Bill Kristol: GOP Concerned McCain Not Ready for Obama

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," June 9, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, CO-HOST: Well, the general election is officially underway and some Republicans are downright worried about their candidate. They are concerned that the McCain campaign is not up to the task of facing Barack Obama. And when it comes to campaign presence, well, they see a bit of a charisma gap, underscored, and example, like this one.

Video: Watch Megyn Kelly's interview


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE: This was the moment when we ended and secured our nation and restored our image as the last best hope on earth. This was the moment. This was the time.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, PRESUMPTIVE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE: That attitude created an unresponsive bureaucracy of big governments in the first place, and that's not change we can believe in.


KELLY: You've got to laugh, Bill.

Joining me now is Weekly Standard editor and FOX News political analyst, Bill Kristol. Bill, you've got to laugh because, obviously, there is a disparity there in terms of the presentation at least. Why does this have people so worried since it does mostly relate to presentation?

BILL KRISTOL WEEKLY STANDARD EDITOR: Well, you've got to laugh and you've got to cry a little bit. No, it is presentation and John McCain can hold his own against Barack Obama. I really believe that. The America people choose which of these two men should be president, despite Obama's skills, I think McCain has a very good chance to win.

But the Obama campaign has been so much more sophisticated and strategic than the McCain campaign. There are lots of Republicans I have talked to are concerned. They're not panicked. They're concerned.

I wrote this little column in the New York Times this morning and I've gotten an amazing number of e-mails and phone calls from people I don't know and people I haven't talked to in months, you know, saying, "Thank god someone said the truth," someone who is friendly to McCain said, look, he deserves a better campaign than he's had so far.

They're tactically not bad. You know, if this story coming out that Jim Johnson, who's heading the VP search for Obama has the sweetheart deals with countrywide, they go jumping on that. There are good staff guys at the McCain campaign. But where is the strategy? What is McCain's overall vision for the economy, even for foreign policy?

KELLY: What about that, Bill? Because, number one, they had several months to themselves. And did McCain emerge as someone with a clear vision? And do the Americans have a good deal for what he would be like as president?

KRISTOL: No. That's why people are concerned. It's four months since McCain basically clinched the nomination on Super Tuesday. Three months since Huckabee got out after March 4th. I used to have good things over those months. But you know, he made a little biographical tour for about four days. He gave a very good foreign policy speech. There wasn't the kind of follow-up you need in a presidential campaign to kind of sustain strategic effort to communicate two or three or four big themes. He's still got the —

KELLY: who is behind putting him in front of that lame green background and speaking to a couple of hundred when I assume you can get thousands of people to rally behind John McCain on a night we saw last Tuesday.

KELLY: Well, who's to blame for that? Who is behind not steering him to do that and making decisions like putting him in front of that lame green background and speaking to a couple of hundred when I assume you can get thousands of people to rally behind John McCain on a night like we had last Tuesday?

KRISTOL: You could or you could just let Obama and Clinton have the night and just take a pass. But what made it worse, obviously, was you know, this kind of clever, let's butt into his victory night. And you know, look. Obviously, Sen. McCain — it's his campaign and he has responsibility for it.

And there's some good people in there. But it seems to be all tactics, not strategy. No one is standing back and saying how do we take advantage? What's our theme for the next two weeks? Instead, Obama's got a tour of the economy. Sen. McCain snipes at Obama and economy. And I think you've got to — I'm all for being tough and negative, you know, critical of Obama.

But you've got to be careful not to look as if you're just sniping day after day after day. Oh, there's a little gaffe. Here's a little contradiction. He said this a few months ago. And now, he's saying that. You've got — you know, it is the presidency of the United States.

McCain has a very compelling story. I think he's got a pretty good vision for the world. I think he's got a good reform vision for the U.S. government and for the country. But he hasn't laid that out as coherently and strategically as a lot of his friends would like. And I think he knows that. And I think he is going to do something to address this over the next few weeks.

KELLY: Yes. In other words, it can't be, "Elect me because the other guy is worse than I am." Bill Kristol, it's always so interesting to read your column and hear from you. Thanks so much for being here.

KRISTOL: Thanks, Megyn.

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