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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 15-16, 2007

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Oprah Rules.

It felt like a religious revival -- Oprah playing John the Baptist to Obama's Jesus.

OPRAH WINFREY (talk show host): (From videotape.) Is he the one? (Cheers.) Is he the one? (Cheers.) South Carolina, I do believe he's the one to bring us the audacity of hope -- Barack Obama. (Cheers.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not only speak the truth, but be the truth. MS. WINFREY: (From videotape.) We need politicians who know how to tell the truth. (Cheers.) But more important, we need politicians who know how to be the truth. (Cheers.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not only love mercy, but be just.

MS. WINFREY: (From videotape.) We also must seize this opportunity to support a man who, as the Bible says, loves mercy and does justly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Love thy enemy as thyself.

MS. WINFREY: (From videotape.) We need a president who cares about our relationships with our friends and our enemies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Conscience be thy guide.

MS. WINFREY: (From videotape.) The time is now for a president with clarity and conviction, who is willing to consult his own conscience -- first of all, who has a conscience.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Barack fits the bill.

MS. WINFREY: (From videotape.) I'm sick of politics as usual. We need Barack Obama.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is the timing of Oprah's campaigning for Obama on the mark or off the mark? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: It sure looks on the mark, John. By one poll, Rasmussen, Obama is now nine up in Iowa. He's slightly ahead in New Hampshire. He's ahead in Nevada. And he may be ahead in South Carolina. There's a possibility he could run the first four victories in the primary season. And if that happens, I think you'd have to say he's the odds-on favorite for the nomination. There's no question that Oprah Winfrey helped him, and I think probably pretty considerably when you take a look at what's happened since.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with that, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, if she came in when his campaign seemed to be stalled, as it was perhaps just a month ago; instead she's coming in now when he's already surging on his own, so she's giving him that extra wind at the back. Also the Obama campaign captured the data of everybody who attended these rallies. In order to get a ticket, you had to show up at the headquarters, a headquarters, or volunteer your time. So they now know how to find a lot of people to get them to the polls in Iowa.

And the image of, in Iowa in particular, this sea of mostly white faces supporting this candidate sends a message to African-Americans in South Carolina that this is a man who can win, because they've been holding back out of loyalty to the Clintons and out of fear that he really can't win. I think it sends a strong message. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I can more easily see Oprah helping Obama in South Carolina, but I can't -- I don't know whether he accounts for the acceleration in his ratings in Iowa. Do you share that view?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think the timing of her appearances on his behalf is inspired. And it may be difficult to sort whether or not it was coincidental that she happened to appear as he was riding the crest of the wave here. But I agree with Eleanor that her presence not just sends a signal to African-Americans that it's okay to vote for him, but also sends a signal to women that it's okay not to vote for Hillary, that you don't have to vote by virtue of your gender in this race.

Her language also -- all of this religious imagery and symbolism that she rolled in that package is tremendously powerful. It's Obama as redeemer, Obama as savior.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In all the primaries?

MS. CROWLEY: He is -- you know, I think there's a lot of resonance there, especially with perhaps more moderate or conservative Democrats. Look, this country has 300 million people, 225 (million) of which are Christians. That kind of imagery is incredibly powerful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Oprah, we love you.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL, Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Oprah Winfrey, the more we've known her, the more spectacular you realize her character and her soul is. This is a wonderful person. We love her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Obama's deference to Oprah presidential, or is it a trifle fawning?

MR. PAGE: Well, I ask you to recall when President Bush, then candidate Bush, and John Kerry and various others have been on Oprah's show. They all fawned, for good reason, John. She carries a lot of fans out there who may not be that politically involved, but they will say, "Hey, if Oprah cares about this person, I'm going to pay some attention to them."

