updated 9/7/2004 11:32:14 AM ET 2004-09-07T15:32:14

Guests: Mark Foley, Clay Shaw, Flavia Colgan, Frank Luntz, Terry Holt, Joe Bastardi

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Welcome to a special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We, of course, are going to be talking about the hurricane.  Thanks for being with us tonight, where no passports are required and only common sense is allowed. 

Hurricane Frances has been downgraded to a tropical storm as winds have dipped to 70 miles an hour.  But millions in my home state of Florida are still trapped without power as wind, rain and debris batters their homes. 

And there‘s more to come.  Frances should pick up strength from the Gulf of Mexico before it turns on my home turf, the Florida Panhandle. 

And let‘s not forget Ivan, a Category Three hurricane that‘s already forming in the south Atlantic.  Nobody knows yet if that storm is going to threaten the Sunshine State, but we‘re talking about it tonight. 

And a little politics, too, with President Bush enjoying his sharp surge in the polls, coming out of a very successful Republican convention. 

Right now, we want to go to Jim Cummins to get the very latest from south Florida—Jim. 

JIM CUMMINS, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Joe, that‘s right.  We drove up here today from Daytona Beach.  We were there last night.  We drove through a blinding rainstorm, squall lines all the way up 95 across 10 from Jacksonville.  We got here in Tallahassee a couple of hours ago. 

And it‘s now the calm before the storm.  A lot of those feeder bands at the north end of this big storm are headed this way.  We expect to see them here in the next couple of hours. 

And we‘re hearing the same things we heard when we were down in Daytona.  The authorities are urging people to stay home.  They‘re imposing curfews.  They‘re telling people to get off the streets here as this weather approaches, because they don‘t want anybody to get injured.  They don‘t want anybody to get killed, obviously. 

Behind me here, you see these red trucks.  Help is on the way.  Those are power company trucks there from Tennessee.  We passed several convoys of those trucks driving over here in that blinding rainstorm.  And those people are headed for south Florida.  They‘re already on the way. 

And we‘re staying in a motel here in Tallahassee.  And most of the guests here are from south Florida from places like Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Daytona Beach.  They‘ve come to us and asked what the storm was like, what it looked like. 

These people came here to seek refuge from the storm, and now the storm is following them.  You‘ll recall the same thing happened with Charley when people left the coast of west Florida and went to Orlando.  So it‘s repeating itself again, and we‘re expecting a big storm here in the next couple of hours—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell me, what is the—is there concern that as the storm comes into the gulf—obviously the water is warmer—is there a concern that it is going to strengthen and cause more problems for the Panhandle?

CUMMINS:  There is concern that it will pick up more strength as it goes over the warm gulf waters.  And you know, those wind speeds, when we talk about tropical storm winds, now that it‘s been downgraded to a tropical storm, that‘s still 70 miles an hour, 65 and 70 miles an hour. 

And that will tear tree limbs down.  That will down power lines, and it will rip anything loose off a building, take away, you know, roof tiles.  So it‘s a very dangerous storm.  If it gets over warm water, those wind speeds could pick up another five or 10 miles per hour. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks so much for the latest.  We‘ll get back to you in just a little bit. 

And of course, NBC‘s Brian Williams is no stranger to hurricane coverage, and he‘s with us tonight live from Vera Beach, Florida. 

Brian, what‘s the latest?

BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”:  Joe, good evening.

I‘m happy to report, the air is palpably drier already, because between and after those bands passed through here, and you know, Vero on the coach—on the coast, rather, it‘s been so tense with this storm parked off the shore, especially when it slowed down to a crawl, actually stalled between observations and then made its way across. 

This has been a very tough time for the people along this stretch that they call the Treasure Coast of Florida.  And in no way to diminish people who have to chainsaw their way out of their homes today, who are coming home tonight from a shelter, the water in their homes or suffered any loss at all. 

But in no way did the damage that our camera crews, producers and correspondents were able to see match what the predictions were even 48 hours ago.  Not even some of the rainfall totals have come true.  And that is the good news we have to dwell on. 

I should say we‘ve been here at Indian River Memorial Hospital.  They‘ve been really sheltering us from the storm for two days.  And so we‘ve been dealing with the doctors and nurses working here and listening to their stories, where their homes are and damage reports.  And I think it‘s safe to say that most are better than they were suspected to be. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Very good.  Any reports of casualties?  Or serious injuries?

WILLIAMS:  None yet.  I was getting local media before we went on the air with NBC nightly news, and there‘s been a fatal, apparently, on a stretch of I-95 tonight.  They showed videotape of an SUV being brought out of a ravine. 

But the local anchors out of NBC Miami were cautioning against people to—to label this too quickly a storm-related fatality.  So—so none that we know of as of this hour. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, Brian, of course you have some other breaking news regarding Bill Clinton.  Can you pass that along?

