This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, Jan. 7, that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: Suddenly the Iowa caucus story, which seemed to be about a race between Howard Dean (search) and Dick Gephardt (search), is full of talk of other candidates making late charges. Some stories speak of a move by John Edwards (search). Others say John Kerry (search) is surging.
There is no immediate, current polling to check against, but there is something just as good, if not better. The reporting and analysis of our old friend, David Yepsen, political editor of The Des Moines Register.
David, thank you for coming out in the cold for us tonight. Is anybody surging there? Is there anything to the talk about Edwards or Kerry moving out there?
DAVID YEPSEN, POLITICAL EDITOR, THE DES MOINES REGISTER: I think there is a little something to the Kerry talk, Brit. He started about a month ago right after the Thanksgiving holiday. Senator Kerry really started pouring on the amount of time he is spending here, the ad campaign, a lot of the organizational efforts. And he started moving up in some of those polls. And we've all been focused on Howard Dean, but if you look beneath that race, Kerry was creeping up on Gephardt for second place.
And what I think is happening is Howard Dean hasn't lost anything, but you have got about two-thirds of these activist Democrats who are undecided, or looking, or with another candidates. And they continue to look for some other candidate, they're opting to take another look at a guy like Kerry or like Edwards. Many of them don't think Gephardt can win. They're concerned that he has had his day in this game. And so you are seeing these little movements for guys like Kerry and John Edwards. I think Kerry has picked up some. I do.
HUME: Do you think there's a significant chance he will be second out there?
YEPSEN: Yes. I think it's a real possibility. If Democrats here, in a widespread fashion, conclude that Dick Gephardt cannot win and the labor thing doesn't materialize for Gephardt, then Kerry can very well finish second. He would really, very much like to do that in order to boost his standings in New Hampshire against Wesley Clark. And actually, Brit, a lot of the Dean people here -- people in the Dean campaign, would really like to see John Kerry do beat -- do come in second here in Iowa and to get that bounce going into New Hampshire to take some of the edge off Wesley Clark.
HUME: Dean -- the general sense about Dean's campaign seems to be that is he backed by people who are dedicated to him. And as you've pointed out, he doesn't seem to have lost much support in Iowa. And most people think that he won't. Which raises the question about the other -- the support, which is I guess, you know, a considerable majority who are un -- who are committed either to other candidates or uncommitted.
Is it your sense from years of covering those caucuses out there, David, that there's enough kind of loose, potential caucus-goers out there that could actually end up having -- giving Dean a race for his money. I mean that he might not even win?
YEPSEN: That's possible, Brit, I don't think it's probable. But you are right. I mean in every poll, Dean is ahead at 30 percent or mid 20s, for example. What does that tell you? That tells you 75 percent; two- thirds of the Democrats here are looking, or either for somebody else, or undecided. Even people who have a commitment to a candidate will tell you that they could be persuaded to change their mind. They're waiting to see these last-minute developments in campaigns, in debates, in events around the world that have an impact before they make up their mind. They're activists, they're not like regular voters, Brit. And so they watch this thing right to the end game.
HUME: You mentioned the...
YEPSEN: I think it's very possible.
HUME: We were talking earlier about the labor situation. And there was somebody in a report that we did on that, that Steve Brown did, who said that if Gephardt's potential support from the unions that are backing him all came out, that he would have a real edge there. And would basically swamp the potential support that the unions backing Dean would give. Is that right by your calculations?
YEPSEN: Yes, that's true. Gephardt has support from 19 international unions that are all working very hard to turn out their members. Those unions have 9,500 members here in Iowa. That doesn't include retirees and family members.
And at the same time, they're working very hard to bring these people out; newcomers, bringing newcomers into the caucus process. You're absolutely right, Brit. If those people show up, they could easily tip this back in favor of Dick Gephardt. And that's certainly the strategy he's trying to follow.
YEPSEN: One quick point, Brit. The polls don't get all of Dean's supporters. There are a lot of people with cell phones and they miss a lot of these labor guys, who some of them aren't even Democrats yet who are going to show up for Dick Gephardt.
HUME: Now, what about the Dean labor unions? What is his potential, sort of base there?
YEPSEN: Well, Howard Dean has the support of the AFSCME (search), which is probably the single, best union you can have in an Iowa, Democratic caucus fight. Because they're very sophisticated people; they've been through this before.
I think the leaders of the AFSCME union, in each precinct in Iowa, are going to provide a lot of the Dean newcomers that are coming out, who have never been to a caucus before, with a lot of grown up leadership in what to do at the caucus and how to maneuver. So I think it's very significant that AFSCME is backing Howard Dean.
HUME: Do you know what the rough -- any estimate of the numbers that might be able to be generated by that, by the AFSCME union?
YEPSEN: I would say 20,000 or more.
HUME: So the raw numbers do show a potential advantage for Gephardt, don't they?
YEPSEN: That is correct. That's correct, Brit.
HUME: Now, in Iowa campaigns past, some issue is often arisen to sort of dominate the closing stages of the campaign. Do you see that happening here? Is there an issue that's clearly the dominant issue now?
YEPSEN: I don't think there's a lot of issue differences among the candidates. I think the question is electability. And I think as these polls come out that show President Bush way ahead of Howard Dean, that is going to cause a lot of Democrats who haven't been decided yet in this campaign to say, wait a minute, can Howard Dean win? Is he really electable? That's one thing.
Secondly, events in the Middle East. Howard Dean's candidacy is pegged heavily on an anti-Iraq position. As the war there goes -- if it goes well or it goes poorly, it can have an impact. I think the capture of Saddam Hussein sort of flattened out Dean's momentum after the Gore endorsement. Like you said, he didn't lose anything, but he sure wasn't gaining as much as he had been earlier. Those are the kind of events that can affect what happens here on caucus night.
HUME: Well, David, thanks for being with us and standing out there in the cold for us. We'll look forward to checking back with you as we go along.
YEPSEN: OK. Thanks, Brit.
HUME: You bet.
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