Hot Stories for the Week of July 19 - 23

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", July 24, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Hot story number one, Kerryville, by which I mean, of course, Boston, where we are now, and where the Democratic National Convention (search) will begin on Monday.

And here is how John Kerry, Mort, here's how John Kerry tried to drum up excitement for the convention in a speech last Friday or just yesterday in Roher, Colorado. Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is something in America for everyone to do to help build community. There's so much work to be done in our nation, and that's why I'm here, that's why I'm running for president, and that's why, in six days, I'm going to take your hopes and your dreams to Boston with me. And together we're going to build a stronger America, one that is respected again.


BARNES: Well, are you excited? I didn't think so.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: That wasn't bad.

BARNES: Look, I think there is something missing from the Kerry candidacy. Now, he has run a great campaign, a brilliant campaign. He's had no serious mistakes. He's run great ads, better than the Bush's ads. I think he's concentrated on the right issue, his most vulnerable issue, national security.

But I don't think Kerry has caught on. I don't think he's connected with voters. And maybe he can do something about that in his speech on Thursday night to the Democratic convention. Millions of people will watch it who've never really heard Kerry before. I think he has to show warmth, I think he has to show some humor, and I think he has to show a bit of the common touch.

We've never seen those things from him before. Now, you know, given all the troubles that George Bush has had, I think Kerry ought to be ahead right now in this race, but he's not, and ... when you look at these Fox polls, you'll see that he's tied at 44-all in the head-to-head matchup with George Bush. And Bush, however, has the intensity edge, 76 percent of Bush voters support the president strongly, while only 60 percent of Kerry voters say they strongly support him.

Of course, that is up 13 points since last month.

KONDRACKE: Well, but that, that tie in the, in the score...


KONDRACKE: ... represents a 6-point gain for John Kerry since the, since the, the end of June. But I think that Kerry is on to some very good messages. I mean, he wants to build one America, for example. And I think this country is tired of being divided, not united.

Also, there's a, there's the, the theme of, which is the slogan of the convention, that he wants to make us stronger at home and respected abroad. And I, you know, I think that's a positive message. It is not pessimistic, the way Bush keeps, keeps saying it is.

Now, it, if, if anybody could actually get into this convention, because the, the security is so horrendous...

BARNES: Now, now.

KONDRACKE: ... that you, that you can't...

BARNES: Now, now, Mort.

KONDRACKE: ... that you can't get in, and he gets nominated, I think he get, you know, he'll get a, something like a 10-point bump.

But according to the latest Fox News poll, 45 percent think, of people think that Kerry would do a better job handling the economy, 39 percent think, think that Bush would. President Bush does have the lead when it comes to the war on terror, which is his signature issue. Fifty percent say that he'd do a better job there, 35 percent say that Kerry would do a better job.

And when asked who would do a better job on the country's, quote unquote, "moral climate," Kerry, Bush beats Kerry by, by 12 points.

BARNES: ... Mort, you just love these polls. Are you sure you don't have any more polls?

KONDRACKE: As a matter of fact, I do, one more. When you, when asked, who shares the values of average Americans? Kerry leads, Kerry and Edwards lead Bush and Cheney by 4 points.

BARNES: Jeez, well, I'm, I'm sorry I asked.

KONDRACKE: OK, now, the, the, the second hot story is showing some ankle. And by that, I'm referring to, to President Bush, who finally has told us something about what, what a second term might look like, at least a little bit of it. Here, watch from this fundraiser that happened last Thursday.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: During the next four years, we'll help more citizens to own their health plan, to own a piece of their retirement, to own their own home or their own small business. We will usher in a new era of ownership in America with an agenda to help all our citizens save and build and invest so every person owns a part of the American dream.


KONDRACKE: Well, you know, on the merits, I think that this is, that this is quite a good message. I mean, we've got to move from a, from a consumer society to a savings and investment society. And this idea that, that you would own your own Social Security or health plan and stuff like that, I think is a good idea.


KONDRACKE: But it requires a lot of explaining...

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... on Bush's part, and, and a lot of selling. And right now, Bush's approval rating in the Fox News poll is, is only 47 percent, which is, which isn't good.


BARNES: He's got conservative ideas, though. I'm surprised you like them. So they, they are conservative. Mort, did you say at long last Bush is revealing what his second term might be like?


BARNES: Mort, this is July.


BARNES: The, I mean, the election's not until November 2. He has a back loaded campaign. I think you're going to be, see him unloading a lot of surprises as the campaign, as we get near November 2.

KONDRACKE: OK, well...

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