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  Tonight on “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS,” NBC news reported that all indications are the former president‘s open heart surgery is likely tomorrow in New York. 

And of course this is a bypass.  The reports have been it will be to free clogged areas in three of the four heart arteries.  NBC News science correspondent Robert Bazell reported the president will be out for several hours. 

It‘s both—Two words can be applied to this surgery, as you know, Joe, delicate and routine.  And it is possible for both to be true concurrently. 

It is, any time when you open the chest cavity, a very tricky business.  There‘s also the judgment call, whether to put the heart on a pump or—or support it, its own beating while the patient is open. 

And yet, so many thousands of American have this surgery and are living vital, very happy normal lives today.  But the president may be in for more of a recovery than he predicted to Larry King the other night.  You‘re down for most of a month in most cases, even a guy as vital and vibrant as Bill Clinton. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Brian, is the question left open to speculation as to why the doctors may have moved this from Tuesday to Monday or do—have we been given any reason why it‘s been moved up a day? 

WILLIAMS:  Well, as they say, I‘m not a doctor.  It really depends on which source you read.  There‘s a piece on the Associated Press wire tonight quoting at least one physician, wondering aloud why it was delayed this long. 

Obviously, these are experts.  They have looked at the blockages.  They have looked at the activity, the diet, the personal trainer, this president‘s schedule of late.  And they have made this determination. 

Now, was it scheduled for Tuesday, really?  Would the family have shared the information?  Has it been moved up?  Perhaps in a statement when it‘s all over and he emerges from anesthesia well, we will know more about what has led up to this. 

But again, latest information is we‘re looking at a tomorrow event in New York. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks so much, Brian Williams.  We greatly appreciate the updates from south Florida. 

WILLIAMS:  Thank you.

SCARBOROUGH:  And now let‘s move on to Mark Potter.  He is in West Palm Beach. 

Mark, what‘s the very latest down there?

MARK POTTER, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Joe, if you can remember, last night we had all the wind and the rain here.  And despite all that, the news today in terms of damage is actually pretty good, although the assessments are still being made in the city of West Palm Beach itself.  There are reports of only limited structural damage.  Most of the homes and businesses are actually OK. 

Now still, the city is under a 24-hour curfew.  As it turns out, not all the damage here was done by Hurricane Frances. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POTTER (voice-over):  As soon as the storm began to clear, police were back out on the roads in West Palm Beach. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s a little bit of roof damage and things like that.

POTTER:  Lieutenant Mike Rogan (ph) was out at first light. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have a lot of cleaning up to do. 

POTTER:  As it churned for hours last night, Hurricane Frances blew pieces of an aluminum roof off a TV station, flooding much of the building. 

And although there were lots of downed trees and power line, flooded streets along the coast and debris littering the city‘s many construction sites, most of West Palm Beach escaped serious damage. 

With clean-up just beginning now, a big concern for police is keeping motorists off the road during the 24-hour curfew. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know there‘s so many cars out here, but we‘ve got to let them know that there‘s a curfew going on. 

POTTER:  Many residents still stuck inside are frustrated. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re pretty much hunkered down in their homes, and they—they‘re about to go a little stir crazy.  They want to—because this has been a long storm. 

POTTER:  Not all the damage here was caused by the storm.  Taking advantage of the foul weather, looters ripped off shutters and broke into many businesses. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They know during a storm like this that we‘re not going to be out on the street like we normally are.  And that nobody has—the alarms aren‘t going to go off. 

POTTER:  While there have been arrests for looting elsewhere in the state, non has been made yet in the city of West Palm Beach. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

POTTER:  To prevent what happened last night, the police tonight will be out in force, and anyone caught outside without a good reason, a good excuse, could be arrested and could spend several days in jail until the courts reopen—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks a lot, Mark.  You look a bit more dry tonight than you did last night.  I‘m glad you got through the storm OK. 

I‘m joined now by two of Florida‘s top elected officials, who have no doubt felt the strain of Hurricane Frances and Charley in an exceptionally acute way.

Let‘s start with Congressman Mark Foley and then Congressman Clay Shaw.  Gentlemen, thank you both for being with us. 

Mark, let‘s talk to you first.  Give us the very latest.  And it sounds, according to Brian William‘ reports, that your area may have gotten through this a little better than first hoped. 

REP. MARK FOLEY ®, FLORIDA:  Well, it‘s interesting we‘re following Mark Potter‘s report again.  And he does an excellent job of describing the conditions. 

Port Saint Lucy is Martin County have actually a little bit more damage.  But it—Joe, it‘s much better than it could have been expected.  This is a long storm, heavy winds, but most of the things we‘ve observed on our drive-arounds were fallen trees, a few shingles here and there, but nothing like we experienced in Punta Gorda last—three weeks ago. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Very good.  And Clay Shaw, let me ask you, you represent, obviously, a large part of Fort Lauderdale and other areas around there.  How did your district make it through storm?

