This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", Januray 19, 2008, that has been edited for clarity.
FRED BARNES, FOX CO-HOST: Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," one night, two states, two huge political stories we are on top of it.
MORT KONDRACKE, FOX CO-HOST: First, in Nevada, hours ago, FOX predicted Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama to win the Silver state's Democratic caucuses today.
BARNES: In South Carolina, polls close in one hour in the red hot Republican presidential primary.
KONDRACKE: Plus, live reports from the campaign trail from Carl Cameron and Major Garrett.
BARNES: That's all coming up on "The Beltway Boys" live from New York City.
KONDRACKE: I am Mort Kondracke.
BARNES: I am Fred Barnes. And we're "The Beltway Boys." We're coming to you tonight from FOX's headquarters in New York City.
We have two big political stories and one smaller one to tell you about tonight. First in Nevada, where FOX News predicts Clinton won the Nevada caucuses, Romney won the GOP caucuses earlier today. We will hear from our correspondent, Major Garrett, who is live in Las Vegas.
The other big stories, in South Carolina where the polls close in an hour and the Republican presidential primary. Correspondent Carl Cameron is live in Charleston with the latest there.
First, we go to Sin City and Major Garrett — Major?
MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred and Mort. The story across Nevada is Hillary Clinton scored a big victory. She had the institutional support of most of the state Democrats and county level Democrats. She was going up against a formidable union, the Culinary Workers Union, which represents about 60,000 rank and file casino workers. The Culinary Workers Union endorsed Barack Obama, her opponent 10 days ago. They were thought the endorsement could give Barack Obama the inside chance to win here. It did not. There are 9 casino based precincts in which this election was hotly contested. Clinton carried 7 of the 9, meaning the Culinary Union endorsed Obama but many of their rank and file members went with Hillary Clinton. You combine that with the institutional support she had at the county and the state level she had among Democrats and that equals victory as she heads to South Carolina later today.
KONDRACKE: Major, what happened to John Edwards? Our reporting on the screen there indicates that he got only 4 percent of the vote is that right?
GARRETT: That's right.
John Edwards didn't contest Nevada. When he did not get the Culinary Workers' endorsement here, he basically shut out of the major unions. The other big unions, the Teacher's Union and Public Employees Union endorsed Hillary Clinton. When Edwards saw that he was shut out by the unions, he did not campaign here aggressively, no radio ads, no TV ads. He didn't get the viability threshold in most of the precincts, which means that he didn't qualify for many delegates in those precincts. He walks out of Nevada limping noticeably on to South Carolina.
BARNES: Let me ask you about Mitt Romney. The victory was largely uncontested. One what does it mean and two where were the other candidates?
GARRETT: The other candidates basically wanted to focus most of their attention on South Carolina and the later contests in Florida and elsewhere. Romney looked at Nevada as a place where we could — he could run strong on his long-standing relationship through the Mormon community. There was a large turnout that worked to Romney's advantage.
Ron Paul and John McCain are fighting for second place but there's a great distance between them and Romney. Romney will say that gives him momentum. Most Republicans were not looking at Nevada as a weather vain. It's a victory. It's delegates he can put in the bank. That's always been Romney's strategy — bank the delegates and move on and fight as long as you can, because he among — uniquely among Republicans have a bottomless financial reservoir to keep competing. He intends to do just that.
KONDRACKE: Thank you, Major.
On to South Carolina where Carl Cameron is standing by live in Charleston.
CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Easy for you to say, Mort.
CAMERON: (Inaudible) here in South Carolina is supposed to be made up by his win in Nevada. When it comes to the delegate count, there are more delegates at stake in Nevada even though the population is smaller than South Carolina because the Palmetto state is getting punished by the RNC and only half of its delegates are going to count.
Having said that, the first-in-the-south primary is hugely important. This is a very big election. The turnout was perhaps going to get hurt by the weather. Not so much. It looks like military voters, veteran's households, et cetera, coming out in fairly large numbers, just as they are in the upstate. There are large numbers of evangelicals for Mike Huckabee. That's where the battle is.
