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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Rough summer for president heading into crucial midterms

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 22, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID, D-NEV.: They would have to pick up six seats, and that's going to be very, very hard for them to do that.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The momentum is going our way. The president certainly is a drag on the Democrat ticket. I think we can pick up the six, maybe a couple more.

JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGISYT: There is a feeling within the party that whereas maybe Republicans were going to win four to 10 seats, it's now looking like the bottom end of that is five or six. So the Senate really now is on the bubble.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Elections, midterm elections 10 weeks from tomorrow, Republicans feeling increasingly confident. Obviously we have a long way to go before Election Day, but as you look at the map, there are at least 10 states in play for Republicans, and some of those are really closing. Some of them have Republicans up, others within a few points. We're back with a panel. Mara, what do you think the sense is within the two parties?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think that what Harry Reid said was true a while ago. In other words, six seats look hard. Three seats were in the bag. I give them West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana.

BAIER: For Republican.

LIASSON: For Republican. But now it looks easier. The pool is pretty big for Republicans to fish in for those extra three seats. They only need six to get a majority. And if you look at the other seats, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado -- Louisiana, Arkansas, Alaska, and North Carolina, all of those places, the Democrats, none of the Democrats have a comfortable lead. So it's really, really tight. I think the one thing that could save Democrats is something that's invisible and extremely hard to measure, which is their ground game. If they can turn out more voters than have ever turned out in a midterm in these states, they maybe they can hang on to some of these states. But I think that's going to be very hard.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It is hard to do because this is a mobilization election and the Republicans are mobilized by the Affordable Care Act. That's just guaranteed.

LIASSON: And there's just more Republican voters in these states.

WILL: That's right. It's also the case that in the sixth year of a particular administration's turn, the six-year itch kicks in that tends to mobilize the opposition. The election in an off year, the electorate has to be frail and pale, that is, old and white. And the three groups most apt to hang back in an election like this to drop out are the young, minorities, and unmarried women. Those are three legs of the Obama stool.

LIASSON: And they disappear.

BAIER: There are a lot of factors. One of them potentially, there are executive orders on immigration that could be coming in the next two weeks. Will that make potentially a big difference if Republicans then, you know, as predicted, really get fired up about that?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That would be a Hail Mary on the part of the president, and to mix a metaphor, it would be a three cushion shot. It would rely on Republicans being extremely stupid and using it as impeachment bait. I think it rises to the level of an impeachable offense, but you don't want to take the bait, particularly before an election, where if you do nothing it looks as if the Republicans are going to do extremely well.

Will the president do it? I'm not sure. Is he that reckless? I think what he cares about above all is how he does in the election. He appears to subordinating just about everything else he's doing politically, domestically, and a lot of it abroad to doing well. I don't think it would work. I think the Republicans -- the leadership has already spoken, we are not going to take the bait on impeachment, and I think it would redound against the president because the frail and the pale -- I think is that the phrase -- are not enthusiastic about 11 more million illegal immigrants coming into the country, and they will show up.

BAIER: What about, Mara, this, let's turn to 2016 for a second. Rand Paul calling Hillary Clinton a war-hawk, and the DNC defending Clinton calling Paul "fringe isolationist vision."

LIASSON: You know, most of the time in an electorate that is very war weary, that may be a wounding thing to say. But when you are talking about a female candidate, the first female candidate for president, that's a perfectly fine thing for Hillary Clinton to be called, a war hawk. Tough on policy, that all helps a female candidate in this case.

I think that Republicans look at Rand Paul running as an anti- interventionist, isolationist, and they get pretty nervous.

WILL: The senator from Kentucky surely knows that the first war hawk was led by Henry Clay of Kentucky. So this has a mixed ring down there. I think He's got a point, which is to say the Obama administration inherited a mess in Afghanistan, inherited a mess in Iraq. Libya was an utterly optional folly. They went to war on a war of choice and created a failed state that going to be with us for a long time. That's Hillary's criteria.

LIASSON: That's not exactly what he said, though.

WILL: I know that.

KRAUTHAMMER: Rand Paul's problem is he's saying if you like the Obama foreign policy of retreat, elect me. That's not a winning message either.

BAIER: In a primary especially.

KRAUTHAMMER: Even in a general. He says we are -- we are tired of war. The problem is that war is not tired of us. We are tired of war, it worked in '08. It's not going to work in '16 where the America has been reduced to the point where Egypt and the UAE cared nothing about what America desires.

BAIER: We squeezed 2014 and 2016 into that panel.

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