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'Tim Russert' for  Jan. 5

Read the transcript to the Saturday show

Guests: Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, David Gregory

TIM RUSSERT, HOST:  In Iowa, it was Barack Obama for the Democrats, Mike Huckabee for the Republicans.  And now it’s New Hampshire, and that’s where we are. 

The armory in downtown Manchester, NBC News headquarters for covering the all-important New Hampshire primary.  And who better to put it in perspective than the NBC News dream political team—David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd.

Welcome all.  Here we go. 

First, Chuck Todd, what happened in Iowa? 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS:  Well, you had an—on the Democratic side, an enormous turnout.  New caucus-goers, young caucus-goers, and it just fueled the insurgency that Obama’s campaign team said that they were going to pull off. 

They said they had all these new voters that were going to show up.  And yet, all of us were a little skeptical. 

We all got burned by Howard Dean four years ago.  We all thought we had seen this movie, and we were all worried that, you know, may be he can’t pull it off.  When you rely on young voters to show up, when you’re relying on Independents to come to a Democratic activist function—this is not really a primary, but these caucuses where you really have to spend time there.  And—but, wow. 

I mean, he just—they nearly doubled their all-time record turnout, 239,000 folks show up.  Eighty percent of them were Democrats.  This wasn’t totally fueled by Independents.  Obviously, Obama did incredibly well there, but it was a change-fueled electorate.

Over 50 percent told our entrance polls that they were there for change, and over 50 percent of those folks went for Obama.  I mean, it wasn’t even close.  Change was everything.  Obama got his people out like nobody thought he would. 

RUSSERT:  First-time caucus-goers, 56 percent, Andrea Mitchell.  Forty percent of the voters were under the age of 45. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  Amazing.  Plus women.  Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton 35 to 30 percent among women.  And remarkably, by huge numbers among younger women. 

Young people in general went for Barack Obama, not for Hillary Clinton.  And as Chuck was just saying, turned out. 

Why Hillary Clinton lost hear appeal to women, it was partly this generational move, because the breakdown was so dramatic among younger women as compared to older women.  And they know, the Clinton team, that they’ve got a real problem, because she has to now reinvent herself in a couple of days before the New Hampshire vote.  That’s not possible.  Yet, she seems to have lost her traction with the very people she was counting on, whom she’d been appealing to all along. 

It’s a remarkable turnabout, and they seem really off their game.  They don’t now how to counter it. 

They were talking on the plane from Iowa to New Hampshire about going negative, about attack ads.  They actually made an ad, we believe, but then never launched it because they realized that they don’t have time to go negative, and the candidate herself did not want to.

There’s infighting, Bill Clinton blaming the Iowa staff, the staff blaming Bill Clinton for several gaffes along the way.  When you have this kind of tension with Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, camps within this one organization blaming each other for what happened in Iowa, that is not what you want going into New Hampshire. 

RUSSERT:  David? 

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS:  I had a remarkable experience, Tim.  I was actually at a caucus site in west Des Moines this week.  You know, for people who think that Iowa shouldn’t have a chance to be first in the nation, this was a remarkable experience. 

The enthusiasm, the seriousness with which they approached this task was striking.  And there was a precinct captain there for Hillary Clinton who said to me, it is remarkable, she said, when Barack Obama got into the race, she said, all bets are off.  That’s how she felt. 

And at this particular site, turnout was amazing, including Independents and some Republicans who caucused for Barack Obama.  And that was part of the story.

His people said, look, the young people showed up, they showed up in equal numbers, as older Americans there in Iowa as well.  And that was really a big part of the story, change and the fact that Barack Obama’s really making people feel something. 

RUSSERT:  At that caucus site in 2004, how many Iowans had showed up? 

GREGORY:  Eighty-six people. 

RUSSERT:  And this year? 

GREGORY:  Two hundred and sixty-seven.  And just to break down those numbers further, 127 people were there for Barack Obama, 61 for Hillary Clinton. 

The level of organization that you saw too was striking among Barack Obama’s people as well.  And they had all kinds of, you know, ribbons and such, to have a hard count for people.  Just strongly organized, they got the people out. 

RUSSERT:  Chuck Todd, the Clinton people have been telling us that, well, one of the reasons they lost Iowa was because their voters couldn’t get to the caucuses.  Some worked the afternoon shift or the night shift.  Fair point? 

TODD:  Well, look, they are relying on the blue collar Democratic vote, but don’t forget, John Edwards was taking a good chunk of that as well.  And I think that they still believe to this day, by the way, that if Edwards had faded a lot sooner and not been sort of a part of that race, that they still think they would have had a better shot at stopping Obama, because they do think that the Clintons’ appeal to the working-class Democrat a lot better than Obama. 

The problem now, as we move from Iowa to New Hampshire, and I’m struck by this—David, by the caucus site you went to—suburban, Des Moines is an upscale neighborhood.

GREGORY:  Republican, too.

TODD:  Right, Republican.

MITCHELL:  More like New Hampshire. 

TODD:  More like New Hampshire. 

This thing is so set up for Obama.  Now, of course that means the burden of expectation is on Obama.  But New Hampshire, one of the highest states in the union of college-educated residents, this is Obama’s base.  If he can’t figure out how to basically do the same thing in Iowa he did in New Hampshire, then he won’t be the nominee, but, wow, it is set up for him because he turned Iowa—he turned Iowa into New Hampshire. 

