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Hi. Welcome to today's Council on Foreign Relations meeting. I'm Joe Klein from Time Magazine. And I want to say that participants around the nation and the world are viewing this meeting via live webcast on the council's website. They're sending in e mailed questions. And please remember to turn off all your cell phones and Blackberrys and wireless devices. This meeting is on the record and it's going to be a lot of fun because I have to say, this is my ninth presidential campaign -- there are no 12-step programs for political junkies -- (laughter) -- and this is the most exciting and also the most consequential that I've ever covered With us today are three people who know presidential politics as well as anybody does, and who also know international relations and the rest of the world, who have done work in the rest of the world. To my immediate left is Kellyanne Conway, the CEO and president of The Polling Company; Jeff Garin, the president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates; and Doug Schoen, chairman of Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates. Emeritus. What? Emeritus. Actually, Doug and I are in a death race to see who can grab the title "flaming moderate" for our memoirs. (Laughter.) Yes, yes. So I know what this is a very high-minded crowd and so I'm going to ask the question that all of you want to ask but are probably too decorous to actually ask yourselves: What do you guys think is happening? (Laughter.) I'll go -- speak about the party that you're associated with and the other party as well, please. What's happening this year? In the presidential race? In the presidential race. Okay. A lot of excitement because on the Republican side there is no frontrunner. I don't know how other conservatives feel, but for my money, I'm very happy about that because that's what competition and democracy are meant to be. For whatever you think of George W. Bush as a president, you should really reflect on how he became the nominee of the party. It really was engendered by three magic words -- "He can win." That's eight letters, ladies and gentlemen -- nine letters if you add an exclamation point. But if you go back to 1998, 1999, all across the country people like me would ask folks very politely and say, "Who do you support for president?" "Oh, George W. Bush." And I'd say, "Great. Why?" "He can win," was always the answer I got. "He can win. He's electable." And I'd say, "Well, why do you think he can win?" Answer: "He's high in the polls." And the professional pollster would ask innocently, "I know. How did he get so high in the polls?" "Everybody thinks he can win. Plus he raised a boatload of money." And I'd say, "You know, he has raised money. That's very credible. How did he raise all that money?" "He's high in the polls. Everybody thinks he can win. They wrote him a check. We don't have that this time. This fiction of electability has been broken apart, and I think that's great because electibility is a fiction. All you've really proven if you say, "I'm the only one who's electable" -- or in the case of Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, their campaigns were banking very much on electability about a year ago, arguing that they're the only ones who can beat the other, which is completely unproveable and which voters in the early contests, anyway, have said, "Gee, you know, we're going to have something to say about that." I think this election is -- I've said for about six months -- what I call a turn-the-page election, that people are starting to decide what it is they want to turn the page and see, or who it is. That was really in flux. It was easier to say what they didn't want in their next president than to really give a presidential job description, if you will I think that -- I went back and looked at some research. In 1992 and again in '96 and really in 2000 -- Joe and I were talking earlier -- the issues matrix were -- matrices were so different than they are in 2004 and even in 2008. In 1992, when Bill Clinton won the presidency for the first time, the top issues were the economy, deficit and health care, according to the post-election polls, followed by family values, taxes and abortion. We'll get into issues in the next question. Sure. This is just horserace. And by the way, the last part of the question is, assume a gun pointed at your head: Who are the nominees going to be? I would duck, and -- (laughter) -- I think professional pollsters should predict those things closer to the elections and so far apart -- away from the election. I absolutely don't know with any degree of certainty who the Republican nominee will be, and that's not a pun. That is because the voters in three very different states with three very different demographic makeups already have chosen three different victors, and they may choose a fourth in South Carolina. Yeah, but three on the Democratic side? I think -- although I do think if you had to come down to two people on the Republican side, Mitt Romney is always one of the two people, no matter how you assess the calculation -- whether it's based on