From Border Security to Gay Marriage, GOP Exciting Base in Final Days Before Midterms

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on October 28, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: And I'm Mort Kondracke. We're "The Beltway Boys." Well, the "Hot Story" of the week is "Back to Basics." And by that I mean, of course, the Republican attempt to bring back the base, get the base out there working hard for Republican re-election, which is - a tough sell. Anyway, here's some of the ways that the Republicans are trying to rev up their base. Number one is border security. The president gave Republicans something to rally about by signing legislation to build 700 miles of fencing along the Mexican border. Now this is a total joke, perpetrated by the - the - the - the House Republicans. It - it authorizes 700 miles of fence along a 1,950 mile border. Doesn't pay for any of it. And even - and President Bush knows that the only way to solve the problem of - of illegal immigration is to, yes, build barriers, but also have - have employer-enforcement rules; make - make it legal for immigrants to get jobs here; and also legalize the - the immigrant - the illegal immigrants who - who are already here. And that - that's a way - if you all did all those things, you would actually stop cutting the wages of ordinary Americans, because immigrant wages would rise. And I think that Bush's knowledge about how empty this gesture was accounts for the fact that this was not a Rose Garden ceremony where he signed this bill, but merely a signing ceremony in - in the Roosevelt Room.

BARNES: Well, I know one thing: there's no evidence for that. But Mort, the fence is not a joke. It is the way to achieve exactly what you want and just said. Without it as the foundation, you're never going to get enough votes in the lame duck session of Congress this year or next year in Congress or the year after that - enough votes from Republicans to have what you and I both think is a good idea - one, a temporary worker program, and a way for illegal immigrants who are already here to work their way to citizenship. You - you just can't get around that. And that's also what the American people want.

KONDRACKE: Yes, I don't think there's a prayer of getting anything in a - in a lame duck session.

BARNES: Yes, you're probably right.

KONDRACKE: Number two, the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision ordering the legislature to legalize gay marriage or civil unions is something that Republicans are going to use to fan up the base. And here's Bush trying to do it. Watch.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yesterday in New Jersey, we had another activist court issue a ruling that raises doubts about the institution of marriage. I believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.


KONDRACKE: There are eight states that will vote on November 7 on constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. And of the eight, Tennessee and Virginia have hot Senate races in play. And George Allen has - is been using this New Jersey issue against his opponent, Jim Webb. And Tom Kean in New Jersey, the Republican candidate, is also calling for a constitutional amendment. Both in Tennessee, where it's both Corker and - and - and Harold Ford have the same position, although it may bring out right-wing voters in order to - which - who presumably would help Corker, although he's a moderate. Now, look, there was a fascination op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal on - on Friday showing that in Scandinavia, which has legalized something called "registered partnerships," which New Jersey could do under the - under this ruling, there's been no damage to the institution of marriage. In fact, the heterosexual marriage rate is up, and the divorce rate is down. What really is ruining marriage in the United States, among other things, is Hollywood.

BARNES: Well, I agree with the Hollywood part, Mort, but you've avoided what is the issue here. The issue here is whether judges, liberal judges all on the - on the New Jersey Supreme Court, which is probably the most liberal state supreme court in the land - whether they're going to decide what the definition of marriage is, or whether the American people are going to decide through their elected representatives, or through referendums of - in the - in the states where you mentioned. You know, the - the - a New Jersey Supreme Court said, "We have decided" that the New Jersey constitution - written who knows how long ago - requires the acceptance of same-sex marriage. That - I mean, Mort, a joke? That's a joke.

KONDRACKE: They didn't say that it has to be called marriage.


KONDRACKE: They said - they - they could - they - all they said - called for was equal rights. BARNES: No. No, they - come on, Mort. They're redefining what marriage has been historically forever.

KONDRACKE: No, they're.

BARNES: That - that's exactly what they did.

KONDRACKE: They were defining equal rights. Anyway.

BARNES: Oh, come on.

KONDRACKE: Number three, the president invited the nation's top conservative radio talk - hosts to the White House this week in the - Condi Rice was there; Tony Snow was there; Karl Rove was there; the whole gang was there. And they were busy denouncing Nancy Pelosi as the end of the world if she gets to be speaker of the House, and tax raising and so on. Cut and run from Iraq. I mean, it's a perfectly legitimate thing to do. And, you know, it may work. (INAUDIBLE).

BARNES: And why did they do it? Because.

KONDRACKE: Radio talk counts for something.

