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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel on the State of the Democratic Race for President

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from April 21, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRIT HUME, HOST: Those two very similar looking ads, the first one from Hillary and the second one from Barack Obama answe ring the one from Hillary Clinton, give you a sample of how intense it has become in the closing days in Pennsylvania.

Some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and the syn dicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.

Well, what about it? Let's look at a poll. It shows Hillary by seven. Obama is over-polled a little bit sometimes. What about it, Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: That i s a very good polling unit. They have excellent people, Peter Brown, among others there.

That's one of the questions we want to find out about Obama — one, did he over-poll —

HUME: Over-polling meaning you show up better in polls than you do on election day.

BARNES: Yes. In other words, he's five behind in the polls, and loses by ten, which is quite possible in this race. But then there is another factor, and that is whether he — in primaries when he has a lot of time to campaign, and he has had weeks to campaign in Pennsylvania, it usually has had a good effect, and he has done better in states with primaries where he hasn't had much time to campaign. Remember, there were so many compacted around Super Tuesday back in early February.

The other thing is I think Hillary Clinton is going to win. I have no idea by how much. But does she stay in or not after this. I think if she wins by one vote, she stays in, and even a tie she will probably stay in.

Secondly, will Obama be hurt? Well, he'll be hurt even if — obviously if he wins, he won't be. But if he loses heavily among white working class voters, that will hurt him. If it appears he didn't gain through all this campaigning in the last few weeks, which he was able to do earlier, I think that will hurt him.

And then what does it tell us about November? You have seen these polls. The polls in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio, found that among primary voters, white Democratic primary voters, about a third — not quite a third, about 27 percent, said they won't vote for Obama in the general election. They will vote for John McCain.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: The big question about this is, as Barack Obama gets closer and closer to the nomination — it's hard to see Hillary denying him the nomination no matter what she does in Pennsylvania because he has such a big delegate lead — but as he gets closer and closer, is he really exposing all of his weaknesses as a general election candidate? Is he becoming kind of hallowed out?

And that theory, which, of course, the Clintons have been pushing very hard —

HUME: Or filled in.

LIASSON: — or filled in, right. What the Clintons have been saying is that he can't win these working class white votes without which no Democrat can carry Pennsylvania or Ohio, the kind of swing states that they need.

Obama's answer to that is look, I am changing the electorate. I am bringing so many new people into the process, huge numbers, new African- Americans, young voters. I'm increasing registration — 315,000 new Democrats registered in Pennsylvania, and probably two-thirds are them are going to vote for Obama — that he can win anyway.

I think that's a big question, and the size of the margin for Hillary is going to answer that to a certain extent.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Size is key. If it is five or less, he wins. Ten or more, she wins. If she gets a blowout of 15, it will be a really stunning victory, and that, I think, is possible, though unlikely.

But I think he has been damaged no matter what the outcome is. This is a six-week hiatus between the last election and this one, the longest of the campaign, in which two candidates with no substantive differences of any importance between them have been slugging it out on character.

And I love the way it's done. One hits the other over the head with a brick and says I'm doing this because the Republicans will do it in November. And so my opponent is like Brutus, an honorable man. I would never call him an out of touch, unpatriotic liar. But since the Republicans will do, it I think it ought to be at least aired. That's the way it's done because Republicans are the font of all evil.

But it has gotten all that stuff out there. Remember, until these six weeks, we didn't know about Jeremiah Wright, a 20-year association with a raving racist. We didn't know about William Ayers, an unrepentant terrorist.

It all came out, and despite the bleeding of the pro-Obama acolytes in the press, it would have been unconscionable for Obama to have gone 21 debates and not have been asked about Ayers or the Reverend Wright.

HUME: Is her real hope that she can overtake him in the number of delegates or popular vote, or is her more realistic hope that something further awful will happen to Obama?

BARNES: That's what she has to hope for. She will probably be behind in the popular vote and behind in the delegates. But if he is damaged, if there are more revelations or it is clear the white working class voters are just not going to go for him, then that's her chance.

LIASSON: She needs another Obama implosion. She can't win without it.

HUME: Do you agree with that, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: She needs a big win and a mistake by Obama along the way.

