This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from April 22, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think a win is a win. And maybe I'm old fashioned about that, but you run a very competitive race at a considerable financial disadvantage, and I think maybe the question ought to be why can't he close the deal?
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As I said before, it's an uphill battle. Senator Clinton had a 20-point lead to start with. We think we closed it. But, still, I think we have to consider ourselves the underdogs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, there you get two views of the race in Pennsylvania, which is in the process of being decided even as we speak here. Some thoughts on all this from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune Magazine, Bill Kristol, Editor of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams of National Public Radio, FOX News contributors all.
Welcome all. Well, this polling seems to suggest that going into today that it was about a 6 to 8, 7-point margin for Hillary Clinton. If that holds up, is that enough for her to get what she needs out of this state in your view, Fred?
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, it depends on how she gets it. If she gets it by winning strong with union members, whites, white working class people, the kind of folks who were Reagan Democrats in the past, Catholic voters—if she does real well in those groups, then it strengthens her argument.
That's all she has left, is an argument that she will have to make strongly on, I guess, starting June 4, the day the primaries end. And her argument will be, "I may be behind in delegates, and I may even be a little behind in the popular vote," but he can't win, because the kind of voters that a Democrat has to attract in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida and other states, he can't win those."
And so the important thing for her is, first, winning here, and winning by a nice margin, but strengthening her argument, because that's all she has.
NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "FORTUNE MAGAZINE": An argument, but what she really needs are numbers. And what she needs are superdelegates. And at the end of the day, to get superdelegates to come in her corner, she needs to, a, possibly win the popular vote when all is said and done, which is, as we know, a mathematical improbability—not impossible but difficult.
She's got to get Michigan and Florida delegates seated or a revote in both those states. She has run up against obstacles on that front.
Or she's got to get Barack Obama to self-destruct. And we've see one of the worst weeks in Barack Obama's campaign, and yet he didn't self- destruct, and we still saw super delegates come to his side.
So I'm not sure. I think after tonight, even if she wins comfortably, it's status quo.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: What's striking is she is really playing to win. It was easy for her in the last few weeks to run a graceful, positive campaign, make her case. She might well have still won Pennsylvania.
She did not have to put up a negative ad 24 hours out that got huge free media using Osama bin-Laden and leading that every left winger to complain that this is the worst type of Karl Rove-type tactic. You can't possibly move many votes, because it wasn't up very long.
HUME: Is it fair to call that dirty politics?
KRISTOL: No, but for them, Karl Rove—anything any Republican did that might have defeated a Democrat is dirty tactics.
HUME: That was famous from the Georgia Senate race in which a picture of Osama bin Laden was used in connection with an ad to challenge the war hero Max Cleland, who was a sitting Senator, and Cleland ended up losing. Democrats have never forgotten that.
KRISTOL: Right. But she's being much tougher than one would have expected. She is certainly not laying the groundwork for a vice presidential bid or for sort of a senior statesman's role.
She thinks she can win. I think she thinks that if she can get into double digits here in Pennsylvania and really raise doubts about Obama—like in the segment where she said "Why can't he close the deal?" That's a tough thing to say. That plays on every doubt that other Democratic voters might have about Obama.
She needs to win big here and then win in Indiana easily, and, I think, win North Carolina. She needs to run the table going out.
JUAN WILLIAMS, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I don't know if she needs to win North Carolina, but clearly what we know about this race—we're now into the homestretch, the last ten races—I think what she has to do is win here, and I think it would be to her advantage to win in double digits.
If she can win in double digits, five percent to 15 percent. She has got to win by five percent. If not, Obama is really going to crow that in fact he did better than expected in Pennsylvania.
HUME: He has been predicting he would.
WILLIAMS: He says he will do better, but he never predicted that he would win. And that would be zero to five percent. But beyond five percent you're in the middle ground—15 percent is a convincing victory for Hillary Clinton.
I don't think North Carolina is doable for her. But Indiana is where the action is right now.
It's interesting. Barack Obama has spent three times, about $7 million in advertising in Pennsylvania. That's the most anybody has ever spent in Pennsylvania in any race, forget this primary, and he's spending more than that now in Indiana.
So, clearly, that's where the battleground is going forward.
KRISTOL: Juan makes a good point. Obama has outspent Clinton two-and-a-half to one in TV ads in the last two weeks in Pennsylvania. His buy is massive—3,000 gross rating points. When I was in campaigns, if you could get 1,000 rating points up you thought you were really doing a very good job of getting your message out—3,000 points.
And if he does lose in double digits, I think there will be genuine questions of—he outspends her two-and-a-half to one, and in a state like Pennsylvania, loses by a couple of margins.
WILLIAMS: Still can't close the deal.
BARNES: That would make part of her argument that she will have to make to the super delegates, which would be that he spent all that money and he still couldn't close the deal.
But she does have to win an awful lot. She has to win Indiana, I guess maybe not North Carolina, but all the rest. And she will say, look, who has the hot hand? Who is winning the late primaries? He did fine at the beginning, but look at him now. He can't win in the big states that any Democrat has to win, and certainly Pennsylvania is one of those states.
