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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  September 7, 2011 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT

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ring eternal. thanks for watching. i'm al sharpton. a live edition of "hardball" from regan library starts right now. fight night, let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. actually i'm not in washington. i'm at the reagan library. in just one hour, candidates will face off here for the first of the fall debate. and featuring the new front-runner, rick perry of texas. behind me you can see air force 1 that carried presidentes from 1939 to 2001. i learned that carter would lose
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to reagan on that plane. this is suspended over the stage where the eight republican presidential candidates, you can see the stands there, will gather for the first important face-off yet of the political year. the key issues as politico reported this morning, take a punch. can mitt romney throw a punch? and can michele bachmann get back into the race? one by one, candidates have been arriving. high up on the mountain here in southern california. they've been checking out stage and lighting and getting ready for what is the biggest night of campaign so far. they will all be taking aim at the man who isn't here, president obama. who is looking at the worst poll numbers, we must admit, of his presidency. what has happened to hope and change? can mr. obama begin to turn things around? with his big speech on jobs, tomorrow night, the debate begins tonight here at 8 eastern at the end of this program and you can only see it here on msnbc. right after the debate, please
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stay with us for analysis of my msnbc cogs, all of them actually. we begin our coverage right now, in this hour, with with david gregory. moderator of msnbc's "meet the press." here with me at the library, jim and also republican strategist steve schmidt who ran john mccain's 2008 presidential campaign. he joins us from 30 rock in new york. i guess, david, if you had to pick right now, the new york times front page, top of the fold, right-hand side story, who would it focus on? as you put that together as an editor tonight? is it about romney? is it about perry? is it about bachmann? who is the story about? >> i think it is about governor perry. i think it's about the gop front-runner and whether he took some tough shots from his rivals trying to create some new opportunity for themselves in the race.
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this is a new dynamic. we have been watching these republican debates until now. we have been focused on romney and paw len lenty. p pawlenty is engaging. he wants it take on president obama, he know that. he's been doing that. 's been doing it pretty -- in a pret organized way and pretty thoughtful way. but now he has it separate himself from someone who got into this race late and shot up into the polls and seems to have captured the real fighting spirit. can't eye government spirit right now that's going on within the republican party. >> so well said. that spirit, that gut feeling. of why you are a conservative. why you are republican. it seems like rick perry speaks the language, if crudely to some people. mitt romney sort of handles the
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issues. he doesn't seem it feel them. this guy's got a huge personality and he will fill that stage. >> yeah. >> he does something that mitt romney is inconstitutionally not able to do. they love his rhetoric. you read that book, "fed up" which is i think it s a researchers dream come true. forness the press, it is interesting, we will dig into it. they love that he is calling into question social security and medicare and to say the states should have authority and federal government should be skish need this small significantly less powerful institution. that's good stuff for a republican. >> he said today what obama was to progressives back four years ago? someone who speaks the language, if we don't like w., we think he is not that right, we got the war, we got attitude. >> if he was from texas, yes. a large number of con serves tifs have doubts. te it want to make sure he is
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bright, that he is different from george w. bush. they want a winner. they hate the president. they want someone who can beat him. they want someone would who can win. >> steve schmidt. i have an interesting back story here. as hemingway said, the back story is interesting. sarah palin isn't running. is she holding back, planning to be the big kingpin or queen pinning of this race, by enhorsing perry. >> i wish i could tell you with any certainty what she is going to do or not going to do in the race. the bottom line is, just have no idea and i think that she is delighting in keeping the press and everybody else guessing. i do think that tonight, chris, that rick perry comes into the race as a fairly soft front-runner. he is untested on the national stage. he is going to be tested tonight. if he does well, el emerge
