This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", April 26, 2008, that has been edited for clarity.
MORT KONDRACKE, FOX CO-HOST: Coming up, Hillary Clinton's big win keeps her candidacy alive and raises doubts about Obama.
FRED BARNES, FOX GUEST CO-HOST: John McCain travels to areas not so friendly for Republicans and has choice words for the Bush administration.
KONDRACKE: North Korea and Syria sharing nuclear secrets? We will tell you why Iran should be concerned.
BARNES: What do professional wrestling and game shows have to do with politics? You have to see it to believe it.
KONDRACKE: All of that coming up on "The Beltway Boys" but, first, the headlines.
(FOX NEWS BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think a win is a win. Maybe I am old fashioned about that, but you run a very competitive race at a considerable financial disadvantage. And I think maybe the question ought to be, why can't he close the deal.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way we are going to close the deal is by winning. And right now we are winning.
FAVRE: I am Fred Barnes.
KONDRACKE: I am Mort Kondracke. We're "The Beltway Boys."
BARNES: Tonight's top story is buyer's remorse. I thought that was a very good question by Hillary and a pretty weak answer by Barack Obama after the thump he took in Pennsylvania. He is not winning.
Mort, we both know it's highly likely Barack Obama is going to end up winning the Democratic nomination when the primaries finish on June 3rd.
On the other hand, some of the Democrats that have bought into the Obama candidacy, even some of the superdelegates are now actually beginning to worry about whether Obama can beat John McCain in the general election this fall. They are suffering buyer's remorse. Hillary Clinton is feeding this buyer's remorse as much as she possibly can.
Let's deal with Hillary Clinton's question, why can't he close the deal? Let's take a look at some of the reasons why he is having trouble doing this closing. Number one, weakness among key voting groups. They have trouble with the base voters in the Democratic Party. Number two, he has made mistakes. That San Francisco speech, terrible performance on the last debate.
The thing that seems to be dogging him is Reverend Jeremiah Wright won't go away. He is on this redemption tour around the country, which means every day Barack Obama will be asked about Reverend Jeremiah Wright. I think his message is going a bit stale. You may not, but I think he has to spruce it up a little. He's still going to be the guy who is going to bring us together and all that. I think he needs to help it a little.
Now among the groups Obama is having trouble with are white women, union households, Catholics, Hispanics and seniors.
KONDRACKE: That's lots of people.
BARNES: Mort, these are the people that formed the base of the Democratic Party since Franklin Roosevelt's time. You have to win those people. He is losing them to Hillary Clinton by 2-1 or better.
I would point to one in particular, union households. 20 years ago those people were known as Reagan Democrats and the threat now is a lot of them will become McCain Democrats.
KONDRACKE: I was particularly struck by the fact that Hillary Clinton carried Catholics by 70 percent. That's huge.
Also, another interesting thing was that she carried every group that goes to church even often, even seldom. The only group that Barack Obama carried is people who never go to church. I wonder if that's the result of the bitter comment or it's just he has an elitist secular constituency. I'm not sure which.
We acknowledge that Obama has strengths. He wouldn't be where he is if he didn't. The strengths are he is attracting a lot of new voters, including lots of young people. He has a bigger war chess than Hillary Clinton does. He attracts more moderate and Independent voters, including some substantial people like Senator Sam Nunn, former Senator and governor of Oklahoma David Boren.
And Clinton fatigue is working to his advantage. I confess that I thought Bill Clinton was going to be an advantage for her. He is not. The latest is that he has come out and accused Obama of playing the race card against him in South Carolina when everybody knows he is the one who did it.
This got jams Clyburn, the number three Democrat in the House of Representatives and the African-American South Carolina, to call Bill Clinton's conduct during the campaign bizarre. He complained, quote, "When Bill Clinton was going through the impeachment problem. It was the black community that bellied up to the bar. I think black folks feel strongly that this is a strange way for President Clinton to show his appreciation."
The bottom line is Barack Obama has to be worried that if he gets the nomination, he's not going to be able to get white working class voters. Something like 25 percent of Pennsylvania Democrats said they would not vote for Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton's got a word that if he gets the nomination somehow African-Americans will stay home. and in Pennsylvania 17 percent of Democrats said they wouldn't vote for her.
BARNES: Mort, I thought you were going to use a word you've been using in private but you didn't use it here. Clintophobia.
KONDRACKE: Clintophobia, yeah.
BARNES: What is Clintophobia?
I think what it is, is so many of these Democrats who remember the Clinton administration, they don't want to spend the next administration having to defend and accuse the Clintons, especially Bill.
But in any case, for the record, it is clear that Obama is way ahead of Hillary in delegates and in the popular vote. In the delegate count he is up about 130. That number grows to 150 if you look at the pledged delegates. Obama's lead over Clinton in the popular vote, not counting Michigan or Florida, is a little over half a million votes. So what do we get out of this?
I tell you what Hillary Clinton gets out of this? She has an argument. When she throws in Florida and Michigan, she says, look, I am leading in the popular votes, implying you should nominate me even if I am behind among the delegates.
