Transcript: McCain Campaign Manager Rick Davis on 'FOX News Sunday'

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The following is a partial transcript of the Aug. 10, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: And hello again from FOX News in Washington. Well, John McCain stepped up his attacks this week against Barack Obama. Is the strategy working? Joining us now, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis.

And welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

DAVIS: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: According to a recent poll — and let's put it up — people rate Obama's ads as positive by a margin of 38 percent to 13. But they view McCain's ads as negative 31 percent to 19.

Mr. Davis, why is the McCain campaign spending so much time and so much of its money attacking Obama?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, I don't think that we are spending that much time and money attacking Obama. And I would say Obama is spending exactly the same amount of time attacking us and, frankly, probably more money.

Obama started negative campaigning on John McCain long before we started punching back, and I think a lot of our effort is really to get back into this game, try and galvanize some of the public attention back onto this race, make sure everybody understands there's two people in this race, not just one, and I think we've been successful in doing that.

And you know, look. You could read a lot of polls right now, and it's August before a presidential election, and I really don't think that these polls are going to make a bit of difference come September.

WALLACE: All right. Let's take a look at one of your campaign's recent ads. Here it is.


NARRATOR: Life in the spotlight must be grand. But for the rest of us, times are tough. Obama voted to raise taxes on people making just $42,000.


WALLACE: Mr. Davis, especially that last sentence, isn't that misleading?

DAVIS: Nothing misleading about it. Barack Obama voted for a budget resolution that would have increased taxes on people, families, making $42,000. What's misleading about that?

WALLACE: Well, in fact, it only would be single people making $42,000. It would be families making over $60,000. But Obama — as you say, he voted for a non-binding budget resolution that overall talked about doing away with the Bush tax cuts.

In fact, he says, that's not his tax plan, that he supports a middle-class tax cut. And I want to put something up on the screen. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center says someone making $37,000 a year under Obama's plan would get a tax cut of $892. Under McCain's plan, they get a tax cut of $113.

DAVIS: Look, Obama wants to take away the current tax cuts that people now have. That includes a $1,000 child tax credit for people exactly in that category. It means doing away with the marriage penalty and many other things.

In the short period of time Barack Obama has been in the United States Senate, less than 300 working days, he has voted for 90 tax increases.

Now, we could have an ad on every tax increase he's voted on every single day between now and the election and still not get them all in. So I don't think anybody's going to question — who's going to raise your taxes as president of the United States? Barack Obama.

Who's going to cut your taxes and hold down spending as president of the United States? John McCain.

WALLACE: But again, when you have a nonpartisan group saying that, in fact, for the exact group that you're talking about, people making $37,000, $40,000 a year, that Obama would cut their taxes more than McCain...

DAVIS: Then Obama should put that in an ad. We're going to talk about the things Obama has said and done in the United States Senate and on the campaign trail, and that includes his vote to increase taxes on people making $42,000 a year.

WALLACE: You think that people should be held accountable...

DAVIS: Absolutely.

WALLACE: ... for what their votes are in the Senate.

DAVIS: Look, politics isn't bean bag, Chris. And if he has a record, it's a very short one, because he has very little experience as a legislator. But we ought to look at the experience he has, and he is a tax increaser.

WALLACE: All right. We're going to — I'm asking you that because we're going to come back on McCain votes as well. Let's take a look at another McCain ad. Here it is.


NARRATOR: Washington's broken. John McCain knows it. We're worse off than we were four years ago.


WALLACE: Does Senator McCain really believe that, that this country is worse off than we were four years ago?

DAVIS: Sure. All along the trail, John McCain campaigns around real people. He goes to town halls and he hears what they have to say to him.

You don't have to be in very many town halls, Chris, to understand that people are pinched by the increase in gas prices. They're losing jobs because of some downturn in manufacturing. And the economy as a whole has been very hard on the American family.

That's what John McCain's referring to. He doesn't have to go very far every day to find those kinds of examples.

WALLACE: Given that, I want you to respond to this clip from an Obama ad. Take a look.


MCCAIN: The president and I agree on most issues. There was a recent study that showed that I voted with the president over 90 percent of the time.


WALLACE: In fact, Mr. Davis, Senator McCain is understating it. Last year, he voted to support Bush legislation 95 percent of the time.

Given that, if the country's worse off, isn't both the president and John McCain — aren't they both responsible?

DAVIS: Well, look. If you want to talk about history, then you can make all the cases you want to make...

