What in 2015 will impact the 2016 presidential election?

A look ahead to this year's politics


This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 2, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

TUCKER CARLSON, GUEST HOST: Welcome to "Hannity."  2015 is just hours old, but all eyes are looking ahead to 2016 as more presidential hopefuls hint they may get into the race.

I'm Tucker Carlson, in tonight for Sean. Earlier this week, former Florida governor Jeb Bush resigned from all of his board memberships. His spokesman called this, quote, "a natural next step" as he explores a presidential bid. Also from Florida, Senator Marco Rubio told NPR he's thinking about it.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: The decision I have to make is where is the place for me to serve America, to carry out this agenda that I have to restore the American dream, given the dramatic economic changes we've had in the 21st century. Where's the best place for me to achieve that?  Is it in the Republican majority in the Senate, or is it as a candidate, and ultimately, as president of the United States?

If I decide it's as president, then that's what I'm going to do, irrespective of who else might be running.

Well, this is not a gut decision. This is one that one needs to make, obviously, on the basis of facts and reality. And so you know, I haven't made a decision yet on it. I don't have a date in mind or a timeframe in mind, but certainly soon. We're closer to a decision than we were a month ago.


CARLSON: And that's not all. Just today, Dr. Ben Carson revealed he will soon have a big announcement, as well, possibly about the presidential race.

Joining me now with reaction, our old friend, pollster Frank Luntz, former Clinton special counsel Lanny Davis and from The Weekly Standard, Steve Hayes. Welcome to you all.

So frank, give us the quick overview here. It looks like we're moving in slow motion toward a Bush-Clinton race. Is that actually what the numbers are telling you is happening?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: Governor Bush does have an advantage in Florida, but Chris Christie, I assure you, would challenge that. So would Scott Walker. I believe he will be a candidate -- Bobby Jindal, the senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, the senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, perhaps even Governor John Kasich of Ohio, Mike Huckabee from FOX, Rick Santorum.

We're going to have the biggest field for the GOP that we've had in decades. There's no clear front-runner. The Republicans are frustrated with what's going on in Washington, and they really genuinely want change.

And Tucker, I think that there's only one mistake that I'm watching right now, which is the Republicans' desire to limit the number of debates between these candidates. Governor Rick Perry of Texas is another candidate. These guys have incredible accomplishments, and they should have the opportunity to debate those accomplishments, to debate that philosophy. And the idea that the Republican Party...


LUNTZ: ... would try to limit those debates I think is a mistake.

CARLSON: More debates.

So Steve Hayes, for 50 years, the Republican Party has almost as a default position nominated the institutional candidate, the oldest guy, the guy who's run before, not necessarily the most conservative guy. Do you think this year will be different? Does an insurgent conservative candidacy have a real shot, do you think, in 2016?

STEVE HAYES, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think not only has a real shot, but I think any of the number of the real conservatives that Frank just mentioned could be considered front-runners, or will at this time when we have this discussion at the end of the year, perhaps be the front-runner heading into the Iowa caucuses.

Look, look at where the Republican Party is now. There's no question there's been a shift to the right. I think money, fund-raising doesn't matter as much as it once did. If you look back at the 2012 Republican primaries, virtually every candidate, including some fringe candidates, had a moment in the sun, had a moment when they were leading polls.

And if you look at where the country is -- I mean, look at six years of, I think, failed big government liberalism from the Obama administration, any conservative who can articulate an alternative vision to that and do so in a compelling way I think will be in a very good position next year.

CARLSON: So who will the conservative or the Republican be running against? Lanny, you have come out for Hillary Clinton, probably not surprising. You've known her for more than 40 years. I think you went to Yale law school together. But let's say I'm the average Democratic primary voter and I'm against Wall Street and I'm mad about the various wars. Why in the world would I support Hillary Clinton?

LANNY DAVIS, FMR. CLINTON SPECIAL COUNSEL: Well, first of all, she's the most qualified candidate, the candidate that has the most traditionally liberal view in the mainstream of our party. I don't know what you mean by close to Wall Street. She accepted money from people who work on Wall Street, as did Barack Obama...

CARLSON: Well, actually...


CARLSON: Hold on. Let me just pause here parenthetically and note she accepted more money than any other member of the United States Senate from Wall Street when she served in the Senate. Now, I'm not mad about that, but then I'm not a left-wing Democratic primary voter. That will be a problem, no?

