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Special Report

Key Factors Motivating Voters

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 1, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: There is no doubt that this is a difficult election. And that's because we've gone through an incredibly difficult time as a nation. The biggest mistake we can make right now is to -- is out of hurt and confusion. The worst thing we can do is go back to the very same policies that caused this mess in the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST OF “SPECIAL REPORT”: President Obama has said it different ways, different times, talking about the big picture in this election at a fundraiser. A couple of weeks ago he said this, "Part of the reason that our politics seem so tough right now is facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time. It's because we're hardwired not to always think clearly when we're scared. And the country is scared and they have good reason to be."

What about the big picture in the election cycle and what it means?  Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Kirsten Powers, columnist of the New York Post, Fox News contributor Juan Williams, and Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst.  All right, Brit, big picture?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The poor dumb voters are so confused. The truth is that this election is about, as the president suggests, hard times, difficult times in the country. But it's about more than that as well. If it was only about that, you would expect the Democrats to lose seat in the election, but nothing like the magnitude we are looking at likely tomorrow.

The public in this country is center-right. Barack Obama has attempted as Bill Clinton did before him to govern from the left. And he is getting resistance to that on a number of counts, healthcare reform being a conspicuous example, the spending in the stimulus, the broad picture on the deficits as well.  Those things have alienated the voters. So he is facing a double whammy, he and his party. The economy hasn't improved in the manner in which it was expected to. And moreover, the policies that have been put in place to deal with it and other issues have been seen by the voters as being not to their liking, too far to the left.

BAIER: Juan, the White House says this is all about the economy, the unemployment rate, jobs, and not about an overreach by the administration.

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think they're right. I think this is about the economy. That's going to be the legacy of this election.  People are disappointed that the president didn't focus sufficiently on jobs as the number one task of his administration in a time of recession.

It's fair to say the recession was handed to him. He inherited it from the Bush administration. But the voters have come to the conclusion now it's his responsibility 18 months in and that he has not done enough to address the issue.

But to get back to what you were talking about with Brit a moment ago, if you ask are voters angry? Yes. They're very angry. The voters indicate the country is headed in the wrong direction, I think it's 60 percent. This morning on front of the Wall Street Journal they talked about this as a volatile cycle where the independent voters swung for Obama in 2008 are now swinging to Republicans.

BAIER: You are tying the anger directly to the economy and not the decisions on policy that the Obama administration made, for example, healthcare.

WILLIAMS: I do not think healthcare is driving this election if that is what you're asking.

BAIER: Three states -- Arizona, Colorado, and Oklahoma -- they will be ballot measure banning the requirement to have health insurance.  Obviously that's a linchpin for the president's healthcare law. What do you see?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: We saw in Missouri voters reject this by 71 percent. People are likely to see the same results in those initiatives.

And I disagree fundamentally with Juan about what the election is about. The president campaigned on the economic policy and he campaigned giving speeches about something that looked exactly like the stimulus package when he was passed. It didn't work. Unemployment’s gone up.

Then I think that contributed to him losing Republicans and soft Democrats. Then he campaigns on healthcare. Then he spends the better part of a year pushing healthcare at a time when people are going to town halls and expressing concern about it, saying they don't want it.  And I think the country looked and reacted and said this is not what we want fundamentally, and they're just not listening to us. I think that drives the anger. And its very specific and detailed anger. This is based on policies, not a vague anti-incumbent mood or anything like that.

BAIER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: I agree with Juan. I have don't think the healthcare has anything to do with what’s going on.  If you look at the polls, it's pretty clear. It ranks typically as a number three issue regardless of who are you are asking can. It often goes much lower. The economy is the overwhelming issue over and over again.

And I think that you hit on something important, a strategic mistake definitely by focusing on healthcare. It made people think he is not doing anything about the economy, but he was doing things on the economy but the focus is on healthcare. And I think it energized the Republican voters.

If you look at the people who want it repealed or are really angry about it, they are energized by it. But it is not showing up on the polls that I've looked at.

BAIER: So you are buying the communication versus the substance problem.

POWERS: No, I just think it's very simple. We have very, very high unemployment. I don't know what the president could have done except I would argue maybe a larger stimulus, which a lot of people don't I agree with.

But the point is if the unemployment was lower, he'd still lose seats, because presidents almost always lose seats in the first mid-term election. But I don't think it's the extent to what he is facing.

HUME: A generic ballot came out today from Gallup consistent with previous iterations of the same poll from Gallup, 15 points. This is larger than anything I have ever seen. These are very large -- this is a very large margin.

If it plays out that way tomorrow, the losses in the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate as well will be grander than almost anybody is predicting. I don't think you can lay that off entirely on the economy.

Remember, Barack Obama encountered an electorate when he took office that was already alarmed about spending. It was alarmed about spending on the TARP, which the Bush administration initiated and largely carried forward. The Obama administration continued it.

On top of that then came to a public already worried about the issue of spending and the deficit came the enormous expenditures on the stimulus program, which has not seen in the eyes of many voters to work very well.

And then on top of that came the likely enormous expenditures on healthcare reform programs as well. So spending is a huge issue in this election, and I think is has aggravated the Democratic Party's problem in the election, and it's seen as the ideological issue. Democrats are seen as the big tax spend and get reelected --

WILLIAMS: Allow me to ask a question. Didn't Republicans back TARP?

HUME: Yes, they did.

WILLIAMS: Oh, OK. Ideologically is what you said --

HUME: I understand that, Juan. But the fact of the matter, if the Republicans backed it and the public didn't like it and Obama furthered it and the public liked it even less, you can't say they are just angry about the economy.

POWERS: If you look at the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll today, they asked people basically to put in order what is the message to send with their vote. Number one thing overwhelmingly, the economy, it's 21 percent.  Only three percent said show opposition to President Obama's healthcare legislation.