Clay, are you there?  Can you hear me, Clay?

All right.  We‘re having a little trouble with Clay‘s hearing his eyepiece—earpiece right now.  We‘ll go back to him in a little bit. 

Let me go back to you, Mark Foley. 

Mark, what‘s the next thing as far as clean-up goes?  Are you expecting to get the state and national officials to come in to assist you in clean up operations down there?

FOLEY:  Well, Joe, Governor Bush was here today.  Mike Brown, the FEMA director, was with him, as well, as they were in Hurricane Charley.  They have deployed manpower, resources, emergency supplies. 

President Bush signed the declaration.  You can tell my voice is about to go.  Signed the declaration for five counties.  And so we‘re well prepared to meet the challenge to provide emergency aid, to provide housing, shelter. 

Jeb Bush has really spent almost every waking hour for the last three weeks on the last storm.  And now he‘s prepared here in Florida to do the job necessary on behalf of the citizens of this state. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me go back to Clay Shaw.  Clay, tell me, what‘s the situation right now in Fort Lauderdale?  Have you all fared better than was originally expected?

Clay Shaw, are you there?

Well, I‘ll tell you what.  Clay obviously having trouble hearing me. 

Mark Foley, why don‘t you give me final thoughts...

FOLEY:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... before we wrap it? 

FOLEY:  Well, we‘re going to go ahead and work very, very hard on behalf of the constituents.  We‘re watching this storm and worried about Tampa, as well, as we speak. 

But thank God we‘re all working together.  The people have sent in supplies.  They‘ve sent in water.  They‘ve sent in ice.  We‘re a fortunate community, a fortunate state to have so many great friends, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks so much, Mark Foley.  We appreciate it.  And our apologies to Clay Shaw.  Hopefully we can catch up with him tomorrow and get an update.  Appreciate both of you being with us. 

And I want to ask all of you, don‘t go away.  SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY is going to be back, talking about coverage, obviously, of Tropical Storm Frances, including a look at some of the damage done to my home state when this special SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to this special edition of SCARBOROUGH

COUNTRY.

Joining us, as he has been all weekend, Ron Blome from Melbourne, Florida. 

Ron, are you there?

RON BLOME, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  We‘re doing pretty good now, especially since the storm has moved to the other side of the state. 

You can maybe see some of the traffic back there behind me on U.S. 1.  People are out and driving around.  It‘s not just the service vehicles anymore. 

And some other good news, Orlando International has said they‘re going to reopen for air traffic tomorrow morning.  Orlando still experiencing some winds in the 20, 40 miles an hour. 

But most of the storm experience is now over in the Tampa region.  And then it moves out over the gulf tonight and then heads up in your old congressional district up in the Panhandle, northwest Arkansas. 

Still no definite word whether it will go back from tropical storm to hurricane.  It is going to go over some warm water.  So it could be a minimal Category One as it goes ashore. 

One impression of all this, though, it was a very long storm.  It put a lot of people out of their homes.  But we‘re not seeing the catastrophic aftermath that we saw immediately after Charley came through, where we saw thousands of people who lived in mobile homes displaced by the storm. 

The rain is still a big factor, a lot of inland flooding.  We‘re hearing reports of 10 inches or so today. 

Any questions, Joe?  I—Maybe I can fill in some other blanks for you on the storm. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, just curious.  Overall, officials in Florida are -

·         they feel like they‘ve dodged a bullet with this storm, that it‘s not as bad, obviously, as Hurricane Charley a few weeks back? 

BLOME:  Well, it was a pretty good slam against the state, and the governor went to West Palm Beach this afternoon and then was down into Miami.  And there is some pretty good damage down in the West Palm Beach area. 

But it‘s isolated.  In some mobile home parks, or a particular area that may have had a waterspout come in.  It‘s just not that catastrophic thing that we saw after Charley where you drove for three or four hours in one day and you just saw one totally devastated neighborhood after another. 

The fuel situation is going to be a problem here.  They had that sales tax holiday so everybody sucked the gas out of the system towards the last couple days of August.  And then they stopped the tankers coming in. 

But I understand they have six or seven tankers and a fuel barges loaded up, ready to come into Port Everglades.  They‘re flying in tanker truck drivers.  They say they‘ve the infrastructure ready to move it out. 

Now, if they can get the power grid up.  And I‘m not seeing a lot of damage to the high lines and the main structure that was wiped out in Charley.  I think most of the damage ere is the feeder lines that go through the neighborhoods. 

There‘s about 10,000 utility workers that are ready to either, on the job are going to be pouring in from Georgia, where they‘ve had a staging area. 

