This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Sept. 6, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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JIM ANGLE, GUEST: As Wendell Goler reported earlier, a spade of new polls has shown a rebound for President Bush (search). The numbers started going up week before last, then surged during the Republican Convention and now have settled down to what looks like a seven-point lead for the president. Where does the race stand? And how is the Kerry campaign adjusting its strategy to deal with it?
For answers we turn to Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics (search) at the University of Virginia. He joins us from Charlottesville.
Larry, thanks for coming in.
LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR OF THE UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Thank you, Jim.
ANGLE: Let's look at this poll. First, the poll out today. The Gallup poll (search) comes down a little bit from the other polls. It has the president leading Senator Kerry 52 to 45 percent. That's substantially less than the "Newsweek" and "Time" polls, which had 11 percent. But in both those cases, they were taken largely during the conventions. This is pretty much where the Bush people seemed to think the numbers would come to rest.
SABATO: It's also reasonable historically, Jim. I put much more credence in this survey than I did in the other two. Not that they were bad polls, but simply because of when they were taken. So look, that's a decent lead for Bush. Believe me, they're delighted. President Bush's good luck has returned. And it looked for a while, particularly in early August when a lot of us analysts thought that Bush was done for, after those bad jobs numbers. It looks like Bush is doing much, much better, thanks mainly to a great convention and the Swift Boat Vets.
ANGLE: Now, one of the things in here and one of the things that Gallup has tracked for decades, one of the things that is the best indication to where voters will finally wind up is job approval for the president, for an incumbent. And there, the president is 52 percent job approval. How important is that?
SABATO: Jim, it's very important. Again if you look historically, not that history always repeats itself. But if you look historically, a president who wins re-election usually is a couple of points over 50 in job approval to win re-election. I think President Bush, especially if the Democrats have a little higher turnout than the Republicans, must be at 52- 53 percent job approval to win. And that's where he is right now.
The question is will this bounce fade or how much of it will fade? Only time will tell. Some bounces fade, some bounces don't.
ANGLE: Now, one of the other interesting things in this is the number of the people who plan to vote for Senator Kerry, 46 percent said it is a vote for him. 50 percent said it is a vote against President Bush. How unusual is that? And what does it really mean for the election?
SABATO: It's very unusual. Look, challengers normally depend on a reaction against the incumbent, so that part of it is not unexpected. But to have that high a proportion of the Kerry vote being a reaction to Bush tells you. One, just how high the hatred is among Democrats for Bush. But secondly, how little Kerry has been able to connect directly with his own people. The Kerry people must correct that and soon, if Kerry is to win.
ANGLE: Now, the Kerry campaign has been getting a lot of advice from Democratic strategists. There's a lot of free advice in this town. But this advice comes from a lot people close to the campaign and President Clinton, who just before he went understand the knife, had a long conversation with Senator Kerry. And told him to quit talking about Vietnam and start talking about the Bush record on Iraq and domestic issues. Good advice?
SABATO: Actually, I think it's very good advice. Look, people have very strong views about Bill Clinton, pro and con. But there's literally no one who doesn't believe he's a superb politician, who understands the rhythm of presidential election campaigns. I think that Kerry would be wise to pay attention.
Though remember, it won't be entirely up to Kerry. The Swift Boat Vets are going to be doing more in September. And the media are too. I understand, for example, "60 Minutes," assuming they air the piece, is going to do something on President Bush's National Guard service. Look, that gives a direct opening to the Republicans to go after Kerry again on these Swift Boat issues.
ANGLE: One last thing for you, Larry. We've got just about a minute left. Both the conventions are now over. The next big opportunity for both candidates are the presidential debates.
SABATO: That's exactly right. Look, the question is how many debates will we have? The Bush people are now in a position of strength. They may try to do exactly what President Clinton did in his re-election campaign against Bob Dole in 1996. He reduced the number of debates from three to two. Something tells me that that's what the Bush people have in mind. So we'll have to watch this closely.
ANGLE: And clearly, if the Kerry campaign starts complaining, the Bush people will point to President Clinton and say, "Hey, your last president did it. Why the not?"
SABATO: Exactly. And remember, Democrats defended Clinton at that time. And by the way, the media didn't object. So it will be interesting to see if there's a double standard this time.
ANGLE: Well, there are a lot of those.
But at this point, so you see the race is pretty close. The president has a bit of an edge. But historically, how big an edge is this? It's not that much pad, is it?
SABATO: Not at all. Look, anybody who thinks this isn't a close, competitive race is not paying close attention to the fundamentals of this election.
ANGLE: Larry Sabato, always a pleasure to have you. Thanks for joining us.
SABATO: Thank you, Jim.
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