He made it a little more upscale, a little younger.  Iowa is normally older, normally less college-educated, more working class.  He changed the face of that electorate.  Now he goes to an electorate that’s already upper class, that’s already highly educated.  Wow. 

RUSSERT:  Andrea, let me pick up on a very important point you made with women.

Hillary Clinton making history, the first woman president of the United States.  And the foundation of that certainly middle-aged elderly women.  But young women seizing that mantel, smashing that ceiling, and yet, they said, you know what, we’re going to vote for Barack Obama. 

So then we see Hillary Clinton land in New Hampshire and say, I’m going to fight for the next generation, for the future generation. 

Can she retool?  Can she pivot and reach out to younger women? 

MITCHELL:  Well, certainly the Clintons have proved in the past that they know how to pivot and become self-defined comeback kids.  Even placing second, they will declare themselves winners.  But when you saw the initial comments that she made and her first speeches when she landed in New Hampshire, it’s all, I’m reaching out to the next generation. 

You’re absolutely right, Tim.  She is changing her message trying to appeal to these young people, because she acknowledged to reporters yesterday she had failed to reach out to them. 

That was a real setback, and they overlooked a whole generation of voters.  Didn’t write them off, but assumed that they wouldn’t show up.  They didn’t target them. 

I’m not sure there’s time to change that message because she has somehow—and there’s irony and sadness for the Clinton people in this.  Here you have this woman who’s the first successful female candidate nationally.  She seems as part of history.  She’s the last generation...

TODD:  Actually, I want to underscore that.  Ryan Lizza in “The New Yorker,” the upcoming issue, his lead is, “How prophetic is it that the final Clinton rally in Iowa was held in a museum?”  I mean, just what you were saying.

RUSSERT:  We’re going to take a quick break.  A lot more to talk about. 

Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, David Gregory.

We are coming from the armory in New Hampshire.  This is it, ground zero for the New Hampshire primary, just days away.

We’ll be right back. 


RUSSERT:  Our location, the armory in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire.  Our guests, the NBC News political team.

David Gregory, you wanted to jump in here.

GREGORY:  Yes, to talk about the Democrats.  You know, we’re analyzing the race, but I think there’s the voter sentiment that’s really important here.

We keep talking about this being a change election.  Hillary Clinton’s talked a lot about having the experience to bring about change.  So you break that down a little bit and you say, are Democrats sitting back and saying, OK, in a time of crisis, a time of war, do we want a steady hand there?  Or, after the Bush years, do we really want some radical change here, we want a whole different approach?

It seems to be the latter.  And that’s where they’re going to Barack Obama.

He is fresh.  And part of the reason he’s so popular is that there’s lots of people who just don’t like Hillary Clinton for lots of reasons.  It’s women, it’s men, it’s older people, it’s younger people.

It’s an issue for her.  She’s polarizing not just on the right, but on the left as well.  And you see that.  And that’s part of the traction that they, the Clinton people, have recognized about Barack Obama.  That’s what she’s running into, and it’s a fascinating question to me about whether people are willing to push so hard for such radical change, that they will forego some of the experience that a lot of people think is really important not just to win, but to govern in these times.

RUSSERT:  You know, it’s interesting.  Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist, Mark Penn, has a book called “Microtrends,” where he talks about these little aspects of society—Hispanic voters, or union members—and it seems as if the trend we’re watching is a macrotrend. 

MITCHELL:  And he missed (ph) it.

RUSSERT:  It just washes away any microtrend.

MITCHELL:  And you’re talking now about how they focus too much on experience, not enough on change.  Well, it may be too late to portray her as what Bill Clinton belatedly started describing her as, a change agent. 

People know Hillary Clinton.  They saw her as first lady.  They saw her go through the struggles, they saw her become elected to the Senate and do a remarkably good job, according to Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, working coalitions, working on military affairs as a member of the Armed Services Committee.  So she’s got all of those, you know, high points in her career, but they perhaps know her too well. 

And as David was just point out, she’s got a real problem on the left, and that will possibly surface here in New Hampshire, because there are people here who still do not forgive her for the war—the vote on the war in Iraq.  And the argument against her experience argument is, if you’re so experienced, why did you vote along with Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld and George Bush on Iraq?  That is what liberal Democrats are saying.

GREGORY:  No matter what the—can I just say, I still think a very effective argument was Bill Clinton’s argument, which is you’re rolling the dice if you vote for Barack Obama.  There’s a lot of people who think that. 

There’s a terrorist attack in the first hundred days, close your eyes and imagine Barack Obama dealing with that.  Who does he have around him? 

MITCHELL:  That’s what the Republicans will say, for sure.

GREGORY:  But that’s what the—but I think it’s a fair argument.  It just may not win the day in this climate. 

TODD:  You know, I had this theory a few months ago watching her in the summer—and she was really methodically looking like she was building this lead and doing everything right—that she was running the perfect—rerunning the perfect John Kerry campaign from 2004.  And that maybe she missed her window. 