The good thing about the timing of this, John, was that, you know, yeah, Obama was riding a bit of a crest. And where'd that crest begin? When he began to get aggressive with Hillary Clinton at that Philadelphia debate. And, you know, there was more of the Obama edge coming out. Who better to smooth off the edge here than to have Oprah endorsing him? So it just all added to it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's no down side to Oprah? Is that what you're saying?

MR. PAGE: There may be a down side for Oprah, because she's stepping into politics, which is always messy. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's interesting.

MR. PAGE: I see no down side for Obama.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me talk about this religious imagery --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on for one minute.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- the religious imagery.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, the religious imagery and the liturgy and the religiosity of the language is exactly what Martin Luther King used.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: I was at the March on Washington, and he had these rolling cadences out of the old King James Bible. That is crossover into fundamental America, Christians, you know, and very simple folks.

That really resonates.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Since you liked this, here's Michelle Obama adding her biblical resonance to explain what kind of Christ figure her husband is.

MICHELLE OBAMA (wife of Senator Obama): (From videotape.) That can inspire us and challenge us to understand that we have a mutual obligation to one another, that we are truly one another's brothers' and sisters' keepers, that there's more that unites us than divides us. And in order to bring about that kind of change, we need the kind of leadership that can touch our souls in a way that we haven't felt in a long time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: If Obama wins the Iowa caucus in January -- Iowa -- to which of his cheerleaders will he owe the more, to Oprah or to Michelle? I ask you, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Gee. Well, I would say he's been owing Michelle a lot all along. Oprah right now, this is kind of putting the after-burners on, as Eleanor was saying, at a time when he needs something of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, maybe Michelle is what's driving the engine.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. PAGE: Well, Michelle is a great partner.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe it's not Oprah. Maybe it's Michelle.

MR. PAGE: She's a smart lady.

MS. CLIFT: What's driving the campaign is the narrative of his life, that he's someone who can bring the country together, that he transcends all the kinds of lines that we've set up in America. And if he wins either of those first two contests, we will have a race that goes a good while, because the Clintons are not going to leave the stage easily, if at all. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: That's why the partnership between Oprah and Obama is so powerful, because both of them transcend race and they're able to appeal to whites, across the gender lines. They are a powerful punch, the two of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, this is really getting gagging.

MR. PAGE: John --

MS. CLIFT: Well, he appeals to Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, what we need here is a bazooka. Let's hear from Shaheen, William Shaheen, the co-chairman of Hillary's New Hampshire campaign, former co-chairman. This week he said this about fellow Democratic candidate Senator Obama. Quote: "There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks, it's hard to overcome. It'll be 'When was the last time you did drugs, Obama? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'" unquote.

Exit: Does Obama's "teenage drug haze" -- those are his words -- deserve more attention in the Democratic primaries? Yes or no? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this thing by Shaheen, backed up by Mark Penn saying, "Cocaine; we haven't raised the cocaine issue" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They fired him, by the way.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they didn't fire Penn, but they fired -- the other guy resigned. But let me say this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They fired Shaheen.

MR. BUCHANAN: Shaheen's gone. But let me say this. This has hurt Hillary very badly, and I think it's going to hurt her permanently because it was a genuinely dirty trick. But they've now got --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you know that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, because Novak said a month ago they're holding on to alleged scandalous materials they say they won't use. This was it. They blew it out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is based on Novak.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me say what's going to happen here, though. This has hurt Hillary. But let me say, if Obama gets the nomination, they're going to be after him, because there's got to be something behind this or that guy --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I'll credit Bob Novak with a lot, but not for revealing this. Obama revealed this himself. It's hardly scandalous information that the Clinton campaign -- MR. BUCHANAN: Sold is the thing. A drug dealer?

MS. CLIFT: Look, it has --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's the charge -- a drug dealer.

MS. CLIFT: I think he's already been asked that and said no. And I noticed you managed to say cocaine twice, and now I make it three. (Laughter.)

