This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from February 1, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Under No Child Left Behind, was supported by George Bush and Senator Ted Kennedy and everybody in between. Why? Because they didn't talk to enough teachers before they did it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, GUEST HOST: There was former President Bill Clinton on the stump talking about education and taking aim at Senator Ted Kennedy, who, of course, endorsed Barack Obama.
What about Bill Clinton's role on the campaign and how the Clinton campaign is doing? Let's take a quick look at some FOX News opinion dynamics polls just out today.
There you see Clinton at 47 percent — this is nationally — over Obama at 37 percent, who has closed the gap in about a month, but, obviously, still is trailing Senator Clinton.
Some analytical observations about all of this from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX News contributors all.
Charles, let's start with you. Are you surprised to hear President Clinton go after Ted Kennedy in this way? And what about the relationship between the Clintons and the Democratic establishment after this campaign?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, you look at the clip, and you know that he can't help himself. As one would put it, they put a leash on Bill Clinton and he's chewing through the leather. He just can't stop, and for him, this is personal, it really is.
Democrats are surprised, particularly in Washington, why would a guy sacrifice his legacy to become an attack dog? Well, he knows that his problem is what he is sacrificing here is just popularity, which for him is cheap. He loses it. He gets it. He got it after the Monica scandal, he got it back. He got it after the pardon scandal.
He will get it back after this election if he wants. A smile and a lachrymose speech, he'll be OK.
But he cares about his legacy. What really hurt him is the Obama statement that Reagan had a consequential presidency and Clinton did not. It hurt Bill Clinton because he knows it is true. He was a president in the '90's when not a lot happened, it was between the cold war and 9/11.
And what he wants a second chance. The only way he gets it is if he sacrifices temporary popularity now, helps his wife to get elected. He becomes the co-president, in which case he would have dominated American politics out of the White House for a quarter century. That would be a legacy.
And that is what all of this is about. It is all about him, as always.
BAIER: Mort, are we witnessing an effort to split the Democratic Party?
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Well, I mean, I think Bill Clinton did some damage in splitting the white from the blacks in the party, that's for sure.
This statement of Bill Clinton's truly reprehensible. Among all the statements of Bill Clinton — Bill Clinton used to be an education reformer. He was a believer in accountability and testing and all that.
When he was Governor of Arkansas, he put through a system whereby teachers in order to get jobs had to take a qualifying test. He is pulling this stunt and siding with the Teacher's Union ahead of the kids solely to get back at Teddy Kennedy. That's what it is all about, and it should be seen in that light.
But the fact is that the Washington establishment is divided on this. He is not — the Washington establishment is not turning against Bill Clinton, if you count members of Congress as Washington establishment.
Hillary is actually ahead among — Roll Call keeps a list of this, and the count now is Hillary has 12 Senators an 76 House members, an Obama has eight senators an 52 House members. So she's still ahead.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I could listen all afternoon to Mort trashing Bill Clinton. Very good, Mort. Reprehensible, I agree. And if you want to return to that theme at any time, I will defer — truly reprehensible.
I think Mort is wrong about one thing: the permanent Washington liberal establishment has rejected the Clintons. They do not want the Clintons. Tom Daschle, the former Senate Majority Leader and Teddy Kennedy and so on, and the permanent lawyers and bureaucrats, and the foreign policy establishment, all these.
The permanent liberal establishment does not want to go through another eight years where they have to defend the Clintons for their tawdry doings, and so on. And they would like somebody new — Barack Obama. They don't trust the Clintons.
Even after Bill left, he left his own — Terry McAuliffe, his own head of the Democratic National Committee, and think tanks were set up by the Clintonites, and so on, and the basic, long-time liberal establishment in Washington is tired of it.
KONDRACKE: I disagree with that. I think it is split. Terry McAuliffe and Vernon Jordan are those people are still with the Clintons, and so is John Podesta, who is the head of one of the big think tanks, and so on.
And there are other people who want to have Obama and want to be with a new team. I mean, the Clinton team is a machine, and there are people who are in it, and they will get all the good jobs. And these other people want somebody new so they can get the jobs.
BAIER: Charles, quickly, I want to ask you two things: What role do you think we will see President Clinton before Tuesday playing, and, two, can Obama capitalize on some of this back and forth?
