updated 10/19/2004 5:16:11 PM ET 2004-10-19T21:16:11

Guest: Shmuley Boteach, John Avlon, Jim Vandehei, Jack Burkman

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline:  John Kerry is falling behind in the polls.  The “Real Deal,” the end may be near.

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required and only common sense is allowed. 

Both candidates storming the campaign trail today, the president saying that John Kerry is still weak fighting terror.  And John Kerry is accusing Bush of exploiting September 11 for votes.  But who are the voters going to believe?

And then, could John Kerry‘s poll slump be blamed on the L. word?  Democrats and Republicans alike say his comments about Dick Cheney‘s lesbian daughter—oops, there I said it again—were way out of line. 

Plus, John Kerry claims that he is guided by faith.  So why has so much been made out of George Bush saying that he looks to his higher father?  It is a very heated SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown you are not going to want to miss.

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome to our show.  We hope you are having a great night.  And here we are, live from the rotunda of the SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY capital itself, what an exciting on-location hit this is for us.  Well, you know what, the end is near.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Just like those Jesus freaks out in the streets that Elton John once sang about, here I sit, as your loyal host, telling you that the end is near.  Now, unlike most of those TV talking heads and writers who are going to preen and pose for their media elite friends while painting letterings on their signs in beige, I am usually just stupid enough to paint the messages of my signs in a bright, bright neon red. 

You know, in the early evening of the Iowa caucus, I told you a long time ago that Kerry and Edwards were the winners before the night began.  That got more than a few laughs from fellow panelists.  I was judged as being harsh later on for saying that Dick Gephardt was politically a dead man walking, but that ended up being the truth. 

Then I said in real time that Howard Dean‘s rant was one of those defining moments in American politics that would end his campaign and that we would remember forever.  Sure enough, I was right.  In Boston, I was booed by Democrats for saying John Kerry rushed his convention speech.  History proved me right. 

In Miami, I was slammed, attacked, vilified, crucified politically by Republicans for blasting the president‘s pathetic debate performance.  GOP commentators ripped me a new one.  They ripped me apart, while the president‘s own wife was telling him the same thing upstairs at the White House residence, that he stunk the joint up. 

Now, during the last debate, I was bombarded with phone calls from Democrats telling me how John Kerry was mopping up the floor with George Bush.  I could only laugh into the telephone and ask for the name of their crack dealer.  That debate in Arizona wasn‘t even close. 

Now, of course, part of the outcome had to do with God, and the other, well, it had to do with lesbians.  But we will talk about that in a minute.  That leads me, though, to my latest prophetic sign.  And it says, the end is near.  Barring a bizarre October surprise, George W. Bush is going to be the president of the United States for another four years.  You know, Kerry had moments to stand before the president, and he closed the gap, in part because the president chose to let him do so by not showing up at the first debate in Miami.

But now, after digesting John Kerry‘s robotic demeanor and his small-minded attempt to attack Dick Cheney‘s daughter, Americans decided, well, they had seen John Kerry, and they weren‘t so sure they wanted him sitting in the Oval Office.  Now, I understand tonight that some of you that are watching this in Georgetown and on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and in West L.A. may not get it.  But you usually don‘t. 

But that‘s not the problem here, so don‘t feel bad about it.  The relevant issue at hand is that Bob Shrum and Mary Beth Cahill and others in John Kerry‘s campaign never really understood what made those of us who live in Middle America tick.  If you want to have John Kerry talk about faith, don‘t tell us he was an altar boy.  If you want to show us your compassion for the vice president‘s daughter, then don‘t accuse her parents of—quote—“being ashamed of her,” as Mrs. Edwards did, or by calling her sexuality—quote—“fair game,” as John Kerry‘s campaign manager did. 

No, the end is near for John Kerry, not because of George W. Bush‘s gifted policies or debate skills, but because of John Kerry‘s uneven, confusing and bizarre campaign. 

And, oh, yes, one final thought tonight.  Most of us in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY hope like hell that our president gets down on his knees and prays to God almighty before sending young Americans off to die in a war.  You may not get that, but we do.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

With me now for the very latest on polling and the analysis for the battle for the White House is the co-host of CNBC‘s “Kudlow & Cramer,” Larry Kudlow.  We always have Jack Burkman.  He‘s a Republican strategist.  And we have John Avlon.  He‘s columnist for “The New York Sun” and the author of “Independent Nation: How the Vital Center is Changing American Politics.”