HAYES: The national Republican congressional committee, the group that coordinates the House races, did polling from August through October, 75 target races; they conducted a total of 75,000 interviews. The generic ballot shows the Republicans up by 11, 47 to 36.

Then they asked what they called the grass pedal, brake pedal question. Do you want to elect a Republican who will be a brake on President Obama's policy or a Democrat who will accelerate those policies?  The number jumped to 54 to 34. So plus nine when you get specific about helping the president and his policies.

BAIER: We have talked and gone over poll after poll, and now we are hours away from the most important poll. So panel, we have another topic coming up.

Logon on to our homepage at Foxnews.com/Special Report and tell us which state initiative on Tuesday's ballot is most interesting to you.  Take a look at that on the homepage. After the break, stopping Sarah Palin? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, (R) FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I would decide after discussing it with my family and checking out the lay of the land and seeing who else is interested in doing it, because I don't need to run for office. I know that I don't need a title.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: I think you're having too much fun, I think you're making too much money. You're still a big player in national politics. You don't have 100 people like me chasing you around saying, what did she read in the morning? I don't think you're going to run.

PALIN: You know the country is worth it, though, to make those sacrifices when we talk about making money today, having a lot of fun today, having all this freedom.

If the country needed me and I'm not saying that the country does and that the country would ever necessarily want to choose me over anyone else, but I would be willing to make the sacrifices if need-be for America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Governor Sarah Palin gets a lot of attention when she says pretty much anything, especially this midterm election cycle. She's getting a lot of attention, interesting attention in Washington. Take a look at what the Politico wrote about Governor Palin and the prospects for 2012.

"Next for GOP leaders, stopping Sarah Palin." This is an unnamed source. "There is a determined, focused establishment effort to find a candidate we can coalesce around who can beat Sarah Palin, said one prominent longtime Republican. We believe she could get the nomination but Barack Obama would crush her."

What about this? We're back with the panel. Kirsten?

POWERS: I think -- I wouldn't go so far as Governor Palin called them losers for writing this story, and I don't agree with that because we all use anonymous sources, but let's face it. We know who these people are.  They're operatives for people who want to run for president and they're all complaining because Sarah Palin is taking up all the oxygen, and so of course they want to try and stop her.

Maybe there are other party poobahs in there who think they can stop her, to which I would say, how are you going to stop her, exactly?  Everyone has always underestimated her. These are the same people who said when she dropped out as governor her life was over. I don't really see how they will stop her.

And second of all, they don't understand what is going on in the country if they think they can stop her, because it's not -- people are tired of the idea of party bosses getting behind and trying to decide who the presidential candidate is going to be. It just benefits her.

BAIER: Brit?

HUME: It's not at all clear to me she is running. She has said in various interviews, one I saw this evening on our own air with Neil Cavuto on his program. She says in order for her to run she would have to conclude that no one in the Republican field has the kind of integrity, the kind of ideological commitment to conservative principles, the kind of willingness to make the necessary sacrifices, family and personal life and so forth, and no one is like that.

And then she goes on in the same breath saying there are a lot of wonderful candidates out there in the Republican Party who would make great presidents.

So having said all that, she has almost set the bar for herself pretty high for her to get in and to be a candidate. And she is in a sweet spot, as Chris Wallace suggested. She's prominent everywhere. She endorses people and it makes a big difference. She turns out crowds and she raises money.  She's making a lot of money which she hasn't always had. I don't think she is a money-grubber by any means, but all of that I think figures into a decision that is nowhere near made and could very well go against her running.

BAIER: Juan, do you think she is running?

WILLIAMS: You know what, I mean; I view it in this way. She is right now, as Brit said, in a sweet spot. And in terms of her speaking fees and book opportunities and in terms of this documentary that’s on cable, you know what, she is a star, a rock star.

Is she a political figure of such magnitude if I was a Republican I'd say you know what, she can beat Barack Obama? No. If I'm someone who is giving money, and this is the difference here, if I'm putting money into a presidential campaign, and I'm saying I am going to bet on this candidate to beat the Democrat, would I bet on Sarah Palin? No.

And I think that is what you are hearing from the people quoted in the political --

BAIER: But yet, Steve, there are folks that are now talking to reporters and they are not talking openly on the record, but they are concerned she may, in fact, have a path to the nomination.

HAYES: Sure. I'm sympathetic with the argument she makes about the people taking anonymous shots. Lord knows she endured that and endured it from people on her own campaign during the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008.

But I think the story is accurate. I think the story is reporting what is actually happening, the kinds of discussions happening among advisors for other candidates among establishment Republicans, even amongst conservative movement types. There is a general question, is she serious about running, and if she is, what happens next?

The one thing I'm going to say if I am watching to determine whether she is going to run or not, I look to see how often she is talking about policy. When she talks about policy, when she gets serious about talking about energy, when she talks about taxes, when she stops making the arguments that are substantive and does less at taking shot at reporters and participating in "Entertainment Tonight" interviews that’s when I think it would be a signal that she actually is serious about running.

HUME: I think what worries establishment Republicans and possibly some other Republicans in Washington the fear not that she would fail to rally conservatives. She would provide a tremendous amount of energy as she did for John McCain in the last cycle.

The worry is she runs off the independents. You picture the people who have turned toward the Democrats and are now coming back at least for this election cycle to the Republicans in the suburbs and people of that caliber, better educated people, perhaps, that she would run them off.

And so they worry she would be a sure loser even if she could win the nomination. And they do worry she could win it; such is her clout within the ranks of the Republican Party.

BAIER: Of course, she is a Fox News contributor and will be here for election coverage tomorrow night. So that will be interesting.

HUME: And we will be asking her the questions and get nothing further than anyone else.

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