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Claire McCaskill, Michael Steele, John Boehner, Roundtable

Fox News Sunday

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace. Saddam Hussein is found guilty and sentenced to death, next on "Fox News Sunday".

You decide 2006. Which party will win control of Congress? In these final hours, we'll examine two key Senate races where each party has a chance to pick up a seat, with Republican Michael Steele in Maryland and Democrat Claire McCaskill in Missouri.

And we'll discuss where the fight for the House stands with the Republican majority leader John Boehner. Also...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA): If you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Will John Kerry's so-called botched joke energize Republicans on Tuesday? We'll ask our Sunday regulars, Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol and Juan Williams.

Plus, our Power Player of the Week bashes both Democrats and Republicans with a laugh, all right now on an election preview edition of "Fox News Sunday".

And good morning from Fox News in New York City. We're coming to you today from Studio D, tricked out with all the bells and whistles as our election headquarters.

But before we talk with our guests about the last two days of this campaign, we want to turn to a major development this morning out of Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein and two members of his regime were found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging. Correspondent David Mac Dougall is live now in Baghdad with what happened in the courtroom and on the streets.

David?

DAVID MAC DOUGALL, FOX NEWS: Hi there, Chris. That sentence comes at the end of a year-long trial. Today millions of Iraqis tuned in to watch it all play out.

There were some dramatic scenes in court this morning with Saddam being forced to his feet by guards to hear the verdict and the sentence. Saddam reacted angrily, denouncing the court, the occupation and the current Iraqi government. Then he was taken away, still yelling out abuse.

In the town of Dujail itself, where the massacre took place, residents have taken to the streets to celebrate the verdict. Some of the people who survived that massacre were back in court today to see the end of the judicial process.

But in Sunni parts of the country, there have been demonstrations in support of Saddam. Chris, in theory, there's still a curfew in place, a security crackdown. It's pretty quiet in the part of Baghdad where we are right now, but about an hour from now, when darkness falls, I fully expect the celebratory gunfire to begin in earnest.

Chris?

WALLACE: David Mac Dougall, reporting live from Baghdad.

David, thank you.

Now to the election and the fight for control of the House and Senate. For more on the key races still in play this final weekend, we turn to Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron, live on the campaign trail in Missouri.

Carl?

CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS: Good morning, Chris. Congressional control shifts if Democrats oust six Republicans from the Senate and 15 from the House.

The president is barnstorming all weekend defending House and Senate GOP majorities, criticizing Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not saying these people are unpatriotic. I'm just saying they're wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON: Democratic stars have been criss-crossing the country for change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can do this, and it's going to be good for America and a great date.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON: In the House, Republicans assume their nine weakest open or scandal-damaged seats are all but lost.

Out of an additional 20 or so GOP-held toss-ups, concentrated in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York, Democrats would need six more for the majority, pretty good odds. In the Senate, three Republicans trailing by double digits look like goners -- Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Mike DeWine of Ohio. For control, Democrats would need three more out of four other toss-ups, Missouri, Virginia, Montana and Tennessee. Six out of seven is no easy feat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: With the Republican leaders, you get more of the Bush agenda: Stay the course in Iraq, more right-wing judges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON: Iraq permeates most races. Scandal could tip the scales in others. And Republicans hammer values in most.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Jim Webb -- he's not a Virginia Democrat. He's a Washington liberal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON: Yes, it's been nasty with records spent on both sides, and there is one possible surprise this election: Maryland's Democratic-held Senate seat and the possibility that African-American Republican Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele could pick up that Democratic seat for Republicans and in the process dash Democratic hopes of the majority.

Chris?

WALLACE: Carl Cameron reporting live from the campaign trail in Missouri.

Carl, thank you. We'll see you out on the hustings for the next few days and of course in our election night coverage.

With the remaining campaign time now measured in hours, we want to look at two key Senate races -- first of all, Missouri, where state auditor Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, holds a slim lead, as you can see there, over the incumbent Republican Senator Kim Talent, 1.4 points. It's been within the margin of error the whole time.

Mrs. McCaskill joins us now live from St. Louis, Missouri. Again, we invited Senator Jim Talent, but he was not available.

Mrs. McCaskill, good morning.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning.

WALLACE: Senator Talent says that you are soft on fighting the war on terror, and one point he makes is that you have been a vocal critic of the war in Iraq.

