updated 10/31/2006 12:35:55 PM ET 2006-10-31T17:35:55

Guests: Harold Ford Jr., Michael Steele, Ben Cardin, Bill Press, Dennis Prager

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  I‘m Tucker Carlson.  Welcome to a special “Decision 2006” edition of our show.  It‘s part of MSNBC‘s nonstop coverage of “Battleground America,” coming to you today from the campus of St. Johns University in Annapolis, Maryland.

Next Tuesday‘s midterm elections could change the balance of power in  Washington and across the country.  In the Senate, 33 seats are up for grabs.  Democrats need six to take control. 

The Senate race here in Maryland is one of the most closely watched in the nation.  It pits Republican Michael Steele against Democrat Ben Cardin in a campaign that is turning into a referendum on President Bush. 

The latest “Washington Post” poll shows Cardin with an 11-point lead over Steele in a state that has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1980.  We‘ll talk to both of the candidates in just a moment. 

But first, the razor-close Senate race in the battleground state of

Tennessee.  Democrat Harold Ford and Republican Bob Corker locked in a dead heat at 48 percent each  in a campaign that explodes into the headlines with an anti-Ford ad that some have called racist.  The Ford camp responded with a spot that some might say makes the candidate more—look more like a conservative than a typical Democrat. 

Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAROLD FORD JR. (D), TENNESSEE SENATE CANDIDATE:  I started church the old-fashioned way.  I was forced to.  And I‘m better for it. 

I‘m Harold Ford Jr., and here I learned the difference between right and wrong.  And now Mr. Corker is doing wrong. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  Joining me now from Union City, Tennessee, Congressman Harold Ford Jr. 

Congressman, thanks a lot for joining us. 

FORD:  Thanks for having me.  I‘m delighted to be here with my colleague, John Tanner (ph), who represents this district, and my colleague Lincoln Davis (ph), who is a little bit away from us here in west Tennessee, but he is the chair of our campaign.  And we‘ve got a bunch of folks here in Obion County, happy to be on with you, Tucker Carlson. 

One of my friends wanted to know—we can‘t see you—are you wearing a bow tie? 

CARLSON:  I am not wearing a bow tie.  But thanks for asking. 

FORD:  He‘s not wearing a bow—he‘s not wearing a bow tie.

CARLSON:  I want to ask you, Congressman, about the ad that we just—we just put up. 

FORD:  Yes, sir?

CARLSON:  If a Republican had run that ad, shot literally inside a church, inside a holy place, he would have been attacked, including by me, as leveraging religion for political gain, for implying that god was on his side. 

Isn‘t that what you‘re doing? 

FORD:  Oh, no, sir.  You probably are aware that we‘ve been under siege here in Tennessee from the National Republican Committee from my opponent with negative ads.  Shortly after Labor Day, I was attacked and lied on about gay marriage, about immigration, and even wanting to release felons from jail. 

So we went out with a new ad.  And I could only think of one place to go to really soundly and fully address the issues, the place that I learned the difference between right and wrong, which is my church.  So I didn‘t think much of it. 

And I know it created some hubbub, but I—that‘s where I learned not only the difference between right and wrong, I was forced to go there as a child.  And it made me a much better person in the long run.  And...

CARLSON:  Well, I believe that.  And I‘m all...

FORD:  And I think politics today...

CARLSON:  OK.  But Congressman, I want to quote something that you said.  And look, I‘m all for forcing kids to go to church.  But here‘s—but for political ends, I guess is the point here. 

Here is something you said.  You were quoting a friend of yours and you said, “Republicans fear the lord.  Democrats fear and love the lord.”

It seems a pretty clear statement that Republicans don‘t love the lord. 

And again, it‘s exactly the kind of thing...

FORD:  By no means. 

CARLSON:  ... that if a Democrat were to say it, I would leap on him. 

Do you think Republicans love the lord as much?

FORD:  By no means.  And if anybody took it—oh, absolutely.  I think we all should battle to see who loves the lord to most, and maybe we‘d get better public policy. 

If we all truly loved him, maybe we would treat poor people and working people better in this country.  If we really loved him and we really loved him and feared him...

(APPLAUSE)

FORD:  ... we would—we would treat our veterans better than we‘re treating them today, and we would treat working moms better.  So by no means—if any Republican took offense to that, or any Democrat, that was not my intent at all. 

The real intent is to find out how we can take our faith and infuse it more into how we conduct and shape public policy, be it national security, energy security, environmental protection, creating jobs in rural communities like this, and taking care of those who, frankly, gave of themselves and their families to defend our country.  So if anybody took offense, by no means.

CHENEY:  OK.  Then, Congressman, if you‘re running explicitly as a Christian candidate—and it sounds like you are—name one thing specifically you would do to reduce abortion in this country legislatively.   What—what restriction could you get behind as a member of the Senate to reduce access to abortion, or access to it in this country? 

FORD:  Well, abortion is just one part of when you talk about the moral needs of this country.  But I‘ll...

CARLSON:  OK.  Well, let‘s just talk about that one part. 

FORD:  I‘m glad to be—I‘m glad to be with my friend, Lincoln Davis (ph)

excuse me—whose bill I support which would support abstinence programs into our—into our schools, into these character education programs, increase adoption tax credit in this country, and find ways in which we can teach people better the difference between right and wrong. 

