Meet the Press   |  August 18, 2013

4: RNC meeting in review: The takeaway

NBC's David Gregory and a Meet the Press roundtable reflect on reports from the Republican National Convention's summer meeting and what lies ahead for the GOP.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back with the roundtable talking 2016 politics in the heat of august here. the republicans now, very interesting this week, chris christie making a lot of noise, the rnc meeting in boston talking about debates. here was chris christie addressing the rnc meeting on thursday, sounding very much like a candidate when he said, "i think we have some folks who believe that our job is to be college professors," rand paul i think is who he meant. "for our ideas to matter, we have to win, because if we don't win, we don't govern, if we don't govern, all we do is shout into the wind, and so, i am going to do anything i need to do to win." rich lowry , also jonathan martin of the "the new york times" saying this morning that you see from christie something close to what george w. bush did in 1998 , shoring up support among hispanics, african-americans, even as he was seeking re-election in texas in '98, trying to get the broader appeal for the party . it worked for him in 2000 .

>> this debate with rand paul i think is a little sterile, because you have the rand paul camp saying the party needs principles. well, of course it does, because any party without principles is rudderless and passive. and you have chris christie saying you need power and a compelling governing agenda. well, of course you do because that's the only way you effect your principles. so it's not either/or. it's both. i think what christie is after is the george w. bush model saying this is a model for the presidential race and what he would hope to do is cement that establishment slot in the primary and hope he's facing a divided field on the right. and if history is any guide, that's a pretty good way to win a republican no, ma'am nation.

>> robert gibbs ?

>> and the peatwathway may have gotten a little clearer, because the rnc did a very savvy thing this week, right? first of all, they're working the reps on these hillary documentaries and specials, right? brens preevs is running the script so when a script goes into production, somebody will say make this scene tougher. the second thing he's doing is cutting down markedly on the number of debates, which became the roman colosseum of republican politics last time, which are populated in huge auditoriums where activists want more and more and more. and it becomes you run for president in order to get a radio talk show when you don't win the nomination. if those things fall a bit by the wayside, you've moderated the process a bit, the establishment candidates have more control over this. probably a better week for chris christie than it was for ted cruz or rand paul .

>> here, we were looking at history this week, going back to ronald reagan , as so many republicans do, and looking at his speech at the convention, july of 1980 . and which is part of what reagan said then.

>> this convention has shown to all america a party united with positive programs for solving the nation's problems, a party ready to build a new consensus with all those across the land who share a community of values embodied in these words -- family, work, neighborhood, peace and freedom .

>> chuck todd , who is the republican at this point who embodies that or embodies a newer version of it?

>> don't forget, that version of ronald reagan was a modified version, because the guy who sort of was wanting to burn down the party a little bit lost in '76, close, but very divisive when you basically had the establishment versus the conservatives, and he ran a more uniting campaign, moderated himself a little bit. look, christie on paper, as a general election candidate, you sit there and you say, okay, that's probably the best person they could do to go win a couple of purple states . like, who could go in there and win florida? who could go in there and win iowa or michigan, right? who can connect with the working-class democrats? or maybe, you know, the overweight guy from new jersey, and i mean that as -- no, it makes him seem less sterile. mitt romney was this scripted type businessman who had this regimen and he jogged every morning and chris christie seems like an every man, and particularly against a political dynasty if you're going up there. the problem is, how does he get through this primary process? because conservatives are going to argue, you know what, bush was a compromise, mccain was a compromise, romney was a compromise. we've gone with the establishment, we can keep going back, bob dole , four straight times. what's it really done for the republican party ? is it in a better place today than in the reagan era? and i think that's going to be the real fight inside the party . and chris christie has to figure out, how does he prove he's conservative enough? and it's going to be tough.

>> congresswoman, as you look as a democrat on the outside, you don't have the rooting interests, but how formidable do you look at the republican party as being right now?

>> well, i don't see the pathway for chris christie , given especially what chuck has really outlined. and the problem for republicans is not kind of where they say what they say and how many venues they have to say it, it's what they're saying, and when what they're saying is against immigrants and women and african-american teenagers, it's something that just isn't going to go for the broader swath of those independent voters and the country. so, i don't really see the pathway for chris christie .

>> i will say, i think one of the most important speeches at the rnc this week was when newt gingrich challenged the party not to simply be against obama care but have positive policy ideas. and you see that in the clip from reagan . and rich talked a little bit about this sort of the debates sort of rand paul and chris christie . you will see this race form when somebody begins to outline a hopeful, optimistic governing vision for where they want to take both the party and the country. that, i think, is the reagan optimism that a republican candidate needs. and everyone knows what they're against.

>> newt was absolutely right about that. it's not enough to oppose obama care. now, republicans should oppose obama care. it's falling apart in front of our eyes. we're seeing rate increases, even though the president is saying health insurance is going to be cheaper for everyone. but the party needs an agenda where they can say this is how we want to help people get health insurance that's affordable, that's renewable, that's going to be for them, there for them when they're sick.

>> and they're not going to get any help in the congress because it's a congress that has intentionally not put forward any kind of positive policy agenda.

>> right.

>> well, they quite frankly need a nominee that's not based on republicans in congress. they don't need an obstructionist agenda. they need some sort of positive agenda, and i think that's why there was some power in what newt gingrich said.

>> so, we're talking about the republican party . we're coming up on an anniversary that is going to give the president an opportunity to highlight some presidential leadership moments. we're talking about the anniversary of the march on washington coming up on august 28th . that's where dr. martin luther king jr ., of course, made his "i have a dream" speech. 50 years ago next sunday, king appeared on this very program. here is some of what he had to say.

>> i think that we must face the fact that in reality, you cannot have economic and political equality without having some form of social equality . i think this is inevitable, and i don't think our society will rise to its full maturity until we come to see that man are made to live together as brothers and that we can have genuine intergroup, interpersonal living and still be in the kind of society which we all long to achieve.

>> congresswoman, next saturday, the 50th anniversary , president obama going to recreate that moment, in effect, on the washington mall . how significant is it?

>> i think it's really significant when you think 50 years ago, and i think that, you know, dr. king did have some vision that some day there might be an african-american in the white house , living that dream. and i think the president is going to speak to that. and most importantly, i think he's going to speak to economic inequality . he's done that a number of times over the last several weeks and months. and i think that the speech in washington is actually going to give him an opportunity to follow up on the dr. king dream, say i saying it's social equality . you know, we've had problems around race relations , but it's about economic inequality .

>> rich lowry , does he use any part of this as a way to challenge republicans to try to jump start something in his second term on inequality, on the economy?

>> i doubt it. and it's sort of an inappropriate forum for that, i would think. what i take away from the march on washington -- abraham lincoln referred to the declaration of independence as this electric cord going throughout all of american history and you had those marchers grabbing on to that chord and using that to make the country a more just place.

>> robert gibbs .

>> obviously, it would be a special moment, and i think, you know, we look back 50 years and see how much the country has changed, how much it still has to come, but understanding the role that martin luther king played, as "time" magazine pointed out this week, is probably one of the founding fathers of modern america.

>> john lewis 's speech, right? john lewis will be on this program next week, a special edition of "meet the press" as we mark that 50th anniversary . thank you all very much for the discussion this morning. that's all for today.