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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; LESLIE SANCHEZ, IMPACTO GROUP; CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JUNE 2-3, 2007

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Independents' Day.

It's in the Washington air. The next president of the United States could be neither a Democrat nor a Republican. An Independent might win. The stage is set for many reasons, including the 1-year- old Unity '08 Internet movement.

Other variables are (math ?), leading with the recent Gallup poll that says the electorate is split into three self-identified one- thirds: Republicans, 27 percent; Democrats, 34 percent; independents, 38 percent.

Now for the bad news for independents. They have not fared well throughout U.S. history: 2000, Ralph Nader, Green Party, 3 percent of the popular vote, zero electoral votes; 2000, Pat Buchanan, Reform Party, 0.4 percent popular vote, zero electoral; 1992, Ross Perot, independent, 19 percent popular vote, zero electoral; 1980, John Anderson, independent, 7 percent of the popular vote, zero electoral; 1968, George Wallace, American Independent Party, 14 percent popular, 46 electoral; 1948, Strom Thurmond, States' Rights Democratic Party, aka Dixiecrat, 2 percent, 39 electoral; 1912, Theodore Roosevelt, United States Progressive Party, aka Bullmoose Party, 27 percent popular, 88 electoral.

Pat, you topped the list, providing that we turn it upside down. (Laughter.) Does an independent candidate stand a chance in 2008?

MR. BUCHANAN: Of winning, I would say no, John. But, look, you take my votes alone, which are only about half a million, and you add them to Bush in Wisconsin and Iowa and New Mexico and Oregon, he would have won all four states and the election without Florida. If Ralph Nader had been out, Gore would have been home free and easily.

So a third-party candidate cannot win, in my judgment, because both parties have mainstream candidates and both parties will get 35 percent of the vote each. I think it's almost solid. I don't care who's in there. And there's not enough left to beat them.

But a third-party candidate can have an enormous influence on which of the two main party candidates wins, depending on whether that candidate comes from the populist right, which would really damage and, I think, sink the Republicans for sure, or let's say the Bloomberg left, with a social liberal, antiwar type like that who could sink the Democratic Party.

So third parties could be critical, but I cannot believe a third- party candidate can win the presidency of the United States, a majority of the electoral vote.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well-stated.

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: The Electoral College is so stacked against a third party. But this year is very different. First of all, there is widespread dissatisfaction with both parties. There really is no anointed candidate in either party. And if the parties do not nominate somebody who is seen as within the mainstream -- and I think the possibility that the Republicans are going to veer way off course is there, and I think there's an opening for a firebrand from the right. And because the nominees of the two major parties will be locked down so early in the season, by February 5, you have that long period of time. And I think there's an opening for a dream ticket, and the ticket you hear is Bloomberg-Hagel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Leslie, what do you think? MS. SANCHEZ: I think third-party candidates are great for the system. I think they strengthen both parties, conservative and Democrat. But, that being said, the system is stacked against them. It's exactly what Eleanor said. You've got an Electoral College. They would have to get 34 percent in all of these states, and it's really not foreseeable.

In addition to that, any good ideas that are creative vetted solutions that a third-party candidate has, they're going to be absorbed by Republicans or Democrats. You saw it in 1992 with Ross Perot that came out, and all of those voters pretty much swung back to the Republican Party in an earthquake election of 1994 with Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America. Those were tested themes people believed in and they knew what they were doing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There has to be a reform, I guess, to activate the candidacy of an independent.

MR. PAGE: There also has to be something to reform. In other words, there has to be a galvanizing issue out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There have to be robber barons.

MR. PAGE: And the regular parties are failing to answer the call. Yeah, robber barons, that was how Teddy Roosevelt launched his -- well, the most successful third party we've seen in the last century.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you need a radical reformer.

MR. PAGE: Right. Well, what's the big issue right now? I think it's the war. And if the Republican and the Democratic candidate fail to come forth with something that's going to galvanize the voters, then they're going to turn to a third voice. But is Bloomberg-Hagel going to do that? Is anybody else going to produce that kind of a strong alternative?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about things like energy, with the gas prices up, and making the oil and gas companies whipping boys? What about health care?