You know, a lot of times when people talk about abortion, they make it a partisan issue.  You‘ve got to remember, the majority of people who decided the Roe v. Wade decision, in the minds of some in the wrong way by allowing abortion, they were appointed by Republicans.  Five of the justices were Republican appointees.  As a matter of fact...

CARLSON:  Right, but, I mean, it is—wait—OK.

FORD:  No, I‘m sorry.  You were asking a question?

CARLSON:  The parties have—they have starkly different opinions on the subject, of course.  I just want to ask you about the ad...

FORD:  I‘m pro-life—I‘m pro-life, Tucker.  So I don‘t run from that. 

And I think...

CARLSON:  In what sense is that?  In what—you say you‘re a pro-life candidate.  How would you restrict abortion?  How would you use your vote in the Senate to restrict abortion, not to promote abstinence, but to restrict the availability of abortion in this country, if you are a pro-life candidate, you say? 

FORD:  We‘re going to teach people the difference between right and wrong.  And I say to all of those who believe there are such difference between the parties on this issue...

CARLSON:  Right?

FORD:  ... if Republicans believe so firmly in outlawing abortions, Tucker, how come your party hasn‘t offered legislation in the Congress or the Senate to outlaw abortions?  We could have done this...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  First of all—wait, wait, wait.  First of all, it‘s not my party.  And the answer is they don‘t believe their own rhetoric.  That‘s the answer, as you well know.

FORD:  Right.

CARLSON:  But I‘m talking you, not them.  Now, I want to...

(CROSSTALK)

FORD:  It‘s time to pass better public policy, which is what I think should be the focus of the Senate and the Congress. 

CARLSON:  OK.  All right.

You said a minute ago that you‘ve been attacked, and you have been attacked.  In fact, I‘ve defended you against some of the ads I think that are unfair...

FORD:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  ... that have been run against you.  One in particular, though, the one that makes reference to the Playboy party you went to at the Super Bowl, has, as you know, of course, this woman, a blonde woman, winking in the camera and saying, “Harold, call me.”

That ad was denounced by the NAACP as akin to clan propaganda, KKK propaganda.  Many have called it racist.  The implication is that racist voters in Tennessee will be offended by the idea of a black candidate and a white woman in some way linked. 

Are there a lot of racist voters in Tennessee, do you think? 

FORD:  No.  I didn‘t see race as a part of that ad.  That race is—that ad is in the past.  And I think what most people...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  You did not see race as part of that ad? 

FORD:  I did not.  I think there was a lot of slime and smut in the ad, and I think the fact that it aired during family programming time here in Tennessee was just a bad, inappropriate and awful thing. 

The reality is...

CARLSON:  Yes.

FORD:  ... I think the National Republican Party has underestimated the goodness and decency of us here in Tennessee.  People here love good ideas, they want answers, and they want a better, stronger America.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON:  That‘s interesting. 

Harold Ford, a sleazy ad but not racist.  I agree with you, actually.  I thought it was a sleazy ad.

I appreciate your coming on. 

Harold Ford, congressman from Tennessee.

Thanks a lot.

FORD:  And Tucker, thank you—thank you for standing up for us, man.  I appreciate that. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know if I‘m standing up for you, but I don‘t care who you date, and I don‘t like attacks that go after you on those grounds.  So thanks a lot for coming on.

FORD:  Let me be clear.

CARLSON:  Yes.

FORD:  With all these allegations in Washington, I do like football and I do like girls.  So I want to be clear about that. 

CARLSON:  So do I.  Nothing wrong with that.  Thanks a lot. 

(APPLAUSE)

FORD:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Coming up, Republicans Michael Steele fights for his political life here in the state of Maryland. 

And who does Bill Clinton think he is, Mick Jagger?  Why friends of Bill are dropping thousands—in some cases hundreds of thousands—to party with the former president and The Rolling Stones. 

That story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM RUSSERT, HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Are you running as a proud Bush Republican?

MICHAEL STEELE ®, MARYLAND SENATE CANDIDATE:  I am a proud Republican.

RUSSERT:  Why not a proud Bush Republican?

STEELE:  I‘m a proud Republican because my orientation is the Republican Party.  It‘s not just one individual in the party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Our continuing coverage continues.  We are at St. Johns College here in Annapolis, Maryland.

That was Maryland Senate candidate Michael Steele on “Meet the Press” yesterday.  He‘s running on the Republican ticket, but you might not always realize it.

Consider one of his bumper stickers.  It reads “Steele Democrats”. 

Can you win as a Republican in 2006?  That‘s one of the questions we will ask Lieutenant Governor of Maryland Michael Steele, who joins us now.

Mr. Steele, thanks for coming on.

STEELE:  It‘s great to be with you, man.  How‘s it going?

CARLSON:  It‘s going great. 

We are about 100 yards from where you work at the state house here in Annapolis. 

STEELE:  I know.  I know.

CARLSON:  I wonder, at this point, are you—are you bitter at the president?  I mean, every survey shows that people like you, voters in the state of Maryland like you.  In some ways they like you better than your opponent.  But you‘re still trailing by 11 points, according to “The Washington Post,” and it seems like it‘s President Bush that‘s dragging you down. 

STEELE:  Well, first off, let‘s deal with “The Washington Post” poll, which is not a very accurate poll.  I mean, every internal poll, Democrat and Republican, has this race a lot tighter. 

CARLSON:  OK.

