HH: It’s Friday, that means the Beltway Boys. You can watch them tomorrow on the Fox News Channel, Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke. Tonight, we only have Fred Barnes, but he’s joined by the able Washington Post columnist, Charles Krauthammer. Charles, I want to start by saying I always butcher your name, I’m sorry, it’s one of those…
CK: You did fine. You got it perfectly. That’s an A-plus.
HH: Okay, close enough for government work. Fred, the most important issue, your prediction on USC-Illinois?
FB: (laughing) I think USC’s going to take it.
HH: Oh, Fred, do you ever get anything right about football? I don’t think so.
FB: Yeah, Hugh, I’ll tell you one thing I got right, was the Red Sox being down three games to one to the Indians, and then beating them and going on to win the World Series.
HH: Low blow, low blow bringing that stuff up. How about Ohio State-LSU, Fred?
FB: LSU I think is much better.
HH: I think you might be right. Charles, do you have any opinions on these most important matters?
CK: Patriots tomorrow night.
HH: Oh, that’s…Belichick. All right, let’s get to this, the big brouhaha in New Hampshire, McCain and Romney swinging at each other. Let’s play the Romney ad from earlier today:
MR: I’m Mitt Romney, and I approved this message.
Big voice: John McCain, an honorable man, but is he the right Republican for the future? McCain opposes repeal of the death tax, and voted against the Bush tax cuts twice. McCain pushed to let every illegal immigrant stay here permanently, even voted to allow illegals to collect social security. And Mitt Romney? Mitt Romney cut taxes and spending as governor. He opposes amnesty for illegals. Mitt Romney/John McCain, there is a difference.
HH: Now late this afternoon, the McCain campaign sent around an e-mail citing Howard Kurtz saying the ad is unfair. Fred Barnes, if you were John McCain, would you be bringing attention to the McCain-Kennedy bills of ’05 and ’06 and ’07?
FB: Well, not given the way most Republicans seem to feel now on the immigration issue. Look, I think that ad was fair enough, and responsible enough. I mean, why people get so whipped up about so-called negative ads and attack ads, usually, they’re just ads that talk about somebody’s record, and if he’s your opponent, you criticize it, and then you cite yours. I think he’s actually, Romney is, he’s more accurate on what he says about McCain than I think what he says about himself, but it’s a perfectly legitimate ad. And the press, well, Howie Kurtz is just wrong.
HH: Charles, what about the McCain that we see in New Hampshire? He’s so grim visaged. I know it’s the national security look, but does that actually have a prayer of succeeding over the long haul in the Republican primaries?
CK: Well, I mean, I’m not sure about the visage. I think he does have a problem with his age. It’s simply a fact of life, it was a problem for Reagan in 1980. But he was vigorous, and he hadn’t been tortured, and you know, Reagan was more sort of lithe and youthful than McCain looks, and I think that does hurt him. But on the other hand, what goes with that is his history, his record, the fact that people respect him, and they look at him as somebody who not only is sage, but brave. So it works both ways. I think it would hurt him more in the general, where if he were running against an Obama, that really would be a May-December thing, and it would hurt him.
HH: It would. The age issue I haven’t talked much about, because I just don’t think it’s a serious candidacy, given the issues. But I do want to play another Romney ad, this one by Judge Robert Bork, running on the radio in Iowa.
Female big voice: Robert Bork was Ronald Reagan’s conservative nominee to the Supreme Court.
RB: Hello, this is Judge Robert Bork. These are very important times, and our next president will be called upon to make decisions on some big issues. The National Review endorsed Governor Romney, calling him a full-spectrum conservative. I agree. Mitt Romney is the best person to unite the strong Reagan coalition of social, economic and foreign policy conservatives. We need strong leadership on the economy, taxes, immigration and foreign policy. And our next president may be called upon to make more than one Supreme Court nomination. Governor Romney will appoint judges who interpret the law, not activists who legislate from the bench. I admire that Governor Romney stood up to the activist court’s ruling on legalizing same sex marriage in Massachusetts. His strong leadership served as a model to the nation. This is Judge Robert Bork. I urge you to join me in supporting Mitt Romney for president.
MR: I’m Mitt Romney, and I approved this message.
Female Voice: To learn more, log on to Mittromney.com. Paid for by Romney for President.
HH: What do you think, Fred? Does Bob Bork carry sway with Republicans in Iowa, or anywhere else?
FB: He does with me, but I don’t think he does with anybody in Iowa. I don’t know that I would have used him. All in all, you’d rather have Oprah Winfrey doing your ads for you. And I can think of some other Republicans who for Romney would be better. But you know, he’s a late endorser of Romney, so they went ahead and used it. But I don’t think that’s going to carry much weight in Iowa.