MR. BUCHANAN: Health won't do it. The Democrats will be very good on health.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about China trade? Can't all of that develop --

MR. BUCHANAN: Now you're talking. There are three issues, John: One, secure the border; stop exporting our jobs; bring the troops home. That is populist, center-right. There's a real constituency for that this time, because I disagree with Eleanor. I think the Republicans, if you pick one out of four, Thompson, Romney, Giuliani or McCain, they're very moderate Republicans, and so they don't split off. MS. CLIFT: Those aren't the ones I was thinking of. But if you -- well, if you pick Giuliani, doesn't that open the door for a right- to-life candidate?

MR. BUCHANAN: That opens the door for a right-wing Republican, exactly.

MS. CLIFT: Right, exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Wallace run against?

MR. BUCHANAN: Wallace --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Civil rights?

MR. BUCHANAN: Wallace ran against -- he ran against professors. He ran against the elites. He ran against the judges. He and Thurmond --

MR. PAGE: He ran against the briefcase-carrying bureaucrats in Washington. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, right. He was going to run over the demonstrators with his limousine.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, he and Thurmond were regional candidates.

That's why they got electoral votes. Both of them got the same share out of the under-South, if you will.

MS. CLIFT: And they got absorbed by --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Buchanan run against?

MR. PAGE: Well, Buchanan, of course, is running as the candidate of, what, the modern-day populist movement that is opposed to NAFTA, is in favor of a moratorium in immigration. These are very hot issues. I don't know how Buchanan's position on the war would stand now. But you might have a chance, because, I mean, your criticisms of the war have been similar to --

MR. BUCHANAN: Maybe you're not going to win. Even I don't believe that. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He ran three times, you know. He ran twice as a Republican.

MR. PAGE: Right, right.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three presidential runs.

MR. PAGE: That's right.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Nader run against?

MR. PAGE: What did Nader run against?

MS. CLIFT: Nader ran against the system. He ran against corporate influence. And frankly, what the country wants now is somebody to get up there and offer some bold ideas. There is a sense that the two parties, they don't tackle any of the real issues, from climate change to the depression of wages of the middle class. Everybody's finding these little bite-sized positions to take.

And, you know, leadership is what I think there is an opening for. The two parties may provide that, and I want to point out the Democrats are 80 percent happy with their candidates. It's the Republicans who have a much bigger problem with their field.

MS. SANCHEZ: I would argue that it's a very good thing. This is a healthy conversation to have. It's a realignment, a readjustment of the parties. Historically they've done that. You go back to the idea also that you haven't had a serious Electoral College strong -- really a foundation for third-party candidates since 1860, when you saw the death of the Whig Party and then basically the growth of the Republicans with Lincoln.

But that being said, there really isn't an appetite for a third- party system because of the Electoral College.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What percentage of the popular votes did Perot get?

MR. BUCHANAN: Perot got 19 percent. But at one point --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What percent did Wallace get?

MR. BUCHANAN: Wallace got 13, not 14.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many electoral votes? He got 14 percent of the vote.

MS. CLIFT: Forty-eight.

MR. BUCHANAN: He got 13. He got five states down there, John. But let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he picked up five states. How many electoral votes did --

MS. CLIFT: Forty-eight, according to your list.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Perot get?

MS. CLIFT: Zero.

MR. BUCHANAN: Perot got zero electoral votes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero electoral, but 19 percent of the vote.

MR. BUCHANAN: He was a national candidate, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wallace got 14 percent of the vote.

MR. BUCHANAN: He was a regional candidate. Let me explain this to you. Listen, John, the point is that this thing can be done, but the problem is -- let's take my votes in '92 and '96. I got 3 million votes in Republican primaries and caucuses where only 12 million or 9 million or 10 million voted. The point is, that constituency goes home to the Republican Party. It goes home. And the Republican Party's are loyalists and they say, "Well, we don't like what they're thinking, but we're Republicans." That's my point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They may not always go home. That's the question we're addressing here.

