'Special Report' Panel on Hillary Clinton's Health Care Plan and Republican Presidential Race

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from February 4, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I pledge to you, whether you're a Pats fan or a Giants fan, if you vote for me we will be on the winning team in November!

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will not just win here in New Jersey. We will win all across this nation on Tuesday. We will win the nomination. We will win the general election.

And you and I together, we will change this country, and we will change the world!


BRIT HUME, HOST: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. This, folks, is what you call a horserace.

With some thoughts on it now, Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, same job at Roll Call, Nina Easton, Washington bureau chief for Fortune magazine, and joining us tonight as well, Chris Wallace, the host of "FOX News Sunday."

Welcome all. Let's look at one poll before we go into this. And this is the Gallup Poll's look at the female Democratic support.

And you'll see when this poll appears that it wasn't long ago that Hillary Clinton enjoyed this massive lead, 54 percent to 24 percent over Barack Obama, and in just in the last couple of days, January 28 to 30, as you could see, that lead has shrunk to nine points.

She's losing ground. He's clearly gaining ground. It seems fair to say going into tomorrow that Barack Obama has been surging. So what? Chris?

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": It is interesting: according to the Gallup Poll just two weeks ago Clinton enjoyed a 19-point lead among women over Obama. Now she enjoys a six-point lead. I don't think she is enjoying it much.

HUME: A nine point.

WALLACE: Now it's six point — 48-42 in the gallop. And he has surrounded himself with women. He is tied at the hip to Claire McCaskill, the Senator from Missouri. Yesterday he had this big event out in Los Angeles where Michele Obama was joined by Caroline Kennedy and a surprise Maria Shriver, wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Today in the "Wall Street Journal" you have three leading Democratic women, Governor Napolitano of Arizona, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the Senator, and Governor Sebelius of Kansas all endorsing Obama.

HUME: They all had done so, but there they are together on the editorial page.

WALLACE: Right. And there is just a sense of hey, look, women, you don't have to be joined at the hip to Hillary Clinton. You can also look at Obama, and they made a very strong case for him. So he realized it was a weakness and he seems to be addressing it and he seems to have closed the gap.

HUME: He's succeeding, yes.

NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: And he is even, Obama is diving into some of the hard core feminist community. Kate Michelman, the pro abortion rights advocate has come out in favor of Obama even as NOW, the National Organization of Women, denounced Teddy Kennedy —

HUME: That was just the New York chapter.

EASTON: Yes, the New York chapter, for betrayal for endorsing Obama.

But this has to have the Clinton campaign worried because their strength has been with women voters. Personally, I think from my own personal polling — just people I know, that is — that this goes back to the negative campaigning coming out of the Clinton camp, particularly Bill Clinton, ironically.

And I think it turned a lot of women off. I think they're more drawn to that sense of optimism, hope, and less drawn — when it gets into a slugfest, I think that tends to turn women off, and I think he is benefiting from that.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: On the basis of my straw polling, I think electability is another big factor. If you talk to a lot of women Democrats, they really do want to win, and they're beginning to doubt whether Hillary can actually do it based on polling and the idea that McCain is going to be the nominee.

But a lot of it has to do with Bill Clinton. And one Democratic friend of mine said if she can't control this adolescent, how is she going to control Ahmadinejad? And so, you know, there's that.

There's disappointment, I think, in the way the Clinton has run this campaign.

HUME: How does this bode for tomorrow, Fred? The Obama surge is strong. The conventional wisdom has been it is strong, but she is still ahead nearly everywhere, she is still leading, and therefore she will come out ahead tomorrow. Is that still true, do you think?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: No. I don't think it's necessarily true. And, by the way, I could have polled my three daughters and my wife, but — anyway, they're all Republicans.

KONDRACKE: Surprise, surprise.

BARNES: Mort is right about electability. And what is interesting is you see there was a poll that was done for Charlie Cook that showed in drawing the votes of Independents in a general election match up against John McCain and Mitt Romney, Barack Obama does much, much, much better.

And now he's doing better among women as well. Obviously, women were not immune to the Obama magic.

But, look, I want to mention three states because I think these are the ones you need to look at tomorrow. Obviously Hillary Clinton will win New York, and Barack Obama will win Illinois. But New Jersey, Missouri, and California.

New Jersey is the ultimate suburban state, and America is a suburban country. I think half the voters are suburbanites one way or another in America, and Obama has made a huge comeback there — well, it's not a comeback, it's a surge. He never was very strong there. Hillary Clinton was way ahead. Now he has a very good chance of winning that.

Then, Missouri is a very representative state because it's got two big cities and it has suburbs and it has a large rural area. And so that's Missouri.

And then there's California: it's just the biggest state. If he can win two out of three of those, then I think it will be a big day for him.

HUME: It will be, but, Mort, it's important, I suppose, to note that whoever wins tomorrow winning those states will get perhaps a majority of the delegates, but not — unless it is a huge blowout, you don't get a huge majority of the delegates. You may get only a bare majority of the delegates, you have got this person you just have beaten nipping at your heels with nearly as many delegates as you have.

KONDRACKE: Right. And so the race goes on, and it's going to go on for awhile.

But Obama now has time. It's not over on February 5. It's going to go on next week — I believe it's next week — is the Chesapeake primary, which is Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Right after that is Wisconsin. Those four states ought to be good for Obama.

And then after that is the big one in Pennsylvania and Ohio, where, I think, after that, the choice may be made.

I think that people are going to start looking at who has won a majority of the popular vote at a certain point. Right now, it's Hillary on the basis of Michigan and Florida, which are not supposed to be legal states. But, nonetheless, she got those votes. But after tomorrow people are going to start toting up the popular vote.