HH: All right, Charles, we’ve got, Rudy is in Iowa today. It stuns a lot of us who’ve been following this. He’s pretty much written off the state. Do you think that’s because of the Pakistan crisis, and the fading of Huckabee, that he thinks there might be an opening to come in third there?
CK: If he does, he’s delusional, which is not a good attribute if you’re running for the presidency. You know, candidates often end up in weird states at the end, thinking they’ve got a shot. It happens in most elections. Republicans sometimes end up in California at the end of elections, and get crushed there anyway. I’m not sure exactly what that meant, except that he probably wants to say I’m a national candidate, I’ll go anywhere. I may lose the early states, which he will, but I’m the guy who can appeal across the board, and he actually, of course, he’s banking on the February 5th. I don’t see any way he comes in third in Iowa, but I could be wrong. He may have antenna or information from inside that we don’t know about, but I don’t see any evidence of it.
HH: Fred Barnes, why do you think Rudy’s in Iowa?
FB: You know, he has done this before, where you know, he has, his strategy is that I can forget about these early primaries, and I’ll just win in Florida, and then we’ll have all those primaries on February 5th, and then he realizes that that’s probably a losing strategy. So remember for a couple of weeks, he spent a lot more time in New Hampshire, then sort of pulled out of there. Now, he’s sort of jumped back in Iowa for a day, anyway. That’s not going to help him. He has run a very, very poor campaign. When you saw his response, his first response to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, it was all about himself, and 9/11. People know that. And they’re tired of hearing it from him. I think they want to hear more from him. A bad campaign.
HH: Let me ask you to crystal ball it then, Fred. What do you see happening between now and Florida?
FB: Between now and Florida?
FB: Look, I don’t know what’s going to happen next Thursday in Iowa, much less after that. I mean, there’s a great dispute over whether, you say Huckabee is fading, and he has, look, he’s clearly uncomfortable when he’s talking about foreign policy, and he obviously doesn’t know much. But I’m not sure that he’s fading in Iowa. I talked to David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register today, he thinks that his support is still growing in Iowa. So who knows? Then you have New Hampshire, that may turn out to be a Romney versus McCain thing. But look, if Huckabee wins in Iowa, Romney’s going to be hurt. And then he’ll go into New Hampshire, and face McCain. And if McCain wins there, then I think Romney’s finished. On the other hand, if Romney wins in Iowa, he’ll probably win in New Hampshire, and the race may be over.
HH: Now Charles, I don’t think he is finished if he loses the first two, because he’s the only guy with money and organization left. What say you?
CK: Well, I think we’re going to have a weird Thursday next week. I think Edwards sneaks up on the Democratic side. He pulls out a win, which will, you know, I can’t see him having a path to the nomination afterwards, but it’ll make things interesting. And I still see Huckabee as winning in Iowa. I mean, I think he’s been just all over the place on Pakistan, embarrassingly so, talking about today the Eastern provinces, which are the bad ones, when in fact it’s the ones in the Northwest. I mean, he doesn’t even have a map. He can’t even find it. But I don’t think that’s a salient issue in Iowa. It hasn’t been historically. It’s a very insular state. In that sense, I don’t think that the foreign affairs issue is going to hurt him. So you get the slingshot effect for Edwards and Huckabee if I’m right, and then it’s just, I mean, we have never had eight candidates who are alive at this late in the game any time in history. And it’s also interesting how one state will affect another. If you get Hillary winning in Iowa, then the independents in New Hampshire will probably end up on the Republican side, and that would help McCain. If Obama wins in Iowa, that actually hurts McCain in New Hampshire, because he’ll likely attract more independents. So there’s actually cross-party effects with are also pretty hard to calculate.
HH: And it also happens in Michigan. I believe the Michigan primary is open to independents, and maybe even open to Democrats. Now Fred, at the risk of upsetting my new affiliate in Wyoming, does the Wyoming caucus matter at all between Iowa and New Hampshire?
FB: Well, no, because the media’s ignoring it. And what you need, see, what you get, how do you get momentum? You win in, say, Iowa, and then for the next five days before New Hampshire, you get nothing but positive media. And you have to remember that there are many people, most voters, they’re not paying attention to this the way you are, Hugh, and Charles and I are. We do this for a living. It’s background noise to them. But in New Hampshire, a lot of these voters, all of a sudden, there’ll be all this positive media, overwhelming media about whoever won in Iowa, and a lot of them will respond to that. But the media’s going to ignore Wyoming, so it doesn’t matter.
HH: Charles, do you concur? Does Wyoming have a prayer of influencing anything?
CK: I’m afraid not. It’s a good state, they’re great Americans, but it’s not going to happen.
HH: Charles Krauthammer and Fred Barnes, thank you much for being there. I will talk to you the new year, and a Happy New Year to you both.
End of interview.