money, organization, strength, appeal. And on the Democratic side, I think Hillary eventually comes through as the nominee, but she's going to need to work to wear her war wounds a little bit better. She needs to have more snap recovery and more resilience I think than she's had. Somehow they've let Barack Obama get under their skin, and he's a very serious contender to her this year. But they should probably let it show -- we're going to get into the issues later -- the real stuff? Good. The real stuff comes next. One thing I will say though is -- I just wanted to get the quick and dirty stuff over. This is one thing I'll say, though: Why it's difficult to predict this race also is I think the polling this time, for all it's been talked about in terms of bad methodology or race inflation -- all of this -- look, as long as there are weathermen, pollsters will have a job. But in addition to that, I think what's happening is we have some really serious issues around this globe. We have nations that are developing nuclear weapons. We have nations that already possess them. We have the sixth or seventh president in a row trying to broker Israeli and Palestinian peace somehow. And we have some polls asking, "Who would you rather have a beer with? Who would you rather go to the ballgame with? Who would you rather ride cross country with?" That just trivializes the importance. I know it's nice to have fun in politics, but that trivializes the importance and the consequence of this election. Why do you care who is more likeable or who you'd rather spend time at the ballgame with? You're never going to spend time at the ballgame with him. You're not -- you may have a drink with him, but it really doesn't matter. And I am one of these pollsters who objects to that fluff-and-no-stuff kind of polling because it goes back to the living room test of "Who do you want to live with for the next eight years as your president?" rather than "Who is most prepared or who would do the best job once elected?" Jeff? I think the structure of the two races are entirely different. They are both close and exciting but for a completely separate set of reasons. The Republican Party is a party that is divided unto itself at the moment and it is that -- there are -- the outcomes are really the reflection of three Republican Parties that are warring with one another. The -- Mike Huckabee represents a very important -- the religious wing of the Republican Party. Mitt Romney currently I think has, you know, been able to represent the secular conservative element economically part. And John McCain is an interesting mix of things, but he was successful in New Hampshire because there was an electorate there that was very conducive to somebody who appears more moderate but also he speaks to a certain view in terms of national security and the war. And so that -- I think that's really the reason why it's hard to know how all of that will play out. But what is knowable is that it will play out in a way that the end will still be a divided Republican Party. On the Democratic side, I think there -- we have a really interesting race, but it's a coherent race in this sense is that Democratic voters really are of one mind about not just this election but the state of the country. They believe -- we believe that the country is in a serious world of hurt and -- delivered there in part by President Bush. But what this election is really about for Democrats is who has the leadership skills and the right set of abilities to get us out of the ditch and get the country working again. And there's not a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party this year. That -- there is, if you watched the debate last night in Las Vegas, there's not a fundamental difference over issues or perspectives. There's consensus. What Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are presenting are different approaches to leadership, and in part, part of the reason that Senator Obama has been successful is he's been able to describe his qualities in leadership terms -- that is, an ability to move the country forward. And so that what -- I think what Democrats are trying to figure out is what's the best model of leadership to deal with this. I don't think that in terms of what people are looking for -- Democratic voters are looking for, necessarily, is who's going to be the biggest Bush-basher, even though Democrats, almost to a person, can't stand the guy. But when we -- Mark Warner is a client of mine, and when he was thinking about this, we did some poling among Democrats, and they are -- very predictive of what's happening now, people said, "Look, I am not necessarily looking for the person who will be the strongest in articulating Democratic positions or the strongest in stating his or her opposition to President Bush. I'm looking for somebody who will be able to bring us together and move us forward." When you asked about the qualities the people were looking for, back then they were looking for somebody who had a vision of how we fix what's wrong with America, who had the ability to bring people together, and for better or for worse, much further down