If this doesn’t happen—you know, it’s all about timing, and the reason supposedly that Obama ran, you know, he said that he knew this was his moment.  And there’s a lot of evidence that maybe this was maybe the only window in time that he could get elected.  And I think that sometimes you look back in history and there are little windows. 

Hillary Clinton should have run in ‘04, because this idea that she could have brought some change with experience was exactly what the country wanted in 2004.  In 2008, the country doesn’t want a little bit of change, they want a lot of change. 

RUSSERT:  The Clinton people, however, Chuck, are saying, don’t count us out yet.  We can still win here in New Hampshire. 

Fair point? 

TODD:  I think they have to.  I mean, yes.  I mean, they felt like things were turning around here. 

You know, about three weeks ago, when Obama was surging in Iowa, he was also surging here.  Now obviously the gap is closing, but they still have a lead. 

The Clinton folks still feel like they have a lead.  They feel like they can hold on.

Al Gore held on here.  Maybe the John McCain resurrection with Republicans could draw some Independents away from Obama. 

RUSSERT:  Right.

TODD:  I mean, there’s sort a lot of things at play here, but they need it.  I mean, the Clintons need it.  I don’t know if they can get the nomination without...

RUSSERT:  It’s such an important point.  In Iowa, the Independents, Obama had them pretty much to himself. 

Here, John McCain running on the Republican side, Andrea, is competing for those same Independents. 

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

RUSSERT:  Now, they make up 45 percent of the voting bloc here. 

MITCHELL:  It’s a huge bloc here.  And as John McCain increases his support, that could take away potentially from the kind of Independents who would got go for Barack Obama. 

So it’s a seesaw effect.  And as one goes up, the other goes down, and it is, you know, across party lines. 

The other thing about this place is that if she doesn’t win here, she’s saying, they’re saying that they can go on, that Super Tuesday, February 5th, the big states that are her logical strongholds.  But between here and February 5th, they have to get through South Carolina, where Barack Obama has potentially enormous strength with the large African-American community, the community that was fired up by Oprah Winfrey. 

RUSSERT:  Fifty percent of the voters in that Democratic primary have traditionally been African-American. 

MITCHELL:  And so she potentially faces the same problem that Rudy Giuliani faces by counting on a February 5th strategy, is that if you don’t win anywhere before February 5th, how viable are you as a national candidate?  If Barack Obama comes out of here with a victory and moves on to South Carolina, then perhaps picks up the culinary workers in Nevada who are waiting to see, you know, who the front-runner is, he could really be a locomotive hard to stop. 

RUSSERT:  David, the Clinton camp kind of wrestling right now.  What do we do?  How do we come back after Iowa?  Do we attack Barack Obama? 

I was taken by Hillary Clinton’s comments yesterday here in New Hampshire.  “I’ve been the most vetted, the most investigated, the most innocent presidential candidate ever,” suggesting, you know who I am, the Republicans are going to—she called it, “have a blazing inferno” thrown at them by the Republicans. 

GREGORY:  Right.

RUSSERT:  You know I can withstand the heat.  Suggesting that Obama is untested? 

GREGORY:  Right, that he’s untested, that he’s inexperienced.  And I don’t know, maybe there’s a suggestion there going back to what was raised here in New Hampshire by her people that, you know, his past cocaine use is something that will blow up in his campaign. 

The reality is that—and you’ve got Bill Clinton now, who  is attacking the press coverage and saying that because we’re not giving a Barack Obama a very hard time, that we’ll be responsible for putting a Republican in the White House.  Which...

RUSSERT:  When did he say this? 

GREGORY:  He said it just yesterday.  Just this past week, the last couple of days of the week. 

So, you know, it’s really striking.  On the one hand, I think she is right that she is tested and she’s tough, and she’s demonstrated that toughness.  She’s also going to attract a lot more fire because she’s got a longer record. 

You know, this idea that somehow the press is not asking tough questions of Barack Obama, I’d just be very curious to sort of break that down and look at the attack points from the Clinton campaign.  And let’s talk about what questions have not been asked.

It seems to me the number one argument that they’ve made against Barack Obama is that he’s inexperienced.  I myself, you have, we’ve all done it, have specifically asked that question about a hundred different ways about his lack of experience. 

They’re the ones that brought up his issue of past cocaine use, his issue of past votes and his Senate record in Illinois.  What precisely hasn’t been asked? 

The reality for the Clintons is that with experience comes a long record of Bill Clinton in the White House, of Hillary Clinton in the White House, of their time in Arkansas, of impeachment.  There’s a lot to talk about with them.  And that’s part of the success of their time in public life. 

TODD:  It brings up something...

RUSSERT:  Hold on.


RUSSERT:  Just hold the point.  Chuck Todd, we’re coming back to you.

TODD:  Fair enough.

RUSSERT:  We’re in New Hampshire.

We’ll be right back with the NBC News political team.  We’re putting this primary into perspective and context for you right after this.


RUSSERT:  And we’re in New Hampshire.

Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News, you say...

TODD:  I just—one other point we were bringing up before, and that is this idea of just this long history that she has, 16 years.  A former colleague of mine, Jonathan Rausch (ph), has this great idea that—he calls it a freshness test.  And he believes that no presidential candidate with more than 14 years of elected experience can get elected because you just—there’s too much there, it’s hard to change, it’s hard to—the question with Hillary always was, is she new because she’s really only been an elected official for seven years, or because she was—did she really have a copresidency in the mind of the public and she was there for now 16 years? 

