This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Sept. 27, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: The first of three presidential debates is only three days away. And a pair of new polls today revealed that the race has indeed tightened a little bit.

A brand new Gallup poll gives President Bush an eight-point, 52-44 percentage lead among likely voters, while the new ABC News poll released this afternoon shows the president leading Senator Kerry by six points.

And the president still holds leads in significant battleground states, but does the tightness of the race really mean that the debates are make or break for both candidates?

Joining us now, former Clinton adviser, Dick Morris.

Dick, good to see you.


HANNITY: I'm not even interested in those numbers, because they're consistent.

I'm looking at the internals. I'm looking at what they're saying about John Kerry and how they're saying he's not decisive on. Look at this. Strong leader: Bush wins 58-32. Takes a clear stand on issues: 59- 28. Appealing personality: 51-32.

MORRIS: Yes. I mean, I think that what's happened is that Bush has set up a trap for Kerry, which is, he has so emphasized Kerry's flip- flopping, so-called weakness, vacillation, all that stuff, that Kerry has to take strong positions in the debate.

And either way he takes a strong position on Iraq, he loses.

HANNITY: Because he's already debating himself.

MORRIS: Exactly. And a third of his voters are certified hawks, who say that we're winning the war on terror. Iraq is essential to the war on terror and that we have got to be there.

Half of his voters are doves. But when he starts adopting an anti- Iraq line, anti-war line, he's going to alienate a third of his own voters.

And his problem is that he can't appear to straddle, because Bush has taken that option away from him.

HANNITY: Let me look at the Gallup poll. Bush wins on the economy by six points. He wins on the situation in Iraq by double digits. He's up in terrorism 61-34. And most other issues.

But more importantly, when you look at a favorable view of the candidates, 52 percent for the president, John Kerry's 37.

Now I'm thinking, Karl Rove is a pretty smart guy. They've been doing their own polling. And the reason they agreed to three debates is they feel the more people see John Kerry, the more they don't like him?

MORRIS: Kerry has a strategic problem. And it doesn't matter how good a debater you are and how attractive you are. It's a strategic problem.

Every time he opens his mouth on a foreign policy debate, he's got to take a position that alienates a portion of his voters.

HANNITY: I got that. All right. Let me ask this: As we now go forward and this debate moves forward, do you see a scenario where he can come back?


HANNITY: Is the philosophy now that the Clinton people have advised him to scream and they sent Kennedy out there with this insane speech, is that going to work at all?

MORRIS: Being negative against Bush isn't going to work. If I tell you that I think your wife is pushy and obnoxious...


MORRIS: ... that's not going to change your opinion of the wife. I've never met her.

HANNITY: She's a wonderful woman, Dick. Be careful here.

MORRIS: But that's not going to change your opinion of your wife. OK?

HANNITY: Because I know my wife.

MORRIS: Because you know your wife. On the other hand, if you have a blind date with somebody tomorrow night and I say, "Hey, I know that woman. She's pushy and obnoxious."

HANNITY: So American people know George Bush's heart and John Kerry is punching a...

MORRIS: A pillow.

HANNITY: What are they thinking? Because it's clear to me, this is what happened. Clinton people in: bam, bam, liar, liar, liar, liar.

MORRIS: They're playing to the grandstands. They're not focusing on the playing field. And the grandstands want him to take Bush on; they want him to be strong. They're reading these poll numbers that you're showing, and they're saying, "OK, we're going to be strong and tough on Iraq. We're going to be aggressive on it."

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: If you look at the internals...

MORRIS: But what they're missing is, in the course of becoming strong on that issue, they're losing a third of their vote.

COLMES: Well, if we look at the internals in these polls, 48 percent approve of what Bush is doing in Iraq. Forty-nine percent disapprove.

Isn't that where Bush is vulnerable, because the country is pretty evenly divided about whether we should have gone to Iraq in the first place?

MORRIS: You look at his data. Who's better in the war on Iraq, 53 to 38 Bush. And you can't...

COLMES: Whether they approve or not, Dick, Kerry wins by one point.

MORRIS: No, no, no, right there.

