Video: Trump a celeb, Romney serious: Roundtable on 2012

  1. Transcript of: Trump a celeb, Romney serious: Roundtable on 2012

    MR. GREGORY: John Meacham , let me talk politics now. I want to show the, the poll on the Republican side among primary voters. Look who's at top there: Donald Trump , Mike Huckabee , who may not even get in, Sarah Palin , 12 percent. And then you look at Romney , who a lot of people think is a front-runner, is down at 11 percent. Donald Trump is capturing a lot of headlines. Whether he's serious or not, he was in Palm Beach for his first real political rally, it seemed, a tea party group. He had some choice things to say about the president.

    MR. DONALD TRUMP: Whether you like him or not, George Bush gave us Obama , and I'm not happy about it, OK? I'm not happy about it. We have a disaster on our hands. We have a man right now that almost certainly will go down as the worst president in the history of the United States .

    MR. GREGORY: The question I asked in the open, if Romney is the supposed front-runner, why is Trump making such headway right now?

    MR. MEACHAM: Yeah, and have we forgotten about James Buchanan ? So it's a relatively tough, tough statement.

    DR. GREENSPAN: Re-elect him?

    MR. MEACHAM: I think that Trump is an emblem of the triumph of the celebrity political culture. And I think the attention here is not because of views he holds but because of his personality, frankly. And I think that it will shake out. I suspect that Governor Romney -- if history is any guide, Governor Romney is the front-runner, right, because in the Republican Party , the nominee tends to be someone who has run before. The only exception from 1960 is 1964 , so you're about almost a half century. And I suspect that will be where the, where the race turns out. Trump is an interesting figure. Like all populist outbreaks, it, it tells you something about the frustration with both parties and, frankly, with this conversation that we're having to some extent.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. SMILEY: The bottom line is Donald Trump is laughing all the way to the bank, and he's rolling us in the media every single day. Let's be frank about it. This -- truth is such a scarce commodity in this town oftentimes, and that's the bottom line. He's laughing to the bank, and he's playing us, number one. Number two, with all due respect to my senator and the tea party activists, there's -- on a certain level, I understand their frustration because I'm frustrated. I understand the angst of the tea party . But if you're going to start taking seriously a guy like Donald Trump making those kinds of statements, that two years in he's going to go down as the worst president ? That's a long list of bad presidents. So that kind of nonsense is going to get your issues not being taken seriously behind Donald Trump .

    MR. GREGORY: Senator, who, who, who do you back right now? If you look at Mitt Romney , do you think he's the front-runner, first of all?

    SEN. LEE: I do think he's the front-runner.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah?

    SEN. LEE: And I think he's coming into this race strong. He's got a strong record of showing that he knows how to bring in revenue. And if there's one thing we desperately need right now as Americans, it's revenue. Now, look, Donald Trump is not what I would call the tea party candidate. And I want to make clear, the tea party movement is much simpler than people give it credit for being. It's simply a phenomenon that has occurred as tens of millions of Americans, whether they call themselves tea partiers or not, have recognized that the federal government has become too big and too expensive.

    MR. GREGORY: What about Jon Huntsman , our ambassador in China ? You've worked for him in the past, also from Utah . He wrote a letter to President Obama back in 2009 , the Daily Caller received -- obtained a copy of it. And in it he's, he's quite positive about the president. He writes, "I'm most grateful for the graciousness and kindness you have shown me and my family, particularly your confidence in my ability to represent you in China . You are a remarkable leader, and it has been a great honor getting to know you ." And that was from Jon Huntsman . Do you think that might rear its head during the primary for Jon Huntsman if he's a candidate?

    SEN. LEE: Well, sure. Look, that letter, coupled with the fact that he was a member of this administration, in the sense that he was the U.S. ambassador to China during President Obama 's time in office, might not be a huge benefit to him. On the other hand , I, I don't think it'll be all that surprising to anyone that, as he's writing a letter to someone who, who was his boss for a significant amount of time, if he gives him some praise for exercising some leadership, that may not be the death knell.

    MR. GREGORY: OK. Jennifer Granholm , Governor, as I've talked to White House advisers, they do look at Romney most seriously. Why? Because they think he's got the staying power, the money, the organization to make this a more drawn out contest, to sort of outlast the populist candidates of the tea party or others who would challenge him. And as he unveiled one, one further step this week into the race, is he who the president should really be focused on?

    GOV. GRANHOLM: Well, I think the president can take him. Bring it on, I would say, on the president's behalf. But I do think that Romney -- Romney lacks a core. And it's one or the reasons why I think Trump catches on with a certain segment is that he is talking about issues that many people care about. Separate from this birther craziness, he's talking about China and he's talking about the economy . And back to Mr. Greenspan 's point is that he is looking what -- at what America 's role in is a global economy . How can America compete with other nations when other nations are not just standing back? Which is, with all due respect, what a lot of the tea party would have us do -- hands off, free market, trickle down. But other nations are throwing sand into the engine of the free market, like China , like India . And they are aggressively competing for those jobs. So the question is, what is -- what's the candidate that's going to be able to respond to how we can aggressively create jobs in America .

