At the end of a run-off election for Democratic Senate nominee in Arkansas, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter appeared on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” to defend his controversial campaign ad against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, discuss his chances of winning the primary and outline the steps he would take were he to secure a victory tonight. Halter said that in only 99 days, “we’ve launched a campaign and are on the verge of winning a race against a 16-year incumbent. I feel very comfortable about our ability to do that.”
When asked if he would like President Obama to campaign for him in Arkansas during the general election, Halter skirted the issue, saying, “I'm going to welcome support from all corners, but as I said, I'm focused on these next eight hours. And we’ll worry about the next steps after that.”
A full transcript of the interview is below. If used, please credit MSNBC.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Arkansas voters are heading to the polls today in a run-off election to decide the Democratic nominee for Senate.
And there's a good chance it won't be the incumbent. Embattled Senator Blanche Lincoln in the fight of her life. Lincoln's challenger, Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter joining us live from Little Rock.
It's great to see you. Let's talk about this race. The biggest controversy now has been one of your ads. Want to play a little bit of your ad on the whole subject of Blanche Lincoln's position on Medicare and Social Security cuts for seniors. Let's watch.
BILL HALTER, ARKANSAS SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Bill Halter was in charge of Social Security, he fought to protect the cuts. But Blanche Lincoln is different.
SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She supports more tax cuts for millionaires while cutting Social Security. She's lost touch with people like me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: Now, Governor Halter (sic), factcheck.org, among other critics, say this is very misleading. That you have spliced together in this ad different answers from Blanche Lincoln and that she never specifically talked about cutting Social Security and Medicare.
HALTER: That's not true, Andrea, and you can look at the full transcript of the last debate we had. And you can see that is essentially what she said. She wanted to look at cuts in Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, and you can look straight at the transcript.
But the fact is that voters here have a rich history of things they can look back to with respect to Senator Lincoln's votes on entitlement programs. For example, as a member of the House, she was one of very few members of the House of Representatives that voted for the Stenholl Amendment (ph), which you probably remember could have potentially subjected entitlement cuts of $150 billion a year. She also voted in 1993 to raise the tax on Social Security benefits. So, there's a history of votes here --
MITCHELL: Well, there's a big difference, Bill -- isn't there a difference between saying that she would look at the whole area of entitlements in the debate and saying, as it says in your ad, that she supports more tax cuts for millionaires while cutting Social Security.
She hasn't talked about cutting Social Security. Let me show you a little bit about what Joe Scarborough had to say this morning on "MORNING JOE."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, "MORNING JOE": That Halter ad was just a cheap, cheap shot, and that is why America's going bankrupt. And I would say if this Halter were here, that ad is why we have the Social Security and Medicare crisis we have and why this country's going bankrupt. So, congratulations for scaring senior citizens, Bill Halter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: Want to give you a chance to respond.
HALTER: So, Andrea -- yes, well, I'd say two things. First, Senator Lincoln is proposing massive cuts for individuals with $10 million in wealth or more. You can look at her estate tax proposals.
Secondly, it's Senator Lincoln's votes over the last ten years that have resulted in the massive deficits and debt we have. She voted for virtually every major piece of legislation that caused us to have $7 trillion of accumulated debt over the last ten years.
Look, folks are going to have different perspectives on this and that's fine. But this is why we have campaigns. It's why we have debates. I asked for additional debates from Senator Lincoln. She passed. But the footage you saw there in that ad was film footage from the last debate we had.
MITCHELL: I want to -- I'm wondering why Bill Clinton has endorsed her.
This is one of her ads where she's got Bill Clinton in her advertisement. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is about using you and manipulating your votes. If you want to save Arkansas's advocates, vote for somebody who will fight for you. Vote for Blanche Lincoln.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: Bill Clinton’s pretty popular down there in Arkansas, isn’t he?
HALTER: Sure he is, and he endorsed Senator Lincoln before I got in the race. And I understand and appreciate standing by commitments. He's also said some nice things about me, which I'm grateful for.
MITCHELL: You're not suggesting that you have any understanding from him that he would be supporting you in the general election if she doesn't make it.
HALTER: No, I don't have that understanding, but certainly we will be reaching out to all corners for Democratic support, independent support, and Republican support after we win the nomination.
MITCHELL: How will you reply if you win the nomination to Republican charges that you are a captive of big labor, which has been your biggest financial support all along now?
HALTER: Look, I know that the national media would love to put this on a left-right dimension. That's been the attempt from the beginning. But this race has been about who's on the side of middle-class Arkansas voters as opposed to who stands with special interest groups providing large corporate contributions to campaigns. And that same set of issues is going to be completely out there during the general election.
And when it is, Congressman Boozman versus me in the general election, we're going to hear a lot about Wall Street bailouts, we’re going to hear a lot about $7 trillion of debt over the last 10 years. And I can promise you, you'll hear a lot about the distinctions between the two of us when it comes to standing up for middle-class Arkansas families.
MITCHELL: And if you were to win, if you do win, are you going to invite the president to campaign for you in Arkansas?
HALTER: You know, I'm not going to be presumptuous about any of this.
The fact is, we're just determined over the course of the next eight hours or so to do everything we can do to get the vote out. When the election --
MITCHELL: But would you want Barack Obama campaigning for you? Would you want him to campaign for you? He's not that popular in Arkansas right now.
HALTER: Oh, Andrea, I'm going to welcome support from all corners, but as I said, I'm focused on these next eight hours. And we’ll worry about the next steps after that.
Keep in mind, we have only been in this race, my campaign has only been up and running as of today, 99 days. Ninety-nine days, we have launched a campaign and are on the verge of winning a race against a 16-year incumbent. We'll have 146 days left to worry about the general election.
I feel very comfortable about our ability to do that.
MITCHELL: All right. Good luck to you, as we would say to any of the candidates, but we thank you very much for taking time out on Election Day. And we look forward to talking to you in the future.
HALTER: Thanks, Andrea.