GOP Suffering in Polls with Both Bush Approval and Overall Party Enthusiasm Down

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on October 14, 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.

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

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: And I'm Mort Kondracke, and we're "The Beltway Boys."

BARNES: And "Hot Story" number one: "Slipping Away," by which I mean the election of 2006 slipping away for Republicans. Mort, I have talked in recent days to consultants, to strategists, to pollsters, to observers, to experts, to people who know a lot about elections in the Republican party. Now all of these are Republicans and conservatives, so they have a vested interest in Republicans doing well, and they all say the environment for Republicans right now is horrible. They go on to say the House is not there to be lost by Republicans - it is already lost by them. In other words, I think you can count 15 seats gone for Republicans. And secondly, that the Senate is barely hanging in the balance. Democrats need six seat - six seats there, and they're close to getting it. Now I wouldn't say the House is lost already, but it's pretty darn close to it and probably will be.

KONDRACKE: And it probably will be.

BARNES: You know, I just think they're - they're pretty darn gloomy. And secondly, the Senate, as close as it is, I - I suspect they'll hold on. But it's a horrible situation for Republicans. Now, Mort I know you always rely on that totally discredited generic poll number to say what's going to happen.

KONDRACKE: We'll get to that in a second.

BARNES: And - and - well, we'll get to it right now, actually. You know the one, Do you - are you going to vote for Congress for a Democrat or a Republican? It's entirely unreliable. But there are two poll questions that actually are relevant, particularly when you compare the 2002 midterm, the first one in - in the Bush era, with the 2006 one this year. And of course, Republicans pulled off a - a great upset in 2002, thwarting the historical trend. They won eight House seats and two Senate seats, when they were expected to lose in - in both houses. Now here are the two poll numbers that are - I mean poll questions that are important. One involves presidential approval, which, you know, if it's high, it helps your party; if it's low, it hurts your party. And the other is enthusiasm - whether your people in your party are enthusiastic or not. If they are, that's a good sign. All right. And these are measurable. According to FOX polls, President Bush's approval rating in October 2002 was 66 percent. Remember that? I'd forgotten it was that high. The latest poll now has it at 40 percent. Big difference. Another important factor, as I mentioned, is enthusiasm. Gallup had Republicans leading Democrats by four points back in 2002 and being more enthusiastic. Now Democrats have an eight-point lead. And Mort, this is the first time that Democrats have been more enthusiastic going into election than nine - since 1992. Every one of those years that Republicans won, they were more enthusiastic. That's when a poll number becomes predictive, unlike the generic thing. Now the campaign - well, no, it's true.

KONDRACKE: I'll get to it.

BARNES: But the campaign - the problem here in this campaign it's become one just about Republicans. I mean, Democrats can do anything they want and - and it - and it really doesn't matter. And so, you know, it's going to be — all this leads to my conclusion that it's going to be a sad day for Republicans on November 7th.

KONDRACKE: Well, I've been talking to a lot of Democratic consultants and - and experts and so on, and they absolutely agree with you.


KONDRACKE: That - that they're not - they're not quite counting on it yet. But they're - but they're - but they're pretty close. And they completely agree about the - about the atmosphere. BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: And the - and they environment. And as to the generic - look, what I've said - contended all the way along is that it gets more predictive the closer you get to an election. We are three weeks away now; it becomes more and more predictive. Right now.

BARNES: That's not.

KONDRACKE: Right now, the generic - in the generic-ballot test, the FOX poll shows Democrats leading Republicans by nine points. The "Roll Call" - average is 15 points.

BARNES: No, there's a difference though. The - the presidential and the enthusiasm ones have been predictive all year.


BARNES: I mean, all polls are - as you get close to the election are.