KRAUTHAMMER: I think they need to add a muzzle on the leash. This is not helping, it creates an issue of distraction all the time.
And between now and Super Tuesday it's going to be all in the ad war, it's not going to be in these little incidents.
BAIER: OK. That's the last on this topic.
When we return with our panel, Senator John McCain has received a surge of endorsements and an up-tick in the latest polls. What does that mean for his campaign? Coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I was dealt a hand of coming from a state that was not known as being a Republican state, a guy that was not terribly well-known, and it meant I had to raise more money and invest more money than the other guys to get to the point where I could be competitive.
But in the final analysis, the person who wins will not necessarily be the person who had the most money at the end of the race, or spent the most in the race. It will come down, I believe, to their vision for the future of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: That's former Governor Mitt Romney today talking about the campaign. He is making an ad buy prior to Super Tuesday in a number of different states.
Let's take a look at the latest FOX News opinion dynamics poll. It shows McCain with a huge lead in this poll in January. There you see it: 28 points in this latest poll.
And, of course, in December there were a lot more people in the race, and obviously that changed the dynamic.
But as you look at this poll, let's bring back our panel. Fred, do you think that Romney can attract some conservatives, a lot of conservatives, who believe and who are disenchanted with the McCain campaign — don't believe he is conservative enough?
BARNES: He is attracting some now, some of the talk radio people. I think Mark Levine is one; I'm not sure about Rush Limbaugh. And Rick Santorum, the former senator endorsed him.
But I think it's too few too late at this moment. One of the things that allowed — Mort, this is what you were talking about this earlier today- -that allowed McCain to become the frontrunner was that conservatives were divided among different candidates, whether it was Fred Thompson, and some like Rudy Giuliani, some like Romney, and so on.
And that divided field is what McCain has conquered. And while a lot of them are rallying behind Romney now, I just think it is too late.
KONDRACKE: I think — Romney has raised $88 million total, $35 million of his own money. If he fails to get the nomination, I think what Romney ought to do is look at this as a down payment on the nomination in 2012.
In other words, what he should do is knock himself out on the McCain ticket, campaign like crazy for Republicans all around the country, and become the most loyal — if McCain wins, then he'd have to wait a while.
But if McCain loses, he could be easily the primogenitor frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2012, because the Republican Party usually nominates the next guy in line.
BAIER: So am I right to say that this panel doesn't think that there is a way that Romney can pick up enough delegates to get this nomination in the end, even down to the convention?
KRAUTHAMMER: I think it is almost impossible. If you look at those numbers, which you showed, that huge 28-point lead —
BAIER: That's one poll. It's obviously our poll, but —
KRAUTHAMMER: But it is the recent poll. And that number, the 48 percent, is incredibly interesting. McCain was in the low 30's. Giuliani was in the mid-teens. Giuliani is gone. The new number, the 48, is the sum of those two. He got all of Giuliani.
And, essentially, he and Giuliani were all along splitting half the Republican electorate, the ones who wanted a sheriff and were OK if it was an apostate sheriff.
That was their constituency. Each of them has problems, as you said, with the Republican base. But each is very strong on national security at a time of war, and that's essentially the same position you see that McCain has now inherited.
And if you have half of the electorate at this late date with three days to go until Super Tuesday, it's essentially over. Although I would agree with mort that Romney is a strong and attractive Republican who could easily be the nominee next time around, and would be in front of the pack if he ran again.
BAIER: Fred, what does McCain have to do to reach out to the conservative base? Does he have to extend a hand to somebody like Rush Limbaugh, or whomever?
BARNES: Of course he does. He has already started some of that. If you have seen his new ad, "true conservative," it says he's a social conservative, and so on, and he is speaking at the Conservative Political Action conference this coming Thursday. And he campaigned as a conservative in Florida.
A top Republican strategist told me the thing he needs to do is call the top conservative radio talk show hosts who don't like McCain and tell them and say, look, I know you don't like me. You have an independent mind. But just watch the way I'm campaigning. I'm going to campaign as a conservative. If you have complaints or something, here is my cell phone number. Call me, I'll answer.
KONDRACKE: The problem with that is that just as he went down to see — who was it — somebody in the Christian Coalition — Jerry Falwell — you know, he will lose the independents who he needs to win the general election if he pulls that strategy.
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