So I think they‘re going to recover a lot quicker from this.  But as you know, the big worry now is Hurricane Ivan, now a Category Three.  They‘re not predicting past the five days, but people here are worried. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, NBC‘s Ron Blome.  Thanks so much for your great coverage over the past 48 hours.  I‘m sure, unfortunately, that we‘re going to have to be talking to you again when Ivan knocks on Florida‘s door, which it looks like it‘s going to be doing in the next week or so. 

Let‘s go now to the phone.  We‘re going to change subjects a little bit and follow up on that breaking news that we heard Brian Williams talking about earlier, regarding Bill Clinton.  And let‘s talk to NBC chief correspondent, Bob Bazell.

Bob, what is the latest on this breaking news that you‘ve been bringing to us regarding Bill Clinton and his operation tomorrow?

ROBERT BAZELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Joe, the operation is scheduled for tomorrow around 8 a.m. Eastern Time at Columbian Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. 

It‘s a fairly routine operation although it‘s highly complex and, of course, difficult.  The surgeons will—a team led by Dr. Craig Smith will try—will perform the operation on a beating heart.  That means they will not put him on a heart-lung machine that often is used for bypass surgery. 

This requires a great deal more skill to do it this way, but these people have done a lot of these operations in this hospital.  They will—but it still requires his chest be cracked open, and he‘s on general anesthesia. 

Mr. Clinton will be in the operating room, if everything goes well,

about three to four hours.  And about six hours after that, I hope, he‘ll

be—come off the respirator.  He should come awake, and if everything

goes according to plan, he‘ll be out of the hospital in three to five days

·         Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What is the—any reason the doctors gave for scheduling this for tomorrow?  Of course, as you know, and I‘m sure you‘ve heard a thousand different rumors and a thousand different theories when a news story like this breaks regarding a president‘s or former president‘s health. 

Some people were saying that the operation was delayed until Monday or Tuesday because of severity of heart damage.  Others were saying that it was pulled up.  Again, a thousand different rumors.  We don‘t know, obviously, the exact reasons why. 

But was there—was the operation moved up to Monday instead of Tuesday?

BAZELL:  It was moved up, because they wanted to do it as quickly as possible.  The former—When Mr. Clinton went in for the test called an angiogram, which measures the blood flow to the heart and to the arteries that supply the heart, they discovered that he had very severe blockage. 

And what he didn‘t—it was so severe that it was not something that could be treated with a stent.  That‘s a metal device that‘s often to open up one or two blocked arteries. 

He needed to have bypass surgery, and in fact, he needed to have it right away, because he was in danger of an immediate heart attack. 

But the doctors at Westchester County Medical Center who did the angiogram also gave him a drug called Plavix, which is an anti-clotting agent that disables the platelets in the blood.  And as a result of that, he would have bled extensively if he‘d had surgery.  Now the doctors are satisfied that they‘re—he‘s gotten that Plavix out of his system. 

And with all big deal operations and all these celebrities of any kind, the doctors like to do on it a holiday when there‘s not so many—so much activity.  Although this is a very busy hospital, and it‘s going all the time. 

So that was the reason.  It‘s no—There‘s no conspiracies, no—nothing intriguing about it.  It‘s just that he needed to be treated as quickly as possible, and they determined that as quickly as possible ended up being Monday instead of Tuesday as they had originally thought. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s talk about recovery time for a minute.  I know my father had open heart surgery several years ago, and he was warned before he went in there that anybody that‘s very active, that goes—has this type of operation is going to have a long recovery time. 

Obviously, it‘s going to be extremely difficult for Bill Clinton, as active as he is, as vital of a man as he is, going to be very hard to sit around during recovery time. 

Are the doctors making any predictions about how long it‘s going to take before Bill Clinton can get out, be active, possibly, on this campaign?  Or campaigning for a lot of the causes that he cares so deeply about?

BAZELL:  Well, one—Typically, for patients who have open heart surgery, the recovery time is about a month.  And because Mr. Clinton is a younger man than a typical heart patient—he‘s a bit younger—it could be even sooner. 

But it is an operation that involves general anesthesia and being on a respirator.  So it‘s not like he‘s going to just walk out of the hospital and feel great.  He‘s going to have a big crack in his chest that‘s going to have to take a long time to heal.  And he‘s not going to be feeling that great for awhile. 

So it‘s—you‘re looking at a month.  He‘s obviously somebody who‘s very eager to get up and about, and he may be able to shave some time off that.  But a month is the standard answer you‘re going to hear from most doctors. 

SCARBOROUGH:  A final question for people that are following the story closely, that are Bill Clinton‘s age.  They look at him.  He looks very healthy.  In fact, he‘s lost a lot of weight recently.  I saw a picture of him in “Vanity Fair.”  The guy looked like a middle-aged male model in Bosnia. 

