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Hannity

Kerry Fighting for Air, Drowning in the Polls

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Sept. 28, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Here come the debates. And as part of a warm-up act, the vice president and his Democratic counterpart came out swinging today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And 20 years in the Senate and two years on the presidential campaign trail, Senator Kerry has given every indication that he lacks the convictions necessary to prevail in the war on terror.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C., VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iraq is a mess, and it's a mess because of two people, George Bush and Dick Cheney. That's why it's a mess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLMES: Well, is this the tone we're going to see in Miami? Joining us now is the author of "Treason," Ann Coulter, and former Democratic pollster Pat Caddell.

They put Ann in a studio far away from New York tonight; not near me.

Pat, you've been critical of the way this campaign has gone from the Kerry standpoint, but you saw what Dick Cheney just said. That's a pretty straight on attack from the vice president.

Should Kerry and Edwards fire back in the same regard?

PAT CADDELL, FORMER DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, not necessarily. The Bush people — you look at this attack and you look at their new ads, they are really going hard on Kerry's character.

They may be going too hard, but they're really going hard to try to close this out. Kerry has got a unique opportunity tomorrow night and Thursday night and it's important for him to do what he needs to do, not necessarily respond to these guys.

COLMES: You know, Ann, you've got, in addition to what we just saw Dick Cheney saying, Orrin Hatch said just a few days ago right here on Fox News that the terrorists are going to throw everything between now and the election to try to elect Kerry. Orrin Hatch saying that terrorists are favoring Kerry for president, as if they have a dog in that race.

Isn't that a little over the top, even for you?

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR OF "TREASON": No, don't you think they are?

COLMES: No, Ann, I really don't. And do you really think that's appropriate rhetoric in a campaign to say that terrorists want Democrats elected?

COULTER: I don't think it's rhetoric. I don't think it's rhetoric. I think it's true. Democrats are not particularly harsh with our enemies, though I think this is a unique opportunity for Kerry in Thursday's night debate.

I agree with Pat on that. He can finally tell us what his position is on the war with Iraq. I'm looking forward to that.

COLMES: He's said it all along. You have Orrin Hatch saying the terrorists want Democrats elected. You have Dick Cheney saying there could be danger if we elect the Democrats because we could get hit again.

This is the kind of rhetoric... Denny Hastert, speaker of the House, said recently...

COULTER: Right, but why do you think that...

COLMES: Do you support this kind of rhetoric?

COULTER: It's not rhetoric. I think that is true. John Kerry can't even tell us whether or not he wants to go into Iraq or not. He votes for the war and then he doesn't vote to fund it.

He's a part of long tradition of Democrats who are in favor of going to war but won't fight it to win.

COLMES: But Ann, that's not what I asked.

COULTER: I think that's an indisputable point.

COLMES: I asked about statements where they're saying. Top Republicans are claiming that Al Qaeda wants John Kerry as president. That's ridiculous.

COULTER: Inasmuch as I think it's a true point, of course, I think he should say it.

COLMES: All right. Pat, do you want to respond?

CADDELL: I think it's going a bridge too far. You know, the Republicans always do this. They get in a really good position and then they've just got to push it just a little bit too far.

And given where the election is right now, I think they'd be better not to go quite so far, because this is the sort of thing that backfires with moderates, with women, with the voters that they're holding right now that they're holding vicariously against Kerry.

COLMES: Ann, I'm just curious. If you — I know you're not exactly a Democrat, but if you were advising Kerry on this debate, what would you tell him?

COULTER: I'd tell him, you've got to figure out what your position is on the war. I would tell him say stop taking advice from Naomi Wolf on that orange tanning stuff right before the debate. And that's all I can think of.

CADDELL: That's cruel.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Pat, let me run the latest Bush ad. I'll ask you the question before I run it, and then you can respond right after it airs. Do you think this goes too far, this latest Bush ad?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message.

SEN. KERRY, D-MASS., DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein, and when the president made the decision, I supported him.

I don't believe the president took us to war as he should have.

The winning of the war was brilliant.

It's the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have always said we may yet even find weapons of mass destruction.

I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: I think it's hard but truthful, truthful, Pat. You're saying...

CADDELL: If I was Bush people, that's what I'd be running right now for sure. It goes right at the question of not just flip-flopping but what he believes it, conviction. And that is what's hurting him in the polls.

