Transcript: 'The Beltway Boys,' January 12, 2008

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This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", January 12, 2008, that has been edited for clarity.

FRED BARNES, FOX CO-HOST: Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," jump ball. The presidential race on both sides is up in the air as the campaign goes national.

MORT KONDRACKE, FOX CO-HOST: Democrats are focusing on Nevada and South Carolina. And a revived Hillary Clinton is gunning for Barack Obama.

BARNES: Republicans are setting their sights on Michigan and South Carolina. John McCain is looking to run the table. But, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have other plans.

KONDRACKE: And, Michael Bloomberg is hinting that he wants in on all of the action.

BARNES: "The Beltway Boys" is next. But first the headlines.


BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes.

KONDRACKE: And I'm Mort Kondracke and we're "The Beltway Boys." And the hot story number one is three-man race and the three men are John McCain, the resurrected one, who has — won the New Hampshire primary last week and Mike Huckabee, the winner in Iowa, now back, as holy Huck, the Christian leader, and Mitt Romney who got — finished with silver medals, which is to say he lost Iowa and New Hampshire and now desperately needs to win a gold, someplace besides Wyoming and is trying do it in the state of Michigan which is where he was born. All the main Republican candidates were at a FOX debate, in South Carolina this week.

And here is Mitt Romney going after John McCain on the issue of jobs. Watch.


MITT ROMNEY, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know there are some people who think, as Senator McCain did, he said some jobs left Michigan are never coming back. I disagree and will fight for every, single job, Michigan, South Carolina, every state in this country...

JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's have straight talk. There are jobs that are not coming back to Michigan, some jobs that won't come back here to South Carolina.


KONDRACKE: That is pretty typical of the campaign. I mean, Mitt Romney knows full well that there are jobs that have been lost in Michigan, that are not coming back. John McCain has the guts to say it. And they both, what they both want to do is create new jobs, better jobs with tax cuts and so on. And they also — and McCain at least wants to have retraining programs and wants to have some sort of wage compensation that would enable people to make the same amount of money they did when they — if they had to take a low-paying job, which are both good ideas.

Meantime, in South Carolina, which is next Saturday, Huckabee was leading until McCain won in New Hampshire and now McCain, at least according to the FOX news poll, is in the lead.

What I thought was going to happen in that South Carolina debate is that everybody was going to pile on McCain who now seems on the front- runner. But that is not what happened.

Instead, Fred Thompson, running fourth in South Carolina, decided to take on Huckabee and here's what he said. Watch:


FRED THOMPSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On the one hand you have a Reagan revolution and the Reagan coalition of limited government and strong national security. On the other hand, you have the direction governor Huckabee would take us in. He'd be a Christian leader but he'd also bring about liberal economic policies, liberal foreign policies. That is not the model of the Reagan coalition. That is the model of the Democratic Party.


KONDRACKE: That can only help McCain. You bring down Huckabee and presumably are helping McCain with — win South Carolina.

BARNES: And maybe you can explain, because I don't know the answer, what roused Thompson from the stupor he has been going through and here he's all fired up and animated and energetic when his campaign is practically dead. I'll have to say, I don't understand it.

Now, Mike Huckabee, he went after him for a good reason. Huckabee is running a great campaign and Huckabee, I thought won the debate in South Carolina and Huckabee had a great moment. He is this wittiest Baptist minister I ever encountered and I have encountered a lot of them. I thought the moment was one of the best in the campaign, not just the debates. And it was when he was asked about the passage in the Bible, I think he said it from Ephesians, where it says, you know, the wife must submit graciously to her husband and the husband must honor her and he's the servant leader and all that stuff. And, you know, something that drives feminists crazy and in any case, watch his response at least the beginning of the response, by Huckabee. Watch:


MIKE HUCKABEE, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, it's interesting, everybody says religion is off limits except we always ask me the religious questions. So let me try to do my best to answer it. If we're going to have a religious service I would feel more comfortable if I could pass the plates because our campaign could use the money, Carl.


BARNES: That's funny.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, that was funny.

