Review of the Republican Convention and the Dynamic of the 2008 Race Are Changing

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", September 6, 2008, that has been edited for clarity.

MORT KONDRACKE, FOX CO-HOST: Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," it was the Republican's turn in the spotlight this week. We will review the big moment and tell you if the political goals were met.

FRED BARNES, FOX CO-HOST: The dynamics of the race are changing. We will tell who has the upper hand heading into these critical final weeks.

KONDRACKE: The mainstream media is taken to the wood shed for its treatment of the Palin family.

BARNES: Plus, what went right with the federal and local response to Hurricane Gustav.

KONDRACKE: All of that is coming up on "The Beltway Boys" right now.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me just offer an advanced warning to the old big-spending, do-nothing, me-first, country- second crowd, change is coming.


BARNES: I am Fred Barnes.

KONDRACKE: I am Mort Kondracke. We are The Beltway Boys.

Well, the hot story is, back to even. The polls have not fully come out assessing the consequences of Republican convention, but during the convention, Obama's lead went from 8 points, I believe it was, down to four. My guess is that pretty soon it will be down to 0.

I thought that except for Obama's Thursday night extravaganza in the stadium that the Republican convention was just as successful as the Democratic one. And it had fireworks of its own, all in one person, Sarah Palin. She became the story and excitement at the convention and she was.

BARNES: Mort, you got that exactly right. Go back a couple weeks ago. The McCain campaign had picked up some speed. I don't know if it was headed for victory. but it wasn't a very interesting campaign. It was headed into what would be a dreary convention if McCain had picked anybody but Sarah Palin as vice presidential running mate. He picked her. It electrified the party. I think you could say — you may not — the McCain Palin ticket is more interesting and exciting than the Obama-Biden ticket. How about that?

KONDRACKE: You know, I think you could be right. But I still think Obama is the head of the ticket. He is more exciting than McCain. Therefore the Democratic ticket is more exciting.

Let's take a look at what was on the Republican's to-do list and see if it was accomplished. Goal number one, rally the base.

BARNES: Sarah Palin did it a couple ways. She stirred them by being who she is, this conservative, this dynamic figure. star quality she has. So she did it by being on the ticket.

Secondly, the base which is mainly conservative, all of a sudden because McCain picked her, all of the conservatives are more excited about McCain as well.

KONDRACKE: This was almost Sarah Palin's convention more than it was John McCain's convention.

BARNES: What do you mean, almost?

KONDRACKE: Obviously, the delegates whooped it up whenever her name was mentioned even by John McCain. I think if she does as well in the campaign as she did in St. Paul, I think she is the future of the Republican Party. You could paint a scenario where she will break the glass ceiling before any Democratic woman does.

BARNES: I always thought it would be a conservative woman.

KONDRACKE: Item two, build up Palin. She was an unknown last Friday. Now, she's known.

BARNES: She built herself up with that extraordinary speech. In Alaska, you don't get crowds of 20,000 in an arena and 30 million at home watching on television. You get four or five, six hundred people if you're attractive. She really spoke to those people flawlessness, even a little trouble with the teleprompter.

Mort, you and I have given a lot of speeches. We couldn't have done that, what Sarah Palin did. She appealed directly to middle America, particularly to women and zinged Obama a bit.

MORT: I think she is attractive. She is obviously talented. She tough as a pit bull as she identified herself. She is a reformer and she is got a reform record in Alaska. She is a super mom. But she is still not qualified to be president of the United States if, god forbid, something happened to John McCain. and she is very far right. I think too far right for most people in America.

BARNES: Far right isn't very far right actually.

KONDRACKE: It is. Item three put the emphasis back on Obama and lack of his experience.

Here is Palin hammering that point on Wednesday.


GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is much to like and admire about our opponents but listening to him speak it's easy to forget this is a man who authored two memoirs but not a single major law or even a reform, not even in the state senate.


BARNES: I love Sarah Palin zingers. The Obama campaign hasn't figured out how to respond to her. At one point, right after that speech, the next day, Barack Obama was pointing out he's much more tested and has more experience. After all, he has been campaigning for 19 months and she had only been campaigning for four-days.

Mort, there's a word for that argument, pathetic.

KONDRACKE: But it happens to be true.

BARNES: Oh, please.

KONDRACKE: Just a second. Just a second. He is the United States Senator and he has been running for president and he has been debating national international issues with the likes of John Edwards and Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, who, the most powerful political machine in the country, that he defeated. She has done what she has done in Alaska. It's not nothing. It's considerable but she is not ready to be president.

BARNES: All of those things that Obama has done, so has Dennis Kucinich. He has done all that. You think he's ready?

KONDRACKE: He didn't get the nomination. I am not claiming that Obama has a record by John McCain's record. That's not the issue between them. The issue is do you want a new kind of economy. That's the basic issue.

Fourth item on the GOP list, tell John McCain's story.

