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'Special Report' Panel on Election Day 2009; Health Care Timeline

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from November 3, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE, NEW JERSEY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the Republican Party will be stronger tomorrow because we will have a Republican governor in New Jersey.

GOV. JON CORZINE, D-N.J.: I feel we have a lot of momentum coming from behind, and I think we're still moving positively.

BOB MCDONNELL, VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Even though it's giving us some encouragement about how our message has been received, we don't take anything for granted.

CREIGH DEEDS, VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The people that he show up today are the ones that will make the decision. That's the only poll that counts is the one that will be taken today.

DOUG HOFFMAN, CONSERVATIVE CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The Nancy Pelosi agenda of spending out of control, taxing, and government regulations is not right for the country.

BILL OWENS, DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm looking at what's happening here. They're looking at something else and it's not the people of this district.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: Election Day 2009, some of the sights and sounds from the candidates an some of the big races we're following. Let's talk about today and bring in our panel: Fox News senior political analyst, Brit Hume; Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review.

Gentleman, let's start in New Jersey, a hot race that looks like it is coming down to the wire. You see the Republican, Chris Christie against the Democrat Jon Corzine, and then the independent Chris Daggett, who really a lot of people say how he turns out today, his voters will depend on the outcome of this race. Brit, what do you think?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Early indications are that the Daggett vote may drop. Everyone would automatically assume if he fell way down into low single digits that that would mean a sure win for Chris Christie, the Republican. I don't know that it will turn out this way. This is a remarkable state.

And it shows you how blue a state it is that this race would be this chose in the middle of a recession with the governor who has been unpopular in a state where corruption ranks among the biggest issues in the election, the economy being very high as well, and yet as close as it is.

And we may be here until all hours before we know and we may not know tonight.

BAIER: Because Juan, the president campaigned five times for Governor Corzine, spent a lot of capital in New Jersey trying to rally voters. What do you think about the impact on this race and how it comes out with the White House?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: This is the race that the White House has staked their fortunes on tonight. They don't expect to do that well in Virginia. And they expect if Corzine is able to hold, they will be able to say it didn't matter what happened this election night, that it wasn't a vote against President Obama, not a vote against health care, not a vote against his style of governance and all the questions about his foreign policy experience specifically with regard to Afghanistan.

But the key here is almost beyond President Obama, I think: It's about the Obama phenomena. And in that sense it is, do Obama's voters come out? Because that's why he has been in New Jersey, Bret. He's been in New Jersey to stir up the black voters, the Hispanic voters in places like Newark, to try to make an impression on some of the independent white suburban women who went for him last time. So that's the key. We'll see who turns out. Do they turn out in support of Corzine?

BAIER: It comes down to turnout. Rich, what are your thoughts?

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: This, Bret, the race that is going to be the hardest for the White House to explain away if the Democrat loses, because Obama's fingerprints are all over it. As you point out, he has been there repeatedly.

And I think the key indicator for Democrats who are up in 2010 that they going to be looking at, something Juan referred to, is African- American turnout, because in 2008 in the primaries, in the general election, Obama was able to juice up African-American turnout by 30 percent or so in a lot of these states, literally changing the nature of the electorate and making it possible for him to win in states like Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.

A lot of Democrats, if he doesn't get that kind of turnout in New Jersey, will conclude that Obama can come in for you and say lots of nice words for you, but he is not going to produce the voters, and that's what you really need.

BAIER: Brit, there has been a ton of focus on this New York 23 congressional race in upstate New York where the Conservative Party candidate Doug Goffman looked like he was leading going into Election Day against the Democrat Bill Owens. The Republican Dede Scozzafava dropped out. What about this race?

HUME: What has made this race so interesting is not necessarily its national implications; there may be none. It is the melodrama.

Here you had a situation in which it looked like the White House had pulled this brilliant coup. They take John McHugh, the longtime Republican Congressman, they nominate him for secretary of Army, leaving an open seat and we're having this special election.

The Democrats nominated a reasonably attractive candidate, it seems to me, in Owens. Dede Scozzafava, who was really was almost a Democrat in her positions, it looked as if there was no way that the White House could lose on this one. And along comes this mild-mannered, slightly nerdy accountant.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

And he ignites the tea party movement. They're furious about Scozzafava being so far to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party. And lo and behold he ends up with the guy with the big chance to win. She drops out.

And even as critics are saying look at Republicans, they won't tolerate even a centrist like Scozzafava — some centrist — she drops out and endorses the Democrat.

So it's been a very exciting kind of a week up there in that otherwise not much talked about congressional district and as of tonight, it may well be the Conservative Party nominee will win.

BAIER: Juan?

WILLIAMS: That's really interesting to me. I think it's great theater, just as Brit was describing. The fact that Dede Scozzafava would endorse the Democrat and the fact that the Republican Party, it seems, is in total chaos, I'm thinking to myself, what does this mean going forward?

And I don't think it will necessarily be a predictor of how things are handled, but I come back to what I mentioned to you last night. I look at people in Washington, the Republican leadership and they all endorsed Scozzafava.

BAIER: Quickly, Rich, I want to talk about Virginia real quick. The Democrat Creigh Deeds looks like he was going to have some trouble tonight against Republican Bob McDonnell. Does that paint a broader picture, especially for conservative Democrats, perhaps?