STEELE:  Be that as it may, you know, the—where I am is, I‘m running for the United States Senate.  I‘m not running away from George Bush, I‘m not running towards George Bush.

As much as my opponent, Ben Cardin, would like to, you know, make this a race about Democrats and Republicans, instead of the type of senators we would be, the type of issues that we will fight for, I‘ve moved steady in one direction since the very beginning of this campaign.  And today, as evidenced by the endorsements that I received in my home county, I feel very good about winning this race. 

CARLSON:  Well, you said yesterday on “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert that knowing what you know now about the situation in Iraq, no weapons of mass destruction, the incredibly complex series of disagreements and open warfare between ethnic factions in that country, you said—and I‘m quoting now—“I would think we would still prosecute that war.”

You would still invade Iraq knowing what you know now?  Did I hear you correctly when you said that? 

STEELE:  Well, you heard me correctly there, but that is given—you know, given what I was told, like everyone else at the time, given what the members of Congress believed at the time.  But you know what I‘m tired more than anything else, Tucker?  Is everyone is living in the past. 

Why are we trying to re-litigate the past?  Why don‘t we start from where we are right now, which is... 

CARLSON:  Well, I‘ll tell you why.  Wait.  Well, I‘ll tell you, because...

STEELE:  Well, but I‘m going to give you the answer to that.  I‘m going to tell you the answer. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Please do.

STEELE:  This is where you need to be starting, because you‘re not going to solve anything by going backwards.  What you‘re going to—what you need to confront right now in this race is the fact that we have a mess on the ground, we didn‘t have enough troops at the beginning. 

OK.  So what do we do now going forward?  What is the strategy to get us—to meet the benchmarks that will determine what the success of this campaign is going to be about in Iraq? 

So that‘s where I want to start from, because when I enter the United States Senate, I can‘t take—I can‘t do a do-over vote.  I have to deal with the votes that come before me at this moment in this time. 

CARLSON:  That is absolutely right, of course.  But as a United States senator, you will presumably be faced with future situations in which you‘re asked to authorize force for a president.  Not this president.  And so philosophically, it‘s important to understand under what cases you will authorize force. 

STEELE:  Well—yes, well, philosophy, and all of that notwithstanding, you have to deal with the evidence that is presented to you at the time.  You have to deal with the security interests of the nation at that time. 

And that‘s very different in 2007 than it would be in 2002, 2003. 

So, you know, I‘m not one of these guys who lives in the past.  I learn from the past.  And what I try to do is look forward...

CARLSON:  Right.

STEELE:  ... and see what I can do to make—make things happen for our country in the future. 

CARLSON:  You said yesterday after your interview on “Meet the Press” that you wished Tim Russert had brought up the race angle, if I understood your remarks correctly, in this Senate election here in Maryland.

What did you mean by that? 

STEELE:  Well, I didn‘t say bring up the race angle.  I wished we had an opportunity to talk about the level of ugly conversation that has occurred in this race. 

I mean, I don‘t think there has been another candidate in this country who has had to go through what I‘ve gone through just to stand here right now as a Senate nominee of my party.  From the Senate—you know, from House leader Steny Hoyer calling me a slave and a token when I ran two years—four years ago, to the Oreo cookies, to the name-calling, to the ugly blogs, you know, party trumps race and all this other nonsense, I think it‘s important to put to bed once and for all that, you know, people are all upset about the Harold Ford ad and whether or not it‘s racism.  Well, racism for me in this race has been being called names, being called, you know, not black enough and all this other craziness. 

CARLSON:  Right.

STEELE:  And I think we need to get past this.  So my...

CARLSON:  And yet there was the...

STEELE:  Go ahead.

CARLSON:  OK.  But wasn‘t there the expectation, though, that you would do—that you would do well because you are a black candidate in predominantly black counties in this state?  I mean, I heard your advisers say that.

STEELE:  And I am doing well.  Do you know what happened today?  Do you know what happened in Prince George‘s County today? 

CARLSON:  No, but I‘m just saying—tell me what happened today. 

STEELE:  Well, today I got the endorsement of leading African-American Democrats.  The five black members of our county council out of nine, the other four being white, the former county executive, the first African-American county executive in the history of the state of Maryland, all Democrats, stood with me, along with some of—the number two donor to the Democrat Party in this state—stood with me today to endorse this candidacy because this is a candidacy about empowerment, it‘s about opportunity and it‘s about ownership. 

I‘m looking down the road.  Whether it‘s the war in Iraq or building a business in a broken-down neighborhood, I‘m looking forward.  And so that message is transcending party lines, and I think that‘s a very good things. 

CARLSON:  Tell me, Mr. Steele, finally—this is a little off the topic, but I think most voters are unaware until recently when you ran a campaign ad with your sister in it that you were once Mike Tyson‘s brother-in-law, which is an amazing fact. 

STEELE:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  What was he like?  And is he supporting you? 

STEELE:  Oh yes.  Mike Tyson is supporting me.  Mike Tyson is my brother-in-law—my former brother-in-law, and he is still a close member of our family.

And we—we really appreciate his support.  And, you know, he‘s a real cool guy despite his own personal problems in the past.  You know, he‘s family.  And you always appreciate if your family‘s there for you.

CARLSON:  Oh, I like the tattoos.  I don‘t care what anybody says.

STEELE:  Well, I do, too.  It‘s kind of cool. 

