updated 11/25/2007 2:10:12 PM ET 2007-11-25T19:10:12

MR. TIM RUSSERT:  Our issues this Sunday:  Only 39 days until the Iowa caucuses.  The Democratic race too close to call.  The Republican race too close to call.  Which issues, policies, strategies will resonate?

With us, he helped put Bill and Hillary Clinton in the White House in 1992, Democrat James Carville.  She worked for Bush 41 and Bush 43 and now supports Fred Thompson, Republican Mary Matalin.  He’s worked for both John McCain and Mitt Romney, Republican Mike Murphy.  And he’s worked for Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards and more, Democrat Bob Shrum.  The race for the White House through the eyes of Carville, Matalin, Murphy and Shrum only on MEET THE PRESS.

And welcome all.  Happy belated Thanksgiving.  We’re back here at the dinner table, so let’s carve up the politics.

Here’s the latest poll from Iowa, The Washington Post.  Democratic side first: Obama, 30; Clinton, 26; Edwards, 22; Richardson, 11.  Who’s your second choice?  Obama, again on top 26; Edwards, 24; Clinton, 19; Richardson, 13. Division between men and women:  Men, Obama, 28; Clinton, 19; Edwards, 25. Women, Obama, 32; Clinton, 31; Edwards, 19.  And what about Democrats and independents?  Amongst Democrats, Obama, 28; Clinton, 28; Edwards, 22. Independents, Obama, 35; Clinton, 18; Edwards, 24.

James Carville, you’re a supporter of Hillary Clinton.

MR. JAMES CARVILLE:  I am.

MR. RUSSERT:  A donor to Hillary Clinton.

MR. CARVILLE:  I am.  Max, max out—a maxed out donor.

MR. RUSSERT:  She’s tied with women.

MR. CARVILLE:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  Losing men and losing independents 2-to-1.

MR. CARVILLE:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  What does that say about the state of her candidacy in Iowa?

MR. CARVILLE:  It says that Iowa is very tight and, and, and this poll and every poll has shown that it’s very tight.  Also, Iowa polls are, are, are unreliable over a month out.  John Kerry was running third, Bill Bradley, at the time, was way ahead of Al Gore in Iowa.  She’s in a fight.  There, there—there’s—she’s got some talented, well-funded opposition and, and it’s—Iowa’s going to be a struggle.  I think, in the end, she can win, but this, this thing is going to go down to the wire, very much so.  And, and this poll is, is a confirmation of other polls.  I think that her people would point out that, that many of them have her slightly ahead, but I, I can see that it’s very much up in the air.

MR. RUSSERT:  Bob Shrum.

MR. BOB SHRUM:  Well, this has been the year of the upset in college football, and, with all due respect to James, I think there’s a chance that Hillary Clinton, the danger for her is she’ll be the LSU of the Democratic primary contest.  What’s happened is that the whole dimension of experience which she’s been trying to run on vs. change, which is Obama’s calling card, experience has become less important to these voters, change has become more important.  And that, in my view, is because experience is a threshold question.  You know, in 1960, Nixon ran on the slogan “Experience Counts.” And if you guys had been around then and taken exit polls and you’d ask people on Election Day does Nixon have more experience, 60 percent would’ve said yes. And if you’d said does Kennedy have enough experience, 60 percent would’ve said yes.  And I think Obama right now is passing the threshold.  The danger is in these four big coming debates in the first part of December.  He could make a mistake; that would help her.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me show you some of those issues and follow up with what Bob said.  Most experience to be president?  Iowans say Clinton, 38; Edwards, 16; Richardson, 16; Obama just 11.  But most honest and trustworthy, Obama, 31; Edwards, 20; Clinton, 15; Richardson, 13.  And then this question, is willing to say what he or she really thinks:  Obama is willing, 76; is not, 20.  Edwards is willing, 73; not, 21.  Hillary Clinton 50 to 45.

This question, the next one, best chance of electing—being elected president, however, Hillary Clinton, 39 percent; Obama, 25; Edwards, 22; Richardson, 2. And then this last one that Bob referred to, do you want—which is more important?  Strength and experience, 33; a new direction and new ideas, 55 percent of the Democrats in Iowa.

Mike Murphy, your take on Iowa, Democratic side?

MR. MIKE MURPHY:  I think, you know, everything changes in politics, but I’ve, I’ve been for a long time believing that Hillary Clinton is going to lose that, that caucus, and it’s not even her fault.  It’s a change election. She’s not really a change candidate, as Bob said.  But beyond that, what people perceive about her, her style, some of the trustworthy issues you see in this poll, that hearkens back to old politics.  So that they’re rejecting more than a chronology of the fact that she was part of a past administration. Now, there’s still time.  It’s a real fight now.  But I think the even bigger problem for Hillary Clinton is the compressed calendar means if she does lose Iowa, it’s not like the old days where you had a lot of time and money to recover.  Obama, the challenger, has money, and she will not have a lot of time.  New Hampshire comes five days later now.  And I think if Hillary loses Iowa and then Obama surges to win in New Hampshire, she’s going to be in a real, real bad situation.  It’s Ed Muskieville for her, and that could be very, very tough to get—recover from.  And then this big invincible thing we’ve heard about how she’s got the nomination locked, it’s all over, they’re dividing up parking spaces is all out the window, and Obama could be the nominee.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mary.

MS. MARY MATALIN:  The best thing that could happen to Hillary Clinton is to lose Iowa.  And I’m not being a contrarian or a wisenheimer.  There’s a fast calendar.  It’s a change election, but it’s a completely unique and fluid and dynamic situation.  If she loses, she gets knocked back.  We’ve seen repeatedly, this is the Energizer bunny of candidates.  She takes a licking, and she gets—keeps on ticking.  And she’s got the money, she’s got the team, she’s got the resolve.  This woman is not going to lay down and let Obama walk over her.

Plus, the Democratic Party, you guys are so convinced that you can’t lose that you’re skittish about doing what it takes to win.  And once Obama’s out there and exposed, he doesn’t have experience, he’s not that good of a candidate. He’s, he’s emblematic of what you want him to be.  But when he starts putting things on the table, I think people take a second, serious look at her in ways that they’re skittish about looking at her now.  She needs to have some new narrative, the comeback kid.  That’s how you guys did it, and it’s a good narrative, and it one—it’s one that would work for her.

MR. RUSSERT:  But, Mike Murphy, you think New Hampshire coming just five days after Iowa presents a problem.

MR. MURPHY:  Right.  Yeah, I think you’re going to see a momentum schedule like never before, and, unlike the Gary Harts, the other insurging candidates have taken on a front-runner.  Not only is it quicker, Obama’s got money.  For every dollar she has in the primary account, he’s got 85 cents.  So he’s got the legs to run.