KONDRACKE: OK. Anyway - anyway, I - I do agree about the - about the presidential approval, and we've been citing that for - over and over again. Look, the - Iraq is - has been the basic factor in the - the fall of - of President Bush's approval ratings, and also the enthusiasm of Democrats. Democrats are against the war, they hate him and so they're - you know, they really - they really want to win this time. In addition to all that, of course, is the - is - is the return of the "culture of corruption issue," which the Democrats actually dropped for awhile. But - but it's - it's coming back because Bob Ney, this congressman from Ohio pleaded guilty this week to taking money from the discredited lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And then we have the Mark Foley dirty e-mail scandal. And - and that seems to be especially affecting members of Congress who either have a - a prior ethical problem, or were somehow involved in the - in the whole Foley case. And the - the latest on that score is that a present congressman who is retiring, Jim Kolbe, is apparently being - giving a preliminary investigation from federal investigators over some possible connection with pages. Anyway, in the - in the - in the first category, where you have a prior ethical problem of a different kind, there's Don Sherwood, this Congress - Republican congressman from - from Pennsylvania, whose opponent is - is running this ad against Don Sherwood. Watch.


JENNIFER MACKNOSKY, DICKSON CITY, PA.: I was shocked and disgusted. I don't want my kids to - to see that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it scares me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don Sherwood's mistress made a 911 call alleging that he had choked her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don Sherwood campaigned on family values. He has no family values.


KONDRACKE: That was - Chris Carney is the - is Don Sherwood's opponent. And then we have Tom Reynolds, who is the chief of the Republican Campaign Committee running in New York - running for re-election in New York, who was an intermediary in the message-passing in - in the - in the Foley affair. Now Reynolds, who normally would be expected to win going away, is running this ad on his own behalf. Watch.


REP. TOM REYNOLDS, R-N.Y.: Nobody's angrier and more disappointed than me that I didn't catch his lies. I trusted that others had investigated. Looking back, more should have been done. And for that, I am sorry.


BARNES: (INAUDIBLE) He was basically faultless in the whole thing, but he's been fingered, and so he's - he - he's doing that ad, and he's now running behind. I think the Foley thing actually affected the campaign overall in a - in a couple of particular ways. One, it stopped the Republican momentum. You know, it was building actually in September, and it changed the narrative. The narrative then was, Republicans were starting to build up this argument - you know, we're tough on national security and - and Democrats are weak. And now it's Republican malfeasance. That's the issue. The - that - that seems to dominate things. You know, if politics were fair, Democrats would be in a lot of trouble, because they - they certainly deserve it. I mean, they are terrible on national security and they're obstructionists and so on. I like the way Tom Sole (ph) put it from the Hoover Institution. He said, Republicans are disappointing, but Democrats are dangerous. And I - and I think they are on national security. And you may not say so now, but I've heard you say it before. And - and - and - but the problem is, it's all about Republicans. And so when President Bush goes out and gives these speeches, you know, saying the Democrats are terrible on taxes and national security - and I think he's right - they don't seem to have much impact.

Listen to what he said in Illinois last week - or this week. Actually, just a couple days ago.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we win, we will keep your taxes low. And make no mistake about it: the Democrats will raise your taxes. It's a fundamental difference in this campaign. If the Democrats in Congress had their way, we wouldn't had the Patriot Act, or the interrogation program, or the terrorist-surveillance program.

They can run from this record, but we're not going to them hide.



BARNES: They are hiding.

KONDRACKE: I gather that Karl Rove is saying to - to people that - that Republicans can - can still turn it around.

But look, I think that this is turning into a classic sixth-year-itch election, where the president's been in for six - for six years, and it - and it almost always happens that - it didn't in 1998 for - because of the impeachment scandal - but - where the - the - the incumbent party all - in the White House, always loses seat. The average over - since World War II, is something like 32 House seats and six Senate seats. Now I don't think it's going to be that bad this time quite because of gerrymandering of - of House seats. But it's going to be pretty close.

So here's out bottom-line prediction for the House and the Senate. In the House, I now say that Democrats will pick up 21 seats - four more than my last prediction. And Fred says that Democrats will pick up 18 seats - five more than his last predictions. That means, for the first time, that we both agree that Democrats will take back the House.

And in the Senate, Fred and I both give an additional seat to the Democrats - one additional seat. I say it's now Democrats plus five; Fred says Democrats plus four. So Republicans hang on to the Senate barely.

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