I think the public is treating her as somebody that’s been around for two decades, and that’s why she’s having a hard time. 

RUSSERT:  It was interesting in Iowa, Andrea.  Every time Hillary Clinton said, “I have 35 years of experience,” even some voters were saying, what is that?  Just exactly what is that experience? 

MITCHELL:  Well, in making her experience argument, she had to explain what she did as first lady and that led to, well, you took 83 trips overseas, but you never had a security clearance, you never sat in at National Security Council meetings.  If she had, she would have been criticized as Rosalynn Carter was briefly as a first lady, trying to sit in on cabinet meetings. 

So, she’s really damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t on that argument.  But she got trapped in that experience argument in what as we discussed earlier is, by every measure, a change election.  And if her people didn’t capture that trend, that, you know, overwhelming tidal wave that was coming across this country, they made a really big mistake.  They thought that they had to sell her as being more experienced. 

TODD:  Right.  As you noted, microtrend.  He microtrended this thing, Mark Penn.  He didn’t see the big picture.

GREGORY:  But can I just make the counterargument here, which is that Hillary Clinton has a lot of money, she’s high profile, she’s got staying power, she’s got a great organization in New Hampshire.  And I still think analytically, she’s got a very strong argument  as a rationale for this race.  And that is, she does have experience, she can take on the Republicans.

And I think there’s a lot of people who would say, you know what?  She could be president today.  Those are a lot of pluses for Hillary Clinton that should not be ignored, because she could win here and all those things are back up in the front of the line. 

RUSSERT:  And then the Obama win in Iowa would be seen as an aberration to her inevitably. 

GREGORY:  Yes, exactly.

MITCHELL:  But what they’re saying—in fact, what she was saying yesterday, she was beating up on Iowa and criticizing the Iowa process, which is appealing to New Hampshire voters, who resent Iowa as having...


MITCHELL:  But she was saying, you know, Iowa is a separate kind of place where people were saying, it’s a curiosity, it’s outside the mainstream, it’s this caucus thing that isn’t real voting.  And as you pointed out earlier, that their people couldn’t get to the polls because they have night jobs, they’re nurses, they’re cafeteria workers. 

All that said, you know, as David points out, she moves out of here with an organization, with so much money into the February 5th states.  And she can recapture, you know, the momentum. 

RUSSERT:  You know, it is interesting as well, we thought when a women would run for president of the United States, the big hurdle would be, will she be perceived as a potential commander in chief, would she be tough enough? 

GREGORY:  Right.  Right.

RUSSERT:  That is not Hillary Clinton’s problem. 


RUSSERT:  We saw her mother and her daughter on the campaign trail in Iowa constantly.  I wonder if we’re going to see them here in New Hampshire. 

MITCHELL:  Well, her daughter is already out with her here, and I think they are trying to soften her up.  And you see now, she clearly is trying to reach out to people and show the complete Hillary. 

They still think that people are misreading her.  They blame us, that people don’t see the real person.  So she’s going to be more chatty, she’s taking questions, she’s even talking to reporters. 

RUSSERT:  Hey, young voters, I have one of you, I have Chelsea.  And I’m doing it for her.

TODD:  It should just be the two of them up there.  You know, at her concession speech on Thursday night, I felt like I was looking at a yellowing photograph from the ‘90s.  You know, something that was a Polaroid that was fading, because you had Madeleine Albright, you had Bill Clinton, you had Wesley Clark, you had Terry McCauliffe with grayer hair, with—you know, not to—I don’t want to offend anybody.

RUSSERT:  How old are you, Todd? 


TODD:  No, but the two freshest faces up there were Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.  And you know what?  If I were the campaign, I would have said, you know what?  Just erase all the gray hair out of the way.  Get Hillary, who looks fresh right now and new, and get Chelsea out there, and forget the rest of them. 

RUSSERT:  What do you think? 

GREGORY:  You know, I think that’s part of it.  Again, I think that they can’t—I don’t think you can get in the middle of this process and try to completely wholesale change, what it is you’re selling. 

I still think at the end of the day, Barack Obama is going to make people feel something.  There’s a lot of people, including young people, who are going to like him. 

Her best shot is that she’s got experience, she knows Washington, she will be competent, she’ll have a lot of good people around her, and that she can bring that sort of change.  And that, you know, you don’t have to love her.  You don’t even have to like her in some cases, but she can really get the job done.  So she may remain polarizing, but being liked and being charming is not enough.

MITCHELL:  The real test here is whether passion trumps experience. 

TODD:  The primaries are about passion, though.

RUSSERT:  We’re going to take another quick break. 

We’re coming from New Hampshire.  We’ll be right back with more of the NBC political team.


RUSSERT:  And there’s no place you’d rather be if you like politics and the coverage of it than New Hampshire.  We are in the armory in downtown Manchester with the NBC News political team—David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, and Chuck Todd.

John Edwards came in second place, as we heard him say and his wife say, on election night in Iowa.  He very much wanted a first-place finish, Chuck Todd.  What does a second-place finish in Iowa mean for the John Edwards campaign? 