And finally, I’d say one thing.  I think there’s been a mistake.  People lump the Clintons together.  Bill Clinton was one of the greatest natural candidates I’ve ever seen.  I think Hillary Clinton, if I were a Democrat, I would think would be a very good White House chief of staff.  She’s very smart, she’s very tough.  But now—no.  OK, voters take note, they’re laughing.  But I’m not sure she’s a very good candidate.  I think the empress has had no clothes on this...

MR. SHRUM:  Can I defend, can I defend Hillary Clinton?

MR. CARVILLE:  Right, yeah.

MR. MURPHY:  Yeah.

MR. SHRUM:  I think Hillary Clinton has been a terrific candidate in this race.  I think Mike’s right, to a certain extent.  She’s in a difficult spot because Iowa is demanding change and she doesn’t look like the change candidate.  And some nitwit on her staff thought that this very, very bright woman couldn’t spontaneously answer questions and went out and planted questions, which hurt her on this honesty thing.  But the notion that she hasn’t run a good campaign is completely wrong.

MR. CARVILLE:  Right.

MS. MATALIN:  And then she...

MR. CARVILLE:  And if I could come in and say that she, she has performed superbly well across the debates.  Maybe one of the debates, she might not been her best one, but if you look in, in, in—she really came back well.  I got to defend my, I got to defend my candidate here a little bit.  And they would say, on the healthcare thing, that there’s a real distinction, a real change, that Obama doesn’t have the mandate, leaves 15 million people uninsured.  I, I admit, it’s a tough, it’s a tough situation here.  But she is—she has run a, a, a, very good campaign, has a competent campaign.

MR. RUSSERT:  But James Carville, after the Philadelphia debate...

MR. CARVILLE:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...you were willing to acknowledge that day it was not...

MR. CARVILLE:  I was.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...one of her best performances.

MR. CARVILLE:  Yes.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you think that her answer on the driver’s license immigration issue and on other issues, or her reluctance to answer, hurt her with the honest, trustworthy questions that were asked in this poll?

MR. CARVILLE:  I would say some, sure.  And I said that, I said that I loved her, but I did not think that that was the best performance.  She subsequently said the same thing.  I think this driver’s license thing is a idea whose time has not come.  Now, I mean, it’s..

MR. MURPHY:  Well, it seems to have come and gone.

MR. CARVILLE:  Right, come and gone, if you will.

MR. MURPHY:  But, but let me...

MR. CARVILLE:  But it might have hurt some.  But I think if you—anybody that looks at her performance over the course of the debates says this is, this is a competent, thought-out campaign.

MR. MURPHY:  Right.

MR. SHRUM:  But it doesn’t solve her problem going into the Iowa caucuses, which is there is this huge demand for change, they’ve tried a number of different iterations—change as nostalgia, trying to put out this healthcare argument that you just put out—and voters just don’t seem to be buying it.

MR. MURPHY:  But that’s my point.  The reason I say she’s a weak candidate is she doesn’t fit the times, she’s not naturally charismatic.  She is a tiger behind the scenes, she’s very effective, she’s very smart.  But getting—the minute you walk in the room, owning it and making people like you is the magic fairy dust presidential candidates have, and she doesn’t have it, which is why she’s not attracting voters, she’s in decline.  She’s wired Washington.  Here they’ve decided the election’s over and she’s the nominee.  Wait and see.

MR. RUSSERT:  In fact, Mary Matalin, George W.  Bush, our current president, had this to say about Hillary Clinton:  “No question,” there’s “ no question that Senator Clinton understands pressure better than any of the candidates, you know, in the race because she lived in the White and sees it first—could see it firsthand.” Karl Rove has said some very complimentary things about Hillary Clinton’s ability to win the nomination.  Are Republicans objectively saying Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee, or are they rooting for Hillary Clinton?

MS. MATALIN:  No, we’re not—we have no control, so we’re not rooting for anybody.  But what we’re not doing is underestimating her.  Her problem has been across the board here, and why she was—faltered in that one debate is she was running as a front-runner.  When you get to front-runnerism, you don’t want to make a mistake, so you don’t do anything, and she plays into her weaknesses, which is to appear calculating.  If she was—if she lost, she would come back as she has in every other case to be not calculating, to be more authentic.  She doesn’t need fairy dust, she just needs to be who she is. She needs to be authentic.

MR. SHRUM:  Look, the last thing Hillary Clinton needs is endorsements from George Bush and Karl Rove.

MR. CARVILLE:  Right.  If they could just...

MR. SHRUM:  I don’t think they help her.  There’s three guys out there, three potential endorsements that could matter in this race that aren’t talked much about:  Ted Kennedy, who, as you know, I think made Iowa—made New Hampshire a victory for Gore in 2000 and really helped Kerry in, in Iowa in 2004; John Kerry; and Al Gore, who’s a very different person than he was when he endorsed Howard Dean.  I have no idea whether any of the three of them are going to do it, but if any of the three of them did it, it would be very, very powerful.

MR. RUSSERT:  James Carville, Hillary Clinton took to the ad, ad—TV ads war in Iowa with this commercial.  She used a man to talk about trust.  Let’s watch.

(Videotape)

Unidentified Man:  Now her opponents are saying that Hillary can’t be trusted? I trusted this woman to save my son’s life and she did.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Healthcare, but using a man to talk about trust.  Is that an admission that she has a problem with men, and she has a problem with the trust factor?

MR. CARVILLE:  Well, I think that, that a good campaign sees something like this, and they address it.  I think it was a good spot.  And, and, and by the way, this—they’re replete with stories of people that she has helped with something like that.  This is not an extraordinary event.  I, I imagine they have files and files of this, but yeah, of course, the campaign is—Mandy Grunwald, that’s what her people did.  They said, “Well, we’re looking at the same poll that you’re looking at, we’re looking at the same numbers you’re looking at, and we’re going to address them.” And that’s what good campaigns do, and hats off to them.  Damn right they did.

MR. MURPHY:  What amazes me about the Clinton thing—and I predict she’s going to lose the nomination, I’ve been saying that for a while—that in the year when the Democrats have so many advantages, they seem to instinctively, still, the leadership of the Democratic Party gravitate to a candidate who’s so polarizing and so problematical.  She’s running a male spot because she’s got male problems, but it’s an, it’s an inherently defensive place to be.  And so that’s, that’s what amazes me about the affection that they have for somebody who’s done a lot for their party, but in my view, back to my point, I’m not sure she’s—all this trouble means I’m not sure she’s the best candidate for them.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me go through this exchange between Obama and Clinton, because I think it’s very instructive as to where the race is.  Hillary Clinton went on the air in New Hampshire with this ad about the Republicans.

