'Special Report' Panel on Super Tuesday

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from February 5, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a lot that we're going to find out about how this works today. And that is what is both intriguing and somewhat mystifying, because none of us really understand what the impact of all these contests on one day will be for any of us.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think it's go ing to be decisive because of the way Democrats apportion delegates. But I think that our message is starting to break through, and we're optimistic about our prospects for wining the nomination.


BRIT HUME, HOST: Democrats today. Some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, Nina Easton, Washington bureau chief of Fortune Magazine, and Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard—FOX News contributors all.

Well, we have some feel from the exit polling about big national trends. We can't tell yet really how they will apply or whether they do apply in individual races, but this looks like it's going to be an interesting night. Fred, your thoughts?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, it looks like it's not just George Clooney and Robert DeNiro, but a whole lot of white guys have signed up with Barack Obama, which is important. What his problem has been is that he would win three-fourths of the African- American vote and one-fourth of the white vote. But he's doing much better, particularly among white men.

HUME: This is, of course, in early states.

BARNES: It's in early states and it's in the exit polls, but when you attract 20,000 people in Minneapolis, and 20,000 in Wilmington, and 14,000 people in Boise Idaho or the last few days, and even though crowd estimates always err on the high side, there really is a surge for Obama, and we're seeing it tonight.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: The exits as reported by Megan Kelly all would suggest a big night for Obama based on what Fred was talking about.

The Clinton people that I've talked to feel good pretty about California, however, and that's a major—the popular vote in California, I think, if Clinton can win that, would be a psychological boost for her—

HUME: But we won't know that until tomorrow.

KONDRACKE: We might. I think they're basing that largely on the lead that they expect to have among absentee voters, that that would give her a lead.

But I do know that the Clinton people are also terribly worried about losing Massachusetts and Connecticut and New Jersey and those places on the east coast.

And the bottom line is probably going to be some sort of muddle as to delegates. But I think we should just add up the popular vote when we get it all added up, and whoever wins then, it seems to me, will be the frontrunner.

NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Terry McAuliffe, earlier this year was going around saying it will all be over February 5. Guess what? It's not going to be over.

And I think what has got to have the Clinton people worried is, as Fred mentioned, Obama's support is not a bunch of exuberant young people and African-American voters. He's biting into the white male vote and the Latino vote apparently. So I think that's a big news story coming out.

The other thing is looking forward. I think what has the Clinton people worried is what comes after Super Tuesday in what they say is "latte liberal land." You have Virginia and D.C. and Maryland and Wisconsin and Washington. And there's some sense that they can't show strength again until early March.

And another thing is fundraising. Barack Obama raised something like $30 million just last month, and he's going to have the strength to go forward.

So I think all of these factors probably have the Clinton people pretty worked up now.

HUME: We were thinking coming into tonight that even though Obama, because of the way the Democrats allocate the delegates, would get a significant share, even if she won a lot of places and he didn't, that the effect of that would be to make her, even if she didn't have much of a delegate lead, the unquestionable frontrunner.

If that doesn't happen now, I think we're looking at different picture. Don't you, Bill?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, absolutely. She may think that Maryland and Virginia are "liberal latte land," but we gun-toting Virginians object strongly to that presentation.

We will see what happens. It looks very close. New Jersey will close at 8:00 p.m., and New Jersey is a fast-reporting state usually. Neighboring states—obviously Senator Clinton has been ahead five to seven percent in the polls pretty consistently there; more, actually, a couple of weeks ago.

If Obama has actually closed and possibly wins New Jersey, that means he might be bale to carry the popular vote and even end the night slightly ahead in delegates, which would be pretty striking.

HUME: The sophisticated political observers are saying this popular vote stuff is all really a beauty contest, particularly on the Democratic side, because there's no winner-take-all anywhere with the Democrats. It's all proportional, so follow the delegates.

But it seems to me that that may be not the way to look at this. You really have to attract votes, right?

BARNES: Of course you do.

And, in particular, Hillary Clinton talks about the super delegates—350, 360—their votes. If somebody is winning all the primaries, and even though the other candidate is piling up delegates, they're going to go with what the trend is. That's what they always do. And they will switch to Obama if he is wining the primaries. They're not going to stick with Hillary Clinton.

I want to say that I live in Virginia, too. Latte land it ain't!

KRISTOL: There are more like, I think 800 super delegates.

But I agree with Fred that they will tend to follow the popular trend. And since this is a democracy it would be hard to not pick someone who has not gotten the majority of the vote in a two way race. If Obama beats Senator Clinton consistently in the popular vote, that would strong.

Senator Clinton today announced that she was accepting a bunch of debates beginning next week suddenly. They want to put out a statement saying we want to do all these debates with Senator Obama. They had not announced that before today.

That tells me that their own internal tracking and their own sense of the race is suddenly—if you're winning easily, you don't suddenly say let's have a debate.

HUME: And usually it's the challengers who are behind that want a debate.

KONDRACKE: As for the popular vote, don't forget, this is a party that profoundly believes in the popular vote as of the year 2000, when Al Gore won the national popular vote. And they have been saying ever since that he got cheated out of the presidency.

Just imagine somebody wins the popular vote and loses the nomination—what are they going to say then?

EASTON: It's sort of happening in Nevada. It looks like Obama may come out with more delegates.

HUME: It is true that the Democrats are the Party with the structure that makes it possible to actually win a state and lose the delegate count.

