August 5: Larry Sabato Discusses Howard Dean’s Unprecedented Front-runner Position

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, August 5, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

Watch Special Report With Brit Hume weeknights at 6 p.m. ET

BRIT HUME, HOST: Howard Dean (search) appears to have achieved a rare status in American presidential politics, an insurgent candidate who's also a front-runner. It is a remarkable story. And here to help us sort it out is no less an authority on American politics than Professor Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia, who joins us from the university grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Larry, thank you for being here.


HUME: How do you interpret the Dean surge? We have him first now in the polling in Iowa. New Hampshire, he is in the lead, his fund raising has been way up there. You're looking at the Iowa number. It is just a narrow lead over Dick Gephardt (search), two percentage points. But it's a far better showing than, I think, anyone would have imagined a few months ago that he would be making out there over Gephardt, so well known in that state; who's actually carried that state before.

So, how do you interpret this?

SABATO: Brit, it is extraordinary. In the entire modern period, there is actually no precedent for this. Once you have a party with a clump of candidates and no front runner, as the Democrats did for their 2004 field, normally it takes the voting, real voting of some states like Iowa, New Hampshire and others before you sort things out. Well, six months ahead of the voting, we've got a front-runner by all of the measures that we normally use such as polling.

HUME: There is one poll, the national polls he still lags.

SABATO: He lags a little bit. But you mean to Lieberman (search)?

HUME: Yes.

SABATO: Yes. But I don't think that's terribly significant because as an earlier report by Carl Cameron and others pointed out, Lieberman is simply too conservative probably to be nominated by the Democrats. I don't think that that national survey represents anything other than name identification leftover from his 2000 run for vice president.

HUME: So, what do you attribute this to, Dean's surge?

SABATO: I think it is attributed to a couple of things. The first is that Howard Dean has managed to get most of excitement in the field. He's attracted more of the volunteers and the activists. He has raised more money. He clearly has brought to his camp most of the people in the Democratic Party who detest George Bush. And that's what's driving this race.

And also, Brit, you have to say another reason why he is doing so well is because none of the others, none of the other eight are selling. And when none of the other candidates are selling, it's relatively easy for a candidate like Dean, who comes from outside Washington and has all the other at tributes he has, to do well.

HUME: Now, talk to me a little bit about who you think…I mean the question has been raised, can he be stopped? We were talking about that last night on this broadcast. Some thought, well, John Kerry could stop him. How does this appear likely to unfold is he going to get more intense media scrutiny than he's gotten? Has he gotten a pass? What do you think about all that?

SABATO: Well, as you know, timing is everything in politics and sex. And I think his timing is bad. When you emerge as a front-runner many months before the real voting, you're basically declaring open season on yourself. The news media already have assigned a number of big investigative reporters to Howard Dean. They're bound to come up with something. We all know how that process works.

In addition to that, the other candidates are going to gang up on Dean because he is the major problem for them and the Democratic leadership is strongly opposed to Dean because they consider him to be maple-flavored McGovern.

HUME: Then how is this likely to unfold? Do you think he is likely to stumble, then?

SABATO: I think he is going to have some very rough times. But I tell you, if the Democrats remain as angry in their constituent base at George Bush, Howard Dean is going to do well. Whether he gets the nomination or whether he simply…one of the last two or three standing remains to be seen.

HUME: If he falters, who do you think is most likely to benefit?

SABATO: I think then you go back to your standard candidates, Kerry and Gephardt. They're not exciting, but they have the support of most of the leadership in the Democratic Party and most of the basic constituency groups. They will have certain advantages in those early Iowa and New Hampshire events.

HUME: Am I right that you think Lieberman is finished?

SABATO: I think it's going to be very, very tough for him to get nominated. He has got a great general election strategy. But how do you get the nomination?

HUME: What about John Edwards? Does he strike you as having no future either this time?

SABATO: His one shot is spending a great deal of the money he's already raised to go on television in Iowa, New Hampshire, try and raise his numbers. If he can't, he'd be much better off dropping back into his Senate race, running for re-election in North Carolina.

HUME: Do you expect him to do that eventually?

SABATO: I wouldn't be surprised. Either that or he gives up on politics entirely.

HUME: What happens in your view…I mean the conventional wisdom is that, around this town anyway, is that Dean would be in a lot of trouble in a general election. Do you buy that or do you think that might change?

SABATO: If the economy is going hard south and if Iraq is going hard south, maybe any senior Democrat could win. But those are a lot of "ifs." As long as the economy is doing better, as President Bush expects it to, then I think, frankly, Bush will be in a good position against Dean. And Dean will be hard pressed to carry many states.

HUME: Larry Sabato, always a pleasure to have you. Thank you very much.

SABATO: Thank you, Brit.

Click here to order the complete transcript.

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2003 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2003 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.