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tomorrow morning as soiled front-runner for the republican nomination. mitt romney will run a race where he has to come from behind and pass him. it'll be interesting in the republican primary. >> david, everybody in the media, not everybody, that's a generalization, but certainly the new york times point of view, i would have to say, which is keep huntsman in this race. keep his name to the top four. for obvious intuitive reason i think of keeping this race open to somebody who might be acceptable to the middle. not that it is closed again so it is a right wing festival. it seems like everybody wants him in the race, in the establishment. if he leads this race, a guy who says, call me crazy, i believe in evolution then it does become an almost unacceptable victory for the right. in other words be not transcending and moving over to the left. enough to get floot election. >> look, i think huntsman still has a problem getting off the mat here. i think tonight is important for him to be able to do that as well. and it is partly about drawing some distinctions. i think, look, steve schmidt is
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a pro. he's been at this for a couple of different administrations and candidates. he offers good insight. i think the reality is that there is still the republican primary voters. who is making a decision about where they want their party to be. do they want a real antigovernment conservative who sorts out of the last decade by moving the party much further to the right or do they want an establishment figure and we will have a race like we is seen in the last couple of cycles where a more establishment figure has to prove himself to the right wing of the party which is a lot more organized this time around and not about social conservative issues. it is about fiscal conservative issues an forced principles of the constitution and all the rest. that debate is literally playing out. it will play out on the stage where you are. but it will play out over the course of this primary for that reason. huntsman as a more moderate conservative, moderate republican though he probably doesn't like the label of moderate, wants it stay in the
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race as a rel alternative knowing he has a shot in the state like new hampshire. >> well, jim, and then steve. i got get this question. it is like agatha christie, ten little indians. rudy won't even get in this, i don't think. >> no. >> rudy giuliani, even though he is in the polling p. pawlenty is already out. moving from left it right, they are dying off here. it looks like romney may be beaten already by this guy. you wonder, is it anyone who smells establishment. even a figure that looks like they might appear to the center right is an acceptable. >> it is not. not in the republican primary. never has a candidate with so little support got attention. in the polls i'm running 1% behind -- 1% behind them. >> why is the media talking about him then? >> because he is the type of
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candidate that main stream reporters love. he is a sensible conservative. that's why they don't like him. they don't think he is an authentic conservative. they don't like having a republican get up there saying that there is a bunch of crazies that he is running against. there is no marketplace for that. >> steve schmidt, has sarah palin won the argument even if she isn't the nominee. has she converted the party no a tea party. where bachmann and perry and her are in the team. >> i think for a republican candidate to be elected president, you have to perform well in the middle of the electorate. if you look at her as a political figure, she is unelectable to the broad majority of the american people. i think the republican party, if it is a winning party, will have to appeal to the middle of the electorate. i think that's part of rick perry's test tonight. one of the things you should be looking for is as the race unfolds, does rick prry start to
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take a piece out of romney's lead in new hampshire. does he trip to what is stable numbers for romney for a long time. new hampshire is going to, like it always is, is going to be a key state. independents get to vote. they will have a voice. i think after new hampshire you will have the winner of iowa and new hampshire proceeding forward and two-person contest. if you look that dynamic going forward and you today guess that contest will be between rick perry and between governor romney. it has the potential because we are operating for the first time now under no winner take all rules. it will be proportionally to the vote count. you will see it go quite a ways down the road like you saw for democrats four years ago. >> can i just add, i think it is important to remember. that mitt romney has more staying power than he has maybe given credit for right now. we are at a moment in time where rick perry burst on to the scene. why? because a lot of conservatives
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don't love mitt romney. they are showing they are still shopping because it is still early. but as steve just said, romney's got the experience that running for office as you have pointed out earlier this afternoon, he's got lots of money. and he's got a really keen message about the economy that he can use under these circumstances. that's a recipe at least, if you put it all together for some staying power in the course of this race. don't forget tonight is also about answering the question, who can beat obama, not just who can get sarah palin's enforcement. >> okay, steve schmidt, republican. what is harder for romney to appear to the right or perry for the senate? >> i think that will be settled tonight and going forward. bottom line is if perry is a successful candidate in a general election, he has to appeal to the center. for rom flee to get into a general election, he has to appeal to the right. >> same question to you. what's tougher?