Anyway, here she is. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I am very proud that, as of today, I have received more votes by the people who have voted than anybody else. I am proud of that.
OBAMA: If we won the most delegates have the voters seems to me it might be a good idea to make me the nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: That wasn't exactly an elevating back and forth between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
But Hillary Clinton has an uphill fight. In the nine primaries that are left she would need to get 60 percent of the vote to pull ahead or pull ahead among delegates and the popular vote. Hard to do, to say the least.
KONDRACKE: And it's worth pointing out that she did not win Pennsylvania by double digits that was widely reported. She didn't get 10. She got 9.2. It's good, but 20 points it ain't, the way it was at a certain point in the polls.
Her claim to be ahead in the popular vote rests on counting in Michigan, only the votes that she got and not the 200 thousand or more that were uncommitted. You don't give Obama credit for those people. If you do give Obama credit for the uncommitted. He is up at the moment by 220,000 votes giving her Florida, giving her her vote in Michigan. Now I did a calculation of the nine...
KONDRACKE: Yes, of the 8 of the nine — I didn't count Guam — eight of the nine remaining events. And I gave her credit for the maximum reasonable outcome for her performance. And what come out is she would gain a net of 2,000 votes on him. It's not enough. The bottom line here is, by the end of the process, she will be behind in pledged delegates. She is going to be behind in the popular vote. And the only way she can win is for superdelegates to over turn the results, the so-called Democratic results. In order to do that, they would have a mighty good reason. They don't have it at the moment.
BARNES: I don't think they do either. They are inclined to go with him. If she is in a position, at the end, if your calculations are right, I have no reason to dispute them, Obama wins.
Coming up, John McCain reinforcing his maverick image. And the North Korea-Syria nuclear link. Why is this information-coming out now? And could it pave the way for military action against Iran?
BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." It's time for the "Ups and Downs."
Down: North Korea. The U.S. details evidence that North Korea was in cahoots with Syria on building a nuclear reactor.
Mort, don't you think it's time to conclude that the North Koreans are not willing to stop their whole nuclear weapons program? They are never going to dismantle their nuclear sites in North Korea and that the negotiations that we have had, the agreements they sign onto, the promises they make are all a sham.
I am not saying we don't talk to them but they believe they are going to do these things, we shouldn't. There are so many liberals, and I am going to name a couple, who seem to operate under the illusion about talking to evil people who represent evil countries and thinking that because we are talking to them they will stop doing evil things.
Jimmy Carter was in Syria coming out saying the Syrians want peace. Last year, Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, went to Syria and said essentially the same thing. At the same time, the Syrians are having the North Koreans building a nuclear weapons facility for them. They have to get over — they won't. But liberals should get over the illusion of the effectiveness of mere talking.
KONDRACKE: I think the Bush administration is more realistic about this than the Clinton administration was. The Clinton administration made a deal which was violated by the North Koreans in secret when they began developing the nuclear facility.
What the administration wants to do is use this instance of the Syrian reactor, which the Israelis destroyed, in order to make sure that the verification system that is put in place in any kind of deal is rigorous not just token. If they can't get that, they will walk away.
The more serious implication is about Iran. If the Israelis would go in and destroy a Syrian nuclear reactor on the grounds that it presents a threat to Israel's existence, what is it with the Iranian nuclear facilities that are further along and much more of a threat?
I'm told by experts, it's 50-50 whether the Israelis will come to the United States and either ask permission to do it themselves or try to get us to go along with it by the end of this year. Why this year? Because hey are afraid Barack Obama might be elected president and spend years doing his face-to-face diplomacy with Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-Il and people like that and, meanwhile, the nuclear facilities will go on apace. That's what I hear.
Up: Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He took on old-school thinking within military establishment and NATO for not ponying up more resources in Afghanistan.
In a speech at West Point last week, Gates said, quote, "What do you do when, as is the case today with NATO and Afghanistan, some of our allies, don't want to fight? Or they impose caveats on where, when and how the forces may be used? Or their defense budget is too small of a share of national wealth to provide a substantial contribution? Not counting the United States, NATO has more than two million men and women in uniform, yet we struggle to sustain the deployment of less than 30,000 non-U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and are forced to scrounge, hat in hand, to replace a few helicopters."
I think Gates is developing into a great defense secretary. The other big thing he did this week was to name David Petraeus as CENTCOM commander and Ray Odierno to succeed him. What this means is that counterinsurgency is in place as a major mission for the United States Army. And that's a significant advance.
And Gates also this week criticized old-school thinking in the Army, as I said, and in the Air Force for not supporting the counterinsurgency mission. In the Air Force, in particular, they are more interested in building costly new fighter jets than they are in supplying unmanned surveillance craft to help out with the counterinsurgency mission.
BARNES: I wonder how long Gates can last in popularity because of what he has done, particularly in putting Petraeus as the head of CENTCOM and Ray Odierno in Iraq, and extending the surge and the counterinsurgency there and not immediately bringing out troops from Iraq.