And I want to just—little program note here for those of you that are watching.  We have got a fairly conservative lineup right now.  Let me tell you what‘s happening so far.  Mike Barnicle is still stuck in Fenway Park.  I called him last night at like 1:05 a.m. and said, Mike, you hold down the fort in Fenway.  He called me up tonight.  He said, Joe, I am still holding down the fort in Fenway.  I will get there as soon as we can.  Also trying to get Lawrence O‘Donnell there. 

So let‘s start, though, right now, though, with another Lawrence, Lawrence Kudlow.

Kudlow, thanks for being with us tonight.  You and me, buddy, we had a little fight after Miami, but I got to tell you, I personally think George Bush listened to me.  I think he said, that Joe Scarborough may have been tough.  I better be—I am joking about that, of course.  But you know what?  He did take the criticism to heart of a lot of people.  He showed up in Arizona, and I think Americans saw him.  They liked him.  And they decided, I want to elect this guy for another four years.

Am I wrong? 

LAWRENCE KUDLOW, CO-HOST, “KUDLOW & CRAMER”:  No, you‘re not wrong at all, Joe. 

You know, and, as I said that night, or the few nights after on your show, Bush had a bad hair day, kind of fell asleep in the middle of that first debate, and it was not good.  But my other point was, on content and message regarding policies, Bush did just fine.

And it‘s interesting.  This morning‘s Gallup poll continues to show on key, core issues, Iraq, terrorism, taxes, who do you trust, who is decisive, Bush holds double-digit, 15-point-type leads, which has been true throughout this whole effort, and I agree with you.  I thought your opening message was great.  I think this race is basically over. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Larry Kudlow, if I were a Democrat, if I were supporting John Kerry, if I had seen some of the mistakes this president had made over the past four years, I would be pulling my hair out and say, how in the world does the first president who has lost jobs, net jobs since Herbert Hoover, how does this guy hold the lead in the economy?  How does he hold the lead when it comes to foreign policy with Iraq going on?

What do you say to a John Kerry supporter who is pulling their hair out, saying, my God, how do Americans take George W. Bush for another four years despite everything that‘s happened over the first four years. 

KUDLOW:  Right. 

Well, I think some key points here.  No. 1, the economy is better than it‘s been made out to be.  I think Kerryites did a pretty good job bad-mouthing the economy, but the evidence is getting stronger that the economy is recovering.  On Iraq, you know, I think there‘s some tough setbacks in Iraq, but basically the cause is just.  I think most Americans agree with Bush.  They would rather stick it to the terrorists over there than have them stick it to us here.

And I think, again, on leadership and decisiveness, Bush really showed strength of character, where Mr. Kerry, not so much that he is a flip-flopper, you know, although I think that was there, but I think the general sense is, Mr. Kerry is very wishy-washy on a number of key issues and did himself great harm on this idea of a global test.  I mean, he is running for commissioner of the United Nations.  George Bush is running for president of the United States.  There‘s a big difference, and voters know it. 

JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  You know, Joe, I would add to that—I think—I was following Larry‘s point.  Most of the predictions I have made on your air this year have been dead wrong, unfortunately, unlike you.

But one that I‘ve made that I think has been accurate is that if Kerry chose to fight this campaign on national security issues, on international issues, he would lose. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Jack, let me say this.  You have been saying that now for nine months.  And I agree with you. 

BURKMAN: And it has held, and it‘s true. 

One of the things he failed to do is refocus the debate on domestic issues.  Kerry won the debates handily, but he played into Bush‘s hands, because, if, on Election Day, the public believes national security is an issue, they are going to vote Republican.  It could take 25 years to change that. 

The other thing you are seeing, now, I think you are right on.  This election is over.  You are now seeing desperation, with the Elizabeth Edwards, starting to attack the children, Kerry going very negative in the last debate.  What they want to do—I will tell you what they want to do, and this is Bob Shrum‘s last shot, and this might be a little bit of Lockhart and McCurry.

They want to bait the Bush campaign into a scorched-earth deal, because it‘s the only shot they have.  They are going to want to pull out the Bush with drugs and all the old allegations.  They want to open—they are trying to bait Bush, but Bush is calm and he‘s reserved and he is not going to do that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  They are not going to take that. 

Lawrence O‘Donnell I want you to take a look at some of the latest polls that have come out.  I know you have seen them.   “The Washington Post” daily post tracking poll, which I got to tell you, I click on WashingtonPost.com at 5:01 p.m. every day, because it‘s been—I think it‘s been one of the more accurate polls.  It‘s got George Bush up by three points. 

A “Newsweek” poll has George Bush up by six points among likely votes.  And, of course, the “USA Today”/Gallup shows George Bush leading by eight in a head-to-head race with John Kerry.  I personally think we have been seeing, Lawrence, I think, at the end of the campaign, we are going to look back at that Gallup poll, and we‘re going to see that that one has been probably tilting a lot more in favor of George W. Bush.  But that remains to be seen. 

