This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", Oct. 30, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: I’m Fred Barnes.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: I’m Mort Kondracke. We’re “The Beltway Boys,” coming to you tonight from New York.

The hot story is, Bush barely. That’s "The Beltway Boys," bottom line for the, for the election.

And I think that this week’s main event, this appearance, Halloween appearance of Usama bin Laden (search), marginally helps George Bush, because it reminds people that there is a terrorist menace out there that we’re all facing, and, and it also perhaps reminds people that, that there hasn’t been an, an attack since 9/11, thank heavens, and we hope that that, that trend continues.

And, you know, you know, here’s, here’s Usama bin Laden sending a videotape out instead of a bomb again. Keep your fingers crossed.

And, and the latest Fox tracking poll shows Bush with a 2-point lead over Kerry. Bush’s approval is only 49 percent in our Fox poll, but when you ask people if security issues or, or economic issues are more important, 48 percent think that security issues are more important, and 38 percent think that economic ones are.

Now, on those issues, Bush has a clear advantage, a whopping 61 percent think that he would be more aggressive in the War on Terror, and Bush has a 12-point lead on who’s the stronger leader. So I think, you know, what, what’s happening at the, in the end game here is a, is a drift to Bush, not Kerry.

I think what undecided voters do is, they think, Well, who’s the stronger leader here? And opt for him.

BARNES: You know, Mort, I, I think you’re right. I think there is a, a drift to Bush, but I think it’s probably inevitable. Now, Bush isn’t taking any chances. Remember, in 2000, he sort of relaxed the last week.  This week, he’s staying on and brought Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) in from California into Ohio to campaign for him and so on.

And I, I think that’s smart. But basically, you know, this presidential race was shaped by the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and they had, I mean, some people will say that 9/11 changed everything, and that may not be right, but it certainly changed politics. It meant that national security, terrorism, fighting terrorism, homeland security, personal safety and so on became the paramount issues and even changed the gender gap by creating security moms who are supporting Bush.

And the normal domestic issues that are the, usually the most important in a presidential campaign, the economy, education, and health care, were downgraded as a result. John Kerry tried to fight this for month after month, hoping to talk about these domestic issues, which I think you’ll agree, generally help Democrats (search). He finally gave up a few weeks ago, and he’s been talking about the war in Iraq and, and terrorism almost constantly.

And, of course, the last flap that cropped up in the last week before the election is this question of possible missing explosives in Iraq, and, and both, well, watch Bush and Kerry on this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He criticized our military’s handling of explosives in Iraq when his own advisers admitted he didn’t know what had happened. A president needs to get all the facts before jumping to politically motivated conclusions.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, Mr. President, I agree with you. George Bush jumped to conclusions about 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. George Bush jumped to conclusions about weapons of mass destruction, and he rushed to war without a plan to win the peace.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BARNES: Okay, my point, though, has been that this is Bush’s turf. When you’re talking about the War on Terrorism and Iraq, that’s Bush’s turf. Bush has been fighting on this turf all along, and it’s, and it’s worked for him, basically.

KONDRACKE: Yes. I thought actually the two of them were right. They both did jump to conclusions. But George Bush jumped to conclusions about weapons of mass destruction (search) based on the CIA’s intelligence and all the other intelligence services in the world, and Kerry jumped to a conclusion based on a front-page story in The New York Times.

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: A story that turned out to dissolve before our very eyes.  Okay.

Let’s check out the latest battleground polls in the close states, and we’ll call them.

We begin in Ohio. Bush is up three points in the latest Cleveland Plain Dealer poll, but we think that Kerry is going to win Ohio on Tuesday night.  Bush actually won Ohio in 2000.

It’s all tied up at 47 in the latest Florida poll, but we think that Bush is going to win Florida on Tuesday night.

It’s all tied up at 47 in Pennsylvania as well. Gore won Pennsylvania in 2000, and we think that Kerry’s going to win it this year.

Kerry has a 1-point lead in, in Iowa. Gore won the Hawkeye State in 2000, but we think that Bush is going to win there on Tuesday.

In Wisconsin, Bush has a 1-point lead. Gore won that state by a hair in 2000. But we think, and we think that it’s going to be in Bush’s column on, on Tuesday night.

Bush also has a 1-point lead in Minnesota. That state went to Gore in 2000, but we predict that Bush is going to pick it up this time.

Bush is up two points in Michigan. Gore won there in 2000, and we think that Kerry will too.

And in New Mexico, Bush is up by six points. Gore won New Mexico by only 365 votes in 2000, but we think New Mexico will be a red state on Tuesday night.

BARNES: Mort, you know, in politics, precedents are there to be broken. But first let me factor in our projections and say how we think the Electoral College will shake out Tuesday night.  We think Bush will win with 286 electoral votes, that’s 286 for Bush, he needs 270 to win. Kerry will get 252 votes.

As for the popular vote, we think it will be Bush 51 percent, Kerry 49 percent, and we think, unlike 2000, there will be a declared winner Tuesday night, but there will be legal challenges as well.

This idea about breaking precedents, you know, no Republican has ever been elected without winning Ohio. Well, we think that Bush is not going to win Ohio and get elected anyway. And then the idea of a Massachusetts hat trick, the Patriots won the Super Bowl, the Red Sox won the World Series. I don’t think that means Kerry’s going to win the presidency.

KONDRACKE: Yes, we obviously don’t think that that’s going to happen. But, you know, what’s interesting, I think that Ohio is going to go to Kerry because of the job loss. And, you know, 265,000 jobs or so net, net loss over the Bush era, and Bush has never been able to explain why those jobs have, why those jobs have been lost, that we had a recession and all that, and get it through people’s heads.

Also, the fact that, that Bush is going to win in these Midwestern states that, that Gore carried last time, Minnesota, Iowa, and where else did we say, Wisconsin, I think it’s largely because of rural voters.

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: I mean, rural voters have decisively switched in most states, even though they have a progressive tradition on cultural issues largely to the Republicans.

BARNES: Ohio’s easy to explain, Mort. It is productivity gains that have killed many of these small manufacturing firms in Ohio, and I agree, the president can’t go and say that very well and explain it, and that’s why Ohio, probably more than any state that’s been a Republican state, has turned against him.

All right, coming up on “The Beltway Boys,” Congress is up for grabs next Tuesday. We’ll make our predictions and look at the key races. Stay with us.

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