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Hot Stories: Blue Tide, Leftward Ho

Beltway Boys

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," the Democratic presidential field continues to generate excitement, and now, big-time money.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": President Bush says any bill that sets timetables for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is DOA. We'll tell how the Democrats are responding.

BARNES: Nancy Pelosi takes a magical mystery tour through the Mideast. We'll tell you if her trip helped or hurt U.S. foreign policy.

KONDRACKE: And what's the real reason Iran's president let those British hostages go.

BARNES: That's all coming up on "The Beltway Boys." But first, the headlines.

(NEWSBREAK)

BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes.

KONDRACKE: And I'm Mort Kondracke, and we're "The Beltway Boys."

Well, the first "Hot Story" is blue tide. Not red tide, not crimson tide - blue tide. The Democratic tide, obviously.

BARNES: I get you.

KONDRACKE: I mean, you - you once said that - that there was Republican realignment under way. Well, if there was, it stopped. And I'm not about to say that there's a Democratic realignment under way, or that the emerging Democratic majority that some people talked about has finally emerged. But the tide definitely has turned, and the 2006 election results were the prime example of it. House and Senate went Democratic, obviously. The governorships are now majority Democratic. Three hundred state legislative seats went Democratic this time, net, and they - the Democrats now control about 55 percent - percent of them.

And the prospects are very good for the Democrats in 2008. Certainly, there is an enthusiasm gap. I mean, the Democrats are really pumped about their major presidential candidates, and the Republicans have a distinct case of the blahs about - about theirs. I mean, they're still looking for Mr. Right. Now, Mr. Too-Far Right, but Mr. Just Right, you know?

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: And I don't know whether - whether they're going to get him or not.

Now, there's further evidence - I know you also like me to - to cite numerical evidence of - of the cases that I'm making, so I've got some. The Democratic presidential field is outpacing the Republicans so far in the money race. They've raised $78 million - these are the presidential candidates - compared to 51 million for the Republican candidates, according to the first-quarter fundraising reports. And this is a reversal of tradition. Since 1976, the Republicans have - candidates have always raised more money than - than the Democrats in the primaries.

And the Democrats also have an advantage in party identification. Back in 1990, only 44 percent identified as Democrats. And that was 1 point ahead of the - the number of Republicans. Now it's 50 percent, and only 35 percent call themselves Republicans. I think that's a bit exaggerated. That - that Pew result, 15 percent, I don't think so. But in the last election, it was 4 percent, and the Democrats have - have at least gotten to parity, and maybe they're a little ahead.

BARNES: Yes, well, that's exactly what's happened.

Mort, of course, there was a Republican realignment that brought Republicans up to parity. And then, we became a 50-49 Republican nation with President Bush's reelection in 2004. But, as you pointed out, then we had the election in 2006, and I think that shifted it. It's still very close, but I would say we have a 50-49 nation with the Democrats ahead. Slight advantage.

And this is - I don't know about a Democratic tide, but this is clearly a Democratic moment. And - and Democrats - everybody's eyes are on Democrats now. Republicans clearly aren't as interesting. And if they do well, there could be a blue tide. There could be a Democratic realignment of the kind - not quite the kind they had with Franklin Roosevelt in the - in the 30s, but one that gave them a solid majority across the country.

But I think if they continue to overreach badly, way beyond what the voters want on Iraq and foreign policy and spending and taxes, then they're - it's going to be a different story. There will not be a Democratic realignment.

Now Republicans - a lot of them I think were just - would like to sit back and see Democrats screw up and then - and then will be all right for them. They'll win the White House in 2008, and maybe even take the House or the Senate again. But - look, that - I mean, that's clearly not going to work.

I think what Republicans need most right now is a strong finishing kick by President Bush, where Iraq is improved and Baghdad is secured and so on. That's what they need if they're going to hold the White House. If - if President Bush leaves with the level of popularity and support that he has right now, it's going to be hard for a Republican to win. He need - Republicans need the kind of finishing kick that Ronald Reagan in 1988, and of course George Bush Senior was elected president then.

KONDRACKE: Ronald - Ronald Reagan got his final kick with arms control, don't forget, which is a reversal of his first - largely a reversal of his first term.

BARNES: Arms control? He won the Cold War!

KONDRACKE: Yes, well - well, the Cold War wasn't over when he left.

In any event - look, but I agree with you premise, that - look, if Republicans - if - if the country wins in Iraq, I think that the whole table gets reversed, and the Republicans have regained the advantage, which I'm afraid to say, is why the Democrats are so invested in American defeat in Iraq. I hate to say that, but it - it's true.

BARNES: Let me just add one thing, and - which I think is discouraging, and you remember it, too. Remember when Democrats, mainly, pulled the plug on Vietnam in 1975, yanked the jaws of the - out of the jaws of victory, they yanked defeat. And they didn't pay much of a price for it politically at all.

KONDRACKE: I.

BARNES: That's discouraging.

KONDRACKE: Well, as you know, I fear that the same thing is happening right now.

Coming up, President Bush says `no way' to a war-funding bill that includes a timetable to get U.S. troops out of Iraq. "Hot Story" number two is straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys."

