This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, July 22, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It came to our shores because of what we believe in. It came to our shores because we're the beacon of freedom, and we're not going to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: A few hours after receiving the 9/11 report, President Bush telling voters he is the man to keep us safe. The president is speaking in Glenview, Illinois, talking about the war on terror being fought here at home...
President Bush promising a new era in America. He's been hinting that a second term would bring about big changes on the domestic front.
Charlie Black (search) is a Republican strategist; Karen White (search) is a political director of "Emily's List." Today's big question, we'll start with Mr. Black. Will voters focus more on the war on terror than issues here at home, do you think?
CHARLIE BLACK, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think they're going to focus on both, John. I mean, ordinarily domestic issues and the economy predominate in campaigns. Because we do have a worldwide war on terror going on, I think it'll probably be equal and focused this time. But the president's message about the ownership society and more homeownership, more control over assets like Social Security (search) assets, health savings accounts, letting people keep more of their tax dollars to spend on their own, that's going to be an important message this fall.
GIBSON: Karen, how about you? I kind of have a new poll result here, so I'll tell you guys after you give me an answer — I'll tell what you our FOX News Opinion Dynamic Poll says about this. Well, what do you think: war on terror or domestic stuff?
KAREN WHITE, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, "EMILY'S LIST": Well, after listening to the president's speech, I'm sure that, you know, I feel about the same way as most Americans feel about his domestic agenda: there really wasn't that much to it. So the war on terror is clearly going to be very important, but the domestic agenda's going to be what drives this next election.
GIBSON: I think that the numbers I'm looking at here show that the war on terror is picked as the number one issue by 30 percent and the next biggest one is 15 percent: the economy and jobs. So, Charlie, why has this focused so clearly on this issue now? Is it because both Bush and Kerry are talking about it nearly constantly?
BLACK: Well, you know, the president has alternated between messages about the economy and domestic issues and the war on terror and Iraq, and he will put some more emphasis on domestic issues. This is a popular agenda. Yet, homeownership is at a record high under President Bush. He'd like to see more people own their own homes.
As people have gotten their tax cuts, they spurred economic growth; take-home pay has gone up 11 percent since Bush became president. The private accounts for Social Security, health care: these are important issues, Karen, and the voters are going to be interested in what he has to say on them.
GIBSON: Karen, I'd be curious what you think, if you don't mind, about the use of all these commissions and investigations and committee investigations in the 9/11 and intelligence and so forth. How do you think that's going to wash out politically?
WHITE: Well, I think politically this whole war, the Iraq war, has not been good for the president. He set a very bad mood in this country; voters are very upset about the direction in the country. "Emily's List" just completed a poll recently where we asked people if they could name one positive thing about the direction of the country — and listen to this number — 69 percent could not come up with one positive thing about this country.
People are upset, and so I think, you know, having the commission is clearly important, having some solutions to this so that we can be safe at home, but the fact that this president has had under his tenure: four million people that have lost their jobs, four million people have lost health care.
GIBSON: Karen, I mean, are you blaming President Bush for everything that has happened, bubbles bursting, as a result of 9/11? I mean, it wasn't President Bush that flew those planes...
WHITE: I don't blame President Bush for 9/11 at all. No, absolutely not.
GIBSON: Doesn't that figure into people's unhappiness?
WHITE: It does figure into people's unhappiness, and people are unhappy. Americans are unhappy about the loss of life. Americans are unhappy about the direction of this country. Americans want to see their president be a leader on things like health care and education. They don't see that happening right now. Forty-four million Americans, John, do not have health insurance. And I'm very lucky that my two kids and my family and I work for a company that provides us with health insurance, but most Americans don't have that, and they can't let their kids go out and play.
GIBSON: Most? Did you say most, Karen?
WHITE: Forty-four million, 44 million Americans do not have health insurance in this country.
GIBSON: Well, that's not most.
WHITE: And under this president, four million people have lost their health insurance.
BLACK: You just heard the president make proposals to get more people health care coverage. And listen, it's a good thing you didn't ask the people in your polls to name a positive thing about John Kerry: 100 percent would have said they don't know. The American people still support our troops in Iraq. They want us to finish the job.
BLACK: It's part of the war on terror, and so far...
GIBSON: Charlie, I'm looking at this polling result — and I don't know if we have it on the screen, but I've got the raw stuff here — and it's: neighbors are talking about. What are your neighbors talking about? What's the concern? There it is.
Iraq there; economy; jobs; politics; family issues, which I would suppose would include health care, is next to the bottom, down with gas prices. When you look at something like that, why would you expect to hear either candidate talk about anything but jobs and the war?
BLACK: Well, because the American people are smarter than you might think. They do consider more than one or two issues in deciding how they're going to vote, and they might not have it at the top of their list, but they're interested in health care and education. They're interested in controlling some of their own assets and their Social Security accounts. The president's got a great message that is going to appeal to those people, along with excellent leadership in the war on terror and the greatest economic recovery that we've had in almost 20 years. So, it's going to be a winning formula.
GIBSON: Karen, I'm also scratching my head about this one — and once again, I don't know if we're going to be able to call it up — but it's more knowledgeable on the issues. And in this one is relatively unchanged from May to July, and it is Bush gets 48 percent and Kerry 33 percent - 32 percent. And considering Kerry people and himself pride himself on being almost Clinton-esque as a policy wonk, doesn't that surprise you?
WHITE: You know, it doesn't surprise me. And the "Emily's List" polling that we saw has this race at a dead heat. There are a certain number of swing voters that are still in the middle, and the number one issue for women voters is health care. They are very concerned about the safety of this country and the safety of their families. But the number one issue for them — and it's really an economic issue, John — is health care.
So, it's interesting that you say the number one issue probably of all voters when you combine them, but the number one issue of the people that are going to decide this election, the women who are currently undecided, really is health care.
GIBSON: All right. Karen White, of "Emily's List," and Charlie Black, a Republican Strategist. Thanks to both of you.
BLACK: Thank you, John.
WHITE: Thank you for having me.
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