BARNES: And that was awfully good and obviously, off the cuff, at least struck me that way. And maybe he has a whole catalogue of jokes. Then he went on to explain what the passage meant in practice, for him and I think for other Christians like myself, and you, where it doesn't mean the husband this is commander-in-chief. It means they just have an equal relationship but a different and the husband does different things from the — from the wife. But in any case, he pointed out, correctly, that this has nothing to do with his presidency and will not try to impose this biblical passage on the country.

KONDRACKE: Well, predictions time for Michigan.


KONDRACKE: But first, I have to play this sound bite from Mitt Romney. Watch. This is what he said in Michigan. Watch.


ROMNEY: For me it's personal. It's personal because this is where I was born and raised and where my dad was governor. And this is important. It's personal because the nation needs Michigan to succeed. Because if Michigan can't make it then America has real challenges down the road.


KONDRACKE: It's personal. It is borrowed straight from John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. And also, last week, he was saying that he is the agent of change, which is borrowed from — borrowed from Barack Obama. You know, not very original and I'm afraid he won't make it in Michigan, either. I predict McCain first, Romney second, Huckabee third, and a close third, and if Huckabee catches Mitt Romney and Mitt Romney can only win a bronze in Michigan, I think he is close to being finished as a candidate.

BARNES: Well, it depends. I agree with the way you have predicted in Michigan, McCain, Romney and Huckabee. But you are wrong in the idea of wage insurance and that is a terrible idea where the government would be — bailing out millions of people and — because they have a job where it makes a little less, a horrible idea and will never happen.

And in any case, you are right about Romney. He doesn't connect in saying he's for change and it's personal, so on. I mean, that going to do it. He's a smart guy, and is an attractive guy and I think would make a very good president. But he is clearly not connecting with the Republican voters. And as you pointed out to me, Mort, particularly with the conservatives, who he has a message that should appeal to them but he's not appealing to them. And we only see flashes of the real — I think the real Romney, who is a conservative businessman, who wants to fix Washington. That is the best theme he has and is using some of it right now.

One other thing, about the Rudy Giuliani campaign, that is now on — near life support system and laid off staffers and so on and put on the air of the worst ad I have seen in the entire campaign, as we — we'll watch in a moment. It's an ad where Rudy doesn't appear much and it's a bunch of stuff about chit-chat by the media, and it is terrible ad and will not help at all. Watch.


ANNOUNCER: The media loves process. Talking heads love charity. But Florida is a chance to turn down the noise and show the world that leadership is what really matters.


BARNES: You think that will grab anybody? I don't think so.

Any way, coming up, how the pollsters got it so wrong in New Hampshire. And first, the gloves are really coming off between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.


BARNES: Welcome back to The Beltway Boys.

Hot story number two, tough enough? A question I have about Barack Obama now that the wave carrying him along after Iowa crested, losing to Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary or as Mitt Romney would say, Obama won the silver.

And in any case he lost after both Clintons landed on him with attacks but, I mean, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, and the attacks can only get worse and more intense. I think the one by Bill Clinton, at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, your alma mater, is going to be one of the famous sound bites of the entire campaign. Watch:


BILL CLINTON, (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution. You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war. And you took that speech you are now running on off your web site in 2004. And there is no difference in your voting record than Hillary's ever since. Give me a break.


This whole thing is the biggest fairytale I have ever seen.


BARNES: The whole story? Campaign? Barack Obama? Fairy tale?

Look, it will get worse and soon the press will stop giving a free ride to Barack Obama and will really start scrutinizing him in a much tougher way. A Republican I know now in Congress here in Washington worked with Obama in the Illinois legislature and liked him a lot and said he was smart and got along with everybody but said he never had to push back on anything. It was easy for him. No controversy. And now he's called on, he'll have to push back hard. He was on "FOX & Friends" a couple days ago, and here's what he said. I don't think — I don't think this is good enough but in any case, watch:


BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obviously, Bill Clinton wants to see his wife win. And I — I understand that. And I'm not too worried about that. He did make a series of misleading statements and it's important we make sure we answer them. But I remain convinced that what the American people are looking for is somebody who is going to be able to rise above the petty politics we have seen in the past and really focus on solving problems.