But this is merely an argument, because I personally believe she is going to be behind in both popular votes and delegates when we get to early June, and she is just going to have to point to his weaknesses.
HUME: Quick round on this question: Barack Obama has taken some hits in recent weeks. Is that bad for him long term, or to his advantage because of what he learns from it for the general?
WILLIAMS: You could say it seasons him, but, just to keep it short, I think John McCain has benefited greatly from that elitist comment.
KRISTOL: If he learns from it, it is to his advantage.
EASTON: The polls show that the Reverend Wright controversy did not hurt him among Democrats. It hurt him with Independents and Republicans.
BARNES: It has helped McCain because Obama has already been brought down to earth over the fray, and McCain will not have to do that.
HUME: Next up with our panel, wasn't Basra supposed to be lost to the Shiite militias? Who is in charge there now? And what does that say about Nouri al-Maliki and his effectiveness? Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There has been much discussion about the events in Basra, and much of it misses the point. This was an Iraqi initiative for their security forces loyal to the government to take back a city that had been overrun by extremists and thugs. And this is exactly the kind of initiative we seek from Iraq's leaders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: That is what the administration has been saying in recent weeks about a military adventure ordered by Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq that appeared not to have gone so well. But what everyone was saying was that it was not so important how well it went but that they mounted it at all.
Now the facts from the ground seem to have changed from what we were hearing from the mainstream media, at least, and from this channel as well just a few weeks ago. Things look different. Things apparently look better—Fred?
BARNES: It is the difference between winning and losing. They have now this supposedly completely failed Iraqi army effort has now been triumphant and captured the entire city of Basra, which is obviously so important because it is the chief seaport, and where so much commerce comes through into Iraq.
And so the press, "The New York Times", BBC, "Time" magazine, and everybody else, I guess FOX included, was wrong about this.
The prime minister, who gets minimum high regard from the media and I think from a lot of Americans and even people in the Bush administration as well, said well, wait a minute, we're continuing fighting. It's not over yet. And it wasn't over. He turned out to be right.
This is a big victory for Prime Minister Maliki, no question about that. and look what he has now—Basra, most of Baghdad, and are taking on the Shia militia there.
If Muqtada al-Sadr, who is behind some of these militias, is such a strong and effective leader, how come he is still in Iran? He hasn't come back. His movement is losing, and Maliki is winning and bringing with him a lot of political reconciliation, because the Sunnis and the Kurds and Shia are all together on this effort to wipe out the militias.
EASTON: I think there is a danger, and this is a long, complex, messy war. And there is a danger in any of these isolated events to say this was a great victory, this was mission accomplished. Let's remember that.
HUME: I know, but is there a greater danger than in saying what was said three weeks ago?
EASTON: Or Nancy Pelosi saying let's not overestimate, this was a disaster—or let's not underestimate this, that this was a disaster.
I think you have to look, like anything in Iraq, you have to look at it like the stock market. You have to look at trends over time. And trends over time are getting better in Iraq.
But you still have Sadr issuing these warnings to the Maliki government. There is still—yes, things are looking good now, but you got to look at it long term and not just make a conclusive conclusion about any given battle site at any given moment.
KRISTOL: That's true, but if you had said two months ago, talk to people who are really knowledgeable on the ground, and said the 14th Iraqi army will go to Basra and rout the Sadrists and control the entire city, apparently, with Sadr standing down, the Sadrists now splintering a little bit—this is a very big deal.
Baghdad is tough. Some of my friends are concerned that with our drawdown—they wish we hadn't come down from 20 to 15 divisions, because this is really the time that with a little more American force we might have been able to close the deal more quickly.
But the people I talked who are following this are pretty optimistic. They think that the Maliki government forces are making progress now in Sadr City itself against the Sadrists.
And the most important thing is that the Shiite extremists are beginning to splinter, just as the Sunnis did in late 2006, early 2007. You're getting a lot of Shias saying we don't want to be controlled by Iran. We don't want these thugs controlling our life. If the government can capitalize on this, this can be a big moment, almost as big as the Anbar awakening was about a year-and-a-half ago.
WILLIAMS: I am all for it. I just hope we win. But I know that we're giving lots of support to Maliki, and so the suggestion that Maliki has proven to be this terrific leader, I'm not sold.
Now, he's been at this conference with Secretary Rice saying that the country has moved beyond the point of internal divisions and factions. I see no evidence of this. I think, in fact, the military force has been sufficiently successful in Basra to this point with a tremendous American support. I think there has been American support—
BARNES: No—extremely little American support. Some air support, and that's about it.
WILLIAMS: Air support, and don't forget that all along Americans have been offering intelligence and guidance and helping to rout out problems inside in what had been a weak military reconstituted to be Iraqi's force.
And so you have this going forward. There is some good news there, but I don't see that Maliki is any Abe Lincoln, not quite.
BARNES: Wait a minute, Juan. You're knocking down a straw man. Nobody said he was Abe Lincoln. All we said is that he sent the Iraqi army into Basra and succeeded.
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