It looks like the battle for first is between McCain and Huckabee. McCain had a slight edge in the polls coming in here the last couple days. The key for him was going to be whether or not voters on the Atlantic seaboard, where are all this military community — in fact, he will be doing his announcement speech tonight — his victory or concession speech from outside of the Citadel in Charleston. Big areas for John McCain. If the seniors, retirees and the military vote come out big for him, John McCain could pull off a much needed win in a state he lost in 2000 against George W. Bush.
For Mike Huckabee a victory would be a tremendous catapult. He could launch in Florida where there's a large number of conservatives he could court in the Panhandle. For both of these two, a tremendous amount at stake. Down at third and fourth position, Fred Thompson and Romney battling here.
If Huckabee were to come in second, Fred Thompson could have a chance to compete for social conservatives in Florida a few days from now, even coming in a third or potentially fourth. Romney having pulled out physically from South Carolina didn't stop his ads and his organization. He and John McCain, more than any other candidates, spent the most time in South Carolina. That could give McCain an advantage at the top of the ticket and perhaps Romney for third and fourth.
KONDRACKE: The Romney campaign was trying to make this a repeat of 2000 in the sense that it was dirty, low-blow campaigning against them. Others say nothing of the kind. What's your take on that?
CAMERON: There was gutter-level stuff. There was a whispering campaign against Mitt Romney because he was a Mormon. There was an overt attack on John McCain in the form of pamphlets and radio adds suggesting he was wrong on the Confederate flag and he was a collaborator with the North Vietnamese when he was a POW in the war. There was stuff written about Huckabee as well. It appeared on windshield wipers and cars and things like that.
By comparison, this was nothing like South Carolina Republican races of the past. There hasn't been a lot of negative ads on the air. There was some of it, but it wasn't like it was in 2000 when it undid John McCain. He was accused of trying to play a victim card by using a truth squad to knock down of the allegations. That amplified them. Fred? Mort?
BARNES: What happened to Romney? He spent all of that money, all that time down there. Now he is bugged out of South Carolina the last couple days and is down-playing it.
CAMERON: He is now counting delegates and looking for a long last-man strategy, counting delegates toward the convention on the assumption that nobody will wrap it up completely.
Having said that, he has spent more time here. More than half of all of the ads in South Carolina were run by Romney. While he went to Nevada to caucus there, physically he was gone, but his presence was not. Romney did spend a tremendous amount of time here.
We got pretty good spies at the precincts in South Carolina, particularly in the midlands. Romney did well there. Looks as though some of his vote did come out. If he hurt any of the candidates at the top, it may be he was competing for the same sort of voters McCain was. Romney's not going to do irrespectively here. To the extent that it won't be a first or second, he will point to Nevada and say I am soldiering on because I keep picking up delegates.
BARNES: Carl, thank you very much.
Stay with FOX all night for continuing coverage of tonight's South Carolina Republican primary.
Up next, we will be joining Brit Hume from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. eastern. "Hannity and Colmes" take over at 9:00 followed by an election special hosted by Bret Baier and a live "Journal Editorial Report."
Coming up, where we think the Republican presidential candidates stand tonight and where they go from here. Stay with us.
KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys," lives in New York City. Polls close within the hour at South Carolina on the Republican primary. That's tonight's first top story, Carolina crunch.
With one victory a piece, McCain in New Hampshire, where lots of Independent can vote, Huckabee in Iowa, where evangelicals are very strong, this South Carolina was a very big test for both of them. Could they win in a state where the population was not precisely designed for them to win, especially in this state, South Carolina, which has always gone to the eventual winner of the Republican nomination since 1980.
The winner also will get momentum to go on to face Rudy Giuliani in Florida and Romney in the rest of the states.
I think the looser will be at least crippled probably not mortally wounded but crippled going into the next races. The exit polls indicate, by far, the biggest issue was the economy.
Finally, McCain got around to talking about it. Although, I got to say this doesn't strike me as the way to address it. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: The president wants to work with Congress to try to help the problems we have with our economy. I would love to work with the Congress and the president. I believe we can and we need to. My friends, what we need to do to start with before we go any further is stop the out-of- control spending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: You don't stimulate the economy by stopping the out-of- control spending. He did have a stimulus package of his own emphasizing business tax cuts, which would stimulate the economy. If he would have come up with that kind of program in Michigan before last Tuesday, he might have won Michigan instead he lost to Romney.