Lawrence, we have been talking about, is the end near?  Has John Kerry lost his opportunity?  You tell me.  If you could get ahold of Mary Beth Cahill tonight, if you could get ahold of John Kerry, if you could get ahold of Bob Shrum, what would you tell them to do to change the dynamic, to turn this campaign around, and cut into this lead and beat George W.  Bush? 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST:  OK, let‘s read the polls. 

It turns out that every single poll that has come out has this race in a tie, including the Gallup poll, which has a four-point margin of error, so, within the margin of error, the Gallup poll might be a tie.  Polls are not the same as meteorology.  The weather man can tell you that it was 72 degrees in Los Angeles yesterday.  All a poll can tell you is that it was in the 70s.  In other words, a poll gives you a range of possibilities built around the margin of error.  And so all of these polls are ties.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence, I respect you so much, Lawrence O‘Donnell, but I have got to tell you, you sound so much like Michael Dukakis, or—I remember 1984, right after he went to vote, of course, you had Walter Mondale saying poll, schmolls, they don‘t mean anything. 

O‘DONNELL:  No, I believe they mean a lot.

SCARBOROUGH:  Usually, people on the wrong side of polls say they don‘t matter. 

O‘DONNELL:  No, I believe the polls mean a great deal, Joe, and that‘s why things don‘t look good for this incumbent president, and here is why. 

Remember this about the Gallup poll.  Never in the history, in the

history of the Gallup presidential poll has an incumbent president gotten

even one full percentage point more than the incumbent president polls on

his last poll before the election.  So this president has to be polling,

has to be polling over 50 consistently, and on virtually all the polls, and

certainly for the record, anyway, on the Gallup poll.  When you see

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence, we have got a tight break. 

O‘DONNELL:  OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence, we‘ll be right back to you, buddy.  Tight break.  We‘ll be right back in a second and have Lawrence finish his thoughts. 

You all stick around.  We have got a lot of polls, a lot of debate coming up straight ahead in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, so stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, coming up next, we‘re going to have Jim Vandehei of “The Washington Post,” who has been following this campaign from day one, day in, day out.  He has been with these candidates from the very beginning.  And he will be there until the bloody end.  We are going to talk to him, plus our all-star panel.  We have got so much more.  We are talking about it, the lesbian issue.  We are talking about God.  We‘re talking about all the issues you are talking about tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, we are talking about the campaign and whether the end is near for John Kerry. 

I want to bring back in Lawrence O‘Donnell. 

Now, Lawrence, you know, in Washington and in media, everybody says, oh, I like you.  I respect you.  I love you, baby, and all this stuff.  I say that about you and I really mean it.  I really mean it.  I mean, you‘re a great guy. 

O‘DONNELL:  Uh-oh. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I trust you.  No, I really—there‘s no but here coming, really.  I really do. 

OK, there is a but here, and here it comes.  But, when I hear you saying that you are concerned about these polling numbers and what it means for George W. Bush, or George W. Bush should be concerned, I mean, in the Gallup poll, there‘s been a nine-point swing over the past week.  It sounds like you are getting talking points from John Kerry‘s campaign here. 

That doesn‘t sound like the Lawrence O‘Donnell I know.  That sounds like somebody that is reading talking points for John Kerry‘s campaign.  Do you really believe that?  Do you really believe that these polls are bad news for George W. Bush? 

O‘DONNELL:  I actually don‘t see the talking points from either campaign. 

But, Joe, in the Gallup poll you have cited, you also have to recognize that you have seen that very same poll do that same thing before.  From July to now, that poll has had that kind of flip a couple of times.  Here‘s the number.  The number is the president‘s job approval rating.  It is below 50 percent in most polls.  If the president has job approval rating below 50 percent on November 1, he is going to lose.  The incumbents always do. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s what is so crazy about this, though.  I don‘t mean to interrupt you, but that‘s what so crazy about this campaign. 

George W. Bush‘s approval rating has been below 50 percent for most of the year, and yet John Kerry can‘t take advantage of it.  And I am telling you, it‘s driving Democrats on the inside of that campaign and inside the DNC crazy.  They‘re saying, we have got an unpopular president and we just can‘t seem to draw blood.  Why? 

O‘DONNELL:  Joe, here‘s what I am telling you right now.  If the last Gallup poll, if the last Gallup poll shows that the president is 50 or above, I will bet on the president to win on this show on November 1. 

If the last Gallup poll shows the president to be at 49 or less, even if he is ahead of Kerry, let‘s say the last poll is 48 for Bush, 44 for Kerry, I will bet on this show Kerry will win. 

