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Hannity

Unique Intensity in Iowa Caucuses

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, January 16, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Media organizations from all over the world are descending upon Iowa for what promises to be a competitive race to the finish. The Iowa Democratic Party is saying at least 15 countries are planning to cover the event. But what will be the headline Tuesday morning when the smoke clears?

Joining us now, Fox News political analyst Juan Williams, and the political editor of the Des Moines Register, Kathie Obradovich. Good to have you both with us. Kathy, what a beautiful -- this State House, it just feels so historic here with it's beautiful architecture. I hope our audience is getting a good sense of what it's like. You must have been around here a lot covering this.

KATHY OBRADOVICH, DES MOINES REGISTER POLITICAL EDITOR: I worked in the capital for 10 years. And we really do appreciate how beautiful it is. And they've done a lot of work over the last 10 years.

COLMES: I wish we could let everybody in to join us here. Let me ask you, we just heard Dick Morris posit that what's happening now with the Chris Lehane doing opposition research on the Clark campaign. The Clintons are behind this, and this is an attempt to hurt Dean and the Clintons are kind of marionettes here, or treating the candidates like marionettes. Do you buy that?

OBRADOVICH: Well, you know, I don't necessary buy that. The Clintons have sort of -- I think they've sort of tried to stay out of the whole thing. We have not paid a lot of attention -- let's put it this way -- to the Clark campaign in Iowa, because he's not campaigning here. And so the machinations of the Clintons -- you know.

COLMES: Juan, what do you make of that?

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think the Clintons are staying out of it.

COLMES: Do you think they're manipulating everything? They're behind the scenes?

WILLIAMS: Well, it depends on how much you want to see them as the puppet masters. But clearly they've invested in Clark. I think they've tried to tell people, hey you know what? Everybody is out there; let the democratic process take its course. But I think they have a strong investment in Clark. And I think they've never felt close to Dean. And I think Dean has done everything to distance himself from Clinton.

Especially -- think about it. This weekend, where is he going? He's going to see Jimmy Carter. Remember, Clinton absolutely stayed away. He acted as if Jimmy Carter (search) was kryptonite. He didn't want that legacy. Dean wants to take up that mantle.

COLMES: Jeff, let me ask you, how representative is Iowa of the electorate in general? Everybody looks at this as the first place votes take place, and yet people say well Iowa, not a lot of African-Americans, not a lot of Hispanics, not representative of the entire country.

OBRADOVICH: Right. Iowa is -- demographically you're right, not representative of the entire country. We're a lot older, we're a lot whiter than a lot of states in the union. But really the issues that people are concerned about here are issues that people around the country are concerned about. The economy and jobs is number one for Iowa caucus- goers. The war in Iraq and terrorism number two and health care number three. That's pretty much the same as what we've seen in polls all over.

COLMES: Sean brought up earlier the comment that Howard Dean made a few years ago to a Canadian broadcasting station about the Iowa caucus -- how it's not important, and they're extremists. And no one pays attention...

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Oh, that was John Kerry. They both made...

COLMES: They have both allegedly said things about Iowa. Is that a factor here? Will the Iowans pay attention to that?

OBRADOVICH: People like to take their shots at Iowa. I think Howard Dean by saying that a couple of years ago might have hurt himself a little bit. I mean, he had sort of stalled out in the polls. The capture of Saddam Hussein for example, we think that hurt him. He was going up until about that point. And he's just kind of been sliding ever since.

And I think that some Iowans are very protective of their caucuses and they don't like anybody badmouthing them.

HANNITY: We've been watching this Kerry surge, but now we understand today he had called for the elimination of the Agriculture Department (search) a few years ago. I think to watch the polls this weekend, will this have an impact on this race?

OBRADOVICH: You know, it's entirely possible. You're going to see a lot of last-ditch revelations. And the caucus goers are active. They're paying attention to the show, they're watching Fox, they're watching all the news. And I think a lot of people are making up their minds on caucus night. It's not to late for them to change their minds.

HANNITY: I may be totally off base here, Juan, and you tell me if I'm wrong. When Mr. Unger asked Howard Dean to slow down the rhetoric, that the vitriol that he's been hearing, and he was told -- you sit down. I think that was a pivotal moment. For him to say that to a 66-year-old man in Iowa, I just thought it was mean and inappropriate.

WILLIAMS: Well, I must say that Kathie's paper has noticed that he has become a favorite of Sean Hannity. I mentioned this the other day in campaign.

HANNITY: That's correct.

WILLIAMS: But I say this, I agree with you. It was pivotal in terms of showing anger, temper, and possibly fatigue. That he understands the stress he's under. That this is now a race that's too close to call. A race in which he had a very large lead.

But I think that one of the things that you can overplay, you hear about people being nice in Iowa, but it's generally true. People are very nice. I'm traveling around this state all week...

HANNITY: Absolutely. I agree with you.

WILLIAMS: ... and people are just genuinely kind. And I think the idea that he was going to go off on some old guy...

HANNITY: You sit down. It was particularly vicious, I thought. One of the things, I think actually Wesley Clark (search) will have a bigger problem, Kathie, when we get to New Hampshire over his positions, specifically the position he took before the House Armed Services directly before the vote on Iraq was very pro-war.

But we do have a position that has developed for Howard Dean when he pushed for this unilateral war in Bosnia, because the efforts with the U.N. and NATO weren't working. It seems to show a little hypocrisy on his part. Did that play here?

OBRADOVICH: Well, it has not played here. His foreign policy issues really have -- he's been criticized about kind of fluctuating on Iraq, fluctuating on Israel.