CARLSON:  Mr. Steele—it is.  Thank you for joining us.  I appreciate it.

STEELE:  Hey, Tucker, it‘s good to see you, man. 

CARLSON:  Thanks.

Still to come, the Democrats‘ candidate in the Maryland Senate race, Congressman Ben Cardin.  Can he keep the lead in this election? 

And the Santorum smack-down, the ad that put the Republican senator in the middle of a WWE-style wrestling ring.  See it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  Mr. Cardin, you vote against President Bush 70 percent of the time, and you said to MSNBC “HARDBALL” back in September, “I think we need to investigate this president.  I‘m very disappointed that this Congress has not instituted any investigations of this president.”

What does that mean? 

REP. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND:  Well, first, I‘m trying to figure out the 30 percent where I agreed with President Bush.  So I‘ll try to figure those out. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was Congressman Ben Cardin yesterday on “Meet the Press”.   The most recent polls show the Democrat with an 11-point lead in the Maryland Senate race.  But with candidates battling over issues like Iraq, abortion, stem cell research, can he keep that lead for the next week? 

Joining me now from Owings Mills, Maryland, Representative Ben Cardin. 

Mr. Cardin, thanks a lot for coming on.  I appreciate it. 

CARDIN:  My pleasure.  It‘s good to be with you.

CARLSON:  I don‘t know if you heard what Michael Steele said a moment ago on this show.  He said he had faced essentially racist attacks from Democrats ever since entering Maryland politics, certainly for the last three or four years. 

How do you respond to that?  Have you noticed—do you have any idea what he means?  And is your party responsible for attacking him on racial grounds? 

CARDIN:  Well, I heard what he said.  I also heard what he said on the war, which I really would like to comment on. 

Look, this campaign needs to be fought on the issues.  I‘m proud of my record, what I have, one of inclusion and moving forward and providing opportunity for all people.  That‘s what we need to talk about in this campaign.  We need to talk about the issues.

I‘m here today talking about Social Security.  Michael Steele wants to privatize Social Security.  He agrees with the president.  I oppose the president on the privatization of Social Security.

CARLSON:  Wait.  But Mr. Cardin, can you just—absolutely.  And you all have, I think—I mean, as far as I can tell, as someone living in your media market, you have been debating the issues.  But this specific issue, his race, because it is an issue, are you aware of Democrats attacking him on racial grounds?  Or is that a crock? 

CARDIN:  When there has been—when there has been—when there‘s been inappropriate statements made, the right actions have been taken.  Mr.  Steele continues to talk more about race than about issues.  And I just challenge you on the issue issue.

We have not had the type of discussions on issues.  We haven‘t had a single forum to talk about Social Security.  We haven‘t had a single forum to talk about the health care system. 

Mr. Steele agrees with President Bush on our health care system, where 46 million people have no health insurance.  I support universal health coverage.  I‘ve offered to have a forum just to talk about health care.  We haven‘t had that opportunity at all during this campaign. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CARDIN:  There‘s been a lot of discussions about...

CARLSON:  Right.  I‘m sorry, let me just go back.  I want to go back to one of the issues you debated yesterday. 

CARDIN:  Sure.

CARLSON:  I thought at some length—I thought pretty thoughtfully on NBC yesterday—Iraq.  And you said—and I‘m quoting you now—you said, “We need to bring in the international community to help train troops.”  This is part of your plan for what we ought to do next in Iraq, and you keep saying we need to bring the international community in.

When you say the international community, we‘ll train troops, what countries specifically do you think would step up to do that? 

CARDIN:  Well, there are international organizations.  I‘m the ranking Democrat on the Helsinki Commission.  That‘s the organization, OSCE, that‘s in Kosovo training troops.  It‘s the international organizations that know how to do it, and so we should have in these countries. 

I came out with a full plan on what we should do forward. 

CARLSON:  Right.

CARDIN:  Look, I voted against the war in Iraq four years ago.  Now, what I find amazing about Mr. Steele...

CARLSON:  Good for you.

CARDIN:  ... he said that we should learn from the past.  That was his exact quote I believe on—just a few minutes ago. 

Well, if you learn from the past, where we know there‘s no weapons of mass destruction today, we know it‘s not going to be a short campaign as the president promised, that we‘re going to be there for over four years, and we haven‘t been able yet to get stability on the ground, that we‘d be in the middle of a civil war...

CARLSON:  Right.

CARDIN:  ... and now he still says knowing all that he would say it was worth pursuing this campaign?  He hasn‘t learned from the past.  He has been supporting the president. 

CARLSON:  Well, I—but I would agree with you.  Wait, Mr. Cardin.  I would agree with you, and good for you for voting against the war.  But just back up just to clarify something I don‘t understand about your position. 

CARDIN:  Sure. 

CARLSON:  Who specifically is going to train these troops?  International organizations are made up of members.  You know, component nations, specific nations, nationalities. 

Who specifically is going to train troops in Iraq, the Iraqi army, its police forces?  Who is going to do that?  Because that‘s part of—that is the essence of your plan, is it not? 

CARDIN:  Well, there are international organizations.  The OSCE is an international organization.  It‘s made up of individuals from lots of countries around the world that have a specific mission to help build countries. 

They‘re doing that in Kosovo today.  They could do—they‘ve done it in Bosnia.  They can do it in Iraq. 

My plan is a comprehensive plan.  I‘ve come up with a plan.  Mr. Steele has not. 