(Videotape, CNN Democratic Presidential Debate, November 15, 2007)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY):  I don’t mind taking hits on my record, on issues, but when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it’s both accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  That’s her in the debate.  Then she went on the air and said, “Here they go again, the same old Republican attack machine is back.” Now, Barack Obama then gave an interview and said this—it’s not the first time he said it, but he talked about his foreign policy experience—“I sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  So I have frequent interaction with world leaders who come to visit here, and I take trips on various fact-finding missions, whether it’s Iraq or Russia or Africa.  But, you know, probably, the strongest experience I have in foreign relations is the fact that I spent four years living overseas when I was a child in Southeast Asia.” When he had said that recently, the Republican machine put this out.  RNC Research...

MR. MURPHY:  Republican machine?

MR. RUSSERT:  “Obama’s Top 5 Foreign Policy Credentials:  Foreign Policy Credential #1, ‘Life of living overseas for 4 years in elementary school.’” Hillary Clinton this week added this.

(Videotape)

SEN. CLINTON:  And with all due respect, I don’t think living in a foreign country between the ages of six and 10 is foreign policy experience.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Obama...

MR. SHRUM:  All due, all due respect means that you’re about to stick a knife in.

MR. MURPHY:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  And, and, and something the Republican attack machine had already pointed out.

MR. CARVILLE:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  But Obama responded this way in kind.

(Videotape)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL):  I was wondering which world leader told her to illegally invade Iraq because, because that’s not—that’s, that’s the conventional thinking that we’re going to have to fight.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Bob Shrum, conventional thinking vs. different, bold, newer thinking.

MR. SHRUM:  I don’t, I don’t...

MR. RUSSERT:  I think that’s how Obama’s trying to shape it.

MR. SHRUM:  I don’t...

MR. RUSSERT:  Hillary Clinton’s trying to shape it, “Hey, I’ve been there, I have experience.  This, this guy’s wet behind the ears.”

MR. SHRUM:  But, but the problem for her is that experience is not driving this race.  And if they decide—this primary race.  And if voters decide that he has enough experience, then they can move on and pick him for change.  Now, I’m not sure it was the smartest thing in the world to go out and say my most important foreign policy experience is that I lived four years overseas when I was in elementary school.  On the other hand, every time people here have thought he’s made a terrible mistake, like “I would talk to our enemies,” of “If I found Osama bin Laden in the mountains, I’d go kill him, even if the Pakistanis didn’t want to,” I think he’s won that argument with the voters. I’m not sure she wants to protract this argument.  I think she’s needs to get to a place where she’s giving Iowa voters a reason not to disqualify Obama but to be positively for her as some kind of agent of change.

MR. MURPHY:  Yeah.  The minute she goes on the attack grind, which is their natural instinct there—because it’s the typical political instinct you have when you’re in trouble, grind down the opponent—she puts herself in the position where Obama can attack her for the old-style politics which resonates to his big change message, which is the power pushing him forward.  She’s in a tough box on this.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me show you another exchange.  This was on the whole issue of the economy and who had more experience.  Here’s Hillary Clinton and then Barack Obama.

(Videotape)

SEN. CLINTON:  There is one job we can’t afford on the job training for, that is the job of our next president.  That could be the costliest job training in history.

SEN. OBAMA:  My understanding is that she wasn’t treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.

(End videotape)

MR. CARVILLE:  I...

MR. RUSSERT:  You’re laughing, Mary.

MS. MATALIN:  I love it.  You know, it’s just—I, I love this race.  The problem with the Democrats, and I don’t pretend to understand your psychological dynamics...

MR. SHRUM:  But we’ll get to yours in a few minutes.

MS. MATALIN:  ...they all have problems with foreign policy because they have no foreign policy.  Their entire foreign policy is to be out of Iraq.  They have—she’s the only one that’s said anything sort of forward looking and dynamic.  On Iran...

MR. SHRUM:  Don’t help her again.

MS. MATALIN:  I’m just saying there’s no foreign policy, there’s no economic policy.  We keep talking about this being a change race, and she says, “Well, change is just an empty word unless you have the experience to do something to get it done.” No.  Change is an empty word unless you can answer “Change to what?” They have had one and only one foreign policy—two, I take it back. They’re against Iraq, and they’re against anything that Bush is for.  So her problem is his problem.  It’s their whole party’s problem.

MR. CARVILLE:  OK, I’ve got to comment on this because—when, when President Clinton was in the White House, it was always “Hillary Clinton’s got too much power over there.  She’s running the show.  Hillary Clinton has her hands in everything.” Now she’s running for president, you’d think that she had nothing to do with the administration.  The truth of the matter is, is, look, Roger Altman, Gene Sperling, these guys know something’s wrong with this economy. The, the people she’s surrounded with are very, very experienced at this kind of thing.  And she did have something—she did have a lot to do with decisions that were made in there.  She was an involved first lady.  I mean, you, you can’t have it both ways.  Attack her when she was in there for having too much power, then when she gets out, then you say, gee, she had none.  But the truth of the matter is, I think Senator Obama understands that there’s, there’s fundamental and deep problems with this economy, also.  But I think her argument is actually not a bad one, in this case.

MR. RUSSERT:  But the Obama strategy seems to be, Mike Murphy, well, what is the real experience?  Does first lady qualify you to be president?

MR. MURPHY:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  And secondly, in terms of these issues, what’s more important, experience or judgment?

MR. MURPHY:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  That’s what he’s trying to go after.

MR. MURPHY:  Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT:  And on the other hand, what she’s able to point out is “I have been on the political scene and have been on the—bearing the brunt of the Republican attack machine.  I’m the best suited to handle a general election.”

MR. MURPHY:  Right.  She’s—it’s a classic case of each side trying to frame the, the race their way.  And she wants to make it the traditional experience race.  The problem is, as Bob has said earlier, in a change election, that has less traction.  So Obama’s taking it to kind of the, the character of change—who’s new, who’s fresh, who’s different, who thinks differently.  And Obama’s strength is that his message, I believe anyway, is more in sync with kind of the greater forces that are at work in the primary, which—and, and the way—we all know—primaries move very, very late, which is why for a year we’ve heard nothing but “Hillary Clinton’s inevitable, it’s over.” Now that the voters are tuning in, as opposed to us insiders, and the real dynamic, the election, is kind of coming up through the floorboards, grabbing everything, we’ll see.  I think, you know, it’s close now, it could go either way, way in Iowa.  If she wins Iowa, she’ll put it away, but if she doesn’t...

MR. CARVILLE:  Mm-hmm.

MR. MURPHY:  And it won’t be her fault.  You know, for all the talk we like to do about campaigns, sometimes a candidate just doesn’t fit the times.  And that’ll be, I think, the obituary on Hillary Clinton if she doesn’t win the nomination, I think.

MR. RUSSERT:  Elizabeth Edwards, Bob Shrum, wife of John Edwards, probably his most effective surrogate...

