Will the VP performances affect the election?

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel sounds off


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," October 4, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: About two hours from now we will start our coverage, and inside the debate hall they are just starting to get ready. There you see the set for the vice presidential debate tonight. The latest polls in this race are the average of polls. The FOX index, if you will, has Hillary Clinton with a 2.2 point lead over Donald Trump, and that includes some polls out today and yesterday.

Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; Ed O'Keefe, reporter with The Washington Post; Tucker Carlson, host of "Fox & Friends Weekend," and we welcome Phil Musser, chairman of IMGE and former senior adviser to Mike Pence. Gentlemen, thanks for being here.

Phil, let me start with you. This is Mike Pence's big night. He likes to say he is vanilla. But what about tonight? What will he do?

PHIL MUSSER, IMGE CHAIRMAN: I think he will be more than vanilla. But this is a second reintroduction for Mike Pence to America. Most of America doesn't really know who Governor Pence is, but he has a chance to really talk about what he has done in the Congress. I suspect he will talk about his foreign policy experience in the Congress, his leadership in the Congress and someone who knows how to make Washington work.

And he has got a terrific track record in the state of Indiana growing the economy, balancing the budget, really investing in education. And so his job tonight I think will be to show that he is the steady second hand to Donald Trump who can help him bring the real change that Trump is talking about.

BAIER: Traditionally what trips him up?

MUSSER: Traditionally what trips up Mike Pence? I think I'm going to have to duct that question, Bret.

BAIER: I know. I thought I would ask it.

MUSSER: I think this is a big moment. And I think Pence is ready. He has practiced, been methodical. They've got a plan they've executed well. He's got a good team of advisors around him. Being there, ready, I'm watching the pivot.

BAIER: If Donald Trump answered that question he would just head on say something trips him up. The pivot. Ed, what do you think, fiery? What is tonight?

ED O'KEEFE, WASHINGTON POST: You know, I hope there is at least a little conversation about issues. But I do think both of these guys have a fair amount of work to introduce themselves to the crowd that may show up and tune in. I'm struck by, I think now, four polls in the last few days that suggest at least 35 percent of Americans don't know one of these two guys. Pence actually is better known than Kaine. And, you know, both of them I think have some explaining to do.

Look, the nation is on the verge of either electing the oldest guy or the second oldest person ever elected president. And I think Americans have a bit of a responsibility to be aware of who the number two could be in the event that something were to happen. Their doctors claim they are in great health. Look, take that with a grain of salt in both cases, perhaps. But it's worth considering that possibility tonight.

BAIER: Steve, your thoughts?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes. I think Mike Pence will turn his attacks toward Hillary Clinton which is typical of a vice presidential debate. That's what they have been doing in debate prep. Scott Walker has been playing Tim Kaine, apparently insisting on being in character the entire time. When Mike Pence walks in, Scott Walker sticks out his hand as Tim Kaine.

BAIER: Think of the energy and intensity in that room. Scott Walker, Mike Pence head to head.

HAYES: Going at it. So Pence will turn his attacks to Hillary Clinton. But I also think he has an opportunity here to make conservatives who are uncomfortable with Donald Trump more comfortable with Donald Trump. Mike Pence is a conservative. He speaks the language of conservatives. He doesn't need focus groups to remember what to say to conservatives. This comes naturally to him. I think what he hopes to do is put people at ease who have concerns about Donald Trump and his ideology and his philosophy.

BAIER: What about Tim Kaine, Tucker? He will be on the attack obviously trying to link Pence with Trump and probably go after temperament again and again and again?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: I mean, is he going to try to tie Pence to Trump. The whole debate is going to be that. And that is exactly the moment that Pence gets tripped up because he has to defend Trump both because he's the subordinate partner in this relationship, of course. That's why it's tough to be the V.P. But because also Trump demands that. Trump wants to be defended by his V.P. And Pence wins if takes it to 35,000. He is an ideologue as Steve said. He's a former talk show host. He's a frequent guest or used to be on talk shows. He is he a good debater. But if he pulls it up and says, look, the country is a mess, and that's why you are even considering voting for Trump in the first place, and your running mate, Hillary Clinton, is part of the reason. If he can keep it there, he wins. If they are down in the weeds defending this or that comment from Trump that is not good.

HAYES: There is an interesting moment the day after the last debate where Mike Pence appeared on FOX, on America's Newsroom and did an interview, and he said this is not so much about candidate versus candidate as it is differing visions, which is an interesting way to frame it. It's not a way that a typical vice presidential candidate would frame it. I thought it was interesting. I think that the Clinton campaign is going to try to make it about candidate versus candidate and separate Pence from Trump and say, look, Mike Pence, you're reasonable, you're conservative, but you're not crazy, and that guy over there that you are defending is crazy.

BAIER: Over/under the Tim Kaine speak Spanish?

MUSSER: Over/under, I think Tim Kaine could throw in some Spanish there, yes. I think he will try to make it essentially Mike-Trump, I totally agree with that. And I'm interested to see how the moderation in this debate works, too. You moderated a lot of debates, obviously. We saw with Lester Holt, a real hands-off approach. It will be interesting to see how the moderator let's these two candidates go. Does she really jump in and try and essentially litigate the rules and keep them in lanes, or, frankly, do we have much more unscripted exchange?

BAIER: A lot of people don't know Elaine Quijano with CBS. She's a great lady. I've worked with her a number of times at the White House and other places. I expect her to do well, but she is not well known either. So Ed, the challenge --

O'KEEFE: Big cast of unknowns. What is it, 25.6 million is the number to beat. That was the least watched V.P. debate back in 96, the Gore-Kemp exchange.

BAIER: You are not doing anything for us here on the tease.


O'KEEFE: And then 70 million was the Biden-Palin exchange.

CARLSON: How do you know that?

O'KEEFE: I do my homework.

BAIER: Besides Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle, and Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, can --

CARLSON: Geraldine Ferraro.

BAIER: But were there moments that moved the needle?

CARLSON: I actually think this could because, look, what does the Trump campaign need? It needs a kind of intellectual framework to explain what it's about. And the candidate is spotty at doing that at best, and I think Pence potentially could be pretty good.

MUSSER: I think he has really got the opportunity to reframe this in a pretty fundamental way. Turning the discussion that's been nonstop, nonstop, nonstop over the past week on just the one issue of taxes, here is a chance for the campaign to turn the corner, have a fresh start coming into Sunday. And I think Mike Pence is going to step up and do the job. He is ready.

BAIER: Change, change, change. That's where he keeps heading?

HAYES: I think so.

MUSSER: Change.

O'KEEFE: If all he is doing is shoring up conservative concern with this ticket, what does that tell you? That there is really no room for growth here. There wasn't much growth last week, necessarily. Maybe her numbers came back and doubts were assuaged. But if all is he doing tonight is reassuring Republicans, that's not much of a sign of the campaign.

HAYES: But it's something that needs to be done. He's still not getting - -

O'KEEFE: That's the point. How ironic that that is what he has to do tonight. He has to appeal to the base.

BAIER: I bet they are trying not to make news. That's my bet, but we will see. Gentlemen, thank you.

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