Polls: Increasingly Tight Presidential Race

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Oct. 8, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: National polls are showing an increasingly tight presidential race, including this new "Time" magazine survey out today that showed, as you can see that it is a tie. But it is not a national race, of course. It is a series of state races and only a handful of states are in close contention.

For more on some of the key ones and what their polls are showing, we're joined by FOX News contributor Michael Barone (search), "U.S. News & World Report" and other places, who may be the only man in America who has been in every congressional district in the country.

Welcome back from all your trips... Nice to see you.

MICHAEL BARONE, SENIOR WRITER, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Nice to see you. Well, I do know another young man who's been to all 435 as well

HUME: All 430 — All right. Which — let's look at some of these states. It is the case that if Bush held all the states he won, he would win the election by a slightly larger margin than he...

BARONE: He would have 278 electoral votes. He got 271 from those states, but the reports that were following from the 2000 census...

HUME: Adding seven of those states.

BARONE: ... added seven to those states.

HUME: All right. So Kerry has to win something that Bush won, right?

BARONE: And one obvious target for him, Brit, is obviously Florida.

HUME: Right.

BARONE: Now, we spent 36 days counting the vote there last time. And Florida so far in the polls, it seems to me, has been pretty good news for the Bush campaign.

HUME: Now you've got three polls there: Mason-Dixon, Quinnipiac and ARG. That's American Research Group, correct?

BARONE: That's correct.

HUME: All right. Two of them, Mason-Dixon and Quinnipiac are certainly roughly in line; certainly on the Kerry number they're in line. What about American Research?

BARONE: ARG, as I have looked at the polls — their polls that they've taken, a whole variety of states tend to give the most optimistic results from the Democrats for John Kerry (search) in this race. They tend to be on the side of showing Kerry doing better than many other pollsters do. I mean basically if you look at the Florida surveys, the post-convention, predebate surveys when George W. Bush was running ahead nationally, he was doing very well in Florida. Sometimes margins outside the margin of error. We had that hurricane thing.

We've now had several polls in Florida after the first debate. And they continue to show Bush with significant lead. I think you have to regard him as in pretty good shape to hold Florida. That his position there is stronger than it was four years ago.

HUME: And does it appear that the hurricanes, with his brother and him there to hold peoples' hands, and so on have been politically useful to him?

BARONE: Well, it's been...

HUME: Not to be cynical about it, but...

BARONE: Governor Jeb Bush got — believed got a 84 percent positive rating in the handling of the hurricanes. And President Bush, I believe, something in the '70s. So sure, that probably helped hem.

HUME: All right. Let's look at Ohio.

BARONE: Ohio is the state — is the big state that the Kerry people have been concentrating on most. The one they really want to win.

HUME: Well, the polls — those two polls, the ARG and Survey/"USA Today" — USA, look very good for Kerry at the moment.

BARONE: They look pretty good for him. Survey USA has a controversial methodology, which leads me to wonder about the results.

HUME: The person telephone gets a recording then asks them to use the button system — buttons on the telephone to answer the questions?

BARONE: Yes. ARG and Survey USA are the only post-debate polls — public polls that we have from Ohio. Bush was doing much...

HUME: What is the third one?

BARONE: The third one is "Columbus Dispatch," which was conducted before the debate — or on the — it also included September 30 and October 1 calls. So Bush was doing quite well in Ohio between the period of the convention and the debate.

HUME: I know the Kerry people have said that they are now think they are even in Ohio. Are there other soundings that you know of?

BARONE: Well, the Bush people say they are ahead in Ohio. And so...

HUME: How much ahead?

BARONE: ... it's a matter of dispute. Not by a lot, I think, in their view. And Ohio, I would rate Ohio right now as a question mark. I don't think those two post-debate polls are dispositive to me, to convince to me either that John Kerry is even in that state or that George W. Bush has not lost. It could be true either way.

HUME: It certainly would be fair to say this is a state that Bush legitimately cannot afford to lose, though, would you not agree?

BARONE: I think that it would be a big problem if he lost the 20 electoral votes in Ohio.

HUME: All right. Now, Pennsylvania. That is a state roughly comparable in electoral size to Ohio, correct?

BARONE: Yes, it is 21 electoral votes.

HUME: But that is a state that the Democrats held in 2000, so this would be — we're playing on...

BARONE: It was a four-point Gore state in 2000. And this is the state where Bush in the post-convention, pre-debate period was running ahead in a few polls, though Kerry was running ahead more often. The surveys that we are looking at right now are not very encouraging for George W. Bush there. That Keystone Survey, which was taken, started on the night of the debate shows him behind 49-43. I would say that Pennsylvania, he is not going to quit campaigning in Pennsylvania. He has been there many times, but I would say Pennsylvania looks like it's in John Kerry's column at the present time.

HUME: One more red state. That is to say Gore state from four years ago is Wisconsin. What's — how does that stack up, by the way, in terms of electoral votes versus Ohio and Pennsylvania?

BARONE: Well, Wisconsin is 10.

HUME: And Ohio is...

BARONE: Is 20.

HUME: Oh, I see. We've got to...

BARONE: Wisconsin is one of the Gore 2000 states. In fact, I'd say it's the — the most of the Gore 2000 states, this is the one that seems to have moved most to George W. Bush.

HUME: Well, it certainly looks like it from the current round of polls. How are they in terms of the debate? I mean when were they taken? .

BARONE: These polls were taken after — these polls — the Gallup poll was taken after the debate. The others were taken before the debate. But basically, he's been running — Bush has been running as much as 14 points ahead in Wisconsin. John Kerry is in trouble because he called the Packers ball field Lambert Field.

HUME: I got you. Not Lambeau. Even I know that. Michael, thank you very much.

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