TODD:  I think, you know, at least it wasn’t third, I guess, is about what they can say.  But it was a narrow second. 

I mean, the one thing they will say is, hey, look, we beat her.  Everybody said if there was this enormous turnout, we wouldn’t have any support, that we had no soft (ph) support.  Well, enormous turnout happened, we did pretty well. 

We’re on—you know, we’re part of the change, we split the change vote with Obama.  At least that’s an argument that will be made, although our polls don’t show that. 

Edwards’ problem is us in the media.  We’ve seen the movie before.  Edwards finishes second in Iowa, comes to New Hampshire and falls flat. 

So now his job is—and their campaign says it—they have to finish in second place here in New Hampshire.  More importantly, if Obama wins it, if they can stop—if they finish ahead of her, she’s out, they think.  That she really would be gone.  And then he at least gets a one-on-one shot with Obama. 

We’ll see.  It’s a reach, but it’s a—you know, it’s a path. 

RUSSERT:  Andrea Mitchell, one of the interesting things in this campaign have been the spouses.  We talked about Bill Clinton and his role in the Hillary Clinton campaign.  We’ve seen Michelle Obama on the campaign stop with her children, a very aggressive campaigner for Barack Obama, and even said to people, you know, if we don’t win here, we probably won’t run for president again, because we’ll be disconnected, we’ll be in a different place in our lives. 

Elizabeth Edwards have been the most forceful spouse.  Chuck Todd pointed out the night of the Iowa caucus, she went up, grabbed the microphone and said, thank you for finishing second.  When John Edwards finishes his speech, she whispered in his ear, and he went back to the microphone and said, “We finished second.”

MITCHELL:  Defining the term.

RUSSERT:  She has a big role, doesn’t she? 

MITCHELL:  She has a huge role.  She is his top strategist, and you see when you go to their rallies, he will speak and say—you know, a big finish and say, “Now I’m going to take some questions.”  And then at one rally I was at, she interrupted, took the microphone, and made a few more points that he had failed to make, and then he could come back and take the questions. 

So she jumps right in there and is his best advocate on television interviews and in public appearances.  Despite her illness, she has the energy and strength and character of a real, you know, thoroughbred political strategist. 

She is amazing.  And I think he campaigns better when she’s around. 

They’ve brought the children with them.  You know, they practically moved to Iowa for all that time. 

Whether that translates to here is a big argument, because this is not a state that has traditionally gone for the corporate greed’s populist message.  Tom Harkin failed to connect here, and that was the kind of message, the Iowa senator, that Edwards was espousing in Iowa. 

So, whether that clicks here with an economy that was retooled, that depends on globalization, New Hampshire is not the Rust Belt. 

RUSSERT:  The one point I want to make, David, about New Hampshire, is it’s a state that is comfortable with women in political office.  They had a governor here, Jeanne Shaheen, here.

GREGORY:  Right.

RUSSERT:  Their legislature has a huge number of women in office.  And that, for me, is curious about, what does that mean for Hillary Clinton, what does that mean for John Edwards who has a strong advocate in Elizabeth Edwards?

GREGORY:  Right.

RUSSERT:  Barack Obama, a strong advocate in Michelle Obama. 

What’s your sense?

GREGORY:  Well, I think—and it’s different in Iowa in that sense, that does not have a woman in high office in the state.  So, yes, more of a comfort level there. 

But you know, in the case of Hillary Clinton, again, it’s interesting.  We talk about the first female candidate for president.  I don’t even think gender is an issue for her in the race. 

Toughness, gender, I don’t know, I don’t see it.  I just think she sort of transcends those issues.  It’s more about her history and it’s more about what people really want in terms of change over experience. 

I think on the Edwards front, what’s interesting to me is that, if Bill Clinton weren’t the former president, there’d be a lot more attention on the fact that Elizabeth Edwards, I think, overshadows her husband.  It’s one thing to be a strong surrogate and a strong advocate, it’s another to start making the points that she thinks her husband should be making. 

I don’t know if you can see any evidence of this in how people feel about it, but I have seen numerous occasions where she is making arguments that he decided not to make, almost in a corrective fashion, not in a supportive fashion. 

TODD:  Well, it’s interesting.  You know, Democrats need a candidate for the U.S. Senate down in North Carolina.  Elizabeth versus Elizabeth, what do you think? 

RUSSERT:  Elizabeth Dole versus Elizabeth Edwards.  There you go.  You handicapped... 


TODD:  I’m handicapping it right now.  Let’s go.  Let’s go.

GREGORY:  This isn’t enough for Chuck.  He wants more. 

TODD:  No, I want more.  Exactly.

RUSSERT:  We’re going to take on the Republicans in the next segment, but give us the bottom line on New Hampshire as you see it. 

TODD:  Well, look, it’s—you know, we talked about all the Clinton problems, but let’s remember, this is a must-win for Obama now.  I mean, you hate to put it in those terms, but could he have it set up any better for him? 

Independents can come and vote, this is a very highly-educated state.  It’s all there for him to take.  And it’s sort of like—and he said it himself, and he said, you know, “You give me the New Hampshire primary and I’m going to be president.”

He may be right.  This thing could be over by then. 