For all the problems there, we have the news today that Saddam Hussein is no longer oppressing his people, that he faces a sentence of death. Doesn't that count for something?

MCCASKILL: Oh, of course. And I think we're all pleased that justice has been done. I'm a former prosecutor, a big supporter of the death penalty, and I'm glad Saddam Hussein is facing death.

But the government of Iraq has not turned out to be the ally we need it to be against terror. They've supported Hezbollah. They've refused to disarm some of the militia that are killing our men and women.

This is a failed policy, and the president and Senator Talent are becoming more and more isolated from the American people for their failure to recognize that, Chris.

WALLACE: But, Mrs. McCaskill, President Bush says for all of your criticism, the Democrats don't have a plan for Iraq at all. Your idea is to redeploy U.S. troops out of Iraq over the next two years.

What happens if, as we begin to pull the troops out, the terrorists step up their campaign of violence?

MCCASKILL: Well, first of all, it is chaos right now. And the problem is the Taliban in Afghanistan really faces -- really presents more of a threat to our country than the Sunni shooting the Shia and the Shia shooting each other.

We really do need to respond to the problem in Afghanistan and the Taliban. We took our eye off that ball. We put all of our eggs in the Iraqi basket. And the security of our country has suffered.

And by the way, it's not just Democrats that are now saying we need a change in policy. Some of the most highly respected Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the military with experience, even retired generals with boots on the ground in Iraq have been speaking out now for months, saying we need to change policy, what we're doing there now is not working, and it's costing our country dearly.

WALLACE: But are you prepared -- you talk about chaos now. It could be a lot worse. We could be in outright civil war. We could have a staging ground for terrorists in Iraq, which they do not have at this point, to launch international strikes like they had in Afghanistan pre- 9/11.

Are you prepared to leave Iraq in two years in even a worse situation and a more threatening situation to the U.S.?

MCCASKILL: Well, I believe that if we begin now to inform the Iraqi government that we're not going to stay forever -- President Bush and Jim Talent continue to say we're going to stay forever, 10, 20 years, as long as it takes.

The bottom line is until we let the Iraqi government know that they're going to have to find the political solutions -- we know we're not going to build democracy at the barrel of a gun. This is going to have to be done by the Iraqi people and their government. Until we put them on notice we're leaving, we have no shot of really changing the policy in a way that will ultimately make us safer.

WALLACE: Let's turn to domestic issues. Stem cell research is a big issue in your campaign as it is in several around the country, and it's particularly true in Missouri because there's a constitutional amendment on the ballot that your opponent points out would allow some forms of human cloning. You support that measure.

MCCASKILL: I do, but I disagree with Senator Talent's analysis. As a lawyer looking and reading the measure, it is very clear that it strictly prohibits human cloning.

In fact, it provides a legal framework with sound ethical guidelines for this kind of research, which, frankly, we don't have in Missouri right now. So not only would it make sure the research could go forward in Missouri as long as it was legal at the federal level, it also will provide a much-needed ethical and legal framework for this research that all of us want in Missouri and, frankly, all of us want in America.

WALLACE: But, Mrs. McCaskill, if I may disagree, the ballot measure provides for something -- this gets very technical, but provides for something called -- and let me get it right here -- somatic cell nuclear transfer, which is a form of therapeutic cloning.

Isn't that a slippery slope if you get into any kind of cloning at all?

MCCASKILL: Well, the bottom line is you are not going to get a baby out of a petri dish. This measure, which we don't have right now, strictly prohibits any kind of implantation of any cells in order for a human being to be created. So there is this bright line contained in this measure which we need, all of us want.

On the other hand, we know that this kind of research provides great hope for cures for millions of Missourians and Americans. This is very important that we do not leave this work to other countries, that Americans have the opportunity to participate in these cures like they will in other nations if we try to turn our back on this important medical research.

WALLACE: As we've said, your race is a toss-up, and you know all too well about close races. You lost the election for governor two years ago by less than three points.

It's been well-established by now that the Republicans have a vaunted get-out-the-vote operation, the 72-hour program. Can Democrats measure up in Missouri in the next two days?

MCCASKILL: You know, ultimately, turnout is a function of enthusiasm and commitment and who's motivated. There's not some magic machine in the back room that you put a key in that comes to light and smokes and all of a sudden people are turning out to vote. We have the infrastructure in place to make sure people know about this election, but ultimately which people vote on Tuesday is all about who wants change or do you want the status quo.