BARNES: Well, not it - well, that's true, too. But it also is where they can get their message out, when all we read in the mainstream media is how Republicans are going to get routed in the election this year. I mean, it's the - the Democrats in the media working together, and have created what they think is a bandwagon. So use talk radio. Why not?

KONDRACKE: Perfectly legitimate. And lastly, President Bush spoke out about Iraq, using - trying to keep the - the base content on that, or at least strengthened on that - on that front. The president has - has rendered inoperative the old line "stay the course." It's - it's - it's out of fashion now. We're talking about how we're adjusting to - to enemy tactics. And, you know, that's - that's the new - that's the new theme. I - you know - and I think Bush deserves credit, frankly, for not yielding to both Democratic and Republican hopes and demands that we withdraw troops in October, right before the election. In fact, he kept them there, increased the - the forces in Baghdad. And the casualty rate increased because he thought he had to do it. I think he deserves credit for that.

BARNES: I think he deserves credit as well. Look, Iraq is not lost. Now I agree, it's been extremely disappointing, the failure to secure and pacify Baghdad. My theory is that if - if Democrats get a - a working majority, a governing majority in the House of Representatives, they will try to cut off funding as much as possible for Iraq. And that would be disastrous for America, American foreign policy and America in the world.

KONDRACKE: If they got - if they got control of both - both houses, I think they probably would.

BARNES: Yes, I think they would. Mort, let's talk about a couple of these Senate races where at the - where you - where it shows some at least microscopic Republican gains, starting with Montana, where the Senate race is considered a tossup now. Incumbent Republican senator Conrad Burns is within three points of Democratic challenger Jon Tester in a Mason Dixon poll this week. RealClearPolitics has the average as Tester plus 5.3 You - you know, Burns has - has been - the press has been sneering at him for months and months now. And now, as I noted, the race is now a tossup. And Jon Tester, who they've lauded as the greatest thing since Ben Franklin or someone is - he is no Mike Mansfield, that - the famous senator from Montana.

KONDRACKE: Yes, it is - it is a very red state. But they do elect Democrats.


KONDRACKE: to - to the Senate every once in awhile. I mean, Mike Mansfield was one of them. And Conrad Burns is no Mike Mansfield, either.

BARNES: I'll buy that. All right. In Missouri, Republican incumbent Jim Talent is gaining ground on Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill. He's up two points in the latest Rasmussen poll. The RCP average is Talent plus one. You know, Missouri has been a - a state in recent years that slightly tilted Republican. And — and Claire McCaskill a couple of years ago lost to Republican Matt Blunt - Blunt for the governorship. This year however - obviously, the political climate is less favorable to Republicans. But I still think Talent's going to win.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well I think, Talent has to worry about the Kansas City and the St. Louis suburbs, where Republican and independent voters are not happy with the way things are going, and - and may well elect McCaskill this time.

BARNES: Well, it could happen. In the open Tennessee seat, Republican Bob Corker is up five points in an L.A. Times poll. RealClear shows Corker plus 2. You know, Corker ought to be up. I mean, he's finally got his legs in this campaign. And Democrat Harold Ford has run this campaign that he's an independent, and he's maybe even a conservative. That's entirely fake. In fact, it's a joke, Mort.

KONDRACKE: Well, there was a great piece in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, I guess, about how Tennessee is a much less Southern state than it used to be because of all the move-ins from outside the country. I still - I still think that - that - that race and Ford's family is going to - is - is going to hurt him in this contest.

BARNES: What you just said about Tennessee's also true of Virginia, which has really become a mid-Atlantic state rather than a Southern state. And, in Virginia, Republican incumbent George Allen has a two-point lead in the latest Rasmussen poll. RealClear average - the RealClear average is Allen plus 1. You know, the national press has again been all over Allen. And - and he does have a lead, but what's spreading around Virginia now are these raunchy excerpts from the novels written by Jim Webb, when - when he was a novelist, in fact. And - and a pretty good one. They're not going to help him, but I still think that Republicans should be very worried about holding onto this seat.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well I - I do, too. And James Webb's stuff was fiction, but - but the Confederate flag on George Allen's wall in high - in college.


KONDRACKE: ..that was real.

BARNES: Mort, you don't really think what candidates did in college 30 years ago matters? You can't. I know you don't believe it.



BARNES: So here's our bottom-line predictions for the House and Senate. In the House, Mort says Democrats will pick up 25 seats. I say Democrats plus 18. We both agree Democrats will take back the House. And in the Senate, we both think Democrats will pick up four seats, but Republicans hang on to the Senate.

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.

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