BARNES: Well, look, I think this — if anything, this convention did, was it told John McCain's story as a POW, Fred Thompson did. McCain talked about it some himself. The point was a simple one. McCain has the character and courage to be our commander-in-chief and perhaps Obama doesn't.

Sarah Palin came at it a different way. She compared McCain's bio to Obama's and Biden's. Watch.


PALIN: Though both Senator Obama and Biden have been going on lately about how they are always, quote, "fighting for you." Let us face the matter squarely. There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you.


BARNES: In case you didn't know. His name is John McCain. It sounded pretty great.

KONDRACKE: I know. All of those lines were great. Most people know, in general, the McCain story of his captivity in prison. I don't think anybody realized all the harrowing details of that. I think they, laid out the way they were by Thompson, and McCain himself, I think they really do speak to McCain's sterling character.

I think it's also important that McCain's record as a maverick and reformer who has ticked off any number of interests, including a lot of people in his own party.

BARNES: Including me.

KONDRACKE: Which is why he didn't get the nomination in 2000. He had offended so many people that all of the regulars naturally went to George Bush in 2006, which, by the way, Sarah Palin zinged the rest of the Republicans for him.

Here's a quote on that one. Watch


MCCAIN: I don't mind a good fight. For reasons known only to God I have had quite a few tough ones in my life. But I've learned an important lesson along the way. In the end, it matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the real test.


KONDRACKE: So item number five is put distance between McCain and President Bush.

BARNES: Democrats say McCain has to do this over and over again, that he is the third term of the Bush administration. That was one of the criticisms of his acceptance speech is he didn't do enough of that. That is total nonsense. Everybody knows — you've spelled it out here, Mort, how different McCain is from Bush. They are both Republicans. They are reasonably conservative but it's quite different. Everybody knows it. He doesn't need to dwell on it. He shouldn't. It would be defensive if he did that.

KONDRACKE: The way the Republicans did it, deftly in St. Paul, was to ignore Bush. He was practically invisible. He was more of a presence at the Democratic convention in Denver than he was at the Republican convention in St. Paul.

BARNES: Certainly, Bush was mentioned a lot more.

KONDRACKE: Exactly. The GOP's final goal was focused on the McCain agenda. Both McCain and Obama's acceptance speeches were largely State of the Union kind of long strings out of policy proposals concluding with great reparations. In Obama's case, it was Martin Luther King. In McCain's case, it was the Vietnam story and his love for America.

I still think McCain missed an opportunity to connect his economic program with ordinary workers and show them how their lives will be better under his kind of program than Obama's program or Bush's program for that matter.

BARNES: Mort, it's funny you should say that because that's what Barack Obama said. Watch?


OBAMA: So they spend a lot of time trying to run me down and not necessarily telling the truth. What they didn't talk about is you, and what you are seeing in your lives, and what you are going through or your friends or neighbors are going through.


BARNES: I wanted to add one more thing to this question you haven't asked, but you certainly touched on it. That is, what about if something happened to John McCain early in his presidency, would I be frightened? Should people be frightened about Sarah Palin stepping in?


BARNES: The answer is, compared to Joe Biden, the answer is absolutely no. Here's why, Mort. Some of the reasons you said, she is poised, strong, tough. Unlike Joe Biden, she hasn't been wrong on every foreign policy issue for the last 30 years, whether it was Vietnam, Contras, Iraq, the Gulf War, the guy that wanted the partition — look, all those things. You don't agree with Joe Biden. You know he's been a flop.

KONDRACKE: I don't agree with her.

BARNES: With him.

KONDRACKE: But she is not ready to be president.

BARNES: You would prefer Senator Wrong?

BARNES: I will be praying every day for John McCain's health.

Coming up, how the media and left wing bloggers dropped the bomb on the Palin pregnancy story. We will be right back.



BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Let's check out our "Ups and Downs" for the week.

Down, the mainstream media. Left wing bloggers drove the rumor that Bristol Palin was the mother of Sarah Palin's recent child. It was the mainstream media that ran with it.

Mort, we have been newspaper reporters for years. We know what you are supposed to do with a rumor. That is, check it out. You don't go with it. That's the problem with so many of the rumors the mainstream media reported. They all turned out to be true. That is unprofessional.

The second problem with the mainstream media is, I think they applied a double standard of digging into Sarah Palin's life in a way they wouldn't do for a liberal or a Democratic woman.

KONDRACKE: Look, it is the job of the media to give every national candidate a full frisk. They had to do it fast. I don't deny a lot of our colleagues hoping there were deep, dark secrets she would turn out to be Tom Eagleton or Geraldine Ferraro. Look at what the media did to Obama, but had a longer time to do it. Explored is he a Christian? Where did that come from? That came from right ring bloggers and e-mailers that are still at work alleging he's a Muslim. They have checked out the Jeremiah Wright story, which proved to be a valid story. Does Michelle Obama love America? That's another story they pursued. The Tony Rezko story...