DAVIS: Well, as I said, if she were influenced by any donor and you had a fact to show that, it'd be troubling. But the fact that she was senator for New York and got money from people in downtown New York -- not surprising. The fact that she's in the tradition of the base of our party and has been for 40-plus years -- it's amazing, as I guess somebody wrote recently, that Hillary Clinton should be attacked from the left, given that she's been a traditional progressive in our party for over 40 years.

CARLSON: Well, don't you think, Frank Luntz -- I mean, that -- that's an interesting point. I mean, Hillary Clinton has always been considered, from my perspective and the conservatives' perspective, on the far left fringe of her party. Now, that's no longer the case, is it, at all. I mean, that party -- we spend (INAUDIBLE) talking about Republicans have changed. The Democrats have changed and moved way left, have they not?

LUNTZ: We've never seen anyone like Elizabeth Warren. She's the one who's captured the Democratic imagination. But in the end, I think the challenge for Hillary Clinton is the fact that, as Lanny says, she's been around for 40 years. I don't think, considering where we stand right now, the percentage of Americans who believe that the American dream is suffering, the percentage of Americans who believe that the country is still headed in the wrong direction -- I don't think we want to go backward.

And I've said on this show as recently as six months ago, I don't know how Hillary Clinton could be defeated. I'm actually starting to come around, Tucker, to wonder whether she can be elected because she's been around for so long...


LUNTZ: ... because her policies are the same as Barack Obama's. The American people don't want the same thing that they've had over the last six years!

CARLSON: Steve Hayes, when I listen to Hillary Clinton speak, what I take away from her explanation and her rationale for running is, I'm a woman, and we need to break the glass ceiling. We need a woman. It's a diversity candidacy. That's -- I don't see any other rationale for it. Do you? Or am I missing something?

HAYES: Well, no, I think that's the primary argument of Hillary Clinton and her backers. And I think that's one of the areas where she's going to have to come up for something more compelling to justify a run.

And I think Frank is right. I mean, you know, she is going to own the Obama presidency, whether she likes it or not. I mean, we've already seen some attempts to distance herself from president, but in most cases, she's embraced what the president has done and continues to do.

I don't think that's going to prove popular as we move forward, as "Obama care" becomes more complicated, as people continue to have concerns about that, as we look at six years of failed economic policy. And most importantly for Hillary Clinton, she's going to have to defend what the president has done and hasn't done in ending the war on terror and looking overseas. I think that's going to be a huge challenge for her.

CARLSON: Well, let me ask Lanny, since you know her. I mean, obviously, running as a woman, being a woman is not an achievement, it's an accident of birth. So what is she running on? What is the rationale for voting for Hillary Clinton?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, she's been a candidate in 2008 and for the U.S. Senate with a track record of being for economic growth, for job creation. And for people who are talking about today's economy, we have a pretty good economy at 5.5 percent unemployment rate and a growth factor of 5 percent in the last quarter.

So we're going to have -- I know the Republicans are upset about the economy, but Hillary Clinton is running as a candidate of job creation, as a candidate of what is the traditional Democratic view of public-private partnerships, the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama method of combining governmental action, lean and mean government...

CARLSON: OK, but see...

DAVIS: ... with private sector job creation.

CARLSON: What does that mean -- what does...

DAVIS: And that is what she will run on.

DAVIS: Find a candidate who's against job creation or against economic -- I mean, those are just more sort of banal cliches of the kind that she specializes in. What -- what specifically -- is she against minimum wage? Like, what is she going to do to goose unemployment (ph) numbers?

DAVIS: No, well, she's for job creation, the same way that Jeb Bush and all the Republicans are, but she's for using government and the private sector in partnership, the way her husband created 23 million jobs and helped balance the budget.

You're going find Hillary Clinton as a candidate of the middle class, if she runs. Now, I don't know if she's running yet. We're talking about what is her candidacy about because she hasn't declared it yet. But I do know from her track record she's always been -- and when she ran...

HAYES: Oh, come on! Come on, Lanny!


HAYES: Do you think Hillary Clinton can run as a candidate on lean and mean government? Seriously? What about the Obama...

DAVIS: Well, she certainly...

CARLSON: ... administration has been lean and mean?


HAYES: There's nothing...


DAVIS: Listen, I got to get equal time with two of you. I know that you guys are upset that the economy is doing so well, and you can't claim that under Obama, it's done poorly.

HAYES: It's the slowest...


CARLSON: One at a time, gentlemen.

DAVIS: ... job creation as President Obama...