MS. CROWLEY: Look, the real damage -- the reason this has blown up in Team Clinton's face is because it resurrects all of everybody's memories about Clintonian tactics, dirty tricks, knee-capping the competition, parsing the language, making excuses. That's why the mud has flicked back up on Hillary. That's why there's this backlash now against her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think this is devastating?

MR. PAGE: It's why she apologized.

MS. CROWLEY: Absolutely, it was devastating to her. And because it's always worked for the Clintons --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You got the picture.

MS. CROWLEY: -- they don't understand why it's not working this time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's all over for Hillary. It's kaput time.

MS. CLIFT: No. (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: Well, that is why what she said, when she apologized to Obama, that "This kind of thing has been done to me so many times, I'd be the last to want to do it to you." But the damage is out there, like Pat said.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it's been the core of the Clinton campaign message that she's had everything thrown against her. And if you go with any of these other candidates, they're the equivalent of a blank slate and there are all these kinds of things that can come up. They just got caught saying it out loud.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, it's all up in the air.

Issue Two: Millionaires' Club.

They constitute less than 1 percent of all Americans, yet they want to govern your destiny: Mitt Romney, $202 million; John Edwards, $55 million; Rudolph Giuliani, $52 million; John McCain, $40 million; Hillary Clinton, $35 million; Fred Thompson, $8 million; Barack Obama, $1.3 million. Question: Is there an impact on our democracy, our democratic way of living, from having the presidency limited to millionaires only? Monica Crowley.

MS. CROWLEY: I don't think that voters much care anymore about the personal wealth of presidential candidates. I think they care about their personal wealth only in two instances: One, if it seems that there was some taint in how they got the money -- scandals, dirty dealings and so on -- or if there's some perceived hypocrisy, meaning if a candidate is out there saying, "I want to help the poor as long as the poor isn't me."

This is John Edwards's problem, because John Edwards is campaigning on poverty, the two Americas, but he wouldn't be caught dead living in the other America.

MS. CLIFT: I'm sorry, but John --

MS. CROWLEY: That's the only way I think that wealth comes into the picture.

MS. CLIFT: John Edwards does come from the other America, and I think he feels it very strongly. And his populist message speaks to that. I don't think that he has to change how he lives in order to represent the people that he cares about.

I mean, FDR --

MS. CROWLEY: But getting a $400 haircut isn't exactly staying on message.

MS. CLIFT: It's not staying on message, and it was a mistake. But I don't question his sincerity on these issues at all. And actually, Barack Obama did not come from money. Hillary Clinton came from a very middle-class existence. I don't think they've forgotten where they came from.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do not?

MR. PAGE: In fact, as Harvard lawyers go, Obama's kind of poverty-stricken. Only $1.3 million? I'm shocked.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fred Thompson earned his money.

MR. PAGE: Only $8 million.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, so did Mitt Romney.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?

MR. BUCHANAN: Mitt Romney's -- I mean, he's a very sharp guy, Harvard Business School; but Bain & Company, he earned it. His father was a successful corporate executive at American Motors and a governor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we can relax on this issue.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. But they aren't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't have to worry they've lost touch with the common man.

MR. BUCHANAN: I will say this. A lot of them are not deeply in touch with what is happening in middle and working-class America. There's no question about that. And I think a lot of them try to connect with it. I'll tell you who is in touch is Dennis Kucinich. I mean, he understands these folks. He grew up with them. MS. CROWLEY: He wasn't on that list.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's not on that list.

MS. CROWLEY: He's not on the list.

MR. BUCHANAN: He can win it. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Neither is Gravel. Are you rooting for Gravel too? (Laughter.) Nor Biden, a great public servant.

MR. PAGE: You haven't heard about the Gravel surge out there? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Huckabee's hiccups.

In this Sunday's issue of New York Times Magazine, Governor Mike Huckabee was asked by the writer, Zev Chafets, whether Mormonism was a religion or a cult. In his response, Huckabee said, quote, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" unquote. Huckabee apologized to Romney this week.