Any—any talk about why Bill Clinton passed all the stress tests throughout the past six months or so and yet had this severe blockage?

BAZELL:  I think there‘s going to be a lot of talk about that, Joe, because it shows that stress tests are not perfect.  They can do some good at helping doctors decide who has heart disease and who doesn‘t.  But they‘re certainly not perfect.  And as this case illustrates. 

Mr. Clinton has the kind of heart disease, which is the most common kind, the blockage of the artery.  It takes many years to develop.  And we all saw him eating fast food, and we all know that he was overweight for a long period of time, despite the fact that he lost all that weight very recently.  So losing it recently was wonderful, but it was a little bit too late. 

He also, we‘re told, took an anti-cholesterol drug for a brief period and then stopped taking it.  And that kind of mystifies a lot of experts.  Most people think somebody who had cholesterol as high as we did, which we know what it was when he was the president, because those numbers were reported.  It was very high. 

Most people think that people in that category should be taking anti-cholesterol medication or statins for the rest of their life and taking them in enough amounts that they end up—so they don‘t have heart disease. 

Whether Mr. Clinton got adequate care or whether he got celebrity care, which is sometimes too cautious is something I think we‘ll be talking about in the future. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Robert Bazell, thank you so much for being with us tonight and helping break this important news. 

We‘ll be back in a little bit.  But I do want to say this before we go to break.  It‘s very interesting what Robert Bazell just said. 

I had a friend that I lost recently, 60 years old.  The guy, talk about another guy that looked like a middle-aged male model.  I mean, the guy looked fantastic.  He was actually on certain medications, because he had had a heart operation 10 years earlier. 

And apparently the word was among friends, he had stopped taking some medication, too.  And it may have caused some problems.  And if you‘re out there and the doctor has told to you take your medications, like Bill Clinton, and my friend, keep taking those medications. 

Anyway, I‘m not a doctor but I play one on TV.  Dr. Joe‘s advice for the night, follow your doctor‘s orders. 

Anyway, we‘ll be back talking about what the doctor is ordering for John Kerry whose campaign is feeling a little wobbly at the knees right now.  Down 11 points in the latest “Newsweek” poll, 11 points in the latest “TIME  “ poll.  Things aren‘t going well and John Kerry isn‘t happy. 

We‘re going to be talking to political experts, to Frank Luntz, going to be breaking apart these polls and looking at focus groups, trying to figure out what John Kerry and George Bush need to do next if they want to be the winners this November in elections.

Stick around.  SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  From the pressroom to the courtroom to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back.  As MSNBC reported just a few minutes ago, NBC learned that President Clinton will undergo heart surgery tomorrow. 

I‘m joined now by pollster Frank Luntz, Democratic strategist and MSNBC analyst Flavia Colgan and Terry Holt.  He‘s the national spokesman of the Bush/Cheney campaign.

Let me begin with you, Flavia Colgan.  As a Democrat, are you concerned that Bill Clinton—obviously, we‘re all concerned about Bill Clinton‘s health.  But are you concerned that he may not be able to get out on the campaign trail and help your candidate, John Kerry, as we move towards November?

FLAVIA COLGAN, MSNBC ANALYST:  Well, so far, all we‘ve heard is that he‘s going to try to get on the trail as quickly as he can.  And certainly, I think he is probably the strongest campaigner we have.

And I hope it gives the Kerry campaign a little bit of pause to bring back some of his ability to connect in an emotional way, that visceral way that the campaign still seems to be lacking.  And also to follow Clinton‘s lead in coming back with these counter attacks.  They‘re not moving fast enough. 

So I hope that with his conversations with Clinton, he‘s taking a couple notes and hopefully is going to use that in the next couple weeks. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Certainly John Kerry should this time realize that what he‘s been doing lately has not been working.  The first two polls that have come out since the convention came to the same conclusion, that John Kerry is taking a Frances sized beating. 

The “TIME” magazine poll shows George Bush is up 11 points with likely voters.  “Newsweek” poll, the same result, the president up 11 points, as well.  The president‘s favorable ratings hit 55 percent.  That‘s easily as high as since February. 

John Kerry‘s unfavorable ratings are now at their highest in the campaign, at 45 percent.  And for the first time in more than a year, 53 percent say that George Bush deserves a second term. 

Terry Holt, let me bring you in here.  What in the world happened at your convention?  Why did your president, your candidate, your party seem to connect so much with the American people?

TERRY HOLT, BUSH/CHENEY CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN:  Well, the American people were watching.  There were great ratings.  And people have been yearning for a hopeful and optimistic message, to see their president in action, to make the arguments about the re-election. 

We had four great nights.  Big nights.  And I think that there‘s an energy out there for the president‘s message. 