that list was experience and electability. And so that -- in terms of kind of predicting how ours turns out, my honest answer is, "It depends." (Chuckles.) And it depends less on Senator Obama and more on Senator Clinton. How so? She's run two different campaigns. She's run a campaign in Iowa, and for too many days from my -- by my lives after New Hampshire, that had been about experience and about Senator Obama, and not about her -- what drives her to run for this job, and what sets her apart in terms of what -- how she can move America forward. So if she had a -- I think she ran a really good campaign in the final few days. In New Hampshire, I think that, far beyond the moment of personal revelation, she ran a good campaign. She said the right things. If you look at her on the stage at her victory speech in New Hampshire, and compare that to her concession speech in Iowa -- just the stage management of the event, who was with her, who wasn't with her; who was behind her, how wasn't behind her -- they figured out a lot. And so that -- but, you know, if she had found her voice in New Hampshire, she got a sore throat on the way out. (Laughter.) And so, to me, if she -- the moveable piece here is the kind of campaign she ends up running -- (inaudible) -- move forward. And if you had to make a gun-to-the-head guess on the Republican side? If Kellyanne can't figure it out, I -- I don't think it will be -- She was hinting Romney. I don't -- I don't think it would be -- (Off mike) -- Romney, McCain. -- I don't think it will be Huckabee -- Right. Senator McCain. -- it'll be one of those two. I'd rather -- you know, we've had a lot of conversation on our side about electability. The truth is that general elections for president are never -- hardly ever easy -- I guess there have been a few easy ones for the Republicans, not that many easy ones for us or -- not since 1964. But the truth is I think that in this election, just in fundamental terms, Democrats are playing a much stronger hand for a whole variety of reasons, that the Republican candidates are flawed in very significant and substantial ways. And so while Democrats, you know, naturally fret and worry about the vulnerabilities of their candidates, I do think that either one of these can go on and win against either one of the other two. Let me try to present a third view -- and Joe, I suspect you'll agree with part of what I'm going to say, certainly not all. I would rather begin from the perspective of looking at the electorate rather than the Democratic primary, the Republican primary. I'll give you answers to your questions. But I think we're in a profoundly unsettled time. It isn't just Democrats who want to bring people together and stop the fighting, it isn't just Republicans, it's everybody. And there are more independents than there are Democrats or Republicans And people are angry for a variety of reasons. They're angry because of domestic problems that the see unresolved, and a Congress that's ineffective, but they also -- getting close to where our program was supposed to start, they're profoundly unsettled about foreign policy. And they believe that there are real stakes to the decisions we make. And, particularly when you get past the audience of Democratic primary voters, there's a recognition that there are consequences to actions, and that short-term electoral calculations are by no means the only issue that needs to be taken into account when we make policy. The reason I say that is, on the international front, the absence of bipartisanship is seen as a great failing of the system. That's the next thing -- No, I understand that. The reason I begin with that introduction is to suggest that while I think Geoff Garin is absolutely right, that the lay of the land favors the Democrat, whoever he or she may be, nonetheless, there is this current that runs through the electorate that sums -- that can be summed up by the conclusion Geoff reached about the polling for Mark Warner, that is, I think, a large current affecting the electorate. It's certainly something that has driven Obama; it's helped John McCain, with independents, come back; it's also helped Mike Huckabee, in the sense that he's been a different kind of Republican. So I think we're in very much unsettled and uncertain times where -- with what Joe suggests is the case, real issues at stake. And I can tell you, when my partner, Mark Penn, and I worked for Bill Clinton in the '96 election -- which was a relatively easy election, Geoff, that we had a sense, I think, particularly after '96, that there were not real issues, real central issues at stake. To be sure, there was the bombing of Serbia; there was the attacks against the camps in Afghanistan, but you did not have a sense, on a day-to-day basis, that there were large issues at stake in the way that we do now. That being said, Joe, to return to your question, my instinct is that Senator Clinton, by dint of who she is, how she's campaigned, the states that are in play, her resources, political skills, and the like -- and her lead with super delegates, is probably going to find a way to get the nomination, but I wouldn't be