Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn.

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, August 7, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: The Terminator making it official. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in pretty frank terms. He might not be sort of new to politics here, but he made it very clear where he stands in this area, that he is going to fight for the people of California, claiming that the state has a $38 billion deficit. He is fully aware of the task ahead of him, but he says he’s on to the challenge. He said in the past that people had doubted him. He went on to brag a little bit that he became the most successful and highly paid actor anywhere.

But the challenge right now is what he makes of this front runner position that he has instantly attained. A few candidates have already pulled out of the way, to sort of make it clear for him, or the path clear. Representative Darrell Issa, the man who really put up the money for this challenge, ultimately to Governor Davis, he pulled out of the race; former L.A. Mayor Dick Riordan, apparently making it official that he is going to back Schwarzenegger for this position. Arianna Huffington is still in the race, but keep in mind she entered the race for the governorship assuming that Arnold Schwarzenegger would not.

Now, there are many, many other candidates, including the comedian Gallagher in the race here, so it could be at least an eclectic mix, but for the time being, the man or woman who ultimately could shepherd the eighth largest economy on the planet still very much up for grabs, but certainly Arnold Schwarzenegger is the front-runner in that race, a race that over the next eight weeks would essentially then be his to lose.

How do Democrats challenge this and what message if any can they send? I’m honored to be joined now by Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., who by the way has already endorsed Senator John Kerry’s separate run for the White House. There is that other battle going on, Congressman.

REP. HAROLD FORD JR., D-TENN.: You’re not running for governor, are you?

CAVUTO: You’re not running for governor or anything like that. What do you make of the Schwarzenegger phenomenon here? What’s going on?

FORD: He clearly is a very passionate person who cares deeply about his state. He’ll be tested in the coming weeks. I think it’s an eight- week window. There are a variety of issues, and I think those who watch politics from the outside and often chime in with, "I can do that, I can turn it around, I can reform it," I think once they get in the heat of it, perhaps we’ll learn that Mr. Schwarzenegger can do those things, but I think it is a lot more complicated and a lot more issues than perhaps he has described, or articulated up to this point. It will be interesting to watch.

CAVUTO: Just on the side of galvanizing the public, that was a pretty good stump speech out there, unscripted. Obviously he’s an actor, he knows what he is doing.

FORD: And he’s the highest paid one.

CAVUTO: And he’s the highest paid one. I don’t know if that’s the case anymore, though. But the bottom line was, and is, that this is a guy who knows the medium very well and knows how to communicate even better. That’s tough for a Gray Davis, right?

FORD: Right. It’s early. In all those eight weeks, I think the voters out there are paying close attention. They are going to want Mr. Schwarzenegger to identify issues in a more familiar and detailed way, to talk about a plan for digging California out of the $38 billion hole they’re evidently in. They’re not alone, we in our state of Tennessee, not nearly as large, but facing a deficit and a debt.

Again, it will be interesting to watch in the next eight weeks, how Gray Davis performs, and whether or not another Democrat gets in that race. I don’t know. But Mr. Schwarzenegger will have his task cut out, or I should say test cut out for him. He’s a front runner probably, but it will be a tough eight weeks.

CAVUTO: Are you troubled, Congressman, to give credit to you, when you were going to challenge Nancy Pelosi to lead the House Democrats, you had argued at the time the party was in danger of moving too far to the left, of looking too crony-istic to the left. I’m paraphrasing, so forgive me. But that is exactly what happened. The party has moved to the left, and there is a great deal of criticism, with the emergence of Howard Dean in the presidential race and now what’s going on in California, the Democrats are in deep do-do, are they?

FORD: Well, I wouldn’t say that. I challenged Ms. Pelosi, was not successful, on a variety of fronts. Work with her now and proud of her leadership. If you look at Arnold Schwarzenegger...

CAVUTO: No, no, no, no, you challenged her on the basis of you were more of a centrist or someone who could bring more people into the tent.

FORD: No doubt about it.

CAVUTO: So are you worried the image the party is projecting now?

FORD: There are five or six candidates in this presidential race on the Democratic side who believe that our military has to be used and should be used on occasion at times. There are five or six Democrats who believe in fiscal discipline in this race. If you look at Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s a lot different than Darrell Issa, my colleague in the Congress. He’s pro-choice, he is more pro-environment than you would think of a Republican, so there is a variety and a diversity in both parties. Howard Dean offers the kind of electricity in our party that has not been seen in the last six to 12 months.

CAVUTO: Many in the Democratic coalition, some of the others, are worried that your party has moved to the left. This is -- indeed there was a criticism of Gray Davis in California on that very same issue, and I’m wondering, I’m not trying to connect all these chickens, but are they all now on the same roost?

FORD: The majority of Democrats in this race who hold elected office voted in favor of using force in Iraq. I’m not afraid or ashamed of my party’s position on any issue. I think the candidate or person that emerges from this Democratic field, the crowded field as it is right now...

CAVUTO: Your party’s position, at least if Howard Dean ultimately is the nominee, is anti-war, rescind the tax cuts, some pretty left-speaking stuff. Now, that might be all well and good, but many -- and I would assume you, given your past record, would argue that he’s unelectable.

FORD: He has a different approach and a different style than I do, and a different approach and a different style than John Kerry.

CAVUTO: Could you support him? I know you support Kerry. Could you support him?

FORD: I look forward to supporting whom Democrats in my party nominate. I firmly believe as someone closely aligned with the Kerry campaign, the leader in that campaign, that as time goes on and voters learn more and more about him and his vision and his plan, I think Democrats will be comfortable with making him the nominee.

CAVUTO: What if they don’t? What if it’s Howard Dean? Do you think the party is going to…

FORD: I think if it’s Howard Dean or someone else, naturally I am going to be supportive of that person, but if it’s Howard Dean, I’d say this to you, and to Republicans and Democrats, that would mean something phenomenal is happening in this country, that what he’s talking about is connecting with voters, not just Democratic voters, but voters I think across the board. It’s way early. Bill Clinton didn’t enter the race until...

CAVUTO: Is it way early to connect with Arnold Schwarzenegger? I mean...

FORD: He has eight weeks.

CAVUTO: Right. And he connected on a couple of other points. People are ticked off, certainly in California but a lot nationally. They want to see results. They don’t like the typical solutions.

FORD: I think once you convince voters that someone should be fired, which perhaps Arnold Schwarzenegger may have done up to this point, you then have to convince them why they should hire you, and I think Arnold Schwarzenegger will have that challenge. I think voters are going to want to hear details. I think this first week, the excitement, the honeymoon won’t last.

CAVUTO: If they’re angry, they first might want to fire and then ask questions later, once you’re even in office.

FORD: Well, it would be different if you were predicting a problem. They have a problem in California, a set of problems, and I think they’re going to want to hear details and substance, and we’ll see who provides that.

CAVUTO: Congressman, a real honor having you here. Thank you very much.

FORD: Thank you for having me again.

CAVUTO: Harold Ford, Jr., an up-and-comer in the Democratic Party.

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