"Hot Story" number two: "Leftward Ho!" And President Bush, you know, with Congress out of town, the Democrats gone, spent about the whole week promising to veto that Iraq and Iran - Iraq and Afghanistan funding bill for the troops that has these timetables in it for withdrawing that Democrats have put in there. He says he's going to veto it. He said that over and over again.

Meanwhile, the Democratic presidential candidates are moving further and further to the left - thus, "Leftward Ho!" - on - on this question of challenging Bush on this veto, and evacuating our troops from Iraq. More to the left almost everyday.

And I'm - I'm going to run down the top ones with you, starting with John Edwards.

Watch John.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the president chooses to veto, it's the president of the United States who's deciding `I'm not going to provide that the troops need in Iraq.' And not only that - not only that, if he vetoes it, they ought to send it back to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNES: You know, that's easy for him to say now that he's not a senator anymore and has to vote on it.

But what - what I think people like John Edwards miss is that the American people didn't say in the election, when they obviously voted Democratic because they were unhappy with Iraq - they didn't say, `Don't give victory a chance at all. And of course, General Petraeus is now in Baghdad with a new counterinsurgency strategy that seems to be working, at least in the beginning.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well, I think Edwards is emerging as the furthest left of the three top candidates across the board. And he's rapidly becoming the darling of the left-wing bloggers. And I would bet that of the three of these, that he is the most likely to sign on early to the Feingold-Reid proposal, which would cut off all funding for military activity in - in - well, not all military activity, but most military activity, in Iraq, a year from now, regardless of what is happening on the ground. I mean, that's a - that - that's the sound of retreat, and - and I would guess that he would - he'll join the - the clack.

BARNES: All right. Let's turn to Hillary Clinton.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president has said he will veto that. And I challenge him to reconsider that. You know, this is vetoing the will of the American people. This is not just the Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNES: Well, it's not just the Congress. It's the Congress and the political left in America. But it's not the American people.

I mean, look, the American people didn't vote for a mandated defeat. They didn't say, `Congress, whatever you do, attach things to the funding bill,' or something like that, that - that - that will guarantee defeat in Iraq. I think the American public - and there are polls that show this - would still like to see a victory, and think it's possible.

KONDRACKE: Ah, I have a poll for you. I mean, the Democrats really ought to heed - this is the liberal organization the Democracy Course, Dan Greenberg and James Carville, asked the question, `Are you more concerned that the Republicans will stay in Iraq too long, or the Democrats will leave too soon?' And it was 49-45, which is very nearly 50-50 - I mean, the country doesn't know which it's - which it's - which it's more worried about, the Republicans or the Democrats.

BARNES: Yes. I'm more worried about the Democrats.

All right, Barack Obama. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will constrain you in a different way. For example, we may not give you all the appropriations you want. We'll give you enough appropriations for the next four months, until the next - next budget cycle. And we will then review the situation. And if you have not initiated the withdrawal at that point, then we put you on an even shorter leash.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNES: Did you see the audience there? It looks like the hypnotized them, mesmerized them.

But in any case, I think his idea is - you know, of limiting funding is too cute.

Look, if you want to cut off funding, cut off funding. You - I mean, go ahead and do that. Of course Democrats don't for one reason: they fear there would be a backlash among the American people.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Well, you know, Obama, initially, right after the Bush veto threat, showed some guts. I mean, he said that - that the vast majority of Democrats and he did not want to cut off funding for the troops, and that Congress might have to, in the end, vote for a - a - a clean supplemental, the way the president wants. For that he got savaged by the - by the left-wing bloggers for a day or two, where they accused him of - of surrendering to Bush. And then, of course, he caved.

BARNES: Yes, look.

KONDRACKE: Then he surrendered to them.

BARNES: Yes, but I'll tell you who did show some guts: John McCain - this week went to Baghdad and said exactly what the mainstream media didn't want to hear: there is actually improvement in Baghdad, that there are - are areas of the city now where you can actually walk around without get shot at or blown up.

Well, and - and he said, of course, that the mainstream media's not reporting this. Well, there was apoplexy among a number of reporters over there. But I'll have to say, John McCain was backed up by Terry McCarthy of ABC, Brian Williams of NBC has said the same thing earlier. And a number of military officials have as well said the same thing, not declaring a trend, not declaring victory, not saying Baghdad is secure, but that there has been progress.

I don't know - why does the mainstream media hate to hear that?

KONDRACKE: Well, you know - you know the answer to that.

BARNES: They're invested in defeat?

KONDRACKE: I - I'm afraid that they are.

I think the only person with credibility in this administration - well, maybe two people: David Petraeus and - and Bill - Bob Gates still has - has some credibility on this - on this subject. Those people - I mean, they - they - they don't want to overstate the - the progress. But whatever progress there is, they've got to make the case for it, and especially Petraeus needs to come back here every once in awhile to - to testify before Congress that progress is being made.

BARNES: You know, I'd like to see Petraeus gave a speech to - in the congressional chamber, give a speech to Congress at some point. Now maybe this will come the end of the summer, when you can say, `Look, there is a trend here; we are winning, and we are winning big,' if that's the case. If not - well, I guess you can't give that speech.

KONDRACKE: Do you - do you - do you think Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid would invite him to do that?

BARNES: I haven't thought of that. I guess it - I guess he'll have to testify before a committee.

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