Exit question: Why do polls show most Americans say they are independent instead of Republican or Democrat? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I'm an independent conservative. But I'll tell you, if it gets down to it, it's always -- you've got to go in there. 2004, I'm for George Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that --

MR. PAGE: John, the big reason --

MS. CLIFT: There's a sense that the parties are not performing, and there's a widespread dissatisfaction. And young people do not grow up thinking they're Republicans or Democrats. They think they're free agents. And they are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I would point out to Eleanor that this could be -- what this is exhibiting is really a realignment in the making and the Democrats -- these so-called independents are about to shift over to the Democrats because the Republicans are making such a hash of things.

MR. PAGE: Not necessarily, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? Do you think that this independent vote is going to maintain itself; that is, 38 percent, the poll?

MS. SANCHEZ: No, I don't think it will maintain itself. I think they will call themselves independent, but they tend to be independent conservatives. They tend to move to the right on elections. You've seen these too-close-to-call series of elections that happened at the turn of the last century. It's happening again now. It's cyclical in nature.

And I would say this election is really the end of what I would call the Reagan era. People can debate that, but it's really this generation of individual conservatives. The party is realigning what it feels is important.

MR. PAGE: One important point here, John, about these growing independents -- and they have been growing, because the old functions of the parties have been replaced in recent decades by TV, by the Internet, et cetera. But American University, for example, their studies show that something like 85, 90 percent of the folks who say they're Independent now do vote for one party's candidate or the other consistently. So they are swing voters, but about 90 percent, pretty rigid, unless you move them because of some burning issue at the time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, the answer is, the reason why we have 38 percent of the American public polling as Independent is because there is an emerging third party.

Issue Two: Is the Timing Perfect?

2008 is brewing into what may become the perfect political storm. Prevailing conditions favor an independent or third-party run at the presidency. One, right track/wrong track? Way off track. Seventy- three percent of Americans say the country is going in the wrong direction -- 73 percent -- an exceptionally negative view in a critical poll.

Anti-incumbency zeitgeist. President Bush and the Senate and the House of Representatives all have approval ratings in the 30s or below. The public wants fresh faces.

Three, a pox on both your houses. Voters are fed up with the red state/blue state designation and duality, with neither Republicans nor Democrats healing the breach. Color us different.

Four, partisan back-biting. Both parties have failed to bring originality to their thinking on vital issues like health care, Social Security reform, energy approaches and immigration realism.

Five, anti-globalist backlash. Outsourcing and immigration have alienated the conservative middle class and the liberal labor unions. In '92, Perot got his thrust from NAFTA backlash. Today's Independent gains from globalism backlash.

Six, 2008 front-loaded primaries. Some 27 states are voting on their presidential nominees on or before February 5, Super Tuesday. By then -- that's February 5, '08, eight months from now -- the world will know whom the Democrats and Republicans have chosen as their presidential nominee.

Between then, February 5, '08, and November '08, voters will have nine full months to find flaws with the Republican and Democratic nominees, during which time an Independent may be waiting in the wings to seize and conquer center stage.

Question: What sequence of events would favor a viable presidential Independent candidacy? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Look, it depends who the major parties nominate. And if both parties nominate one of -- or two of the six front-runners, I don't think you can make the case that there's room for a centrist ticket. I think you can make the case that none of the existing candidates might be bold enough to address the issues of the country. But I look at Barack Obama. He's talking about issues in a different way, so he fills one of the vacuums that people clamoring for a third ticket want.

So I don't see much room except for that long period of time, plus the fact you've got Al Gore hovering out there, you've got Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich. You've got all these people still waiting. So there's an insurance policy with Unity '08, which is an Internet convention. So I think there will be an Independent ticket, but I don't necessarily see it, you know, capturing the imagination of the country. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we postulate here that polarizing candidates will create a vacuum in the middle? And is Hillary -- can we postulate that? (Laughter.) If we postulate that, is Hillary polarizing? Is Obama polarizing by reason of --

MR. BUCHANAN: Here's how you get it, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- we never had an African-American in there?

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you how you get your third-party candidate. If you nominate three social liberals from New York -- Giuliani, Hillary and Bloomberg -- you have a wide open track.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Obama?

MR. PAGE: Well, Obama's big advantage is that he appears to be fresh and new amid a stale --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the bloom off that unifier rose?