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>> i think it is tougher for romney to appeal to conservatives. remember this guy has been running for president for six years. >> he is a career politician, by the way. he is running for office ever since he ran against ted kennedy. every time, i think i will tweet on this, every time he says career politician, i say, you mean you? he was 60% negative in the polls so he didn't run for governor. good luck this weekend. with a -- "meet the press, what am i saying. the number one show. steve schmidt, we are waiting it see which candidate you mount up with as this campaign progresses. ryan williams and john harris will moderate the republican presidential debate at the reagan library here at the top of this hour, 8 eastern, here on msnbc. you got watch msnbc tonight. you have to no choice. coming up, with his job approval rating at a new low, what has
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happened to president obama? can he recapture the vote and change he promised in tomorrow night's speech before the congress. you're watching "hardball." from the ronald reagan presidential library. where the republican candidates debate tonight only on msnbc. ♪ ♪♪ ♪ [ male announcer ] unlike some car companies, nissan is running at 100%, which means the most innovative cars are also the most available cars. nissan. innovation for today. innovation for all. ♪
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well welcome back to "hardball." the republicans will certainly be going against barack obama opinion the president might have a bigger problem than his detractors on stage tonight. here are the latest poll numbers that paint a grim picture. 53%, majority of americans, disapprove of the president's job performance. that's serious business, in the latest washington post abc poll. 62% disapprove of how he is handling the economy.
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and 77% think the country is heading in the wrong direction. which is up 2 '011 points just since june. since more problematic than that, the white house is having a difficult time branding the president, if you will. who is he right now? the pragmatic compromiser who came into office promising a post partisaner gentleman for the champion of the middle class willing to take on conservatives and big business. which of the two is he? former white house press secretary, bam compare surrogate. david corn is from mother jones magazine, msnbc political analyst robert gibbs, thanks for joining us. i want you to answer that question. the the president above partisan politics or a fire breathing harry truman willing to take the fight to the republicans in congress this next year? >> well, chris, i think what he is go 20g have to be is both.
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because we are going to have to take the fight to congress so that congress will stop playing the same old washington political games that we have seen over and over again and have prevented action on plans that will help this economy grow and create jobs. that's what the president's going to outline tomorrow. but it's got to be more than a speech. it has to be congress putting their party aside and putting their country first to get something done. >> do you believe as a political person that eric cantor, larry mccarthy, all those republican hot shots, joe walsh, the ones we see on television all the time, basically thumbing their nose at the president? they want him to get re-elected? they want to give him a solid economic program to run on? >> no, i don't -- i'm not under the he lugs that eric cantor might vote for barack obama in 2012 nor that he voted for him in 2008. but each of those individuals
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took an oath to do what was best for this country and to uphold the constitution and i think that it is not good for our economy and it is not good for them politically to simply say no, no, no. and to stand in the way of things that they have supported in the past. i mean, let's take some of those examples. not six months ago, these canned dan candidates or those officials that you just mentioned, all supported a payroll tax cut to get our economy moving again. now that we have a middle class tax cut, they are balking that but have no problems ensuring tax cuts for millionaires and billion airs keep right on going. that just doesn't make sense to the american people. and it shouldn't make sense. it doesn't make any sense to anybody. >> let's go to "the new york times" columnist, rather front page writer, he wrote the white house is in the midst rebranding
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the president as a prag mat ek problem selfer and a reasonable man in an era of views. this has defined hims a candidate of president, and trying to lay claim so t.o. a swath of the electorate, he is not pleasing the center nor the left. the story of much of his time in office. i guess i go back to you, david, my friend with that same question i put to robert gibbs. is this president a populist, a man willing to take the left side of the issue, the populist side, and fight it right down the line against the republicans even if it means losing the fight but staking out the issue? or is he a man who wants to find common ground and wants to basically offer up proposals that republicans will eventually say okay to? >> now, i agree with robert. i think that he needs to do both. far as --
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>> both? >> he needs to do both in a way, yes to govern and be a strong political leader. if you look at what he has been the past year, he has tried to be the pras pragmatic kproiz compromiser and make things happen and get results. what he did last december, a lot of progressives did not like it. but it was popular with liberal voters. if you fast forward to this past summer and he cuts a deal, a compromise with hostage takers of con on the debt ceiling, that was a deal that nobody liked tp p t was a tar pit. nobody on the left or middle liked. at some point it is not being the prag ma tist, it is what you get being the prag ma tist. it is the base on left, progressive people be with you need their enthusiasm and it has to resonate with independent
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voters who are quick fickle. year from now if the economy is in the same state now, people want to vote for change. that means that barack obama is a hard position as any incumbent would be. he has it find way to convince people that he still can be an agent of change in making the economy good. to do that he has to, you know, do things different in the coming year than we have seen in the past few months. >> is president obama liberal? >> no, i want to skau question. is president obama a liberal, yes or no? >> i don't know that the president has really strong feelings about political labels on any sides. >> what do you think he is? what do you think he is? what would you call him? you're a political expert. is the president a liberal or conservative. >> i call him mr. president, chris. i call him a friend. i call him somebody that will fight for the middle class it make sure they get ahead because
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for years and years they have been falling further and further behind. let me build off of whattive david said. we are not taking into account at least half of this equation. that is the people who view eric cantor and the people you just listed, they didn't come out of this debt fight smelling too great either. and imagine that -- can you imagine anybody standing up on that stage tonight, saying anything that eric cantor disagrees with? can you imagine that happening? it is not going to happen tonight. it not going to happen on any day between between now and election day. >> but robert isn't the issue -- >> hold on, let me finish my point. independent don't want to see games. they don't want to see more part zans back and forth. who supported a payroll tax cut six months ago and now oppose it. they are tired of those games. independentens want to see change and democrats want to see change.
