'Special Report' Panel on Momentum in Democratic Presidential Race

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from December 10, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: I've never done this before, but this is wha t I also know. If you keep on doing the same thing the same way all the time, you get the same results. You got to step out of your box. We can step out of our box and dream America anew again by supporting Barack Obama.


BRIT HUME, HOST: Now who do you think she was talking about when she talked about doing the same old things in the same old ways? We think we may have an idea.

Here are some thoughts on all this now by Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call — FOX News contributors all.

Mara, she didn't just show up in Iowa for one event, she went from place to place to place, and it was a weekend of festivities, with probably the most celebrated woman in America.


HUME: In South Carolina.

LIASSON: That was incredible. I would say in the battle of the surrogates, she has Bill Clinton beat.

Now the question is — can he translate all that energy and excitement she generates into votes for him? And they're working pretty hard at it. They got name and e-mail address and phone number of every single person that showed up. They only need a fraction of those to be added to their ranks to win in some of these states.

I think it was extraordinary. I think she did a lot of good for him. As his campaign says over and over again, she can generate excitement, he has to make the sale. And he is working hard to do that, and the polls show him in a pretty good spot.

HUME: Let's take a look at a couple of polls. These are pre-Oprah polls — Mason-Dixon poll in Iowa shows that Clinton is ahead, but look how close it has gotten to be. It is now 27-25. John Edwards is still in the hunt in Iowa.

And if you look in New Hampshire, Edwards isn't doing nearly as well, but it is now neck and neck between Clinton and Obama there. And in South Carolina, where the black vote will be particularly important because it constitutes such a large part of the Democratic electorate there — neck and neck again, Edwards still a factor.

So it raises, I suppose, the question of whether when Senator Clinton brings in Bill Clinton, it doesn't help to confirm the Obama argument, in a way, that she is a throwback to the old ways and he represents the new, popular though he may be. What about that, Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I agree with Mara. She helps Obama a lot more than Bill Clinton helps his wife. He's a problem. He's a drag. He complicates things. He's trouble. He's going back and forth with the press and everything. He reminds people of the psychodrama of their marriage. I have never thought he helped at all in that race.

Look, size matters in presidential matters crowd size really matters. And excitement matters. And she stirs no excitement. Obama stirs a lot. And when he has Oprah Winfrey there, he really stirs a lot. That helps.

HUME: Our reporters and producers are out on this campaign trail, and say if you go to the Hillary events, they are reasonably well attended, but they are solemn compared to the Obama events.

BARNES: Think of the candidates in the last 30, 40 years who have really stirred excitement. There aren't many. Robert Kennedy did. I thought Ronald Reagan did, and then I start to run dry.

Look, Obama has the momentum and Hillary Clinton has the machine. I'd rather be the candidate with the momentum.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I agree with that completely. Polls don't mean a lot in a state like Iowa where its caucus is getting people out and all that. But look at New Hampshire, where polls do mean because it's the primary, and South Carolina where they mean something because it is a primary, and so on. And this is a neck and neck race. She is not the frontrunner, she not inevitable.

And what Oprah said about what Obama represents is the message. It's the fresh start. It's optimism. It's hope. It's a departure from the past.

And Hillary — there it was a profile, a psycho-profile, really, on "The New York Times" front page yesterday, which, I'm sure, doesn't circulate widely in Iowa, or anywhere else, but nonetheless, there it is.

And it reminds you that she is battle scarred, but she is scarred. She is carrying a lot of scar tissue from Arkansas from infidelities and Vince Foster's suicide.

And I just read the thing and thought oh, my gosh, all this again?

LIASSON: It the Bush-Clinton, Bush-Clinton. It is the question about dynasty.

Now, one of the things to watch for in all these polls — Edwards is stuck at third place, and he is very, very steady. And at some point, if voters want to go with a winner, what do Edward supporters do?

The conventional wisdom, which I happen to subscribe to, is they probably won't go to Hillary because they're already voting against her. In other words, if in the end, Obama —

HUME: Major Garret reports that he may have the best ground organization of all in Iowa.

LIASSON: That's true.

HUME: So they are going to desert him, they may not desert him there.

LIASSON: They may not desert him there, Iowa is his best state. But if he doesn't win there, then what happened in those other states? They say, look, he came in third in Iowa. I am going to pick somebody else. Who are they going to pick?