surprised if I'm wrong -- but I bet on her. (Laughter.) And on the Republican side, I'd probably be a bit of a contrarian, especially after last night, and still say John McCain, because I think that there is a strong enough tide to redress some of the injustices of 2000, and I think Romney is somewhat synthetic, even to the Republican electorate, that I'm -- I'm going to give John McCain the nod. But, again, be even less certain about that than I would on the Democratic side. Now let's -- let's go to the meat of the program here. Speaking of McCain, as I've traveled around I find that John McCain is the only candidate who spends an extensive amount of time talking about the war in Iraq. In fact, he's the only candidate who really spends a lot of time, who really focuses on foreign policy. So my question to you is, two-fold -- three-fold: In your surveys, are you finding that foreign policy is drifting down from -- you know, at first we thought this was going to be a foreign policy election, now it seems it's going to be more of an election about the economy, is that what you're finding? Number two, when people talk about foreign policy, and when you ask them about it, what are they actually concerned about? And number three, we're a room, by definition, of internationalists here, are you catching any sense that the American public is turning isolationist and wants to make the world go away? And let me clarify, I think the race comes down to Romney and McCain for fundamentally different reasons, and that the next big thing you're going to see covered is character. That's different than what's been covered about leadership, or likeability, and even experience. Character is slightly different because it's a hybrid of objective and subjective criteria for different voters. And I think there John McCain is unparalleled on either side of the aisle. The reason that John McCain talks about foreign policy, in my view, and the war in Iraq been a full-throated supporter of it, even when it has been incredibly unpopular among the public, and certainly unpopular even within some of his -- among some of his Republican colleagues in the United States Senate. He was for the surge from the beginning. Some experts say now it's working. I think that that is a huge credit to him that he didn't, sort of, bull. And to my complete dismay -- I predicted a long time ago that Rudy would go 0-for-4 in the first four contests. He is the A-Rod of politics -- got a great season it looks like, and then put you up at the plate when it really counts, and -- well, in this case, you don't even show up to the batter's box, you just go to a different state. (Laughter.) But that -- that aside, I am really perplexed how some very smart people who work for Rudy Giuliani never send him to Baghdad, you know. And then you contrast that to John McCain who really goes into the belly of the beast and makes this the cornerstone of his campaign, even when other people say let's stay away from that, and how are we going to handle -- you know, they meet with their pollsters, and their focus group gurus, and their messengers -- how do we handle George W. Bush's campaign in Iraq and Afghanistan in the next debate -- and there's John McCain in Iraq -- --But going back to what you were saying before, '92, '96, 2000, practically no interest in foreign policy -- Not there. Conspicuous by its absence. it different this time? It's very different because abortion is not in the top six this time. And that, you know, strikes people in Manhattan as, that just can't be true, Kelly, and what poll was that? That is everybody's poll, go take a look. And that was true of the exit polls in 2004 and 2006 as well. I think, like 2004 and 2006, this continues to be a security election. But the security umbrella has been expanded beyond just Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terror, and some other trouble spots around the globe. And it's been expanded to a domestic agenda that's about kitchen table economic security, health care security, small "s" social security. among white women -- suburban women who are concerned about crime. That had gone away for 10 or 12 years, and you're seeing an uptick in that again. So that's part of the security rubric. I think this election is about two big themes more than any number of issues -- it's security and it's affordability. On the Republican side, national security and foreign policy is sometimes -- sometimes is all wrapped up in the illegal immigration debate. That when you listen to people talk about security and integration, they're talking about that in focus groups; they're talking about that in the open-ended questions. And the immigration issue is almost conspicuous by its absence on the Democratic side. The top five issues in South Carolina, the next primary for Republicans, are all separated by three points. Nothing cracks 20 percent right now, including the war in Iraq. That was so different from last night when 43 percent of pre-election voters said the economy was number one to them. It's 17 percent in South Carolina; it was 43 percent last night in Michigan. So it's fundamentally different. And finally, when