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so i think what we are entering into is a time in which, chris, the choice you put to david and myself, i don't think the president has to be one of the other. i think the success is to bring everybody together and to scold anyone r anybody in congress that stands in the way. >> yeah, i just don't think the american people know what president obama would do if no one were standing in his way. what would he do if he had the power to set policy? would we cut the cost of government? reduce the size of government in radically change medicare? do any of the things we argue about? we don't know, because he hasn't told us, robert. he hasn't told us what he wants to do. >> chris, i think it's clear -- >> not true at all. >> hold on, david. because chris is making some crazy unfounded accusations that somebody needs to answer. >> crazy and unfounded accusations? >> yes. >> tell me what the president wants to do with medicare. >> the president wants it make sure that the medicare is there
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when you get old enough to be 65. >> everybody says that. >> chris, i think it's clear that barack obama is a progressive-minded person. i think you look at his career, his record, what he talks about with passion. it comes down on the side of progressive values. i think he has had this dilemma, challenge of having to govern in conservative hostile times with hostage takers and he hasn't always known -- put it this way, the calculation on his part, on what to do in order to appeal to independent on the left while dealing with republicans. it is a hard game theory to work out. at the end of the day i would say this to robert. next year barack obama won't be running for an election against eric cantor or john boehner. he will run against a republican, probably following your advice, all he can, to distance himself from the crazy republicans in the house.
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so it may not be a good enough campaign strategy to say, republicans are doing worse than we are when you are up for election next november. >> i'm not suggesting that's the campaign strategy, david. i think you're totally right. but imagine this, imagine, is one of the guys on that stage or one of the women on that stage, going to do anything that the house republicans aren't wanting to do right now? >> every one of them supports their idea to decimate medicare. every one of them support more tax cuts for millionaires an billion airs. >> okay, we have to go. >> i don't think they will run against eric cantor because i think they are all a lie. >> i think do you me a disservice when you say that my questions are crazy. i think most want to know clearly what he stands for. fe could do what he wants to do. anyway, thank you very much robert gibbs and thank you for coming out here and as always david corn. we'll be right back. you're watching "hardball" from
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the reagan library. we'll be right back.
