Early analysis of the 2016 race for the White House

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 26, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


LYNN SWEET, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": In 2016, we have two stories going in -- who the Republican nominee is, who the Democrat nominee is. The story is more complex and in some ways more dramatic on the Republican side because even though New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is ahead in the poll, it's not by much. It's not decisive. He can't really say "I'm a frontrunner," and have no one dispute it.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: There is no question Hillary Clinton is a heavy favorite to be the Democratic nominee. But strange things happen.


SHANNON BREAM, GUEST ANCHOR: Let's ask our panel if they think anything strange will happen. And we will start out with a brand new FOX News poll. This is the
2016 Democratic nominee preference. This is among polled folks who self- identified as Democrats. And 68 percent say Clinton. The next in line is a full, you know, 50 plus points behind, 56, I think. I was not a math major -- 12 percent Vice President Biden. We have Elizabeth Warner and Governor Cuomo on the list as well.

Nina, do you think anyone dethrones her?

NINA EASTON, COLUMNIST, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Here's the thing. She was coronated already in 2007 and that didn't go so well. I think that has to be uppermost on her mind as she looks at whether to go in or not. That said, I think the likelihood is that she will go in, and I think the likelihood is that she will get the nomination, however, not without a large -- a lot of vocal opposition from the left. There is a big segment of the left that thinks she is too pro- business and will want to go towards Elizabeth Warren. There is a big part of the left that thinks she is not pro-environmentalist enough. She gave some remarks this fall about appraising the energy boom in United States and was roundly attacked as being somebody who cares about fossil fuels too much by the anti-fracking crowd. So we are going to hear from them.

You will hear about and a lot of it, the NSA, the drone stuff, all this stuff that's part of the Obama administration, the left will make a big issue out of that. So I think it's going to be noisy among the Democrats, but I think ultimately if she throws it in, throws her hat in the ring, it will be Hillary Clinton.

BREAM: Charles, do you think that Benghazi will factor in at all in the primary or the general should Hillary Clinton be the democratic nominee?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It won't in the primary. It won't even be an issue. I think the status she enjoys among Democrats is semi-divine. It's not going to be a coronation. It's going to be a worship service. And it will go on for about six or eight months. I don't think there is any serious challenger. There might be noise, but I don't even think that the left that we have talked about is that significant. It's a noisy left, but I don't see any impediment on the way to her nomination.

But I think she is going to be rather weak if she decides to run, which I think she likely is, she will be a relatively weak opponent, and Republicans, I think, are going to have a really good shot at the White House.

BREAM: Well, let's' talk about that because obviously the polling is much tighter on the Republican side. This brand new FOX News poll, again, these are 2016 GOP presidential nominee preferences from polling done among self-identified Republicans. Chris Christie at the top of the list at 16 percent, but certainly not a commanding lead. Have you Jeb Bush behind him at 12, also Ted Cruz at 12, Paul Ryan at 12, Rand Paul, not Ron Paul. I don't think he is running again. We will see. A lot of people think rand Paul is going to run too running out of the top five with 11 percent.

Steve, does somebody break out any time soon or is this going to be a bloodbath in the primary?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Probably not. Probably nobody does break out any time soon. One thing you will notice top four or five names on the Republican side is people who have names that are well-known that everybody knows or they are people who have been in the news quite a bit lately. Ted Cruz, Chris Christie one popular. Jeb Bush has the Bush name. Paul Ryan was a presidential candidate. Rand Paul has gotten a lot of attention. So it's not a surprise that these would be the people leading the Republican field at this time.

What I think is interesting is to go back and look at what we were saying in December of 2005. And in December of 2005, on the Republican side, you had Rudy Giuliani at 30 percent, John McCain at 22 percent, Condoleezza Rice shortly behind him, and then you had George Allen and Bill Frist. That was the field. It didn't turn out quite that way. On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton was leading both John Kerry and John Edwards by nearly 30 points each. So obviously many things can change in the time we have in front of us.

On Benghazi and Hillary Clinton, I would say that it has already had an effect. If you look at her favorability ratings just a year ago and look at where they are now, it's very clear that it's had an effect. She has dropped some 30 points depending on the poll that you look at.

EASTON: I would disagree though that she won't be a strong candidate. I think she will be a very strong candidate. And she also polls a lot of independent women, Republican women who are -- who find her candidacy very appealing. I think the other factor to look at here is that the Republican Party is still in the midst of a civil war, and that's going to play out in the primaries, and I think that's going to continue to hurt them in the general election.

BREAM: Yes, we will see what happens in 2014, an opportunity to possibly do a little kumbayah. We will see. Thank you, panel. That's it for the panel.

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