Countdown to Election 2006

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on September 30, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 2:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. ET.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: I'm Mort Kondracke.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: And I'm Fred Barnes. And we're "The Beltway Boys."

KONDRACKE: Well, the "Hot Story" of the week is "Countdown." That is, the countdown to the election, of course.

Congress got out of town after addressing a lot of national security issues, which I think fundamentally will help Republicans in - in this election, and embarrass Democrats. On the other hands, we've got a slew of new revelations, including a National Intelligence Estimate that the Democrats fastened on to. And a new book out by Bob Woodward, which I think helped the Democrats and - and - and hurt President Bush and the Republicans. And we'll get to all that stuff in a second.

Our latest FOX poll shows that President Bush's approval rating is up to 42 percent in the latest FOX poll. That's up two points since the beginning of the month. And on the generic ballot test - that is, "Who would you vote for for the House of Representatives?" — Democrats lead over Republicans now by 11 points, which ought to be enough for the Democrats to take over control.

Here is what we see our - we're - what we're going today is - is basically cover Senate seats - key Senate seats. And here is what we see are the key Republican vulnerable seats. There are seven of them: Santorum in Pennsylvania; the open seat in Tennessee, Bob Corker is the Republican candidate there; Conrad Burns in Montana; James Talent in Missouri; Mike DeWine in Ohio; George Allen in Virginia; and Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island.

And here's what we think are the vulnerable Democratic seats - there are only three of them: Maria Cantwell in Washington state; Bob Menendez in New Jersey; and the new - and the Democratic open seat in Maryland - Congressman Ben Cardin is the Democrat in that race.

The - the Democrats need to pick up a net six seats, as you know. If - if all of those seats flipped parties, the seven Republican seats and the - and the four Democratic seats - the three Democratic seats - the - the net would be four, which means that the - that the Republicans would not.

BARNES: Thanks for doing the math.


KONDRACKE: Well, it just - it just keeps you and some viewers up to speed.

OK, let's take a closer look at the Virginia Senate race. The latest Rasmussen poll shows George Allen with a seven-point lead over - over his Democratic challenger, James Webb. Real Clear Politics has the average at plus five.

Here is a recent George Allen ad. Watch.


SEN. JAMES MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I have a friend in Washington, and he represents the state of Virginia. George Allen works hard. He believes in what he does. He's dedicated. He understands a lot of issues, has the utmost confidence and belief that in this terrible, titanic struggle that's going on now between good and evil in the world, that we will and must prevail.


BARNES: John McCain. Pretty good ad for Allen. Now - who - who's opponent is a Vietnam War veteran. Allen is not, but obviously John McCain is.

I wanted to say one broad thing about these races, Mort. And that is: you know, sometimes there's a tilt at the end to one party or the other, as there was in '82, where Republicans lucked out. Terrible Republican year. Remember it was Reagan's first midterm. They lost 33 House seats, but there was a tilt toward Republican candidates and - and they won all the close races, and wound up winning one seat.

This time, if there's a tilt for the Democrats, with all these close races, they'll wind up winning the Senate. So I - I think Republicans have a lot to worry about. And George Allen is one of the reasons they have to worry. I mean, this thing - do you remember macaca, where he - he called this young man working for his opponent - and the "n" word, which he's accused of having used. And of course, so is James Webb, his opponent, accused him of using it.

All that stuff I don't think is - is so much significant in itself as the fact that this has rattled George Allen. I saw him run for governor in Virginia in 1993, one of the best campaigns I've ever seen. Ran a good campaign for the Senate in 2000. But he's rattled now. He's got to get his footing again, and really focus on some issues, as he always does in his campaigns when he wins. And I think he'll be all right. At - at the end of the day, I think he'll win.

KONDRACKE: Well - well, you know, he was a - he was a - a presidential contender, a strong presidential contender. And I noticed that in "The Wall Street Journal," you're not even - you're not still reading him out of the presidential race if he made it - made a recovery.

BARNES: Nor should you.

KONDRACKE: Well, and, you know, I was reminded about - you know, of - people counted out Bill Clinton after the Gennifer Flowers incident, right - right before the - the 2000 campaign (sic), and he survived that. So.

BARNES: Yes, I wrote him out then. Shows how much I...


KONDRACKE: But, you know, that - that ad that we saw is tame by - by campaign standards. Actually Allen has another ad in which a bunch of - of female former military academy cadets are - are talking about how James Webb, when he was Ronald Reagan's Navy secretary said that women weren't qualified for - to - to serve in - in military academies, and that only horny women ever - ever went there. It was very demeaning. So it's the "n" word versus - versus the women's vote.

Anyway, now let's turn to the Tennessee Senate race. This is an open seat. It's Bill Frist's seat. He's - he's leaving Congress to run for president, presumably. The most recent poll shows that Republican candidate Bob Corker, former mayor of Chattanooga, with just a one point lead over the challenger, a moderate African-American congressman, Harold Ford Jr.

Here's a recent Ford ad. Watch.


ANNOUNCER: Bob Corker likes to talk tough about illegal immigration. What Bob Corker doesn't tell you is when he was building these apartments, INS agents warned him twice about illegals on his work site. Three weeks later, INS raided the site, found illegals still working there, and arrested them. He looked the other way for cheap labor, and we're paying the price.

HAROLD FORD, D-TENN. SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm Harold Ford Jr. And to get control of our borders, we've got to get tough on illegals.


KONDRACKE: Well, Corker had a - had - had a tough primary. And he got - got a slow start in the - in the general election. He's about to put out a — a really tough ad against - against Ford.


KONDRACKE: Ford, you know, is - is claiming that he's a different kind of candidate. What - what Corker means to do is to remind people that Ford's family runs this sort of semi-corrupt - maybe not so semi - machine, Democratic machine in - in - in Memphis, with some members under indictment, actually. The ad will say that - that Ford took more trips than all but three members of Congress overseas, and - and that he had to return campaign funds that he used at one time to buy cigars and expensive clothes (INAUDIBLE).

BARNES: That's not exactly Watergate. But.


KONDRACKE: Watergate's it's not. And - and Ford is different from his family.

BARNES: OK. Here's why I think Corker will win. He is so perfect; he is just like the kind of moderate-to-conservative Republican that wins in Tennessee. You know, you had Howard Baker; you have Bill Frist himself. You have Lamar Alexander, who's a senator now. You had Fred Thompson. So I'm giving it to Corker.

KONDRACKE: Now the Washington Senate race - Washington state Senate race. Incumbent Maria Cantwell is facing Republican challenger Mike McGavick. The latest poll shows that Cantwell is leading McGavick by nine points.

And this is a - this is a red state (sic). Maria Cantwell is not a, you know, distinguished - particularly distinguished senator - hasn't made much of a dent. Barack Obama she is not; rock star she is not. But I think it's such a blue state that she is going to win.

BARNES: Look, McGavick is the best candidate Republicans can have. I - I - I think if there is a tilt at all for Republicans - nationally, a Republican trend at the end, he can upset her. And will upset her.

All right. So here are our bottom-line predictions for the House and Senate; change - changed slightly this week.

In the House, I think Democrats will pick up 13 seats, two shy of what they need for takeover. Mort says Democrats plus 17, giving them a two-seat majority. Now we've each added one seat to the Democrats because of Mark Foley, the congressman from Florida resigning suddenly in a flap over some e-mails he sent to a - a teenage boy.

And in the Senate, I say Democrats pick up three seats; Mort says four seats. We both think Republicans will maintain control.

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