WALLACE: But you're talking about history. You talk about the last four years.

DAVIS: Exactly. And what I'm talking about, though, right now is what the future holds and who's got a plan to cut taxes and get the economy moving again, because growth is the only way we're going to improve people's situation, whether it's in a family or small businesses. And so John McCain's got a plan for growth.

Let me remind you, too, there's been never a bigger maverick in this town than John McCain. I mean, we talk about how many times you voted for Bush or against Bush. But you've been in this town a long time.

Who was the biggest irritant to this administration for the last 10 years or last eight years? John McCain. He sided with Democrats when he thought they were doing the right thing for the country, and sided with the Republicans when he thought they were doing the right thing for the country.

So you can say all you want about the record, but who is the one proven commodity in this town who's willing to put his country first and take strong positions, sometimes against the current administration or his own party, in order to do what's right?

WALLACE: But I've got to come back at...

DAVIS: And that's been McCain.

WALLACE: But I've got to come back at you. If you say the country is worse off than it was four years ago, clearly the president has got to bear some of the responsibility. And by his own record, by his own admission, John McCain voted with the president last year 95 percent of the time.

DAVIS: Sure. But I mean, how many of these things actually had anything to do with the current economic conditions or where we are in other places?

Look, trade's a good example. John McCain's voted with George Bush for trade many times in the past and will support trade in the future. Democrats have opposed that. What's better for the economy, trade or no trade? It's very simple.

It doesn't mean everything George Bush has done in the economy has been bad. But look, everybody — it's a pox on everyone's houses. Why do you think the public has a low approval rating of the current administration and Congress? Because they figured out that no one person is responsible for what we're doing. They're all at fault.

And you have the one guy who's been screaming about spending by Congress and trying to get George Bush to veto some of these measures. Who's the one guy who stood up in the middle of that crowd and said we've got to fix this problem? John McCain.

WALLACE: Let me switch to another member of the administration, the vice president, who we now find out has been invited to speak at the Republican convention on the first night.

But here's what McCain said about Cheney last year, about the mishandling — McCain's word — of the Iraq war. Let's put it up. "Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the vice president and, most of all, the secretary of defense."

Mr. Davis, given their sharp differences over Iraq, over the handling of interrogations of terror detainees, why is John McCain inviting the vice president to the convention?

DAVIS: Because I think John McCain believes that the only way we're going to change the culture of this town, the only way we're actually going to ever start getting anything done, is if we stop putting our own self-interests ahead.

You know, if he wanted to make a point and, you know, strike out at this administration, it would have been very easy to do that. But he is not that kind of candidate.

He's the kind of man who says, "Look, we've got to get everybody on board in order to get progress made in this country. I'm not going to, you know, take retaliation or retribution against anybody, whether they're Democrats or Republicans."

If we are going to move forward, this culture has to change. The only guy who's been able to do that in this town for the last eight years is John McCain. Barack Obama has never sided against his party's interest on any important issue. He's never joined with Republicans across the aisle like John McCain has with Democrats.

We have an ad out that shows a lot of Democrats, leaders in Congress, saying great things about John McCain. Of course, that was before there was a political campaign. You'll never find John McCain changing his stripes just because of an election.

WALLACE: What kind of vice president does John McCain think Dick Cheney has been?

DAVIS: You know, I'll let John McCain speak to that. I'm not going to get in the middle of grading the Bush administration. The American public and history are going to do that.

But at this time, I think he has made the right decision. It's appropriate to honor those people who have attained the office of vice president and president, and they're going to have their day in the sun in the Republican convention.

WALLACE: Let's take a look at our latest electoral map from Karl Rove, which — who bases this — and there you see it up on the screen — according to the latest state polls.

It shows Obama at 260 electoral votes, just 10 shy of a majority, McCain at 183 electoral votes, and those nine states in white and 95 electoral votes now still toss-ups. How do you see the race now?

DAVIS: You know, I think it's a very close race. I think that every poll in the country basically shows within the margin of error. I think it's fantastic. I mean, look. To say that John McCain is an underdog may be the understatement of the decade.

The mood of the country is very sour about the current administration. People don't like the party as much as they did four years ago.

Historical averages are hard to get a third term like this in the sense of a party in power retaining power, and — but what do we see in those polls? John McCain over-performing his party, reaching out to independent and Democrat voters, which is why he's so competitive right now in this chart.