BARNES: I doubt he would have won there, but you're right. What he needs is a domestic policy, an economic policy. I think McCain — I know some of his aids have been saying, look, as strong as you are on the war in Iraq, patriotism and that kind of thing, you need to broaden your whole appeal. You have to come up with conservative domestic issues to appeal to conservative voters. He is doing it finally.
Mike Huckabee —Huckabee ran his campaign just like Iowa. There were a lot of evangelicals, a lot in South Carolina as well. So it was back to the Christian leader pitch. The race came down to the Christian soldiers of Mike Huckabee verses the retired soldiers, retired military of John McCain. I have to say the pitch by Huckabee became very controversial. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have opponents in this race would don't want to change the Constitution. It's easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. That's what we need to amend the Constitution so it's in god's standards rather than try to change god's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: I want to say something about Mitt Romney, but I don't want to slight him, because he won in Michigan a few days ago and won in Nevada today. I think South Carolina is more important than Nevada. Romney, you talk about having a real stimulus package. You know the problem with stimulus packages when recession is threatened? Usually, they are too small. Romney has a big, one that would have expense, do expensing for two years...
KONDRACKE: Bigger than Bush's.
BARNES: Nearly twice as big as Bushes. For people over 65 who work they would not have to pay social security taxes.
KONDRACKE: Is that right? I am for that.
BARNES: I don't blame you.
Romney's win, I think, will be tarnished a little bit by his bugout in South Carolina where he spent all of this time and now pretends it isn't even happening.
KONDRACKE: As expected, Huckabee did very well among born-agains who accounted for 52 percent of the voters. He won 40-25 over McCain. Huckabee, there were 40-plus percent of the voters who were not born-again and Huckabee gets only 11 percent. That tracks with what he has in other places. I don't see how you proceed to get the Republican nomination when you can't win non-born-again Christians by much more than single digits.
Huckabee pulled out every stop he could think of to get both born- agains and conservatives, going so far, as you saw in the sound bite to declare he was going to replace the Constitutional the United States with god's law? Come on.
BARNES: That's not quite what he said.
KONDRACKE: Well, pretty much.
And then he said that it's nobody else's business if South Carolina wants to keep the Confederate flag? What else?
KONDRACKE: The other big question here was does Fred Thompson have any legs at all? Can he show, win, whatever? He was the favorite for a while. The answer appears to be no. Here he is trying. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED THOMPSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have got to do very well here. I am not in this to get my face on television or my name in the paper or enhance my resume. I am not a hanger-oner just for its own sake. I am here to help lead my country in the right direction. I still think I have a good opportunity of doing that. We will know much more about that right here in South Carolina Saturday night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: Fred Thompson had god events down here where he showed real zip.
Byron York in National Review he wrote about this. People in the crowd were saying, why didn't he do this before? He didn't. Two little too late for Fred Thompson.
Mike Huckabee, you suggested something, Mort, that I think is true in South Carolina. Whether he wins or not, there is a large evangelical vote here which means Huckabee might win. On the other hand, he hasn't been able to break out of this evangelical ghetto — political-speaking ghetto - - very much and we move on to Florida and the 22 or so states on Super Tuesday where he is not going to have much help. There won't be much of a big evangelical vote. Super Tuesday there's Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas his home state. Beyond that, it's New York, California, New Jersey, Colorado and all of these states where there is not this built in support for Mike Huckabee.
KONDRACKE: Rewriting the Constitution is not going to go over in the by-coastal areas, I will tell you that.
Coming up, FOX projects Hillary Clinton as the winner in the never Nevada caucuses. Is she now the Democratic frontrunner? We'll talk about that and look ahead to South Carolina next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Tonight's second hot story — advantage, Clinton. You know why she had the advantage? She wanted it.
KONDRACKE: That helps.
BARNES: And it's partly important for her to have won there so much because she, I think, averted a disaster not being driven out of the race, but what do we have next Saturday? Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina. That's one where there's a huge African-American vote. Obama is ahead of the polls. It's one where he is likely to win. If she lost in Nevada and then South Carolina that would have been — not curtains. Look, this Democratic race will go on for a long time. It would have hurt her a lot.