EASTON: And they set this up to have this long term competition going back to 1988 when Jesse Jackson did well in the popular vote and didn't do well with delegates. They set this to be a prolonged process between two competing candidates that wouldn't play out for a long time. And we haven't seen it happen, but we will see it happen tonight.

BARNES: That's what Hillary Clinton will say if she loses the popular vote but wins the majority of the delegates—she'll say "I won."

HUME: I bet she will. And if I were she, I would, too. Let's take a look at the Republicans next. Stay tuned.



MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's probably the last person I would have wanted to have write a letter for me. I think there are a lot of folks that tend to think that maybe John McCain's race is a bit like Bob Dole's race.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Governor Romney should apologize to Bob Dole for that comment. He's a great American. And for Governor Romney, who has never had any military experience, to disparage the service and courage of an American hero, I think, is disgraceful.

ROMNEY: I would love to have his support. I said I would love to have his support. I would love to have Bob Dole's support.


HUME: Well, Governor Romney might love to have Bob Dole's support, but my guess is, tonight, at least, it's a long shot.

But I suppose to a person sitting at home trying to figure out whom to support in Super Tuesday and beyond, you hear that, you kind of think "what are they talking about? Bob Dole? A great American to be sure, but how did he get in the middle of this debate?"

Anyway, it tells you something—it is a close race, and a candidate will seize on anything another candidate says and try to make the most of it.

But what about this race tonight? The exit polls suggest that Mike Huckabee is given up for—not quite dead but largely irrelevant—may make another stand, may ride again.

BARNES: I had given him up for dead. It shows you that momentum doesn't matter, because coming out of Florida—he was in fourth in Florida, and, all of a sudden, it looks like he will win a few southern primaries tonight in the bible belt. And good for him.

At best, he could wind up being a broker between Romney and McCain over who gets the nomination. I doubt if he will, but that's a possibility.

I think the story tonight, though, really is going to be that McCain does not consolidate his position as the frontrunner and become the prohibitive frontrunner. He's going to be still be the frontrunner, but it's not the big night he was hoping for.

HUME: This is just based on what we're seeing.

BARNES: Based on what we're seeing, it looks like, at best, he could get—it takes about 1,200 delegates to win the nomination, I think—

HUME: 1,191.

BARNES: OK, thank you. And it looks like he may get over 700. But it looked like that originally. That was the best case scenario. He's not going to get that.

HUME: There are just over a thousand available tonight—1,023 or something like that. It will be hard to get that.

KONDRACKE: He will get a delegate lead because of all these winner-take-all primaries that he is almost certain to win in Connecticut.

HUME: Half of the 16 primaries on the Republican side are winner take all, so if you win the state, you win the whole batch.

KONDRACKE: Yes, Massachusetts and all those states where he is favored going in are winner-take-all, and so he will get all those delegates.

But the problem for McCain, once again, is that he is not polling conservative. And he's not polling—he's not even winning a plurality of self-identified Republicans.

That's been his problem all the way along, and if those people will not finally knuckle under and say, OK, John, you got it, then he doesn't have the nomination in hand yet.

They are split, though. Some of them are going for Huckabee and some of them will vote for Romney. So Huckabee could be the power broker, and, therefore, vice president.

HUME: Nominee.


EASTON: On the conservative issue, I have to say there is a lot of over-the-top conservative attacks on John McCain.

HUME: You say that as someone who is—

EASTON: As a Romney advisor—

HUME: Good.

EASTON: Yes, which everybody seems to know by now.

But what I found interesting was that what prompted that Bob Dole letter—what prompted that? Rush Limbaugh accusing John McCain of wanting to destroy, intentionally wanting to destroy the Republican Party.

That's kind of over the top. If you're talking about his Immigration Bill, for example, last I checked, President Bush supported that approach on immigration.

HUME: You can't deny that it split the Republican Party.

EASTON: It split the Republican Party, but to accuse John McCain of overtly trying to destroy the Republican Party to me is over the top.

On the Huckabee thing, I think the irony of that is that Huckabee is clearly out there trying to help John McCain and undermine Mitt Romney.

HUME: That's a very interesting point, because that is certainly the way it looks. And you had that little business in West Virginia today where the McCain supporters at the state convention were urged on the second ballot to throw their support to Mike Huckabee.

McCain was going to be third, and so he ends up being third anyway, but denies Mitt Romney of what would have been a winning state.

EASTON: They though they were going to win that, and McCain—

HUME: So if Huckabee comes along and does as well as he is likely to tonight, might John McCain change his mind about whether he wants Mike Huckabee to still be in the race and helping?

EASTON: That's the irony of this. His doing well and staying in the race could actually hurt McCain.

HUME: Bill?

KRISTOL: It's not so clear, though, that the Huckabee voter's second choice is Romney. In Florida, more of them were for McCain than for Romney. So it is very hard to know what the natural split would be if it were only a two-person race.

It doesn't look like McCain will put away the race tonight. It looks like he will be the leader in delegates. The conservative movement, parts of it, are having a total nervous breakdown, some of my fellow conservatives are suffering from McCain derangement syndrome.

The left is suffering from Bush derangement syndrome. Now the right is suffering from McCain derangement syndrome. On the other hand, Romney says a silly thing about Bob Dole, and McCain accuses him, says he has to apologize. Everyone is going a little nuts.

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