This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Sept. 7, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: John Kerry has eight weeks to make up the ground he's lost to President Bush in the polls. Can he do it?
Let's ask John McCain's former Campaign Manager Rick Davis and Democratic Strategist Jenny Backus. They're both in Washington.
Jenny, from the Democrats' point of view, what does Kerry have to do?
JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think John Kerry's doing exactly what he needs to do which is to start to raise the question about George Bush's failed leadership.
GIBSON: In what department?
BACKUS: Well, everyone wants to flip the paradigm here, including the President of the United States. He ran an entire convention that was more negative attacks on his Democratic opponent than in defense of his own record. This is a referendum on George Bush's failed leadership and John Kerry's ability to step into the shoes as commander in chief.
And I think John Kerry did a fantastic job of that during his convention. The Republicans freaked out, went very heavy negative against John Kerry in August, probably played their best card. And now, he's got the President of the United States on the stump. He doesn't have anything to say about what's happening in Iraq, he doesn't have anything to say about outsourcing. All he's compelled to say is something negative about John Kerry.
GIBSON: Rick Davis, that isn't my impression of what George Bush has to say about Iraq. He says it was right to take Saddam Hussein out. Glad we did it.
BACKUS: What about the catastrophic success or I miscalculated in Iraq?
RICK DAVIS, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR JOHN MCCAIN: These two candidates took different approaches at their conventions. John Kerry took the approach that he was going to fight the old fight of Vietnam all over again and spoke most about Vietnam and hardly anything about Iraq. George Bush's convention took that head-on and said, "You know what? We do believe Iraq is at the center of this campaign and we're going to talk to you about it."
And John McCain and Rudy Giuliani and even Arnold Schwarzenegger all touch on the themes that dealt directly with Iraq and obviously their convention became a war of wars. And George Bush won the war, as said so by the people who vote and the reasons that George Bush has the momentum today.
And Kerry is now trying to rewrite history by saying, "Oh, and now I'm against the war."
GIBSON: Rick, I think we see Jenny doing what a lot of people say John Kerry's got to do and that is attack. He's been not quite up to the attack game throughout August, and as you've just seen Jenny attacking George Bush. Is that what Kerry has to do?
DAVIS: Well, I think you're right. I think Jenny's doing a much better job than John Kerry is. John Kerry's a candidate who has not been able to find his voice. And I think Kerry has to sort of get his back up against the wall. Well, guess what? Eight weeks and his back has got to be up against the wall.
And every day now that he does not go on the offensive, every day now that he changes his position on another issue to try and meet the most recent polling data that his advisers give him is a day that he's going to look like another weak candidate. It just doesn't sell.
GIBSON: OK. Jenny, I'm going to give you your shot here.
I said you have effectively gone on the attack in this very interview. Isn't that what your candidate has to do?
BACKUS: First of all, I think we need to have a candidate that can show the voters of this country that they care about the issues that they care about and that they'll lead and that they'll produce results. And I think if you call it an attack, or...
GIBSON: What's the lead on Iraq?
BACKUS: What's the lead on Iraq? This is a commander in chief who's going to get us allies...
GIBSON: No, no, no. What is John Kerry's lead on Iraq? How would he lead on Iraq?
BACKUS: I just said he's going to have a plan to figure out when to pull the troops out. He's going to have a plan on how to strengthen the country. He's going to have a plan on making sure that veterans, when they come home from Iraq, have health care.
GIBSON: Can you tell me what those plans are?
BACKUS: I just did tell what you they are.
DAVIS: What we heard today was, he's going to pull the troops out of Iraq in four years. Does that mean in four years, he's going to give it over to a dictator or to chaos, or is he going to have settled the domestic...
BACKUS: But what is George Bush's plan on Iraq?
DAVIS: I think the approach is we're going to stay there until we got a working democracy that...
BACKUS: George Bush has had four different positions on Iraq.
DAVIS: Look, we've had troops in South Korea for 40 years. Now, do you think that's been the wrong thing to do? Would you have thrown the president out if he had said, "Hey, we're going to stay there until we've got a functioning democracy?
BACKUS: I just brought up Korea.
DAVIS: I think those are kinds of things the American public are willing to say, "Look, we're in it for stability. There's no more unstable place in the world in the Middle East and we've got a foothold there and the people of Iraq deserve a democracy.
GIBSON: Jenny, I give you a shot. What's the plan?
BACKUS: The plan is very clear. The plan is to have allies go in and help us with the burden there.
GIBSON: How are you going to get the allies to do that?
BACKUS: You're going to have a different president who keeps their promises...
GIBSON: That'll do it?
BACKUS: ... that shows leadership, that doesn't change position four nights -- hold on, John. John, give me one second.
GIBSON: But Jenny, are you really saying that John Kerry's position is a change of face brings allies on board?
BACKUS: I absolutely think that's true.
BACKUS: Look at George Bush. He changed his face four times during this convention. First it was a catastrophic success. Then we can't really win the war on terror. Then I miscalculated on the war on terror. President Bush went into this war without a plan for peace. We're at $200 billion and counting. Those are the numbers that we should be talking about today.
Or how about the record number of jobs that have been lost?
GIBSON: Rick, would you recommend to George Bush that he stand pat on Iraq?
DAVIS: Absolutely. I mean look, Iraq is a must-win situation.
BACKUS: What's his position?
DAVIS: Iraq is a situation where if you want world peace, if you want to win the fight on global terrorism, you have to make Iraq work. And you can't give some artificial deadline that says, "Hey look, in four years, no matter what's going on in Iraq, I'm pulling troops out." That's irresponsible.
BACKUS: John, would you do me a favor?
DAVIS: And that's a bad commander in chief.
BACKUS: John, do me one favor and ask Rick the same question. What is George Bush's position on Iraq? What does he want to do?
GIBSON: When you guys meet in the hall, you go ahead and ask him.
Rick Davis, Jenny Backus, thanks to both of you for coming on.
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