LOWRY: The White House has been trying to say Deeds was hopeless from the beginning. We had nothing to do with this race. He rejected our advice.

Let's not forget that the chairman of the Democratic Party nationally — Tim Kaine — is a sitting governor in Virginia. They put a lot of effort into this race until they realized it was hopeless.

And I think in some way, it is Bob McDonnell's likely victory tonight that will have the most national reverberations, because he has run a terrific campaign on the issues, one on taxes, one on education, one on transportation.

You can see every Republican in swing states with a lot of suburbs looking to Bob McDonnell as a model.

BAIER: When we come back, health care, the missed deadline and the elections.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was asked directly today if he could finish health care reform legislation this year. He said "We're not going to be bound by any timelines. We need to do the best job we can for the American people" — essentially saying no, we don't think we can finish it this year.

We're back with our panel. Juan, what about this?

WILLIAMS: I'm shocked. Remember, let's go back: They wanted it before Labor Day. They wanted it done in August. Then they said no, we can't do that. That's when the tea parties and all the opposition really became coherent and took over the message.

Then they came back afterwards and said we're going to be able to get this done and we think in fact that the opposition will tire, new strategies will emerge. The idea was we will get this done potentially in October but certainly before Thanksgiving. And then the outlier was well, maybe Christmas. And now it is in to 2010.

And of course, the danger, as expressed early on, was if you go into 2010, that's a midterm election year. And it is not just that the Republican opposition will become more aggressive, it is that conservative Democrats may jump ship.

BAIER: Brit, Senator Reid's spokesperson then put out a statement saying it is still possible we could get it done by Christmas. But you had Senator Chuck Schumer at Ohio saying the most important thing is to get it done right, not quickly.

HUME: If you look at the calendar and you look at the various measures that the Republicans can take to delay a vote on this, next year looks likely. So I think that we can count on that.

Of course, they have to pass it though the House before they even get to the Senate. They scheduled a vote for later this week...

BAIER: Many people say that may slide.

HUME: That may slide.

The other thing about it is I don't think the votes are there yet in the House. I think the odds favor the votes being there when it's all said and done because of the way the House operates, but I think they still have work to do on the issue of abortion related to this measure, and also some work to do on some of the specifics relating to the public option, and so on.

So there is work to be done in both houses. This thing is a long way from law.

BAIER: Rich, Juan mentioned the political landscape in 2010. Here is how the House of Representatives lays out. Right now Democrats hold 256 seats with two vacancies, Republicans hold 177. Republicans need 40 seats for take over the majority in 2010.

Here is an interesting map: In the 2008 election, Republican John McCain carried 193 congressional districts, 49 of them also then elected Democrats to the House.

Now, if you're one of those representatives in the 49 districts that voted for John McCain, this is an interesting development with not only tonight's election but health care reform.

LOWRY: Absolutely. Bret, this will be like a bipartisan budget deal that has all the unpopular hallmarks of that: Huge cuts in Medicare, huge tax increases, except it is not going to be bipartisan. Democrats will have to do it on a party line vote. And at the end of the day, it won't reduce the deficit either. It's very likely going to increase the deficit.

So this is an extremely difficult vote and it may look even more difficult after tonight, especially if the Republicans win these three races. I had a Republican Senate aide tell me tonight if the races go the Republicans' way, the sound you are going to hear is three canaries dying in a coal mine. And especially in New York 23, you could have a very conservative candidate winning a Congressional district that Barack Obama won by five points. What does that tell the 48 or 49 Democrats sitting in McCain districts?

BAIER: Juan, do you think it plays directly, tonight's vote, with perhaps the decision that these moderate or conservative Democrats will have to make on health care reform?

WILLIAMS: No, but if you're in the opposition, I think you would be stupid not to say yes, look at that election, look at the results.

I think that when we start to see the exit polls we will be able to determine whether or not people said "I'm voting in opposition to President Obama, I'm voting in opposition to health care." We don't know yet.

But that's going to count, because if you are in the opposition, you want ammunition. And right now, part of the ammunition has to be put pressure on those conservative Democrats.

Ultimately, I don't think, by the way, it will stop. I think this is a White House train and they're pushing hard as ever.

HUME: The big political question that has hung over this debate for a long time has been what really happened in 1993 and 1994 when "Hillary-care" — as it was called, a program not at all dissimilar to this — one failed and the Republicans then swept the table and got control of both houses of Congress.

Democrats will argue to you if they had gone ahead and passed the thing they would have been better off. A lot of critics of that program say the mere fact they got as far as they did with it, it was full of all kinds of unpopular stuff just like this one is, the fact that they even took it as far as they is a big part of why they got in so much trouble.

Don't forget in addition, Bret, that the big issue still is the economy. And it's not going well and it isn't likely to be going all that much better in terms of the unemployment rate by the time we vote next year.

And it is going to look to an awful lot of people like Congress and the president took the eye off that ball to focus on health care, which is no nowhere near as high of a priority.

So that is an additional problem for someone thinking how to vote on this issue.

BAIER: And President Obama did say he wanted it done this year.

HUME: He did.

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