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN: I have to tell you, this is the best—that‘s probably the best single job of spinning polls I have ever heard in the history of television.  If Lawrence O‘Donnell were the Kerry campaign spokesman, I bet Kerry would be eight points ahead right now. 

Look, elections come down to—the electoral math is not that complicated.  You have got 540.  You need to get to 270.  The bottom line on this election is that, to win, Kerry must win either Florida or Ohio.  Pennsylvania is close.  My guess is, it‘s going to go for Kerry.  Ohio is probably a write-off.  Missouri at this point is a write-off.  The last gasp that Kerry has is Florida. 

The major political problem that John Kerry has right now is that he has tried to move so far to the right, that he is going to have major problems mobilizing his base.  Bush will have a huge advantage.

SCARBOROUGH:  Jack Burkman, Jack Burkman, Jack Burkman, I think, again, and I think we explained this last week, just because of hurricane politics, it may sound cynical, but I think Florida is off the board for John Kerry.  I think he is going to need to look to Ohio. 

I want to bring in Larry Kudlow, though.

Larry, you wanted to make a point.  Go ahead. 

KUDLOW:  Well, I just wanted to say that my friend Lawrence O‘Donnell has given a brilliant defense of what is essentially an indefensible position. 

If his old boss and my old boss Pat Moynihan were still around, bless his soul, rest in peace, he would be for Bush.  It was Moynihan who crafted the Social Security Commission. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Stop it, Larry.  Stop it.  Listen, you are talking about a man who is no longer with us.  I can‘t allow you to do that. 

KUDLOW:  I‘m sorry. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Please don‘t speak for him.  I will not speak for him.

KUDLOW:  I know, Lawrence.  You‘ve got your back up tonight. 

O‘DONNELL:  But what you just said is not true. 

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW:  That is my view. 

O‘DONNELL:  He never voted for a Republican in his life. 

KUDLOW:  That is my view. 

O‘DONNELL:  He never supported a Republican for president.

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Do not say it.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Listen, hold on one second.  One second.  Hold on.  Hold on.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I am going to ask both of you to stop for a second.  And what we are going to do, just because, again, you both are great guys, we are not going to put words into Senator Moynihan‘s mouth. 

Larry Kudlow, though, go ahead.  Talk about Social Security. 

KUDLOW:  Well, look, the key point I am trying to make here is that the Kerry campaign has started early on the scare tactics over Social Security.  Usually, this waits until the last weekend.  They have started two weeks early. 

My reference to Senator Moynihan, with all respect, is that he was the leader of the Bush commission, which put Bush on the path towards personal savings account to reform a system that everybody in Washington, except John Kerry, believes needs reforming.  That‘s a key point. 

A second key point, regarding the Gallup poll, it has tracked the ebbs and flows of the campaign and the debates.  All I am going to say is, through the last debate, Bush has taken a huge lead on taxes.  He has taken a huge lead on Iraq.  He has taken a huge lead on terrorism, as well as a number of personal characteristic issues.  These things matter as we come down the homestretch. 

The polls don‘t—look, there‘s only one poll—we know that—on the first Tuesday of November.  But on the movement regarding the issues, Bush‘s performance in the last debate, where he showed a conflict of vision, where Mr. Kerry is basically the government-sponsored candidate and Mr. Bush is for ownership and investors and consumers, the 21st century candidate to reform outdated liberal entitlement, I think the country is responding to the Bush message on these issues, as well as the war. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Gentlemen, stay with us. 

I want to go right now, though—I want to bring in “The Washington Post”‘s Jim Vandehei, Jim, good friend of mine on Capitol Hill.  He wouldn‘t admit it.  He actually covered me on Capitol Hill, but he has been doing something pretty darn important over the past year.  He has been covering this campaign. 

Jim, I was with you in Iowa.  I saw you in New Hampshire.  I have seen you from the very beginning of this campaign.  Man, you got a couple of weeks left.  We‘re talking about these polls going back and forth.  And you know, the thing is, I love watching spin rooms, because you go into these spin rooms, and I remember seeing Ralph Reed after the first debate talking about how well George W. Bush did in Miami, but his face was stricken.

As you are out there and you‘re following these guys and these women on the campaign trail, and they are talking about how great things are going for John Kerry or George W. Bush, are you picking up anything?  Are you picking up a bit of despair or at least concern from the Kerry campaign that they seem to be losing quite a few points in some of these polls? 

JIM VANDEHEI, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:   Actually, I don‘t pick that up at all.  And this is a campaign that has already sort of worn its emotion on its sleeve. 