HUME: Up next, Senator McCain says those stories about his temper are exaggerated and, in some cases, even fabricated. We'll ask out panelists about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY MCCAIN, SENATOR MCCAIN'S WIFE: He's passionate about the future of this country. Some people mistake that for temper. It's not.

MCCAIN: Those stories you have heard are either totally untrue or grossly exaggerated. One thing I have learned over time is that stories get better and better over time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Well, those stories that McCain is talking about were collected by The Washington Post and put together in an article over the weekend, which could be summarized with this quote here:

"Some depict McCain, now the presumptive Republican nominee for president, as an erratic hothead, incapable of staying cool in the face of what he views as either disloyalty to him or irrational opposition to his ideas. Others praise a firebrand who is resolute against the forces of greed and gutlessness."

All right — we have not heard the last of the questions being raised about McCain's temper and temperament.

BARNES: You mean "temper-gate"?

HUME: Yes. What about it?

BARNES: He does have a temper. I have heard stories from senators where they have gotten in some pretty heated arguments.

You notice most of the stories in the Post's account were 20 years ago or more — very, very old — and other ones that have been brought out since that story came out on Sunday, are also old.

Here is my impression. McCain has had a temper. A lot of politicians have hot tempers. I mean, we read about Bill Clinton in the White House, or Hillary, when we read Sally Bedell Smith, about Hillary in the White House. And he has a pretty tough temper.

But in recent years he has had it very much under control.

LIASSON: And it's not just in recent years that it has been under control. There is no tape that we know of any of these incidences. And I think that makes a huge difference.

These are all stories. Some of them have been completely refuted by the McCain campaign and also by other witnesses. And even some of the participants in these fights are now supporting him.

But until there is an actual videotape or audiotape of something, I don't think it is going to be — the stories are out there and will continue to be out there, but I don't think it is a huge problem.

KRAUTHAMMER: I agree. Unless he does something on camera — the stories would set it up, but it will have no effect if it's just stories.

I want to rise to the defense of his temperament. After all, here is a guy who has been in airplanes where nasty people on the ground were shooting at him, and succeeded once. That can make a guy testy.

Americans understand that he was a fighter jock, a swaggering young man, and you don't expect the demeanor out of him that you would expect the kind of cool and placid demeanor you would find in the University of Chicago Professor like Barack Obama.

There is also the Nixon factor here. Everyone remembers that in the cold war that the soviets were always a little extra careful in a crisis with Nixon, knowing he might not be that stable.

McCain's issue is not stability, but he's feisty and temperamental. And I would rather have the guy like him, have the Iranians thinking about rattling his cage, Iranians or Syrians who want to do Americans damage, worry about how he would react rather than a Barack Obama.

It is a question of taste — hot versus cool. I would like a hot and passionate commander in chief. And he's the guy.

BARNES: Here is one of the things that "The Post" didn't elaborate on well enough, and that was who was on what side in these debates. They were hot debates and McCain got mad — the one with Senator Grassley, for instance.

HUME: Tell us.

BARNES: It was about a man named Robert Garwood, who had stayed behind for one reason or another in Vietnam after he had had been captured, and after the POW's came back. McCain thought that Garwood had — his actions had led to further persecution and torture in the Hanoi Hilton of McCain and other POWs. And Senator Grassley thought that Garwood was a hero. Now, if you were McCain — and I think McCain was for the right side — if you were McCain, you would get pretty heated in that situation.

HUME: What about that?

LIASSON: I think there is nothing in these stories that have been really damaging to him. On every one, he could say I was mad at something that either hurt the taxpayers, or, in this case, about POWs. Like I said before, I think we've got to see some real tape on it.

KRAUTHAMMER: But there is a setup here. Yesterday he said this was how I was in the past, but I'm changed, which is a kind of invitation, like Gary Hart follow me around. So he has to be real careful that it doesn't happen on his watch on camera in this —

HUME: And the attacks are not going to get softer.

KRAUTHAMMER: He's going to have to stay cool.

BARNES: Yes, he has got to do that. He can't act old. There's lots of things he can't do.

HUME: Except when he's kidding, like when he pretended to doze off when that guy asked him about his age.

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