This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from October 22, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't think of any place I'd rather be as election day draws close than running an underdog campaign in the state of New Hampshire.

MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: My view is that Barack Obama is the underdog and will continue to be the underdog until he is sitting in the Oval Office!


BRIT HUME, HOST: Well, who is the underdog here? Let's look at our latest polls just out today. FOX News opinion dynamics poll has Barack Obama enjoying a nine-point lead, this among likely voters. That means that the voters in the polls have been asked about voting habits in an effort to determine how likely they are to vote.

The Real Clear Politics average of all polls is a little brighter for McCain, about 50 percent for Obama, 43 percent for McCain. That's an average of about eight or ten polls. So you get a sense of it.

Folks, Obama is leading. So the question is — well, let me just ask this — is this race, at this stage of the game, two weeks to go, a lead in both that average and in our poll and other polls outside the margin of error, still able to change and be won by John McCain?

Some thoughts from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard Nina Easton Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune magazine, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.


FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I would say the answer is yes, but I wouldn't bet the ranch on it. It wouldn't be entirely unprecedented, but you have to go back to — and Al Gore gained about five or six points in the last week or two of the campaign.

But it's not likely, and particularly because of the "three m's"— the market, the media, and the money.

And, look, John McCain can't sustain many days like today when the stock market loses 514 points. I mean, he's got to have a rising stock market in the last couple of weeks if he's going to get anywhere.

And, then, of course, there's the money, which — Barack Obama has all the money. He's outspending McCain in the battleground states three or four to one. And using his money wisely, advertising on all these athletic events, going after an audience which watches sports on TV, which is not a liberal Democratic audience, a very good use of the money.

And then there's the media. We know — everything that McCain or Sarah Palin do the media attacks, and everything that Obama does, they love, or all the ridiculous foolish statements by Joe Biden, they ignore.

So when you put those three together, the market, the money, and the media, it's very, very tough for McCain.

NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Always the media's fault. That's why Bush was elected twice.

BARNES: Every study of the media shows that by more than two to one they have favored Obama.

EASTON: It's not defining the campaign.

BARNES: It's playing a roll. I never said it was defining the campaign. It's a big part of the campaign.

EASTON: Anyway, I would say never say never in terms of McCain, especially in this particular campaign. These polls show that Obama has owned the last 30 days, and he continues to. And what's interesting —

HUME: And is that because of events or because he's run such a clever campaign, or what?

EASTON: I think it is because a narrative has set in. Fairly or unfairly, this narrative set in that John McCain is more erratic, more hot-headed, less of a stable decision maker. Obama is cool, the cool guy, has a cool temperament, calm.

And I think that's from two things. I think that's from their performance at the debates, and I think it's from their reaction to the financial crises.

And when you just hear from people and look at what people are saying, real people are saying, they bring those, both of those things up.

And I'm surprised at Joe the plumber — the other thing I would say about these polls, I thought Joe the plumber would have more of an impact, because I did think that Barack Obama's big vulnerability is being a very liberal Democrat.

And this was finally, I think, John McCain found a voice and a way to do that when he talked about share the wealth.

But it doesn't seem to have affected the polls.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think the news is grim for McCain. There are two numbers inside the polls that are troubling for the McCain campaign.

The first is that 88 percent of Democrats now support Obama. The Democrats have come home. Their hope, of course, were the Clinton Democrats, and the reason that you see all the Midwestern Appalachian states, which were assumed to be in play all tending Democratic is because the Clinton people have gone home to Obama.

In part because the Palin effect didn't work, the original first couple of weeks when she was a media star. McCain and Palin spoke about Clinton highly, trying to get that kind of constituent. It didn't work.

She's been caricatured not so much by the Obama campaign as by the media, the late-night host, "Saturday Night Live" as empty-headed, igloo-dwelling, right wing nut, and it has taken.

And, secondly, the appeal you might have expected McCain would have to independents, Reagan Democrats in those states, erodes in the face of a financial tsunami.

The appeal of Reaganism in those constituencies is the social issues. But the guns and god stuff disappears if your retirement and your job is in jeopardy. So I think that's really hurt McCain.

HUME: Now, what about — late in the race we see tightening as a rule. It looked like we were starting to see it last week. Now it appears in most polls to be going the other way. Should we look for tightening as the race gets closer and interpret it as anything other than natural tightening?

BARNES: I think we should see it, and it probably will just be natural tightening.

Let me just say one other thing. I don't think it is a narrative that has set in, and I don't think the Sarah Palin effect has gone away. What happened is a huge event. Charles, you called it the financial tsunami. That changed everything.

And it wasn't voters coming to some conclusion that they thought Obama was better in handling the financial crisis. He didn't do anything during the finance crisis. He stood on the sidelines. It was the crisis itself that killed the McCain campaign. And it continues when we see the market falling.