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we're 30 minutes away from the republican presidential candidates. debate here at the ronald reagan presidential library. some big questions tonight. can rick perry take a punch? can mitt rom nooe deliver a punch? and is michele bachmann still in this race or can she get back into it? what to watch for tonight when we return. hey can i play with the toys ? sure, but let me get a little information first. for broccoli, say one. for toys, say two. toys ! the system can't process your response at this time. what ? please call back between 8 and 5 central standard time. he's in control. goodbye. even kids know it's wrong to give someone the run around. at ally bank you never have to deal with an endless automated system. you can talk to a real person 24/7. it's just the right thing to do. you can talk to a real person 24/7. at exxon and mobil, we engineer smart gasoline that works at the molecular level to help your engine
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welcome back to "hardball." we are back with our incred ill panel of people. we have a great group here. we are here at the reagan
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library, where we've been the last couple hours. former reagan speech writer, peggy noonan. michael steele to my right. an msnbc political analyst. howard fineman, also an msnbc lit cal analyst. mike hall prin, coauthor of "the game change." and close friend bob shrum, sitting back there where nothing is going on, at 30 rock in new york. around the table, i'm staying out of it, rick perry, for the first time, this guy who made his name in silent pictures because we don't know what he talks like, is going to speak tonight. what should he sound like when it's all over tonight? describe that voice. >> one word, president. he's got to show that he is not just the good i go on paper be, not just a guy wh has run texas, which he has as governor for ten
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years but he can plausably and actually be president of the united states. it is a big debut we have had a situation quite like this before. some i go goes to the head of the polls without having spoken to the people, that's what he's got to do. >> peggy? >> benign, adult wab sophisticated, accomplished and people watching get the sense, oh, i could watch him for few years and it would not make me throw up in my mouth. very bottom line. >> channel select as voters. >> presidents are in your face all the time, everyday now. bottom line, it's got to be someone who you think, okay i can take that. >> very smart. michael steele? >> open. he has to show the rest of the country, not just the base of the party, that he is open to them, listening to them. and that as press they will be a part of his agenda. it is not just what is defined at the moment. >> the range of motion is
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enormous. if he does well, if he does what everyone here said, presidential calm -- >> sophisticated, is that too high a bar? >> no, sophisticated, it would be a very big night for him. >> rick perry of texas. >> everything i heard here is correct. one thing to keep in mind, you don't get to november unless you win the nomination. i think he will come across as conservative, as a reasonable conservative. he will face some tough questions i suspect on social security and medicare and it depends on how he handles though. how he said they were unconstitutional and we ought to get rid of them and opportunity to be attacked by his rivals. he could have a very memorable come back it some of these attacks folks are making on him. >> yeah, we have all learned the come back, as in, there you go again, mr. president, could be a winner. >> howard, in the case of mitt romney who is becoming something after case, can this fellow
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simply watch mitt romney, mitt romney stand and watch rick perry stand pass him. if he is whistling pas past the graveyard, can he do the silent treatment. >> no. that's what i've been trying to do. get a sense of romney camp of what their strategy is. they want somebody to slow rick perry down. they don't want to yet to be mitt romney. >> do they look good, chuck todd suggested to me, that if michele bachmann, if she goes after him, does that make romney look all the weaker that he didn't do it? >> i don't know, not necessarily. they want -- they believe that rick perry is thin skinned. they believe that if he is asked enough tough questions by whom ever, whether the questioners here at the debate or other members of the panel or the other candidates, that he will not do what mark halprin says and what we think he needs to
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do, which is to be calm and in control. that will allow romney to not be the guy who created him. >> so not the perfect "hardball" guest. the one i wait months for. the one that loses it all right on television. >> if they could all pay to have you spend an hour with rick perry. >> a sparring partner. does romney have to put his his fists tonight? >> i think perry will be physically literally on one side of the -- maybe given him a jab now and then. michele bachmann will be on the other. she may be giving romney a few jabs too. just to show perry's people, you know, i'm on your side and i'm pretty good and you want to keep liking me. romney, should, i think, be a little bit sharper. little bit more on the balls of his feet. he tends to sit back on the heels of his feet and watch and comment now and then. i think he aught to be a a little bit sharper. i think he ought to acknowledge
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the fact that rick perry is here. that would mean a change of strategy on the part of romney. >> career politician again or should he say career politicians like rick perry? >> if it were me, career politicians like rick perry. but that's me. >> it is a little bit different. i think the reality will be for him to bring it down a little bit to show that he he is connecting with the audience and people out there. and to show ese guys don't bother me. you say he is the number one. i am the number one. >> thank you. >> hi, everybody. >> i think mrs. reagan is coming in. >> okay, mrs. reagan, by the way, is coming into the room right now. we are watching that. >> neither the perry camp nor romney camp wants to initiate an exchange. but both say if there is a