CARLSON:  OK.

CARDIN:  He has 168 words on his Web page and all he talks about is Iraq. 

Look, my plan is, start bringing our troops home, start engaging the international community on a political and diplomatic solution so we can negotiate a cease-fire with the militias.  This is a civil war that‘s going on.  Energize the international community to help us with the political and diplomatic solution, use nongovernmental organizations to deliver humanitarian assistance.  It‘s a comprehensive plan.  I‘ve come forward with it.

CARLSON:  That‘s essentially—as you know, that‘s essentially the Bush administration‘s plan right now.  I want to know what you think of impeachment.

CARDIN:  Oh, no, it‘s not. 

CARLSON:  Well, it wasn‘t clear from watching Russert‘s show yesterday where you are on impeachment.  If articles of impeachment were drawn up, were written, where would you be on that?  Would you support it? 

CARDIN:  Not at all.  We need to do—what Congress needs to do is hold the administration accountable. 

CARLSON:  Right.

CARDIN:  That means what you do is have an independent review of the circumstances.  This Congress has not had any independent review of the executive branch and the abuses—the potential abuses within the executive branch. 

Let‘s find out the facts first.  Certainly don‘t go forward.

And let me just clarify something.  I don‘t agree with the president‘s position in Iraq.  He has—he may have changed words from “stay the course,” but it‘s wait it out, continue to set policy, and I‘m posed to that. 

CARLSON:  Right.  I‘m just saying it‘s not so simple to pull the international community, and they‘re not so interested, as I think everyone knows.

Anyway, Mr. Cardin, I appreciate your coming on.  Thank you.

CARDIN:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Still to come, if you‘re looking for some old-fashioned mud-slinging, look no farther than the state of Virginia, the Senate campaign there.  We‘ll have the latest on the Webb-Allen race.

And the fund-raiser that put Bill Clinton and Mick Jagger on the same stage but left some fans raging mad. 

That story when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Time now for three on three, where we welcome two of the sharpest people we know to discuss three of today‘s most compelling political stories. 

Joining us from Washington, D.C., the author of “How the Republicans Stole Christmas,” Bill Press.  And from Burbank, California, Dennis Prager.  Hey Bill.  He‘s the host of “The Dennis Prager Show.”  Welcome Dennis.

Well, in their effort to win control of—thank you—of Congress next week many Democrats have been playing up their conservative credentials.  These new Democrat blue dog candidates may help win crucial victories in swing elections.  It‘s interesting though, Bill, just how conservative a lot of these guys are. 

In Pennsylvania, Mr. Casey, the son of the former governor, running as a full-blown N.R.A.-endorsed, pro-life candidate.  In North Carolina Heath Shuler, same thing.  I mean these guys aren‘t just conservative, they‘re conservative on the social issues that are anathema to core Democratic constituencies.  What‘s going to happen when they‘re elected? 

BILL PRESS, AUTHOR, “HOW THE REPUBLICANS STOLE CHRISTMAS:  You know what my answer is Tucker?  So what!  I was Democratic state chair of California, as you know, for 10 years and one thing I learned is, you know, it‘s a big tent and the most important thing is they have a D after their name, Tucker.  I think that‘s what really counts.  And I have got to tell you, I think it shows, number one, how big a tent the party has, but also how smart Nancy Pelosi is.  That article talked mainly about House candidates. 

This is the Nancy Pelosi, they always said, who couldn‘t lead.  She has brought these people in.  She helped them as candidates.  She has given them money.  She knows it‘s better to win than to go way out on the left-hand limb and loose.  I think it proves that Democrats are getting smarter and Republicans are getting dumber. 

CARLSON:  Dennis, Bill is absolutely right, I think, about one thing.  A D after your name is the, kind of, salient point in this election, where the Democrats have an overwhelming advantage, but let me say—what do you make of the pro-life part?  To see Democrats running against abortion, that is a change, that is new, don‘t you think? 

DENNIS PRAGER, HOST, “THE DENNIS PRAGER SHOW”:  Yes, but it‘s irrelevant, of course.  The “So what” comment of Bill Press, whom I have known for many years, is absolutely accurate.  It is irrelevant because the party will govern from the left.  These people are out there as a sort of potemkin village, a Hollywood set, to say, oh, we Democrats are not nearly as left as all our leaders are and as the delegates to the Democratic National Convention, who put Michael Moore next to President Carter.  No, we‘re not that left at all.  So, please vote for us.  And if Republicans and Independents are suckered into that, there‘s nothing I can say. 

CARLSON:  But what does it mean to be a Democrat who is running on a platform that‘s totally contrary to the Democratic platform itself, Bill?  I mean, are you really a Democrat if you ascribe to none of the same beliefs as the national party? 

PRESS:  Look Tucker, this is not too unusual.  I think too much is made of this.  Look at Rudi Giuliani.  He‘s out there running for president.  He is pro-life.  He is pro-gay rights.  He does not represent the tenants of the Republican party, but the Republican party, certainly, is seriously considering him as a potential candidate for president.  The same thing with these Democrats.  They‘re true to who they are and I disagree with Dennis. 

I don‘t think it means that the party is going to run from the far left.  I think it means the party is going to get back to running from the middle.  Listen, when I was first getting into politics, fiscally conservative and moderate on the social issues is, kind of, where you wanted to be if you wanted to win.  The Republican party has gotten away from that.  I think the Democratic party is getting back to it.  I think you‘re going to see some sensible fiscal responsibility and moderate on the social issues.  That‘s going to be the look of the new Congress. 

