The Republican Agenda for the Midterm Elections

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, October 19, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Welcome back to The Beltway Boys.

Joining us to talk about the results of his focus groups and polls and how those results might impact the Republican Party's message going into the final weeks of the campaign is Republican pollster Bill McInturff.

Welcome to the show, Bill.


KONDRACKE: Now, you're famous for a theory that ties together consumer confidence and the right track-wrong track feelings about the country and presidential popularity...


KONDRACKE: ...and predict the outcome of off-year elections. However, this year, consumer confidence is down, right track-wrong track is negative, and yet the president's popularity is soaring. So which is going to determine the outcome of this election?

MCINTURFF: Well, I hate to be humble on camera, but that's the big question. We have really powerful forces, and normally these powerful forces align in the same direction. In this election, they're quite different. They're -- this is our 15th off-year election since World War II, and in that time, only three American presidents have had job approval above 60 percent. This president will be the fourth.

On the other hand, in the last two weeks, a majority of the country now say the country's in the wrong direction, and consumer confidence dropped 6 points.

I will say as a Republican, we're two weeks away, and I think that the quicker we can wrap up this election, the better. And it's time to kind of start voting and get moving.

KONDRACKE: So it's, it's not heading in your direction.

MCINTURFF: Well, no, I think the other thing that's really interesting about this date, a very different than the last 20 years of my career, is that when you say to people, Who's to blame for the economy being bad? what they talk about is the terrorist attack on September 11 and the normal business cycle.

And what they haven't done yet is to blame the president or the Republican Party. Traditionally in an off-year election like this one, it would be the Republicans and Democrats who would -- I'm sorry, Republicans and the president who'd be being held to blame.

And so, for example, in one recent national survey, when you say, Who do you trust to keep the country prosperous? Republicans and Democrats are tied. On one Democrat survey done by a Democrat firm, Republicans had a 5- point advantage on which party they trusted to kind of keep the economy in good shape.

And so it's a very, very strange election, because we're seeing stuff I've never seen in the 20 or 22 years I've been doing this job.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Bill, let me show you an ad done by a Democratic front group called Mainstream USA. It's on the economic issue. Take a look at it, and then tell me whether you think it'll work or not.

Well, that's pretty grim stuff. What do you think?

MCINTURFF: Well, I think that one thing that we're seeing is, the Democrats are trying very, very hard to nationalize this election, and they're trying very hard to nationalize this election around the economy. I think if I were a Democrat, I'd try the same thing.

That's not what's been happening so far in these races. What's been happening so far in these races is that we're having a seat-by-seat local battle over, who do you like, who do you not like, who do you want to vote for? And that local battle over individual campaigns, the Democrats have not been able to establish these themes.

And as a consequence, Republicans are still leading, to keep control of the House. We saw this shot at the U.S. Senate.

And there's one other thing I think that's certainly impacted the environment that has made it harder for the Democrats, and that is, in a, in a -- is that people tell us the new story that they are covering is the Iraq story. And as a consequence, the Democrats' attempts to nationalize this election around the economy has been made very difficult, because it's been very hard for them to break through with that story.

BARNES: Well, let me raise a poll that you did...


BARNES: your firm that shows 56 percent are more likely to support a candidate that supports President Bush on Iraq, compared to 32 percent who say it would make them less likely to support that candidate.

Is this going to help Republicans? I mean, there are a lot of Democrats who are supporting the president too.

MCINTURFF: Yes. I mean, I think on balance, I think what's happened is, the debate has helped -- the debate over Iraq has helped freeze the Democrat efforts. And I think that's stabilized the election for Republicans.

But candidly, to be fair, I've looked very closely at every Democrat who voted against the president and the use of force, and there are perhaps three of them who have real competitive campaigns in the U.S. Senate, other than Paul Wellstone, none of these candidates who voted against the president are in a competitive campaign.

So in some ways, the data that you see is true. I think a majority of Americans want to support the president. They want to vote him on the use of force. But frankly, in terms of who voted against the president, there aren't going to be that many seats where that's going to be an issue because so many Democrats voted, as they should have, I think, ...voted to support the president.

So it's less of an issue than you might imagine in the outcome of this election.

KONDRACKE: So if the Republicans are going to, are going to keep control or get control of the Senate, what, what do they have to talk about in the, in the remaining days of this campaign? And what does the president do to help them?

MCINTURFF: Well, I think the president, first off, the president's been a tremendous asset. We would not be here we are this close to the election with the kind of...prospects we have without the job he's done as president without his political support.

But I would suggest, and I think what you'll see is that for the swing voters, the last few people who remain, what they want to hear the president talk about is go back and talk about as well, the economy and what he's done on education. And I would hope the president would expand in the last two weeks and remind people the significant confidence he's made on these issues as well.

BARNES: Bill, thanks very much.

MCINTURFF: All right, thank you.

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