This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Sept. 17, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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JIM ANGLE, GUEST-HOST: If the election were held today the president would fare pretty well, according to a slew of recently released polls. But the numbers are inconsistent as to just how well.

To help us make sense of it all, John McIntyre, polling analyst and editor of realclearpolitics.com joins us from Chicago.

John, thanks for joining us.

JOHN MCINTYRE, POLLING ANALYST, REALCLEARPOLITICS.COM: Great to be here, Jim.

ANGLE: Let may ask you first about the most recent poll, which is the Gallup poll (search), which shows the president with a pretty handy lead here. The one out today shows him with a whopping 14-point lead. That would be the widest margin so far, with Ralph Nader (search) coming in at 3 percent. Now, that is substantially more than some other polls out this week. What do you make of that?

MCINTYRE: Well, that poll is certainly on the high end. There's also been, Pew had a poll taken, some data, the 8th through the 10th that showed the president ahead 16 points among likely voters. Times poll had the president up 11 points, ABC poll had him up nine points. So, it is not totally out of line, but it's certainly on the high side. Our average of the polls shows the race to be more around 5.5, 6-point lead for the president.

ANGLE: And I can tell you that some people associated with the president think it is also in that range.

MCINTYRE: Right.

ANGLE: Now, one interesting things in the Gallup poll was that the president's approval rating was at 52 percent with 45 percent unhappy with his job approval. That's important, of course, because incumbent presidents who have won re-election have always had over 50 percent. Most of them 52 or better, at least in the modern era. How reliable an indicator is that?

MCINTYRE: I think it's going to be pretty reliable this election cycle. I mean Senator Kerry is really going to need to get the president's job approval below 50 percent. If a majority of Americans on average approve of the president's job, it's going to be very difficult for Kerry to win.

ANGLE: Now, as you look at this Gallup poll, what is it that accounts, whatever the number is for the president, he seems to be leaked in almost every poll? What is it inside those polls that suggests where the president is gaining ground? Is it on particular issues, or character traits? What is it?

MCINTYRE: Well, speaking with the Gallup people today, it wasn't any one particular issue. There just seems to be a steady improvement in the president's numbers. They have up ticked from 52 to 55, and a steady decline in Senator Kerry's numbers. So it wasn't any one issue. It just seems to be that the president seems to be making steady progress in the Gallup poll and Kerry seems to be fading in that poll.

ANGLE: Now, there were two other polls out in the last day or two, the Harris poll and the Pew poll. Here is the Harris poll; it has the president trailing one point. And the Pew poll, I think, is also a one-point difference or so.

Let's see. Two point difference, there — oh, 46 to 46, I'm sorry. So those are obviously very different. What do you make of those two?

MCINTYRE: Well, those two seem to be more of the outliers. Because when you start to look at some of the state polling, that seems to corroborate the view that the president has a five, six, seven-point lead. And so, the balance of the evidence seems to suggest that the Pew poll — the second Pew poll, taken from the 11 to the 14, and the Harris poll appear to be the outliers.

When you look at a state like Pennsylvania, where Quinnipiac/ABC News had two polls out this week that showed the president up three and four points, our poll average has the president up one point in Pennsylvania, that was a state that in 2000, Al Gore won by four points.

So the president appears to be running about five to eight points better in that state. And we see the same thing when we look at Missouri; the president appears to be up about eight points on average. He won that state in 2000 by three. Wisconsin, which was basically a tie state in 2000, Gore only won that by 6,000 or so votes, the president is averaging up about five points.

So the polls in the battleground states seem to confirm that the president has a five or six-point lead, which is about where the campaigns themselves say the race is.

ANGLE: He even seems to be doing well in a state like Ohio, which has suffered more than some other states from the recession and slow job creation over the last two or three years.

MCINTYRE: That's right. Gallup actually had him up pretty well in Ohio. I think our poll average has him up about eight points. So — and these are states that Kerry is really going to have to win if he is going to hope to get 270 electoral votes.

I mean another sort of corroborating factor here that shows that the race has really changed in the last three to four weeks is over the summer, some of these battleground states that the Kerry campaign was hoping were going to be battleground states like: Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, those states are really out of play now. And the states that are in play are the Gore states, the states that Kerry has to have. States like: Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.

So, all of these polling evidence in these battleground states seems to confirm the trend in the national polls that shows the president up with a five, six, seven points.

ANGLE: OK. So the battleground is shrinking.

John McIntyre, thanks very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

MCINTYRE: Thank you, Jim.

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