I still have this theory that, you know, the Clintons will never give up.  Ted Kennedy never got out of the race.  Jimmy Carter battered him early.  Never got out because the Kennedy legacy was on the line. 

The Clinton legacy is on the line and they will not give up easily.  But I’ll tell you, Obama has to win here.  It is—the burden is now on him. 

RUSSERT:  Well, if he loses, she’s the comeback kid. 

TODD:  She’s the comeback kid and wow, that will be also a force.  And not only that, there’s not a new event to sort of upend things. 

There’s a long time between New Hampshire and South Carolina.  I’m never sure how Nevada’s going to play.  It’s an organizational state.  Harry Reid may have it wired for Hillary Clinton, for all we know.  I know he’s not officially endorsed her, but The Sun had. 

So, it’s a long time.  Obama losing here would have to wait a long time to get to South Carolina.

RUSSERT:  But if he did win here and he did win the Nevada caucus, and then went down to South Carolina, where—if he won there, I think you’d see a lot of traditional Democrats, African-American Democrats, saying, hold on Bill and Hillary Clinton, this man has just won four in a row. 


TODD:  It’s OK to go through February 5th, but I think you’re right, if they—if it’s decisive, if he’s winning, you know, 18 of the 23 contests on February 5th, there’s going to be a movement. 

MITCHELL:  And there’s one theory that in South Carolina, a lot of African-Americans who were supporting Hillary Clinton in earlier polls will look at the results in Iowa if he were to win New Hampshire and say, you know, we can take this chance, this is our history, our future.  And if white voters are willing to...

TODD:  Two of the whitest states in the union.

MITCHELL:  Two of the whitest states in the union take the chance on Barack Obama, the first African-American presidential candidate with this kind of support, well, why shouldn’t we stand up for ourselves? 

RUSSERT:  We’re going to take a quick break and come back and talk about the Republicans.  Mike Huckabee won in Iowa, he now comes to New Hampshire.  Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, John McCain, who won the state in 2000 against George W. Bush, a red-hot Republican race here as well.

We’ll be right back.


RUSSERT:  New Hampshire, the Republicans.

A really wild primary here, David Gregory.  Let’s set the stage. 

Mike Huckabee, Baptist minister, former governor of Arkansas, wins in Iowa.  He spent one-twentieth the number of dollars that Mitt Romney spent, the former governor of Massachusetts, but he won. 

Sixty percent of the turnout in Iowa on the Republican side, Evangelical Christians.  He won them overwhelmingly.  The 40 percent who are not Evangelical Christians, Huckabee got 14 percent of that vote. 

What does that tell us about Huckabee in New Hampshire? 

GREGORY:  Well, even Huckabee’s team does not believe that he’s got a lot of strength here in New Hampshire.  He’s retooling his message, you know, where he advertises himself as a Christian leader in Iowa.  He’s tamping some of that language and rhetoric down, trying to sell himself as an agent of change, with fresh ideas. 

And he’s such a good communicator.  But he is really looking toward South Carolina.  His campaign manager, Ed Rollins, said publicly, that it’s kind of an alliance of sorts with John McCain up here because, as Rollins is quoted as saying, nobody likes Mitt Romney and we like John McCain. 

So I think what’s interesting is our colleague and friend John Harwood (ph) described the Republicans as “chaos theory” right now in terms of how to get the nomination.  And that’s really it. 

Up in New Hampshire, it seems to me, it’s a Romney/McCain fight.  They are locked in the polls.  They’re going on the attack with each other. 

I was out yesterday with John McCain.  He’s fired up. 

Some of his supporters up here in the state, who know the state well, who a few months ago said, no, I don’t think he can do it here, now they’re behind him.  They say he can do it.  So that’s where it is.  And you look down to South Carolina for Mike Huckabee to play again. 

RUSSERT:  It’s an interesting insight into politics, Andrea Mitchell.  You have Mike Huckabee in Iowa saying when Mitt Romney attacked John McCain, that was it for me.  John McCain’s a national hero, embracing John McCain. 

John McCain saying nice thing about Mike Huckabee—congratulations, Governor, Pastor Mike, on your win in Iowa.  You took care of Mitt in Iowa, I’ll take care of Mitt in New Hampshire.  But guess what?  That friendship, that alliance ends if McCain wins here, because then it’s Huckabee/McCain head to head in South Carolina. 

MITCHELL:  Head to head in South Carolina.

GREGORY:  And maybe Michigan before that. 

MITCHELL:  And the real problem that McCain would have—and we went to see him, as you know—you were there in that small room in Iowa when he had, you know, hundreds of people, people in 2, 3-degree temperatures outside at night waiting to get in.  It was the fired up John McCain of the 2000 victory here in New Hampshire. 

He has recaptured that spirit.  But then if he were to win here, he has to go head to head with Mike Huckabee, a southern Baptist preacher, in South Carolina, where the evangelicals killed John McCain in 2000 and a lot of dirty tricks from the Bush forces.  And South Carolina could be the heartbreaker again for John McCain, where Mike Huckabee could be really launched towards Florida and other states.  Michigan, though, is another backstop. 

TODD:  There’s a new alliance.  There’ll be a new alliance after this though.  Huckabee will now find a new ally.  It’s sort of almost like you’re watching, you know, in Rudy Giuliani. 

