Democrats Continue to Search for Winning Ticket

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, July 23, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: With all due respect, none of the Democrats running for president so far are setting the world on fire. There are movements out there to draft someone new. Some of the names being kicked around Hillary Clinton (search), General Wesley Clark (search), Tom Brokaw and even actor John Cusack.

Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf is here. He is the president of Sheinkopf Communications. And that is today's big question. Hank, will a surprise candidate emerge to lead the Democrats?

HANK SHEINKOPF, SHEINKOPF COMMUNICATIONS: Not at the moment, John. The president is still doing pretty well in numbers and will probably bounce back. Many guys are going to take that shot.

GIBSON: Your colleague in your business Dick Morris (search), who comments on this network all the time, says Hillary is going to run now. She sees Bush as weak. She cannot afford to let these other Democrats run and win because then she would never be president. And that the conversation within the Clinton family is, “Hill, you've got to make your move now.”

SHEINKOPF: I don't agree with Dick. It's a brilliant argument, as usual with Dick Morris. It is well thought through, but I think what will happen is the Democrats will continue to look weak. Bush will get a bump pretty quick. You are going to have a Republican National Convention next year in New York City, with all kinds of stuff at Ground Zero and jets overhead, patriotic flare will go off. The stock market is doing better. He gets a bump. The Democrats look like fools. Howard Dean (search) moves the party to the left. My betting is that Dick Gephardt (search), John Kerry (search) and Al Sharpton (search) are the three to survive going past the first set of primaries. It is going to be a mess. Why would Sen. Clinton get into a mess when she has a clear shot at the nomination in 2008?

GIBSON: All right, meanwhile, though — I'm not making this up — poor old Tom Brokaw (search ), who we all love, is having to beat off Democratic strategists with a stick. They want him to run, as if he didn't already have his hands full with his present job. Now why would a guy like Tom Brokaw be bandied about?

SHEINKOPF: Why would Michael Bloomberg (search) want to be mayor of New York? Why would Jon Corzine (search ) want to be a senator from New Jersey? Big names or names with money are not bad to have. They are different from the pack, make a different set of arguments, have the ability to get resources quickly, and can run campaigns and don't need to be trained on how to use television.

GIBSON: Actor John Cusack, that's a joke, right?

SHEINKOPF: I hope so. If I were him, I would rather stay in Hollywood. I would not want to hang around… there is a choice between hanging around with the people he hangs around with or the people I hang around with. I would rather hang with the people he hangs with.

GIBSON: He's ahead of the game already. Last night former president and maybe future mayor of New York Bill Clinton was interviewed on television and actually made a couple statements that supported President Bush in the reasoning to go to war. And what president Clinton said is, “Look, I know on the day that I left office there was lots and lots and lots of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq we could not account for. We may have blown them up in our '98 raids. We may not have. We couldn't get in there. We couldn't see. We didn't know. There was real stuff there and it was a real concern.” This appears to, of all things, prop up President Bush's arguments that there were weapons there that we knew about and that this hubbub about uranium cake and so forth is essentially baloney. What do you think about Clinton making that statement? Will it help Bush? Or is Bush's damage already done?

SHEINKOPF: Bush's damage is largely done. The only way Bush gets out of it is, we hope, or the Republicans ought to hope is that they find something somewhere… Clinton doing that probably is a patriotic thing to do. A president is in crisis. The U.S. is still at war. We forget that here in the homeland. We're at war. Protect the president. Right thing to do. But Bush has got some real problems.

GIBSON: This is a little presidential solidarity from the former with the current?

SHEINKOPF: It is trying to be patriotic in a smart way. It's the right thing to do.

GIBSON: But it also sounds like the truth. This is what Clinton says and ...

SHEINKOPF: In politics, we wonder sometimes what truth is. I'm not an expert on truth, but I am on politics. That's what Clinton was doing.

GIBSON: You said that you think Kerry, Gephardt and Sharpton ...

SHEINKOPF: Would be my hunch.

GIBSON: ... survive.


GIBSON: Weird you say Sharpton. Why?

SHEINKOPF: South Carolina primary. Black people, a lot of blacks in the South, large turnout, Sharpton's base vote. He has built an issue that a lot of black Americans respond to called police brutality. If he can extend his argument to populous economics and stir the pot, he has got something.

GIBSON: But why do you have Dean out of the equation?

SHEINKOPF: I think that Dean reminds me of Paul Tsongas (search).... It is going to last a while, but it ain't going to go the distance.

GIBSON: It has got a lot of excitement, raising huge money on the Internet, all that sort of thing.

SHEINKOPF: Okay. Talk to President McCarthy and a whole bunch of others.

GIBSON: All right. Hank Sheinkopf, President of Sheinkopf Communications, a Democratic strategist. Hank, thank you very much for your insights.

SHEINKOPF: Thank you, John.

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