MR. SHRUM:  Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...has been out campaigning very—rather vigorously.  This is—was her take on whether or not John Edwards should be criticizing Hillary Clinton and her position on the issues.  Here’s Elizabeth Edwards.

(Videotape)

MS. ELIZABETH EDWARDS:  (From “Morning Joe”) If you allow just gauzy answers and—to flow one into the other, and you don’t make those distinctions, what are the—what’s the American public supposed to do in terms of deciding whom they should support?

You can’t put a placard and become the change candidate.  You actually have to have policies and a perspective which indicates you’re going to change things, you’re going to shake things up, you’re going to make certain that the voices that have not been heard in this country finally get heard, that the policies reflect what America wants and needs.  That’s not what’s happening now.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  John Edwards has been very aggressive about Hillary Clinton’s positions on issues.

MR. SHRUM:  Yeah, the Clinton campaign is smart.  They’re trying to dismiss all of the attacks as, somehow or other, they’re out of the Republican playbook, therefore unworthy.  It’s a little like what happened in 1996 when every time Bob Dole would have a difference with Bill Clinton in one of the debates, the president would turn to him and say, ‘Let’s debate issues, not insults.’ So I think that’s smart.

On the other hand, I agree with Elizabeth Edwards.  Of course you should have these debates about issues and differences.  The truth is that John Edwards, while he is attacking Hillary Clinton, is her best friend in Iowa right now, because he provides another major magnet for these change voters.  And if you look at that—those numbers you put up earlier, Hillary Clinton is actually further behind Barack Obama in second choice votes than she is ahead of Bill Richardson.  So if, if John Edwards ever started to decline and when some of these other people don’t reach the 15 percent threshold, the voters right now are more likely to go to Obama than they are to, to, to go to Hillary Clinton.

MR. RUSSERT:  So, at this stage of the campaign, 70 percent plus have opted not to embrace any of the candidates, but seem to be what, in your mind?

MR. SHRUM:  Well, I, I—you know, look, some of the people who are for Edwards would go to Clinton.  Some of the people who are for Richardson—there aren’t very many for Dodd or Biden—would, would ultimately, in the end, go for Clinton.  But far more of them, I think, if you look at the, the internals of this poll, are likely right now to, to, to go to Obama, unless he makes a mistake.  You know, we have these four debates in December.  I think they’re going to be really critical.  I think people are going to take a very close look.  The Des Moines Register debate in both 2000 and 2004 was a really critical moment in the Iowa caucuses.  I mean, John Kerry destroyed Howard Dean with one question in that debate.

MR. RUSSERT:  Which was?

MR. SHRUM:  He said, “You recently said you wouldn’t assume Osama bin Laden was guilty.  What in the world were you thinking?” There’s no answer to that question.  Democrats heard that and said, “We can’t send him out there as our nominee.  He’ll get killed.”

MR. MURPHY:  Under the mechanics of the caucus, without meaning to wonk out and bore everybody to death, as you all know, there’s second-choice dynamics. People stand in a corner of the room, and blah, blah, blah.  I think all the non-Hillary voters, if they don’t wind up with their Biden or their Richardson or even their Edwards on Election Day, break heavily to Obama, another time bomb, I think, in the system for her.

MR. CARVILLE:  I think 39 days is a long, long, long time.  And, and, and the whole history of Iowa is, is that things change, happen late, and they happen big.  I, I, I, I don’t...

MR. SHRUM:  Yeah.

MR. CARVILLE:  I think that this is anybody’s race here.  Any of the top three candidates could win this.  Bob points out very, very accurately, there’s four more debates to go.  And, and these caucus-goers are involved in this.  They’re going to watch this.  They’re going to read the paper.  They’re very involved in this thing.

MR. RUSSERT:  Eighty percent of the Democratic caucus-goers said they’ve been contacted by a candidate.

MR. CARVILLE:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  A third said they’ve met a candidate personally.

MR. CARVILLE:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  Sixty percent said—can you imagine?

MR. CARVILLE:  There’s a bounty on the 20 percent.  If you can break somebody in...(unintelligible)...they’ll pay you.  Right?

MS. MATALIN:  She—which is why campaign—she’s going to drag every single—there’s only 130,000 people that participate in this.  It’s 4 percent of the population.  She’s going to drag everyone to the caucus.

MR. MURPHY:  But the fact they have to be dragged is the problem.

MS. MATALIN:  It doesn’t matter.  A win is a win.

MR. RUSSERT:  But there are differences on the issues.  They differ on Social Security.

MS. MATALIN:  They do.

MR. RUSSERT:  They differ on healthcare.

MS. MATALIN:  They do.

MR. RUSSERT:  They had a difference on the vote for the war for Iraq.

MS. MATALIN:  Yes.

MR. RUSSERT:  I mean, it is quite striking that issues...

MR. CARVILLE:  It, it, it...

MR. RUSSERT:  ...have been driving, in many ways, this race.

MR. CARVILLE:  And it’s going to drive it more.  And, and, and you watch the turnout in these Democratic caucuses compared to Republican caucuses.

MR. MURPHY:  Mm-hmm.

MR. CARVILLE:  It’s going to be a huge difference.  And, and, look, I can be for Senator Clinton, but I got to acknowledge, this is, is—out of the top three, these are some talented horses coming into the stretch here.  I mean, get out of the way.  We going to have a hell of a 39 days.

MR. RUSSERT:  James, Hillary Clinton is so well-known by the people of Iowa. Why are they still, at this point, so resistant to her?

MR. CARVILLE:  Same thing with, with Al Gore in 2000.  He was the vice president, he was running against Bradley.  Bradley was way ahead.  People said, “Gee, no one can be for”—I mean, the truth of the matter is these people take their time.  I, I, I, I say again and again and again, this race could go to any of the three.  I think that the—I think that this 39 days—whatever we’ve seen so far is nothing compared to what we’re going to see in these 39 days.

MR. SHRUM:  Yeah.

MR. MURPHY:  I agree with that.

MR. CARVILLE:  And these little attacks about, “Well, you said you lived in Indonesia” and that, or you—well, stand by, we’re, we’re getting ready to get in there.

MS. MATALIN:  Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT:  Still wide open?

MR. SHRUM:  Yeah.  I’ve always—I will say one thing about that.  I’ve always been the, the great apostle of “They decide at the end” because I’ve been involved in a whole bunch of Iowa caucuses where they do.  But there are underlying factors that tend to shake that decision.  When John Kerry was totally in the valley, if you looked inside the poll, you could see that voters wanted someone that they thought could be president and might beat President Bush, and you had to position him and get there, and that’s where we ultimately met voters.  I think what’s happening here is that she’s either got to adapt to this change dynamic or the dynamic has to change or he has to make a mistake...

