John McCain and Barack Obama Enter the Final Sprint to Election Day

This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", October 18, 2008, that has been edited for clarity.

FRED BARNES, FOX CO-HOST: Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," the debates are over, and John McCain and Barack Obama enter the final sprint to Election Day.

MORT KONDRACKE, FOX CO-HOST: Time it running out for John McCain to change the direction of the race. We'll tell you if the underdog can come back.

BARNES: The administration starts spending that $700 billion to avoid a major recession. We'll tell you if it's working.

KONDRACKE: And allegations of voter fraud continue to mount just weeks before Election Day.

All that's coming up on "The Beltway Boys" right now.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know what they forgot? They forgot to let you decide. My friends, we have got them just where we want them.


KONDRACKE: I'm Mort Kondracke.

BARNES: And I'm Fred Barnes. And we're "The Beltway Boys."

And the hot story, Mort, tonight, it's not over yet, talking about the presidential race. and you got to love that comment by John McCain. You know, where he...

KONDRACKE: Sappy warrior.

BARNES: You know, he lured that unsuspecting Barack Obama into getting a lead in some of these red states, Republican states that Bush won and McCain needs to win. And now, on Election Day, wham, he's going to overtake him.

Look, the truth is I think that Obama is indeed ahead by a small amount or sometimes more in about a half a dozen red states. And these are states that McCain has to win if he's going to be elected president. I think he does have a chance to win those states and be elected president. A slim chance.

KONDRACKE: Yes, I agree with that slim. In most of those states, Obama has not hit 50 percent of the vote yet, a majority. But McCain is hovering around 45 percent. So I do think this race is going to narrow. The debates are all over, and Obama has not surged into such a big lead that it's going to be a landslide, that's for sure. I think it's going to be tight.

BARNES: I do too. And here's what we think McCain has to do to get back in the game. Number one, raise doubts about Obama. After all of debates and the primaries and the money that particularly Barack Obama has spent, zillions almost — so much more than McCain and Hillary Clinton in the primaries. After all of that, a recent poll shows 45 percent of the voters still think that Barack Obama has the lack of experience to be president. And what it means to me is there's fertile ground for McCain to plow.

And I would add one other thing that I think is critically important and that is that Obama, as we saw in the late primaries, is a very weak finisher. When you get people to decide in the last week, the last three days, even on Election Day, you would see the support for Obama plummet. I think it's because of doubts and they say, wait a minute, I can't vote for this guy.

KONDRACKE: You noticed in that poll, 54 percent of voters do think he's qualified. And 45 percent is about the number who favor McCain across the country. So I'm not sure what that poll shows.

If Obama were to get 54 percent of the vote, that would be a landslide or close to it.

But as I said earlier, I do think that the contest is going to narrow and Obama is going to fight to the end. He knows he has a closing problem. And he knows that he's got a closing problem. He's going to take out national ads to address the country for half an hour. And he has lots of money. And he's going to spend it. And he's also constantly warning his supporters not to get complacent about this whole thing. So he knows he has a problem.

BARNES: He did a lot in the primaries too and he still sank at the end in Pennsylvania and Ohio and a number of others.

Number two, McCain needs to keep emphasizing the liberal trifecta, the dangers of Democrats in control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

Here's McCain finally making that point earlier this week.


MCCAIN: Senator Obama is measuring the drapes. And planning, with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid, to raise taxes and increase spending.


BARNES: Mort, I've heard you say and I've said the same thing that McCain should have been using this argument for weeks now. And I know Sarah Palin was pushing him to do that. And finally he's getting around to it.

And here's why it works. The fact is that Obama is pretty popular, but who are the two least popular politicians in America? Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, and Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker. And Americans prefer, they don't always vote for it, but they prefer a divided government. They don't want one rule by the Democratic Party in Washington.

And then there's this question. Who would be in charge? Would the veteran partisans, tough minded Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi or would the wet-behind-the-ears, inexperienced, neophyte president, Barack Obama? Who do you think?