people talk about -- you know, if you're in Michigan and you talk about foreign policy, they're talking to you about trade and jobs. And to them, that's foreign policy. I saw some polling -- it's not ours; I think it was Pew poll -- a combined 76 percent of Americans admit -- nobody likes to admit they don't know something -- admit that they have little to no knowledge about the crisis in Darfur. And for people to admit that means that they're just only tangentially aware of it, perhaps. And yet, in the same poll, you have a plurality of people approving of us sending troops there. And you think about that; they want troops pulled out of Iraq and they approve, according to this Pew poll, of sending troops into Darfur as part of a mission there. Here it is: Do you think the United States has a responsibility to do something about the ethnic genocide in Darfur, or doesn't the United States have this responsibility? Forty- nine percent of Americans surveyed by Pew said we have the responsibility. In a different question, 45 percent said they favor the use of U.S. troops in Darfur as part of a multinational force to help end the ethnic genocide there. So foreign policy means many things to different people, but nobody's talking about that. And I think, unlike '92 and '96 -- what's remarkable to me on the Democratic side, is I honestly, literally don't remember the last time I heard Edwards, Obama, or Clinton talk about abortion, talk about stem cell research, talk about gay marriage. I don't remember the last time they talked about it at any of their rallies, in any of their debates. Gun control came up a little bit last night in Nevada, but outside of that, it's as if they've agreed not to just play nicey-nicey, Kumbaya -- (scattered laughter) -- on race, but they've agreed to not go near the bread-and-butter issues that used to propel the whole idea of having a progressive candidacy or the first woman president. It's truly remarkable. The primary campaigns, I have a different take on why it's not being discussed more now, and I think it will be discussed much more in the general election campaigns. Campaigns are about expressing your comparative advantages, and -- Hope is an advantage. -- and so that -- that for John McCain, it makes total sense for him to be talking about that in the context of the Republican nominating race. Hillary Clinton tries to use experience as, you know, what -- in the what -- you know, imagine the worst. But the fact is we're talking less about Iraq on the Democratic side, in part because there's not a huge debate among Democrats on this issue. So that the conversation's moved on to other things -- sometimes, I think, irrelevant things, but candidates are looking for points of difference and distinction But that -- I don't think that the fact that it is -- that you've got one candidate talking about it much more than the others is to say that it is unimportant politically in this election year, and that it won't be important in the general election. But in your surveys, you're finding what Kellyanne just said, that for Democrats, foreign policy is trade and for Republicans, foreign policy is immigration. No, no. Really not -- not at all. Look, this is all confounded by Iraq, and not just by people kind of litigating about what we ought to do in Iraq. That even though the -- we'll get to an answer to your question. Even if you can -- Americans say the surge has been successful and that Iraq seems more stable, progress is being made. And yet approval for President Bush's handling of Iraq has not improved a point. Support for keeping our troops in Iraq has not increased a point. Because that, for the public broadly, this is -- the metric on Iraq has changed to "When the hell are we going to bring our troops home?" that people are aggravated with this because they think it's just gone on for too damned long. And at great cost to America, and this is really, I think, how the foreign policy debate gets defined. It is not isolationism, per se, but there is this very powerful sense that extends well into the Republican Party, that we are spending so much there and ignoring so many of our needs here at home that we have to redress the balance. But that is not to say that people -- Americans believe that we can or should disengage from the world. People reject the language of -- We did work with Bill McInturff from Public Opinion Strategies for the United Nations Foundation. People reject both the language and the content of isolationism, but they -- and we should talk more about this in a little bit -- but the reason why I think that this will be a very important topic in the general election is that the 2004 election was really a post-9/11 debate about foreign policy. 