KONDRACKE: So far, the — I don't think that the Clinton campaign has scored any direct hits on Obama. I mean, they basically have been accusing him of waffling on the Iraq war. I don't think — I don't think people particularly believe that.

Here's one of Hillary Clinton's milder comments about him. Watch.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I need to get a very clear message out as to what I have done and what I will do. Now this is a big difference between, you know, talking and doing and rhetoric and reality. And I am going to be sure that people here in Nevada and across our country as we move up on all of these contests, know that I'm not just telling them what I will do and asking them to take it on faith. I have done it and I will continue to do it.


KONDRACKE: On the experience — I'm the experienced one and I'm the doer and he's the dreamer and that kind of stuff. I'm not sure how far it gets but one question is, if it does get tougher is, is he tough enough to fight back and I think the answer is probably yes. And we'll have to see.

The other one, the one that impresses me a lot is where this is beef. Is this guy John F. Kennedy, as a lot of people think, or Jimmy Carter, basically, an empty suit who will not be able to manage the presidency because he has no experience and no knowledge and no sophistication about the way the world really is. He's a very young man.

I mean I went to a couple of rallies of Obama's in New Hampshire. And they're wonderful. The rhetoric is so inspiring and the kids there just love every minute of it and I do, too, as far as that is certainly. But, it's the 2004 Democratic convention speech over and over and over again. And there is not a lot of detail in it. It is a lot of fluff.

Now, that said, Obama has scored some significant endorsements this week after he came in second in New Hampshire. He got the SCIU and the culinary workers in Nevada. Those are big and they work hard and got John Kerry and George Miller, the Congressman from California, who is close to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And I think especially Janet Napolitano, the governor of Arizona, who is a heavy hitter and I think he's on his way.

On the other hand, at the same time, Edwards, John Edwards, the number three candidate, is staying in the race. And if he stays in the race, presumably he'll take votes away from Obama, the other change candidate in the field and that will help Hillary.

BARNES: Look, I'm not so sure the Edwards votes will go predominantly to Obama. He's would rather go one-on-one against Hillary Clinton. And there are a lot of unions and a lot of established Democrats who are backing Edwards, who — is in a distant third, we found out in New Hampshire, but I am not at all sure they'll go to Obama. Obama will have to really rise as you have a guy here. I think he can do it. But he has not done it yet and I'm not sure he realizes the size of the wall of attacks and scrutiny that are going to hit him, because it's nothing that he has ever experienced before. And campaigns can be cruel and mean and unfair and this one is probably about to be.

KONDRACKE: This is one underlying issue here and that is race. You know, on radio talk shows, the black radio talk shows there is an allegation that Hillary Clinton, by saying that it took Lyndon Johnson to fulfill what Martin Luther King had promised, that she is obviously identifying with the Lyndon Johnson and somehow is dismissing Martin Luther King and that is not good for her among African-Americans.

KONDRACKE: Coming up, Michael Bloomberg is making serious moves towards a presidential run. And Fred and I will tell you if it is the real deal or if he is pulling our legs.


BARNES: Welcome back. It's time for the "Ups and Downs."

Down: the polls. They got it wrong big time, completely missing the Hillary surge in New Hampshire and the media went along with it.

KONDRACKE: So did we.

BARNES: Everybody went wrong with, you did, I did. Of course we did. The campaign strategists went along with it and even the Clintons went along with it.

A guy from Arkansas campaigning in New Hampshire for Hillary and talked to Bill Clinton the day before the primary and he told me Bill Clinton was saying, gee if we could have her lose by seven or eight points we can call that okay. But she won by two points and it was embarrassing, to say the least. It was — there was only one problem with the polls, they under polled women.

Scott Rasmussen, who polls every day and I think is very, very, good, though other pollsters criticize him, said, look, he figured it would be a normal 54 percent of the Democratic vote would be female. And turned out it was 57 percent. And that right there is enough to account store — for Hillary's narrow victory over Obama, rather than Barack Obama winning.