MR. PAGE: Oh, not even, not even. No, you've got -- you know, the voters don't even start getting serious about these things until after Labor Day. So it's way too early --

MS. CLIFT: And Hillary Clinton --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor. Giuliani -- I want to ask you this -- Giuliani and McCain and Romney are all pro-Iraq war, okay? So they are themselves polarizing, are they not? And that, on that side, creates a vacuum, does it not?

MR. BUCHANAN: The other side will have an antiwar candidate.

MS. SANCHEZ: Exactly right. And you have to look at the fact -- a lot of this is speaking to the base. I mean, think about how candidates progress in their positions to open up and appeal more to independent conservatives and open-minded swing voters. You're not going to see that until probably a year from now. You know, after they nominate the candidate, then you will see --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McCain is also polarizing --

MR. BUCHANAN: The Nixon rule.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because he's pro-war.

MR. BUCHANAN: McCain is following the Nixon plan. Nixon said to Republicans, "Run to the right in the primaries and then move back to the center as fast as you can."

MR. PAGE: Right. MR. BUCHANAN: Hillary and the others, Barack Obama, are all on the left. They will be running back to the center when they're -- if and when they're nominated.

MR. PAGE: And they're (not ?) far left right now.

MS. CLIFT: And Hillary is being accused by the left of the party as being a sellout, and she is sponsoring so much legislation with Republicans on Capitol Hill. I think it's really hard to say that she's out of the mainstream.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The supposition here is that both parties will nominate candidates that are too polarizing. (Laughter.)

Exit question: Is there a solid possibility that both the Democrats and the Republicans could nominate candidates that are too polarizing? Pat. You don't think so.

MR. BUCHANAN: The (Republicans ?) have got five candidates.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, neither of them. Both of them have got mainstream candidates for their party.

MS. CLIFT: The answer is no, but there's probably somebody out there with a lot of money and a big ego who will run even if the candidates are not polarizing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

(Cross talk.)

MS. SANCHEZ: -- alone. It has to be mass appeal, and that's what Republicans have.

MR. PAGE: Right. You need that strong personality and a strong issue. I don't think they're out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Polarization is rampant. (Laughter.)

Issue Three: The Billion Dollar Man.

Michael Rubens Bloomberg, Democrat turned Republican, mayor of New York City. Born: Massachusetts. Age: 64. Net worth: $15 billion. Daily transportation to work: The subway. Salary: $1 a year at his own wish. Residence: A townhouse, east side of New York, refusing to live in Gracie Mansion, the mayor's residence. His home telephone number: In the Manhattan directory.

Mayor Bloomberg worked for 15 years at Salomon Brothers. They fired Bloomberg. He then proceeded to found his own company, Bloomberg LP, and through it, created the Bloomberg box to collect, analyze and deliver securities information faster than any other service. His operation now includes news delivery, radio, TV, Internet and publishing operations.

Politically he is pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights, pro-immigration reform, and strongly anti-Iraq. He describes the probability of making a bid into the '08 presidential race with these words: "How likely is it a 5'7" Jew from New York, billionaire, who's divorced and running as an independent, could become president of the United States?" unquote.

Question: Does Bloomberg fit the profile of a third-party presidential candidate? Leslie Sanchez.

MS. SANCHEZ: He's going to have mass appeal, but he's not a realistic candidate if he goes the third-party route. It's not foreseeable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's at ideological odds with his party. He's anti-Iraq war. He's a very wealthy candidate and he's had a track record in government. He's tailor-made.

MS. SANCHEZ: If you've got a track record --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's hard left wing, John. He's a left winger. He puts at risk Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He doesn't come across as a left winger.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, the heck he doesn't.

Have you listened to him? (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: By Republican eyes.

MS. CLIFT: He is a Republican, but I don't care what he calls himself. He is very appealing across the board. He's very good. And if you were going to hire somebody to run the country, he'd be at the top of my list.

MR. BUCHANAN: Would he get one conservative vote -- one conservative vote, Eleanor? (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: We already have a couple of CEOs in the race.

I think he would, because he's competent. People are yearning for competence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why doesn't Hillary bait him or anyone else that thinks he or she can get the nomination and offer him the vice presidential slot? Would he go for that and just get out of what he appears to be thinking about?

MR. PAGE: Because there's no need for that yet.