I think it's fantastic. Going into our convention, if someone had told me a year ago when we started the real quest for the primary that we could wind up dead even with the Democratic nominee in this kind of a political environment just before our convention, that would have been fantastic to me.

WALLACE: Will Senator McCain wait for Obama to name — to go first in naming his vice presidential running mate?

DAVIS: Oh, I don't think Senator McCain has, you know, any — paying any attention to what Senator Obama is doing. I think he'll make his decision based on his own timetable.

WALLACE: Do you think he'll wait until after the Democratic convention?

DAVIS: Can't speculate.

WALLACE: Given your criticism, the campaign's criticism, of Obama's inexperience, can McCain name someone who doesn't have strong foreign policy credentials of his own, given that the first job of the vice president would be to step in if something should happen to the president?

DAVIS: I'm really not going to speculate on what kind of qualifications or activities that Senator McCain would want out of his vice president.

WALLACE: Is there any chance that Senator McCain will pledge to serve only one term as president and that there will be no politics in the White House?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, if you know John McCain, you know there's not going to be much politics in the White House anyway. I mean, he doesn't grade any of his decisions either as a senator or in the future as president on what the political dynamic is.

You look at his history, whether it's campaign finance reform, or opposing this administration on detainee abuse and things like that, he does what he thinks is right for the country, and he's going to do that throughout his career no matter what office he holds.

WALLACE: But is there any possibility, because I didn't get an answer there — is there any thought — is there any possibility that he would consider issuing a pledge, say, at the Republican convention, "I will serve one term as president?"

DAVIS: Chris, you're going to have to come to the Republican convention to find out what's going to happen there. And I think everybody should tune in, because it's going to be an excellent event and very interesting to all viewers.

WALLACE: You're not ruling it out.

DAVIS: I'm not talking about it at all.

WALLACE: Finally, the Obama camp, I don't have to tell you, is pounding you for your work as a lobbyist. In 2003, you lobbied Congress, and Senator McCain in his job as chairman of the Commerce Committee helped you to allow the German-owned DHL buy Airborne Express.

You made from this German-owned company about $600,000 in lobbying fees. The Democrats are making a big deal of the fact that DHL is now talking about taking 8,000 jobs out of the state of Ohio.

Are you and Senator McCain going to do anything to try to prevent that?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, let me correct you. Senator McCain did not help me do anything. I represented Airborne, which was the incumbent in that location in Ohio, and they wanted to be bought by DHL. And there were people in Congress who didn't want to have that happen.

John McCain has always believed that foreign investment in this sector is fine, and unless there was something that was inappropriate about the deal it should go forward.

WALLACE: Well, that's how he helped you, is to agree that...

DAVIS: Well, but he didn't help me. He helped the people in Ohio, because those jobs were probably going to be lost if they didn't get taken over because of the competitive nature of this business.

WALLACE: But now DHL is talking about taking...

DAVIS: I haven't represented DHL or any of their entities since 2005 when I completely got out of the lobbying business.

So what you have here — and frankly, a typical situation by the Obama campaign, to try and change the topic.

John McCain has only the most, you know, kind things to say about the people there. He just came from a town hall with the people affected there.

Barack Obama won't go there and hold a town hall, especially not now, because one of the women who voiced her concerns about this transaction is now a star in the Obama radio ad that's up in that area, and she's asked them to take it down because he is portraying her as against John McCain,. and she's not.

In fact, she's had some very nice things about — to say lately about the fact that John McCain came to town, listened to those people, talked to them about the need to be able to find, you know, a way to keep as many jobs there as you can.

But most importantly, she's asked them to take that radio ad down, and they refused to do it.

WALLACE: All right.

DAVIS: So who is actually playing politics with their jobs?

WALLACE: Let me ask you one last question, because we're running out of time here.

DAVIS: Sure.

WALLACE: Directly, can you, will you, or Senator McCain, try to do anything to get DHL not to take those 8,000 jobs away?

DAVIS: Oh, sure. Senator McCain in the town hall with the people affected most by this told them that he would do what he could do, look into the transaction.

By the way, this is a different transaction than had occurred almost four years ago. So it has nothing to do with any of the things he'd ever done before. And he didn't really have the level of detail he need and he's going to look into it.

WALLACE: Mr. Davis, we want to thank you for coming in today.

DAVIS: Thank you for having me, Chris.

WALLACE: We'll see you, as you suggested, in a couple of weeks...

DAVIS: Looking forward to it.

WALLACE: ... at the Republican convention.

DAVIS: It will be fun.