I mean, they are really pouring it on right now. Obviously, the Bush campaign wants to shut this campaign down if they can Thursday night.

HANNITY: Well, you can't blame them for that, Pat. And I mean, they may have an opportunity...

CADDELL: No, I'm not blaming them for it.

HANNITY: Ann, one of the things I went back and found fairly interesting, that back at Christmas, Iowans for Dean gave John Kerry a present. You know what they gave him? A pair of flip-flops, and they said Sen. Kerry has been flip-flopping on issues throughout his career and campaign and we thought we'd make things a little more comfortable for him.

COULTER: I was going to say, I think, as Alan will tell you, there's nothing that terrorists fear more than an irresolute president.

HANNITY: Well, when I look at the internal poll numbers, Pat, on issues of decisiveness, on issues of Iraq and terrorism, you know, Bush is up in most of these polls by about 20 points when you look at the internals.

How does Kerry recover, if at all? I mean, is it possible?

CADDELL: Well, it's possible. Look, debate is a vehicle normally, historically, of challengers.

Although I can't think of a challenger who's coming in a debate quite in the situation needing it so badly as John Kerry does. He's got a problem both in terms of likeability but also in terms of leadership.

The problem is he's fallen short on getting over what I call the passing the test for being president.

If you look at the rest of the polls, if you look to just the other numbers in the polls, you think George Bush would be behind right now. He's not because it's being blocked up by...

HANNITY: Wait a minute, Pat. I'm looking at the latest polls, and on every issue imaginable, President Bush is ahead. I don't know which polls you're talking about?

CADDELL: No, no, I'm talking about whether people think Iraq is going well, how comfortable they are with the economy, those kinds of things.

You would think that Bush was in trouble. He's not because Sen. Kerry has not been able to penetrate over the barrier, getting in the hump of being acceptable as a commander in chief or as a president. And he, in fact, seems to be falling shorter and shorter on this. And that is the problem he's got Thursday night.

HANNITY: What do you make of the aggressive, mean Kerry? The Carville Kerry? The Begala Kerry?

CADDELL: Well, if you look at the polls, it hasn't helped him much. If anything, it seems to have backfired somewhat.

I described it as kind of like going up to Gettysburg on the third day and going up Cemetery Ridge. Going right into the teeth of the enemy.

HANNITY: Ann, you're laughing. I see humor on that — a smile on that face. You're very optimistic about this week?

COULTER: Yes, I am.

HANNITY: Ann Coulter, why?

COULTER: For all of the obvious reasons. I mean, Democrats chose John Kerry because they thought they could fake out the American people with the war hero. But I think he was not the best candidate of the Democrats. I think they probably should have gone with someone like Howard Dean. You know, if you're going to be the anti-war candidate, then make that case and stick with it. I hope that position would lose in the end. But it's not comical the way Kerry is.

HANNITY: Yes. Well, do you agree with that, Pat?

CADDELL: I think that Kerry has proven to be a very difficult general election candidate. I always thought he would be.

Look, this issue right now is down to one thing, which is women. It is unbelievable that the Democratic candidate for president is trailing with women or running even with women, based on which poll...

HANNITY: It's unbelievable.

COLMES: It could all change.

CADDELL: But that group is very volatile and that's what this debate is about. Both candidates are going to be pitching it up.

HANNITY: We all know their positions here. So we have the big debate and this big buildup, Pat, and we've watched the dramatic shift in Kerry.

What strategy can he bring into this debate where he can walk away and say he scored points, he invigorated, reinvigorated his candidacy in some way?

CADDELL: If your expectations are low for your people or negative to you, it's easier to come out more positive.

He can do certain things. One of the things I would do if I were him, he's been so negative, is I would try to do what we had Mondale do with Reagan in '84, which is say something nice about the president. That would certainly take people back.

And I would also admit some mistakes. Part of Kerry's problem is he never says he did anything wrong.

HANNITY: But how do you go from pounding and pounding and calling the president a liar every day and then shift on the dime? I mean, if he uses your strategy...

CADDELL: I didn't say on differences, I said as a personal matter. That it's not personal, that it's not just angry.

And then I would speak very forcefully on what his positions are, because the problem is people don't know what they are.