    MR. GREGORY: Well, there's also this question, Senator Lee , of optimism. We do a feature in the middle of the week on our Web site called Press Pass , and it's something that, that our viewers can see at presspass.msnbc.com for the whole conversation. I sat down with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick , and one of my questions had to do with the president's overall outlook as he goes toward re-election. And this is something that he said.

    GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D-MA): I think people see the, the alternative and the negativism and the kind of -- the way that, that in many respects, the hard right seems to be leeching all the optimism out of this country.

    MR. GREGORY: That's very interesting. How are they doing that? How do you see the right doing that?

    GOV. PATRICK: Well, I just, I just see, you know, decades now of, of rhetoric about " government is bad, greed is good." It's left us unable to imagine doing the big things , solving the big challenges that, that face us.

    MR. GREGORY: How do you, how do you respond to that?

    SEN. LEE: I could not disagree more completely. Look, the tea party movement has a message of optimism. It is that this is the greatest civilization the world has ever known, the strongest economy the world has or has had. And we can be stronger if we get the government , specifically the federal government , put back into its proper role.

    MR. GREGORY: Dr. Greenspan , final point on this. This budget debate that we're talking about, what's realistic in an election framework? Being serious about Medicare or entitlements? Tax reform? What do you think is possible?

    DR. GREENSPAN: You're, you're asking me a political question , not an economic question.

    MR. GREGORY: Right. I like to put you on the spot like that.

    DR. GREENSPAN: Yeah, well.... But look...

    MR. GREGORY: You're up to it.

    DR. GREENSPAN: ...as I watch what's going on, we have to remember that over the next 10 years or so we're going to find that the baby boom generation , highly skilled, highly educated, is going to fade from the scene. It's going to be replaced by a generation who are now in school and creating grades which don't make us look very good in the international spectrum. This means that we are probably dealing with an economy which isn't growing fast enough or creating much real resources to fund the entitlement programs that we have already made. I don't, I don't, I don't consider these -- the issue of cutting back spending as essentially something which is new. I don't think we could afford it in the first place . We're really canceling something which didn't exist.

updated 4/18/2011 8:38:57 AM ET 2011-04-18T12:38:57

Potential presidential candidate Donald Trump says he's a better businessman than a leading Republican hopeful in 2012, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

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Trump tells CNN's "State of the Union" that he has a "much, much bigger net worth. I mean my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney."

Trump describes Romney as a "small business guy." Trump says he's created thousands of jobs and built a "great company."

Video: Who’s who in race for president (on this page)

Romney is a former venture capitalist with a record of turning around failing companies.

Story: The 2012 GOP presidential field

While heading Bain Capital, he helped launch the Staples office supply chain, as well as buy Domino's Pizza. Romney invested more than $40 million of his own money in the 2008 presidential race.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explainer: The 2012 GOP presidential field

  • A look at the Republican candidates hoping to challenge Barack Obama in the general election.

  • Rick Perry, announced Aug. 13

    Image: Perry
    Sean Gardner  /  REUTERS
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry

    Mere hours before a major GOP debate in Iowa (and a couple of days before the high-interest Ames straw poll), the Perry camp announced that the Texas governor was all-in for 2012.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas governor.

    While some on ground in the early-caucus state criticized the distraction, strategists applauded the move and said Perry was giving Romney a run for his money.

    Slideshow: A look at Gov. Rick Perry's political career

    He may face fierce opposition from secular groups and progressives who argue that his religious rhetoric violates the separation of church and state and that his belief that some groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, should be allowed to discriminate against gays is bigoted.

  • Jon Huntsman, announced June 21

    Image: Jon Hunt
    Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman

    Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, made his bid official on June 21 at at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former governor of Utah.

    He vowed to provide "leadership that knows we need more than hope" and "leadership that doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems."

    The early days of his campaign were clouded with reports of internal discord among senior staffers.

    Slideshow: Jon Huntsman Jr.

    Huntsman, who is Mormon, worked as a missionary in Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin. But his moderate credentials — backing civil unions for gays and the cap-and-trade energy legislation — could hurt him in a GOP primary. So could serving under Obama.

  • Michele Bachmann, announced on June 13

    Image: Michele Bachmann
    Larry Downing  /  REUTERS
    Rep. Michele Bachmann

    Born and raised in Iowa, this Tea Party favorite and Minnesota congresswoman announced during a June 13 GOP debate that she's officially in the running for the Republican nomination.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Minn. congresswoman.

    Bachmann tells The Associated Press she decided to jump into the 2012 race at this time because she believed it was "the right thing to do."

    She's been criticized for making some high-profile gaffes — among them, claiming taxpayers would be stuck with a $200 million per day tab for President Barack Obama's trip to India and identifying New Hampshire as the site of the Revolutionary War's opening shots.