CARLSON:  Yes, Dennis, I mean, is it bad to have non-lunatics run for office as Democrats? 

PRAGER:  I happen for ambivalent about it.  The idea of having a Democratic party that I could respect and that I think would actually offer an honorable alternative to the Republicans is one that I love.  I was a Democrat until 10 years ago.  I left because the party left me.  The idea of a moderate Democratic party is an oxymoron now, but at one time in history it was wonderful.  It‘s not likely, but who knows. 

(CROSSTALK)

PRAGER:  If the Republicans become isolationist, like they were when I grew up—you know, everything is flip flopped.  What I learned to be a Democrat, for example, to be race blind—I was taught two things as a Democrat; one, race means nothing; two, America has a role to spread liberty in the world.  Both of those ideas were taken over by the Republicans and abandoned by the Democrats.  That‘s why I became a Republican. 

(CROSSTALK)  

CARLSON:  Here‘s a topic on which there is no clear division between left and right.  It‘s immigration.  Earlier today Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff announced some positive news in the fight against illegal immigration.  The number of illegal immigrants caught entering this country has fallen by 8 percent so far this year, to the extent it can be measured.  Meanwhile, the number of people sent back on immigration law violations increased 10 percent to a total of 186,000. 

Dennis, does this mean that the White House is finally doing something about illegal immigration and is it too late for next week‘s election? 

PRAGER:  Whether it‘s too late or not will be decided by those voters for whom that‘s the number one issue.  My column this week, for those who get my column, is exactly on that, saying to Republicans that you have to vote with your mind, not with your anger.  The Republicans have not done enough on illegal immigration.  There‘s no question, but they have awakened at the last minute. 

If it‘s only for elections reasons, then it‘s only for elections reasons.  I don‘t care what the reasons are.  They have awakened.  We are building the very important fence that needs to be built.  It will be good for Mexico.  Mexico will never, ever ameliorate it‘s condition if it thinks that it can send all of it‘s troubled souls to America. 

PRESS:  Hey, Tucker, listen, let me tell you—

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Bill, what do you think of this?  I mean how can you be against this? 

PRESS:  Wait a minute.  This is to transparent.  I‘m against it because it‘s phony.  They‘re trotting Michael Chertoff out a week before the election to make—to, first of all, try to change the subject and secondly, to make people believe that they‘ve actually done something about illegal immigration.  They‘ve done nothing.  The fact that they‘re catching fewer people doesn‘t mean fewer people are coming across.  Ask Dennis Prager.  He lives in California.  They‘re still overrun by people coming across the border. 

CARLSON:  I totally agree with you.  But here is the question though, for you as a Democrat, should they be doing more?  Is it a good thing to tighten the borders?  I‘m not clear the Democrats are for that, are they?

PRESS:  All I‘m saying is if they‘re going to do something, they ought to do something real.  Like this fence Dennis mentioned.  This fence is a joke.  There is no funding in the legislation and the legislation says when funding does become available, the money can be spent for another the locals want.  They don‘t have to spend it for the fence.  I‘m saying this fence, which I think is a joke, is never going to be built.  It‘s a shuck and jibe and the American people know it.  Dennis, you know this.  The fence is never going to be built. 

PRAGER:  So Bill, are you for the fence or not? 

PRESS:  Listen.  I‘m against it, but it doesn‘t matter.  Who am I? 

All I‘m saying is this fence is never going to be built.  There‘s no money, Dennis. 

(CROSSTALK)

PRAGER:  OK, wait, wait.  The question is if the Democrats were in power, would we even have legislation for a fence?

PRESS:  If the Democrats were in power, I believe—listen, I don‘t speak for the Democratic party, but if the Democrats were in power, I think you would have most Democrat-supported President Bush‘s approach, which I think was the best approach, that you do border security, and you also have to have some kind of ladder to citizenship and some kind of a guest worker program.  Instead, at the list minute they pass this, again, phony fence bill that‘s never going to be built. 

CARLSON:  It is phony, but its phoniness obscures the deeper point, which is the Democratic party institutionally is for illegal immigration. 

PRESS:  That is not true. 

CARLSON:  Ninety percent of first-time Hispanic voters Democratic.  It is true.  It is true, because it knows that it‘s the key to future electoral success.  It is and history will prove me right.  Bill Press, speaking of history, hold on—

PRESS:  Democrats support George Bush, on that issue.

CARLSON:  Right, because they knew that he‘s for illegal immigration, too.  It is a conspiracy.  Bill Clinton, speaking of history, he turned 60 in August, that was a couple months ago, but the celebration of himself continues right through a Rolling Stones concert in New York City last night.  For a mere $500,000, Clinton supporters were offered the chance to eat, play golf and go to the Stones concert with Bill and Hillary. 

When the response was lukewarm, and it was, the Clintons scaled back, offering a reception and concert for $12,500.  This is one of those stories, Dennis Prager, that is nauseating on so many levels, from the grotesque amounts of money involved, to the endless self-celebration that is the Bill Clinton industry. 

This is, by the way, his third birthday party that he has thrown for himself in public.  I‘m not even sure what to make of this, other than a lot of this Clinton nostalgia is misplaced.  If this guy were still president, we‘d hate him more than we hate Bush.  That‘s my prediction. 