MITCHELL:  In Rudy Giuliani.

TODD:  Giuliani obviously would obviously love nothing more than a one-on-one with Huckabee in Florida.  So what will he do?  Maybe in a one-on-one with McCain, Giuliani plays a little bit in Michigan, figuring any vote he takes he’s taking from McCain, helping Huckabee.

The same in South Carolina.  Any vote he takes away from McCain, he’s helping Huckabee.  I think you might see a new alliance there, but we’ll see. 

You know, the thing we’re not talking about here is the dramatic, just collapse, of Mitt Romney.  You know, if he doesn’t win here, this is a single elimination tournament.  It’s like the NCAA Tournament.  You know, lose and go home. 

Romney and McCain are in a single elimination, lose and go home. 

RUSSERT:  Whoever loses is finished. 

TODD:  Finished.  There’s no path anymore, done.  Romney people swear there is, you know, because he can keep throwing money at it, but it’s done. 

GREGORY:  I think what’s interesting here is that unlike 2000, the Republican Party does not have a unifying theme.  And you talk to top Republicans who were wish Bush back in 2000, they’ll make that point. 

There was compassionate conservatism, Bush was an establishment choice.  There’s none of that.  There is a real desire for change, but they’re sort of handicapped by the fact that Bush is so unpopular but still very popular among conservatives.  So these Republican candidates have had to maneuver very carefully. 

John McCain is making an interesting argument, which is the Republican Party needs to coaless around me because I can make a very strong national security argument, a campaign against the Democrat.  You know he’ll do that against Hillary Clinton, although she’s tough, she’s got some credentials, she can defend herself. 

He can certainly make that case against Barack Obama, bring up experience on foreign affairs, principally.  And when you hear John McCain on the stump, in the last couple of days I have, that is the thrust of his message, that he’s been part of every major foreign policy debate.  That’s the argument.

TODD:  And he makes a good case, basically—I can get—I’ll get 48 percent.  And at some point maybe the Republican establishment says, you know what, John McCain may not be able to win the general, but he won’t get killed. 

Huckabee’s a roll of the dice.  He could get killed and that could cost—that could move the Senate a heck of a lot closer to 60 seats for the Democrats, cost them 20 House seats. 

John McCain is the nominee, he’s not going to get anything lower than 47, 48.  That will save Senate seats.  You know, at some point there’s that pragmatic streak I think that a lot of the Republican Party’s establishment voters could have, and you might see this.  If he wins out of here, you might see all of a sudden...

RUSSERT:  But we keep hearing this, Chuck, about how the Republican establishment is afraid of Mike Huckabee.  Who is the Republican establishment?  Where are they going to meet?  How are they going to stop him? 

TODD:  Right.

MITCHELL:  Well, there is some setting in Appalachia where all these guys get together.

No, there is a Wall Street establishment, certainly.  There’s—the problem the party has is that there the evangelical part of the party, there are social conservatives, then there are the economic conservatives who could have coalesced around Mitt Romney, around Fred Thompson, who were speaking their message. 

McCain does manage to bridge a couple of these things, because he can appeal to the economic conservatives and the military conservatives.  His problem, of course, is with the social conservatives and those who will never forgive him for immigration and for finance—campaign finance reform. 

RUSSERT:  Right.

Another quick break.  We’re coming back.

We’re in New Hampshire.  The focus on the New Hampshire primary just days away, right after this.


RUSSERT:  And we’re back from New Hampshire.

Mike Huckabee, David Gregory, here’s an amazing story.  Here he was, so outspent in Iowa. 

I went to Bill Clinton event in Carlisle, Iowa, and he was talking about his wife and he said, let me take a second on the Republicans here.  Not just because I’m from Hope, Arkansas, where Huckabee happens to be from. 

He said, but when I watch those debates, Huckabee is the only Republican who can give a speech and tell a joke.  And it was Clinton as the analyst, observing in the art form of politics.

GREGORY:  Right.  Right.

RUSSERT:  And it’s that personality of Huckabee, I think, that has transformed this race and has given him a real chance at this nomination. 

GREGORY:  I think you’re right.  And that’s what you’re impressed by. 

You know, if you see him on the stump, if you see him in a debate, if you interview him one-on-one, you get a sense of his communication skills, you get a sense of, you know, some of what motivates him.  And look, I happen to think he speaks about faith in a very interesting, not exclusive way at all. 

I think he speaks about it in a way that a lot of people practice it and feel it.  So I don’t think that’s such a big turnoff.  And I think sometimes, you know, his evangelical support can be somewhat seen as something of a negative from people who may not share that faith.  So I don’t think that’s the case. 

I still think the problem is that Republicans really don’t know what they want right now, and they’re torn asunder over immigration.  There’s a rejection of the Bush years when it comes to confidence in handling Katrina, confidence in handling foreign affairs.  You’ve got John McCain talking about, you know, returning to conservative roots when it comes to spending. 

So they’re really sort of scattered.  And it’s the chaos theory once again.  And so you’ve got these—you know, Rudy Giuliani waiting in the wings with a February 5th appeal.  Very difficult to see what’s going to move it at the end. 