Question: Does this comment damage Huckabee? Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think it's a very ungenerous response on his part. He could concede that the Mormon religion is a religion instead of sort of leading it out there that maybe it's a cult. He's really trying to play this up and to hurt Romney because of his Mormonism. And it is a religion that is relatively new, 177 years ago. And it is misunderstood. But it's 2 percent of the population. They're politically active. And I think they certainly have a right to be on the stage along with everybody else.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's see whether this does it for you, Eleanor; more Huckabee. In 1998, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a full-page USA Today statement on the family. Mike Huckabee signed the statement with 130 others.

Quote: "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ," unquote. What's wrong with that, Pat? You signed that statement about a month ago, didn't you?

MR. BUCHANAN: Listen, that's what we were raised to believe, John, and that ain't going to hurt him in the Iowa caucuses. (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: You know what hurts Huckabee, though, is that he's kind of replaced McCain to a certain degree as the conservative that liberals like, because he has spoken up in favor of government helping poor folks and he's challenged the notion that budget-cutting is everything. Now we're seeing this other side of Huckabee that looks less tolerant, looks like he's playing very coy with all the anti- Mormon propaganda that's helping to buoy him up. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that --

MR. PAGE: It doesn't help him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you a question. This will give you an opportunity to shine. Do you think Huckabee is on the track to critical mass, negative critical mass? Do you get that impression?

MS. CROWLEY: That he's on his way down?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes, I absolutely do. And I think that the seminal moment was the quote in the New York Times Magazine about Mormonism. It was an incredibly ungracious comment for him to make. He didn't have to make it. He chose to make it. And I'll tell you, the mood of the country right now is inclusionary. It's not exclusionary. This is what explains the rise of Barack Obama and why he has such great appeal.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CROWLEY: It's inclusionary. For him to say, "Well, unless you're a devout Christian in my stream of Christianity, I don't want to do talk to you" --

MR. BUCHANAN: It was mean, and he's --

MS. CROWLEY: -- that's backfiring on him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's on the way to critical mass, negative critical mass?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he's not there yet. He's still got about a 10-point lead in Iowa. But that was mean and it was a little knife in the side, and it was deliberate.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I think for a long time he looked, if not like the nominee, he looked like a sure vice presidential contender with one of the more secular candidates. He may be losing that with these sort of intolerant remarks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to take up the slack that he leaves?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, if he loses Iowa, Romney's the nominee, because Iowa -- Romney will win Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina. And Rudy is in third place in Florida now.

MS. CLIFT: Right now Mr. Huckabee is Rudy Giuliani's best friend --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. MS. CLIFT: -- because he's sopping up votes from Mitt Romney.

MS. CROWLEY: Right. And if Huckabee continues to implode there may be an opening for John McCain.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Implode? We're not at implosion -- (inaudible) -- yet.

MS. CROWLEY: I think he's heading that way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Name one candidate from the list who is truly capable -- I mean, the millionaires' list, Pat. By the way, talking about millionaires, I see you're on your way.

MS. CLIFT: Truly capable of what? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is this, your 28th book?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's the ninth, John, and it slipped into the New York Times bestseller list.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The ninth book. I see you (revived ?) Henry Luce as one of your idols.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. What did he call the American century? 1941, was it not? It was a great essay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said, "It's not to undertake to police the whole world nor to impose democratic institutions on all mankind" --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. He anticipated --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- including the dalai lama and the good shepherds of Tibet.

MR. BUCHANAN: He anticipated me, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In isolationism.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. Well, I wouldn't say -- no, he was an interventionist, but he said we ought to intervene here, but we don't want to remake the whole world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. That's the alternative to isolationism.

