Edwards Faces High Debate Expectations

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Oct. 5, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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JOHN EDWARDS, DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: One thing I want you to remember when you watch us walk on to that stage tonight, when you watch us sit down, and you watch for an hour and a half. We get up, we wave, and we leave, I want you to keep one thing in mind the whole time, hope is on the way.




BRIT HUME, HOST: One thing that Dick Cheney (search) will not have to worry about tonight when he goes into his debate with John Edwards (search) is high expectations. A FOX News Opinion Dynamics poll, the most recent one in which we ask this question of who is likely to do better, Edwards won handily, 45 to 35 with a 14 percent not sure.

For more on tonight's debate and what each candidate may try to do, let's turn to our colleague and friend, Fox News contributor Susan Estrich (search) who has the veteran of many campaigns in addition to being a columnist and law professor, knows something about how the Democrats have been.

How what are the — what do the Democrats see as the opportunities and perhaps the possible pitfalls tonight?

SUSAN ESTRICH, FOX NEWS ANALYST: Well one big pitfall, Brit, is that poll you just said that shows such high expectations for Edwards. And the point Tad Devine (search) and other Democrats are making around Spin Alley tonight is hold on. As Chris said, the Republicans were willing, literally to trade a third presidential debate in order to get Dick Cheney a seat on this stage. And really they were willing to trade the third presidential debate for sitting down and for having foreign policy first.

HUME: Hold it. Hold it. Say that again. Say that again.

ESTRICH: Well, the argument they're making is Vernon Jordan (search) is saying that they were willing to trade that third presidential debate. They were willing to give in on the third presidential debate if they could have seats on this stage here, so that Dick Cheney could sit down in addition to having foreign policy come first.

So the Democratic line tonight is look, this format, this stage was set up for Dick Cheney. It's his best format. He does great sitting down. He won four years ago. So don't expect Dick Cheney to come out here annual swear or tear Patrick Leahy up. This is a great format for him.

On the other hand, they're saying Edwards is going be appropriately aggressive...

HUME: What is "appropriately aggressive?"

ESTRICH: I know, I asked that too.

HUME: Edwards is very genial, rather soft spoken, mild-mannered man. I mean and even when he's being aggressive, he has a mild temperament. What is — I mean what is "appropriately aggressive" mean?

ESTRICH: "Appropriately aggressive." Well, I asked the very question. I said how strong is he going to be in coming out and taking on Cheney? And even more important, because vice presidential debates are really about the presidential candidates. Because, as I learned painfully in 1988 with Lloyd Bentsen who was much loved and got no votes for Dukakis, really. The real issue here is who makes the better case for their candidates. So I asked Ted Devine tonight and others, I said how aggressive is John Edwards going be in making the case for his candidate and against George Bush? Because I expect Dick Cheney will come out there on the attack about Kerry.

And the answer was he's going be "appropriately aggressive." He won't be brash because brash would be bad for a young guy. But he's got to be willing to take Cheney on. And watch for this, Brit. They're expecting Cheney to take Edwards on the experience issue. The first time may be OK, but watch tonight. If Cheney keeps hitting on experience, I expect John Edwards to hit back on what experience has brought us.

HUME: There's a wide spread expectation in the Bush camp that Cheney will be hit hard on his former association with Halliburton, the company that's had some contract, some of them no bid contracts for dealing with postwar Iraq.


HUME: How likely is it that — that Edwards would spend time in his debate on that issue in your judgment?

ESTRICH: Inevitable, absolutely inevitable. The important thing is with what tone will he do it? I think there is no question you will see this contrast. Here's the way it was put to me tonight. John Edwards has spent his life representing and fighting for working people. Dick Cheney represents the powerful, the interests of the powerful. So I think what they're going try to do is tie Halliburton to tax cuts, to the rich and powerful, and try to paint Dick Cheney as the spokesman for the rich in the larger context.

HUME: Is there — do you detect any concern among the Kerry-Edwards forces that if they do that, that this is one issue that Cheney will be ready to rebut strongly on, it would be that one?

ESTRICH: Oh, I think they're ready for Cheney to rebut. But their idea is to put it in this larger context of Cheney representing the larger interest and put it with Bush. You know? This is $2 gasoline coming this. This is the war in Iraq. This is 1,000 dead Americans. That's where they're headed. And of course, Edwards made his name for running a positive campaign and has who has to watch his step here, because he's so much younger than Cheney; they expect Cheney to be better. He's got to do it with the right tone...

HUME: Got you. Got you.

ESTRICH: ... so that he comes across as respectful.

HUME: Susan. Susan, thanks.

We have got to take a break here to bring you the headlines.


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