MR. BUCHANAN: That would be a smart move, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Dream team.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE): (From videotape.) It's a great country to think about a New York boy and a Nebraska boy to be teamed up leading this nation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, recently raised the possibility of running with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2008 on an independent presidential ticket. Wolf Blitzer asked Bloomberg what he thought about running with Hagel.

NEW YORK MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R): (From videotape.) He's doing the right thing. He's out there trying to give the public more choice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now time for a party number three? MAYOR BLOOMBERG: (From videotape.) There's nothing magical about two. The public wants to have people that have experience and that clearly state what they're going to do and then are willing to have themselves held accountable after they get elected for delivering what they promised. We tried that with a scorecard here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your status?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: (From videotape.) I'm not a candidate for president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is that a Tecumseh/Shermanesque statement that he just made -- "I'm not a candidate for president" -- Clarence?

MR. PAGE: Well, of course. (Laughs.) I mean, he'd love to be a candidate for president, but time is not right at this moment. But he'd love to see somebody pave the way. The idea of a Bloomberg-Hagel ticket is very attractive for a lot of different reasons.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In that order?

MR. PAGE: Yeah, because Bloomberg does have the image of being a good manager; Hagel, a guy with war experience and won't get us into another mess, presumably.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've heard about Bloomberg being capable of putting $1 billion into the race -- a billion.

MR. PAGE: That's right. And he's going to need every penny of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think if Hagel is -- and you're saying if Hagel is at the top of the ticket, you think he'd fork up $1 billion to get Hagel elected president?

MR. PAGE: I didn't say Hagel at the top of the ticket; no, Bloomberg-Hagel. Bloomberg would be at the top of the ticket.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's going to need more than $1 billion, and he ain't going to spend it to put Chuck Hagel and run for VP.

MR. PAGE: That's right.

MS. CLIFT: Well, $1 billion can make a difference. And I think we really just don't know what kind of an impact he could have. But I don't know if he'd want to get in just to make a point. He could make points about issues, but I think he wouldn't get in unless he really thinks he has a shot at winning. I don't think it's impossible. MR. BUCHANAN: Let me ask you -- the Democrats get New York now. The Democrats get New York now. You put Bloomberg up there, I think you put New York in play; possibly the Republicans could take it. That's going to be the effect.

MS. CLIFT: Or possibly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Are we saying more than we're saying here?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm saying you bring a third party in there and they can affect the outcome, but they ain't going to win the election.

MS. CLIFT: Bloomberg is not going to do it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you have --

MS. CLIFT: -- if he's going to hand the election to the Republicans. He doesn't want to be a Ralph Nader and spend the rest of his life in ignominy. (Laughter.)

MS. SANCHEZ: If he wants to make a point, he can write an op-ed. I mean, we know he can wire-transfer the money into the campaign, but money has proven historically not to be the only thing to win elections. You've got a viral movement on the Internet with him in the Unity '08. That tends to be left of center, the folks that are promoting this idea of a candidacy of Bloomberg.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a political probability scale of zero to 10, zero being zero probability and 10 meaning metaphysical, absolute certitude, what's the probability that Michael Bloomberg, running as an Independent without Hagel, will win the presidency in 2008? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Zero. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I'll put it at four that he gets in, but at .5 that he could win.

MS. SANCHEZ: Negative zero.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Negative zero. (Laughter.)

MR. PAGE: Zero-point-four.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is two.

Issue Four: Digital Democracy.

HAMILTON JORDAN (former chief of staff to President Carter): (From videotape.) The idea of a Unity candidate, enabled by the Internet, is a powerful idea that can change the direction of our country.

DOUG BAILEY (Hotline founder): (From videotape.) The opportunity for a third force, third-way candidacy, is more real now than it has ever been.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a creature of the Internet political platform, Unity '08. In June 2008, it plans a virtual convention. Candidates will be chosen through an online secure vote primary open to all Americans. The goal: Internet voters will nominate a presidential and vice presidential ticket that has a Democrat and a Republican, in either order, to appeal to independent voters.

Question: What high barrier does the Internet remove in a run for national office, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: It makes it easier to raise money and it also makes it easier to get on the ballot in all 50 states, because you can gather the signatures and you can communicate with people. So technologically, I think it's more favorable for a third party.