KONDRACKE: If that happens, I hope that Obama is tough enough to stand up to them because they're definitely going to pull him to the left.

I have said before, it's a great argument, and it's especially a great argument now with Obama ahead for the Republican senatorial candidates to prevent there being a super majority of 60 in the United States senate. However, that requires strategic voting on the part of the voters. And, as you well know, voters don't get strategic about their votes. They tend to vote for whoever they like or whatever party they like at that particular time.

BARNES: Absolutely true.

Third, McCain also needs to keep highlighting philosophical differences with Obama.

Here is he starting to do that at this week's final debate.


MCCAIN: This really gets down to the fundamental differences in our philosophies. I want to leave money in your pocket and I want you to be able to choose the health care for you and your family. That's what I'm all about. We have had too much government and too much spending.


BARNES: I don't know about too much government and spending as being the best issues. I think taxes are the best issue.

Look, I'll give you three very quick arguments that McCain hasn't used yet. One, of course, he says Obama is going to give a tax cut to 95 percent of the people. But 40 percent don't pay any income tax. Those people are going to get a check as will a lot other people.

KONDRACKE: They won't like that?

BARNES: They may not like it, but that's not a tax cut. That's welfare. That's the only name that's the proper name for it.

Secondly, remember Bill Clinton and Democrats, they always promise tax cuts. And when they get in office, they pull the football away. They want to spend and they raise taxes rather than giving tax cuts.

And lastly, and, Mort, I know you agree with this, and that's Obama wants to raise taxes on exactly the people who invest in this country. And that's what gets us out of a recession and creates jobs. It's crazy to raise taxes on those people in a recession. His proposal is the most anti- growth and pro-recessionary tax idea that I've heard, as John McCain said, since Herbert Hoover.

KONDRACKE: Last week, Obama came up with a lot of new tax cuts, for small businesses especially, a job creation tax cut, zero capital gains on small businesses and stuff like that.

BARNES: He needs (inaudible).

KONDRACKE: In any event, I agree on this point, that Obama told ABC News that he would not be in favor of raising taxes in the teeth of a deep recession. I have not heard him repeat that. And I think that's a big mistake. And it may indicate something bad about his economic thinking.

But the fundamentals of this race are that the economy stinks. It's George Bush's watch, and people want a change. And this is a case that Obama keeps making over and over and over again. And here he's doing it in a campaign ad. Watch this.


MCCAIN: Senator Obama, I'm not president Bush.

AD NARRATOR: True, but you did vote with Bush 90 percent of the time. Tax breaks for big corporations and the wealthy but almost nothing for the middle class, same as Bush. Keep spending $10 billion a month in Iraq while our own economy struggles? Same as Bush. You may not be George Bush, but...

MCCAIN: I voted with the president over 90 percent of the time.


BARNES: Finally, Mort, McCain has to seize the momentum. Why? The candidate who has the momentum, who is really charging ahead, has steam behind him in the last week usually gains a lot. This is what Al Gore did. Remember in the last week? We hardly noticed it at the time in 2000. But he really gained three or four points on George Bush and won the popular vote and lost the election.

So I think what McCain has to do is act like he's a fighter, somebody who is fighting for Americans and looks likes he may do this. Watch.


MCCAIN: What America needs in this hour is a fighter. I come proudly from a long line of McCain's who believe that to love America is to fight for her.


KONDRACKE: McCain has got to have — if he's going to fight, he has to have one clear, consistent message that he pounds away at time after time after time. And his problem is that he has been all over the place. He's got to find that message. And Obama is consistent in talking about helping the middle class, and McCain is George W. Bush the 3rd and all of that stuff.

And finally, talk about momentum, Obama has the money to buy the momentum. He has double the money that McCain has got. And he's spending four times the amount in those big sweepstakes.

BARNES: Mort, you can't buy momentum.

Coming up, allegations of voter fraud continue to spread. And the Bush administration throws everything but the kitchen sink at the economic downturn, but can a major recession be avoided? We'll give you our two cents next.



KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Story number two, roller coaster.

I know this is true for you, as it is for me, you turn on the television set in the morning and sit there with terror all day long watching the Dow go up and down, and mainly down.

BARNES: Sometimes I don't turn it on. I avoid it.

KONDRACKE: It is, for somebody near retirement, this is truly terrifying.

And anyway, it was made worse this week when Ben Bernanke started talking about how long it's going to take to get us out of this pickle. He was honest. He is an honest guy. But he didn't raise any spirits. Watch this.


BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Stabilization of the financial markets is a critical first step. But even if they stabilize as we hope they will, broader economic recovery will not happen right away. Economic activity had been decelerating even before the recent intensification of the crisis.


KONDRACKE: That means it's going to keep going down. We couldn't understand Allen Greenspan. We can understand him.

BARNES: No problem with Ben Bernanke.

KONDRACKE: In the assessment of blame for how we got into this situation, George Bush has gotten the main part it because it's on his watch, and John McCain is suffering from it in the political trail. But "The Washington Post" had a fascinating piece this week called "What Went Wrong," pinning the blame in part on some Democratic heroes. On the treasure secretaries, Bob Rubin and Larry Summers and Arthur Levitt, who used to be the head of the SEC, plus Allen Greenspan, who gets a lot of blame in all of this? But in particular, this was about the failure of those guys to regulate derivatives, which are these, nobody knows what's in them, securities, which are the basis of the credit clog up right now.

So when Bush came into office, he didn't regulate derivatives either, which he should have done. So he deserves some of the blame. But the Democrats are at fault too.

BARNES: Mort, I don't think that derivatives are or were the problem. The worst idea that I've heard about dealing with the economy is the plan of the Democrats to have a new stimulus package. That I think will stimulate the Democratic interest groups, but not the economy.

Watch Nancy Pelosi and what she says. Watch.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It seems it was largely a Republican package with largely Democratic votes. If it's going to happen that way, we might as well write the bill ourselves and do the right thing for the American people.


BARNES: The Republican package, that was the bailout a couple of weeks ago, the $700 billion. But a Democratic stimulus package, extending unemployment benefits, which will ensure more unemployment, it will have aid to states. And all that will do is merely subsidize their profligacy. They spend too much in the good days and then they don't want to cut spending in the bad days. They call on the taxpayers. They call on Nancy Pelosi.

Look, I'm all for dealing with the infrastructure and the highways that are crumbling, but the idea that you can spend money there and get these projects going soon is a Democratic myth that I hope you don't fall for.

KONDRACKE: If that's a myth, I buy that.

BARNES: Mort, it's never happened in history.

KONDRACKE: It's not a myth. It could happen. The projects are ready to go.

BARNES: I don't think so.

KONDRACKE: Coming up, Ohio becomes ground zero in the fight over voter fraud allegations. Could it be Florida 2000 all over again?


BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." It's time for our "Ups and Downs."

Down, Ohio secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner. The U.S. Supreme Court relieved her of having to help counties verify voter edibility. The suit came from the Republican Party who said there's widespread voter fraud and that Brunner, a Democratic, is turning a blind eye to it because she is supporting Obama.

Brunner says Republicans want to disenfranchise voters.


JENNIFER BRUNNER, (D), OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: What you inadvertently do or purposely do is to create sort a few clog there in the voting in the lines. And studies are out there that show the longer a person waits in line, the more likely they will be disenfranchised.


KONDRACKE: You know, her predecessor was Ken Blackwell, a Republican, and Democrats always used to charge that Ken Blackwell was suppressing the vote of the minority citizens. Now the Republicans say, oh, there's Jennifer Brunner and what she's doing is perpetrating voter fraud.

In 2002, Congress passed something called the Help America Vote Act. It was supposed to stop all of the voting irregularities that marred the 2000 election. And it's still going on. The Democrats charge voter suppression, and the Republicans charge voter fraud. What we need in this country is a tamper proof voter I.D. card that you get when you register that you can show at the polls and that should eliminate that problem.