We‘ve talked about going from recession to recovery.  And that matters.  We‘re talking about winning the war on terror.  I think the people have a confidence in this president because he‘s been tested, and he‘s proven that he‘s a pretty determined leader under some pretty difficult pressures. 

You know, the polls will go one way or the other.  We try not to get too excited about polling, because we know that ultimately, 58 days to go before the election.  We‘re talking about a lot of hard work.  We‘ve been building for over a year, a grassroots organization out there.  And right now, it‘s just day two of the general election campaign.  So we look forward to a lot of hard work. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Frank Luntz, you know, a lot of people look at your focus groups.  They seem a little quirky at times.  What‘s Luntz doing with these group people and all these dials, and they‘re swinging things around. 

Well, you went to Ohio to get some swing voters to see how they responded to Bush‘s speech last week.  And again, we‘re familiar with the TV dial charts. 

I want to play viewers this clip because the lines on the chart represent Republican voters and Democratic voters and independent voters.  And it seems like these people telling you what they told you in real-time ended up being what we read three, four days later in the “Newsweek” and “TIME” poll. 

Let‘s take a quick look at this clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I faced the kind of decision that comes only to the Oval Office.  A decision no president would ask for but must be prepared to make.  Do I forget the lessons of September the 11th and take word of a madman?  Or do I take action to defend our country?  Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Frank, tell me, what—why did that connect so well with the voters that you talked to in Ohio?

LUNTZ:  They connected so well because it said exactly what Americans want to do.  There is a principle here, and that is the principle of prevention. 

Americans don‘t want an individual to manage a terrorist attack.  They want an individual to actually prevent it.  And that‘s what the Bush speech and the Cheney speech the night before talked about. 

And while the swing voters felt that there should have been a little more conversation about the jobs issue, they were very happy, very content with national security, domestic security.  And they really thought that both President Bush and Dick Cheney told them exactly what they wanted to hear. 

And that‘s why of our 21, 15 of the 21 swung towards President Bush, and 13 of them made up their minds that night.  That is the second most powerful speech that we have done in the last six conventions.  Only Al Gore‘s speech from 2000 tested better than what President Bush‘s speech tested several days ago. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Flavia Colgan, you know, you and I talked about this several weeks ago, that John Kerry‘s campaign has been flat-footed.  They haven‘t punched back enough.  If you read newspaper accounts today, John Kerry is angry that his team didn‘t punch back quickly enough. 

“The New York Times” spoke with other Democrats, very concerned about the direction of this campaign. 

I mean, come on, how tough is it?  I mean, as a congressman, a lonely congressman, I figured it out in my first campaign.  If somebody punches you, you punch them back.  What‘s wrong with John Kerry and his campaign staff?

COLGAN:  No—and Joe, and you were pointing this out weeks ago.  And you know, I‘m a huge sports fan.  And when I look at sports as an analogy, I think the Kerry campaign is making two huge mistakes.

One, if you‘re playing the Indiana Pacers and they‘re great at outside shooting, you don‘t start going head to head with them on three corners.  You play your game, and you play it to the best of your ability. 

And secondly, you don‘t let people define the issues.  He‘s a challenger, and he hasn‘t been challenging at all.  He‘s been constantly on the defensive.  They‘ve been taking him off message. 

There‘s no question.  And there‘s no question, I mean, Terry Holt and that team should be given some praise.  They were so disciplined and completely on message. 

And the Kerry campaign allowed Bush to come out and make statements like, “Well, we‘re tripling funding for homeland security,” despite the fact that a bipartisan group headed by a Republican former senator last week came out and said that Bush has a $98 billion gap that‘s not allowing us to be prepared in the way we should be for a catastrophic event. 

He comes out and says we‘re winning against the Taliban; the Taliban is history.  Hamid Karzai was out there last week saying he‘s going to have to work with the Taliban, because that‘s how terrible things are. 

The Kerry campaign has to come out and deal with these people head to head on the issues, whether it be swift boat, whether it be homeland security. 

But also, they‘ve got to start talking about the issues for which Bush is weak on.  I‘m in Pennsylvania right now; $2,700 is how much more families paid for healthcare, which Joe, you have said over and over is an important issue.

In the dead of night on Friday, they rolled out the numbers, and 17 percent more is what people are going to have to pay for Medicare.  And of course, we wrapped our fish in it on Saturday.  And the Kerry campaign has barely said anything. 

Why aren‘t they talking about healthcare?  Why aren‘t they talking about jobs?  And why aren‘t they taking these guys head on?  They‘re waiting too long. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you why, Flav, because apparently, they‘re copying their campaign after Michael Dukakis‘ in 1988.  We‘re going to be talking about that and much more with my panel straight ahead. 

Plus, we‘re going to get an update on Tropical Storm Frances when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And of course, Deborah Norville is going to be talking tomorrow night about Bill Clinton. 