2008 will be very different from that; this is a post-Iraq debate. Not to say that people aren't still litigating Iraq, but they've moved on to a new, different foreign policy agenda that is very different from the one on which they were acting in 2004. I have a somewhat different perspective from Geoff and, perhaps, Kellyanne as well. But I guess I'd begin at Geoff's last point. When you start looking at the people that are going to decide the general election -- I understand everybody here would like to know who's going to be the nominees, but there is going to be an election. (Scattered laughter.) We are going to elect a president. And you start thinking about the swing voters, and when you look at them, and you're a Democratic candidate, the thing that scares you the most is if you get trapped into an isolationist set of positions in the primary. I'll get the troops out in six months. I'll get them out in four months. That is death in a general election, because some of the work I did this year with my former partner, Mark Penn, showed that once you get past the sentiments that Geoff initially described, there is a strong sense not only that we can't disengage, but that we have to be prepared to take action of type that Kellyanne was describing. Ideally multilaterally but, if necessary, unilaterally. And when we asked about the possibility of military incursions in Iran, North Korea, and the like, there was a willingness to go it alone if absolutely necessary. And I'm not suggesting that there is this current in American foreign policy that is -- or, American public -- that wants adventurism. There isn't. And Geoff is certainly right; you ask people whether they prefer investment at home or more international efforts, they're going to say invest at home. At the same time, they recognize that terror is a real problem and that we cannot walk away from it. So that if you say, as John Edwards did in one of the debates, terrorism -- the war on terror is a bumper sticker, you'll get about 60 percent of the American people saying no and about 70 percent of the swing voters saying, you know, absolutely no. That, I think, is a profoundly important point to recognize and to understand about where we are. So the Democrats, at their peril, will avoid that and the Republicans, I think, are looking for any opportunity they may get to make the case that not only are the Democrats big spenders, but they've walked away from very real and very serious international obligations I agree that this question of should we be prepared to act unilaterally is a very important, one of the two very important fault lines in the foreign policy debate. And that on that, the swing voters may lean more to the -- side of caution. But that is not the same thing as saying we should be keeping our troops in Iraq. That is the second fault line, and the swing voters on that say it's time to bring them home and so we can do other things that those voters think have a more direct bearing on our and their security. But then why, Geoff, when there are actual resolutions and there's actual legislation in the Democratically controlled House and Senate, to bring the troops home by a date certain, that it failed? Well, you know the answer to that. It takes 60 votes -- I don't know the answer. It takes 60 votes to pass -- Then there's not -- all the swing voters are so excited about it, then -- It takes 60 votes to pass something -- -- aren't these guys worried about losing their seats? Well, I think a lot of -- you know, the truth is I think a lot of Republicans will lose their seats. Kelly, are you saying that your data is different from his? (Inaudible.) No, not at all. I'm asking, in practical terms -- no, because I think bring the troops home is more of a bumper sticker than the war in Iraq, or terrorism, is a bumper sticker. Bring the troops home sounds great. So does world peace and chocolate chip cookies and goodness and light and fill-in-the-blank with feel-good phraseology and get 80 percent- plus of the country to say that sounds great. But practically speaking, you've had legislation in the past year a couple of times putting that question directly to our federal legislators and in a Democratically controlled House, it's been -- (inaudible). It's not even 60 votes. It's two-thirds, because you've got a president who won't deal with this. How many Democrats in the Senate voted against that? Zero? One or two. No more. One or two. Well, I'm going to move this questions in a second, but I just want to say that -- (chuckles) -- that I just actually literally wrote out the sentence that the fact of the economy beginning to slip, and given the fact that we're spending $8 billion a month in Iraq, at least in John McCain's case he is going to be very annoyed to find out that the war in Iraq is becoming an economic issue in this country. It is, yeah. And you know, you couldn't have said, I mean, that to have the Iraqi security minister talk about 2018 as the year when we can leave, that's not exactly what Americans want to hear. And when John McCain says let's make it 100 years -- Right. -- that doesn't work too well, either. Okay, there are -- if I were John McCain -- I've just come back from two days in Michigan with -- John McCain's home. He's very much in my mind. I would say to you that there are people who are on work release, who have microphones on either side, and they'll be happy to take your questions. When you do grab a microphone, say who you are, where you're from and make it a question, please. I'll be brutal. Why don't we start over there.