When things were going bad for them in August, every single person you would talk to in that campaign would say, they are worried.  They‘re really nervous about their candidate.  I talked to them today.  They still seem very confident.  I have to disagree with you.  You were saying the race is over.  I don‘t know how anyone could look at the polls right now and say that the race is over. 

A, national polls really don‘t matter.  What we need to be looking at is what is happening in the states.  “The Washington Post” tracking poll, which will come out, came out today, it will be reported tomorrow.  Bush is doing very well nationally.  He‘s at 50-47 with an advantage, but in the battleground states, which we polled, Kerry has an edge.  I think it‘s 50-45. 

And if you go state by state, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, all of these races are way too close to call.  There‘s no way that any of us can look at the data and empirically say, OK, John Kerry can‘t win or George Bush is going to win.  Nobody knows.  This thing is way too close. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Jim, and you are exactly right about the national vs.  the local.  Again, you know what?  Nobody cares in these campaigns what people thought in New York or California.  Those are already off.  They want to know about Florida.  They want to know about Ohio.  They want to know about Wisconsin.  They want to know about Iowa. 

Let‘s look at some of these battleground states.  We have picked a few of these.  And, Jim, if you have any that you want to talk about, do that.  We picked up the latest Rasmussen Report survey released today, shows that both Senator Kerry and George Bush are earning 47 percent of the vote in Minnesota.  That‘s obviously a toss-up state. 

VANDEHEI:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  “The Rocky Mountain News‘ shows that the president has a five-point lead over John Kerry in Colorado.  I don‘t know that that‘s a great shock.  The latest Rasmussen Report survey shows George Bush beating John Kerry by three points in Florida, 49 to 46.  I have seen another poll that has it even. 

“The Atlanta Journal Constitution” came out today with a poll showing Bush beating Kerry by 10 points in Georgia.  That‘s not really a toss-up state.  But in New Jersey, where Bush lost to Gore by 16 points in 2000, the two are now tied at 46 percent a piece, according to the latest Fairleigh Dickinson tracking poll that came out.  That, of course, factored in also leaning voters.  And, of course, you had Bush there today, Bush campaigning in New Jersey. 

Are you surprised that George Bush is campaigning in states like New Jersey, in Minnesota, in Wisconsin?  Do they think they have a shot of winning these states that three months ago they would have handed over to John Kerry? 

VANDEHEI:  First off, I don‘t think they would have handed them over three months ago.  Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, three states Al Gore won that Bush I think has a legitimate shot at winning.  All the polls show it basically too close to call in all three.  I think New Jersey is a long shot.  But the speech that he gave today in New Jersey on terrorism was going to get a lot of national attention, regardless of where he delivered the speech.  Plus, that media market reaches into Pennsylvania, which is still a state the Bush campaign thinks it could win, but I think most polling shows that that‘s probably a state that is trending towards Kerry. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And that is trending pretty heavily towards Kerry now, isn‘t it, five, six, seven points? 

VANDEHEI:  Right. 

Yes, definitely.  It‘s been trending that way for some time.  And I think the Bush people always thought it would be difficult, but they felt like there was enough rural, enough conservative voters outside of Philadelphia and some of the bigger areas that they could target and possibly win over.  Things haven‘t gone quite as well as they had hoped in that state. 

I think the states your viewers have to keep an eye on are Florida, obviously, which you have talked a lot about tonight, Ohio, and Wisconsin, my home state, actually.  It‘s a very unpredictable state.  It‘s been very close.  If anything, Bush seems to have a slight lead.  It‘s historically a very independent-minded state.  I think the Kerry campaign would put that at No. 3 as far as states they are trying to watch to sort of get an indication of where things are trending in this election.

But, like I say, when you went through each state, state by state, President Bush isn‘t above 50 in most of those states.  And that really is historically a number that you have to watch, because at least history tells us that at least over the last 40 years, the president does come in somewhere near where that final number is on Election Day as far as where he is polling, so as long as he is below 50, this is still wide open race, and a lot of those independents still have not broken. 

And we don‘t know what it‘s going to take for them to sort of declare which side they are on. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Gentlemen, we‘ve got a lot—you know what?  I was supposed to let you go, but we have got a lot more to talk about.  I am going to ask you to stick around for a couple more minutes. 

Lawrence Kudlow, John Avlon, I‘m going to be coming to you.  Jim Vandehei, again, stay with us. 

We are also going to be having Lawrence O‘Donnell and Jack Burkman to come back also when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

And when we come back, we are going to be talking not only about the campaign.  We are going to be talking about God.  We are going to be talking about voters on both sides of the aisles disapproving of the way John Kerry talked about Dick Cheney‘s gay daughter in the presidential debate.  But we are going to see if it‘s actually going to hurt the Democratic challenger at all.  We‘ll debate that in a minute.