But what they don't have, really, is the outsized personality with the compelling issue other than "We just want good governance." And I don't see that yet, but I think they're laying the groundwork for democratizing the presidential process. We may not be locked into the two parties and to two candidates in the future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not really much money is needed to run with an Internet campaign. Is that true?

MS. CLIFT: Well, no, no. You can raise a lot of money on the Internet. I mean, Barack Obama, for example, has, like, three times the number of people on his team through the Internet than Howard Dean had, and it took Dean six months. And all those people can contribute money in small increments repeatedly. So the sums of money you can raise over the Internet are vast.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the blogs interested in Bloomberg?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unity has pretty much fingered Bloomberg as their candidate, Unity '08.

MS. CLIFT: Michael Bloomberg would be a catch for Unity '08.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will '08 be a realigning election with Democrats on top? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Partly, because the Reagan Democrats have started going home. They feel betrayed by the Republicans. MS. CLIFT: Yes, not because of third parties but because of immigration and the Republican negative view about Hispanics.

MS. SANCHEZ: The realignment started in 2006. It's going to continue in 2008.

MR. PAGE: Yes, because the Republicans are currently in disarray and the Democrats are coming together.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, it started, and it will enjoy fruition in '08.

Bye-bye.

END.

Democrats and Republicans have chosen as their presidential nominee.

Between then, February 5, '08, and November '08, voters will have nine full months to find flaws with the Republican and Democratic nominees, during which time an Independent may be waiting in the wings to seize and conquer center stage.

Question: What sequence of events would favor a viable presidential Independent candidacy? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Look, it depends who the major parties nominate. And if both parties nominate one of -- or two of the six front-runners, I don't think you can make the case that there's room for a centrist ticket. I think you can make the case that none of the existing candidates might be bold enough to address the issues of the country. But I look at Barack Obama. He's talking about issues in a different way, so he fills one of the vacuums that people clamoring for a third ticket want.

So I don't see much room except for that long period of time, plus the fact you've got Al Gore hovering out there, you've got Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich. You've got all these people still waiting. So there's an insurance policy with Unity '08, which is an Internet convention. So I think there will be an Independent ticket, but I don't necessarily see it, you know, capturing the imagination of the country. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we postulate here that polarizing candidates will create a vacuum in the middle? And is Hillary -- can we postulate that? (Laughter.) If we postulate that, is Hillary polarizing? Is Obama polarizing by reason of --

MR. BUCHANAN: Here's how you get it, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- we never had an African-American in there?

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you how you get your third-party candidate. If you nominate three social liberals from New York -- Giuliani, Hillary and Bloomberg -- you have a wide open track.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Obama?

MR. PAGE: Well, Obama's big advantage is that he appears to be fresh and new amid a stale --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the bloom off that unifier rose?

MR. PAGE: Oh, not even, not even. No, you've got -- you know, the voters don't even start getting serious about these things until after Labor Day. So it's way too early --

MS. CLIFT: And Hillary Clinton --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor. Giuliani -- I want to ask you this -- Giuliani and McCain and Romney are all pro-Iraq war, okay? So they are themselves polarizing, are they not? And that, on that side, creates a vacuum, does it not?

MR. BUCHANAN: The other side will have an antiwar candidate.

MS. SANCHEZ: Exactly right. And you have to look at the fact -- a lot of this is speaking to the base. I mean, think about how candidates progress in their positions to open up and appeal more to independent conservatives and open-minded swing voters. You're not going to see that until probably a year from now. You know, after they nominate the candidate, then you will see --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McCain is also polarizing --

MR. BUCHANAN: The Nixon rule.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because he's pro-war.

MR. BUCHANAN: McCain is following the Nixon plan. Nixon said to Republicans, "Run to the right in the primaries and then move back to the center as fast as you can."

MR. PAGE: Right. MR. BUCHANAN: Hillary and the others, Barack Obama, are all on the left. They will be running back to the center when they're -- if and when they're nominated.

MR. PAGE: And they're (not ?) far left right now.

MS. CLIFT: And Hillary is being accused by the left of the party as being a sellout, and she is sponsoring so much legislation with Republicans on Capitol Hill. I think it's really hard to say that she's out of the mainstream.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The supposition here is that both parties will nominate candidates that are too polarizing. (Laughter.)

