This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", January 26, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.


SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: I'm here with Senator McCain. Here just a few years later, you're back in New Hampshire. You're a rock star. They love you here. And big crowd in there for you.

But you're here, not for John McCain, you're here for George W. Bush (search).

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm here for the reelection of President Bush. I believe he's led the nation with strength and clarity.

We obviously have had disagreements on some issues. We had disagreements when we ran against each other in the primary, but I support his reelection.

And could I just remind you, that George Bush carried New Hampshire by 7,000 votes. Ralph Nader got 22,000 votes. If he'd have lost the four votes here, electoral votes here in New Hampshire, Florida would have been irrelevant.

So New Hampshire is important for the Bush reelection campaign. And that's really why I'm here.

HANNITY: It's also kind of fun, too, because here you are, and Mayor Giuliani (search) was here and other Republicans.


HANNITY: The press is following the Democrats, obviously, pretty closely, but you guys are saying we're here, too.

MCCAIN: Yes. And I think it's important to have people like Governor Pataki, Giuliani and others to come here but, you know, for all I know, President Bush will be overwhelmingly re-elected. It could be a close campaign like last time. New Hampshire will be important.

I think my friend Senator Sununu, who was here on the bus with us, will tell you that 7,000 votes can swing pretty quickly one way or another.

HANNITY: All right. So we have this major shift that's happened in this Democratic campaign.


HANNITY: You look at these candidates. Do you think one is tougher another? One poll shows that the toughest is probably John Kerry?

MCCAIN: You know, I don't know that, because I think the toughest one will be the one that emerges from this, and it could go all the way well into March.

Because this is a tough process, and the one that ultimately comes out on top, I think, will probably be the toughest for President Bush to face.

HANNITY: What do you think about this fight -- a little bit has broken out here -- between Wesley Clark and John Kerry over the military record and over the positions that they served? What do you think of that, as a veteran yourself?

MCCAIN: Well, I don't take any sides in the Democratic primary. That's their decision, but I would point out that if you look at the list of Congressional Medal of Honor winners, the overwhelming majority of them are enlisted people and second lieutenants.

I think in Okinawa, the lifespan of a second lieutenant was a very short period of time.

So I have the greatest respect for generals and admirals. But I also know who does, generally, the fighting and the dying.

HANNITY: Yes. David Kay, his recent comments about the weapons of mass destruction. You were one of the most outspoken, strongest supporters of this action in Iraq and the need to do this for our national security.

What did you make of his comments? Will it have an impact on this race at all? All the Democrats seem to want an investigation.

MCCAIN: I'm all for an investigation. I think we probably need to find out whether there were any flaws in our intelligence or not.

But that doesn't change the indisputable fact that Saddam Hussein had acquired weapons of mass destruction. He had used them against his own people. He had used them against his enemies.

And there is no one, no one, who believes that if Saddam Hussein were still in power he wouldn't be trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

HANNITY: Maybe Howard Dean. You heard his comments.

MCCAIN: Excuse me. But, I mean, any expert.

If Saddam Hussein were in power today, he would be trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

One other point. I went to a mass grave outside of Baghdad. I saw where 3,000 people -- innocent people were killed. I saw the prison where 8 and 9-year-old boys were let out of prison.

Look, America, Iraq and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.

HANNITY: Yes, yes. You know, it's interesting, because the same case was made by former President Clinton. And the United Nations (search) told us he had all of these weapons of mass destruction. So it wasn't just President Bush.

MCCAIN: But again, I don't mind an investigation. If mistakes were made, fine. In the gathering of that intelligence, whether it be by the Bush administration or the Clinton administration, be for it. That's fine with me.

But the point is, that he used them. He had them, and he would continue to attempt to acquire them if he were still in power.

HANNITY: Let me ask you a tough political question.


HANNITY: Because if Bill Clinton made the case as strong, if not stronger than the president, the U.N. told us he had weapons of mass destruction and, of course, we have the evidence that he used them.

The fact that they didn't demand that he justify his decision to bomb Iraq, does that say that, in a post-9/11 world, prominent Democrats, those that even want to be president, are playing politics with issues of national security and war?

MCCAIN: Well, I hope not.

HANNITY: Does it look that way?

MCCAIN: What it appears to me is that Governor Dean struck a very responsive chord with two issues. One, with Democrat base. One is the war, and the other is the dislike of President Bush amongst hard core Democrats.

But it's also interesting that in Iowa, 14 percent of the Democrat voters said the Iraq war was the No. 1 priority, and they all voted for Dean. But it was only 14 percent.

So you're looking at moderate Democrats who come in late and look at electability.

HANNITY: Yes. To see you here today and to see the crowds respond to you, very warm reception.

MCCAIN: It's wonderful.

HANNITY: Everywhere you went. There has been a real, I don't know if thawing would be the right word, but your relationship with the president now, how would you characterize it? It seems you're one of his staunchest supporters on many issues?

MCCAIN: It's always been -- It's always been cordial. We were fierce competitors. It's always been cordial. I saw him Saturday night at a dinner, and we talked. We will continue, probably, to disagree on some specific issues.

But, look, sometimes a man makes events. Sometimes events makes a man.

On September 11, the president of the United States gave the American people encouragement and confidence and belief that we will win this war on terrorism. I think there's a reservoir of confidence amongst the majority of Americans about this president which is well deserved.

HANNITY: What do you make of -- here's, for example, Wesley Clark? "I wouldn't have supported the resolution. I wouldn't have supported the resolution, I may have supported the resolution."

Or John Kerry, supports the Patriot Act (search), now he criticizes it. Supports war, now he criticizes it. Supports No Child Left Behind. Now he criticizes it.

What you do make of this constant changing of opinion of these prominent Democrats?

MCCAIN: I do not have a clue.

HANNITY: You're going to stay out of that?

MCCAIN: My only comment about General Clark, who I think served this country, is the moral of the story. It's very difficult to make a transition into a presidential campaign when you've never been involved in politics before. It's tough.

HANNITY: Yes, and he's clearly stumbled.

There has been -- the rhetoric that's been used in this campaign. The president has been accused of having knowledge, prior knowledge of 9/11.

He's been accused of concocting a war for political advantage.

He's been accused by a presidential candidate of assassinating and targeting civilians for slaughter in Afghanistan, Dennis Kucinich in that case.

You've heard Ted Kennedy's comments.

When you hear all of these things, what are your thoughts on the Democrats. This is their leadership. These are not talk show hosts. This is not pundits. These are senators and presidential candidates.

MCCAIN: I think that the fact continues to be that the overwhelming majority of Americans think we did the right thing, and the world is better off with Saddam Hussein. So I think a lot of that is self-defeating.


Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), 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, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.