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little bit of count are response will be -- >> yeah. >> i predict -- >> oh, there she is. >> i think one of them will say something and another one will come back ferociously and there will be a counter punch. >> we all want to know, mrs. reagan is coming in. we will get a shot of her when she sits down. >> as mrs. reagan comes in, don't forget we are in the reagan library. ronald reagan's 11th command many about don't speak ill of other republicans. >> will that be honored tonight? >> it will be invoked. it'll be honored in breach. someone will say, let's remember ronald reagan, but i have to answer that question. >> by the way, that's a great commandment for a front-runner. let me ask you about michele bachmann. oh, i'm sorry, bob, let me ask you this. have you been in campaigns where you go at each other. should governor romney go on the offensive? >> you know, listen, i think if he says some of the stuff he's
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been saying on the campaign trail, he will set perry up with a great opportunity. if he starts talking about career politicians, he will say, the only problem is you lose most elections. republicans don't want a loser. he can say it kind of lightly and i think it would be a tremendously devastating moment for romney. romney in laugh fie days sounded almost frantic in his attempts to identify with the tea party. i think it increases his phoniness. i think he has to be presidential tonight. he has to look a little more real. he looks like an an ma tronnic figure. one of those things at disney land that stands up and give the famous speeches. >> you mean the hall of the presidents. >> yes. >> i consider it my career, really and in 17 years mitt romney has been running for political office in all these years. you ought to call it a career at
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some point. what about michele bachmann? i found her weeks ago to be a star politically. i want howard it start here again about her career tonight. >> having covered the iowa straw poll which she organized well. all of her support and organizational ability was focused on that. she hasn't broadened her reach beyond that. ironically the day of the iowa straw poll may have been her high point. i think she will try to take the case to rick perry and other candidates and say, i'm the original tea party person here. if you want a tea party person, i'm the tea party person. that's her audience. it is not the wider world here today. this is an expanded version of the iowa straw poll for her. >> her friend encouraged her not to talk ideal ojically. >> well, ed rollin says kicked upstairs and they are walking around downstairs with a banner to locate rollins. so i don't know.
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i think -- michele bachmann is a very strong-willed focused person. >> can i note something about tonight? this is the binning after five-debate cycle between now and ktor 18. by october 19 or 20, we will look back and see the shape, the reality, see what happened. it'll be huge. this is only the beginning of that this. this is a very intense time? >> i agree. but there is our night. >> all right, coming back with mike, bob and peggy, who spoke so well.
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we're back to the reagan library. by the way, down there, we will see the hosts of tonight, former first lady nancy reagan. there she is in red down there. she received tremendous applause as we came in earlier. by the way, our panel is a great panel. we have about 12 minutes before the debate begins. i want to hear from you about the importance of this debate. the elections are decided not by the people who made up their minds but the people who make up their minds. that's the reagan democrats, if you will, who go back and forth. the michael smer smerconish crowd. what are they looking for? >> the reagan library, ron aeld reagan was able to speak to people, in philadelphia, pittsburgh, and i think is the city for some candidates to speak to those people. rick perry has it make an
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impression. and a name we haven't mentioned to night, jon huntsman. if he is going to have any clans of breaking through at all, he has to speak specifically to those people. otherwise, if he doesn't make an impression on a big network stage like this one, then i think can you pretty much forget it. >> watch as candidates take the stage. there's rec pir re. they are all coming in. ron paul. there's jon huntsman. we will see a very interesting set-up. i think nbc is smart about this. there's governor romney. and governor perry. right next to each other. >> yes. >> so the mano-ammano aspect will be visible. >> they can't avoid each other. some very interesting person decided to line these folks up, based on most popular, according to the polls in the middle and going down on each side. so they can't avoid each other. which means a little drama.
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>> of course we are watching michele bachmann who is also still very much in the running there. those three guys in the middle are the ones to focus on. >> i think they will be the focus. i think michele has the ability to steal a little thunder and athink huntsman can send out a different kind of call. people will be listening and it he res nalts -- >> who are you looking for also, outside of the natural three. >> snnone of the alsos could don the last debate, which presented themselves very well and present and show an attitude. is above. i think the speaker has had some strong performances, she could do that. >> you know, our new colleague, al sharpton, bob shrum, who can do something from the back benches tonight?