Exit question: Is there a solid possibility that both the Democrats and the Republicans could nominate candidates that are too polarizing? Pat. You don't think so.

MR. BUCHANAN: The (Republicans ?) have got five candidates.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, neither of them. Both of them have got mainstream candidates for their party.

MS. CLIFT: The answer is no, but there's probably somebody out there with a lot of money and a big ego who will run even if the candidates are not polarizing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

(Cross talk.)

MS. SANCHEZ: -- alone. It has to be mass appeal, and that's what Republicans have.

MR. PAGE: Right. You need that strong personality and a strong issue. I don't think they're out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Polarization is rampant. (Laughter.)

Issue Three: The Billion Dollar Man.

Michael Rubens Bloomberg, Democrat turned Republican, mayor of New York City. Born: Massachusetts. Age: 64. Net worth: $15 billion. Daily transportation to work: The subway. Salary: $1 a year at his own wish. Residence: A townhouse, east side of New York, refusing to live in Gracie Mansion, the mayor's residence. His home telephone number: In the Manhattan directory.

Mayor Bloomberg worked for 15 years at Salomon Brothers. They fired Bloomberg. He then proceeded to found his own company, Bloomberg LP, and through it, created the Bloomberg box to collect, analyze and deliver securities information faster than any other service. His operation now includes news delivery, radio, TV, Internet and publishing operations.

Politically he is pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights, pro-immigration reform, and strongly anti-Iraq. He describes the probability of making a bid into the '08 presidential race with these words: "How likely is it a 5'7" Jew from New York, billionaire, who's divorced and running as an independent, could become president of the United States?" unquote.

Question: Does Bloomberg fit the profile of a third-party presidential candidate? Leslie Sanchez.

MS. SANCHEZ: He's going to have mass appeal, but he's not a realistic candidate if he goes the third-party route. It's not foreseeable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's at ideological odds with his party. He's anti-Iraq war. He's a very wealthy candidate and he's had a track record in government. He's tailor-made.

MS. SANCHEZ: If you've got a track record --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's hard left wing, John. He's a left winger. He puts at risk Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He doesn't come across as a left winger.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, the heck he doesn't.

Have you listened to him? (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: By Republican eyes.

MS. CLIFT: He is a Republican, but I don't care what he calls himself. He is very appealing across the board. He's very good. And if you were going to hire somebody to run the country, he'd be at the top of my list.

MR. BUCHANAN: Would he get one conservative vote -- one conservative vote, Eleanor? (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: We already have a couple of CEOs in the race.

I think he would, because he's competent. People are yearning for competence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why doesn't Hillary bait him or anyone else that thinks he or she can get the nomination and offer him the vice presidential slot? Would he go for that and just get out of what he appears to be thinking about?

MR. PAGE: Because there's no need for that yet.

MR. BUCHANAN: That would be a smart move, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Dream team.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE): (From videotape.) It's a great country to think about a New York boy and a Nebraska boy to be teamed up leading this nation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, recently raised the possibility of running with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2008 on an independent presidential ticket. Wolf Blitzer asked Bloomberg what he thought about running with Hagel.

NEW YORK MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R): (From videotape.) He's doing the right thing. He's out there trying to give the public more choice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now time for a party number three? MAYOR BLOOMBERG: (From videotape.) There's nothing magical about two. The public wants to have people that have experience and that clearly state what they're going to do and then are willing to have themselves held accountable after they get elected for delivering what they promised. We tried that with a scorecard here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your status?

MAYOR BLOOMBERG: (From videotape.) I'm not a candidate for president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is that a Tecumseh/Shermanesque statement that he just made -- "I'm not a candidate for president" -- Clarence?

MR. PAGE: Well, of course. (Laughs.) I mean, he'd love to be a candidate for president, but time is not right at this moment. But he'd love to see somebody pave the way. The idea of a Bloomberg-Hagel ticket is very attractive for a lot of different reasons.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In that order?

MR. PAGE: Yeah, because Bloomberg does have the image of being a good manager; Hagel, a guy with war experience and won't get us into another mess, presumably.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've heard about Bloomberg being capable of putting $1 billion into the race -- a billion.