RUSSERT:  And yet, when you talk about Mike Huckabee, the journalists back in Arkansas will say that the national media is not getting the full picture.  Actually writing that he’s mean and petty and vindictive and been cited by the Ethics Committee in Arkansas four different times, and that you really ought to focus on that, his use of pardons and commutations. 

Mitt Romney tried to use some of that on the air in negative commercials.  It didn’t seem to work. 

Will negative work in New Hampshire against Huckabee? 

TODD:  It doesn’t appear so.  But, by the way, have we seen that Arkansas movie before?  The local journalists saying, what’s going on with you national media types?  You’re taken by our governor, who we’ve beaten the heck out over the years.  You don’t know anything. 


MITCHELL:  And he certainly had a hard time in ‘92. 


TODD:  So, what’s interesting here about the negative is all of the candidates, not just—you know, Hillary Clinton made the decision not to go negative on Obama here, but Romney has backed off the negativity, because he was even in Iowa.  They kept the negative going and he loses by nine. 

So there is this, you know, be careful, the more you attack—because Huckabee has this way.  He’s so—he’s Teflon.  I mean, he really is in how just everything slides off him. 

RUSSERT:  Let me stay on Romney, because he was putting himself out at the establishment candidate.  I have put all three legs of the Reagan stool together.  Yesterday, I’m the only one who can bring change. 

TODD:  Yes.  The great irony of our entrance polls is that one of the only places that Romney beat Huckabee was among moderates.  Imagine that Romney actually stuck with his moderate roots from Massachusetts. 

Had he been the pragmatic, moderate, confident guy—and this goes back—you know, the thing that Romney and Clinton have in common, over the last six months they have changed their mantra.  The only thing good about their change—you know, they were for change, but it was always for changing their message.  And they kept changing it over and over.  They lost their brand I.D. 

Romney, what is he now?  Who is this guy?  And I think—look, I wonder if Romney’s already done and we just—you know, they’re just playing it out.  Because he can’t win a general with the narrative that’s already out here, which is people saying...

RUSSERT:  Andrea Mitchell, Monday, the Independents—Mike bloomberg, David Boren from Oklahoma—are all coming together in a meeting to talk about this race.  Is there anything there? 

MITCHELL:  Well, there is something there.  There’s clearly an interest by people around Mike Bloomberg, Mike Bloomberg himself, despite denials, in being an alternative, an Independent alternative who might be able to get into this race if the party nominees don’t meet certain specifications. 

If there is such a bad feeling in the country, the wrong (ph) track is above 70 percent, I mean, they’ve got it all worked out.  They’ve actually got a mathematical formula, the Bloomberg people, of what it would take. 

And the one factor that might stop him from even going farther along with this is an Obama nomination.  If Obama were the nominee, Mike Bloomberg, I believe, will not want to get into this because he would not want to be the first person to stop an African-American, the first African-American to run for a major party candidacy.  So that would be.

If Hillary Clinton were the nominee, I think it would be much more likely for Bloomberg to get into it, because this is all of the former wise heads from the Senate, John Danforth, Bill Cohen, Sam Nunn, David Boren, coming together and saying what’s wrong with our politics?  They do want to start a national conversation on being more bipartisan and more constructive even if there isn’t a third party candidacy. 

RUSSERT:  Mayor Bloomberg is enormously wealthy.  His folks say that he’d spend a billion dollars of his own money if necessary.  But he doesn’t want to be Ross Perot.  He doesn’t want to win 20 percent of the vote.

If he runs, he wants to win.  He thinks he needs 38 percent of the popular vote to get close to the 270 electoral votes.  That’s very hard for an Independent.

GREGORY:  And I think maybe it puts more pressure on the Republicans to coalesce around one of their candidates more quickly...

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

GREGORY:  ... for fear—they have seen this before back in ‘92. 

TODD:  Clinton-Romney is the ideal result for Michael Bloomberg.  That will—they could be the most polarizing of the two nominees.

MITCHELL:  Or Clinton-Huckabee. 

TODD:  Huckabee and Obama speak—want to speak to the middle, want to change the tone.  I think that makes Bloomberg’s job a little bit harder.  Clinton...

MITCHELL:  Bloomberg would want to get in, I think, if he felt that there were not—if Huckabee were not offering the kind of fiscal solutions that he feels very passionate about. 

RUSSERT:  All right, great oracle.  Wednesday morning headline? 

GREGORY:  “Massive Turnout.


TODD:  Oh, are we out of time?

RUSSERT:  Andrea Mitchell? 

MITCHELL:  Oh, “Big Turnout.  Independents Play a Major Role in This Campaign.” 

RUSSERT:  Decisive role. 

TODD:  Decisive.

MITCHELL:  Decisive role.

TODD:  Let’s me decisive about it.

RUSSERT:  David Gregory, we’re in informal garb today.  As you walked the snow-covered streets of New Hampshire, could you show us please what you’re wearing? 

GREGORY:  Yes, I could.

RUSSERT:  Yes, that is a patent leather Prada boot. 

MITCHELL:  A man of the people. 

RUSSERT:  I want to say, well, the devil does wear Prada.

GREGORY:  Yes.  So do I.  I just want to say that my son, Max, picked these out for me and he just wanted to know whether Uncle Tim wanted a pair, too. 


David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, thanks very much. 

New Hampshire.


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