MR. MURPHY:  Right.

MR. SHRUM:  ...for her to win the caucuses.

MR. MURPHY:  Right.  They—any of them could win, but I think she has the weakest path based on what’s going on in Iowa, where the voters are.

MR. RUSSERT:  We’re going to come back and talk about the Republicans, Mary Matalin and Mike Murphy.  We’ll be right back after this.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  More on the race for the White House, 39 days to Iowa, 44 days to New Hampshire.  Carville, Matalin, Murphy and Shrum after this.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  And we’re back.  Let’s go to the Republicans.  Here’s the latest poll, again from Iowa, Washington Post:  Romney, 28; Huckabee, 24; Fred Thompson, 15; Rudy Giuliani, 13.

And this question:  Will you definitely support your first candidate choice? Look at this, Romney supporters, 29 percent say yes; Huckabee, 48 percent. That’s strong evangelical Christian support primarily.

Then this, the best experience to be president.  They say Romney, 31; Giuliani, 21; McCain, 13; Huckabee, 12; Thompson, 9.

And this:  most honest and trustworthy, Huckabee, 26; Romney, 25; Thompson, 13; McCain, 8; Giuliani, just 4.

Which is most important in a presidential candidate?  Strength and experience, 70; new direction and ideas, 22.  Remember the Republican—the Democratic numbers?

MR. CARVILLE:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  Strength and experience was 33, new direction was 55.

MR. MURPHY:  First time in her life that Hillary Clinton wishes she was a Republican.

MR. RUSSERT:  She could...

MS. MATALIN:  Yeah.

MR. MURPHY:  On the war, half the time she is.  But, yeah.  We got an open race there.  Iowa’s very volatile in the Republican world, too.  I mean, Romney, you know, great campaign, spent a lot of money, got away out in front. And now Huckabee has got that vote that’s always there waiting for somebody, that 25 to 30 percent of the Republican caucus that’s Christian fundamentalist and, and is a, you know, a strong vote and they like him.  So now Romney’s got a big problem.

MR. RUSSERT:  One last poll number...

MR. MURPHY:  Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...which underscores your point, Mike Murphy.  Look at this. On abortion, should abortion be legal, 23; illegal, 75 percent of the Republican caucus-goers say abortion should be illegal.

MR. MURPHY:  Right.  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  Huckabee’s drawing overwhelming strength on that issue.

MR. MURPHY:  Yeah.  And the, the problem is, Huckabee will be hard to move down off that number.  So it kind of becomes Huckabee grabbing this 25 to 29, 30 percent, and then everybody else fighting over everything else, with Romney, of course, in the expectations, can see, you know, now, being the guy who kind of has to win Iowa to do what he’s supposed to do to move on to New Hampshire, where he also has a lead.  And then Thompson and Giuliani both fighting for that magic third place ticket, and maybe McCain, as well, out of Iowa, that I think that really be an interesting bounce into New Hampshire, where you could have a damaged Romney and Huckabee somewhat rejected because New Hampshire’s very different than Iowa, not as strong a Christian conservative state.  So that other regular Republican and third place out of Iowa could have a real shot to be interesting in New Hampshire.  Very open Republican race right now.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mary Matalin, what happened to your candidate Fred Thompson, fighting for third place in Iowa?

MS. MATALIN:  Oh, his—the dynamic hasn’t changed.  The numbers have changed. He’s down from his peak, but Rudy’s down from his peak.  Rudy’s substantially down from his peak.  He’s at his all-time low, as a matter of fact.  The dynamic hasn’t changed.  In the national polls, Fred Thompson remains in second place.  In South Carolina, a more pivotal state than the first two states, he’s tied for first with Romney, who’s been all over TV for two months.  Thompson’s been up for a week.

But going back to Iowa, Huckabee—Romney has to do something with Huckabee. And the problem for Huckabee is, and Romney has to figure out if he wants to exploit this, while he’s good with the self-identified Christian fundamentalists, he’s horrible on immigration, he’s for benefits for illegal aliens.  He’s terrible on spending and taxes, right?  Historic tax increases in Arkansas, government spending increased by 50 percent, government employees increased by 20 percent.  Romney has to say—he has to get Huckabee out of there, because if Huckabee shoots into Romney’s other—and that won’t be New Hampshire, but if he shoots into South Carolina, very bad for Romney.

MR. MURPHY:  It’s funny, if you talk to the Romney campaign, they say, you know, it’s about time that Thompson did something about Huckabee in Iowa. He’s really cutting into the race.  And the Thompson campaign says, you know, that Romney, if he wants to survive, better take a few zillion dollars out of the secret bank account and do something about that darn Huckabee.

MR. RUSSERT:  So who attacks whom, and how does that play?

MR. SHRUM:  Look...

MR. CARVILLE:  Well...

MR. SHRUM:  First of all, with all due respect, I think Fred Thompson’s running like a dry creek most anywhere he goes in the country.  What’s really happening here—and I think there will be an attack, and I think it will probably come from Romney because he cannot afford to lose Iowa to Huckabee; I think the guy has a glass jaw potentially if that happens—Huckabee is the best friend Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson has going for him in Iowa.  What’s happening there is you have the revenge of the social conservatives against the leading Republican candidates:  Giuliani, who won’t change his positions even if he promises conservative judges; Thompson, who’s not for a human life amendment to the Constitution; and Romney, who’s pro-life, pro-choice and multiple choice.  And these folks found somebody who’s affable, likeable and seemed to express their views.

MR. RUSSERT:  James, go ahead, and then we’ll go to Mary.

MR. CARVILLE:  If, if, if they shoot Huckabee, which they’re going to, believe me, they’re going to try to shoot—if they hit him, they’re going to shoot at him.  If they hit him, the turnout in these caucuses on the Republican side is going to be abysmally low because this, this is—this is these Christians’ guy.  They—and he can relate to people, Huckabee is one heck of a politician.  He actually kind of likes people, and he’s out there. They may, they may shoot him and they may hit him, but they’re going to do that at their own peril because they’re going to really, really aggravate these people who’ve been a very, very important part of the Republican Coalition.  And I think Mitt Romney is smart enough to understand that, I think Fred Thompson is smart enough to understand that, is the danger is, you hit Huckabee and you take a lot of people out of this process.

MR. MURPHY:  And you don’t move anything.  Huckabee, that vote is going to sit there for Huckabee.  You might be able to move it a little bit, but not a lot.  The guy Romney’s got to worry about is Rudy Giuliani coming up through the floorboards in New Hampshire.  That’s where Romney’s attacking ought to happen.  And Fred’s got to do something.  He’s a friend of mine, but watching him campaign is like watching a big bear stand up and try to dance on ice.  It has not been a steady, and, and I—well, you know, I’ve got to call it as I see it.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mary...