HUME: Barack Obama is not the only new face in the race. And now everyone is talking on the Republican side about "The Huck." Mike Huckabee on a roll. Is he just a blip, or is this the real deal? More on that in a moment.



MIKE HUCKABEE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to carry Florida at the end of January, and go on to win the nomination, and win the White House.

And no other candidate running for the presidency, I believe, is better prepared with more executive experience on either side of the aisle, nor having faced the head winds of the Clinton political machine as I did in Arkansas.

And I'm committed not just to running the race, but winning the race.


HUME: "The Huck," the man of the hour in Republican politics. Let's look at this one national poll. National polls don't mean a lot at this stage, but this one does tell you something.

This is the Rasmussen Reports poll, a national poll. — Giuliani at 24 percent. That's well below where he has been. And Huckabee, who was nowhere in national polls just a few weeks ago, now at 19, and, I think it's fair to say, still counting.

So what about this? Now, today, the latest thing we have is that Huckabee has taken a different tack on Cuba than he once took. There are a lot of things to raise about this candidate, and he seems impervious, so far, to any of it. What is going on here?

BARNES: He hasn't gotten anywhere because people are thinking of him as a programmatic guy, or he's for this or that or the other thing. I think, in a way, he and Obama are alike, and they're both candidates who have decided to kind of lighten up.

I mean, Huckabee says "I'm a conservative, but I'm not angry at anybody." And he has this foreign policy that consists of being nice. If you're nice to people, they'll be nice to you. Be nice to Ahmadinejad and so on. This is what he says, and this is his foreign policy.

And you see Obama say I'm above the fray, and we can come together. We don't have to have all this partisanship and polarization. We can be nice to each other and solve things that way. They're not alarmists. They're not talking about Islamic jihadism, and stuff like that.

And people just may want to relax a little, and not hear all this though stuff from the other candidates.

LIASSON: Look, he is a great performer. When you look at these national polls — normally we say national polls don't mean anything, and I think that's right.

Except, when you look at these polls, Giuliani was at the top of the poles because of something he did in the past. He had a national reputation. Romney's people said over and over again, he's not well-known. People just don't know him. He is going to have to start winning in Iowa and New Hampshire before he goes up in the national polls.

Here is a guy no one has known from Adam four months ago. He hasn't done anything like be a hero of New York City, or spend millions of dollars, like Romney. He has vaulted himself into this position by dint of his talent in the debates, as a performer, as an accessible figure — as he says, a paradoxical Republican. And it's working so far.

KONDRACKE: The country wants niceness. Fred, sorry, the country wants an end to the wars, the political wars. And they would like, and I think Huckabee comes across as what Bush claimed that he was going to be, a compassionate conservative.

He is the one person in that race who was not wedded to conservative dogma of slashing domestic spending. Who at least pays some lip service to the plight of workers who are worried about their healthcare and are they going to have a job in the globalized economy, and stuff like that. And he can keep the religious conservatives onboard at the same time.

I cannot see how he could possibly end up winning the nomination without the money and without the organization that others have. And yet, Thompson is not making it. He's attracting the support that Thompson was supposed to.

HUME: We've had a series of people who have flashed across the Republican horizon to great excitement. In the beginning we have the same candidates we have now. Giuliani got out to this extraordinary lead, in which he has receded, although he is still very much in the race.

Then the excitement was about Fred Thompson, which seemed to peak about the day before he got into the race and has been declining ever since, perhaps through no fault of his own — who knows? But he hasn't lit it up.

And now Huckabee seems to be the man of the hour. Is there reason to believe that Huckabee will have more staying power than the other frontrunners?

LIASSON: Certainly than the other hot candidates. The other frontrunners — we don't know yet, because one of the things that Huckabee doesn't have is money or organization. And it's very hard to get that in the extremely compressed amount of time that the primary schedule gives you. Even if he wins Iowa, he doesn't have enough time to raise the money.

HUME: Bill Kristol makes the argument, and it is an interesting argument, that nobody really has enough money or organization to capitalize on the publicity needed all over the country and to advertise all over the country, that it's going to be a case of big, national, free media.

BARNES: There's a lot of free media, but if you have $20, $30, $40 million to spend, that can help you as well.

Look, to the extent that this campaign gets to where it was before, that voters seem to be worried about terrorism and threats to the United States and our national security, that's where Huckabee has very little to say that people are going to agree.

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