Who's Hot and Who's Not in the Democratic Presidential Field

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, July 5, 2003, 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.

Our midyear review continues with a look at the Democratic presidential field. Here's who we consider to be riding high, Howard Dean, John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, and Joe Lieberman.

Well, Howard Dean is hot, hot, hot, raising money like crazy among the...


KONDRACKE: ... lefties in the party. If he got nominated, and he could get nominated...


KONDRACKE: ... the problem is that this country would have to be in absolutely desperate, disastrous shape, both in foreign and domestic policy, for him ever to get elected, you know. People would have to be out on the streets without jobs, and the foreign policy would…have to collapse. I don't think that's going to happen.

Kerry manages to stay up in the head of the pack in spite of vacillating in his position on the, on the war in Iraq. Gephardt and Lieberman have both been true-blue in, in their support for the, for the war, and saying...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... We're going to discover weapons of mass destruction. Lieberman, I'm afraid, is too moderate to, to ever get to be nominated by this party. And Gephardt, if he ever did get nominated, his tax policy...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... which involves, you know, everybody's taxes being raised again back to the Clinton levels, I think is suicidal in a general election.

BARNES: Look, Dean, why is he so hot? Because he's the most anti- Bush of the major candidates, and that pleases the, the party activists and so on. That doesn't necessarily mean he would be the best candidate against Bush, far from it.

Just think of what Bush could do to him on taxes. Dean would reverse all the Bush tax cuts, which means that, that low- and middle-income people, as well as high-income people, would get tax increases. He would deny, he would overturn the, slash, rather, the child tax benefit, which would really affect low- and middle-income people, and he would raise Social Security taxes.

KONDRACKE: Gephardt too.

BARNES: That…yes, well, I know, but Dean is even more sweeping than Gephardt is on that thing…he'd run into trouble as the nominee. OK.

The middle of the pack candidates, Senator John Edwards and Bob Graham, Edwards seems to be going nowhere. I don't think he's a likely vice presidential candidate and may have even jeopardized a Senate reelection.

If he decides to do that, he's got a tough opponent, Congressman Richard Burr, and he's been too liberal as a presidential candidate. Bob Graham, look, he's going to be the vice presidential running mate for somebody, because he's from Florida.

KONDRACKE: Right. I think Graham is, comes off as a…as too kooky.


KONDRACKE: I mean, he had to stop showing his, his diaries around.


KONDRACKE: And he's been very, very hard on, on Bush on the war, and, and is basically accusing Bush of deception. I, I don't think that that's quite ever going to prove out. OK.

And finally, the bottom of the barrel, Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich, and Carol Moseley Braun. Why are they still in this race? I mean, I don't think Carol Moseley Braun will last much longer...

and the other two, the other two probably will stumble along, Sharpton will try to make some sort of a dent among African- Americans in South Carolina, but I think that they've got more sense than to waste their votes...

BARNES: Yes...

KONDRACKE: ... on him.

BARNES: ... yes, didn't you see Willie Nelson endorse Dennis Kucinich? That didn't sway you?


BARNES: Yes, me neither. OK, the wildcard candidate, the Green Party's Ralph Nader, and Senator Joe Biden, look, I think Biden would rise instantly to the top of the pack if he ran, and I think, for a Democratic candidate, he could give Bush a lot of trouble. Joe Biden,...

KONDRACKE: I think, I think Joe...

BARNES: I suspect he won't run, though.

KONDRACKE: Well, I, I, I think that Joe Biden would be starting so late that it would be very hard to run, but I think he'd been a great candidate too.

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