a microscopic margin in 2000. So, yes it's consonant with the national polls that we've been seeing, Brit.

I mean if you average them out, the 11 -- I think it's 12 now convention -- post-Democratic convention polls we've had, they average 47 for Kerry, 45 for Bush, negligible two points or so for Nader.

HUME: But then why is everybody saying is it negligible -- it's a small margin. No convention bump of any consequence for Kerry. Why are these analysts saying that this looks so grave for Bush in your judgment?

BARONE: Well, I think that they tend to be following what the Democrats -- Democratic strategists in Boston believe. Which is the idea that voters have made up their mind, they're going to reject Bush. A hundred percent know him. Less than 50 percent are voting for him. Therefore, Kerry is likely to inherit the rest. That's standard political analysis. I think, though, that, you know...

HUME: You mean that the late deciders break for the challenger?

BARONE: Yes. I mean we've had, you know -- I think, though, that -- you know, that could turn out to be what happens. But I think there's also other possibilities. Other things are going to happen between now and November.

And the view that the public has gotten of George W. Bush over the last six, eight months has been mediated by old media: the broadcast news networks, "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," who have been running what I would characterize as hostile coverage of him. Bush is going to get more chances to speak to the public. He didn't do too well in some of his speeches earlier in the year. Perhaps he will do better. He has got the Republican convention.

They're already rolling out the ads with his second term programs, which he hadn't said much about until now. One of those interestingly is the individual investment accounts and Social Security. And I think that that -- that has a potential of winning him some votes. If you look at the Pew poll that came out recently, it showed Bush-Cheney...

HUME: Yes, just out.

BARONE: ... just out today 45 for Bush-Cheney, 47 percent for John Edwards. The A.P.-Ipsos poll came out 48-45 for John Kerry, almost identical results. But when you look at that Pew poll and you look at the age groups, stratification by age, what you find is that the young voters, the under 30 or 35, are 53-35 Kerry. Bush has been doing poorly with young voters in just about all the polls across the board. They also are the ones with the least information of the different age groups and perhaps the more likely to switch.

Bush strategists believe that an eventual investment accounts in Social Security will win them votes among young voters. Kerry said he wants no change in the Social Security system. Bush wants to give them this option. Polling tends to suggest that that will be the case, at least when people are given that abstract question. We'll see what happens in the actually campaign.

HUME: What about the ads? Bush has had this new ad out that have him speaking in the ads. Mrs. Bush at his side in at least one of them. What is your judgment about their affect?

BARONE: Well, he's -- those ads, or at least one of them, is rolling out the theme of the ownership society, that you'll own your retirement, that you'll healthcare. And this is part of what he wants to present as a serious policy agenda for a second term.

HUME: Does he come across in the ads more attractive, more appealing than before or what?

BARONE: Well, I think he comes across as being articulate, as he sometimes seems not to be in his impromptu comments, or responses to questions after meetings with foreign leaders and things of that sort. So that's probably an advantage to him.

And you know, he is going to try and recast some of the thinking on some of the issues. I mean if you take the economy, the Pew poll showed that who can best improve the economy. John Kerry 52, George W. Bush 37. That's a big margin for John Kerry.

HUME: Yes. And it's up noticeably from May.

BARONE: It's up noticeably.

HUME: Not massively, but noticeably.

BARONE: Kerry has -- even though the economy has generally been improving, so can Bush turn around feeling on that? Can he convince people who feel that their own personal economic situation is good, that the economic situation of the country is good? That's one of the things that he is going to have to be trying to do.

HUME: And if he can do that, that could make a real difference?

BARONE: Yes. And there's one other thing from the Pew poll. When they ask strong leader, Bush's lead over Kerry was actually greater than before the Democratic convention.

HUME: I see that now, 23 points. Wow.

All right. Michael, great to have you as always. Thank you.

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