BARNES: What we want to do here is this involves whether the registrations in the beginning are fraudulent or not. They've had 600,000- and some thousand new registrants in Ohio. In about 200,000 they found that their Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers don't match the name. And what is she going to do about it? Jennifer Brunner? Practically nothing. What the Republicans want her to do is send the list of these voters, where it's dubious, if there's doubt about their registration, send it to the county registrars so they can check it out to see if these are legitimate registrars or not. She's locking that.

KONDRACKE: Look, it seems to me that that is correct. Except that what she's claiming is that the databases that are used here are wrong and that what it results in...


KONDRACKE: What it results in is provisional voting that then gets challenged.

BARNES: Yes, 200,000, Mort, 200,000. We're not talking about...

KONDRACKE: You don't think there are 200,000 phony voter registrations?

BARNES: Look, she tried to say these were innocent clerical errors or something. That's nonsense, 200,000!

KONDRACKE: Up, CBS's Bob Schieffer. After two deadly dull presidential debates, Schieffer finally succeeds where previous moderators failed getting the candidates off their talking points and actually debating each other. Here's an example.


BOB SCHEIFFER, DEBATE MODERATOR: Senator Obama, your campaign issue uses words like "erratic," "out of touch," "lie," "angry," loosing his bearings" to describe Senator McCain. Senator McCain, your commercials have included words like "disrespectful," "dangerous," "dishonorable," "he lied." Your running mate said that he "palled around with terrorists." Are each of you tonight willing to sit at this table and say to each other's face what your campaigns and the people in your campaigns have said about each other?


BARNES: Basically, the answer to that was no, they didn't. And McCain came closer than Obama. And look, Bob Schieffer did fine, but we're giving him credit for asking the kind of questions that should have been asked in the other debates. Here's a moderator who did his job, and didn't horn in all the time. It's not about the moderator. It's about the candidates.

But here's the one thing that I appreciate that he did. He asked about a different issue, one that Americans are interested in, and it's abortion. Watch.


SCHEIFFER: Senator McCain, you believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned? Senator Obama, you believe it shouldn't. Could either of you ever nominate someone to the Supreme Court who disagrees with you on this issue?


KONDRACKE: To follow up your point, I think there are other issues that he should have asked about. He should have asked John McCain about the lobbyist allegations. He should have asked Barack Obama about ACORN and to have him get further into that, and I guess he did. But Jeremiah Wright never came up.

BARNES: Up, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The politician once dismissed as the ditherer in chief is being praised as a European super hero and even Flash Gordon in his leadership in helping to stave off economic calamity in his country and the European Union. Mort, super hero is a little much.

KONDRACKE: It was Gordon Brown who suggested that the government inject money directly into banks and get shares in return. And that's the idea that Paulson picked up instead of waiting around to buy up the securities. Now, Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown are suggesting a new Bretton Woods meeting to try to rationalize international credit flows. And it's a good idea. Bush should pick up on it.

BARNES: I agree. One thing, Brown's popularity is rubbing off on his Labour Party. A recent poll shows a nine point bounce for Labour in less then a month. That's important. The Conservatives are ahead, but Brown needs any help he can get. That's for sure.

KONDRACKE: Don't go anywhere. "The Buzz" is coming up next.


KONDRACKE: What's "The Buzz," Fred?

BARNES: You know, I'm appalled at the double standard that the media is applying to crowds at campaign rallies. They have created this myth that the Republican crowds are enraged and calling for blood. But they don't report the kind of stuff that happens at Sarah Palin campaigns where protesters scream things I can't repeat now, holding up signs that say abort Sarah Palin, and much, much worse. There's a huge double standard here.

KONDRACKE: Colin Powell is going on "Meet the Press" Sunday and presumably he is going to announce who his choice is for president, long awaited. I don't know what he's going to do but based on things I've heard him say I think he would want to support Barack Obama, hoping that he would present a new face to the world. And John McCain is an old friend of his. I'm betting it would be Barack Obama.

That's it 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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