Remember, he came in, the media loved him. They loved him because he wasn't Don Rumsfeld. He is acting like a tough guy who wants to win in Iraq and wants allies to do something in Afghanistan rather than just sending in troops that don't want to fight or aren't allowed to fight. I say good for him. I think the media, a lot of the Washington establishment are just going to start coming down on him. I think he is doing the right thing, as you do.
KONDRACKE: So far he has gotten great press.
BARNES: Yes. It can't last.
KONDRACKE: Coming up, John McCain looks for votes in Democratic strong holds. We will tell you how his message was received. More "Ups and Downs" are coming up.
KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." We've got more "Ups and Downs" for you.
Up: John McCain. He toured areas of the country this week that normally don't get a lot of GOP attention. He revived his maverick image by saying the Katrina disaster was mishandled from the top down, and he promised never again. Watch
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to ensure the people of the 99th Ward, the people of New Orleans, the people in this country never again, never again will a disaster of this nature be handled in the terrible and disgraceful way that it was handled. Never again. Never again. Never again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: McCain is obviously trying to find places to distance himself from President Bush, the Katrina case being one, global warming is another one.
I read all of the speeches that he made during this tour into poor areas of the country this week. I have got to say — there was some in Alabama, Appalachia, New Orleans and Youngstown, Ohio. They were amazingly eloquent.
In Youngstown, he said America is a land of second choices. If you never give up, like he did, he never gave up when his campaign was in the ditch, you can recover.
And he was also gutsy. I mean, in Youngstown, Ohio, somebody said that NAFTA, North America Free Trade Agreement, is a four-letter word. He said, the last time I looked it's a 5 letter word. He defended NAFTA in Youngstown. You don't see the Democrats doing that.
In Appalachia, he said Lyndon Johnson didn't bring people out of poverty. The answer is low taxes, education and high-tech investments. If you do all of those things, you can come back. I think it was a successful tour. Didn't get enough publicity but it was successful.
BARNES: It has been drowned out by Obama and Clinton. You have discovered McCain has a great speech writer, Mark Salter.
I want to make a couple of other points. The conservative base of the Republican Party that has not been that friendly to McCain over the years is really coming behind him. That was symbolized best by Rick Santorum, the former Senator of Pennsylvania, number three in the Senate Republican leadership. He clashed with McCain all of the time. Said at one point, he was going to vote for Hillary Clinton, not McCain. Rick Santorum now said he endorsed McCain.
Secondly, you know what the problem in Youngstown, Ohio, is? Ohio has had incredibly fast-rising taxes. It has the 5th highest tax burden in the country. When a steel plant in Youngstown becomes obsolete, why is someone build one there when they can build is it in a low-tax state. Ohio has to straighten out the tax situation.
You were smart to talk about low taxes. They are extremely important. And I like that part about McCain, the maverick part because it's what's going to — this is not a base mobilization election in 2008. It's one where you have to win some in the center, and that's the part McCain appeals to and some other Republicans might not. That's why he is the best possible Republican candidate. I am going to move on. I got all that out.
KONDRACKE: Yes, please.
BARNES: Up: alternative media. It's not just the late night talk shows any more. The presidential candidates and even the president himself are cashing in on a new kind of TV. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I have got one question. Do you smell what Barack is cooking?
CLINTON: In honor of the WWW, you could call me Hill Rod. This election is starting to feel a lot like king of the ring.
MCCAIN: If you want to be the man, you have to beat the man. Come November, it will be game over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: I am not going to call her Hill Rod. It's not over yet. Wait a minute. Watch President Bush. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening, Captain Covis (ph). I'm thrilled to be on "Deal or No Deal" with you tonight. Come to think of it, I am thrilled to be anywhere with high ratings these days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: Mort, I really thought American politics have been degraded to — it hit bottom already, particularly with the YouTube presidential debates and presidential race this year where they had people dressed up as clowns and animals asking questions and people singing questions. That was really demeaning for the candidates.
So what do we have next? Are presidential candidates going to take roles in "Desperate Housewives?" Are they going to compete in "Dancing with the Stars?" We are not far from that.
KONDRACKE: They are all going where the eyeballs are, kids especially, they don't watch news programs. They don't watch television they get everything on the internet. They are trying to get publicity.
By the way, Bush is right about high ratings. His disapproval rating is 69 percent highest ever in Gallop history.
BARNES: Don't go anywhere. "The Buzz" is coming up next.
BARNES: What's "the Buzz," Mort?
KONDRACKE: The Columbia Free Trade Agreement is not dead. There are negotiations underway for a deal whereby the Democrats would agree to the Columbia agreement, but they would get, from the Bush administration, a second stimulus package with some benefits for the unemployed. And they would also get new housing legislation. But a deal, it could happen.
BARNES: I would make that trade.
Clintophobia. Mort, it's your word but it's all over Washington. Obviously, Democrats worry about Obama. They worry more about a Hillary Clinton White House with Bill Clinton there and whether it would just be a psycho drama that they couldn't deal as Democrats on Capitol Hill.
All right, that's all for "The Beltway Boys" this week. Join us next week when the boys will be back in town.
Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday at 1 and 6 a.m. ET
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