MR. MURPHY:  Fred has to come in third in Iowa to get back in the race.

MS. MATALIN:  Oh my...

MR. RUSSERT:  ...you’re Thompson’s woman, so we’ll give you a chance to respond.

MS. MATALIN:  And I...

MR. RUSSERT:  But, but, but lay it out for us because if Thompson is fighting for third place in Iowa, in New Hampshire he’s in sixth place.  Where does he win?  Where does he get involved in the race in a winning way?

MS. MATALIN:  Here, here, here’s the difference between conservatives and Democrats.  All right?  There’s a parallel narrative on Fred.  There’s the Beltway bloviators.  They don’t like the process.  They don’t like all of us. Right?

MR. SHRUM:  Mary, aren’t you one of those?

MS. MATALIN:  I am—I am a mini bloviator.  But I, I, I like—I—here’s what Fred is, is doing.  They don’t—might not like the way he’s campaigning, but the human life amendment, he just got the National Right to Life endorsement, very coveted.  In four weeks, he’s put out four specific detailed policies: on immigration, on Social Security, on expanding the military, and today on another network, he’s rolling out his tax relief and economic growth plan. Four weeks, four plans.  The Washington Post has called him courageous.  He’s the only one on either side that’s putting out these specific detailed plans on conservative principles.

MR. RUSSERT:  But one of those principles...

MS. MATALIN:  All right, so we can bloviate about the process...

MR. MURPHY:  We’re not bloviating...

MR. RUSSERT:  But one of, one of...

MS. MATALIN:  If you care about substance, experience...

MR. RUSSERT:  All right, one of those principles is gun control, Second Amendment, and this is what he had to say about Rudy Giuliani.  Here’s Fred Thompson.

(Videotape)

MR. FRED THOMPSON:  I think probably the, the starkest differentiation is with Mayor Giuliani.  He simply supported just about every gun control legislation that came down the pipe.  He relates everything to New York City. Well, New York City is not emblematic of the rest of the country, I don’t think.  And I think those sentiments of those people in the rest of the country are in strong support of the Second Amendment, which is where I’ve always been and I don’t think he’s ever been.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Giuliani’s spokeswoman responded this way, “Coming from a man who lives in the Beltway, who is a Washington insider and lobbyist and who played the role Rudy Giuliani actually lived on a television series, I am not sure what to make of the senator’s comments, except to say results are results.” However, Rudy Giuliani has said that, like an automobile, handguns should be registered.  That is his position widely stated throughout his career.

James Carville, objectively, in those kind of exchanges between Thompson and Giuliani, what happened?  What resonates with the voter in a Republican caucus or primary?

MR. CARVILLE:  Well, I mean, I think that people find out that Giuliani was for gun, for gun control.  I mean, that, that—when you’re left with that, you’re, you’re kind of left with he’s a—he’s an actor and, and a lobbyist, all of which has sort of been out there.  My, my, my guess is, is, is Thompson got the best of that exchange among Iowa caucus-goers.  And I think that, that the Giuliani response was they were kind of aggravated that this kind of brought up on them.  If you looked at this is what he thinks, where the press secretary is more “How dare he!” Most of these—what strikes me is most of these attacks against Senator Clinton thing, “You’re not treasury secretary,” “You grew up in Indonesia” or gun control, they’re all within a pretty good range of acceptability.  These are not sort of unfair, personal ad hominem things.  I mean, Fred Thompson is just bringing out a distinction, and they’re, they’re going to get—my point is, it’s going to get pretty tepid up to here.  It’s going, it’s going to get a lot hotter.

MR. MURPHY:  I think you’re going to see kind of a mini primary breaking out in Iowa between Rudy and Thompson for third place because that’s a very valuable ticket to either guy.  If Fred can beat Rudy in Iowa where, despite the expectations, skullduggery, where Rudy says, “Iowa, never heard of it,” he’s putting a lot of resources, then Fred’s back to life.  That’s like the jumper cables that’ll get Fred back in the race, and he’ll be able to go to New Hampshire as one of the big three, and he’ll have his shot.  I think, with all due respect, he’s going to need more than issue papers.  He’s got to get that Fred charisma back that we know he had in ‘94.  But, but that’s going to be the question, and third place in Iowa would earn him that opportunity.

MR. SHRUM:  I think this discussion illustrates a reality about the Republican field which is that it’s fragile.  Everybody is a fragile candidate.  This thing could move around for a long time, might not get settled until much closer to the convention, and much later than the Democrats, because every one of these people has very big vulnerabilities, even Fred.

MS. MATALIN:  Listen, let me go back to the gun thing because it’s not an, an issue, and these are not issue papers.  The gun culture, it’s not a gun culture, it’s a mainstream culture.  It’s emblematic of a really important element of the conservative psyche.  They’re hunters, they’re sportsmen, it’s a lifestyle thing.  They’re Constitutionalists.  And it wasn’t that Rudy was just for gun control.  He was hostile to gun owners and hostile to the Second Amendment.  He’s the only mayor that sued gun companies.  He blamed five Southern states for the troubles that New York was having with guns.  He was the only mayor who bragged about running around the country in support of Clinton’s gun control.  These are things that—it’s—these, these gun guys are a cultural bedrock of conservativism.

MR. RUSSERT:  And ladies.

MS. MATALIN:  And ladies.  Lots...

MR. RUSSERT:  Please.

MS. MATALIN:  When I say guys, girls, I mean it’s a cultural—it’s a very important cultural thing.  It’s not—and, and these issue papers are not issue papers.  They’re specific, they’re detailed.

MR. SHRUM:  No, I hear you.  Don’t shoot me.

MS. MATALIN:  And I’m not—I’m from the Cheney way.

MR. SHRUM:  Don’t throw the pen.

MR. MURPHY:  Don’t shoot me.  Don’t pull a weapon, I’m with you.

MS. MATALIN:  You come hunting with me, I’m going to shoot you.

MR. RUSSERT:  How about the issue of immigration because this is very revealing in terms of John McCain’s position on immigration, Mitt Romney’s, Rudy Giuliani’s.  David Brooks, The New York Times columnist, wrote this just the other day about Giuliani.  “Rudy Giuliani can play a little rough at times, but there are some moments when an inner light turns on and he turns downright idealistic.  One of those moments came” “October 10, 1996, as he stepped on the podium at the Kennedy School of Government to deliver a speech on immigration.

“‘I’m pleased to be with you this evening to talk about the”’ anti-immigration “‘movement in America,’” “‘and why I believe this movement endangers the single most important reason for American greatness, namely, the renewal, reformation and reawakening that’s provided by the continuous flow of immigrants.’

“Then he turned to the subject of illegal immigration:  ‘The United States has to do’” ‘”a better job of patrolling our borders.’ But, he continued ‘The reality is, people will always get in.’