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Dick Cheney‘s daughter is a lesbian.  Did you know that?  Dick Cheney‘s daughter is a lesbian.  John Kerry told us that.  So did the Edwardses.  Why did they tell us that?  A lot of voters would still like to know.  We are going to find out when we return on MSNBC‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

But first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk.  And I hope that‘s not one of the headlines.  What do you got tonight for us, Milissa? 

(NEWS BREAK)

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, good to have you back in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

We have more with Lawrence O‘Donnell.   Also, we have John Avlon, who I haven‘t gone to yet.

I want to go back, though—we‘ve got Lawrence Kudlow.

I want to go back, though, to Jim Vandehei. 

Jim, you scare me, buddy.  You scare me because you basically say that I am just totally wrong here, that I am out in right field.  Of course, you wrote a lot of stories about me being out in right field.  But you say something that is very telling.  And you actually—I think you add emphasis to what Lawrence O‘Donnell was saying earlier, that the Kerry people that you are talking about tonight, they are not concerned.  They are not sweating.  They don‘t think this thing is over.  They are not concerned about the nine-point flip in the polls. 

I mean, in politics, as you and I both know, you can usually—there are a lot of liars that work in politics, but you can read through most of them.  Most of them aren‘t good liars.  So that tells you they really do think they have got a good shot at beating George Bush, huh? 

VANDEHEI:  Well, first off, you say that there‘s a nine-point movement in polls.  That‘s one poll that you are picking out. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  In the Gallup. 

VANDEHEI:  In the Gallup poll.

There‘s a lot of other polls out there that show it a lot tighter.  But no doubt.  If you take the composite of all the national polls out there, George Bush has a slight lead.  Their counter to that would be that, when you look at the polling in those battleground states, he is doing quite well.  They think he‘s up in Ohio.  They think John Kerry is up in Ohio.  They think he‘s about tied in Florida.  And they openly admit that Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa are probably tied at this point, so they feel pretty good because they look back at history and they say, we think that those who have not declared yet are going to go to the challenger. 

And that typically and usually and historically has happened in past elections.  Those undecided voters go towards the challenger.  What we don‘t know is, this is a different election.

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEHEI:  This is a post-9/11 election, where people are worried about terrorism.  And we have ongoing conflict in Iraq.  We do not know how that is going to affect the psyche of the voter. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what?  Jim Vandehei, that is a great insight, and it‘s exactly what I was about to say.  That‘s not why it was a great insight.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, you know, you are right.  Usually, when there‘s some undecideds how out there, they break against the incumbent.  But we are at a time of war.  This is the first election post-9/11.  It may not happen that way.  We don‘t know. 

Give me, if you can, Jim, again, because you are with them all the time—you are with the Bush campaign all the time.  Name the two states, the two—we will just say two states.  Name the two states we are going to be looking at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 the night of the election and figuring out who is going to be the next president of the United States. 

VANDEHEI:  That‘s an easy one.  It‘s going to be Ohio and Florida.  They are the two most closely contested big states, states that have a lot of electoral votes and that both campaigns feel they have to win. 

In the beginning, there was sort of a shorthand for both sides.  They took Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida.  If any candidate can win two or three of those three, they felt like they would win the election.  So I think you should watch those. 

SCARBOROUGH:  If Kerry loses Florida—and I believe Kerry is going to lose Florida because of the hurricane—hurricanes—if Kerry loses Florida....

VANDEHEI:  Probably has to win Ohio, then. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What do they have to do?  They have to win Ohio.

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEHEI:  He probably has to win Ohio in that case, Pennsylvania and Ohio. 

KUDLOW:  Joe, can I make a point? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, sure. 

KUDLOW:  These state races—and I agree basically with what Mr.  Vandehei has been saying in terms of the polls—but these state races are part of the national fabric.  The issue winds are blowing. 

Now, external factors play a big role.  No. 1, the successful Afghanistan elections has made, I think, a lot of people give a second look to Bush‘s arguments that we can have democratic elections in Iraq. 

(CROSSTALK)  

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence, let me stop you for a second.  Can you believe, though, how little play the national press gave those historic elections in Afghanistan?  Can you believe how little play they gave them? 

KUDLOW:  You know, I would sure like to see more play, but it has been a front-page story. 

The second story I want to mention is the lead story in this morning‘s “New York Times,” how Allawi and the Iraqi government is working with the Sadr insurrectionists in Baghdad to exchange weapons for cash, and there may be a peaceful transition, as the Sadr people move into the political zone and may even participate in the election. 

