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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on Mitt Romney and the Rise of the Anti-Endorsement

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from December 26, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So if you look at my entire record, yo u will see that there are some things where I'm the more conservative, and other places people think I'm not the most conservative.

But, again, you can look at my record and see what I did as governor, and on the basis of that, you know exactly where I stand and what I would do as president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, GUEST HOST: That was Mitt Romney today defending himself against an editorial where the New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed John McCain, one of his rivals, but they also came out with basically an anti-statement against Mitt Romney.

I will read from it here: "He has spoken his lines well, but the people can sense that the words are memorized, not heartfelt. In this primary, the more Mitt Romney speaks, the less believable he becomes."

There is a stinging line in that paper today. Some analytical observations about all of this from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

This New Hampshire Union Leader statement, basically, comes after the Concord Monitor had a similar anti-endorsement, if you want to call it that, where they called Romney a phony. Fred, is this a new deal, or is this going to hurt Romney?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, it's not going to hurt him in Iowa, and that comes first on January 3. The Concord Monitor is a liberal paper and they would be expected to that. They've urge voters not to vote for Reagan and others, as well.

The Union Leader is a more conservative paper. They have endorsed McCain, and their history is that when we endorse you, we help you, too. And so they are helping him by dumping on Romney.

Another fight that's going on that I think is interesting is with Mike Huckabee and Rush Limbaugh, which I think could be a factor in Iowa, I don't know. It's so hard to know what's going to happen in Iowa.

Huckabee has taken some hits. He had a pretty good line when he was being interviewed on FOX — "You know you're over the target if you are getting some flak." And maybe he is. He has gotten a lot of flak, mainly from economic conservatives and from conservative journalists.

But when Rush Limbaugh is zinging you, that can hurt, because his particular audience, Limbaugh's, is that it's not the Wall Street Republicans. It's not the country club Republicans, it's the more rural and main street Republicans which are the people Huckabee is really going for.

BAIER: So you're saying Rush speaking out against Huckabee is more painful than the Union Leader with its stinging statement about Romney?

BARNES: Particularly in Iowa, because they won't know about the New Hampshire things. and if Romney wins in Iowa, those editorials probably won't even make much difference in New Hampshire.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: But the Limbaugh fight hurts Huckabee in Iowa and helps Romney.

BAIER: Explain what that is.

KONDRACKE: Somebody told a blogger for Atlantic Monthly that — a Huckabee person ostensibly said that Rush Limbaugh is a D.C., New York entertainer, and not to be taken seriously. And then this sent Rush off in a tizzy against the whole Huckabee campaign.

Now, I think Limbaugh probably doesn't like Huckabee because Huckabee has got some moderate tendencies on taxes and spending, and that sort of thing. And, in fact, Limbaugh accused Huckabee of hiding behind his evangelical faith a lot of liberal positions. So that's where they stand.

So this has been going on, but it stopped because Limbaugh, I guess, is off the air for the rest of the holidays. But nonetheless, it was going hot and heavy pretty much last week.

BAIER: Charles, what about this perception of Romney that he is a resume inflator, and that he says things on the trail that aren't 100 percent true?

We have a couple of polls from the FOX News Opinion Dynamics where we asked voters about whether the candidates were authentic, who is the most authentic. And you can see by the first poll here McCain is at 25 percent as the most authentic; Huckabee, 16; and Romney down there at the bottom at nine.

Then honest and trustworthy: McCain at 24 percent, and Romney, again, finishes down at the bottom at nine percent.

Is this sticking at all, Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think it is, although I think a lot of the attacks on Romney are a little bit unfair. He says I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. He didn't literally see him. That's not a lot of exaggeration. And according to eye- witnesses, the march actually happened.

But the fact is the father, who was a governor of Michigan, was a northern supporter of civil rights at a time it wasn't that popular. So what he spoke was essentially the truth.

He embellishes in the way that all politicians do, but he is being hurt because he is essentially a technocrat. He's the man who saved the Olympics, he's the man who turned around the companies, who ran the state, a man who can do stuff. But he decided early on late last year he would run as a conservative.

And he did that because there was an opening. The Senator from Virginia, George Allen, was the one who looked as if he was going to be the Reaganite, the southern conservative who would end up running. He got knocked out when he lost his Senate race.

Romney saw an opening because Giuliani and McCain, the other two guys out there at the time, have a lot of difficulties with some conservative issues. He thought I'll run right. Unfortunately, he governed in the center, and he ran in Massachusetts as a centrist. And fixing his record has been his Achilles' heel.

BAIER: Can Romney rebound in eight days, basically, in Iowa?