“‘There are times,’” “‘when undocumented aliens must have a substantial degree of protection.’ They must feel safe sending their children to school.  They should feel safe reporting crime to the police.  ‘Similarly, illegal and undocumented immigrants should be able to seek medical help without the threat of being reported.  When these people are sick, they are just as sick and just as contagious as citizens.’”

“His speeches represent the Rudy who once went overboard and declared, ‘If you come here and you work hard and you happen to be in an undocumented status, you’re one of the people who we want in this city,” referring to New York.

Now, contrast that tone with the tone of Rudy Giuliani’s radio commercial on immigration.  Let’s listen.

(Audiotape)

NARRATOR:  Here’s Rudy Giuliani ...

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI:  A person who comes here illegally, commits a crime, should be thrown out of the country.  People that come in illegally we got to stop.  Stop illegal immigration by building a fence, a physical fence, and then a technological fence.  You then hire enough border patrol so they can respond in a timely way.  And then, if anybody becomes a citizen, we should make certain they can read English, write English and speak English, because this is an English-speaking country.

NARRATOR:  Paid for by Rudy Giuliani Presidential Committee Incorporated.

(End audiotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Now, there’s nothing contradictory, if you read each of those very, very carefully.  But the tone is dramatically different, Michael Murphy.

MR. SHRUM:  Well, well, actually, he didn’t say, he didn’t—in the first one, he said, “If you’re undocumented and you work hard, we want you in New York City.”

MR. MURPHY:  Yep.

MR. SHRUM:  In the second one, he says, “We want to throw you out of the country.”

MR. MURPHY:  The, the first one sounds like a Romney mail piece you’ll probably be getting soon if you live in New Hampshire.  I’m sympathetic to Rudy, and it’s—particularly to McCain on this because I think they’re right on the immigration issue.  Their problem is the politics of it, where most people in the Republican primary think they’re dead wrong.  And when McCain got out, courageously, he also got smacked down viciously in the primary, and it knocked him out of the front-runner’s position.  So all the Republican candidates know this issue is powerful dynamite in our, in our primary on the Republican side, and so they’re all kind of tilting their positions to survive, which is kind of a—an unimpressive but necessary art in national politics.

MR. RUSSERT:  What do the Democrats do about immigration in the general election?

MR. CARVILLE:  Well, they talk about border security, and they talk about employer sanctions.

MR. RUSSERT:  Not driver’s licenses?

MR. CARVILLE:  I don’t think they’re going to talk about driver’s licenses. How does that—let me say this—like I said, that’s again...

MR. RUSSERT:  We’re going...

MR. CARVILLE:  The only thing more popular than an idea whose time is come is an idea whose time is come, come and gone.

MR. SHRUM:  Look, look, the Republicans have already damaged themselves tremendously with Hispanic voters on this.  Unless John McCain came back and won the nomination, and even he’s been backtracking on this, I think you would see much bigger Hispanic vote for Democrats this time than last time.  I think Republicans will want to talk a lot about immigration in the general.  I think James is right, Democrats will talk about border security.  And then ultimately, we’re going to have real immigration reform in this country.  It’s going to happen.

MS. MATALIN:  Democrats have hurt themselves.  They keep talking about—Democrats like to talk about what Republicans have done.

MR. SHRUM:  Right.

MS. MATALIN:  Democrats have really hurt themselves with middle class, blue collar, African-Americans who think by some three-quarters, 75 percent, are dissatisfied with what the Democrats have done, which is to say nothing, or their positions that they’re espousing on immigration.  It’s not just a political issue, it’s a very difficult, substantive...

MR. SHRUM:  Mary, Mary, are you seriously suggesting that African-Americans are going...

MR. CARVILLE:  Right.

MR. SHRUM:  ...to vote Republican on the immigration issue?

MS. MATALIN:  I’m saying that you...

MR. SHRUM:  That is—you’re...

MS. MATALIN:  ...keep talking about the immigration.

MR. SHRUM:  ...that’s where the fairy dust is, on that side of the table.

MR. MURPHY:  I’m telling you, it was kind of fun to watch because the Democrats have been on the sidelines watching all this immigration kerfuffle in our party, kind of giggling at us, “Oh, those Republicans.” Then Spitzer got right into it, and they found out it works in their party, too.  He got his arm cut off, and he put a huge hurt on Hillary...

MR. RUSSERT:  Because he’s the governor of New York.

MR. MURPHY:  ...when he fumbled the issue.  The governor of New York, when he started talking about driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.  So this issue will play everywhere.  It is a cutting issue in this election, and the Democrats are going to find out.

MR. RUSSERT:  Here, here’s another cutting issue, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, mixing it up on taxing and spending.  Romney’s put this out, “Big city, big spender.  Big spending brings billion-dollar budget bust.” Romney talking about Giuliani.  Giuliani said, “Hold on, Mr. Governor of Massachusetts.  You never cut taxes because the legislature wouldn’t let you, and, on your watch, violent crime and murder went up.” And we now have Romney and Giuliani fighting about who’s a fiscal conservative and who’s tough on crime.  Do those issues cut with the Republican electorate, Mary?

MS. MATALIN:  Yes, they do.  And I’m going to come back to Fred Thompson who has a record supporting tax cuts, he has a record cutting government spending, he’s laying out a plan, not an issue paper, a real, specific detailed, conservative plan to grow the economy.

MR. MURPHY:  I know, but...

MR. RUSSERT:  But Giuliani will say he’s never been an executive.  He’s a lobbyist, a lawyer, and a senator.  He’s never managed anything.

MS. MATALIN:  He’s a—he is a conservative who’s been a conservative.  This is the problem with Rudy on immigration, and, and Mitt, both of them, on immigration, on guns, on you name it.  You can call it flip-flopping, you can call it pandering, but what, what it is is inconsistency and unpredictability of conservative principles.  Why do we care and why do we keep talking about and emphasizing the consistency of Fred’s conservative principles?  Because the only way we can beat the liberals is to be united.  And the only way we can be united and energized is an across-the-board conservative, which Thompson has a record on.  You can call him an actor, you can call him a lobbyist, that is not what his background is.  He’s a prosecutor who’s done a lot of intelligence and fiscal risk issues.  And these other guys haven’t.

MR. RUSSERT:  James, separating yourself from your wife’s feelings...

MR. CARVILLE:  Right, with effort.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...assess objectively the Republican race right now as you see it.

MR. CARVILLE:  Well, first of all, I, I think there’s—the Republican Party’s just disconnected with America.  Every time that I see them talk about this is the best economy ever, I just—I, I, I know that we’re taping that.  I think that the—I think the anger and angst in this country is at a level that I’ve never seen.  The Gallup Poll says that the economic insecurity is the highest it’s been since 1991.