    Slideshow: The political life of Michele Bachmann

    But Bachmann's proved a viable fundraiser, collecting more than $2 million in political contributions in the first 90 days of 2011 — slightly exceeding the $1.8 million Mitt Romney brought in via his PAC in the first quarter.

  • Rick Santorum, announced on June 6

    Image: Rick Santorum
    Charlie Neibergall  /  AP file
    Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum

    A staunch cultural conservative vehemently against abortion and gay marriage, the former Pennsylvania senator hopes to energize Republicans with a keen focus on social issues.

    He announced the launch of a presidential exploratory committee on FOX News, where he makes regular appearances. He make his run official on June 6 in Somerset, Pa., asking supporters to "Join the fight!"

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Pennsylvania senator.

    No stranger to controversy, Santorum was condemned by a wide range of groups in 2003 for equating homosexuality with incest, pedophilia and bestiality. More recently, Santorum faced criticism when he called Obama’s support for abortion rights “almost remarkable for a black man.”

    Slideshow: Rick Santorum's political life

    Since his defeat by Democrat Robert Casey in his 2006 re-election contest — by a whopping 18 percentage points — Santorum has worked as an attorney and as a think-tank contributor.

    A February straw poll at CPAC had him in twelfth place amongst Republicans with 2 percent of the vote.

  • Mitt Romney, announced on June 2

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Paul Sancya  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

    The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate has spent the last three years laying the foundations for another run at the White House — building a vigorous political action committee, making regular media appearances, and penning a policy-heavy book.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Mass. governor.

    In April, he announced, via YouTube and Twitter, that he'd formed an exploratory commitee. Romney made his run official in Stratham, N.H., on June 2.

    The former CEO of consulting firm Bain & Company and the president of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney frequently highlights his business background as one of his main qualifications to serve as president.

    Slideshow: Mitt Romney's life in politics

    To capture the nomination, Romney will have to defend the health care overhaul he enacted during his governorship — legislation that bears similarities to the Obama-backed bill despised by many conservatives. He'll also have to overcome the perception of being a flip-flopper (like supporting abortion rights in his 1994 and 2002 bids for office, but opposing them in his '08 run).

    In the first quarter of 2011, he netted some $1.8 million through his PAC "Free and Strong America."

  • Herman Cain, announced on May 21

    Image: Herman Cain
    Brendan Smialowski  /  Getty Images file
    Talk show host Herman Cain

    Cain, an Atlanta radio host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has support from some Tea Party factions.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Atlanta radio host.

    An African-American who describes himself as a “citizen’s candidate,” he was the first Republican to form a formal presidential exploratory committee. He officially entered the race in May, telling supporters, "When we wake up and they declare the presidential results, and Herman Cain is in the White House, we'll all be able to say, free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, this nation is free at last, again!"

    Prior to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Cain rehashed the birther theory, telling a Florida blogger, “I respect people that believe he should prove his citizenship ... He should prove he was born in the United States of America.”

  • Ron Paul, announced on May 13

    Image: Ron Paul
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Rep. Ron Paul

    In 2008, Texas congressman Ron Paul’s libertarian rallying cry — and his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — did not fall on deaf ears. An idiosyncratic foe of the Federal Reserve and a passionate advocate for limited government, Paul mounted a presidential run that was characterized by bursts of jaw-dropping online fundraising.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas congressman.

    Slideshow: Ron Paul

    He officially launched his 2012 campaign in New Hampshire, saying, ""The revolution is spreading, and the momentum is building ... Our time has come."

    In the first quarter of 2011, raked in some $3 million through his various political organizations.

  • Newt Gingrich, announced on May 11

    Image: Newt Gingrich
    John M. Heller  /  Getty Images file
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

    The former speaker of the House who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Gingrich remains a robust presence on the GOP stage as a prolific writer and political thinker. In recent years, Barack Obama has provided a new target for the blistering critiques Gingrich famously leveled at President Bill Clinton.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former speaker of the House.

    In early May, he made his 2012 run official. "I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run," Gingrich wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

    But a month later, the campaign was practically in ruins — with his campaign manager, spokesman, senior strategists all resigning en masse. Most cited issues with the "direction" of the campaign. But Gingrich vowed to press on.

    Slideshow: Newt Gingrich

    Also at issue: Gingrich’s personal life could make winning the support of social conservatives thorny for the twice-divorced former lawmaker. In a damning interview earlier this year, Esquire quoted one of Gingrich’s former wives describing him as a hypocrite who preached the sanctity of marriage while in the midst of conducting an illicit affair.

    Additional obstacles include his recent criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan as “right-wing social engineering" and reports of a $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry company.

  • Gary Johnson, announced on April 21

    Image:Gary Johnson
    Jim Cole  /  AP
    Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson

    The former New Mexico governor took a big leap in late April, not by announcing an exploratory committee, but by actually announcing his official candidacy. “I’m running for president of the United States,” he told a couple of supporters and cameramen gathered for his announcement outside the New Hampshire State Capitol.

    He's a steadfast libertarian who supports the legalization of marijuana. He vetoed more than 700 pieces of legislation during his two terms as governor.

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