PRAGER:  Well, I‘ll tell you, I‘m not good at attacking the individual.  I‘m better at  attacking policies, as it happens.  But I think it‘s fair to say—

CARLSON:  Oh, but dig in on this one. 

PRAGER:  OK.  Bill Clinton loves to be loved.  Bill Clinton really—you see, Bill Clinton is very different from George W. Bush.  Forget policies right now, forget that.  George W. Bush does not care whether he is loved or not.  There is an inner-directed voice in him.  This is the right thing to do.  If I‘m hated, I‘m hated.  If I‘m loved, I‘m loved. 

Bill Clinton governed in order to be loved.  That‘s very different in terms of a leader.  And I think that‘s fair to say.  He‘s not a bad man.  Clinton, I was never part of the hate-Clinton pack.  I was ambivalent, at best, about the impeachment.  I was not happy about that, believe it or not.  I never came out for the impeachment, but he‘s not admirable as a leader.  He‘s not a leader.  He wants to be loved. 

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS:  Get over it. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Get over it?  Five hundred thousand dollars?  What about the poor, Bill?  what about AIDs in Africa?  Come on man.

PRESS:  Tucker look—wow, wait, first of all, let‘s get one thing straight; the reason Bill Clinton can have a birthday party that lasts six months is because that many people love him.  And sure he wants to be loved.  So do I.  That many people love him and he has that many friends.  The reason George . Bush can‘t is because nobody cares about George W.

Bush. 

CARLSON:  Get some therapy!  Come on. 

PRESS:  But let me tell you, Tucker, I know you feel sorry for Bill Clinton.  Get over it, OK?  Bill Clinton could get re-elected tomorrow, if he were running.  Hillary is going to win with 75 percent of the vote in New York.  She raised $50 million for his campaign.  They‘re doing OK, tucker.  Don‘t worry about them, OK?  Please. 

CARLSON:  It does raise important and troubling questions about democracy, doesn‘t it?  It does for me.

PRESS:  God bless America. 

CARLSON:  Bill Press and Dennis Prager, thank you both very much. 

PRESS: Thanks Tucker.

PRAGER:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Thanks guys.  Well, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson goes all out in a wild west campaign ad worthy of Hollywood and probably produced by Hollywood.  Don‘t miss our roundup of today‘s most entertaining political spots. 

Plus George Allen finds himself in a dead heat with Jim Webb in the Virginia Senate race.  The latest on that politically crucial race when we come right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Racial slurs and steamy sex scenes, that‘s what‘s clouding the Virginia Senate Race.  Republican George Allen, the incumbent, is trying to keep his seat, but Democrat Jim Webb is making that more and more difficult.  The latest survey, USA Today poll has Allen leading Webb by just three points, which is a virtual tie, given the four point margin of error.  Joining me now with the latest on the race MSNBC‘s David Shuster.  David, is this really within the margin?

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, I think that‘s absolutely right, and Tucker, in fact, there was a poll that the Democrats are talking a lot about today, by the Garren Heart Young Research Group (ph), which is a Democratic group, they put the race at 43, 38 for Webb, with a margin if error of three points.  So, this particular poll was done before the stuff came out about the excerpts from Webb‘s novel, so it still doesn‘t measure the impact of that kind of stuff, but it‘s still—by all accounts it‘s a dead heat right now. 

CARLSON:  It‘s been such an ugly—If I can just editorialize for a minute—such an ugly race, a race I think a lot of us thought was going to be fought over Iraq, a pretty honorable subject on which to fight a Senate race, and yet it‘s been dominated by the personal issues.  Today, apparently, there‘s news that Democrats are going after Allen in a new way.  Do you have anything on that?

SHUSTER:  Yes, the Democratic Party Virginia is asking the Allen campaign to formally release his Virginia BAR application from the late 1970s.  They make a reference—the Democrats make a reference to a court index, a circuit court, Albermarle County, Virginia, in which Allen is listed as a defendant in a case brought by the commonwealth of Virginia. 

So, it could be anything from a misdemeanor not paying your parking tickets, to a misdemeanor assault and battery.  The Allen campaign says, look, in 1974, when George Allen was a college student, he was cited for not paying parking tickets and for fishing without a license, but they have been unable to provide any sort of details or any corroborating witnesses or anybody who could say yes, that‘s what the case was about. 

So, the Virginia Democrats have said look, his Virginia BAR application would require him to explain if he had ever been arrested and what the circumstances were.  So they are asking for that BAR application, but the Allen campaign right now is not giving it.  The other thing that is out there, Tucker, is a lot of people, a lot of news organizations, are asking Governor Allen to unseal the divorce records from 1983, from his first marriage.  The Allen campaign has refused to do that, saying it‘s nobody‘s business, but you hear some Democrats privately saying, well maybe there‘s something to that as well. 

So, certainly the nastiness is going both ways. 

CARLSON:  As far as I know, his first wife supports him and fishing without a license, I mean, that‘s a compliment in parts of southern Virginia.  That‘s a get-out-the-vote tactic basically.  This is a race, obviously, that is going to divide—the state is already divided, the liberal north, the Washington suburbs, versus the conservative rest of the state.  What are the turnout models for say Arlington, Virginia, right outside of Washington, the most liberal part of the state? 