MR. RUSSERT:  All right.  Excepting that...

MR. CARVILLE:  And I’m excepting it.  But...

MR. RUSSERT:  But assess the race as you see it.

MR. CARVILLE:  The, the, the race as I see it right now is I agree with Mike Murphy.  Third place in Iowa is going to be tremendously important, that somebody either from the Thompson, Giuliani, McCain group is going to come up and challenge Mitt Romney for the nomination.  And I, and I think that’s going to be the interesting part.  Who that is?  It could be Fred Thompson, it could be Rudy, it could be McCain.  But the third place finish, I don’t—I think that Huckabee is the most interesting and the best politician and the best campaigner of the Republicans, but my sense is he’s going to have a hard time carrying through.  I think this Ron Paul phenomena is, is very real.  I saw him last night on Bloomberg.  He’s going to raise over $12 million in his quarter.  I obviously don’t think he’s going to win, but he’s going to be a determining factor in this thing.  This guy has got a real following now.

MR. RUSSERT:  Bob Shrum, assess the Republicans.  If Huckabee happened to knock off Romney in Iowa or run a close second, can he go—can he play in New Hampshire?

MR. SHRUM:  I don’t think so in the end.  I think that, that it would be hard for New Hampshire to vote for somebody who was a fundamentalist minister, affable as he is.  He does seem to actually want to write, for example, a prohibition against abortion into the Constitution, which Ronald Reagan, for all his talking about it, never tried to do one time.  What I think is happening in the Republican field is that everybody’s got a problem. Everybody’s got a defect or a weakness, so there’s a lot of maneuvering going on to see where that’s going to come out.  And I, you know, I don’t agree with Mary very often on things.  She’s right about Rudy Giuliani in this sense.  He wants to run for president as the 9/11 Giuliani, and he doesn’t want anybody to talk about any other incarnation of his time as mayor.  As you know, he endorsed Mario Cuomo for governor in 1994.  He doesn’t want anybody to talk about that.  So I think that this race could actually go, as I said earlier, a fairly long time before it settles down and we come to a nominee.

MR. MURPHY:  Yeah.  I, I, I agree.  I think Romney—it’s Romney’s nomination to lose, but he’s very capable of losing it now because he’s very vulnerable. I think Rudy has certain power, but ultimately in a Republican primary he’s vulnerable.  Rudy’s very fast on his feet in kind of the press exchanges, but when it gets down to the muscle of paid advertising, Romney’s got money and Romney’s got issues.

The last thing, though, is, if they all destroy each other, you’ve still got McCain lurking there ready to pounce and—as kind of the anti-politics candidate on a shoestring budget in New Hampshire, which is a bit of a long shot.  It’s hard to survive that Iowa bounce if he doesn’t kind of catch on in Iowa.  But he is the unpolitics candidate waiting in a situation where a lot of negatives could go up very quickly, and there could be a window for him.

MS. MATALIN:  Can I make a quick point before James talks about the Republican Party?

MR. MURPHY:  Sure.

MS. MATALIN:  Which he doesn’t, doesn’t know much about.

MR. CARVILLE:  Right.

MS. MATALIN:  And I don’t know much about your party.  We’re all talking about these early states, and we’re predicating our analyses on past experiences.  There’s nothing like this.  Between the four of us, we’ve probably been involved in 35 different presidential contests.  We’ve never seen anything like this.  We don’t know if this is going to be a momentum early state.  So if you go to the mid-map—this is both the Giuliani and the Thompson strategy.  You go to the mid-map, there’s states there on February 5th that Rudy is favored in.  They’re contoured for Rudy—New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware—and there are states there that are contoured for Fred Thompson, not just because he’s consistent conservative, because geographically they’re in the Heartland or they’re in the South, and he has good organizations and leadership there—Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia.  So we’ve got to—everybody’s going to stay fluid...

MR. CARVILLE:  Mm-hmm.

MS. MATALIN:  ...till February 5th, and the next time around we’ll be talking about the mid-map, which is the path to victory.

MR. MURPHY:  Just quickly, contrarian maybe.  But that would be historic. Just to bloviate for a second, I think if you don’t win early you’re dead. And the idea you can wait, I think, is crazy.

MR. RUSSERT:  First sense...

MR. CARVILLE:  Pontificate, don’t bloviate.

MR. RUSSERT:  First time since 1952 an incumbent president or vice president’s name is not on the ballot, and that’s why we’re seeing what we’re seeing on both sides, volatility.

MS. MATALIN:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  Now, you two, happy anniversary.  And the first time you were on MEET THE PRESS was 12 years ago on your second anniversary, and this was the exchange...

MS. MATALIN:  Oh, no.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...when your little baby daughter was four months old.

(Videotape, November 26, 1995)

MR. RUSSERT:  And with us now, America’s political odd couple, James Carville, Mary Matalin.  Welcome.  Happy anniversary.

MR. CARVILLE:  Thank you.

MS. MATALIN:  Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT:  Second year.

MR. CARVILLE:  That’s exactly right.

MS. MATALIN:  That’s right.

MR. RUSSERT:  Together.

MR. CARVILLE:  Together.

MR. RUSSERT:  When Matalin Carville cried last night, who got up?

MS. MATALIN:  Who do you think?

MR. CARVILLE:  I did!  I got up.  Tell the truth.  Don’t sit here and give our last exit poll.

MS. MATALIN:  Who got up and fed her?

MR. CARVILLE:  I can’t...

MS. MATALIN:  He got up and rolled over.

MR. CARVILLE:  I got up.

MR. RUSSERT:  Who got up?

MS. MATALIN:  He got up and rolled over.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Ah, yes.

MS. MATALIN:  And nothing has changed, honey, in 14 years.  Your hair’s a little different, though.

MR. CARVILLE:  It is.

MR. RUSSERT:  Well, best wishes 12 years later.

MR. CARVILLE:  Thank you.

MS. MATALIN:  Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT:  And Mike Murphy and Bob Shrum, thank you all.  Great discussion.

MR. SHRUM:  Happy anniversary.

MR. CARVILLE:  Thank you.

MR. MURPHY:  Yeah, absolutely.

MS. MATALIN:  You’re a good man, honey.  (Unintelligible).

MR. RUSSERT:  We’ll be right back.  Politics makes strange bedfellows.

(Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  On our Web site this afternoon, more on Carville-Matalin union, 14 years later.  And can you have good friends in the other party?  We’ll ask Bob Shrum and Mike Murphy in our Take Two Web extra, plus our MEET THE PRESS 60th anniversary celebration continues.  You can find a retrospective on our first six decades, watch special interviews with former guests, a slideshow on some of the important MEET THE PRESS milestone, all on our Web site, mtp.msnbc.com.

That’s all for today.  We’ll be back next week.  If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.

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