Campaign Messages: Which Side Is Winning?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Oct. 4, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The Big Story With John Gibson" weeknights at 5 p.m. ET!


ADVERTISEMENT ANNOUNCER: At the debate, John Kerry said America must pass a global  test before we protect ourselves.

ADVERTISEMENT ANNOUNCER: George Bush lost the debate, no he's lying about it.  This  is what you heard John Kerry really say, "The president always has the right for preemptive strike, I will hunt and kill the terrorists wherever  they are."


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Round one of the post-debate attack ads, using their own words to score political words against them, with Iraq and the war on terror, such big issues. Are these ads going to persuade voters either way? Here to talk about this, chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney campaign, Matthew Dowd; and senior adviser for the Kerry campaign, Joe Lockhart.

Joe, you first. Kerry said it, why say it's a lie?

JOE LOCKHART, KERRY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Because 62 million Americans heard everything he said. The Bush campaign are masters at taking half sentences and making them mean something that they don't. And they've been very effective at it and I think we should give them credit for it, as politicians. The problem with this one is 62 million American people heard what Kerry really said, which is he'll hunt down and kill the terrorists, he'll never give veto power to anyone outside of this country.

GIBSON: But Joe, what did he mean about this global test?

LOCKHART: You know, he meant the same thing George Bush meant in the national security directive of 2002 (search), that we have to have legitimacy, we have to be able to talk to our allies and build a case on why we're doing it and agree on what the threats are. Go back to George Bush's own directive of 2002.


LOCKHART: It was published out of the White House and it has virtually the same language.

GIBSON: Matthew Dowd, you know, Joe's right about one thing, Kerry did say both things, why concentrate on one?

MATTHEW DOWD, BUSH-CHENEY CHIEF CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Well, he said both things like he said both things throughout this campaign. He votes for a resolution of war and then he comes out against the funding of it. He is in the primaries first for the war and then he's against the war. He says he knows, he thinks he needs to be for preemptive action and then he says, wait a second, we need to meet a global test. The guy says — he says one thing and then he — then he says a — a different nuance on the other hand. I am happy for the public, if they want to put up a spot that all they have is the clip and they play the clip for the American public. I'm happy for the Kerry campaign to put up a whole clip and see what the American public thinks about whether or not he means preemptive action by itself, or whether or not he means preemptive action with a global test.

GIBSON: Hey Joe, you know there's a new Pew poll out in the hour.


GIBSON: Came out at 4:00. One of the things Andrew Kohut says in this Pew poll (search) is that two out of 10 voters are undecided and ready to go either way. Is that what this stuff is really all about?

LOCKHART: Well, I mean, that what campaigns are about, you know, if you know someone's going vote for you or vote against you, you don't pay that much attention to them. It's the people who are undecided that are getting the bulk of the attention.

But, let's go back to what Matthew just said. I mean here's — here's the problem Bush had, last Thursday night, which is, they spent millions, tens of millions of dollars creating a caricature of John Kerry (search) that didn't — that didn't match reality. John Kerry got up at the debate and was himself, he was strong, powerful, knowledgeable, and George Bush didn't have an answer for that. He didn't know, he thought he was going to debate the caricature they created. It was a big problem for him and that's why 70 percent of the public thinks that John Kerry won the debate and that's why 70 percent of the public thinks when he makes a statement we should listen to the whole clip.

GIBSON: Matthew Dowd, do you care much if the public thinks that Kerry won the debate? The Pew poll, once again, shows Bush is still ahead.

DOWD: Here's what the polls — every poll that's come out for after debate says, it says that style fades quickly after debate, and what remains is leadership and policies. In poll after poll after poll, John Kerry won the debate, but when you look at who they trust on Iraq, who they trust on the war on terror, who they — who they think is the stronger leader, all of those things, George Bush still leads. So, style fades quickly, leadership and policies remain. That's why we remain confident that the public, in the end, is going to pick a leader and someone with the policy.

GIBSON: Joe, you know, I mean, I'm looking at these numbers, right here on the desk, from the Pew poll, just came an hour ago. Matthew is right about the situation in Iraq, terrorism, strong leader. And the other, that I would think might be troublesome to you guys is, here you are saying, well, Bush lied, or the campaign lied, and people still think Bush is honest and truthful.

LOCKHART: Well, listen. I mean, you can pick out any numbers you want. All of those numbers that you're talking about are greatly reduced from where we started in this campaign, and that's understandable, that the incumbent president's going to have an advantage. The bottom line is those have been cut down virtually in half since the debate. And if you look at who the president — who the public believes is better on the economy, on health care, on the environment, they're all strong wins for John Kerry. And you know, we have this view, in our campaign, that the public expects a lot out of a president, they think he can keep the country safe, fight the war on terrorism, and turn the economy around for the middle class. The president believes that, I only have to do one of those things.

GIBSON: Well, Matthew, today the president was out with an economic message and yet, I think you guys are still think this is all about war on terror in Iraq, don't you?

DOWD: We think — we think this race is about two primary things — who can win the war on terror, has the policies and the right leader to protect this country, as well as who can make this economy continue to grow, and that's what the president was talking today about the tax policies, making the tax cuts permanent. And, on the other hand, you see John Kerry who's voted for every tax increase he could possibly get when he was senator, and now in the midst of the campaign, says he's for tax — taxes for some people, but for others he wants to raise them, including small businesses.

GIBSON: Joe, got the first word, Matthew Dowd gets the last. Thanking both of you. It's nice to see the A-team on. Joe, Matthew, thank you, appreciate it.

DOWD: Pleasure to be here, John.

Content and Programming Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, L.L.C.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.