All I am saying is, there‘s a lot of these events going on outside the United States that appear at this moment to be bolstering Bush‘s case on Iraq and undercutting Mr. Kerry‘s pessimistic case. 

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN: One quick point on the swing states, going back to Jim‘s comments.

Keep in mind, when you go through this state by state, Kerry has to win a lot more of those swing states than Bush does to survive, because, if you look at the electoral map, to win, Kerry needs to win every state that Gore won, which was tough to do, plus 17 additional electoral votes.  That‘s tough.  He needs to win a lot of these states.

States like Minnesota and Wisconsin and Iowa, the fact that Bush is even competitive in those states, much less New Jersey, that‘s all gravy for the president.  And I think sometimes, when you run through these swing states, what Jim said about swing states is true, but Kerry needs to win.  He must win a lot more of these states just to survive. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  John Avlon, you are going to Missouri tomorrow.  Tell me, what does it look like there? 

JOHN AVLON, AUTHOR, “INDEPENDENT NATION”:  Well, I will tell you, I found a county that had a one-vote differential in 2000 between Bush and Gore. 

So I am going just to see what it looks like on the ground.  It‘s all good and well to talk and opine from all these distant places, but I think we want to see what the swing voters are saying in the swing counties in the swing states. 

I just want to say something about the polls, too, Joe, because we are talking about national polls here.  But it seems to me there is something that is going under the radar screen.  This is the first election since 9/11.  It‘s also the first election since people started relying primarily on their cell phones.  There‘s these wired workers that are out there; 12 percent of voters under 35 only use their cell phones.  They can‘t be polled. 

So I think there‘s a huge polling gap.  I don‘t know which way it‘s going to break, but it‘s a new factor.  It‘s not being discussed.  And I think that could be a big surprise on Election Day. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, you are talking about—so you are saying to us tonight that—because, you know, there are a lot of people actually, again, under 35, that actually do not have regular phones planted in their homes. 

All they have are cell phones.  Have you seen any sort of study, have you had any indication on which way those voters break, those under-35 voters break?  Do they go Republican?  Do they go Democrat.  John, what are you hearing? 

AVLON:  Well, I will tell you, young Americans are not as knee-jerk liberal as they were 20, 30 years ago, obviously, but it‘s a totally new factor. 

And there‘s no way to poll for this.  Pollsters are still using land

lines.  And I don‘t think the technology has caught up.  I think the

parties are still playing by industrial age rules and have yet to awaken to

the information age reality.  So these folks are independent, and it could

be a boost for Kerry at the end of the day.  We‘ll see, but we know they

are not being factored in the polls.  The parties

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  John, we are going to get in touch with you tomorrow night, going to talk to you from Missouri, if we can track you down there. 

Lawrence Kudlow, thank you so much for being with us.  We greatly appreciate it.  Jim Vandehei, as always, we really appreciate you being with us. 

Lawrence O‘Donnell, I want to ask you and Jack Burkman to stick around, because we are going to be talking to both of you again when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.  So don‘t go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Do you have a problem with the fact that this guy falls on his knees and prays to God Almighty to do the right thing before he invades Iraq? 

O‘DONNELL:  Absolutely.  He should not do any praying about going to war, none.  It has nothing to do with going to war.  It has no place in going to war. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  That was, of course, our very own Lawrence O‘Donnell battling with Pat Buchanan last Friday night. 

Now, today, on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh gave this response to Lawrence and others on the left.  Let‘s take a listen. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  The left is scared to death of God.  They think Bush is a believer, and they got quotes from people who say Bush doesn‘t think.  He just follows instincts based on how he feels after he prays.  He‘s just, this is horrible.  They are our there.  They‘re scared to death because they don‘t understand God. 

(END AUDIO CLIP) 

SCARBOROUGH:  And now back to the discuss this, of course, we‘ve got MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Plus, we‘ve got author of the new book “Face Your Fear: Living Courageously in an Age of Caution.”  It‘s Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.  He‘s the official rabbi of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Lawrence O‘Donnell, I don‘t know if you caught my “Real Deal.”  I think you were rushing in at the last second. 

O‘DONNELL:  I was still listening to the Red Sox game at that time, Joe. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, by the way, it‘s still tied.  My God, as a Red Sox fan, I am dying here.

But, Lawrence, I said at the end of my “Real Deal,” I said, I hope like hell that we have got presidents that get down on their knees and pray to God before sending young men and young women into combat.  I know that we have a history of that from George Washington all the way to George W.  Bush.  Explain what you were saying, because I must admit, you really threw me for a loop on that one. 