HUME: We'll shift gears a bit and talk about the fierce reaction to Sarah Palin and Joe the plumber in some quarters. We'll be right back.



GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R-AK) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're like, geez, where did she come from? Surely it should be our job, I think they assume, is to pick and be negative and find things to mock.

JOE WURZELBACHER, THE PLUMBER: You know, I am a plumber, and I'm just a plumber. And here, you know, Barack Obama or John McCain, I mean, these guys are going to deal with serious issues coming up shortly. And the media is worried about whether I've paid my taxes or worried about any number of silly things that have nothing to do with America.


HUME: A couple of people who in this campaign have taken their lumps from the media, some say undeservedly, Sarah Palin and Joe the plumber.

Certainly when Joe the plumber posed his hypothetical question to Barack Obama, and Barack Obama went ahead and answered it and said something that got everyone all stirred up about spreading the wealth, who would have thought that that would have led to a series of investigative stories about whether Joe the plumber made the amount of money he said he hoped maybe to make in the future and whether his name was really Joe, because his first name was not Joseph, it was his middle name, and so on down the line.

So the question is what accounts for the force of this reaction in some quarters on the left, in particularly in the media as well, to Joe the plumber and Sarah Palin and perhaps others-Nina?

EASTON: I think on the liberal left, there is always a sense that somebody who is conservative, particularly in Sarah Palin's case, if you are a Christian, pro-life conservative, there is a sense that they are dolts. They are idiots and can't possibly be smart people. I have come across that sensibility a lot.

That said, I think Sarah Palin, just going back to Sarah Palin, it has not helped her case. And because she has shown herself not having the depth on issues that a lot of people think —

HUME: In the debate, for example?

EASTON: That a lot of people — if you look even beyond the liberal left and the media, her unfavorables have gone up. People don't think she's ready to be president. And these are independents. It's not just liberal left.

And I don't think that's just because she is being mocked on "Saturday Night Live. I think it has a lot to do with the Katie Couric interview, which was a very straightforward interview. It was not a "gotcha" interview, and she did not perform well and she didn't show herself adept at the issues.

HUME: What about Joe the plumber? Why was there such a fierce reaction to him? The guy asked a hypothetical question. He could have been Joe anybody. Why would people think —

EASTON: Because John McCain threw him out front and center.

HUME: But it was the Obama answer that got the whole thing started, wasn't it.

HUME: It is a natural media reaction-you're going to throw this guy out there to go find out who the guy is. I don't think that's anything —

HUME: Charles, your thoughts? Hold on for a second.

KRAUTHAMMER: What's remarkable about the reaction to Palin is not only the unfavorable. It's the loathing, the absolute hatred that you hear, especially from intellectuals, feminists, sort of east coast, west coast, pointy headed. And this is because —

EASTON: But some conservative women, too.

KRAUTHAMMER: But this had a pedigree. It didn't just start.

In the '80's, you had the Margaret Thatcher and Jeane Kirkpatrick who were considered because they were not liberal, they were conservative.

They were actually — it was said of them as has been said of Sarah Palin, they were not women because you couldn't be. If you were a conservative. You were, by definition, a patriarchal thug. And if you happened to be a woman, it was simply in women's threads.

EASTON: That is not true. There is a lot of respect for Jean Kirkpatrick. There was. There was a lot of respect for her.

KRAUTHAMMER: The viciousness with which she was attacked as a contradiction in terms, a conservative woman.

In Palin's case, I think what adds to it is her decision at her age with four other children to have a down syndrome child. This, too, as Joseph Epstein wrote, in feminist circles if abortion is not about this, what's it about?

And they look at her as sort of a back room — a backwater hick, who, for religious reasons, went ahead and had a child that they would never have.

Underneath it, I think, deep underneath it, I think it's a self-loathing on the part of these feminists, knowing that what she did is virtuous and a generous act that they would have never have undertaken. And her having undertaken it is an affront to them, a silent rebuke.

BARNES: I think liberal elites, which include the media mostly, don't like people who don't belong to their class or who don't at least agree with them on all these issues, and, in particular, social issues. And Sarah Palin doesn't.

Jonah Goldberg wrote an interesting thing. When Gwen Ifill was caught in a horrible conflict of interesting-she has this book-it's success depends on Obama being elected. That was OK because it was not her questions in the debate that matter, it's only the answers.

And then Joe the plumber comes along and it's the questioner who matters. And not just the answer, which was an embarrassing, one of the few embarrassing ones in the whole campaign by Barack Obama.

The double standards applied by liberals, and particularly the liberal elite in the media, are breathtaking and have gotten worse than ever in this campaign.

HUME: That's it for the panel.

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