MS. CLIFT: Okay --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is truly capable of grasping the lambasting that the middle class is getting in America today, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think that -- I agree with Eleanor. I think John Edwards is in touch with it and he's tried to reach it. But I think Monica is right. He's got an awful lot of these problems of the nouveau riche that have really hurt him.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but policy-wise, all the Democrats are going to do for the middle class what the Bush administration has neglected for seven years. So I think John Edwards brings -- he feels it in his bones more than the others. But policy-wise, they're all on the same page, particularly on rethinking trade.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: I think Barack Obama is probably the most responsive. And he's also the lowest one on that list. You know, Republicans are pragmatists. They want somebody strong and accomplished. They want a leader. Democrats are dreamers. They're idealists. They want to follow their bliss. And so Barack Obama is the last one on that list of millionaires, and he's leading in the polls for that reason.

MR. PAGE: That's the nicest thing you've said about Democrats in weeks there, Monica. (Laughs.) Congratulations.

You know, the irony for Obama has been, up until now, the polls have shown this interesting split that Obama has had more elite appeal among black folks and among white Democrats, whereas it's the high school grads and down have been more for Hillary Clinton. I think Oprah helps Barack on that score. I think his preaching style is getting better. So if he does really well in Iowa, and especially New Hampshire, that's really going to help him down in South Carolina. He could get on a roll.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is this, the Barack bandwagon here?

MR. PAGE: No, not yet. Not yet, John. But we'll see.

MR. BUCHANAN: You started it today, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Global Gravitas.

The current lineup of leaders on the world stage, the G-8 plus China, alphabetically: Brown, UK; Fukuda, Japan; Harper, Canada; Jintao, China; Bush, U.S.; Merkel, Germany; Prodi, Italy; Putin, Russia; Sarkozy, France.

Question: On this world leader stage, which of the U.S. presidential candidates fits best? Democrats alphabetically: Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, Gravel, Kucinich, Obama, Richardson.

Question: Which Democrat measures up best to join these global titans? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: I think any of the three top contenders get over the bar in terms of standing with those leaders. I think with --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama?

MS. CLIFT: Obama, certainly. The world would welcome him. And I think they would also acknowledge Hillary Clinton as a much needed change.

I think with John Edwards, there might be a little nervousness about him in terms of national security issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: But I think, on trade, he would really stand up for this country. MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Putin and Sarkozy would eat him alive?

MS. CLIFT: No. He's a trial lawyer, John. He's been in a courtroom --

MR. BUCHANAN: Putin and Sarkozy are the only --

MS. CLIFT: -- and he knows how to handle the opposition.

MR. BUCHANAN: Putin and Sarkozy are the only really big figures there. The rest are, by and large, technocrats, bureaucrats, politicians. Putin is a very big, powerful man, a real leader in the old tradition. I think Sarkozy could be. But other than that, most of the Americans could stand up to them, even though I don't think any of them would be as impressive as Putin.

MS. CROWLEY: I think that the key for Barack Obama or John Edwards, if either of those two were to win the presidency, is to surround themselves with very seasoned foreign policy professionals. Otherwise -- because you don't want to lend the impression --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that your insight?

MS. CROWLEY: -- that the foreign leaders could run circles around these guys because they don't have any foreign policy experience.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, well, Edwards would get along well with Fukuda. Fukuda dyes his hair black, and they could talk about -- (laughter) -- the latest in coiffure --

MS. CLIFT: Actually, he could open up some of those markets for American goods. I think he'd be pretty good.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to say something on this before we turn to the Republicans?

MR. PAGE: One of the funniest moments of the last Democratic debate was that Obama was chided for having so many former Clinton advisors on his foreign policy team, but he turned to Hillary Clinton and said, "Well, I hope to have you too, Hillary, advising me in the future." (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Republicans, alphabetically: Giuliani, Huckabee, Hunter, McCain, Paul, Romney, Tancredo, Thompson.