BARNES: I don't know whether he can rebound or not. He is already up pretty high. He hasn't really lost ground, but he hasn't picked up ground, either. And, obviously Huckabee has picked up a lot of ground.

We just don't know whether Huckabee is stalled, whether Huckabee is declining, and where he is. We know Romney is just sort of sitting there.

And I think Romney can still win Iowa, though. And it's important when your strategy is the early state strategy, you better win the early states.

KONDRACKE: In Iowa, incidentally, the Real Politics average shows a decline for Huckabee's lead. Huckabee's lead a couple of weeks ago was 14. It's down to three-and-a-half now, and Romney has been gaining on him.

BAIER: All right, when we come back, Hill and Bill together again in Iowa. Hillary Clinton's campaign with her husband alongside. So will he help her? Stay with us for more with the all-stars, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Everything that I know convinces me that if you caucus for and if she is the Democratic nominee, I believe she will win the election, and win by a handsome margin.

And I say that, I hope, with some credibility since you were good enough to vote for me twice in Iowa by significant margins, and I thank you for that. But I don't want to dwell on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: No, he doesn't want to dwell on. Former president Bill Clinton talking just a few hours ago in Iowa, sharing the stage with Senator Hillary Clinton as they both stump for votes with eight days to go until the caucuses.

So will he help her now, sharing the stage with his wife? Back with our panel — Charles, let's start with you. How about it? Does he now, eight days out — we've talked about this before, but now they're back at it again, tag teaming in Iowa on the stage about pitching for her campaign.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, he says I don't want to dwell on me. That's new after — with about a week to go he decides it's about her, it's not about him.

I think in the end he hurts. Perhaps with a narrow constituency in Iowa caucus goers, it may be a wash. He doesn't draw people out. They would show up anyway.

It's reminding people of her connection to him, and I think it undermines her claim to be experienced and in the trenches. As you saw The New York Times story about her record as first lady, it's odd to run on experience, and rather than emphasize seven years in the Senate — unfortunately, she doesn't have a lot of accomplishments in the Senate — it's eight years as spouse.

It undermines her claims as a feminist. After all, the idea of feminism is to detach women from the traditional role of being an extension of the husband, to have an independent life like a Margaret Thatcher, a Jeane Kirkpatrick, a Nancy Pelosi. That's real feminism.

Her claim to be experienced and tough and knowledgeable is from eight years as spouse. That's hardly the kind of message you'd want to have as a first woman candidate.

I think it hurts her subliminally, but I can't see that it's going to be an advantage for her to have him stumping in her presence.

BAIER: The New York Times did run a front page story today, and I will read just a paragraph of it: "During the two terms in the White House, Mrs. Clinton did not hold a security clearance, she did not attend meetings, she was not given a copy of the President's daily intelligence brief. She did not assert herself on the crises in Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda.

And during one of President Clinton major tests on terrorism, whether to bomb Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, Mrs. Clinton was barely speaking to her husband, let alone add advising him as the Lewinsky scandal sizzled."

That's harsh New York Times: A1, Mort.

KONDRACKE: She has to kick her way in Iowa by emphasizing experience, and then this New York Times story comes out. It was just a devastating piece showing that she has very limited experience in foreign policy as first lady.

Now, she had a lot of experience with domestic policy and with maneuvering and strategizing and stuff. And she — look, the question is on the experience front, compared to who?

BAIER: Exactly.

KONDRACKE: Does she have more experience than Barack Obama? Patently she does. Whatever she got by osmosis in the White House is stuff that Barack Obama did not get in the Illinois State Senate. And she has had seven years in the Senate of the United States, and he has had three. John Edwards had six, one term.

So she is more experienced than they are, but she's not as experienced as she claims to be.

BAIER: So will that experience argument stick versus the change argument that Obama keeps on?

BARNES: No, I don't think so it does. Everyone knows she was the first lady. She wasn't the president. She told "the Des Moines Register," I have a tested proven record of being able to produce results.

I don't know what she is talking about. What you need to do is apply — in a case like this, the George Bailey test — you know "It's a Wonderful Life," the movie. And he showed what Bedford falls — what would happened in his hometown if he hadn't lived. And it would have been worse. You can see it shows how he affected things for the better.

Well, what would have been different in the Clinton White House or the Senate, for that matter, over the last seven years if Hillary were not there?

BAIER: Positive or negative?

BARNES: Nothing. I just think it wouldn't have made any difference at all.

BAIER: President Clinton on the trail now; positive or negative?

BARNES: I agree with Charles. I don't think he helps. She can get the crowds anyway. She doesn't need him for that.

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