HANNITY: Flip-flopping in other words?

OBRADOVICH: Flip flopping, exactly. And his opponents have certainly used that to try and undermine his inexperience in foreign policy.

HANNITY: You were telling me -- you've been covering this for how many years, the caucuses?

OBRADOVICH: Covered it the last two cycles.

HANNITY: And you said to me in the break, this is the most intense it's ever been.

OBRADOVICH: Yes, absolutely.

HANNITY: Tell us the difference.

OBRADOVICH: Well, I think even though in 2000 we had candidates on both sides, we've got more candidates on the Democratic side. It is closer than it's ever been right before the caucuses. And we haven't seen this much shift. I mean usually people who are in three and four kind of stay in three and four. Now we're seeing a little surge at the end.

And really, the campaigns are putting a lot of pressure on us, the media. We have never been spun so much. We have never been -- people ... calling us. It is just -- it is really -- it's fun, yes.

HANNITY: Juan, I think ultimately what's going to happen here is the Democratic Party is going to be defined as a flip-flopping party. I have never seen such inconsistency, such double standards, such flip-flopping in my life. Particularly among the leading candidates here. In the general election, I think a lot of this is going to come back and hurt these guys.

WILLIAMS: That's why people are talking about Chris Lehane, that's why it's on the front page of the New York Times. It's the idea that all this opposition research is being used Democrat, against Democrat. Sort of brother against brother. And that kind of warfare is going to simply load up the Republicans.

On the other hand, the contrary thought is get it out now. So it's all on the floor. It will be old news by then.

WILLIAMS: But Sean, you can't say that Republicans have never flip flopped on an issue. Come on.

HANNITY: Let me give you an example here. Wesley Clark, as critical he's been. And I know we're waiting for him in New Hampshire. But as critical as he's been about the war in Iraq, now we discover that this is a guy made the case that in fact Saddam had chemical and biological weapons, was pursuing nuclear weapons, that he's unpredictable, that this problem cannot wait, cannot be postponed, the president has to act now. And now he takes the position because the president acted he's reckless. How do you reconcile those statements?

WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, let me just say that he has a position in terms of what Ed Gillespie and the Republicans did in releasing so many of those documents. In fact, the whole statements were not released in many cases. Allowing him to make the full case.

HANNITY: I would never vote for this war, I probably would have voted for this war, I don't know if I would have voted in this war. He made all three of those in a 48-hour period.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely, and we've known of those inconsistencies, but what was done now I think by the Republicans is an indication, at least in his mind, in his campaign's mind, that Clark is viewed as a threat by President Bush and President Bush's reelection campaign.

COLMES: I'm so glad that Republicans have been so pure for all these years, have never battled, never argued. Do you remember South Carolina with McCain and Bush when they went at it? Now Kathie, you have covered Republican caucuses as well. Haven't there been this kind of conflict? Hasn't that been the case?

OBRADOVICH: Sure. In 2000 there was a lot concern about Steve Forbes going after Bob Dole. And the concern, of course, was that he damaged him so much that even though he went on to win the nomination, he was unelectable.

COLMES: And there was a perfect case of Bob Dole having been hurt by the caucus situation.

COLMES: ... by the primary campaign where he was genuinely hurt.

OBRADOVICH: Exactly.

COLMES: And this could happen to Democrats as well.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely, that's why they've got to be careful. On the other hand, I want to pick up on something Kathie said, which is the intensity of this campaign, the fact that you bring so many more people into the process, and it's not just Iowans, by the way. You have got people coming in from neighboring states.

COLMES: International. Kathie, why is that? Why is this happening to your state? Why all the attention this time, more so than in the past?

OBRADOVICH: I think it's because the nominations calendar is front- loaded. You have got Iowa and New Hampshire, and then you've got a block, a clump of other states. And I think the reason that Iowa and New Hampshire have taken on this importance in part is because Howard Dean has decided to make Iowa his launching pad.

As you mentioned, he was following in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter, he hopes. And so because he has started to make a name here, all the other candidates are competing here too.

COLMES: Do you want to make a prediction, Juan?

WILLIAMS: Let me just add to this, that I think labor is really strong in Iowa, and labor has a key role to play. And the fact that there's a divide in labor between Dean and Gephardt has intensified, thinks he's bringing all these young people in. My prediction, though to answer your question, Alan, I would guess that Dean will come out on top.

COLMES: And Gephardt second?

WILLIAMS: You know, it might be a surprise. I don't know how that goes, but certainly Gephardt has the organization to deliver.

COLMES: Kathie, where do you...

OBRADOVICH: I don't want to make a prediction, but I agree that Gephardt tends to have the best organization and the union folks are very, very, very...

COLMES: Does Gephardt have to win this in order to stay viable as a candidate?

OBRADOVICH: Well, I think it's pretty clear that he does.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I don't think there's any question. I don't think there's any money for him if he doesn't win here.

COLMES: ... it depends on where he places. Isn't Iowa very often about exceeding expectations? Not so much about who wins, but who exceeds expectations for the run-up to New Hampshire and beyond?

OBRADOVICH: Yes, it's almost to the point where Dick Gephardt winning Iowa is not good enough. He has to win it decisively. And the way things are going, it's very difficult for anybody to be winning decisively.

WILLIAMS: Normally it's just the people who finish the top three in Iowa who go on. That's the winning process. But for Dick Gephardt it's one or out.

HANNITY: All right, Juan, good to see you. Kathie, good to see you. Thank you very much, appreciate your time and your hospitality.

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