MR. PAGE: That's right. And he's going to need every penny of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think if Hagel is -- and you're saying if Hagel is at the top of the ticket, you think he'd fork up $1 billion to get Hagel elected president?

MR. PAGE: I didn't say Hagel at the top of the ticket; no, Bloomberg-Hagel. Bloomberg would be at the top of the ticket.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's going to need more than $1 billion, and he ain't going to spend it to put Chuck Hagel and run for VP.

MR. PAGE: That's right.

MS. CLIFT: Well, $1 billion can make a difference. And I think we really just don't know what kind of an impact he could have. But I don't know if he'd want to get in just to make a point. He could make points about issues, but I think he wouldn't get in unless he really thinks he has a shot at winning. I don't think it's impossible. MR. BUCHANAN: Let me ask you -- the Democrats get New York now. The Democrats get New York now. You put Bloomberg up there, I think you put New York in play; possibly the Republicans could take it. That's going to be the effect.

MS. CLIFT: Or possibly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Are we saying more than we're saying here?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm saying you bring a third party in there and they can affect the outcome, but they ain't going to win the election.

MS. CLIFT: Bloomberg is not going to do it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you have --

MS. CLIFT: -- if he's going to hand the election to the Republicans. He doesn't want to be a Ralph Nader and spend the rest of his life in ignominy. (Laughter.)

MS. SANCHEZ: If he wants to make a point, he can write an op-ed. I mean, we know he can wire-transfer the money into the campaign, but money has proven historically not to be the only thing to win elections. You've got a viral movement on the Internet with him in the Unity '08. That tends to be left of center, the folks that are promoting this idea of a candidacy of Bloomberg.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a political probability scale of zero to 10, zero being zero probability and 10 meaning metaphysical, absolute certitude, what's the probability that Michael Bloomberg, running as an Independent without Hagel, will win the presidency in 2008? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Zero. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I'll put it at four that he gets in, but at .5 that he could win.

MS. SANCHEZ: Negative zero.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Negative zero. (Laughter.)

MR. PAGE: Zero-point-four.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is two.

Issue Four: Digital Democracy.

HAMILTON JORDAN (former chief of staff to President Carter): (From videotape.) The idea of a Unity candidate, enabled by the Internet, is a powerful idea that can change the direction of our country.

DOUG BAILEY (Hotline founder): (From videotape.) The opportunity for a third force, third-way candidacy, is more real now than it has ever been.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a creature of the Internet political platform, Unity '08. In June 2008, it plans a virtual convention. Candidates will be chosen through an online secure vote primary open to all Americans. The goal: Internet voters will nominate a presidential and vice presidential ticket that has a Democrat and a Republican, in either order, to appeal to independent voters.

Question: What high barrier does the Internet remove in a run for national office, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: It makes it easier to raise money and it also makes it easier to get on the ballot in all 50 states, because you can gather the signatures and you can communicate with people. So technologically, I think it's more favorable for a third party.

But what they don't have, really, is the outsized personality with the compelling issue other than "We just want good governance." And I don't see that yet, but I think they're laying the groundwork for democratizing the presidential process. We may not be locked into the two parties and to two candidates in the future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not really much money is needed to run with an Internet campaign. Is that true?

MS. CLIFT: Well, no, no. You can raise a lot of money on the Internet. I mean, Barack Obama, for example, has, like, three times the number of people on his team through the Internet than Howard Dean had, and it took Dean six months. And all those people can contribute money in small increments repeatedly. So the sums of money you can raise over the Internet are vast.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the blogs interested in Bloomberg?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unity has pretty much fingered Bloomberg as their candidate, Unity '08.

MS. CLIFT: Michael Bloomberg would be a catch for Unity '08.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will '08 be a realigning election with Democrats on top? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Partly, because the Reagan Democrats have started going home. They feel betrayed by the Republicans. MS. CLIFT: Yes, not because of third parties but because of immigration and the Republican negative view about Hispanics.

MS. SANCHEZ: The realignment started in 2006. It's going to continue in 2008.

MR. PAGE: Yes, because the Republicans are currently in disarray and the Democrats are coming together.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, it started, and it will enjoy fruition in '08.

Bye-bye.

END.