WALLACE: I think what Mort is under-saying it. I think we're going to end up covering the Pennsylvania primary on April 22. I literally think this thing is go to go into April.

HUME: Wow.

When we return, we will review the bidding in the Republican presidential race — lots to talk about there.



MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think it communicates to people in California the entire nation is watching California and what they're going to do. If I win California that means you're going to have a conservative in the White House.


HUME: Well, maybe. Mitt Romney has had some late strength in California, as Carl Cameron had been reporting earlier. But look at the national polling that we've got, the Real Clear Politics average of national polls on the Republican race, and it shows a commanding lead, as you can see, for John McCain.

Now, obviously not all states are voting, and there may be strength for Romney in places that a poll like that won't show, but, nonetheless, a commanding lead.

And the lead seems in many, if not most polls to be growing in recent days. So, Fred, what happens tomorrow — first of all, does it seem likely that McCain will have a big day tomorrow? And if he does, what does that do to the race?

BARNES: Well, it would make him an even more prohibitive frontrunner than he already is right now.

Look, Romney has a couple of problems. One is he's got two opponents: Mike Huckabee and John McCain.

You would think Mike Huckabee would be running against McCain the frontrunner, but he's not. He's running against Romney and criticizing him, I think because he is consciously helping McCain and would like to wind up as McCain's vice president, because Huckabee has no chance of winning the presidential nomination nor being a broker, a pivotal figure.

And the other problem for Romney is the states that McCain is going to win are the ones where you win all the delegates: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Missouri. And California is a different situation where they are decided by each congressional district.

HUME: There are 53 separate races in California. But if win — every one of them you win, you get all the votes from that district.

BARNES: That would be impressive. He may win the overall popular vote in California, and I think there has been a bit of a movement among some conservatives, because they don't like McCain, for Romney, but it's just too late.

McCain's goal is to win the majority of the primaries, and I think he will do that easily, and a majority of the delegates — I think it will it will be a blowout for the delegates tomorrow.

WALLACE: Can I just give you an example of the delegates? With Giuliani out and Giuliani endorsing McCain, there is every likelihood he is going to run New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware. Those are all winner-take-all states. That would be 184 delegates for McCain, zero for Romney, if that's what happens.

HUME: Viewers will notice, of course, that we are speaking very differently about how the two parties allocate their delegates. In the Democratic Party if you get a proportion of the vote, no matter how small, you get that same proportion of the delegates.

In the Republican Party, it is almost always winner-take-all. You win the state — you win the congressional district in some cases — you get all the delegates. So it's awfully hard for somebody to stay in the race if they keep losing.

EASTON: And even Mitt Romney's home state, Massachusetts, it is not winner-take-all. So even though he is ahead there, McCain will get delegates.

HUME: McCain will get delegates for sure.

EASTON: I think probably what you will see on the Romney campaign is whether they do well enough to stay in the race in case something happens. You never know what kind of news will break or what might happen after.

I think worst case scenario, they lose by some 600 delegates — best case scenario, they in there like 150 to 200 delegates behind McCain.

And so it becomes, with the best case scenario, does that buy you enough time? Conservatives do seem to be coming up behind Romney to some extent. Mary Matalin today was just attacking Mike Huckabee for staying in the race. You're hearing some of that. Romney is speaking to the CPAC conference on Thursday.

HUME: So is McCain.

EASTON: So is McCain.

KONDRACKE: Not only is Huckabee running against Romney, but Romney is running against Huckabee. The two of them seem to be fighting more than either one of them is fighting against McCain. And McCain is sort of — he's not getting a free ride, that's for sure, but, nonetheless, he's able to outdistance both of them.

And Michael Medved, the conservative commentator, pointed out today if you ad the McCain vote and the Huckabee vote — I'm sorry: you add the Romney vote and the Huckabee vote, you still don't get to equal the McCain vote. You get pretty close, but McCain is still ahead of both of them combined.

And McCain would win some of the Huckabee vote, presumably, so he's way out in front.

HUME: Let's assume that Romney decides to go on after tomorrow. What about within the Republican Party? McCain has many friends, but he also has many who do not like or trust him. What are they going to do tomorrow after tomorrow if McCain has a big day tomorrow?

BARNES: It's make or break for Romney tomorrow. Would Romney want to spend millions and millions of his own money? I doubt it.

If the worst case scenario, outlined by Nina, that he is 600 delegates behind, it's insurmountable. I don't know why he would want to move on. If you do poorly in Super Tuesday, why would you suddenly do better on February 12 in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia? I don't think he would.

WALLACE: In addition, while you see some very unhappy conservatives about John McCain, like Rush Limbaugh, it's interesting that you're beginning to see part of the Republican establishment say "enough."

Bob Dole sent a letter today to Rush Limbaugh in which he said "I cannot recall a single instance," talking about when he was Majority Leader, "when McCain did not support the party on critical votes: pro-life, strict constructionist judges, school prayer, balanced budgets, earmarks, second amendment."

He notes there are some issues in which he disagrees, like the Bush tax cuts, but you're beginning to see some of the Republican establishment saying "enough."

HUME: And where do they choose to say it? In a letter to Rush Limbaugh! That tells you quite a bit about the primacy of that particular guy in Republican Party fortune.

BARNES: People who agree with him about not liking McCain, they did not get to Romney soon enough. And McCain has gotten where he is because there was a divided field of conservatives. And it's going to be very difficult to stop him now, if not impossible.

EASTON: Going back to '76, I think the Republican Party has had a sense it's his turn — Ford, Reagan, and I think you do see the Party coalescing around McCain in the same way.

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