Appearing on the program with George Stephanopoulos were SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C., REP. RAHM EMANUEL, D-ILL., and JACK WELCH, FORMER CEO, GE. Read the complete transcript.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Heading into this final full week of the presidential campaign, Barack Obama is holding a steady lead. Our latest ABC News tracking poll shows him with a 9-point advantage over John McCain . One big reason -- fewer Americans now call themselves Republicans. Four years ago, the parties were even -- 37 percent of likely voters were Democrats; 37 Republicans. Today, Democrats are still at 37 percent, but Republicans have dropped to 29, the biggest gap in a generation.
With that, let me bring in our debaters this morning, two of the candidates’ closest friends and advisers. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He’s actually in Iowa with John McCain today. And joining us in the studio, Congressman Rahm Emanuel . Welcome to you both.
Senator Graham, let me begin with you. As you saw in that poll there, the GOP brand has really taken a beating. How can you get them back in this final week without turning off moderates and independents?
GRAHAM: Well, I think the independent voter will decide the election, and Senator Obama doesn’t show much independence when it comes to saying no to the Democratic leadership since he’s been in Congress. His budgets increase spending, they increase taxes, and all Americans -- Republicans, Democrats and independents -- generally don’t like the idea of having taxes increased on anyone in a weak economy or making Washington larger.
So we have to make our case to the independent voter that John McCain is truly an independent, stood up to his own party, will keep your taxes low, and rein Washington spending in, and I think that’s a winning message for us. It’s not time to raise taxes or increase spending.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Emanuel, he raises the issue of taxes. Senator McCain and Governor Palin are also raising the prospect of having Democrats in control of the entire government. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: We can’t have Obama, Pelosi, Reid running Washington and running our country.
GOV. SARAH PALIN, R-ALASKA: If big government spenders control the House and the Senate, and heaven forbid, the White House too, they will be unchecked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Independents in our poll do say they would prefer to have Republicans in control of Congress and a divided government.
EMANUEL: First of all, this is a party that for six years run up the largest national debt, $4 trillion, under a Republican watch. When you had a Democratic president, we balanced the budget. The records are clear.
Second, there is a point here, and I think it’s a very, very important point, which is, in 2004, when Republicans won the White House, the House and the Senate, they went off and tried to prove their ideology by trying to privatize Social Security, and thank God Democrats stopped them. Second, they ran off on a tangent on Terry Schiavo, which the nation rejected.
The warning is to make sure you stay to your knitting and focus on the challenges facing this country and the middle-class families. Reforming energy to make sure you have independence and alternatives. Reforming health care to make sure you have cost control and expanded coverage. Reforming taxes so it’s simple and fair. Reforming regulatory oversight for the financial sector to make sure you have transparency and accountability.
If the Congress is known as the reform Congress, which I think the 111th will be known for, then we will have done our policy job and our political job. And the main problem, and why the country has rejected the Republicans and basically less people are identifying themselves in your poll as Republicans, George, is because the Republican Party has basically ran up a huge, $4 trillion nation debt; they have seen jobs be shredded, and we will be -- what the Republican record will be known for is an endless occupation and a jobless economy.