BARNES: But they haven't done much on William Ayers. There's still a lot to do on him. KONDRACKE: The Chicago Tribune has done a lot on William Ayers.

BARNES: How about the rest of the media?

KONDRACKE: William Ayers is going to get his moment, too. That is all going to be sifted before this is...

BARNES: When? After November 4th.

KONDRACKE: No, before.

BARNES: Up, Rudy Giuliani. if he — well, he delivered plenty of red meat for the Republican faithful in his keynote speech where he painted Obama as the least experienced candidate for the White House in 100 years. Watch.


RUDY GIULIANI, (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: He has never run a city. He has never run a state. He has never run a business. He has never run a military unit. He has never had to lead people in crisis. Not a personal attack, a statement of fact. Barack Obama has never led anything, nothing, nada.


BARNES: That guy knows how to do it. He whips the folks up.

KONDRACKE: My problem with that speech, great as it was as an attack, was that nada was almost the entire attention paid at this Republican convention to Hispanics. The Hispanic word meaning nothing. Hispanics are the largest growing group of minority citizens in America. George Bush paid a lot of attention to them. Got 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. Right now, John McCain, before the convention, was running at 30. He can't win with 30 percent of the Hispanic vote.

BARNES: So your problem was insufficient pandering?

KONDRACKE: No. I want the Republican Party to address issues.

BARNES: The Republicans need to pay attention to Hispanics. I agree with you, Mort, on that, but not for the same reason. Hispanics are interested in national security and taxes and all of that, too.

KONDRACKE: Yes, pay attention.

BARNES: Coming up, how the Democratic Party is responding to Joe Lieberman's star turn in St. Paul.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." We are continuing with the "Ups and Downs."

Up, Independent Senator Joe Lieberman. The Senate Democratic leadership has already put him on notice that there will be quote-unquote, "repercussions" for his speaking at the GOP convention this week.

Somehow we think Lieberman doesn't mind. Here he is Tuesday night.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I), CONNECTICUT: I want to ask you, whether you are Independent, a Reagan Democrat, a Clinton Democrat or just a plain old Democrat, this year when you vote for president vote, for the person you believe is best for our country, not for the party you happen to be long to.


KONDRACKE: You know Joe Lieberman is one of my favorite politicians. This is the kind of reason why. He says what he thinks and he does what he thinks is right regardless of the consequences. He represents, on foreign policy, the tradition of John F. Kennedy and FDR and Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman. The Democratic Party left him over a rock. He didn't leave the party.

BARNES: That was one wonderful speech. I thought it was very effective. He had that line, that traveling with Senator Lindsay Graham. I tried to explain to Brit Hume, when you get McCain, Graham and Lieberman together, they are the three amigos and they act like teenage boys, they're having such a good time together. It's amazing.

Up, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. They are getting high marks for their coordination with FEMA and other federal agencies both before and after Hurricane Gustav.

Think about this, Mort, a minute. If Bobby Jindal had been governor of Louisiana in 2005 and Ray Nagin, who was mayor of New Orleans then, had gotten all of the people out of New Orleans, again as he did when Gustav came, it would have been completely different.

I am not excusing President Bush and FEMA for the poor job they did, but the whole thing would have been completely different if we had Jindal in place of Governor Blanco and the new Ray Nagin ahead of the old one.

KONDRACKE: Well, everybody learned from Katrina and we are at pains to avoid the same process. But I agree that, if Jindal had been governor of Louisiana in 2005, everything would have been different. And he would be the — John McCain's running mate instead of this whacko right winger.

Don't go anywhere. "The Buzz" is coming up next.


KONDRACKE: What's "The Buzz," Fred?

BARNES: I want to tell you about a story about the woman you call a whacko right winger, or sometimes refer to her as just that woman. Who I think is probably — I am probably more conservative than she is. I think Ronald Reagan was, too.

When I was leaving St. Paul, at the airport, I talked to a couple of Republican delegates, a man and his wife. I talked about how I thought Sarah Palin did a good job at the convention and really boosted the McCain campaign. I noticed, when I was talking to the woman, a tear was streaming down her face. Sarah Palin's nomination as McCain's running mate is an emotional thing for Republican women, and I think a lot of other women, and a lot of conservatives. I have seen nothing like it.

KONDRACKE: I see a tear running down your face.

BARNES: I wasn't wearing the Palin badge you gave me. I wasn't wearing it.

KONDRACKE: Look, one of the things I heard in Denver from Democrats and heard again from Republicans, lots of Republicans in St. Paul is how much better the Obama campaign is prepared for the ground game of this election. Voter I.D., get out the vote preparation, field offices, all that kind of stuff, to the point where the Obama campaign might equal the Bush juggernaut of 2004.

That's all for "The Beltway Boys" this week. Join us for next week when the boys will be back in town.

Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday at 1 and 6 a.m. ET

Content and Programming Copyright 2008 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC (, 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, LLC'S and ASC LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.