Tonight, though, what NBC has learned and what the news they just broke just a few minutes ago is the fact that Bill Clinton will be going into surgery tomorrow. 

Originally, there was some talk that it may have been on Tuesday.  But Robert Bazell broke the news earlier tonight, and we had it confirmed for us also earlier tonight by Brian Williams that Bill Clinton is having surgery tomorrow morning, surgery expected to last three to four hours. 

We‘ll, of course, be following that story all day tomorrow on MSNBC.  And Deborah is going to be talking about it tomorrow night.  You‘re not going to want to miss that. 

Now let‘s go back to our panel and talk about Zell Miller.  Zell Miller gave a barnburner speech.  A lot of Democrats, a lot of liberals in the media said, “Oh, he‘s going to shock and stun and offend swing voters.”  I‘m not so sure about that. 

But let‘s take a quick listen to what Zell had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA:  In their warped way of thinking, America is the problem, not the solution.  They don‘t believe there‘s any real danger in the world except that which America brings upon itself through our clumsy and misguided foreign policy. 

It is not their patriotism, it is their judgment that has been so poorly lacking.  They claimed Carter‘s pacifism would lead to peace.  They were wrong.  They claimed Reagan‘s defense build-up would lead to war.  They were wrong.  And no pair has been more wrong, more loudly, more often than two senators from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  I tell you what, Terry Holt, I saw Conan O‘Brien do a little rift on that Friday night.  Absolutely hilarious.

But it‘s amazing to me.  After this convention, everybody is talking about Zell Miller.  Democrats again, and a lot of liberals in the media say that he‘s going to scare swing voters. 

I know the guy.  He is a very likable, very nice guy.  And the message I get from that anger is, he really feels betrayed by the party that he once loved, on these key issues. 

HOLT:  Well, Joe, and you know this firsthand, if you‘re from the Panhandle of Florida, heart and soul of America, there are a lot of people out there that have been Democrats all of their lives, who see this leftward swing of the national Democratic Party and are disturbed by it. 

They want to be in the party that is a proponent of the strong national defense that we have under President Bush and not have a candidate who‘s hostile to the military, hostile to the national defense. 

And I think that what he‘s doing, he‘s speaking from his heart.  He‘s a former Marine.  He‘s probably the most popular politician ever in Georgia.  And—and for the Democrats to dismiss his sentiments is a mistake, because he speaks for a lot of folks out there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Terry, what was so offensive to me as a Southerner is that there are a lot of people that just openly said, and I saw, I believe I saw David Gergen suggesting it, as David Gergen suggests time and again, that the reason the South went Republican is basically because we‘re all a bunch of bigots and racists. 

I mean, they won‘t come out and say you‘re bigots and racists but they certainly talk about the Southern strategy, and Nixon‘s Southern strategy.  And always implying it, and not so subtly. 

I think they‘re fool to make that suggestion and to try to convince themselves that it doesn‘t have to do with the fact that they‘ve been weak on defense for years, that they still see everything through the prism of Vietnam, that they tax too much, that they spend too much and that they bend far left of center in a very conservative region, the South. 

HOLT:  And there‘s a specific example, this Radio City Music Hall thing where there‘s all of this obnoxious talk and frankly, over the line language that was used.  Then John Kerry described it as the heart and soul of America. 

And look, those folks just don‘t get it.  Communities all over this country have a great pride in their country.  They don‘t want to see it torn down.  They have a great faith about their family and their community and their neighborhoods.  They want politicians that can speak to the values and the principles of their communities. 

And the further away the Democrats get from that, the more alienated they are from most of our communities, most of our hometowns. 

And I think it‘s quite stark, the difference between the message of the president‘s Republican Party, and the left swinging Democratic Party in this election.  I think that‘s one of their key weaknesses. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Flavia, I‘ve got to bring you in here, because obviously, I went on a long rift.  You know, there are very few things that anger me.  They get me upset and they get angry.  Michael Moore, as we know, is one of them. 

Not Michael Moore but...

COLGAN:  You‘re not even going to go there, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, exactly.  But “Fahrenheit 9/11” is one of them, not Michael Moore personally. 

But secondly, I just, it just really bugs me when people suggest that the Democrats are having problem in the South east because Southerners are racists and they still won‘t forgive them because of what Lyndon Johnson did. 

Did you watch that speech from Zell Miller and think that he‘s made the switch to the Republican Party after 30, 40 years because he‘s a bigot?

COLGAN:  Absolutely not.  I mean, in the case of Zell Miller, there‘s obviously a little bit of history there. 

But as you very well know, Joe, my grandfather was secretary of transportation for Florida, Republican, and he‘s an African-American who was very, very involved in the civil rights movement and who litigated lots of those cases. 