SHUSTER:  Well, the Democrats are focusing hard on turning out northern Virginia for that very precise reason, because that‘s where Webb needs to get most of his support.  They‘re not expecting that Webb is going to do super well in other parts of the state, southern Virginia, Western Virginia, the western part of the state.  And that‘s, again, where this, sort of, Allen strategy the last couple of days of putting attention on these, sort of, steamy excerpts from Webb‘s novels may in fact depress the turnout of suburban women, of women in northern Virginia and that may, in fact, be the difference in this race. 

Again, the Webb campaign is counting—they say that they‘re volunteers and their campaign organizers are enthusiastic and energized to turn out the vote in northern Virginia, which would be a Webb stronghold, but nobody is quite sure what the impact of all of this nastiness may be.  And if the Allen campaign is able to depress turnout in this particular area, that could be enough to help George Allen. 

CARLSON:  It‘s unbelievable.  I mean, that attack on those excerpts from Webb‘s novels, which by all accounts, I‘ve read some of them, brilliant novels, one of the lowest, but smartest things I‘ve seen in politics.  Is there actual statistical evidence that women have moved their support from Webb to Allen in the wake of those attacks? 

SHUSTER:  No, there‘s no evidence yet and the one thing that the Democrats are pointing out today, I mean, the Webb campaign—they put out statements from top Republicans saying we want this campaign to get back to issues like Iraq, let‘s get away from who wrote what and what novel or what paper and there are some Democrats who seem to be suggesting, although without much proof, that they think that this will back fire, that there will be some people who will say that this is such a ridiculous charge, that at a time when George Allen has a 25-year career in public service and has been in the Senate, that for his campaign to try to draw attention to what Jim Webb has been writing, the Democrats, at least, are hoping that this will turn people away from Allen and say this is a guy who doesn‘t want to focus on the issues like Iraq.  But again, nobody is quite certain exactly how it‘s going to cut. 

CARLSON:  I mean I‘m as conservative as anybody I know and I was offended by it.  So maybe that tells you something.  David Shuster, thanks a lot.   

SHUSTER:  Thanks Tucker, take care.   

CARLSON:  Well, get up to speed on all the races at our website.  The address, politics.MSNBC.com.  Everything you need to get yourself ready as we count down to election day is there, so visit. 

Rick Santorum turns professional wrestlers and, believe it or not, Hillary Clinton to help save his Senate seat.  It‘s one of our favorite campaign ads of the day.  You‘ll see it all when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  This election season has yielded a bumper crop of entertaining campaign spots.  It‘s time, once again, to take a look at our favorite ads of the day.  We begin with a commercial from Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum that is bizarre on many levels.  Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  Too often this is what it seems like in Washington, but to get things done, you‘ve got to work together.  I teamed up with Joe Lieberman to make college more affordable for low-income families.  And Barbara Boxer and I wrote a law protecting open space.  I‘m even working with Hillary Clinton to limit inappropriate material in children‘s video games, because it makes more sense to wrestle with America‘s problems than with each other. 

I‘m Rick Santorum and I approved this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  I mean, it is hard to know what to say.  Rick Santorum—I am really close friends with Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman.  You know, if you‘re losing because you‘re too conservative, you might as well just be who you are until the very end, it seems to me, and not try and sell yourself out at the very last minute, to no effect anyway.  My unsolicited advice. 

Well a public opinion poll refers to Santorum as, quote, the most vulnerable congressional incumbent this election season, but as the junior lawmaker wrestles with Democratic Challenger Bob Casey, he is reminding voters he is not down for the count and it is not working. 

In the wild, wild west it is a duel between New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and challenger John Dendal, the former head of the New Mexico Republican party, but the Democratic incumbent has rounded up a posse of slick campaign strategists to portray him as the best law and order candidate out there.  Watch how he is hoping to rope in voters. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Since Bill Richardson became governor we have seen some changes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s a new law man in town. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Doubled the violent offenders in prison, over 400 Meth labs shut down. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Give me a milk. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Seventy two thousand more jobs and a new commuter rail system. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Times are changing. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And $600,000 million worth of movie production. 

Governor Bill Richardson, moving New Mexico forward. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Next time let‘s make a space movie. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Looks like some of that $600 million in movie production got put into that ad, pretty slick, pretty amusing.  Well not all campaign ads go for the jugular, of course.  Take, for example, the New York congressional race, pitting Republican state Senator Ray Meir against Democrat Michael Arcuri, a D.A. in upstate New York.  They claim to be good friends.  So in a contest where the nicer guy may finish first, we‘re not really surprised to see a sugar-coated ad like this one. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY MEIR, CANDIDATE FOR U.S. CONGRESS:  You have seen the ads accusing me of bad habits, well they missed one.  My wife Kim says I eat to many donuts.  Here are some bad habits I don‘t have, like sitting around as problems get worse.  I solve them.  I don‘t have a bad habit of raising taxes.  I voted for 222 tax cuts and even stood alone against a budget that taxed and spent too much.  In Congress I will take a stand, even if that stand is alone.  But don‘t tell Kim, I still won‘t give these up.  I‘m Ray Meir and I approve this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  In other words, my problem is I care too much.  I work too hard.  I take this job too darn seriously, America.  That‘s self-deprecation political style.  Oh, and by the way, I eat too many donuts. 

That‘s our show.  Thanks for watching.  MSNBC‘s coverage of Decision 2006 continues now with Chris Matthews.  We‘ll be back here tomorrow and the rest of the week.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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