COLMES: Hold on. In the other poll, Kerry is up by one point. The fact is: There's weakness there on Bush's part. The American public is divided about whether we should have gone there.

MORRIS: But wait a minute. He's no longer running against an ideal or against himself or against you approve or disapprove of this. The question is it's a choice of two human beings and which one do you think will do the better job on Iraq?

And you don't base your campaign on something where your opponent beats you by 15 points going in. You base it on something where you're beating your opponent by 15 points.

COLMES: They have repeated flip-flop, flip-flop so often that they have some people believing it.

Can't Kerry make the case he never voted for a war, he voted to give the executive branch the authority, trusted George W. Bush, and basically said all along — and he's been consistent — work with our allies?

MORRIS: Man, I can see you windsurfing.

COLMES: No, no, no, no. It was a funny commercial, come on, but it was inaccurate, because you know that he was very consistent about saying work with allies and he gave the president the authority under certain conditions.

Why can't that case be made to the American people?

MORRIS: Because it looks flip-floppy. It looks weak. "I voted against it before I voted for it."

COLMES: Do you think the American people are not bright enough to understand that?

MORRIS: They're bright enough to understand that when somebody takes that position it's a copout and they're bright enough to understand that he's taken that position because he doesn't want to tell them what he really thinks. And the reason...

COLMES: ... to give the president authority based on what he was told by the president?

MORRIS: He cast that vote because he knew that if he didn't cast that vote he couldn't run for president, because at the time there was a consensus in that favor.

But the point is that John Kerry has a choice. He can take Bush on on issues where he wins, or issues where he loses. And he's charged right into taking him on on issues where he loses and that's a fundamental mistake.

COLMES: He's already winning on a number of key issues not having to do with Iraq. He wins on education. He wins on the environment.

MORRIS: But he's not talking about it. He's saying Iraq is the issue.

COLMES: But he's already got the people on those particular issues.

MORRIS: Yes, it's not a question of that.

COLMES: Doesn't he need to convince people on the issue of Iraq?


COLMES: ... and terror and where he can be better than Bush?

MORRIS: No. Why do you want to bang your head against a wall when there is an open field you can do?

COLMES: You don't believe that the case can be made that we were misled. Just last week, Allawi and Bush saying things are great in Iraq, things are going well. News reports day after day show just the opposite. The American people can see that.

Why shouldn't Kerry make that case?

MORRIS: Because he can't win it. Overwhelmingly, people feel that in terror and Iraq and all of this stuff that Bush is better, and if Kerry spends his life talking about that, all he's doing is ratifying that as the central issue.

COLMES: What does Kerry have to do in the first debate? Does he have to make his case right away in debate No. 1?

MORRIS: I don't think he can possibly do well in debate No. 1.

COLMES: Why is that?

MORRIS: Because it's on foreign policy and whatever position he takes he alienates a third of his vote.

COLMES: So it was a strategic error to agree to agree to have debate No. 1 on foreign policy...


COLMES: ... by the Kerry camp?

MORRIS: It was a tremendous strategic error to agree to segregate debates by topics. What he should have done is, it all comes together, and when Bush talks about Iraq he talks about education.

COLMES: But isn't that what the American people are focused on, Iraq, foreign policy and they're focused on the war on terror?

MORRIS: They're focused on it because the Democratic candidate for president is saying that that's the major issue.

COLMES: He doesn't by himself control the news cycle and what people are talking about?

MORRIS: He has a huge amount to do with it, and if Kerry would have made something else the major issue, he could. That's what a presidential candidate can do. But by accepting Bush's stipulation that Bush's strengths are the issues, he's dead before he starts.

COLMES: The later debates talk about other issues where Kerry wins?

MORRIS: No, because what Bush will do is in the domestic debate he'll talk about homeland security.

HANNITY: Good luck. By the way, congratulations on your new DVD. "Fahren-hype."

MORRIS: There's "Fahrenheit 9/11," and my answer is "Fahren-hype 9/11."

HANNITY: I put it on my Web site, Hannity.com.

MORRIS: Hannity.com.

HANNITY: All right. Thanks, Dick. Good to see you.

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