Which Republican measures up best, Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, a lot of them do. McCain certainly would fit right in there very quickly. I think Fred Thompson would fit in there; most all the front-runners. Republicans do have foreign policy experience, almost all of them knowledge, because that's a real strong suit of the Republican Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Biden. Well, he's a Democrat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Biden's a Democrat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about Romney.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Romney's an international figure. He's been an international businessman, traveled to countries, the Olympics. He's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's the best?

MS. CLIFT: McCain.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think McCain, obviously.

MS. CLIFT: McCain is the obvious best. He's the strongest contender for the Republicans and would fit on the international stage very easily.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, a lot --

MS. CLIFT: Talk about Republicans having foreign policy experience -- I don't think Rudy Giuliani has any unless you count making money --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The G-8 is largely economics.

Who fits better in that category?

MR. BUCHANAN: Romney.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's obvious. Mitt does, right?

MS. CROWLEY: Mitt Romney. And Romney has the proper breeding of a world leader. He's got the intellect, the sterling education. He has a realistic understanding of national interests.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he the best Republican?

MS. CROWLEY: He has the physical carriage also.

MR. PAGE: With nice hair as well.

MS. CROWLEY: I think McCain and Romney fit in best in this group. Huckabee -- Putin and Ahmadinejad will run over him like a bus.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question, multiple choice: As Americans weigh their choices going into next year's presidential election, will the question of who has global gravitas be, A, a major factor, B, a moderate factor, C, a minor factor, or D, a non-factor? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Major factor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Major factor?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think foreign policy is going to be very, very important because of the war, because of a lot of problems. The economy may be the number one issue, but people are going to be looking seriously at someone's knowledge of foreign policy, especially after Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: It's the commander-in-chief threshold, and you don't get to be president until you can get over that. I think that Hillary's there. Obama's almost there. John Edwards is getting there. And on the Republican side, I think the three top contenders get over the bar. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you think that this is an important criterion Americans will be using, how they get along globally?

MS. CLIFT: Americans are thinking who can protect and defend the country, not necessarily who can schmooze best on the international scene.

MS. CROWLEY: Major factor. National security is going to be tantamount in all of its manifestations -- Iraq, Iran, dealing with the Russians, dealing with the Chinese, and the national security implications for illegal immigration too.

MR. PAGE: I think, barring another bad terror attack, really foreign policy will be more important than national security. Americans feel pretty secure right now, maybe too secure. But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean it's less important.

MR. PAGE: I think security would be less important than foreign policy, because the big issue right now is Iraq. I think it's going to be Iraq.

MS. CLIFT: There's an assumption on the part of the voters that whenever we get a new president, whoever it is, that we get a chance to rebuild our standing in the world, that that's just an automatic.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I think Buchanan overstated it. I think you did slightly too, Monica. I think that Buchanan is doing ---he wants to sell his book. There's a lot of ideology in here that he's talking about.

Issue Four: A Possible Latecomer To This Race -- Mike Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City?

What about that, Monica? You live in New York.

MS. CROWLEY: I think the morning of February 6th, right after Super Tuesday, if both parties look like they have nominated hyper- partisan nominees, whether it's Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, perhaps Rudy Giuliani, who is one of Michael Bloomberg's personal nemeses, if those two are the candidates, then I think Michael Bloomberg gets in.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Bloomberg succeeded Rudy Giuliani. What's the basis of their animosity?

MS. CROWLEY: I think it's two towering egos that have crashed against each other.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also Bloomberg says that Giuliani left a lot of debt in the city. MR. BUCHANAN: Bloomberg won't --

MS. CLIFT: There's an opening for a third party, because if the parties decide on a candidate on February 5th, it's a long way to November. And a lot of dirty tricks could come up. The candidates will look like they're pretty old and tired. So there's an opening.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bloomberg in New York is polling close to 70 -- 70 percent favorable. He's a dynamite mayor. What about that?

MR. BUCHANAN: He would siphon off maybe a million, 2 million votes from the Democratic Party in New York State and put it in play.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Happy holidays. Bye-bye.



END.