Mort, I'll let you explain how Hillary's choking up and — you know, complaining about how tough the campaign is on her as a woman and so on, how that spurred all of these women to go out and vote for her. But I would say this. I don't think it was a tactic, if it was a tactic. It was never used by Margaret Thatcher in England and Golda Meir in Israel or Joan of Arc in France, for that matter, and they didn't need to do that.

KONDRACKE: I don't think it was a tactic. It was a genuine emotion and she thought he was going to lose and her whole political career was about to crater and she got choked up. And it was played endlessly and women saw it. And the idea that all the male TV commentators were dissing Hillary, I think, evoked sympathy, if you want my opinion.


KONDRACKE: I think another un— I think another under appreciated factor is organization, actually. You know, she had the Democratic organizations of Manchester and Nashua working hard for her. And those people, the activists up there, were telling Hillary's staffers, listen, these polls aren't right and this is not what we are finding.

Now, there is — it is also said that the Bradley effect was involved here, the tendency where white voters will lie to a pollster about the fact that they are not going to vote for a black. I don't think that was involved here because the exit polls turned out to be right. And if you lie to a pollster before the election you will after the election and they didn't.

Down, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Despite vehement denials he is not entering the presidential race, it was revealed this week he is undertaking a serious effort to gauge national support for a potential run.

In May, Bloomberg seemed annoyed by the whole question, saying, quote, "I'm not running for president. And I'm not planning to. What else do you need? I've said it a thousand names."

And just on New Year's Eve, Ryan Seacrest on ABC, asked him, point blank, quote, "Will you run for president"? And Bloomberg said, quote, "No, I will not run for president."

BARNES: Now, we can move on to the next issue, then.

KONDRACKE: I think that sounds Shermanesque to me and what it turns out to be is a tease that Bloomberg is engaged in here. He denies it and yet all of the evidence suggests — and has been widely reported, and aides of his have said that he is going to check out at the end of the — if the two sides nominate polarizing candidates he — and he thinks he can win, he'll get in. I don't know why he just doesn't say that and avoid a credibility gap, if he does run.

BARNES: Look, we wouldn't be talk about him if he weren't a billionaire who could finance a presidential campaign. And if we weren't a Billionaire he wouldn't be mayor of New York and there is no rationale I think will emerge at all for a Bloomberg candidacy and he won't run. He'll live up to his word after teasing.

Up: President Bush. He who took heat when he announced the troop surge to Iraq a year ago but he stuck to his guns and the security situation on the ground has improved dramatically in Iraq.

KONDRACKE: Right, sectarian violence down, U.S. casualties down, al Qaeda on the ropes, the Shiites getting better — under control and even political progress at the provincial level. And Bush bet his presidency on the Iraq war and looked like he was going to lose. Now it looks like he might win and you know what? The United States of America might win.

BARNES: Nicely put, Mort. Good for you. You know, I want to recall a minute everybody who lined up against him and said we have to get out of Iraq right away or do it gracefully over time. You had Congress and Democrats and a lot of Republicans and elements of his own administration in the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were not excited about the idea. The press of course didn't like it, and I can go on, the foreign policy establishment. He was brave in making the decision and it paid off.

KONDRACKE: Don't move a muscle. "The Buzz" is coming up next.


BARNES: Welcome back. Well, Mort, what's "The Buzz"?

KONDRACKE: President Bush in Saudi Arabia on Monday and has three basic messages, one pump more oil to avoid a world recession and bring down the price and, secondly, spend your oil money in Iraq and help the country out and, thirdly, despite the national intelligence estimate on nuclear — Iran nuclear program we are still trying to get them to stop enriching.

BARNES: Mort, in the presidential campaign there is a surge effect. The surge has worked so well and obviously lifted the McCain campaign off the floor and will continue to help, because he was an early supporter of it. He promoted it even before the presidential decision.

Democrats may be committed to defeat but Independents aren't. And Democrats better watch out. It may hurt them in the fall.

KONDRACKE: That's it for "The Beltway Boys" this week. Join us next week when the boys will be back in town.

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