CARLSON: I know, but Lanny...


CARLSON: Steve makes a really good point. I mean, she is very much - - to call Hillary Clinton an innovator -- I mean, she's from the Brezhnev era! You know, she's not -- certainly not, you know, someone who's going to radically rethink the nature of man's relationship to the state! I mean, same old (INAUDIBLE) no?

DAVIS: You're great at the phrase...


DAVIS: All I can tell you is that the popular polls right now show that they all disagree with the three of you conservative Republicans.

CARLSON: Well, do they?


CARLSON: We have an actual world-famous pollster!

DAVIS: And right now, Hillary Clinton's popularity because of her qualifications and where she's looking to take the country, if she runs...


CARLSON: Let me interrupt this -- let me interrupt this infomercial to ask the opinion of Dr. Frank I. Luntz, who has his finger on the pulse of the American sentiment. Do people support Hillary? And if so, why?  And is she going to run?

LUNTZ: I believe she's going to run. And yes, they do. At this point, she does have a 10, 12, even 14-point advantage. But at one point within the last three months, it was at a 20 or 22-point advantage. So it's already been cut in half. The fact is that she is old enough to be Marco Rubio's mom! That this is the same...

CARLSON: But you're not suggesting she is. I mean, just to be totally clear.

LUNTZ: I -- I -- there's no evidence to show...

DAVIS: So that's right. Frank was against Ronald Reagan because he was old enough to be somebody's grandfather. Come on, Frank, you can do better than that. That's trite.

CARLSON: No, no! But it actually raises...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But -- but Lanny -- Lanny, it does matter.


CARLSON: ... not to speak for Frank. You're not attacking her for age, but it's, like, what is the point of this candidacy, correct?

DAVIS: The point of her candidacy -- she's the most qualified, experienced candidate across the board. I think Jeb Bush is probably the best Republican that they probably won't nominate because he's the best.  But name me one other person with more experience in the United States Senate, as secretary of state...

CARLSON: I just don't buy it!

DAVIS: ... and with a base in the Democratic Party...

CARLSON: I just don't buy it...


DAVIS: ... you guys have a tough argument other than saying...


CARLSON: I'm going to have to cut you...


LUNTZ: ... Barack Obama. Lanny, she's four more years of Barack Obama. We already saw in this election that was only six weeks ago, Lanny...

DAVIS: Right now, the economy looks pretty good, Frank.

LUNTZ: Lanny...

DAVIS: The economy looks pretty...


LUNTZ: This is a record number of state legislators who are Republican, a record number of governors who are Republican, one seat away from a record number of senators who are Republican, the highest Republican majority in the House since 1928. Lanny, get your numbers straight.

CARLSON: Well, and also...

LUNTZ: This was the biggest rejection of the Democratic Party in 84 years!


CARLSON: Lanny, hold on. I beg your pardon. Let me get Steve Hayes in here for a second.


DAVIS: ... going to be our next president if she runs.

CARLSON: Excuse me for a moment here. Isn't it true, Steve, that this -- nominating Hillary Clinton would run contrary to all we know about Democrats? They don't want someone who's experienced. They want something brand-new. They're like children on Christmas morning! They want to be surprised! That's why they fall in love with Howard Dean. That's why they fell in love with Barack Obama. They're not going to nominate Hillary Clinton, are they?

HAYES: Yes, I think that's true. I mean, look, they may end up nominating Hillary Clinton. None of us really knows right now. But I think there's a strong case to be made that she is not nearly as strong as Lanny suggests, not nearly as strong as the conventional wisdom holds.

And one of the reasons is that Democrats typically like somebody new and somebody fresh. If you look at Hillary Clinton -- I mean, Lanny makes the case that she has long experience in Washington. I can't think right now honestly of a worst possible qualification, a worse way to make your case to the American people to run in 2016 than to say, Nobody knows Washington, nobody's been in Washington longer than I have.

I think there will be a moment -- we will have a moment on the Democratic side where there is another candidate who makes Hillary Clinton look very vulnerable. We'll have a week or two or maybe longer where we're talking about somebody as a possible -- somebody who will displace Hillary Clinton. And the question is whether that candidate will be viable. If there's a viable alternative to Hillary, I think Hillary loses.

CARLSON: And why not Rachel Maddow?

DAVIS: Really quick comment...

CARLSON: I've been saying that since day one. All right, gentlemen, we are unfortunately out of out of time, but I hope you'll come back. I can't think of anyone better to talk to. Thank you.

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