And you know, I certainly don‘t think that he‘s a member of the Republican Party because he‘s a racist.  I, in fact, think that a lot of the progress that the Republicans have made in the South—and where I think there‘s a vulnerability, even in this election is just like here in western Pennsylvania, there‘s some social conservatives that, on guns and on abortion, for instance, are more conservative. 

But when people‘s families or neighbors don‘t have jobs, when their mothers are having to choose between paying their property taxes or paying for their prescription drugs every month, you sort of give up the luxury of being able to vote for those social issues.  And I think that‘s where Democrats really have sort of a leg in this time. 

But I—when I watch Zell Miller‘s speech, I didn‘t see it as passion.  I mean, I really saw the vitriol.  And that was the difference between the Republican convention and potentially, it‘s a strategy.  I think they were going to shore up their base, which based on the numbers, they did.  I mean, they have 90 percent of their base shored up at this point. 

And I think the Democrats didn‘t go for the red meat and were very concerned about the undecideds and the swing voters.  And one...

SCARBOROUGH:  And you know, Flavia, I hate to cut you off.  We‘ve got to go to break.  But you‘re exactly right.  And that ends up being a strategy that may not have worked well, because this is going to be an election year where turnout matters most. 

I‘m going to ask all of you to stick around.  We‘ve got a lot more

ground to cover in the next hour.  But coming up next, we‘re going to check

with Frank Luntz and see what happened out again in Ohio when his did his -

·         his polling and his interviewing in the swing state of Ohio.  That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  Frank Luntz, after the president‘s speech you interviewed your group.  Let‘s take a look at their response. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LUNTZ:  I want a word or phrase to describe what you heard tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Powerful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Skillful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Heartfelt. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m a believer. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Inspiring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Compassionate. 

LUNTZ:  Now, you voted for Gore back in 2000.  Why are you voting for Bush this time>?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, because I think he is a strong leader when it comes to national security.  He answered the questions I had about tax reform and—and also Social Security, and I think he‘ll do a better job than Kerry. 

LUNTZ:  You didn‘t vote for Bush in 2000, but you are this time, and I know you‘re surprised.  What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m dumfounded.  He made me believe that he really wants the best for me and everybody else in this country.  I‘m concerned about who he surrounds himself by, but he made me a believer tonight. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Frank Luntz, that really is stunning.  What did Bush do that changed these voters‘ minds?

LUNTZ:  Well, there are a number of specific issues that we haven‘t talk about. 

Tax simplification is incredibly hot out there.  In the focus groups that I‘m doing, that‘s what Americans want.  They don‘t want to have to spend hours and hours and have to pay somebody they never met before $500 or $1,000 to fill out their tax reform—forms. 

Second, Social Security.  They do believe in the right of people to control their own Social Security retirements.

And third is that he dealt in specifics.  And they got the chance to talk about this with Zell Miller.  Any time that a candidate deals in specifics, that‘s what that mainstream swing voter is looking for. 

“Tell me the truth; look me straight in the eye.  I want to know what you‘re going to do.  And if you tell me, I might actually support you.” 

Joe, those people moved, and they didn‘t want to move.  They actually didn‘t want to like President Bush.  After they saw him they couldn‘t avoid not liking him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And it‘s remarkable, Frank.  And the last time I talked to you a week or two ago, you said you hadn‘t met a person in Ohio that voted for Al Gore that was going to vote for John Kerry.  Obviously, this speech changed some minds.

Frank, I want to ask you to stay with us. 

LUNTZ:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  Terry, Flavia, stick around.  We‘re going to be getting back to you in a little bit after some more weather updates.  But I want to get a quick update right now from Accuweather meteorologist Joe Bastardi. 

Joe, what‘s the very latest right now with the storm?

JOE BASTARDI, ACCUWEATHER METEOROLOGIST:  Well, right now Frances is trying to move out in the Gulf of Mexico.  Latest radar showing it to just to the east of Tampa.

And this area is going to get lashed tonight.  Watch out on the Florida Panhandle.  Lots of rain on the way. 

We‘ve got more trouble on the way.  This is Ivan the Terrible moving off to the west-northwest, already a Category Three hurricane, Joe.  It will be a four when it hits these islands on Wednesday.

And then if we take a look at the big picture here, you can see Frances moving out and around.  And here, this big ridge continues to dominant the Atlantic, and that gives Ivan a free pass toward the United States and a possible rendezvous with the United States coastline perhaps next weekend. 

We‘re very concerned about this, so stay tuned.  Plenty of weather will be making the headlines as we head on down the road—Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, Joe.  And I think you‘ve already written the headline for the next hurricane.  Ivan the Terrible on the way. 

Stick around.  We‘re going to be right back, talking more about Frances and how it‘s impacting Florida and also Bill Clinton‘s surgery tomorrow morning.  MSNBC broke it earlier.  Also going to be talking about the presidential race when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns next hour. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END   

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