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>> several of these people by going after perry or going after romney can play a major role in the dynamic of this. look, one of the problems that romney has and michele bachmann really has it, is both of their strategies, as i listen to this panel talk about them, kind of depend on perry making a mistake, being thin skinned, losing control. one of the worst things that could happen to you in politics when your strategy puts your fate in someone else's hands. i think the secondary players here are going to try to do things, some of them are going to try to go after the two guys at the top. huntsman has a rift that's very interesting. his problem is he's my favorite among the republican field. that's a big problem for him. >> i wonder what that's about, why is he even running? why is he running? >> mark's point is a good one, some candidates sometimes kind of stand out on an island all their own, seem reasonable and the viewers say gee, i wish this
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weren't set up so that guy didn't have a chance. i kind of wish that guy had a chance, that's something that huntsman could do tonight. >> people in the middle, they will hear that tonight from somebody and say too bad i can't be a candidate. >> last four republican nominees were people who the right suspected who appealed to the center throughout their careers, and that's why i take a little issue with the way you discussed huntsman earlier. i don't think this is just appealing to the upper west side in the new york times, this is who the republican party has nominated in the past. >> you think he's still in the running? >> i think it requires perry or romney to collapse for him to be in the running. >> the difference is, chris, when george w. bush was running, he got the john ashcroft out of the race early on. he ended up as attorney general. >> i want to go to the -- i want to end with the keeper of the flame, peggy newton, you helped
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ronald reagan prepare some of the best speeches he ever gave, columbia speech, challenger 7 speak, broke my heart, the speak at normandy. where is the heart, what is it? >> we can forget the heart of the republican party. it's broad and it is not necessarily the base. it's not necessarily tea party. that's very much part of it, but it's broader than that. the people who are going to elect the next president in the middle who are kind of republicans but also kind of independent, they are watching, and they want to make sure they like what they are seeing, so i think this is not just about the base. however, good news for the republicans, this, what you see tonight, this is what draws the lightning. what's happening in washington is not drawing the lightning, the eyes, the sense of attention, the sense of drama. this is actually the exciting political thing happening in america, not what's going on in the white house. that's interesting. >> so this corn value we watch
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with cantor and mccarthy for weeks and weeks has not been the life blood of conservative politics or american politics. >> the life blood will show itself in 2012 when people in the middle of the party come forward and say i like that guy or i don't like that guy, ain't going to work for me. >> i think she's right, remember, 47% of the base still hasn't made up its mind. that's a big number when you look at the stage. >> anybody going to join this group? >> no. >> palin. >> i always wonder about a third party. i'm not sure. >> christie's not getting in. >> no. >> one thing i have to say about this is they are at the reagan library but these guys are -- reagan is a name only. >> got to go, bob. sorry. >> it was a sweet thought though, bob, thank you. >> tried to get in on the wire. when we return, let me finish with a debate that started all of this.
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♪ [ male announcer ] the most headroom per dollar of any car in america. the all-new nissan versa sedan from $10,990. innovation upsized. innovation for all. let me finish with an event that started all this, the presidential debates of president john f. kennedy democrat versus richard nixon, republican. it's the nbc studios in washington, the site of the second kennedy/nixon debate of 1960. nixon looked terrible in the first event with kennedy, his
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white skin, his fairly used makeup, but most of all, his tendency to sweat profusely. look at his upper lip in that picture. the kennedy people wanted history to repeat itself. they wanted nixon sweating again. hours before the debate, walked into the front door of the nbc studio. it was freezing in there, a meat locker. jack kennedy wanted to know what was going on. he goes racing to the control room. kennedy's tv advisor heads down to the basement where the air conditioning system is. there he finds a nixon man standing guard over the thermostat and threatens to call the police if the guy won't get out of the way. think this is fun and games? think again. the kennedy people wanted nixon sweating again and wanted to make sure the heat for the second debate was back up to the 70s before the lights went on. they wanted to nixon to cook under the lights.
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kennedy won the debates and the presidency. you won't believe how many angles they played from the lek turns, nixon had been friendly with for years, most of all, his aggressive style of debating, his brother, bobby, had given him, jack kennedy the signal, he had five words for his beloved brother, kick him in the balls. let's see who does it tonight. tonight i'll be scoring the debate round-by-round on twitter. follow me @hardball under score chris. coming up next, the republican presidential candidates debate live from the reagan library, moderated by nbc's brian williams and politico's john harris. tonight from the

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