HANNITY: He doesn't know what they are.

CADDELL: ... change the perception. Well, that may be, but I would change the perception with him as just an attack dog right now, which I think last week has given him.

HANNITY: You know something, you know why I don't think that's possible. I don't think that's going to happen and I'll throw it to Ann. But you know what?

CADDELL: Having said it, I'm sure it won't happen, once I've suggested it.

HANNITY: Yes, why listen to somebody who actually may help you win an election? Good point, Pat.

While — look at the people around him. He has not bought into the line pound away, call him a liar, show you're tough, even though his position now sounds totally incoherent because it contradicts everything else he's said up to this point — Ann.

COULTER: Right. Not only that. I mean, I think Pat Caddell's advice is absolutely right. He needs to pursue the Mondale strategy. I kind of liked Mondale in that debate. He was very friendly and he seemed genial and human.

I think part of reason Kerry won't do it is that he seems to be trying to shore up his vote among the MoveOn.org crowd now. I mean, he's trying to shore up the black vote.

HANNITY: But how many states did Mondale win, right, Pat?

CADDELL: Mondale won that debate. And it helped him throw the president off and opened the race for a few days. Not for very long. It opened for a few days.

But the problem for Kerry is women, women, women.

COLMES: Hey Pat, hasn't the race narrowed, though, in the last week or so, and Kerry has picked up a couple of points? And I keep hearing him criticized for bringing these other people, attack dogs, they say, onboard but the gap has narrowed a bit, so hasn't that helped?

CADDELL: Well, the average polls, three in the last 24 hours that showed six to eight points, Pew, Gallup and...

COLMES: Much more than had been.

CADDELL: But I'll tell you, to the internals, it's falling so far behind on the major points of who can you trust on the big issues. They've abandoned domestic issues now. They've agreed to fight it on Bush's ground. That's a real problem.

COLMES: But the point is it is narrowing. It is narrowing.

CADDELL: I don't care how narrow it gets overall, if you're still running 11 point negative favorable rating, the other guy is running a positive, you've got a problem. It's in the internals.

COLMES: Ann, what about, you know, the old Bob Dole line, when he said, "Stop lying about my record."

Sean showed an ad earlier tonight that takes Kerry totally out of context. For example, he calls the military winning of the war brilliant, but he'll leave out the next part where he says Bush dropped the ball afterwards.

They have Kerry saying it was right to disarm Hussein, leave him out when he said, "I would have preferred if he had given diplomacy a greater opportunity."

That commercial is a fraud. It takes Kerry out of context.

COULTER: No...

CADDELL: We're at that stage of the campaign.

COLMES: Right.

COULTER: Right. Right. That's what a commercial is.

COLMES: It's not right; it's not ethical.

COULTER: No, I think in general it's never a good defense to say that remark was taken out of context. I mean, provide the context for it.

COLMES: I just did.

COULTER: Republicans are going to run their own commercials.

COLMES: Well, I just provided the context. And it's disingenuous to do that.

COULTER: And I disagree with you. I think it's not that helpful. I mean...

CADDELL: That opens the opportunity for Kerry to finally state what he is and say, "Look, I've made some mistakes. I may have some differences but here's where I stand."

COULTER: Right, that's what he ought to do.

COLMES: Pat, is it a case of Kerry not knowing where he stands, or is it that the perception. They've left a perception that Kerry has changed his mind a couple of times, but is that perception or reality? Does he not really stand for something? Do you really believe that?

CADDELL: Well, you know, don't look to me. I mean, a week ago The New York Times was complaining about John Kerry's position on Iraq, which is a little bit like having the observatory of Romano criticizing the pope — as John Kennedy once said about Nixon in the Wall Street Journal.

You know, the problem is he's finally got his position but he's on the attack with it. It's not presidential. He needs to raise it up a little.

HANNITY: Pat, I'm glad they don't listen to you, no offense.

People are concerned.

CADDELL: Well, you don't have to worry about that.

HANNITY: Your Democratic brethren are not listening and I'm actually very appreciative of that. But good to see you, thanks for being with us.

CADDELL: Good to see you all.

HANNITY: Ann, we'll see you Monday. Congrats on the new book, "How to Talk to a Liberal," if you must. It will be out next week.

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