his is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," August 19, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: … military issues are striking a powerful chord with voters. Earlier in the campaign, everybody thought the economy would be the biggest issue in the election. Surprise. For the first time since the Vietnam war, Americans are saying that national security and foreign policy top their list of priorities. According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center (search), 41 percent list war, foreign policy and terrorism as the most important factors facing the nation, while 26 percent are more concerned about economic issues.
So how will this play out in the campaign? David Pollak (search) is a Democratic strategist, joins me here in New York. Whit Ayres is a Republic pollster. Today's "big question" for David first, so, who does national security help most, Bush or Kerry?
DAVID POLLAK, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the undecided voters which are going to be the key to this election are very concerned about national security and if they're still undecided, that means they're not sold on George Bush's approach which I think gives a real opening to John Kerry (search) if he can sell to these people that whatever they don't like about Bush that's making them undecided now, he's the one that can provide ...
GIBSON: OK, now, take a look at this full-screen from the Pew Research poll which is about world respect and it says that 2/3 of those polls are worried that we've lost respect around the world. This is generally thought to help Kerry. But how does that help Kerry?
POLLAK: Look, obviously, the campaign agrees because this was a big part of what he talked about at the convention, that his foreign policy is going to be based on respect for the allies, working together, reassembling the grand coalition of allies that everyone from Reagan to...
GIBSON: Wishful thinking?
POLLAK: I think it's probably likely. I think honestly that if John Kerry becomes president immediately, there's going to be a better reaction from the allies because you sort of eliminated the source of their irritation, which is George Bush.
GIBSON: It doesn't eliminate the source of their irritation which is American-Israeli policy and American policy in the U.N. But, Whit, take a look at this one.
WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Yes, sir.
GIBSON: This is about foreign policy priorities. This is thought to help George Bush. Nearly nine in 10, 90 percent say, taking measures to protect the U.S. from foreign attacks is a top priority. If that, I presume you think that helps Bush. How does that compare with the earlier result in your mind?
AYRES: Of course it helps President Bush. If you rank issues from those where Republicans are trusted most down to those where Democrats are trusted most, national security and military affairs leads the list for Republicans. So, Senator Kerry has chosen to play out this campaign on Republican turf. That's going to help the president.
POLLAK: But, John, what's interesting is this poll and Whit, I think you saw, this poll does say that the voters who answered that foreign policy was important also rated John Kerry as the person they had more confidence in on foreign policy and gave a big thumbs down to Bush's policies in Iraq. Half the people said it wasn't worth it. Sixty percent approximately said things aren't going well.
AYRES: Listen, a lot of people are debating foreign policy right now, but the fact is that Republicans are trusted on military affairs more than the Democrats.
POLLAK: That may be but it's not born out in this poll as far as the president is concerned.
AYRES: But what that poll does show is that Americans, while they may be concerned about overseas opinion, are far more concerned about being protected. Americans want to be protected rather than be popular in Paris.
GIBSON: David, there's also the issue, Bush hasn't made his pitch yet. There hasn't been a convention. There hasn't been the sort of orchestrated thing that the Democrats went through in Boston. And especially now that we know the results of this poll, we know what he is going to emphasize, don't we?
POLLAK: Yes. But you're not going to see a bump after the Republican convention just like you didn't see one after the Democrat because this election is not like other elections. Everyone's decided who they're going to vote for except a very small undecided sliver of undecided votes and they only matter in five or six states. So you're right. In many ways, a lot of this is prologue, but I don't think you're going to see either convention have the ability to really move voters because they're already moved.
GIBSON: OK, but Whit, maybe this goes back to our first segment then. Is this why the Kerry campaign is so excited about the Swift boat ads? Is this why they've gotten so worked up because they actually are undermining John Kerry a bit.
AYRES: They understand that in order to win this election, you are going to have to be seen as a credible commander in chief. And that's why Senator Kerry has made such an issue out of this. But he's leading a very fractured coalition. There are a lot of Democrats who don't believe that. The most surprising fact out of that whole Pew poll is that a majority of Democrats blame the United States at least in part for 9/11, 51 percent of Democrats say that American wrongdoing overseas is at least a part motivation for 9/11. I don't think most Americans are going to buy into that kind of thinking.
GIBSON: David, that is a point and it does appear that John Kerry is the nominee of an anti-war party when he is essentially a pro-war candidate.
POLLAK: Isn't it interesting because every Democrat that I spoke to during the whole lead-up to choosing a candidate said John Kerry, he has the war record. He is the one that, you know, we want to have. And I think what that reflects is that the Democratic Party wants to beat George Bush, and even for Democrats who may be anti-war, they're willing to overlook that. They'd rather have John Kerry.
GIBSON: Do you those Deaniacs are going to come out for Kerry.
GIBSON: When they were so opposed to the war, Kerry voted for it and hasn't disavowed it.
POLLAK: No question about it. And Howard Dean, by the way, of all the people who are running for president against John Kerry, is one of the most active supporters of him right now all across the country.
GIBSON: We'll see if it works. David Pollak thanks, Whit Ayers, thanks to both of you.
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