O‘DONNELL:  Look, in Catholic upbringing that I grew up in, in the ‘60s in elementary school, we were instructed, for example, that you cannot pray for God‘s help in killing people in war. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What about wisdom?

O‘DONNELL:  What is it—well, tell me, what is it that you would like the presidents to be praying for before they go to war? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I would want the president to pray, first of all, for wisdom.  I would want the president to pray for patience, for understanding, for praying that if there were any way in the words of Christ that this cross could be removed from my shoulder, then please remove this cross from my shoulder. 

Basically, it would be prayer of just begging God, if there were any way to avoid this war, to avoid it.  Blessed are the peacemakers.  And that‘s what I would want our president to pray. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  And do you believe that‘s what this president prayed? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think that this president is a man of great faith.  You know what, though, Lawrence?  I don‘t judge anybody‘s faith.  Only George Bush knows what his relationship is with Jesus Christ. 

(CROSSTALK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  What do you mean? 

O‘DONNELL:  I judge people‘s faith.  And I think you do too.  I think you think Mohamed Atta‘s faith was demented and misplaced and that Mohamed Atta, believing that he was doing God‘s work, I judge to be perverse and demented. 

(CROSSTALK)

RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, AUTHOR, “FACE YOUR FEAR”:  Joe, can I jump in here? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... nothing to do with God.

O‘DONNELL:  And many people who believe they are doing God‘s work are perverse and demented.

SCARBOROUGH:  Can I jump in here?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead, Rabbi. 

BOTEACH:  OK.

People like Lawrence O‘Donnell—and Lawrence is a fine man—I know him—And Ron Suskind, who wrote that hit job against religious people and George Bush in “The New York Times” this week, they are different than Karl Marx.  Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses.  All people of faith are bunch of druggies. 

But these guys believe that religion is actually a lobotomy.  It makes you into a moron, that the fact that Bush is stupid, it‘s actually because he has this faith, which makes him silly enough to see the world in black and white.  I would rather have us dumb men of faith, who see that Bush is good and Saddam is evil.  I would rather have us than have a guy like Kerry, that couldn‘t get it right in Vietnam, saying that our troops were evil and the communists were good. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  What does this have to do with prayer?  What does this have to do with religion?  What are you talking about? 

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  What I‘m talking about is that religion gives you the vision to know what‘s right.  What Bush prayed for before that war was...

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Gives you the vision to know what is right.

BOTEACH:  Can I remove a tyrant, so that he doesn‘t gas Kurdish children in their homes? 

O‘DONNELL:  Did religion give him the X-ray vision to see the weapons of mass destruction?  What did he pray for that was right? 

BOTEACH:  He prayed that innocent...

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  If you tell me that religion gives you the vision to see what is right...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  One at a time. 

O‘DONNELL:  ... tell me one thing that he got right. 

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH:  He got right that a murderer, a genocidal tyrant, who killed

1.1   million people, according to “The New York Times” on 29 January, 2003,

1.1   million people, belongs behind bars.  Now, if it takes intelligence to understand that, God almighty. 

O‘DONNELL:  What is he waiting for on Castro? 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  What is he waiting for on Castro?  That‘s the same deal, isn‘t it?

BOTEACH:  Well, you know what, Lawrence?  Lawrence, let‘s be realistic.  The United States is a country possessed of vast resources.  It can‘t—but it‘s still not—it doesn‘t have infinite resources. 

It can‘t correct every injustice.  But it can go after the most flagrant violators of human life. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  So you are saying he prayed to get Saddam Hussein in jail and that prayer worked?

BOTEACH:  Well, John Kerry said at the Democratic National Convention that we ought to pray to be on God‘s side, as Abraham Lincoln prayed in the Civil War.  Whose side is God on, America or Saddam?

O‘DONNELL:  I think the Kerry references to God are phony.  I think

every reference Bill Clinton ever made to God was phony.  I think every

reference Jimmy Carter made to God was political and phony and designed to

trick people who believe in God to believe in them.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know what?  We will be right back.  I will tell you what.  That‘s inflammatory language for a lot of us in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

We‘ll be right back to talk more with Lawrence O‘Donnell and our official Rabbi Boteach when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.  Stick around.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I want to thank all our guests for being with us tonight. 

I want to thank you, too. 

You know, there‘s so much to talk about.  There‘s so many exciting topics.  I know, sometimes, people talk over each other.  We try to keep them separated, so you can get the best information.  We‘ve got a lot more to talk about.  We are going to talk about God and faith.  That‘s important, because, unlike Lawrence, I think God has a lot to tell our leaders.  He is going to be telling us stuff tomorrow. 

Stick around SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. 

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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