Presidential Campaign Update

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, September 1, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: Labor Day is the traditional kickoff point for a presidential campaign. That's Labor Day of the election year, not off year, which this is. But this year it's already well underway and to discuss the state of this well-advanced race, we're pleased to be joined by Michael Barone, senior writer at U.S. News & World Report and co-author, once again, of the Almanac of Americana Politics 2004 Edition.

Welcome Michael and congratulations on the new book.

MICHAEL BARONE, SENIOR WRITER, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Well, thanks Brit. It's out, available and on the web as well.

HUME: Tell me about this race. Obviously so far there's no challenger to President Bush (search), perhaps not likely to be. So, we have a Democratic field and only a Democratic field. How do you assess it?

BARONE: Well, I think the big story that's happened this summer is the…is the shooting up in support for Howard Dean (search), the former governor of Vermont. I mean he was basically unknown at the beginning of this year. At the beginning of the year, he was traveling without a staff aide because they could only afford one airplane ticket. Now he raised more money than any other candidate in the second quarter. He looks likely to do that in the third quarter, which will end at the end of this month.

And he's been leading in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. And in a recent Zogby poll, in New Hampshire by a leads of 38 percent to 17 percent for John Kerry, who is from next-door Massachusetts.

HUME: And that's, of course, marks a striking…we see it there on the screen now…a striking turnaround from the poll results that were shown back in June. And a complete reversal of the results back in February when Kerry was ahead of Dean 2 to 1. Now it is Dean ahead of Kerry by more than 2 to 1.

In your view, and of course it is still early, we keep saying that, is the Dean phenomenon something that's likely to fade? Or is he clearly going to be in this till the end and perhaps win it?

BARONE: Well, any candidate can stumble and make mistakes. So that is always an open possibly. But I think what's winning Dean's support, when you talk to the people in the crowds, this is what you hear. He has come out very strongly against George W. Bush. He opposed the United States military action in Iraq. And he speaks with a sort of contempt for George W. Bush. He makes fun of him for being inarticulate and so forth. The crowds love that.

There is a large number of I think people that can be called Bush haters in the Democratic Party and among core Democrats and they have identified clearly with Howard Dean. It's the content of his message, but it is also the tone in which he delivers it that strikes a cords with these people. And he has clearly establish add tie with a lot of people around the country.

HUME: Let's talk about the others in the field. And it looks as if Joseph Lieberman (search), who still continues to do very well in national polls of Democrats, but who is doing poorly in Iowa and the polling there, poorly in New Hampshire now. There are people now who are saying that he really has nowhere to go. He talks about South Carolina, which is an early state. How do you assess Joseph Lieberman's situation?

BARONE: Well, Joseph Lieberman is in a sense running against the grain of core Democrats. He was a strong supporter of the military action in Iraq and he has continued to be strong in his support of that. And criticized other Democrats, including some of the senators who voted for the Iraq war resolution, but have criticized President Bush's handling of it.

Joseph Lieberman is hoping to find a centrist Democratic constituency in South Carolina or in Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico that vote on February 3. Not clear whether or not he is going to be able to do that because there are other Democrats looking to those states as well. John Edwards (search) the senator from North Carolina.

HUME: So far he doesn't seem to have made a dent, has he?

BARONE: He has not made very much of a dent. You know, I used to call him the campaign consultant's candidate. He ran his race for Senate in North Carolina in 1998 and he dazzled the campaign consultants with his ability to speak in the language of ordinary people, his charm and articulateness. Those qualities have been on display here but they don't seem to be terrifically in demand among Democratic primary voters.

He has been putting up ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, I believe but, you now, people are looking for some…Democratic voters seem to be looking for red meat criticism of George W. Bush and he hasn't connected with that.

HUME: Where does all this now leave John Kerry, who on paper for a time, looked to be kind of a model candidate? He has military experience. So far, no one else in the Democratic field does. Attractive experience, well qualified...

BARONE: Well, Dick Gephardt (search) served in the National Guard, I believe.

HUME: Right. So, question here. What about Kerry?

BARONE: Well, if you talk to sort of, you know, wise Democratic heads in Washington or among the fund-raising community a year ago today, they were all saying, well, Kerry's probably the strongest candidate. Yes. We think we'll go with him. That's where the party is going to go. He obviously has attracted some support, but you know, he is now…he was leading Howard Dean, and leading the other candidates in New Hampshire polls where he is familiar. You know, two-thirds of New Hampshire gets Boston television. But he hasn't really gone so far.

And the military credential, his combat service, awarded medals for valor in Vietnam, I'm not sure if that's very relevant to voters. You know, we're...

HUME: Seem to be Democratic voters.

BARONE: Well, we're farther away in history from John Kerry's military service in Vietnam than John Kerry's military service in Vietnam was from Pearl Harbor. It is a long time ago. And I'm not sure that the Democratic primary voters care that much about it.

HUME: Dick Gephardt also looked on paper like a strong entry in all this. He seems to be struggling. What is that all about?

BARONE: Well, Dick Gephardt has strong support among many labor unions, but not all of them. He hasn't gotten the two-thirds…failed to get the two-thirds necessary for the AFL-CIO (search) endorsement in August. He is going to try again in October when they meet. He's got a record on issues like trade that appeals to them. He supported the President Bush in the Iraq war resolution strongly back in October...

HUME: That's a problem for him now, isn't it?

BARONE: It's a problem for him…that disqualifies him for some of these Democratic primary voters who are for some of these activists. I mean Dick Gephardt hopes that he can win Iowa as he did in 1988 if he can get people to the caucuses. And I think it is really a question of whether he can get those sort of labor union members and retirees and the blue collar and older vote that he tends to appeal to. Will they come out on a cold January night? Or will they be outnumbered by the anti-war people, people that have been connected up by the Internet and who are voting for Howard Dean?

HUME: Quickly. Is there anybody in the rest of the field, all of whom are making very little dent in polls that you think might have a shot at emerging here?

BARONE: Well, Bob Graham, the senator from Florida, I think is a possibility. Florida votes fairly early in the process. That's one state that he may stay in to try and win. But he, like Lieberman and Edwards, has to score somewhere on the February 3 contest, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico. They can't all score well.

HUME: That's emerged now as kind of a make or break moment for a lot of candidates. Isn't it?

BARONE: That is a make-or-break moment for a lot of candidates. I think Dick Gephardt can stay in the race if he loses Iowa. He will say I can do well in South Carolina if I can get the endorsement of Congressman Jim Clyburn, the black member of Congress in South Carolina. I can do well in Michigan, which is an early voting state, this time with the United Auto Workers...

HUME: But Edwards really needs that one, doesn't he?

BARONE: Edwards needs South Carolina. It is next door to his home state, he grew up in…he was born in South Carolina. If he can't win in South Carolina, I think it's going to be tough for him.

HUME: All right. Michael Barone, great to have you. Thanks for coming in.

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