I think, Chris, in Missouri this year, the people that are going to be the most motivated, the people that are going to show up on Tuesday are the people who understand our country is going in the wrong direction and they want change.

WALLACE: Mrs. McCaskill, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

MCCASKILL: Thank you. It was great to be with you.

WALLACE: We're still waiting for Lieutenant Governor Steele, so -- he is apparently still on the campaign trail visiting some churches on this Sunday morning. We're going to take a break here. We'll talk to Lieutenant Governor Steele.

But up next, House Majority Leader John Boehner on Republican efforts to keep control of that chamber. We'll be right back from Fox News election headquarters in New York City.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: And we're back now at Fox News election headquarters in New York. And joining us here, the House majority leader, Republican John Boehner.

Congressman, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday".

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MAJORITY LEADER: Chris, good to be with you.

WALLACE: I have a theory in the final days of campaigns: Pay attention to what politicians do, not what they say. This week Republicans are pouring money in to defend seats that were formerly, even last week, considered safe Republican seats, in such areas as Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska.

Meanwhile, Democrats are expanding the number of Republican districts in which they are now advertising to include Kansas and Nebraska. Aren't they playing offense in these final days, and aren't you being forced to play more and more defense to hold on to Republican seats?

BOEHNER: There's no question, Chris, that we're in a tough political environment. But I've been on the road for these last five weeks. I've been in all these tough districts. And our candidates are doing what they need to be doing. They're running their grassroots operation, their get- out-the-vote effort, and talking about the issues the American people care about, whether it's keeping taxes low, securing our borders or making sure the president has the tools to fight the terrorists.

And if we continue to mobilize our voters here over the next two days, we're going to be fine on election night.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that, because the smart money in Washington -- these are guys who do nothing -- of course, you look at polls and try to project races for a living, but, you know, a lot of the pundits, if you will, the experts say the smart money is you're going to lose 20 seats, 30 seats, 40 seats.

One top Republican pollster says it's the toughest political environment for Republicans since Watergate. How tough is it and where do you put the House - the battle for control of the House right now?

BOEHNER: Well, it is tough. And when you begin to look at all of these races, understand that we don't have a national election. We have 435 individual elections. When you get into each of these elections, there are different issues in each of these different districts.

But at the end of the day -- there is a new national poll out today, by the way, ABC Washington Post poll that came out and showed the generic ballot down to six. There is some tightening that's going on out there.

WALLACE: That's right, and we should say 10 days ago it was 15 points.

BOEHNER: That's correct. And as an example, yesterday, Indiana 2, Chris Chocola, the incumbent locked in a tight race -- his campaign made 33,000 phone calls in that congressional district. They knocked on 6,000 doors.

My own campaign yesterday made 27,000 phone calls in my congressional district. There's a ground game out there that we know how to run. And at the end of the day, it's going to make a big difference in a lot of these tight races.

WALLACE: But you and Tip O'Neill to the contrary, all politics is not local. There are some national issues, and obviously the biggest one is the war in Iraq.

Today we got what I think every American would consider the very good news that Saddam Hussein has been found guilty and sentenced to death. I know you think it's a good thing. Politically, how does that cut?

BOEHNER: I think it's too early to tell. I think it's good news. Saddam...

WALLACE: But does that energize Republicans? Does that add some support to the president's policy in Iraq?

BOEHNER: I think so. And I think defeating the terrorists is the only option that we have. Democrats just want to give up in Iraq. They just want to pull out the troops.

We're in a very serious war with people who want to kill us. And if we don't win in Iraq, we're going to embolden terrorists all over the world. And today's victory is a victory for the Iraqi people.

Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who killed his own people, tortured his own people, and today I think the Iraqi people -- really, it's a victory for them and it's another milestone in a stable and democratically elected government in Iraq.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about another aspect of the war in Iraq. Last week you said -- and let's put it up on the screen -- "I think Donald Rumsfeld is the best thing that's happened to the Pentagon in 25 years."

Now, you were asked about the war more recently, later in the week, a couple days later, and you had this to say. Let's put it up. "Let's not blame what's happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld." Question, "But he's in charge of the military." Answer, "But the fact is the generals on the ground are in charge and he works closely with them and the president."

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid says that you were blaming failures of the war in Iraq on the troops and you should apologize.

BOEHNER: Listen. Good try, Harry. It's not going to work. I was out there in a strong way trying t

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