It shows in Nevada, which is hotly contested between the two and nasty at times, that you would rather have the support of Democratic leaders than the support of the union that represents Black Jack dealers and all of the pretty scantily clad women that brings you the drinks when you are gambling. I have heard about it, not being a gambler myself. The union didn't help Obama much at all. It is a tough loss for him. He can rebound next week.
But he did take it — this is my favorite part of the campaign in Nevada — was the swipe that Obama took at Hillary Clinton with — on the question of the bankruptcy bill several years ago where she tried to play it both ways on the bankruptcy bill, for it and against it and so on. Watch Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Then she says I voted for it but I was glad to see it didn't pass.
What does that mean? No seriously, what does that mean? If you didn't want to see it pass, you can vote against it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: What a great time he was having telling that story for sure. You heard me say, Mort, many times that Bill Clinton, bubba, has been hurting Hillary Clinton's campaign, but not in Nevada. He spent a lot of time-out here. He seemed to be campaigning 24-hours a day for the last week. I think he helped her.
KONDRACKE: You do?
KONDRACKE: In Nevada.
But he got angry at a reporter. There are some people in the Clinton camp who think he is still misbehaving and that he's got to be brought under control. But look, this was a — the organizational victory on the part of the juggernaut establishment candidate. That's what this was all about.
The lead up to this was very ugly, you know. We had a whole week before everybody arrived in Nevada where there were racial accusations going back and forth about this, which both Obama and Hillary Clinton tried to put to rest in time for a debate in Las Vegas last week. Here's the high point of Hillary's claim about that. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Senator Obama and I agree completely neither race nor gender should be a part of this campaign. We both have exuberant and sometimes uncontrollable supporters that we need to get this campaign where it should be. We are all family in the Democratic Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: We are all family. It reminds me of Borgias, you know, back in the — or maybe the "Sopranos."
KONDRACKE: Right. The net of this is that there is still some racial tension going on in the Democratic Party. In Michigan, blacks voted overwhelmingly against Clinton and in favor of uncommitted. In Nevada, the Hispanics, where there's some tension with blacks, voted overwhelmingly against Clinton. African-Americans are going to vote overwhelmingly for Obama and give him a victory there. Obama has been campaigning very wisely, I think, genuinely not to be the quote-unquote black candidate. He wants to be Tony Dungy or Tiger Woods or Collin Powell or Condoleezza Rice, somebody that becomes a champion or a leader, not on the basis of color, but on the basis of merit.
BARNES: He's achieved that. He is the most cross cultural, cross multi-racial candidate I have ever seen.
KONDRACKE: Right. It's wise politically because African-Americans, after all, only represent about 15 percent or less of the American population.
Hillary on the other hand, when she says this shouldn't be about gender, that is ridiculous. She is playing so heavily towards women and they are more than a majority of the electorate. That makes political sense, too.
One last point — Edwards. This performance in Nevada may be explainable. He probably will do better in South Carolina. He is still third. He says he is going to stay there for the duration. What is he going to be? He is going to be a spoiler or a broker, one or the other at the convention?
BARNES: He will probably be a dropout.
One more thing, you know, Obama retains, even losing in Nevada, the fact that he has money and he's got a base mainly among African-Americans in the party that puts him in a strong position still.
KONDRACKE: Don't move a muscle. "The Buzz" is coming up next.
KONDRACKE: Welcome back.
And what's "The Buzz," Fred?
BARNES: Florida and Rudy Giuliani. They are already voting in Florida. They have early voting and absentee voting. One candidate is there actively getting out his vote, spending lots of money in ads already. That candidate can pull an upset in Florida — Rudy Giuliani. Don't rule him out yet.
KONDRACKE: I am not ruling him out.
BARNES: That's 10 days away.
KONDRACKE: I'm not ruling him out. I want this to be exciting all of the way to the end. If you want to know what dirt against Barack Obama is likely to be next at the campaign, go to web site called Hillary is 44.com. 44 is what the next president is. Nobody knows who is putting this web site out. But the emanations from it spell a lot like war room.
BARNES: Mort, you're serving Hillary's campaign by mentioning that. That's terrible.
All right, that's it for "The Beltway Boys" this week. Join us next week when the boys will be back if town.
And don't go anywhere. Brit Hume and our "You Decide" special coverage coming up next.
Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday at 1 and 6 a.m. ET
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